Monday, May 18, 2015
WHAT WENT WRONG WITH L.A. UNIFIED’S iPAD PROGRAM? To put it simply: There was a complete breakdown in the planning and execution of the initiative.
First published on Schools Matter on May 17, 2015
“Of course, the network of power and privilege that eases access to the Ivy League isn’t severed at matriculation—it supports the scions of the superrich throughout. Further emails from the Sony hack show the Lynton nepotism machine gearing up for his elder daughter, Eloise, an undergraduate at Harvard who found herself unable to get into a very popular class with Dr. Jerome Groopman, a New Yorker writer and professor of biology.” — Sam Biddle
Professor Diane Ravitch discussed a recent Daily News piece in her Los Angeles School Board Race: Attack Ads and Lies Aplenty. The Thomas Hines article in question rightly points out that all of Ref Rodriguez's and his California Charter Schools Association's attacks on the Honorable Bennett Kayser have been patently false, but the issues brought up about Rodriguez—like the PUC Lakeview Charter Academy Audit—are true. Of course, not every Los Angeles media outlet has covered the myriad scandals surrounding the billionaire's candidate. I addressed this issue in the following commentary.
I keep wondering when Jamie Alter-Lynton, sibling of the dubious Jonathan Alter, will have her “news” blog — LA School Report — cover either the Lakeview Audit, or the Jacqueline Duvivier Castillo (Better 4 You Meals) self-dealing scandal, or both? Alter-Lynton’s site claims that it practices “journalism in the public interest”, yet somehow misses two of the biggest Los Angeles education scandals of the year, both centering around their candidate: charter industry profiteer Ref Rodriguez.
This quote says it all: “audits… indicated charter officials [i.e. Ref Rodriguez] knew of the alleged conflict of interest” http://4lakidsnews.blogspot.com/2015/05/lausd-charter-group-gave-food-contract.html
The well heeled Rodriguez was PUC Corporation’s CEO, and then their Board Treasurer during both the Lakeview financial malfeasance and Duvivier Castillo incidents. He claims to have known absolutely nothing about either situation, the former occurring for over a decade, the latter for several years now. Giving him the benefit of the doubt, that means Rodriguez is either grossly incompetent, or criminally complicit (there are some that would posit he manages to be both). Neither of those are desirable qualities for a trustee of the nation’s second largest school district.
Friday, May 15, 2015
"Jack," a frequent commenter on Professor Diane Ravitch's site, sent a follow up to his Citizen Jack's Open Letter To The Author Of The L.A. Weekly Article About Ref Rodriguez.
On the subject of class and socio-economic status in this election, some things need to be said.
Ref portrays himself as a poor Chicano from the barrio who cares about the education well-being of poor Chicanos in the barrio.
Well, let’s see… because his PUC charters are unregulated, Ref can pay himself whatever he wants, and his workers as little (or as much) as he wants.
So given that unchecked power, how does Ref use it to provide for the well-being of his fellow poor Chicanos from the barrio?
Rodriguez pays himself $350,000 (a third of a million dollars) annually, while he pays his custodial and cafeteria workers—all low-income Latinos—$8/hour instead of the living wage that their counterparts in the traditional public schools get paid… while principals in traditional public schools (a brutal job in so many ways) earn only around $100,000 annually. To quote Gordon Gekko, that's a zero-sum game. The money that Ref pays himself is money that doesn't go to those workers, (or doesn't get to the classroom, for that matter)
Try to live in L.A. on $8/hour.
Now let's say that you're a parent (or just a citizen concerned about public education) that objects to the gross salaries that Ref and other bosses at PUC receive, and also object to the custodial and cafeteria workers (all low-income Latinos) get paid slave wages... You want to go in front of the LAUSD Board (the one Ref is trying get elected to) and demand a reduction in the bosses' salaries, and an increase in those workers' salaries ... as those are your economic peers in the community.
WELL, YOU CAN'T. Well, you can, but you'd be wasting your breath. That's the way this whole privatized charter thing works. A huge multi-million-dollar amount of your tax money gets dumped into an account and is the school's annual budget. That's it as far as any oversight that the Board has from that point on. The charter bosses can spend that money any way they damn please (concerns about "Better Meals 4 You"-style nepotism corruption be damned). You can only uncover such corruption after the fact, and by that time, your tax money is gone, baby, gone... never to be returned. Ref makes $350,000 for supervising about 3,000 students, while LAUSD Superintendent Cortines gets less, ($300,000) for supervising 670,000 students.
I would like to know exactly what Ref does in a typical 9-to-5, 40-hour week to justify getting paid that kind of cash? It can't be improving the operations of the school, or helping teachers... critiquing instruction, helping design a lesson plan, assisting in classroom management, leading I.E.P. / S.S.T. meetings, or professional development. Ref has ZERO education, training, or experience teaching high school or working as an administrator. (Just out of college, he got in early on the whole charter school racket (1999), without ever learning anything from the ground up.)
As opposed to incumbent Board Member Bennett Kayser, who has 30 years in classroom followed by years as an administrator. Kayser went straight from decades of dedicated work in the schoolhouse to then serve on the Board, so he has an intimate, and detailed knowledge of what students, need, what teachers need, and, in general, what schools need.
Also... Bennet's most certainly not in it for the money... the job pays only $40,000 year., and that's all he earns, or desires to.
The choice is easy, but the trouble is that Ref is outspending Bennet 8-to-1.... dozens of colored cardboard stuffing your mailbox attest to this.
Now, think about that for a second. Billionaires from out of the state and within the state--money-motivated privatizers who don't even live here in LAUSD, whose kids don't go to school here---have pumped in $5 million total tp a PAC to elect Ref.. for a political office that pays only $40,000 ???!!
And we're supposed to believe that they're doing it because they care so much about the education of poor and middle class students? Does that pass the smell test? Look closer and you see how---once Ref is elected and has to power to do their bidding---they will profit from chunk after chunk of the district being given to charter school companies owned and/or allied with them (and then removed from any public oversight), and also profit from companies that they own---in whole or in part---that will reap billions in exchange for providing dubious digital learning, on-line learning, curriculum. etc. to both charters and traditional public schools.
Ref's backers are those oxymoronic and entrepreneurial creatures that populate today's landscape of what's called neo-liberalism... "vulture philanthropists"... "philanthro-preneurs". Unrelieved greed covered the thinnest false veneer of social responsibility.
If you want to keep a money-motivated privatizer like Ref Rodriguez (and his corporate backers) out of power...
if you want to keep our schools truly public---accountable & transparent to the public, controlled by the public via democratically-elected school boards, and educating all of the public, including... as the Good Book says.... the "least of our brethren"... the most vulnerable... special ed. kids, ESL kids, homeless, foster care kids... (the ones charters kick out with abandon, or refuse to accept in the first place)...
If you want all this, then donate to Ref's opponent, Bennett Kayser—a 30-year teacher and administrator who's not in it for the money, but for the students, and for the community. Tell eveyrone you know in District 5 to vote for Bennett Kayser--friends, neighbors, co-workers, people you went to high school with, grade school, college, whatever.
Here’s where you can donate on-line to Bennett Kayser’s campaign:
Here’s his website in general:
Re-Elect Bennett Kayser for School Board 2015
From the May 18, 2015 issue of Update
Bain v. CTA is the latest lawsuit to be filed against teacher unions specifically, but public employee unions in general. This lawsuit has been brought forward by StudentsFirst, the organization founded by former Washington, D.C., schools' chancellor Michelle Rhee, on behalf of four public school teachers. Named in the lawsuit are not only CTA, but UTLA, NEA, CFT, AFT, United Teachers of Richmond and various school superintendents. The plaintiffs (teachers from Los Angeles, West Contra Costa and Arcadia unified school districts) are challenging the law that allows unions to call them nonmembers because they only pay the agency fee. Those who only pay the agency fee exempt themselves from the political activities of the union, but also from some of the perks of membership such as voting on the contract, representation during conferences, extra insurance, etc. Bain and the other teachers in the suit say that it is unfair and unconstitutional (violates their free speech) for them to be denied any benefits of membership as a result of their decision to pay a reduced amount in union dues. In essence, they want to be able to both opt out of full membership in the union and pay significantly reduced dues, yet be able to vote for union officers and participate in other decision-making activities, which union rules currently prohibit.
Antiunion groups have been arguing for years that unions violate workers' First Amendment rights by charging dues. However, the question in this case is not that teachers can opt out of membership and pay a reduced amount of dues, but what benefits members and nonmembers receive from the union. Moshe Z. Marvit, a Philadelphia labor and civil rights attorney and Century Foundation Fellow, says that it is a strange First Amendment argument, that "...you should still have the right to vote in an organization that you don't want to be a part of...It is a strange irony of this case that the plaintiffs readily admit the myriad benefits that come with union membership, but argue that it is unfair to require them to be members of the union to get those benefits."
StudentsFirst, which is financially backing the suit, is funded by a virtual who's who of billionaires and right-wing education reform foundations that include the Walton Family Foundation, the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, the Charles and Helen Schwab Foundation, former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, hedge-fund managers David Tepper and Alan Fournier, Charter Schools USA and the Laura and John Arnold Foundation. Attorney Marvit concludes, "...this case...is litigation funded and promoted by antiunion groups that is part of a general strategy to defund unions, destroy solidarity and erase the benefits of union membership..."
Why Would Anyone Want to Replicate Stupid, Greedy, Inept, Fraudulent?
On Tuesday there will be an election for three LAUSD Board of Education members. These candidates are Kayser v. Rodriguez, Galatzan v. Schmerelson, and Vladovic v. Gutierrez.
The most highly funded race by the billionaires who wish to privatize all of America's public schools (with the goal of making public schools Free Market Wall Street opportunities for vast profit) is that of Rodriguez. They have poured over $2,000,000 into the coffers of Refugio Rodriguez who is the multi millionaire PUC charter school chain organizer, owner, CEO, treasurer...and other titles he chose over the years. A forced internal audit of his PUC charter chain was finally exposed only weeks ago despite his (and his ally on the Board, the notorious charter supporter, Monica Garcia, the clone of Tamar Galatzan and John Deasy) great efforts to hide it from public view until after the election. It showed repeated violations at many of his schools over a long period of time. Most were financial and some leading to his own enrichment.
Last week, the LA Progressive published the article linked below, showing his insider dirty dealings with his own Board leadership in contracting for food services from companies they actually owned, to provide all school meals. This was a very profitable, though probably illegal, enterprise for Rodriguez.
The LA Times, which endorsed Rodriguez (and Galatzan who is also a Deasy and charter supporter), has not backed down from their ill advised endorsement even though they published a similar story on his potential illegal and ostensibly fraudulent behaviors.
How come with this audit evidence and the facts on the food services contracts which are possibly indictable, Rodriguez has not resigned as a School Board candidate, after running one of the dirtiest campaigns in history? And why is he allowed to join with the Latino SouthWest Voters program to now bribe inner city Latino voters to come the polls for a payoff of $25,000? An LASR article lauds them for getting out the vote with 2700 first time Latino student voters, who also are given the payoff motive to go to the polls. What a message for new voters, to sell their vote for cash and prizes! Of course, the 'wink wink' is to vote for the Latino surnamed candidate.
It would seem that the LA Times and their billionaire publisher Austin Beutner, and billionaire advisors Eli Broad and Richard Riordan, have learned nothing from the entire LAUSD/Deasy four year fiasco which cost the District over $167,000,000 in losses from the inept and possibly fraudulent dealings of former Superintendent John Deasy who is now being investigated by the FBI and the SEC, with his Apple and Pearson early emails indicating he gave them insider information on how to be the low bidders for $1.3 Billion for iPads and for Common Core Software curricula not even designed at that point of contractual assignment. Also with Deasy's poor judgement insisting on using the MiSiS software which he knew was flawed for many years, and at the point he insisted on using it in LAUSD, was still not viable. It failed, and it hurt students and schools immeasurably. Now LAUSD is trying to get some of the public's money back from these rotten deals. Do not forget that this huge amount of $1.3 billion in probable sweetheart deals, was snatched from the Construction Bond Fund that LA voters and taxpayers approved to build new public schools and to repair old schools which are falling apart. Taxpayers were 'snookered' by these machinations of the billionaires and their puppets.
Only yesterday did the public learn that the BoE, once again in secret, was influenced to hire interim Superintendent Cortines back for another year despite his rancor with and against teachers and their unions, and despite the second sexual harassment law suit filed against him. He also recently named charter school supporter, Thelma de Melendez, as his second in charge.
At Beaudry, Cortines and the Board of Education evidently never did start a national search for a better superintendent than Deasy (who trained to be their "CEO" at the Broad Academy, and who has now been hired full time to work for Eli Broad), and they seem to have no intention of doing so in the near future. Is this more of Broad's intrusion into the affairs of LAUSD?
Why are voters once again exposed to all this brouhaha and the buying of elections by these wildly wealthy Wall Street profiteers and non-educators who seek to bring all public services into the Free Market to expand their greed in forcing the direction of even more redistribution of American's wealth upward, to themselves?
Stigler, Schumpeter, and Milton Friedman, with their Ayn Rand parroted theories of the Invisible Hand, and Creative Destruction, have long been proven false by modern Nobel Prize winner economists Joseph Stiglitz and Paul Krugman, looking at a Free Market that is anything but FREE.
Please use good judgement and vote for Bennett Kayser and Scott Schmerelson when you go to the polls, without being bribed, on Tuesday, May 19.Ellen Lubic, Director, Joining Forces for Education, Public Policy educator/writer
Roger Waters to Dionne Warwick: “You are showing yourself to be profoundly ignorant of what has happened in Palestine since 1947″
Thursday, May 14, 2015
Although much was initially promised to gain buy-in to school choice campaigns, most teachers, parents and communities of color have not experienced greater participation within charter schools.—Professor Antonia Darder
TAMAR GALATZAN + JOHN DEASY = 1.3 billion dollar iPad fiasco• WHO WOULD SHE PICK FOR THE NEXT SUPERINTENDENT? A JOHN DEASY CLONE?• WILL SHE ATTEMPT TO BAIL AGAIN ON LAUSD AND RUN FOR ANOTHER POLITCAL OFFICE(CD 2, 2009)?• WILL SHE WASTE MORE OF OUR TAX DOLLARS AND RESTART THE 1.3 BILLION DOLLAR IPADS, HER PET PROJECT, EVEN THOUGH IT IS UNDER INVESTIGATION BY THE FBI AND SEC?• WHY WOULDN’T THE LA COUNTY DEMOCRATIC PARTY ENDORSE HER?Dear Friends and Neighbors:A few months ago, I wrote to you about the March 3 primary election which included a race for the LAUSD Board of Education. The result was that Tamar Galatzan faced a shocker - 60% voted against her. This Tuesday, we will be choosing who will be representing us for the next four years.I am writing to you again because I have become increasing disturbed by the visuals and verbiage of many of the flyers that are arriving in my mail on an almost daily basis. The funders of Ms. Galatzan’s campaign have chosen to use the lowest level of tactics to undermine and mislead the public. In one example, her opponent, school principal Scott Schmerelson, is referred to as a “paid” lobbyist for a school administrators’ organization. There is ZERO evidence to support these claims. WHAT OTHER LIES ARE THEY TRYING TO SPREAD??? WHY ARE THEY DEMONSTRATING SUCH DESPERATION???? MAYBE THE PUBLIC IS NOT BUYING WHAT THEY ARE TRYING TO SELL!!!!These same funders were long and vocal supporters of disgraced superintendent John Deasy. They would like nothing better than to bring back a John Deasy clone to LAUSD and Ms. Galatzan, as Deasy’s closest ally on the board, would most certainly make that her priority. Money is no object for these billionaires when it comes to taking over our local school board elections.According to the LA City Ethics Commission, violations of election rules can be filed, but it is clear that any investigation would not take place until after the election and would only result in a fine. Clearly, it appears to be safe to print and distribute these false materials with the knowledge that any actions by the city would occur after the fact and would not cause a candidate to lose their seat.On Tuesday, we have a choice. On one hand, we have Tamar Galatzan, close ally of ousted superintendent John Deasy and whose board resolution prompted Deasy to create his “tablet for everyone” plan. In contrast, revered teacher, counsel and school principal Scott Schmerelson, has expressed a much different view of how our school construction bonds should be spent and how to prioritize spending where it belongs, in the classroom.Ms. Galatzan has received endorsements from politicians(she works full time in City Hall as a prosecutor) while Mr. Schmerelson’s main supporters are students, parents and teachers who have had the priviledge of working directly with him and witnessed his ability to make a difference on every campus he has worked at.
Schools Los Angeles Students Deserve (SLASD) General Assembly
Thursday, May 21, 2015
St. Marks Lutheran Church
3651 South Vermont Ave,
Los Angeles, CA 90007
(2 blocks north of the Expo line's Vermont station)
Final General Assembly of the school year. This year we have accomplished so much!
- Parent Leadership Institutes provided space for parents from across the city to strategize about how to make changes in their children's schools
- SLASD-GC parents exposed conditions at schools across LAUSD through participating in UTLA's Parent Caravan
- In multi-day Youth Leadership Institutes, students discussed systemic oppression and resistance and built cross-school strategies
- Students developed a social media campaign to spread awareness of issues at their schools
- On their campuses, students took action to educate their peers about the Black Lives Matter movement
- Students gathered over 1,200 petitions to demand changes in their schools and delivered these to the School Board
- We supported the fight for Ethnic Studies, and urged the School Board to fund new teaching positions to cover these new courses
- Parents and students spoke at rallies across the city in support of the campaign for the Schools LA Students Deserve
- In meetings with School Board members Zimmer, Kayser, and McKenna, we moved towards a School Board resolution
- Overall, our campaign created more pressure on LAUSD to sign a good contract with UTLA!
At our General Assembly, we'll be assessing our work this year, and planning for our work over the Summer and next Fall to hit the ground running!
Please join us!
“That’s not exactly investigative reporting or a critique of the powerful. But it represents the kind of contrarian, screw-you mentality that fits the New Times worldview now evident at the LA Weekly.” — Professor Jon Wiener
"Jack," a frequent commenter on Professor Diane Ravitch's site, sent me the following critique of Joshua Emerson Smith fluff-job of charter school profiteer Refugio "Ref" Rodriguez. The fact-free ham-fisted Smith piece appeared in that trashy porn and masseuse ad pennysaver known as the LA Weekly (aka Weakly)—a bastion of Jill Stewart's brand of Ayn Rand Libertarianism.
CITIZEN JACK's OPEN LETTER TO THE AUTHOR OF THE L.A. WEEKLY ARTICLE ABOUT REF RODRIGUEZ
To Joshua Emerson Smith, (the author of the above L.A. WEEKLY article):As with someone else who just posted, I'm also utterly shocked that you didn't mention the troubling and shocking revelations about Ref Rodriguez that emerged from a recent state audit---the same audit that Ref's ally Monica Garcia pulled out all the stops to keep sealed, but ultimately failed to do so. (See the video of Monica and Ref standing side-by-side at last year's California Charter School Association shindig---this video is posted elsewhere in the COMMENTS section.)Seriously, dude, writing an article about the Kayser / Rodriguez 2015 election, and not mentioning "Food-gate" even once is akin to... oh, I dunno...... writing about the 2004 Presidential election and not mentioning Bush's ill-advised invasion of Iraq, and most importantly, the fact that no WMD's were found... therefore the entire justification for taking us into that war was all a manufactured hoax...... writing about the 2010 Brown / Whitman gubernatorial election, and not mentioning "Maid-gate"...What's up with that?To get you (and others) up to speed, here's a recap:In a May 2nd Los Angeles Times' article, reporters Zahira Torres and Howard Blume detailed the troubling corruption and outrageous malfeasance that a state audit uncovered operating within Ref Rodriguez' charter school organization, "Partnership to Uplift Communities"(PUC). Mr. Rodriguez founded this charter chain, and currently serves as its PUC's CEO and Treasurer.Check it out here:or here, ( if, like me, you're too cheap to subscribe to the Times on-line site;-) ) :
Employing a wealth of documentation, the state auditors cite systemic wrongdoing and illegal misuse of taxpayer funds on the part of PUC’s Director of Business and Development, Ms. Jacqueline Duvivier Castillo, and by extension, on the part of Founder / CEO, Mr. Rodriguez, and Jacqueline Elliot, PUC's other Chief Executive.
After all, Ms. Castillo---it should be noted---was hired by Mr. Rodriguez and Ms. Elliott, and works under their direction. As such, Mr. Rodriguez and Ms. Elliot bear ultimate responsibility, and gave ultimate approval to the problematic purchases and decisions that that both the state audit condemned, and that the May 2 Times' article exposed to the public.
And exactly what did Ref & Co. at PUC perpetrate?
Ms. Castillo willfully chose to misuse her position to award PUC's multi-year, multi-million-dollar food contract to "Better 4 You Meals", a company that, to quote the audit, is "one hundred percent owned" by Ms. Castillo (!!!). In the process, she enriched both herself and her husband Fernando---a top executive in that company, "Better 4 You Meals."
While the charter school laws technically require Ref to run PUC as a "non-profit", so as to prevent such profiteering by charter officials, Ms. Castillo (and perhaps Ref?) evaded this by contracting out their food service to a for-profit company that she and her husband own. (This is a common shabby practice within the charter industry... by the time such shenanigans are uncovered, that taxpayer money that these crooks pocket is gone, baby, gone... never to be recovered... as is the case with Ref's / PUC's "Foodgate" imbroglio.)
Again, this is all detailed to the state audit report, quoted and reported on by the reporters in the Times' article.
The Times' article further states:
"The state Department of Education, which released emails and documents about its investigation to the Los Angeles Times under the California Public Records Act, also found:
" --- Duvivier Castillo failed to properly report her financial interests in the company
" --- The company was ineligible for the food contracts because it lacked a health permit and relied on a subcontractor to prepare meals.
" --- PUC Schools did not select the lowest-priced bidder as required."-------------------------------------------
So, in addition to the gross impropriety of the process itself, and to the heinous misuse of the taxpayer money that funds charter schools like the PUC chain, Ms. Castillo's company, "Better 4 You Meals", operates in a substandard fashion, and thus delivered a demonstrably substandard product, as the food preparation, delivery, storage, etc. "lacked the required health permit."
Since Mr. Rodriguez hired Ms. Castillo to work at PUC, he almost certainly knew of her business holdings and interests---i.e. her and her husband's ownership of "Better 4 You Meals."Might Mr. Rodriguez have profited from any secret kickback from Ms. Castillo in exchange for approving the "Better 4 You Meals" contract? Perhaps. We do not know. If the answer is "No" and he knew that Ms. Castillo owned "Better 4 You Meals", then why did he approve a multi-year, multi-million dollar contract for this same company ? To quote "THE SOPRANOS", do you really think that Ref (or Ms. Elliot) didn't "get a taste" of this? If not, what was in it for him to do so?
Furthermore, even if you assume that Mr. Rodriguez is criminally "innocent", and really did NOT know of Ms. Castillo's conflict of interest, then, at the very least, Mr. Rodriguez most certainly SHOULD have. That's a key part of his freakin' job, for God's sake!!! His failure to know this, and his failure to do the due diligence necessary to discover it, and to remain aware of this when making relevant decisions reflects poorly on his abilities as an administrator. He also should have asked and required that Ms. Castillo produced the required health permit. At the very least, Ref is most certainly "guilty" of gross administrative incompetence and negligence. All of this renders Ref unfit to manage LAUSD's $7-billion-dollar budget.
To date, Mr. Rodriguez himself has refused to comment on this scandal---hoping to just lay low until the election is over, as he squeaks through to an ill-gotten victory. Such silence on his part speaks volumes.
To paraphrase Harry Truman, "the buck should stop" with Mr. Rodriguez, as he is PUC's Founder, CEO, and Treasurer.Bennett Kayser's constituents (like me) can tell you that "the buck" most certainly DOES stop with Bennett, as evidenced by his diligent responsiveness to their concerns (i.e. his opposition to the I-pad purchase and resulting debacle.)The students, parents, and citizens of LAUSD District 5 can ill afford to have someone like Mr. Rodriguez to be one of only seven individuals (the seven Board Members) in charge of LAUSD finances, a solemn responsibility that Board Member Kayser---a 30-year teacher and school administrator, by the way---has approached with the utmost care and seriousness.
In the last four years---and in contrast to Ref's record---neither Kayser nor anyone on his staff, nor anyone connected to him in any way has benefited financially from any action that Board Member Kayser has taken. Nor has anyone been involved in any corruption of any kind while he has been fulfilling the oath that he took in July 2011. Profiting or enriching himself is most certainly NOT why Bennett is serving on the board. Just as in his teaching and school administrator career, it's not about him; it's about the well-being of 670,000 students, their parents and the community as a whole for which he is responsible.Unlike Rodriguez and others, it's not a fear of being caught that drives Board Member Kayser to avoid financial impropriety, eschew personal enrichment, and remain on the "straight and narrow"; it's Bennett's own conscience and moral code. I can vouch for this, as I've known him personally for years. That's all part of the solemn vow that an LAUSD Board Member takes when he is sworn into office. If re-elected, Bennett's track record on this score, of course, will continue for the next four years, and for as long as Bennett serves as a public servant.Mr. Rodriguez' actions, as detailed in the May 2 Los Angeles Times' article, call into serious question his own ability to do likewise.
Indeed, a key part of Bennett's job as the incumbent District 5 Board Member these last four years on LAUSD's board has been to manage LAUSD's budget, and know in as great detail as possible where every penny of that $7 billion goes. This truly is a task on a par with memorizing the phonebook, but it is a job that a School Board member must be willing and able to take on. Bennett has overseen and balanced three consecutive budgets of $7 billion each, and one that services 670,000 students and the adult staff that serve them!!! Top that, will you?How does Ref's track record compare to this?Well, according to writer and activist Robert Skeels, "Ref Rodriguez couldn’t keep one school, with only 100 students, balanced for nine years (9) straight! This 'insolvent' bad apple is Lakeview Charter, part of the Rodriguez/PUC charter chain. Ham-handed attempts by Rodriguez’s supporter to hide the Office of the Inspector General’s (OIG) audit of the Rodriguez-run PUC Lakeview Charter School, and affiliated enterprises, have been exposed."Read more of Robert Skeels' article at:Again, the state audit's report clearly calls into question Mr. Rodriguez' capabilities in this area.
Once the audit hit the news, Ms. Castillo quickly left PUC, with PUC executive Ms. Elliot making the only public comment on the matter... stating that they didn't know about the conflict of interest, and that there was no wrongdoing on anyone's part.What about Ref's response? So far, incredibly, there's been RADIO SILENCE FROM REF RODRIGUEZ HIMSELF. I am sorry, but the Mr. Rodriguez and the folks at PUC cannot have it both ways. They cannot, on the one hand, fire Ms. Duvivier Castillo (or pressure her to resign), and then, on the other hand, claim---as Ms. Elliot has---that there was no wrong-doing on her or anyone else's part.If Ms. Castillo--and by extension, Ref and Ms. Elliot--- truly did nothing wrong, as PUC officials claim, there is no reason for Ms. Castillo to leave PUC, and no reason for Ref to clam up about the whole sordid affair.Innocent people do not run away (like Ms. Castillo has); guilty people do.Innocent people don't clam up (like Ref has); they speak out and clear their name.If you've got nothing to hide, you hide nothing.VOTE FOR BENNETT KAYSER ON MAY 19TH for the DISTRICT 5 LAUSD BOARD DISTRICT SEAT
Wednesday, May 13, 2015
“…let me be really honest. I think the best thing that happened to the education system in New Orleans was Hurricane Katrina.” — Arne Duncan
Contact: Madison Donzis, firstname.lastname@example.org, 210.488.6220
Tuesday, May 12, 2015
Contact: Bennett Kayser HQ
Los Angeles – Bennett Kayser, Board member of the second largest school district in the nation, has balanced three, $7 billion dollar budgets affecting 660,000 students, their families and those who serve them.
The report shows that Kayser’s Board District 5 challenger Ref Rodriguez couldn’t keep one school, with only 100 students, balanced for nine years (9) straight! This “insolvent” bad apple is Lakeview Charter, part of the Rodriguez/PUC charter chain. Ham-handed attempts by Rodriguez’s supporter to hide the Office of the Inspector General’s (OIG) audit of the Rodriguez-run PUC Lakeview Charter School, and affiliated enterprises, have been exposed.
The audit became a hot political football to be deflated by Rodriguez’s ideological ally. Howard Blume of the Los Angeles Times first reported last week on the surreptitious attempts to hide the facts: http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-puc-charter-audit-20150428-story.html
Under extraordinary circumstances, the independent audit of Rodriguez’s charter was withheld from the public, diverted into a “closed session” of the Tuesday, May 12th Board meeting and shoved under “attorney-client privilege” in an attempt to bury the damning report. The audit was also withheld from the usual public posting on the OIG’s website. Though still not posted, the audit can be viewed here: https://s3.amazonaws.com/s3.documentcloud.org/documents/2070211/puc-lakeview-charter-academy-audit-4-23-2015-1.pdf
The Inspector General's report lays out how Rodriguez's school violated child abuse requirements, the State’s Education Code, State labor rules, best practices, and even its own charter, multiple times. On page three the report highlights “...the fact that for nine straight years of school operations, the Lakeview Charter Academy had poor financial results, and was fiscally insolvent.” (aka bankrupt!)
Perhaps out of fear that the scathing audit would trigger calls for additional investigations and oversite of Rodriguez’s schools, the topic was dropped from the Board’s Closed Session agenda for May 12, 2015.
The fact the PUC audit was pulled from the Board’s closed session agenda is proof-positive that games are being played by political allies to hide poor management, if not serious violations by Rodriguez and his executive team. What the PUC?
Paid for by Re-Elect Bennett Kayser for School Board 2015 - General – 419 North Larchmont Blvd., #37, Los Angeles, CA 90004 – ID #1375891 – More information available at Ethics.lacity.org – Bennett2015.com – (323) 535-9930
Thursday, May 07, 2015
All the Pieces Matter
Join us at LAUSD headquarters on Beaudry next Tuesday, May 12, for UTLA's "All the Pieces Matter!" rally against the RIFs. Come together and show support for our students and Adult Education, and other programs being cut such as Early Education, and counselors. As educators, we are all an important piece in the fight for the Schools L.A. Students Deserve: Parent-enriched Early Education to K-12 to Adult Ed to every classroom to Health and Human Services.
Tuesday, May 05, 2015
In the LA Progressive piece What the PUC Is Going on Here? Hans Johnson and Hector Huezo of the East Area Progressive Democrats take a look at Refugio "Ref" Rodriguez's myriad financial "mishaps." These include: the fishy max campaign contributions from employees paid minimum wage; the eye-opening audit of PUC's Lakeview finances; and passing mention of the FoodGate money laundering scheme that saw PUC employees self-dealing. The latter issue has become such a scandal that now has both the The L.A. County District Attorney and the L.A. Unified Inspector General are investigating PUC corporate officers including Jacqueline Elliot and Ref Rodriguez. Rodriguez was PUC's Chief Executive Officer at the time the Better 4 You contract was awarded, and has been their Corporate Board Treasurer ever since. Rodriguez has shamelessly promoted profiteering on behalf of the burgeoning corporate charter school sector for years.
Saturday, May 02, 2015
Tuesday, April 28, 2015
Resisting The Neoliberal Privatization of Education: Reclaiming Teachers' Unions, Education, and Epistemologies
I am so excited that my first peer reviewed journal article "The Non-Profit Industrial Complex’s role in imposing neoliberalism on public education" will be published in this upcoming issue of Regeneración.
Regeneración, the Association of Raza Educators Journal
Volume 6, Issue 1 (Spring 2015)
The theme for our next issue: "Resisting The Neoliberal Privatization of Education: Reclaiming Teachers' Unions, Education, and Epistemologies"
Undeniably, ever since the World Bank declared education a trade-able service—trumping the idea that education is a basic human right--education and teachers have been increasingly under attack by corporations, venture philanthropists, and a growing managerial middle class, who function within a neoliberal ideology that places insurmountable faith in markets and the expansion of capitalism globally into all facets of everyday life. We believe that the neoliberal project to de-fund and privatize public education interlocks with the idea of a racial-colonial State. Thus, it is no coincidence that neoliberal experiments to privatize public education have materialized in large urban districts, such as Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, etc., where we find a significant number of Raza, Black, and other historically marginalized peoples.
In this issue of Regeneración we seek both analysis and praxis, that is texts that help us understand more deeply how neoliberalism is manifest in particular geographic, social, and cultural spaces. As well, we are looking for texts that provide examples of resistance to the corporate takeover of public education. How are urban and other communities responding to the attacks on education and teachers? What grassroots and strategic spaces are created that provide alternatives to neoliberalism and capitalism? How are teachers' unions being reinvented? What role does the fight for Ethnic Studies present as a counter to the neoliberal attack?
To access past issues of Regeneración: http://www.razaeducators.org/archives_newsletter.html
“The Tip of the Iceberg: Charter School Vulnerabilities to Waste, Fraud, and Abuse” Exposes Costly Consequences of Lacking Charter Schools Accountability, Transparency
** Full report available here: http://bit.ly/1DDlpjM **
A new report by the Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools (AROS) and the Center for Popular Democracy (CPD) found that financial fraud, waste, and mismanagement by charter schools cost taxpayers more than $200 million in just 15 states—a significant increase from the more than $100 million in charter school financial fraud exposed in a similar report released by CPD last year.
To read the full report, go to: http://populardemocracy.org/sites/default/files/Charter-Schools-National-Report_rev2.pdf
“Charter schools act like they have a ‘get out of accountability free’ card,” said Jonathan Stith, director of the Alliance for Educational Justice and a spokesperson for AROS. “$200 million dollars that was supposed to go to schools and classrooms is just gone. And that's likely to be the tip of the iceberg, given the lack of transparency or standards applied to charter schools.”
“We will continue to have a charter school fraud problem until we address the root cause – the broken oversight systems that exist on a federal and state level,” said Kyle Serrette, the Director of Education for CPD. “Certainly not all charter school operators are fraudulent, but our system is not good at differentiating the sheep from the wolves in sheep’s clothing. That’s a problem, given the fact that taxpayers around the country are collectively spending over $20 billion a year on charter schools. Charter school parents, children, and taxpayers deserve better.”
Examples of charter fraud and mismanagement covered in the report include:
Washington, DC: The DC Public Charter School Board unanimously revoked the charter of Dorothy I. Height Community Academy Public Charter School—which enrolled 1,600 students across three campuses and an online academy—after the school’s founder, Kent Amos, was accused of diverting funds from the school for his personal profit. Despite evidence that Amos—who is currently being sued by the DC Attorney General—diverted more than $14 million from the school in the last 10 years, the DC Public Charter School Board pointed to their limited ability to oversee for-profit management companies, which are often intertwined with non-profit charter schools and face no requirements to disclose salaries or other pertinent information that could prevent rampant fraud.
Michigan: In April 2014, Steven Ingersoll, founder of Grand Traverse Academy, was convicted of federal fraud and tax evasion. He did not report $2 million of taxable income in 2009 and 2010. The school’s audit revealed a $2.3-million prepayment to Ingersoll’s school management company. Ingersoll then used half of a $.8 million loan for school construction to pay down some of his debt to the school. After the founder’s ouster, his daughter-in-law continued to handle the finances of the school.
Ohio: In January 2015, the state auditor released a report of the results of unannounced visits by inspectors to 30 charter schools. In nearly half of the schools, the school-provided headcount was significantly higher than the auditors’ headcount. Schools are funded based on headcount, so these inflated figures amount to taxpayer dollars siphoned away from students. Among the seven schools with the most extreme variances between reported head count and the auditors’ headcount, almost 900 students were missing, at a cost of roughly $5.7 million. Auditors identified eight other schools with troubling, but less significant variances.
Additionally, in June 2014, a grand jury indicted the superintendent and 2 board members of Arise! Academy in Dayton of soliciting and accepting bribes in exchange for awarding a “lucrative” consulting contract to a North Carolina-based company. The contract was worth $420,919 and the charter personnel received kickbacks in the form of cash, travel, and payments to a separate business.
California: In July 2014, the Los Angeles Unified School District performed a forensic audit of Magnolia Public Schools. They found that the charter-school chain used education dollars to pay for six non- employees’ immigration costs and could not justify $3 million in expenses over four years to outsource curriculum development, professional training, and human resources services that the school itself reported.
More examples of charter fraud & mismanagement here: http://populardemocracy.org/sites/default/files/Charter-Schools-National-Report_rev2.pdf
The report calls for a set of core reforms to end the hemorrhaging of public funds to fraudulent charter schools and also calls on state and federal lawmakers to act now to put systems in place to prevent fraud, waste, abuse and mismanagement.
The Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools (AROS) is a national coalition representing more than 7 million Americans who attend and work in public schools, and live in the communities most impacted by the ESEA.
Monday, April 27, 2015
LAUSD District 5: Money, education and the school board race! On KPFK's Politics or Pedagogy? with John Cromshow
Featuring an analysis of education, policy and practice affecting our public schools.
KPFK 90.7 FM
KPFK's Politics or Pedagogy? with John Cromshow
Tuesday, April 28
Call in number: (818) 985-5735
Money, education and the school board race. Case in point, LAUSD District 5. It takes money to run a political campaign - lots of it - even for something as basic to education as a school board race.
GUESTS — PRERECORDED:
Bennett Kayser (LAUSD School Board), 10-minute Q & A
Scott Folsom (4LAKIDS), Money, the School Board Race and more
Roger Wagner, Ph.D. (Servant Leadership)
GUESTS — IN-STUDIO:
Andrew Thomas, Ph.D. (District 5 candidate in the 2015 Primary)
Lisa Karahalios (LAUSD Teacher)
Plus a Kayser Campaign Staffer
Both Refugio "Ref" Rodriguez's and the Honorable Bennett Kayser's campaigns were invited but only the Kayser campaign agree to appear as requested below.
TO: Campaign Managers, LAUSD School Board, District 5
FROM: John Cromshow, KPFK, Politics or pedagogy?
RE: INVITATION Candidates Forum Participation
DATE: Tuesday, April 21, 2015
To confirm our conversation regarding the Candidates' On-Air Forum:
- Each candidate has been invited to participate in an individual pre-recorded interview.
- John Cromshow, host of Politics or pedagogy? on KPFK will conduct each interview.
- Each candidate will be asked to respond to the same questions.
- Pre-recorded interview answers (10 minutes total) will be a central part of the forum.
- Invited on-air panelists - one teacher-supporter and one campaign-staffer for each candidate.
- Panelists will discuss the School Board race and answer listener calls.
- Program will air on Tuesday, April 28, 2015 from 7:00-8:00 p.m.
- Candidate(s) accepting the invitation, as outlined above, will be represented in the program.
Call in number: (818) 985-5735
Saturday, April 25, 2015
Schools Matter: What are Ref Rodriguez's ties to the Gülen cult, and why is the Armenian community supporting Bennett Kayser?
First published on Schools Matter on April 23, 2015
“Review of the financial statements and accounting records noted: non-disclosure of related party transactions; failure to maintain required fund reserves; failure to appropriately apply accrual basis of accounting; lack of monitoring of cash receipts and deposits process; lack of documentation for disbursements; lack of control over journal entries, and lack of adequate training for the accounting staff.” — Los Angeles Unified School District, Office of the Inspector General
Refugio "Ref" Rodriguez is arguably as secretive as the Gülen religious cult. Secrecy isn't the only thing the two charter giants have in common. While there's no direct evidence of collaboration, there is plenty of circumstantial evidence connecting these charter conspirators.
Rodriguez's charter empire and Gülenist movement are both funded by Walmart fortune heirs. The LA School Report blog's Vanessa Romo wrote about Rodriguez's corporate charter network on January 20, 2015:
"All got their seed money from the biggest players in education reform — either the Walton Family Foundation or the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. He [Ref Rodriguez] says all but a handful of PUC schools out-perform the surrounding public schools." [emphasis mine]
"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." [emphasis mine]
The common thread is Walmart fortune heiress, Carrie Walton Penner. She is currently the California Charter Schools Association's (CCSA) Board Vice-Chair (term ending 6/30/2017). Her close friend Rodriguez was a CCSA Board member from 2005 to 2009. Her mutual funding of both Rodriguez's lucrative PUC corporate charter network, and the Gülen charter school network (including Magnolia charters) is undisputed.
Another strong piece of evidence is that Magnolia branches of the Gülen charter school network bloomed under Rodriguez's CCSA board tenure. No less than five Magnolia schools were opened during the Rodriguez era:
- 2007 Magnolia Science Academy – 2 Valley (MSA-2)
- 2008 Magnolia Science Academy – 3 Carson (MSA-3)
- 2008 Magnolia Science Academy – 4 Venice (MSA-4)
- 2008 Magnolia Science Academy – 5 (MSA-5)
- 2009 Magnolia Science Academy – 6 Palms (MSA-6)
The proliferation of Gülen charter schools under Rodriguez's CCSA board term might explain why he has remained silent as to the serious charges of malfeasance against those schools. Rodriguez, who claims he wants to see "bad charters shut down," would do well to read Scott M. Folsom's sage words on the acts committed:
"Parental Choice does not give the right to parents to choose to send their kids to a bad school -- whether the school is bad because it does a crummy job of teaching students or managing the public's funds."
The unequivocal support of Los Angeles' Armenian community of Rodriguez's opponent, the Honorable Bennett Kayser, may be the most damning piece of evidence. Magnolia is tightly aligned with the Gülenist Pacifica Institute. In 2011 Armenian groups protested the organization's ties to Turkish groups denying the 1915-1918 Armenian genocide. That Ref Rodriguez and Monica Garcia are closely aligned to genocide deniers should concern voters to no end. Following is a press release announcing an Asbarez.com article discussing Kayser's broad support by Armenians.
Yegparin specifically writes about Bennett's race and what is at stake this Tuesday, May 19th:
"But perhaps the most subtly important LA election is for the school board’s District 5 seat. Bennett Kayser, the incumbent running for reelection placed second, and faces a very strong challenger in the runoff. Kayser’s opponent is supported with serious money from the charter school movement (specifically, the California Charter Schools Association Advocates and its various tentacles), the same people from whom the Turkish Gulen movement has benefitted as it successfully encroaches on LAUSD schools."
"Consider that when all the spending in this race is added up (by the candidates themselves and independent expenditure committees for and against the candidates) Kayser’s opponent comes out 43% ahead in dollar terms! This is very unusual. It is more commonly the incumbent that has the money edge. It speaks to how much Kayser is being targeted."
"We should be assisting him as much as possible. Unfortunately, his district covers areas which are not home to very many Armenians, which speaks to the principled nature of his stance. So that leaves volunteering (making phone calls or walking neighborhoods) and campaign donations, both of which can be done through the Kayser’s website, www.bennett2015.com."
**Click here to read the rest of the article on Asbarez.com**
**Click here to donate to Bennett's campaign**
**Click here to volunteer for Bennett's campaign**
Thursday, April 23, 2015
First published April 22, 2015 on Daily Censored
Reporters, parents, and community activists have been trying to get the facts about wealthy charter industry executive Refugio “Ref” Rodriguez. They have called, emailed, and even asked Rodriguez campaign workers at their doorsteps simple, but important questions. They are being ignored.
Q1: It’s known that Rodriguez attended Catholic schools, did he ever attend a public school?
Q2: We know Rodriguez has worked for charter schools and Catholic schools. Has he ever worked at a public school? Volunteered at one?
Q3: Lacking public school experience he wants to be elected to our school board. Will Rodriguez ever open up his charter chain’s board to public elections?
Curious? Ask him yourself. Call (310) 968-5729
In addition to dodging the simple questions above, Rodriguez never disclosed that his California Charter School Association (CCSA) boasted “30% profit margins… with 20-30% lead generation and 20-50% close ratios.” He won’t discuss his relationship with the secretive Gülen cult charter network. Rodriguez has avoided discussing how much money his charter chain spends on advertising instead of students. That’s a lot of secrets! Los Angeles Unified School District students deserve honest, forthcoming school board members, not ones with so many things to hide.
There's some other investigative reporting that "journalists" Michael Janofsky, Vanessa-Romo, and Craig Clough might want to look into.