Union-backed candidates allied with the local progressive leaders Jose F. Moreno and Michael Matsuda have taken complete control of the Anaheim Elementary School District Board of Education in the wake of the November election. Moreno represents District 3 on the Anaheim City Council. His long-time friend and fellow progressive political activist Matsuda is superintendent of the Anaheim Union High School District (AUHSD).
Three seats were up: teachers union official Ryan Ruelas was seeking re-election in Trustee Area 5, and another incumbent, Jeff Cole, was seeking another term in Area 2.
Area 2 incumbent DR Heywood declined to run again, setting up a context between Norma Campos Kurtz, a legislative aide to Assemblyman Tom Daly, and Mark Lopez, the deputy chief of staff to Supervisor Shawn Nelson who secured a teaching job in the AUHSD mere days before becoming a candidate. This enabled Lopez to run with the ballot title of “Teacher.”
Challenging Ruelas was Shaun Dove, a retired police officer and parent who grew up in the are. Dove is a political newbie running on a platform of parent empowerment, school safety and support for charter schools. However, he lacked resources for direct voter communication and relied on a door-to-door campaign to get the word out to voters. Orange County Charter Advocates for Great Public Schools spend $2,000 on a pro-Dove mailer.
Ruelas is a teacher at Anaheim High School and a member of the State Council of the powerful Californian Teachers Association. He raised at least $15,000 – primarily from unions – for voter communication, plus significant independent expenditure support from the teachers union. He also waged a vigorous canvassing effort that was integrated with the walk programs overlapping Democratic and union campaigns for city council, mayor, Measure L and other up-ballot races. Plus, he had the advantage of incumbency. Despite his best efforts, Dove was outgunned.
The coup de grace eliminating any independent voice on the AESD Board of Education was the defeat of incumbent Jeff Cole by yet another progressive activist who holds a teaching job in the AUHSD: Juan Alvarez. Like Ruelas, Alvarez is also a teachers union official – serving as secretary of the Anaheim Secondary Teachers Association (ASTA). Like Ruelas, Alvarez is antagonistic toward charter schools, was the beneficiary of significant teacher union support and of being vertically integrated into the larger Democratic/union campaign push – he passed Cole several days after the election thanks to the tidal wave of late and provisional ballots. He’s essentially a political clone of Ruelas, Matsuda and Moreno.
It’s instructive to remember that Cole is also an AUHSD teacher and ASTA member. He voted with his board colleagues to fight the Palm Lane Elementary parents in their efforts to convert their school into a charter school. However, he was not part of the Moreno-Matsuda progressive identity politics cabal, and so his own union waged a savage campaign against him.
With the re-election of Ruelas and the election of Lopez and Alvarez, the AESD Board of Education is completely dominated by the Moreno-Matsuda political operation. Area 1 trustee Jackie Filbeck, although nominally a Republican, is all in with the progressives. Jose Paolo Magcalas, the Area 2 trustee, a left-wing radical and – like Ruelas and Alvarez – a teacher in the AUSHD. Magcalas is the progenitor of the growing numbers of Ethnic Studies and uses his students as political activists. Some long-time local political observers believe the upshot is Mike Matsuda is the de facto superintendent of the AESD – or at least in a position to wield a great deal of influence on education policy in the subordinate district. The Matsuda-inspired politicization of the AUSHD will seep more fully into the AESD.
It guarantees any effort to organize a charter school in the AESD will meet a very hostile reception from a Board of Education dominated by teachers union radicals.
Both Ruelas and Lopez live in Anaheim’s Council District 5, currently represented by Council Steve Faessel. Lopez ran for District 5 in 2016 but lost to Faessel. Both Ruelas and Lopez will have a free ride to run for city council in 2020, so don’t be surprised if and when one of them decides to carry the progressive Left banner against Republican Faessel two years from now. These folks – nearly all of whom are public employees – are building a progressive political operation with the goal of taking over Anaheim city government. Election Day 2018 was a big step forward toward that goal.