Thursday, April 24, 2014

Big decision. Should I attend PCL? I could help families fight neoliberalism with a J.D.

Now that I've officially graduated from UCLA, I have a big decision to make. Do I pursue my first love, academia? At 48 years old, the window for that is pretty narrow. If I attend PCL and become a social justice attorney, I could help my community fight neoliberalism. Already an expert on education, I could use law to combat the forces of neoliberalism, privatization, and the nonprofit industrial complex that is currently destroying the remains of our public commons.


Monday, April 21, 2014

Teach For America Card by Robin Higgins


Thursday, April 17, 2014

Surveying the candidates for the LAUSD Special Election for District 1

First submitted April 13, 2014 to LA Progressive

"Someone said to me chartering schools re-institutes segregation, we need to think about that." — The late, Honorable Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte

Photo credit: Crenshaw Cougars Fighting ReconstitutionAs the runner up in the 2013 LAUSD District 2 election, and as a long time public education advocate, activist, and essayist, I have a keen interest in LAUSD politics. I've been studying the District 1 Special Election from a social justice perspective. Let me summarize the candidates running for LAUSD Board of Education District 1 seat. There are four professional educators, and three wholly unqualified opportunists running for the position.

I've endorsed Sherlett Hendy Newbill and believe she is the best candidate of the four educators running. Her amazing story is inspiring, and she has proven that she puts community and students first in practice, not in rhetoric. I've contributed to the Sherlett Hendy Newbill campaign and will work to get her elected. I also have much respect for, and support both Hattie McFrazier, and Rachel Johnson. All three of these women deserve our admiration for their selfless dedication to the students of Los Angeles. Any of the three would be worthy to sit in the seat of the venerable Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte, the late board member whose courage in standing up to neoliberalism and corporate domination of our school board was peerless.

If Dr. George McKenna ends up in runoff against one of the non-educators (listed below), I will support him. I know there are mixed feelings about Dr. McKenna. People I know and trust, including the highly celebrated Dr. Judy Perez of AALA, have spoken highly of him. The teachers of Miramonte ES, and others have also spoken on his behalf. On the other hand, other people I trust, including teachers from the former Fremont HS, Crenshaw HS, and Dorsey HS have a much different perspective on McKenna.

The other three candidates shouldn't even warrant mention. Unfortunately their disdain of public education and the professional educators serving our school children have garnered them tons of contributions from reactionaries and business interests. There is no shortage of well heeled charter school tycoons, right-wing business bankers, and contract wielding real estate developers ready to invest in unprincipled candidates that will put their financial interests ahead of the education of Los Angeles Students. Hayes, Manigault, and Johnson are just those type of unprincipled candidates.

Genethia H. Hayes is a perfidious equivocator. The multiple "errors" (read fabrications) on her resumé should have seen her withdraw from the race in ignominy. While she works for the district, it's hard to call an individual lacking integrity an educator. It is a testament to the power of corporate money that she feels emboldened to continue running after the shameful revelations of her dishonesty came to light.

Omarosa Manigault's "claim to fame" is the reality TV circuit, including multiple stints on a program with a fellow narcissist: right-wing billionaire (and Birther) Donald Trump. Other than that dubious distinction she has no connections whatsoever to education. Moreover, she is classic carpetbagger, living in District 1 just long enough to qualify for the election.

Alex Johnson is the worst of bunch. He is an unscrupulous opportunist who only views LAUSD as a political stepping stone. He has been getting $1,100 a shot contributions from charter school moguls, real estate developers, and right-wing bankers. According to his 460 filing, of the 195 contributions for $113,051 to his campaign, not one comes from a teacher, principal, librarian, or social worker. One would think if he really cared about students and education, that he'd have a working relationship with the professionals that work with the community's children. He has dodged multiple requests for policy positions, undoubtably because he is a hand puppet for the neoliberal corporate education reformers. Former LAUSD District 5 candidate, the distinguished Dr. John Fernandez, had this to say about him:

This does not surprise me at all Robert. At a recent candidate's forum at UTLA, I submitted a question commenting that District 1 has been historically represented by an African American but that the students in District 1 now comprise 70% Mexican/Latino student population. I asked what were the three main issues affecting Mexican/Latino students in District 1? All Mr. Alex Johnson could say was they needed resources. Mr. Johnson could have stated that Mexican/Latino students need a culturally relevant and responsive education, they need bilingual cross cultural education, teachers must be trained to teach Mexican/Latino students, textbooks must used to highlight the achievements and contributions of Mexican/Latino students, Mexican/Latino students must be provided with high tech vocational training and teachers must provide English language strategies—all the very things that African American students need.

Who to vote for on June 3, 2014? Of the four authentic educators running in this race, I'm supporting Sherlett Hendy Newbill. However, you can't go wrong supporting Hattie McFrazier, Rachel Johnson, or Dr. George McKenna. District 1 needs someone familiar with its unique composition, and who will be able to provide principled solutions. Sherlett Hendy Newbill was born and raised in District 1, attended Dorsey HS, went to college, and then returned to her high school alma mater to teach and coach. A family woman and parent, Hendy Newbill would represent her fellow District 1 constituents as a mother, teacher, and coach whose own hard work and academic discipline saw her graduate from Dorsey, Xavier University, and then obtain a teaching credential.

Angelenos in LAUSD District 1 should honor the memory of the late Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte by electing someone who, like her, values student need over corporate greed.


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Some interesting privatization connections in regards to the LAUSD District 1 race

First published April 15, 2014 on Los Angeles Independent Media Center

"There is No Immoral Depth They Won’t Go In Pursuit of Their Agenda" — Celes King IV

Photo credit: Crenshaw Cougars Fighting Reconstitution. Stop Deasy from destroying any more school communitiesI have a piece coming out in the LA Progressive about the District 1 Special Election. They said it should run tonight or tomorrow. In it I endorse Sherlett Hendy Newbill and I also lend my political support to the other three educators in the race. Moreover, I address the three opportunists who are being financed by the billionaire privatizers and their Nonprofit Industrial Complex (NPIC). The privatizers are crafty. They're running three candidates simultaneously, without letting on that they're all being backed by the same organizations.

Here are some new facts that I didn't know when I wrote the article, but may be of use.

Regarding the Alex Johnson Campaign an ally sent me the following (I'm keeping them anonymous for now):

Curious why no one is mentioning how the same brigade that was pushing for an election is now pushing for Alex Johnson - their Facebook page has even morphed from demanding an election to exclusively covering the Johnson campaign:

Bear in mind that it was the usual NPIC suspects who pushed for the Special Election: Urban League, Inner City Struggle, United Way Greater Los Angeles, and Parent Revolution. Given what I've already uncovered about Johnson, It's no wonder that he's their candidate of choice, while Hayes is their backup candidate. Parent Revolution was an early backer of Hayes, but has since shifted to the frontrunner, Johnson.

However, don't think that Reality TV's Omarosa Manigault isn't also in their circle. I know many of you have had the unpleasant experience of coming across the California Charter Schools Association's (CCSA) K. W. Tulloss at various events. He works for the CCSA's Families That Can division. He also works for FBI snitch and corporate charter school cash cow Al Sharpton. I was looking up some information on him and came across this quote in the Los Angeles Wave:

Tulloss also brought reality show personality Omarosa Manigault into the fold, making her one of his assistant ministers. [emphasis mine]

The crooked charter "minister" is also quite close to school privatization advocate Mark Ridley-Thomas—Alex Johnson's patron. The late African American Civil Rights leader, Celes King IV, called Tulloss the "The Leading Local Black Face of the Charter Schools/Corporatize Public Education Forces". While King's entire OpEd is worth reading, this excerpt describes Tulloss' duplicity and deceptiveness best:

When Tulloss spoke before the school board and the media Tuesday he never once identified himself as a paid organizer of the California Charter School Association. Instead he identified himself as the president of National Action Network, with popular black activist Najee Ali standing beside him. Using civil rights groups like NAN-LA to provide a black face for their corporate agenda is a textbook tactic of the privatization forces. It allows them to wrap their agenda, which is not in the best interest of students or communities of color, in the language and image of the civil rights movement.

The sums of money the neoliberal corporate school privatizers are throwing into this race have already outpaced anything the community can keep up with. All we have is truth to speak to their power!


NPIC Poverty Pimps and Privatization Pushers unhappy I finished school and have time to expose them again


Friday, April 11, 2014

Elect the Mother/Teacher/Coach Sherlett Hendy Newbill to LAUSD School Board Contribution Challenge!

I was just about to make my second contribution to Mother/Teacher/Coach Sherlett Hendy Newbill's campaign when I remembered how effective Sean Abajian and Suzie Abajian's challenges always are for fundraising. Therefore, even though I can't afford either of these amounts, I'm willing to donate another $40 if I can find five other people to do so. Better still, if we can get ten people that want to keep the corporate privatizers from taking over the #LAUSD District 1 seat who are willing to chip in $50 each, then I'll do the same. So who is willing to accept my challenge? Let me know here, or in private and once I get my 5 or 10 co-contributors, we'll make the donation! Of course, if your willing to donate much more, then please go now:!contribute/c6s5

We're almost at five, let's try to reach the ten mark. Pledges are okay, let's get 10 @ $50 to really help her. Her competitors Hayes and Johnson are getting $1,100 a shot contributions from charter school tycoons, right-wing bankers, and real estate developers. Plus, there's this: 195 contributions for $113,051 to Alex Johnson Campaign. NOT ONE teacher, principal, librarian, or social worker on the list!


195 contributions for $113,051 to Alex Johnson Campaign. NOT ONE teacher, principal, librarian, or social worker on the list!

Only in a city run by the vile Eli Broad could a candidate like Johnson, who only views LAUSD as a political stepping stone, be considered a viable candidate for such an important position. Johnson is getting $1,100 a shot contributions from charter school tycoons, right-wing bankers, and real estate developers. 195 contributions for $113,051 to Alex Johnson Campaign. NOT ONE teacher, principal, librarian, or social worker on the list! It's beyond disgusting, it's deplorable.

Former LAUSD District 5 candidate, the distinguished Dr. John Fernandez, had this to say about Johnson:

This does not surprise me at all Robert. At a recent candidate's forum at UTLA, I submitted a question commenting that District 1 has been historically represented by an African American but that the students in District 1 now comprise 70% Mexican/Latino student population. I asked what were the three main issues affecting Mexican/Latino students in District 1? All Mr. Alex Johnson could say was they needed resources. Mr. Johnson could have stated that Mexican/Latino students need a culturally relevant and responsive education, they need bilingual cross cultural education, teachers must be trained to teach Mexican/Latino students, textbooks must used to highlight the achievements and contributions of Mexican/Latino students, Mexican/Latino students must be provided with high tech vocational training and teachers must provide English language strategies—all the very things that African American students need.

I am going on record to say that Alex Johnson is a coward. As the runner up in the 2013 LAUSD election, I've made/sent dozens of phone calls and emails to his campaign requesting policy positions. I have tried to contact his campaign for over a month. All attempts have been ignored, because he won't know his policy positions until Eli Broad and John Deasy tell him what they are.


We're in this struggle against neoliberalism collectively, each of us doing our part…


K12NN: United Way's Corporate NPIC Astroturf was thick in front of LAUSD last Tuesday

First published April 11, 2014 on K-12 News Network

"By what logic does United Way engage in an activity that is shunned by all the other charities?" — Professor Ralph E. Shaffer

UWGLA executives Ryan Smith and Jason Mandell. Photo credit LA Times, converted into a fair use meme by this article's author.

Amid all the misleading and mendacious reports in the corporate media about Tuesday's desk charade, there is one revealing Los Angeles Times photo of so-called "students" setting up desks on Beaudry Boulevard in front of Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD). A photo featuring United Way Greater Los Angeles' (UWGLA) executive staff members Ryan Smith and Jason Mandell, two poverty pimps pulling down six figure salaries, who are running the whole show. Astroturf like no other. For people needing a background on how the UWGLA operates as an both an extension of its plutocrat donors' agenda, and as a propaganda megaphone for right-wing think-tanks, see this essay.

UWGLA's "CLASS" coalition of reactionary Nonprofit Industrial Complex (NPIC) staged this event in support of their Broad Foundation informed priorities for Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) dollars. As one prominent Silver Lake activist, Ken Sitz, astutely pointed out: "you know it's not a grassroots protest when there's not a cohort of Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) present to menace the demonstrators." This publicity stunt was pulled off by these well paid professionals with the full knowledge and complicity of John Deasy, whose LCFF priorities are identical to that of the NPIC. After all, Deasy works for the same people. One of the more perceptive observations of the fund-to-advocate paradigm comes from K12NN's founder, Dr. Cynthia Liu:

The United Way of LA is chief enforcer of Eli Broad's corporate takeover of public Ed agenda. He's the reason why I created the term "weaponized philanthropy" to describe how lefty-liberal groups in this city are under his sway. There's NO good reason on earth the ACLU or LGBT Youth groups would support John Deasy except for the fact that they get money from UWGLA and much of that money comes from Broad.

It is somewhat ironic that the well funded NPIC staffers claim they set up all the desks to represent "all the students that drop out each month", without discussing their own complicity in policies that push students out of school. Namely, a narrowing of curricula because of the costly drains of the testing-industrial-complex like DIBBELS and Common Core State Standards. Additionally, Deasy and his allies' systematic closure of ethnic studies, and other programs that appeal to student interests. At the end of the day the United Way advocates for neoliberal policies and privatization actions that exacerbate poverty, segregation, and inequity in Los Angeles—things that all contribute to the push-out of LAUSD students. If that's what UWGLA considers—according to their tag-line—"creating pathways out of poverty", then it's even more evidence of the old adage that: "Philanthropy is not progressive and never has been."

The Occupy United Way! group was created in 2011 to oppose UWGLA functioning as the tax deductible public relations and lobbying arm of the 1%.


Vote STAY for 90026 Echo Park GEPENC this Saturday!

Vote for Kwazi Nkrumah
for President, Greater Echo Park/Elysian
Neighborhood Council (GEPENC)

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Kwazi Nkrumah: Long-time Echo Park resident and life-long community activist and Human Rights advocate. 
Founder of the Martin Luther King Coalition of Greater Los Angeles; former Chair of KPFK Community Advisory Board; 
2-time Board Member of GEPENC, he has served as Budget Rep to the City, 
Regional Liaison to other Neighborhood Councils and currently chairs our Parks, Public Works and Environmental Concerns Committee. 
Kwazi has worked to fight mortgage foreclosures, extend protection for renters, and is a strong proponent of human rights for the homeless.  
Kwazi opposes the destructive impact of both the re-opening of the Scott Avenue gate and the Barlow Plan on Elysian Park and our community.
 He is working for more balanced development that limits economic displacement and preserves the historic multi-cultural character of Echo Park.

Vote for Kwazi Nkrumah for President of GEPENC!

Saturday, April 12, 2014
Edendale Branch Library, 2011 Sunset Blvd., 10am-4pm

(Go to for more info.)


Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Responding to Karin Klein of the LA Times' 'Why my family is opting out of the Common Core testing'

First published April 9, 2014 on School Matter

"The U.S. can do a much better job evaluating children, teachers and schools. That's why protests against standardized testing misuse and overuse are exploding across the nation."—FairTest

Read Professor Chomsky's Media Control: The Spectacular Achievements of PropagandaThe Los Angeles Times' long time school privatization cheerleader Karin Klein penned an interesting piece today entitled Why my family is opting out of the Common Core testing. The following is my response to her editorial:

Ms. Klein:

For roughly a decade you've mocked both education experts and activists who have maintained that high-stakes standardized tests narrow the curriculum, and now you've had an epiphany? Your newspaper, the one that recklessly published pseudoscientific VAM scores from those selfsame tests, and has been the biggest cheerleader of the testing-industrial-complex, is now suddenly concerned with the "socially responsible" thing to do? Call me cynical, but I'd posit that this one editorial does not absolve either of you of your complicity in the long string of neoliberal corporate reforms that have been inflicted on an entire generation of children with your blessings.

I'm glad that you're sparing your own child the abject effects of this year's test. However, I recall sitting across a table from you in early 2013 when you conducted the school board endorsement interviews and having to endure your scoffing at me for suggesting that we end the high-stakes standardized test regime for all students. Your exact words were "if we do that, we'd go back to the 'Johnny Can't Read' days." I remember how astonished I was that a professional journalist covering education could be so ignorant of pedagogy that they'd cite Flesch's right-wing phonics garbage as their defense of the unholy policy trio of No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, and Common Core State Standards.

So don't expect those of us who have been trying to defend all children from the effects of standardized tests—the worst of which robs them of that very fleeting joy of learning—to welcome you aboard. Unlike your offspring, privileged in every regard, there are countless other children who have had their opportunity to love learning stolen by mind numbing test preparation in the name of profits and propaganda.

Robert D. Skeels


11 Reasons for Congressional #TESTHearingsNow


K12NN: American Statistical Association has just released a very important document on Value Added Methodologies

First published April 9, 2014 on K-12 News Network

"The President of the United States and his Secretary of Education are violating one of the most fundamental principles concerning test use: Tests should be used only for the purpose for which they were developed. If they are to be used for some other purpose, then careful attention must be paid to whether or not this purpose is appropriate" — Gerald Bracey, PhD

VAM/AGT and other neoliberal corporate reforms have all scientific validity of phrenology. They’re just as racist as well. The American Statistical Association (ASA) released their ASA Statement on Using Value-Added Models for Educational Assessment today. While their spokesperson explicitly said they neither support, nor oppose the use of so-called "Value Added" methodologies, the actual document provides strong support to those who oppose this wrongheaded use of statistics to make high stakes decisions effecting the lives of students, educators, and our school communities. Too bad the amateur statisticians at the Los Angeles Times were able to commit their egregious acts several years ago before this document was released. It's also too bad that LAUSD recently implemented one of these seriously flawed models, one that will abjectly harm students' education and further undermine the morale of our professional educators for years to come.

Some important excerpts from the document (all emphasis mine):

Estimates from VAMs should always be accompanied by measures of precision and a discussion of the assumptions and possible limitations of the model. These limitations are particularly relevant if VAMs are used for high-stakes purposes. (1)

VAMs should be viewed within the context of quality improvement, which distinguishes aspects of quality that can be attributed to the system from those that can be attributed to individual teachers, teacher preparation programs, or schools. Most VAM studies find that teachers account for about 1% to 14% of the variability in test scores, and that the majority of opportunities for quality improvement are found in the system-level conditions. Ranking teachers by their VAM scores can have unintended consequences that reduce quality. (2)

In practice, no test meets this stringent standard, and it needs to be recognized that, at best, most VAMs predict only performance on the test and not necessarily long-range learning outcomes. Other student outcomes are predicted only to the extent that they are correlated with test scores. A teacher’s efforts to encourage students’ creativity or help colleagues improve their instruction, for example, are not explicitly recognized in VAMs. (4)

Attaching too much importance to a single item of quantitative information is counter-productive—in fact, it can be detrimental to the goal of improving quality. In particular, making changes in response to aspects of quantitative information that are actually random variation can increase the overall variability of the system. (5)

The quality of education is not one event but a system of many interacting components. (6)

A decision to use VAMs for teacher evaluations might change the way the tests are viewed and lead to changes in the school environment. For example, more classroom time might be spent on test preparation and on specific content from the test at the exclusion of content that may lead to better long-term learning gains or motivation for students. (6)

Overreliance on VAM scores may foster a competitive environment, discouraging collaboration  and efforts to improve the educational system as a whole. (6)

The majority of the variation in test scores is attributable to factors outside of the teacher’s control such as student and family background, poverty, curriculum, and unmeasured influences. (7)

The VAM scores themselves have large standard errors, even when calculated using several years of data. These large standard errors make rankings unstable, even under the best scenarios for modeling. (7)

A VAM score may provide teachers and administrators with information on their students’ performance and identify areas where improvement is needed, but it does not provide information on how to improve the teaching (7)

All in all, the document is an academic condemnation of the VAM/AGT pseudosciences that have been ushered in by neoliberal corporate education reform project. While the ASA is populated with actual scientists and statisticians, we can be sure that the corporate reform crowd will be quick to try to refute the document. Here the tag-line of a recent article in Salon by Paul Rosenberg is apropos: 'Like global warming deniers, "education reformers" have nothing to  lose and everything to gain by sowing confusion'.

For a copy of the ASA Statement on Using Value-Added Models for Educational Assessment see For additional information, please visit the ASA website at


Thursday, April 03, 2014

Wrapping up a lot of hard work at UCLA, looking towards next steps

Thank goodness I only had to do this for two quarters. At my age working full time, attending a top ranked R1 university, and getting two-to-three hours of sleep a night in order to earn those grades was beginning to take a serious toll on me physically. Spending every waking moment on the weekends studying didn't do much for my normal household duties either.

A 3.315* is not good enough to get into any UCLA humanities graduate programs, but would be considered excellent for candidacy at the CSU. Still trying to figure out next steps, but Peoples College of Law just might be my next destination.

In fairness, my Glendale Community College GPA was 4.0, and there were some serious extenuating circumstance that led to me dropping out of honors program status at UCLA. Such is life for commuting, working, non-traditional students.


Wednesday, April 02, 2014

SKrashen: Beware of STEM Fever

SKrashen: Beware of STEM Fever: Sent to the Register-Guard, April 2, 2014 Before Eugene's educators continue with their plans ("Leaders eye transforming academy ...


Saturday, March 29, 2014

Know Any Social Justice Oriented UCLA Students? Get Them to #resistTFA

First published in LA Progressive on March 28, 2014

I wrote the Op-Ed following this introduction for the Daily Bruin when I first returned to UCLA as an undergraduate last September. It was patently ignored by the editorial staff, as were my requests for modification guidelines to get it published. While I have a haunting suspicion that some of the editorial staff may have been protecting Teach for America (TFA), I got so busy with my course-load that I was unable to pursue it any further. When I contacted the UCLA Student Organizations Leadership and Engagement department before the winter break, they informed me that if I wanted to start an organization I needed two fellow students and had to apply during a one week window. Once more overwhelmed in the winter by my course-load, commute, and full time job, I missed that window entirely.

Students United for Public Education #ResistTFA CampaignIn the meantime a grassroots movement against TFA and neoliberal corporate education reform has grown around much of the work Students United for Public Education (SUPE) has initiated. In mid-February SUPE staged the #ResistTFA campaign on twitter, and it became the top trending item that day. The campaign received national attention, and forced TFA to issue a written response. Although in the middle of a researching for a paper, I was able to tweet a shot I took earlier that day in Powell Library, and dig out an old shot of when I served the empire to point out that even boot camp is longer than TFA's "training." The campaign continued well after the twitter storm. It was so successful, that within weeks the corporate bellwether was publicly discussing increasing the length of their training. While the goal is the abolishment of TFA altogether, getting them to discuss the harm they cause by foisting unprepared and untrained missionaries on low income children is quite a feat.

United Students Against Sweatshops TFA Truth TourSUPE's #resistTFA efforts have now been joined by United Students Against Sweatshops, another national group, that has launched a "'TFA Truth Tour' to Expose Dark Side of Corporate Education Reform". They embarked on a 15 campus tour to expose TFA's role in neoliberalism and privatization.

EmpowerED: Los Angeles Student Power 2014 conferenceHannah Nguyen, the student discussed in my original article below, has been organizing non-stop. She was one of the panelists for the Network for Public Education's 2014 National Conference, and is the executive director of the EmpowerED: Los Angeles Student Power 2014 conference being held this Saturday, March 29, 2014.

This brings us to the original piece. I'm still tasked with trying to create a SUPE chapter at UCLA. However, I declared for Winter of 2014. As of now I am an unofficial graduate (it's not official until UCLA puts it on my transcript). The good news is now I finally have time to do things like mow my lawn and organize students groups. The bad news is that while I'm technically still a UCLA student for a few more weeks, we really need current students to step forward and take up this mantle. I'm making an appeal to any current Bruins, or anyone who knows one, to get in touch with us at SUPE and help make this a reality. The original article, rejected by the student newspaper, still contains the case for why UCLA, a public university, should be one of the main fronts of resistance against the corporate onslaught against public education as embodied by TFA.

The window for starting a new UCLA group this spring is from 9am on April 7, 2014 to at 5pm on April 11, 2014. The instructions for doing so are online. I'm still willing to mentor young activists doing this. I'm also willing to help hand out flyers and talk to students on the weekends. Jackie Goldberg teaches at UCLA, and would probably be willing to be one of the signatories if two students approached her. Let's work to make UCLA a campus willing to defend the public commons! Let's resistTFA!

Students United for Public Education recruiting Bruins

Robert D. Skeels is a Senior in Classical Civilization, he writes about education policy for Schools Matter

I'd like to introduce an exciting student organization that many of my fellow Bruins will want to get involved with. Last year a Rutgers student named Stephanie Rivera met with University of Wisconsin-Madison students named Michael Billeaux, René Espinoza Kissell, and Dan Suárez. The result of their meeting was the founding of an organization called Students United for Public Education (SUPE).

Advocating for public education, and establishing itself as a bulwark against corporate neoliberal education reforms, SUPE grew quickly and garnered support from progressive educators and activists everywhere. The distinguished Professor Diane Ravitch gave SUPE and Rivera her blessings. The renowned National Education Policy Center (NEPC) provided Rivera space to publicize SUPE. I promoted SUPE at various sites when I ran for the Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education last winter. SUPE has established alliances with several widely recognized national education organizations including Parents Across America and the Network for Public Education.

You may have heard of Hannah Nguyen. She is the courageous student organizer who confronted controversial school privatization advocate Michelle Rhee at Rhee's recent local promotional event. The YouTube video of the exchange went viral, and several people, including Dr. Ravitch, wrote about the occurrence. Nguyen is much like Ravitch in that she started off supporting neoliberal education reforms, but later recognized their destructive effect on our schools and communities. She is now a powerful advocate for authentic reforms and for a student voice in all education policy discussions.

I first "met" Ms. Nguyen online in May as we were both critiquing the destructive activities of the Walton Family Foundation funded school privatization group, Parent Revolution. It was then I learned Nguyen was a national organizer for SUPE. I mentioned to her that I had just been readmitted to UCLA after a nineteen year hiatus. She told me that she was establishing a local SUPE chapter at USC, and asked me if I'd be interested in doing the same at UCLA. I contacted my friend and Schools Matter colleague Stephen Krashen, Professor Emeritus at USC, and we met with Nguyen to lay the foundation for Los Angeles based chapters. After organizing our respective universities, the goal is to reach out to the local California State Universities, Community Colleges, and high schools.

I've been tasked with establishing the UCLA chapter of SUPE. I need help. We're looking for students who care deeply about public education and want to change the discourse about our schools. SUPE's goals and beliefs can be found on their website and on the NEPC announcement page. They are founded on progressive principles that, among other things, reject school privatization, corporate control, teacher bashing, and the misuse of standardized tests. SUPE embraces equity, educating the whole student, use of culturally relevant curricula, and advocating pedagogical practices that are long proven to work.

As a middle aged 90026 commuter undergraduate with a full time job, mortgage, wife, sponsees, and already overcommitted with copious community activism and volunteer work, I'm best situated to serve an advisory role for students able to take on the lion's share of the organizing work. However, I know there are students who would be thrilled to establish a Bruin chapter of SUPE, and defend public education from forces that are wont to privatize the system from K-12 through the university.

SUPE's current project is their Students Resisting TFA Campaign. As a major component of the neoliberal reform project, Teach for America (TFA) enjoys both widespread hype in the corporate media and financial support from ideologically charged donors like the Walton Family Foundation. Numerous progressive education advocates including P.L. Thomas, Gary Rubinstein, Susan Ohanian, and others have shown that regardless of stated intentions, TFA serves as a reactionary force, exacerbating inequity and inequality in our schools, and often serving as a means of undermining organized labor. Some of the strongest testimony against TFA comes from their former corps members. Students Resisting TFA provides resources to help prospective TFA candidates reconsider their interest in the program.

SUPE is on facebook, twitter, and their website is currently being revamped. I hope you join us in the struggle to defend public education.

Right to left, Hannah Nguyen, Robert D. Skeels, and Dr. Stephen Krashen
Right to left, Hannah Nguyen, Robert D. Skeels, and Dr. Stephen Krashen


Thursday, March 27, 2014

Mother, Teacher, Coach. Sounds like the perfect candidate to steward our LAUSD school board

Sherlett Hendy Newbill for LAUSD District 1 | Teacher Mother Coach


Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Youth Internships For Spring, Summer and Fall (SPRING INTERNSHIP STARTS APRIL 5th)

Youth Internships For Spring, Summer and Fall (SPRING INTERNSHIP STARTS APRIL 5th)

Internships leading to apprenticeships, for youth 17 years old and up

From the Ground Up:

Want to learn how to take an active youth leadership role in your community: sign up for CSU’s From The Ground Up seasonal internships.

Learn an array of skills such as:

  • Growing your own food 
  • Presenting and conducting outreach
  • Business acumen and social marketing
  • Understanding social justice and how it connects to your community.

From The Ground Up Internship is an educational/learning program giving YOU the opportunity to learn new things that help you to open your mind. Progress in the community involves progress amongst young people, which means progress in you! By going through the internship you become more engaged with your community and with CSU’s work and can move on to become an apprentice and remain part of the FGU alumni program. If you are interested please either complete the application form (if you have one) or send an and ask for an application form for the next available internship.


Obama: You can start by stopping deportations now!


Cheryl Ortega of UTLA: SB 1174 and Civil Rights

Language rights are human rights

Tonight's UTLA House of Reps meeting will take up the question of whether to endorse SB 1174 (Lara). Senator Lara's bill proposes to put on the ballot in 2016 a repeal of Prop 227. This is seen by bilingual supporters and researchers statewide as a first step in returning full language rights to the students of California. These are the words of Dr. Patricia Gandara, Director of the Civil Rights Project at UCLA:

Rather than to describe the legislation as "undoing 227", presenting 1174 in the positive, about what it will DO positively and that is to give both parents and teachers the freedom of choice, something that has been denied to them over the last 15 years.  Teachers will be able to choose to use the most effective pedagogies and parents will be able to choose the best programs for their children.  To have put this decision into the hands of people who had no expertise and no stake in the outcome was a real abuse of democracy.

Over the last 15 years while California has become an increasingly diverse state with an economy that is increasingly dependent on our commerce and relations with other nations, we have also developed a whole new body of research that illuminates the amazing benefits of multilingualism.  We now know that students who graduate as bilinguals will have significantly better job prospects—a recent survey shows that 2/3 of California employers—across all types of industries—prefer to hire bilinguals over monolinguals—the bilinguals will get the jobs!; we know that young bilinguals will earn more money and hold higher level positions than equally qualified monolinguals; that Latino bilinguals will graduate high school and go on to college at higher rates than monolingual Latinos, and based on a new study that followed students in both bilingual and dual language programs in San Francisco (where they continued their bilingual programs) compared to English immersion, from kinder to high school—the bilinguals reclassified to English proficient at higher rates and scored higher on ELA than English immersion students (I can provide the study).  All of these benefits are in addition to what had already been established—the cognitive and social-emotional benefits of bilingualism. — Professor Patricia Gandara

Senator Lara intends to present his bill, 1174, to the Senate Education Committee in early April. To have UTLA's endorsement would weigh heavily in his favor. To have UTLA vote it down would be seen favorably in the eyes of those in Sacramento who oppose language rights.

PACE voted (with no dissent) to recommend endorsement. The Board of Directors also voted unanimously in favor of recommendation.  We strongly urge you to be at the House tonight to help pass this language rights endorsement.

In unity,
Cheryl Ortega - Director of Bilingual Education
Marina Salas - Bilingual Education Committee Chair


Fortunately LAUSD District 1 voters can choose educators instead of the opportunists and ethically challenged candidates

My comments on KPCC's "LA school board candidate responds to questions about credentials"

Fortunately District One voters will have a range of professional educators to choose from instead of Alex Johnson — a political opportunist who views LAUSD as a career stepping stone, or Genethia Hudley — whose claims that myriad errors in her CV are mere oversights. Those educators include: Hattie McFrazer, Sherlett Hendy Newbill, Rachel Johnson, and George McKenna. LAUSD needs professionals on the board that understand the nuances of policy and the impact their decisions make on pedagogy.

While it is entirely legitimate to vet a candidate's CV for accuracy, and Ms. Hudley-Hayes certainly suffers from the same dishonesty issues as John "nine-credit-hour-PhD" Deasy does in this regard, it is more of interest that Alex Johnson's camp initiated these allegations. Why would the billionaire backed Johnson need to launch such attacks? Perhaps it is because he is infinitely unqualified to hold the seat himself. Having no substantial background or knowledge regarding education, his only recourse is to deflect attention from his own record. There isn't a single policy position on his website, and his campaign has dodged questions about policy and stances on pedagogy. Johnson offers a bevy of vapid platitudes, but those won't address the crucial issues faced by LAUSD.


Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Trinational Coalition to Defend Public Education 11th Biennial Conference

Starting May 09 2014, 09:00 AM — Ending May 11 2014, 04:00 PM

Trinational Coalition to Defend Public Education 11th Biennial Conference

Trinational Coalition to Defend Public Education

The 2014 Trinational Conference to Defend Public Education joins teachers and education activists from Mexico, Canada and the US, to review the struggle to defend public education since NAFTA in 1994, and to plan for the future. Hosted by the Chicago Teachers Union.

  • Friday Daytime: School and union visits to K–12 or higher education institutions
  • Friday Evening: Public dialogue on public education and movements in 3 countries
  • Saturday: 9:00–10:15 a.m.—Plenary discussion on the Trinational struggle
  • Workshops (Choose Two, 10:30am-12:30pm, 1:30pm -3:30pm):
    • Standardized testing & Evaluation—its effects, and campaigns in opposition
    • Precarious employment in K-12 and higher education
    • Student organizing on rights, funding, and other student issues
    • Alternative education programs and pedagogy
    • Teaching in minority communities
    • Building democratic, activist unions
    • Technology and education
    • Social Activities in the evenings
    • REGISTRATION: $100.


What the CCSS profiteers are subjecting my nephew and his peers to