No conflict for Patricia Rucker

The California Fair Political Practices Commission has dismissed a complaint filed by a parent activist group against Patricia Rucker, a State Board of Education member who works as a paid lobbyist for the California Teachers Association. In doing so, the FPPC clarified what it considers to be a conflict of interest.

Members of Los Angeles-based Parent Revolution filed the complaint days before the State Board was to take a final vote on the proposed regulations for the Parent Trigger, the law that enables a majority of parents at a school to demand a structural shakeup, including the replacement of the principal and, in some cases, at least half of the staff. The CTA opposed the law and suggested a series of amendments to weaken the regulations, including giving teachers veto power over a charter conversion.

Parent Revolution parents said they would withdraw the complaint if Rucker recused herself from participating in the issue. As it turned out, she joined the rest of the Board in unanimously approving regulations that Parent Revolution backed. CTA’s most damaging amendment was not included in the final draft that the Board passed. (Rucker indeed may have voted on the merits, or she may have seen that the Board was about to pass it and didn’t want to be the lone, predictable dissenter.)

In a one-paragraph explanation finding no violation of the state Political Reform Act, Gary Winuk, chief of the FPPC’s Enforcement Division, wrote, “While the proposed regulations may affect teachers and administrators who may be the subject of a parent trigger petition, there is no evidence that such a petition would have a material financial effect on the CTA, as Ms. Rucker’s employer. (Regulation 18705.3(b)(2)”

That would appear to be a narrow lens through which to define a conflict of interest – saying it’s not OK to vote on issues directly affecting the CTA as an organization but OK to vote on issues that advance interests of union teachers that Rucker’s employer represents.

Author: John Fensterwald - Educated Guess

John Fensterwald, a journalist at the Silicon Valley Education Foundation, edits and co-writes "Thoughts on Public Education in California" (www.TOPed.org), one of the leading sources of California education policy reporting and opinion, which he founded in 2009. For 11 years before that, John wrote editorials for the Mercury News in San Jose, with a focus on education. He worked as a reporter, news editor and opinion editor for three newspapers in New Hampshire for two decades before receiving a Knight Fellowship at Stanford University in 1997 and heading West shortly thereafter. His wife is an elementary school teacher and his daughter attends the University California at Davis.

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