7 Reasons Why SB 907 is a Corrupt Power Grab That Must Be Blocked

7 Reasons Why SB 907 is a Corrupt Power Grab That Must Be Blocked

The California state Capitol building in Sacramento, Calif., on April 18, 2022. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Ken WilliamsSteven Choi

Ken Williams & Steven Choi

4/2/2024

Updated: 4/2/2024

Commentary
Amidst California’s $58 billion deficit, soaring crime and homelessness, and the exodus of money and talent that our elected leaders swear isn’t happening, our state legislature is looking at a bill targeting one school board alone in the entire state. Why? Because union bosses can’t get their people elected there.
Rather than trying to win the hearts and minds of voters with sound policy and a commitment to their students, these special interests are trying to change the rules.
Senate Bill 907, authored by Orange County elected state Senators Josh Newman (D-Fullerton) and Dave Min (D-Irvine), seeks to force the Orange County Board of Education trustees to expand the board from five to seven members.
That sounds simple and uncontroversial enough, except that attempting to “pack the court” is an age-old deceptive tactic. It didn’t work when FDR tried it in 1937, and it hasn’t worked for anyone else since, because everyone sees it for what it is, i.e., a power grab. But if our legislators don’t want to learn from history, here are the seven biggest problems with SB 907.
Number one, it’s a direct attack on local control of education. As a charter county, Orange County already has the authority to change the makeup of its board of trustees without interference from the state. It would have made the changes if Orange County felt like a change was needed. It does not need a new law—especially one drafted by Orange County state senators who only represent a small fraction of the county—forcing a change where it isn’t needed.
In the bill’s first hearing on March 20, Education Committee Vice Chair Sen. Rosilicie Ochoa Bogh (R-Yucaipa) called it an example of “government overreach” and asked why the state sought to override the will of Orange County voters. It’s a great question.
(L-R) The Orange County Board of Education trustees Tim Shaw, Lisa Sparks, Jorge Valdes, Mari Barke, Ken Williams, and the county Superintendent of Schools Al Mijares during a meeting at the Orange County Department of Education in Costa Mesa, Calif., on Aug. 17, 2022. (Micaela Ricaforte/The Epoch Times)

(L-R) The Orange County Board of Education trustees Tim Shaw, Lisa Sparks, Jorge Valdes, Mari Barke, Ken Williams, and the county Superintendent of Schools Al Mijares during a meeting at the Orange County Department of Education in Costa Mesa, Calif., on Aug. 17, 2022. (Micaela Ricaforte/The Epoch Times)

Second, it’s a blatant weaponization of the legislative process and a waste of taxpayer funds. California law requires counties to have “a county board of education, which shall consist of five or seven members.” Why are all the other counties with five-member bodies being ignored if this legislation is so important? Is it because Orange County voters elected the school board they know and trust instead of candidates backed by union bosses? (And does it have something to do with the county superintendent who mysteriously went missing 14 months ago with an unknown medical condition?)
Third, it weakens the very idea of democracy. Despite the authors’ claims that usurping local control improves democracy, the reality is much different. The Orange County Board of Education has an outstanding representation of its constituents, demonstrated by a lack of evidence to the contrary.
By contrast, Los Angeles County—California’s largest county and home to a quarter of California’s entire population—doesn’t even elect its trustees. They’re appointed by the County Board of Supervisors. How is that process somehow more democratic than Orange County’s? And why, if democracy is the issue, doesn’t SB 907 target L.A. County? Could it be because, since 2015, 63 percent of Los Angeles school board candidates supported by union bosses have won their elections? Orange County parents—please raise your hand if you want to move your kids from an O.C. school to one in L.A.
Fourth, it’s “government math” at its finest. Due to a declining state and county population, California lost a congressional seat for the first time in its history. The population of Orange County has dropped by nearly 50,000 residents over the past three years. Most rational and thoughtful people understand that when the population shrinks, you don’t expand the number of elected representatives, which requires more taxpayer money.
Fifth, SB 907 burdens taxpayers with additional and unnecessary costs. The cost to change Orange County’s election procedures would be hundreds of thousands of dollars. That’s money that, based on all the reasons above, needn’t be spent. Add to that the direct stipend and health insurance costs of two more trustees, and this whole idea is just adding insult to injury.
Sixth, SB 907 challenges parental rights. The Orange County Board of Education has consistently supported the rights of parents, school choice, and charter school development—three ideas abhorred by the union bosses. Worse yet, the bill allows a liberal unelected county committee power to reorganize the county school board, and it is expected they will change the current majority that advances charter schools, “back-to-basics” and conservative governance philosophy, to have left-leaning ideologues and union-endorsed allies as the new majority. If SB 907 becomes law, it will directly conflict with the will of the voters and install a left-leaning board of trustees that does the bidding of anti-school choice interests rather than parents. Tell us again how that’s democratic.
"In God We Trust" hangs in the meeting area of the Orange County Board of Education in Costa Mesa, Calif., on Oct. 7, 2020. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

"In God We Trust" hangs in the meeting area of the Orange County Board of Education in Costa Mesa, Calif., on Oct. 7, 2020. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Lastly, in the 2001, 2011, and 2021 public redistricting process, the county board of education held the required three to four public meetings and received public input by constituents and many organizations about the number of trustees and district boundaries. In the public process, never once did any any person or organization request an increase in the number of trustees to the board. There was never any map submitted for consideration that expanded the board members, and no one ever brought up the subject.
Recently in the 2021 redistricting process, again not one person or organization wanted to change the current five trustees, including the county reorganization committee which drew their own maps with five trustees. The 2021 redistricting process allowed the people of Orange County to have a voice in the number of trustees to the board. Unlike Mr. Min and Mr. Newman’s legislation, it is clear the people of Orange County have spoken, and they established that five trustees is just sufficient.
At best, SB 907 is a solution in search of a problem. At worst, it’s a textbook example of political gamesmanship that puts the interests of a special group or a party ahead of the people they’re supposed to represent. It’s not just a bad bill, it’s a disgrace.
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Ken Williams

Ken Williams

Author

Dr. Ken Williams is a primary care physician and member of the Orange County Board of Education.

Author's Selected Articles
Steven Choi

Steven Choi

Author

Dr. Steven Choi is a former State Assembly member and candidate for the State Senate in California.

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