Print this Article

CSBA Opposes Confirmation of State Board of Education Member Rae Belisle

By Jeff Hudson - September 18, 2009

The California School Boards Association (CSBA) has come out swinging against State Board of Education (SBE) member Rae Belisle.

Belisle was appointed to the SBE by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, and took office on March 11.  After observing Belisle’s performance at SBE meetings in March, May, and July, the CSBA sent a letter last Monday to Sen. Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento and Senate President Pro Tem), formally opposing Belisle’s confirmation.  The Senate has until March 2010 to act on her appointment.

In the letter, CSBA president Paula Campbell expressed “serious concern” about Belisle’s involvement in several decisions and policies over a ten year period.

Belisle is the President and CEO of EdVoice, a statewide advocacy network dedicated to the improvement of student achievement in California public schools.

Belisle has also served as Executive Director of the California State Board of Education, and as Associate General Counsel and Government Relations Team Leader for the Los Angeles Unified School District. She was chair of the SBE’s Advisory Commission on Charter Schools from 2005 through 2008.  She was also the first Chief Counsel to California’s State Board of Education, and during that phase of her career, Belisle defended the constitutionality of charter schools, the validity of the STAR testing program and the settlement of the Williams litigation.

In the CSBA letter opposing Belisle’s confirmation, Campbell cited Belisle’s advocacy for Schwarzenegger’s push last year for the SBE to adopt an Algebra I requirement for testing all eight-graders.  CSBA, the California teachers Association (CTA), the Association of California School Administrators (ACSA), State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell and others went to court and got an injunction blocking the SBE’s adoption of that testing requirement; litigation is ongoing.

Campbell described the Algebra testing requirement as “an ill-timed proposal that failed to consider the systemic implications for making such a significant shift in policy . . . it was wholly inconsistent with state law.”

The CSBA letter also cited Belisle’s vote to approve Pacific Tech Charter as a statewide benefit charter school in her capacity as a member of the Advisory Committee on Charter Schools, and her influence in the SBE decision to postpone instructional materials waivers for several school districts during the budget cuts that affected California public education last spring.

Campbell’s letter said CSBA is “increasingly alarmed” by the majority of SBE members affiliated with charter schools and charter-related organizations.  “This imbalance has resulted in policy that favors charters and students who attend charters over the 97 percent of students who attend traditional schools,” Campbell concluded.

The Association of California School Administrators is also opposing Belisle’s confirmation.

At her first meeting as an SBE member in March, Belisle was gruffly challenged by Ken Burt of CTA, who suggested that Belisle should recuse herself on several votes relating to charter schools.  (Belisle proceeded to vote on those issues, despite Burt’s remarks.

When Burt was asked this week if CTA has adopted a position regarding Belisle’s confirmation as an SBE member, Burt indicated that CTA has not taken a decision at this point.

During SBE meetings this year, Belisle has often praised the work of charter schools – a stance that would appear to put her on the same wavelength as federal Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, who has spoken favorably of charter schools in a number of speeches.

Editor's Note: Jeff Hudson is the editor of EdBrief and an award-winning education reporter and writer in print, radio and television media.