Film about Capo district’s woes to be screened on Capitol Hill

WASHINGTON – A libertarian think-tank that prominently features the Capistrano Unified School District in a documentary about how the U.S. public school system is broken will screen its 49-minute film this afternoon on Capitol Hill.

“Not as Good as You Think: The Myth of the Middle Class School” recounts a five-year effort by the CUSD Recall Committee parents group to bring reforms to a school district plagued by scandal, community unrest and allegations of corruption reaching into the highest levels of its administration.

It was released in May by the Pacific Research Institute, a libertarian think-tank in San Francisco.

“We have made a national impact here in Capistrano Unified,” said Recall Committee leader and parent Tony Beall, a Rancho Santa Margarita city councilman. “It’s nice that our efforts are being recognized at the U.S. Capitol.”

The 2:30 p.m. screening will be hosted by two leading GOP lawmakers – U.S. House Republican Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, and U.S. Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., the senior Republican on the House Education and Labor Committee.

Co-hosting the screening will be the film’s executive producer, Lance Izumi, and director Nick Tucker. None of the Capistrano parents in the film are scheduled to attend.

The film originally debuted May 20 in Orange County for an audience of about 200 people at the St. Regis Hotel in Dana Point.

Nearly a third of the documentary is devoted to detailing the problems that have plagued Capistrano Unified for the past five years. The 52,000-student district, headquartered in San Juan Capistrano, is the only Orange County school district featured in the film.

The filmmakers highlight the much-criticized construction of Capistrano’s sprawling district office building, the grand jury indictment of a former superintendent, and the unpopular decision to build a high school on a hilly site bordered by high-voltage transmission lines, landfills and a high-pressure gasoline pipeline.

The filmmakers also traveled to Nashville, Tenn., to profile a family’s unhappiness with local public schools, to Sweden to examine that country’s school voucher system, and to Oakland to chronicle the turnaround of an inner-city charter school.

The goal of the documentary, the filmmakers said, is to show that the U.S. public school system is broken, even in middle-class neighborhoods, and in need of major reforms.

Several Capistrano trustees who ran on the CUSD Recall Committee’s “reform” platform attended the May premiere of the film, drawing ire from critics who questioned why public school officials were apparently supporting a film calling for sweeping reforms to public education, including school choice.

School choice is the controversial movement in public education that essentially gives parents of a school district the option to send their children to private school, using the money the district would have spent on their public school education.

Capistrano’s “reform” movement has accepted at least $40,000 in political campaign contributions over the past few years from the Education Alliance, a Tustin-based political action committee that, among other things, strongly supports school choice and school vouchers.

Local critics of the film also have said the filmmakers appeared intent on painting the district in an unfair, inaccurate light to make a political statement.

All seven Capistrano Unified parents who appear in the film are closely aligned with – or leaders of – the district’s “reform” movement. No dissenting voices are represented.

Parents who appeared in the documentary said they were happy with the way the film turned out, noting it has given national exposure to Capistrano’s “reform” movement.

Nothing contained in this blog is to be construed as necessarily reflecting the views of the Pacific Research Institute or as an attempt to thwart or aid the passage of any legislation.

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