Friday, May 06, 2016

Schools Matter: Meritocracy myths allow neoliberal Democrats to proffer education as an inequality palliative

First published on Schools Matter on April 15, 2016

“They favored policies that created “equal opportunity” and fostered “individual rights,” instead of those designed to eradicate the structural underpinnings of racial segregation and economic inequity.”—Professor Lily Geismer, "Atari Democrats", Jacobin

Thomas Frank has a new book out. While I've only read excerpts from his previous works, and several of his essays, I think Paul D'Amato sums up Frank well in that he: "offers some important food for thought–but it’s more of a snack than a full meal." That said, given the precariousness of public education in this era of neoliberalism, even a snack may stave off starvation. Frank is making the tour discussing his new work, and a friend posted one of the interviews. I was listening to it in the background while studying for my Civil Procedure midterm (the arcana of Judgment Non Obstante Veredicto, and other FRCP 50 mysteries), when I heard Frank say something that most of us touch upon when discussing the plutocrats pushing neoliberal corporate education reform. That is regarding the meritocracy myth.

The audio being discussed is at the 21:07 mark and my rough transcription follows.

Democrats are like no, no, no... that's not right. You've got to give everyone student loans. You got to build charter schools. Both sides have their pat answers that have nothing to do with the problem...

This is a book about Democrats, and they see every economic problem as an educational problem, requiring more student loans, more charter schools. That sort of thing. People studying STEM subjects, or whatever it is. This is just how they interpret the world. Why do they do they interpret the world that way? Because that's what worked for them personally. If you look at the biographies of different, prominent Democrats of our time, they all have this eerily similar biography. They are often plucked from obscurity by prestigious universities. Look at Bill Clinton, this kid in Hot Springs Arkansas, goes to Georgetown University, then he's a Rhodes Scholar, then he goes to Yale Law School. All his friends have this similar kind of background. Look at Barack Obama. He goes to Columbia, then Harvard Law School, and is the editor of the Harvard Law Review. For these guys academic achievement and prestige, that's what opened the doors for them, and it is very natural for them to assume that is what will open the doors for everyone else. Now I'm a great believer in education, I spent twenty-five years of my life getting one. But I'm here to tell you that that's not the solution for inequality. We need education, obviously everyone needs to know how to read and do math. We need experts.

That is not the problem with the economy. The problem is not that workers are not smart enough. The problem is that workers don't have any power.

That last, overarching issue is the crux of the problem. I'd like to delve into it further, but that will have to wait until summer break. The other issue of the Democrats championing the meritocracy myth and their pandering the false notion that education will solve inequality is of crucial importance during this election cycle. The Geismer piece cited in the beginning of this post discusses a Democratic Party candidate's ties to many of the worst of the cult of meritocracy.

In her 2016 campaign bid, Hillary Clinton has strengthened these ties, surpassing candidates from both parties in individual donations from employees at the ten highest-grossing companies in Silicon Valley, including Google, Facebook, Apple, and eBay.

Four more years of neoliberalism and wrongheaded education policy are a frightening prospect. Now is time for action.


Saturday, April 16, 2016

Schools Matter: The schools Steve Barr made: Green Dot Charters post NINE of lowest fifty SAT scores

First published on Schools Matter on April 06, 2016

"The lowest-performing, based on test scores, is the large Green Dot chain." — Los Angeles Times

Steve Barr. Stand up to Green Dot's corporate charter-voucher racism.
Beleaguered Green Dot schools have dealt with charges of racism, embezzlement, poor performance, and even cheating. Green Dot Founder Steve Barr created a mythology about his corporate charters that persists even today. Barr photo
CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

Corporate profiteer Steve Barr is in the news again. Now he is mulling a run at Los Angeles Mayor. Barr calls himself an "educational innovator" despite having no background in either education or pedagogy. While his attempts to "turn around schools" have been epic failures in New Orleans and Los Angeles, his Green Dot Corporate Charter Chain is frequently held up as a measure of his so-called success. Except they're anything but successful.

Green Dot Corporate Charter Schools hold the dubious record of NINE of the lowest fifty average SAT scores in Los Angeles County for 2015. The billionaire backed charter chain, founded by corporate executive Barr and run by hedge fund manager Marco Petruzzi, group of SAT bottom dwellers leads all other charter chains in comprising 18% of the fifty worst. These schools were (lower numbers are worst performing):

  • 4. Animo Locke Charter High School #1 (Los Angeles): SAT Composite 1033
  • 12. Animo Watts Charter High (Los Angeles): SAT Composite 1092
  • 14. Animo Locke Charter High School #2 (Los Angeles): SAT Composite 1104
  • 16. Alain Leroy Locke High (Los Angeles): SAT Composite 1107
  • 19. Animo Ralph Bunche High (Los Angeles): SAT Composite 1117
  • 25. Animo Locke Technology High (Los Angeles): SAT Composite 1129
  • 26. Animo Oscar De La Hoya Charter High (Los Angeles): SAT Composite 1129
  • 34. Animo Jackie Robinson High (Los Angeles): SAT Composite 1150
  • 50. Animo South Los Angeles Charter (Los Angeles): SAT Composite 1180

The privately managed charter chain's marketing slogan is "…all students graduate prepared for college, leadership and life." These dismal SAT scores would seem to indicate otherwise. For context 1500 is considered the minimum threshold for college readiness, while 2052 was the composite average for Freshmen accepted into UCLA in 2013.

Barr has never been able to get his own house together at his lucrative charter chain. Why would we trust him meddling with our public schools?

(Source: LATimes accessed 20160210)


Schools Matter: Shining light on the charter school industry's biggest player

First published on Schools Matter on April 05, 2016

“This increasingly well-rooted network provides the Gulen Movement with daily access to the minds of over 45,000 students, and yearly access to hundreds of millions of hard-earned tax dollars.” — Sharon Higgins

KILLING ED is a new documentary feature film that exposes a shocking truth: that one of the largest networks of taxpayer-funded charter schools in the U.S. are a worst-case-scenario—operated with questionable academic, labor, and H1-B visa standards by members of the Gülen Movement.The largest chain of charter schools in the United States is that of those associated with the secretive Gülenist religious cult. With financial might sufficient to buy off politicians, and the political clout to push legislation, Gülen charters, like all charter schools, are the inevitable result of what happens after putting public money into private hands. Gülen is just one of many cults dominating the corporate charter school industry. Charter schools are symptomatic of the privatization of the public commons.

After years of being able to remain in obscurity while silencing their opposition, the Gülenist Network is beginning to find itself under ever increasing scrutiny. The Turkish government hired Amsterdam & Partners LLP to investigate. Their findings are even more shocking than many Gülen observers expected. Additionally, a full length documentary film entitled KILLING ED has been released, which outlines the shadowy Gülenist Network’s pervasive involvement with privately managed charter schools.

While some of lucrative charter school industry's top profiteers have been brought in to attempt damage control, there remains hope that this story of corruption, greed, and indoctrination will begin to reach an ever widening circle of people.

Please find below Amsterdam & Partners LLP’s press release, press conference video, and trailer for KILLING ED. Stopping the charter school industry must become one of our top priorities if we value public education as a society.

State of California Urged to Investigate Gülen-linked Magnolia Charter Schools

By Editor | Published: February 16, 2016

The following press release was distributed to media on Tuesday, February 16, 2016:

LOS ANGELES, February 16, 2016 – A formal complaint has been issued under the California Uniform Complaint Procedure (“UCP”) urging the California Department of Education to conduct a full investigation into the financial practices of the Magnolia Public Schools charter school network, which currently operates 11 active charter schools in California.

The UCP Complaint – brought by the law firm Amsterdam & Partners LLP, in conjunction with interested California taxpayers Dr. José Moreno and Tina Andres – notes that a 2015 audit conducted by the California State Auditor discovered widespread accounting impropriety and raised numerous other important questions about Magnolia’s financial practices. Notable among them is Magnolia’s connection to the global organization of charter schools and businesses headed by Turkish national Fethullah Gülen, a reclusive Islamic cleric who resides in Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania.

“The State Auditor was unable to verify the propriety of a staggering 69% of financial transactions from a sampling at the Magnolia schools, but it did identify large contracts from Magnolia to affiliated vendors, and revealed that Magnolia has improperly spent hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars on immigration lawyers to import teachers from Turkey,” said Robert Amsterdam, founding partner of Amsterdam & Partners LLP. “Although Magnolia’s CEO and Superintendent insists that there is no connection between Magnolia and the Gülen Organization, we respectfully direct the California authorities to Magnolia’s financial ties to the Pacifica Institute in Irvine, and to the similarities between Magnolia’s operating profile and that of other known Gülen Organization charter schools.”

Tina Andres, one of the individual Complainants, said, “Magnolia’s misuse of public funds is intolerable. They use our tax dollars to pay for visas to hire Turkish teachers, while there are plenty of talented and highly qualified teachers looking for positions in our area.”

Magnolia has submitted multiple new charter school applications valued at more than $48 million each. The UCP Complaint asserts that the volume of negative findings of the California State Auditor from a mere sampling of Magnolia’s transactions and vendor agreements should have spurred a comprehensive investigation into the Magnolia charter school network, and that the State of California owes a fiduciary duty to California taxpayers to probe further.

The UCP Complaint was delivered to the California Department of Education, as well as to various stakeholders concerned about the issue. It is available for viewing at, where supporters may also sign a petition urging the California Department of Education to initiate the requested investigation

Dr. José Moreno is an Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Chicano & Latino Studies at California State University, Long Beach, and a former President of the Board of Education for the Anaheim City School District. He has four children currently attending public schools in Anaheim, where Magnolia is seeking to expand. Tina Andres is a veteran public school teacher in the Santa Ana Unified School District, which hosts a Magnolia school. She has two children attending public schools in the district, one of which is a charter school.

Amsterdam & Partners LLP – an international law firm with offices in London and Washington, DC – acts for the Republic of Turkey, and is conducting a global investigation into the alleged illegal activities of the Gülen Organization. Additional information about Amsterdam & Partners LLP is available at

Gülen Charter Schools Investigation Press Conference

Robert Amsterdam, lawyer at Amsterdam & Partners LLP, holds press conference updating the public on the latest developments and upcoming legal suits relating to alleged illegal conduct by the U.S. charter school network controlled by controversial Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen.

Documentary film exposing charter schools and the Gülenist Network

KILLING ED is a new documentary feature film that exposes a shocking truth: that one of the largest networks of taxpayer-funded charter schools in the U.S. are a worst-case-scenario—operated with questionable academic, labor, and H1-B visa standards by members of the “Gülen Movement” – a rapidly expanding, global Islamic group whose leader, Fethullah Gülen, lives in seclusion in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania.


Schools Matter: Guest Post: Tom McIver: Caprice Young and the Master of Deception

First published on Schools Matter on April 04, 2016

“Jed’s predecessor, Caprice Young, made over $250,000 for her work at the CCSA. Check out the cast of characters on CCSA’s board of directors.” — Kenneth Libby

Caprice "Capricious" Young, Privatization Princess, CORO Fellow, CCSA Alum, ICEF Flunky, and Poverty Pimp.These pages have addressed right-wing school privatization pusher Caprice Young before. Her early history working with Richard Riordan, predatory capitalist and junk bond felon Michael Milken, and racist, bigoted, anti-immigrant nativist Steve Poizner was discussed in a piece that also exposed her profiting from the dubious online charter school sector. What was missing from that piece is that she openly boasts of Walmart's John Walton being her mentor. Another piece addressed her taking the helm of Fethullah Gülen's failing Magnolia corporate charter chain.

Credit to Young. Two times she was able to step into situations where charter schools had squandered millions of taxpayer dollars, and make the investigations go away. Young, along with her Gülen corporate charters in Los Angeles, are currently being investigated by Amsterdam & Partners LLP.

I received a communiqué from Dr. Tom McIver in November of 2013 regarding another one of Young's unsavory colleagues, which, in turn, was another one of her charter business "ventures" (read scams). However, I had just returned to UCLA after a nineteen year hiatus to complete my BA, and my focus was on that. The email went unnoticed until recently. Checking the links led to me asking for clarification, and with his permission, his initial email, and excerpts from another email appear here:

From: tmciver@
Subject: Caprice Young and the Master of Deception
Date November 03, 2013 17:46:35 PST
To: rdsathene@

Robert Skeels,

I came across some blog posts by you that mentioned Caprice Young. At one point, when she was supported by the Milken Foundation, she was collaborating with Al Seckel, who I know all too well. He has boasted of his partnership with her, e.g. this interview with billionaire (and convicted sex offender) Richard Epstein:

Here they are at Jeff Pulver's prestigious DLD conference joined by Arianna Huffington and CNN chief Jonathan Klein:

Seckel is currently defendant in this fraud case: This case is just the tip of his fraud. In case you are interested, attached is timeline of his activities (including his association with Young).

Tom McIver

I too discovered the DLD link was dead.  The whole session was on video, but no longer.  I have put my Seckel timeline online and updated it and added links: I do not mind attribution.  Seckel is reportedly dead, as the now timeline indicates.  Some new information has come to light, and I hope more will follow.

DLD is a global conference network ( LifeDesign). Here is there speaker bio for Seckel (mentioning the panel with Young):

Tom McIver

Excerpts from McIver's original chronology implicating Young (emphasis mine), which is displayed below. His updated chronology timeline is here.

2009 Oct 29: Seckel hosts presents and hosts panel on information technology and education at internet entrepreneur Jeff Pulver’s 140-Characters conference; panelists include Arianna Huffington, Jonathan Klein (CNN chief), and Caprice Young (Milken Institute).

2010 Oct 23: Seckel and Maxwell host G4G10 event at their “beautiful Malibu home.” Features Robert Lang and Chris Palmer origami displays and guest of honor Nolan Bushnell (Atari). Attendees include Jeff Scanlan, Catherine Mohr, Stuart Anstis, Jonathan Delbruck, Solomon Golomb, Caprice Young, Irving Biederman, Brad Templeton, Arana Greenberg, Brock Pierce, Michael Kaliski, Victoria Skye, Amy Sterling Casil, Eric Gradman, Brian Deagon, Philip Lelyveld, Richard Bilow, Glenn Kaino, Michael Naimark, Sanford Climan

2010 Oct: Seckel interview is lead item on Jeffrey Epstein’s science website. Self-promotional claims here are similar to his original Wikipedia entry. Says he got funding for “massive interactive website on thinking skills” with friend Caprice Young (Milken Institute). Claims “Tommy” Gold was his Cornell advisor, and at Caltech he was in Feynman’s “very close inner circle” with Michael Douglas and one other person, spending hours with him “almost every other day.” Claims to be very close to M. Gell-Mann, and friends with “Shelly” Glashow, Lisa Randall, Sean Carroll, and Jimmy Wales.

Gülenist Caprice Young's association with Al Seckel by Robert D. Skeels


K-12NN Wire: California charter school industry bill attempts to eliminate only source of public oversight

First published on K-12NN Wire on April 1, 2016

“…charter schools have used their public characteristics to qualify for public funding under state constitutional law, while highlighting their private characteristics to exempt themselves from other laws that apply to public schools.”—Professors Preston C. Green and Joseph Oluwole

Save Public Schools! Adult Education Students protest school privatizer Monica Garcia in Koreatown after she voted to shut down all adult schools and use the money for privately managed charters.

School privatization promoting Nonprofit Industrial Complex (NPIC) EdSource has long been a source of both political cover, and highly biased "journalism" on behalf of the lucrative charter school industry. Their pay-to-advocate paradigm is evidenced by a donor list that is replete with the usual suspects of ideologically charged (read reactionary) billionaires and foundations. On March 30, 2016 they posted a puff piece on behalf of the California Charter Schools Association (CCSA) regarding AB 2806, a bill that would further block oversight of charter schools, and impede any investigations into charter school wrongdoing. Trade association CCSA, essentially a U.S. Chamber of Commerce for the lucrative charter school industry in California, has increasingly used its seemingly endless source of lobbying funds to push the bill.

My comments are reproduced here:

The lengths these revenue hungry charter school executives will go to avoid any and all oversight is astonishing. The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) and the Office of the Independent Monitor (OIM) are the only organs of public oversight that come close to the de minimis scrutiny these privately managed schools should be subject to. As a legal scholar whose research into the various misrepresentation and malfeasance perpetrated by the charter sector, I depend on access to information gathered by the OIG/OIM. I would find impossible to discover facts that would otherwise remain undisclosed by the secretive charter industry without these bodies. I am not alone in this regard. The United States Census Bureau is on record for not being able to report information on charter schools because of their private nature (US Census Bureau. (2011). "Public Education Finances: 2009 (GO9-ASPEF)". Washington, DC: US Government Printing O ce. Print. vi).

It is in the public interest that charter schools be subject to a modicum of oversight. One would think that it would be public policy that any organization that takes public money should be subject to public scrutiny. AB 2806 would severely hamper the OIG's already minimal ability to investigate an industry that essentially runs with no other public oversight or control. The charter industry's attempts to eliminate this one mechanism for holding them accountable is unconscionable, but not unexpected.

The irony of well-heeled charter school executives like Caprice Young decrying the OIG should not go unnoticed. In defense of her beleaguered Magnolia charter chain, Young has written several Op-Eds. In them she discusses a 2015 audit of the schools claiming it was "financially solvent", but omits that scores of previous audits found the chain insolvent. For instance, the 2014 audit revealed them "operating on a $1.7 million deficit" and that there multiple instances of "missing, misused funds" (SPRC, 2014). This misrepresentation by omission alone impeaches Young's credibility beyond any reasonable standard. Moreover, it demonstrates why public agencies like the OIG and OIG are so critical. AB 2806 is further evidence of the lucrative charter school industry's revenue-first agenda, and their ongoing efforts to avoid any oversight is another example of how they harm both their own students, and the students in our public schools.

Defeat AB 2806 & Empower the LAUSD Inspector General's Office


Schools Matter: Debunking the charter school industry’s “lotteries prevent cherry picking” trope

First published on Schools Matter on March 30, 2016

A brief response to a charter school industry apologist encountered on Professor Ravitch's site:

A threadbare trope of the charter industry (profit and nonprofit alike), is that of “lotteries prevent cherry picking”. Cherry picking, or what we term selective enrollment in more learned circles, is far more easily achieved by attrition. High attrition is facilitated through push out policies (e.g. charter school disciplinary practices, onerous requirements for parents, etc.), through counseling out (a practice used by most Los Angeles charter chains for Students With Disabilities (cf. Office of the Independent Monitor. “Pilot Study of Charter Schools’ Compliance with the Modified Consent Decree and the LAUSD Special Education Policies and Procedures”., Los Angeles: Modified Consent Decree., 2009. Print.)), and a number of other practices. Moreover, students lost (a euphemism) through attrition are generally not replaced with students mid-year (revenue hungry charter operators call this not “backfilling”).

Debunking the charter school industry’s lotteries prevent cherry picking tropeIn addition to effectively selecting their student body through attrition (the de facto “cherry picking,” so to speak), charters frequently screen children out during pre-lottery enrollment through difficult to understand applications, and/or applications that require disclosure of information that discourage families from the process to being with. For example, in Los Angeles, so-called 501c3 “non-profit” charters were found to require parents “to indicate if their child had an IEP or received special education services. Of these, about two-thirds (64.77%) requested that a copy of the IEP be provided with the application. Similarly, 34.83% of the applications asked if a student had a 504 plan, with 79.03% of these requesting a copy with the application.” (Office of the Independent Monitor. “Findings of the Review of Charter Applications and Enrollment Forms”., Los Angeles: Report on the Progress and Effectiveness of the Los Angeles Unified School District's Implementation of the Modified Consent Decree During the 2010-2011 School Year., 2011. Print.)


Schools Matter: Guest Post: Dr. Jill Stein: A failing grade for Obama's Education pick

First published on Schools Matter on March 27, 2016

“Public education is another example where there has been a complete scam [regarding privatization]—charter schools are not better than public schools—and in many cases they are far worse. They cherry-pick their students so they can show better test scores. The treasure of our public schools system has been assaulted by the process of privatization.” — Dr. Jill Stein

Dr. Jill Stein: A failing grade for Obama's Education pick

Dr. Jill Stein, Green Party candidate for President, has consistently articulated the best public education platform of all the candidates. Her basic education tenets are the anthesis of those advanced by the neoliberal corporate education reform crowd:

Education as a Right: Abolish student debt to free a generation of Americans from debt servitude. Guarantee tuition-free, world-class public education from pre-school through university. End high stakes testing and public school privatization.

Her campaign sent out a press release on the woefully inappropriate appointment of John King as Secretary of Education. So well reasoned and written, it warrants reproduction here:

A failing grade for Obama's Education pick

Dr. Jill Stein, Green Party candidate for President President Obama’s choice for Education Secretary has earned a failing grade from parents, students, teachers, and education advocates across the nation.

Former New York State Education Commissioner John King’s education reforms have been such a disaster for NY schools that last year an incredible 20% of students opted out of the Common Core high-stakes tests introduced by King.

King’s corporate education agenda has given Wall Street A+ profits, but has robbed our children of the quality education they need and deserve.

That’s why I’m asking you to join my call today for a public education system that puts our children first, not corporate profits!

How do we know that Obama’s new Education Secretary is the wrong choice to be in charge of our schools? Let’s look at his report card.

John King co-founded Roxbury Academy in Boston, a charter school noted for rigid, authoritarian zero-tolerance policies that gave it one of the highest suspension rates in the state. In some years, students were punished with suspension at a rate ten times the state average or more.

As NYS Education Commissioner, King moved quickly to implement Common Core standards, which the Obama administration coerced schools into accepting by offering “Race to the Top” money while many school budgets were being slashed due to the recession and austerity.

Despite a firestorm of controversy across the state over the rushed implementation of high-stakes testing, as well as the lack of field testing and input from parents, teachers and students, King brushed off these concerns and insisted on ramming his plan through.

Warnings from King’s critics came true in 2013, when just 31% of students passed the new Common Core math and reading tests.

We’ve seen a common pattern with the education agenda pushed by Wall Street and standardized test corporations: high-stakes testing sets up public schools to fail, paving the way for the takeover of education by charter schools with their profits subsidized by taxpayer dollars.

Within two years after King’s disastrous Common Core rollout, 20% of students were sitting out the tests in protest. Even NY Governor Andrew Cuomo, who appointed King as commissioner, told state education officials that “Common Core’s implementation in New York has been flawed and mismanaged from the start.”

So John King gets an A for boosting corporate profits from high-stakes testing, but an F for improving educational opportunities and outcomes for students.

It’s outrageous that both Democrats and Republicans agree on an education agenda that comes from Wall Street profiteers.

Sign and share my call for an education system designed to educate our children, not to enrich corporate profiteers!

As President, I will halt the destructive push for high-stakes testing and school privatization. Instead of teaching to the test, we need to teach to the whole student for lifetime learning.

We also need increased federal public education funding to correct the shameful disparities between rich and poor school districts, and policies to reverse the growing de facto race and class segregation in public schools.

I will work together with educators, parents, and students to create a world-class public education system that works for people, not profit.

Because our children deserve better.

It’s in our hands!


Whitewashing Ghost in the Shell

Sign the petition!

This twitter thread by Jon Tsuei sums up the WHITEWASHING of Ghost in the Shell better than I ever could. As a longtime fan of both the films (I own the 1995 DVD), and the series, and as a social justice activist, I find what Hollywood has done (again) abhorrent. I've linked midway through his thread, because I found this single tweet most compelling. The story is inherently Japanese, and Hollywood has engaged in shameless cultural appropriation yet again, not to mention devaluing women—specifically Japanese women—in casting an Anglo as Major Motoko.

h/t @vergesstuck for posting the original, which includes a petition.


Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Brief musing on Scalia

In February, my Civil Procedure Professor sent our class a short exchange between him and another lawyer regarding the death of Antonin Scalia. They were both refreshing critical of the arch-reactionary Supreme Court Justice. I weighed in with my thoughts as well. They are reproduced here.

I'm not one to mince words when it comes to our reactionary ruling class, and tweeted this on Saturday after a friend texted me the good news.

But discussions of individual members of the court, and their possible replacements, only consign us to what Professor Noam Chomsky refers to as "narrow confines of discourse." A more Freireian approach would be to ask why the Supreme Court exists and why do we allow this small group of individuals make decisions that effect each and every one of us so profoundly? Dr. Rob Hunter does precisely this in an amazing Jacobin essay The Supreme Court After Scalia, where he posits that collective struggle is far more important.

I strongly recommend the essay, and want to leave you with the following excerpt, that which I believe sums the entire issue.

“The Supreme Court is a bulwark of reaction. Its brief is to maintain the institutional boundaries drawn by the Constitution, a document conceived out of fear of majoritarian democracy and written by members of a ruling class acting in brazen self-interest.”

The Supreme Court is a bulwark of reaction. Its brief is to maintain the institutional boundaries drawn by the Constitution, a document conceived out of fear of majoritarian democracy and written by members of a ruling class acting in brazen self-interest.


Friday, March 11, 2016

bell hooks: "I can not longer be a Hillary Clinton supporter!"

Profound and powerful. Professor bell hooks reminds us that we should support feminism, not imperialism. Ms. Hillary Clinton's actions in Honduras alone are an indictment of what "she stands for", and it's not compatible with the tenets of feminism.


Tuesday, March 08, 2016

A Woman’s Place is in the Revolution!

A Woman’s Place is in the Revolution!

“"International Women’s Day was first designated as an official socialist holiday by the Copenhagen Conference of Socialist Women in 1910. In 1917 in Russia, a mass strike by women textile workers on International Women’s Day marked the beginning of what came to be known as the February Revolution."” — Haymarket Books A Woman’s Place is in the Revolution!


Wednesday, March 02, 2016

Hillary Clinton's Record on Race #WhichHillary

Surprisingly, this was posted in Van Jones' twitter feed. The video does a masterful job of summing up Ms. Hillary Clinton's long history of bigotry and opportunism. I voted for the Honorable Dr. Cynthia McKinney in 2008, Dr. Jill Stein in 2012, and likely will vote for Dr. Stein again in this upcoming election, so it should be obvious why I've grown weary of the Clinton camp tarring me as a "berniebot," "bernie bro," or sexist every time I point out obvious, undisputed facts regarding Ms. Clinton's record. If we look at her deeds, rather than listen to her finely crafted rhetoric, it becomes clear that she is really no better than her "supposed opposition" comprising the reactionary, racist GOP.


Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Trailer for KILLING ED

Trailer for KILLING ED from Visual Truth Projects on Vimeo.

Profiteer Caprice Young, the secretive Gülen Cult, and California Charter Schools Association's worst nightmare is here.


Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Gülen cult’s corporate charter chain’s Magnolia Science Academyülen-cults-corporate-charter-chains-magnolia


Sunday, February 07, 2016

Professor Deepa Kumar addresses the white bourgeois "feminism" of Albright, Steinem, and Clinton

Who has ties to the cultish Gülenist Movement? Fethullah Gülen, Ref Rodriguez, Caprice Young, Monica Garcia, Richard Vladovic, Reed Hastings, Yvonne Chan, and Carrie Walton Penner

Professor Deepa Kumar of Rutgers University had this brilliant response to the neoliberal apologies for imperialism and white bourgeois "feminism" being touted by Madeline Albright and Gloria Steinem on behalf of Hillary Clinton.

Only Madeline Albright, who justified the deaths of half a million Iraqi children under US/UN actions, could say that supporting Clinton is the right thing to do because there is a "special place in hell for women who don't support women." So Albright here's a news flash for you: Hillary Clinton has attacked poor and working class women in the US by being a defender of her husbands welfare policies. Also, just like you, she supports killing women around the world through US wars and drone strike campaigns. Now, be honest, what you really mean is this: "there is a special place of glory, power, and wealth for you if you sell out working class women and women of color both in the US and in the Middle East, and support a Wall Street backed candidate like Clinton."


Thursday, February 04, 2016

Schools Matter: Open letter to Dan Woods regarding the Gülen Network's Magnolia Charter Schools

First published on Schools Matter on February 2, 2016

"The Walton family, founder of Wal-mart, the worldwide retail giant, has donated millions of dollars to schools considered to be associated with the Gülen community." — Charter School Scandals

Who has ties to the cultish Gülenist Movement? Fethullah Gülen, Ref Rodriguez, Caprice Young, Monica Garcia, Richard Vladovic, Reed Hastings, Yvonne Chan, and Carrie Walton Penner

From: *****
Subject: Open letter to Dan Woods regarding the Gülen Network's Magnolia Charter Schools
Date: February 02, 2016 14:22:46 PST

Mr. Woods:

Just read your heavy-handed letter [1] to Arthur M. Pakowitz, Esq.

As a courtesy I wanted to address some of your concerns, which are clearly based in your ignorance regarding both privately managed charter schools, and the shadowy Gülen cult that your client is associated with.

Regarding your insistence that the Magnolia corporate charter school chain's financial information is transparent. This simply isn't the case, and it wasn't until the public school district called for an audit that one was conducted. Said audits revealed millions of "missing, misused funds" [2]. These were public dollars, squandered under the private management of your client.

You then make the absurd assertion that "Magnolia's eleven charter schools are public schools…" In case you actually believe that misrepresentation, let me disabuse you.

Generally charter schools are not public schools. Both existing case law and public policy have long established this. The Washington State Supreme Court (2015) held that charter schools are not "common schools" because they're governed by appointed rather than elected boards. The 9th Circuit US Court of Appeals (2010) ruled that charter schools are not "public actors." The California Court of Appeals (2007) ruled that charter schools are not "public agents." The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) joined many other government agencies in unequivocally determining that charters are, in NLRB's words, "private entities."

By definition if a charter school is run by a for-profit company, or a (501c3) non-profit corporation (e.g. Magnolia Educational and Research Foundation), then it is not a public school. The United States Census Bureau frames this issue best: "A few "public charter schools" are run by public universities and municipalities. However, most charter schools are run by private nonprofit organizations and are therefore classified as private." [3]

Because these lucrative charter schools are not public, and are not subject to even a modicum of public oversight, they are able to get away with violating the constitutional rights of their students. The decision in Scott B. v. Board of Trustees of Orange County High School of the Arts saw Rosa K. Hirji, Esq. write: "The structures that allow charter schools to exist are marked by the absence of protections that are traditionally guaranteed by public education, protections that only become apparent and necessary when families and students begin to face a denial of what they were initially promised to be their right." [4]

Lastly, there is ample documentation tying the Magnolia corporate charter school chain to the Gülenist Movement, namely through their intertwinement with the Los Angeles based Pacifica Institute—a Gülen organization which denies the 1915-1918 Armenian genocide. [5] Moreover, Fethullah Gülen's ties to the Magnolia charter schools was reported to Turkish readers as early as 2010. [6]

Far be it for me to do your research for you, but as a courtesy I offer the following footnote [7] as starting point for your own additional discovery.

I understand that the model rules of professional conduct call upon you to vigorously represent your client's interests, but one would expect an attorney of your standing to at least base your arguments in a modicum of reality. I suppose in a way I owe you and your firm a debt of gratitude inasmuch as you provide examples of the type of attorney I don't want to be—seemingly ones that hold billable hours more important than the public interest.

[3] US Census Bureau. (2011). Public Education Finances: 2009 (GO9-ASPEF). Washington, DC: US Government Printing O ce. Print. vi
[7] Compendium of Magnolia/Pacifica/Gülen resources:

Advocating Public Education and Social Justice

Robert D. Skeels
Juris Doctor Candidate
UCLA '14, PCL '18

"Problem posing education does not and cannot serve the interests of the oppressor" — Paulo Freire


Saturday, January 16, 2016

Not Ready for Imperialism

Not Ready for Imperialism, Not Ready for Hillary

I will NOT vote for that right-wing, war mongering, nativist, corporatist candidate. Their history of accepting huge sums of money from bankers, hedge fund managers, and C.E.O.s is, in my eyes, far less problematic than their abject record of vilifying immigrants, criminalizing the poor, and accelerating the neoliberal dismantling of public institutions like schools.

Oh, and I would NEVER vote for any of the G.O.P. troglodytes that are her supposed opposition either.