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Another Misleading Republican Attack In California

An NRCC ad says Democrat Francine Busby "praised a teacher reported to have child porn," but fails to mention she voted to fire him.

May 1, 2006

Modified: May 1, 2006

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Summary

A National Republican Congressional Committee television advertisement says California House Democratic Candidate Francine Busby "praised a teacher reported to have child porn saying he was always willing to lend a hand." 

The ad calls that "dangerous," but it fails to tell the whole story. In fact, Busby had acted months earlier as a member of California's Cardiff School Board to strip the teacher of his teaching license.

The ad also says "with Busby on the school board the district's deficit sky-rocketed" and that "Busby voted to lay off teachers." Those statements give a misleading picture. While the ad faults Busby for "poor judgment" and "poor management," the fact is that the school district had a comfortable cash reserve every year Busby served on the board. The five lay-offs resulted from funding cuts by the state and produced almost no change in pupil-teacher ratios.

Analysis

The NRCC released another 30-second television ad attacking Democratic House candidate Francine Busby of California. It first aired April 21 in the San Diego media market. A special election to fill the House seat vacated by former Republican Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham takes place June 6. 

 NRCC Ad: "Busby Poor Record"

Announcer: Francine Busby's record?  With Busby on the school board the district's deficit sky-rocketed by over 250 per cent.  That's poor management.
(On Screen: footage of Francine Busby behind a microphone.)
Announcer: Busby voted to lay off teachers but gave raises to administrative bureaucrats. That's poor judgment.
(On Screen: footage of Francine Busby applauding with screen text saying, "Praised teacher reported to have Child Porn.")
Announcer: Busby even praised a teacher reported to have child porn saying he was always willing to lend a hand. That's dangerous.
Announcer: Liberal Francine Busby, poor management, poor judgment, dangerous.
Announcer: The National Republican Congressional Committee is reponsible for the content of this advertising.

The ad, titled “Busby Poor Record,” mischaracterizes Busby’s work as a member of California’s Cardiff School Board from 2001 to 2006. Cardiff, an affluent town 30 miles outside San Diego, consists of two elementary schools with a current total of 741 students.

Praised for Having Child Porn?

The NRCC ad says that Busby “praised a teacher reported to have child porn saying he was always willing to lend a hand. That's dangerous.”  It is true that Busby said this about former California elementary school teacher Dale Regazzi, but she also expressed shock at the allegations and had previously acted to get him out of teaching entirely.

An April 2004 report in the San Diego Union-Tribune quotes Busby speaking about Regazzi after he had been investigated and charged with attempting to possess child pornography and destroying evidence:

Busby: He is a teacher who put in a lot of extra time…he was always willing to lend a hand.  I am shocked about the investigation.

The school board stripped Regazzi of his teaching credentials when they were told about the investigation in September 2003.  The Union-Tribune reported investigators found evidence of child pornography in Regazzi’s trash can.  Regazzi pleaded guilty to destruction of evidence as part of a plea deal, and was sentenced to one year probation. The newspaper said that as of February 2006 Regazzi was a truck driver.

Administrators’ Salaries at Teachers’ Expense?

The NRCC ad says that “Busby voted to lay off teachers but gave raises to administrative bureaucrats. That's poor judgment.” Busby did participate in a unanimous vote to approve a 3 per cent raise for supervisors and non-teaching staff employees in 2003, but the ad fails to mention that teachers got the same 3 per cent raise. The raise did not affect Busby or other school board members, who get a $120 monthly stipend.

It is also true that the board sent lay-off notices to 23 teachers in anticipation of large funding cuts by the state. But local newspapers reported that the cuts turned out to be smaller than at first thought, and school officials say ultimately only five teachers were let go. Despite that, pupil-teacher ratios hardly suffered, going from 17.8 students per teacher in 2002-2003 school year to 18.0 the following year, according to the Education Data Partnership website Ed-Data. Cardiff managed this by shedding out-of-district pupils for whom the state cut funding.

It Depends on How You Define Deficit

The NRCC ad says that “with Busby on the School Board the district’s deficit sky-rocketed by over 250 per cent.”  The ad is correct as far as it goes, but ignores the Cardiff school district's large cash reserves.

By law, California school districts are not allowed to borrow money to finance their operating costs.  The Cardiff school district is no exception.  According to a budget summary supplied to FactCheck.org by the school district's Director of Finance, Sandie Luehrs, the district's expenditures were higher than its revenue from 2001 to 2005, and in that sense ran a deficit in the most recent four years.  Nevertheless, the district ended each year with a positive balance, not a negative one:

Cardiff School Board Budget Summary by School Year

School Years

2000-2001

2001-2002

2002-2003

2003-2004

2004-2005

Beginning Balance

$950,458

$1,185,433

$988,550

$891,888

$536,041

Revenue

$5,847,682

$5,987,178

$6,130,560

$5,846,238

$6,164,985

Expenditures

$5,612,707

$6,184,061

$6,227,222

$6,202,085

$6,220,732

Excess / Deficit

$234,975

-$196,883

-$96,662

-$355,847

-$55,747

Ending Balance

$1,185,433

$988,550

$891,888

$536,041

$480,294

Source: Sandie Luehrs, Director of Finance, Cardiff School District

 

The "over 250 per cent" rise in the deficit refers to the years between 2002 and 2004, when the deficit indeed increased by 268 per cent. However, the deficit also declined by 84.3 per cent the following year.

-by Emi Kolawole

Sources

Friedrich, Alex.  "Local Schools Pleased by Smaller Budget cuts,'" The Monterey County Herald.  30 July 2003.

Mihailovich, Steven.  "More School Layoffs,"  The Coast News.  17 April 2003.

Jimenez, Jose Luis.  "Ex-teacher strikes deal in porn case," The San Diego Union-Tribune.  7 February 2006. 

Parmet, Sherry.  "Cardiff teacher faces child-porn accusations; State commission suspends credential," The San Diego Union-Tribune.  29 April 2004.

Parmet, Sherry.  "Cardiffy may turn away some pupils; Funding change affects interdistrict students," The San Diego Union-Tribune.  31 May 2003. 

"School District to halt transfers," The San Diego Union-Tribune.  11 June 2003.

"NRCC: More Lies, More Slander." Francine Busby for Congress. News Release.  25 April 2006. 

 

 

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