By Chrissy Clark
A California teachers union conducted research into parent groups that sued to reopen schools amid the union’s pressure to keep schools closed, according to public records requests obtained by one of those concerned parent groups.
Ann Swinburn, a strategic research specialist with the California Teachers Association, solicited parents for information that could link groups suing to reopen schools to dark money organizations. Swinburn reached out to two San Diego-area parents, lawyer Michele Macosky and data scientist Adam Fischer, hoping they could snitch on other local parents who wanted schools reopened.
“I am a researcher with [the California Teachers Association] and am currently doing some research into the various ‘reopen’ groups around the state,” Swinburn said in email correspondence to Macosky and Fischer.
The duo responded by looping in a third parent, Holly Butte, stating they intended to uncover the “ideological leaning of groups that are funding the reopen lawsuits.” Swinburn and her allies appeared to target the group “The Parent Association,” according to the subject line of their emails.
🚨 BOMBSHELL 🚨
Newly PRA’d emails show @WeAreCTA conducted opposition research on school reopening parent groups during the school shutdowns in CA.
Then after a principal was accidentally CC’d, the “damage control” was asking him to illegally delete the email.
— Reopen California Schools (@ReopenCASchools) September 5, 2022
The correspondence took place in April 2021 after parents organized and filed lawsuits to reopen public schools in the state of California amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Butte, Macosky and Fischer did not respond to the Daily Caller’s request for comment.
Allison Stratton, a co-founder of The Parent Association, told the Daily Caller she lobbied school board members, held protest marches and held news conferences pushing to reopen schools in the San Dieguito Unified School District. By February 2021, The Parent Association filed a lawsuit against the district to reopen schools.
Stratton, a self-described Democrat, told the Daily Caller there was “absolutely no special interest money” financing the parent-driven campaign to reopen schools.
Jonathan Zachreson, the founder of another group, “Reopen California Schools,” claimed the parents who helped conduct research against pro-reopen schools groups are individuals who often do the bidding of the teacher’s unions. He dubbed it ironic that the people accusing The Parent Association of being a “non-organic parent group” are not an organic parent group.
“To suggest us parents were part of some dark money conspiracy is not only absurd and insulting, but shows how far removed the California Teachers Association’s priorities are from serving students and their families,” Zachreson said. (RELATED: California County Sued For Allegedly ‘Racist’ Government Contracting Requirements)
Since-deleted social media posts from Swinburn appear to show a predisposed bias against reopen-school groups. In one tweet, she claimed right-wingers are mobilizing parents to do their bidding.
“This is an all-to-common [sic] model – where parents who genuinely want to make systemic change for their kids are used toward a larger goal to disrupt, destabilize, and ‘burn down’ public schools (also see reopen parents),” she tweeted.
In another instance, Swinburn added the “100%” emoji to a tweet arguing that right-wing money is fueling a surge in school board activism.
Swinburn and the California Teachers Association did not respond to the Daily Caller’s request for comment.