Friday, September 04, 2009

Open Letter to Howard Blume from Professor Ralph E. Shaffer

Support Parents and UTLA against LAUSD and Green Dot's corporate charter cash cowsAN OPEN LETTER TO HOWARD BLUME [and the Editorial Board], in response to his article on L A charter schools, 9/2/09

Was it an inadvertent selection of words, Howard, that led you to refer to the Flores Aguilar plan in your second paragraph as a "school control" program rather than one of "school choice?" You are, in fact, absolutely right in calling it "school control." There never was any "choice" given to students, teachers or parents in the resolution that the LAUSD board adopted. The "choice" in her plan was in the form of outside operators "choosing" which schools they would pick off. Can't you see a smoke-filled room where Villaraigosa, Barr, Palisoc and others are meeting to decide who bids for the right to "control" which campuses?

I thought from the onset that the use of "Choice" in Aguilar's resolution was a come-on, designed to lure unsuspecting but dissatisfied parents into thinking this plan was somehow going to give them a greater say in the education of their children. But, Howard, you know that was never the intention of the charter crowd or the mayor's cabal. It was always an empty gesture - and it worked. Where is the charter school in L A that truly gives parents a decisive voice in the education of their kids? It would be the exception to an almost ironclad rule of no parental authority.

I assume you are aware, Howard, that "school choice" was a code phrase used by the anti-integration rednecks and ultraconservative gentility who wanted the right in the 1960s and 70s to send their kids to racially homogeneous public schools or, better yet, get a voucher from the state to send their kids to private schools. What you may not be aware of is that the California charter school law was enacted in the early 1990s partly as a ploy to block the voucher movement.

May I make a suggestion for a future article over your byline: interview Gary Hart and Delaine Eastin, the two legislators who ushered the original bill through the state legislature. Ask them to comment on how the charter school movement of today equates with the very precise objectives they had for such schools. Also ask them what they think of this whole new cottage industry of charter "companies" - I'm glad to see that you are referring to them as "companies" rather than "educationally institutions," which they are not. We might as well have Blackwater running the schools.

Anyway. a published interview with Eastin and Hart ought to win a Pulitzer.

So now it's in the open. The Flores Aguilar plan was really a move for "control" of the schools by charters and has nothing to do with "choice." We will probably never again hear the word "choice" used in connection with this theft. And theft it is. Didn't Cortines use the word "steal" in a quotation in your article?

As I read your piece it became apparent that a flock of vultures is drooling over the feast that will begin in January. And the vultures are Villaraigosa, Tuck, Hill, Palisoc, Barr, Austin, and the angels bankrolling them: Broad and Wasserman. You tell us that Broad wants to dismantle the LAUSD. I'm not surprised. One of his pets, Green Dot, has apparently catered to him by writing into the curriculum at Locke a requirement that all students there will have to demonstrate a "belief" in capitalism. My, my! Editorial page editor Jim Newton stands by Broad, citing the philanthropist's liberalism. Well, he isn't liberal when it comes to allowing students to have freedom of thought. Apparently Broad would like to dismantle the First Amendment to the U S Constitution as he works to dismantle the LAUSD.

Perhaps, then, "control" has a greater meaning. Not only will private entrepreneurs - with their six figure salaries at their "noon-profit" charters - control the billions of dollars in school property but they will also "control" the mindset of the students they plan to "educate." I will not be surprised if the guru of American Indian Public Charter School in Oakland makes a play for an LAUSD school. You surely remember that character, Howard. Your fellow reporter Mitchell Landsberg did a piece about him in late May, describing how the kids there have to give a pledge every morning -not to the American flag ... but to "Capitalism." This is also the guy who tells teacher applicants that no liberals need apply. He ought to fit right in with the Flores Aguilar "control" plan. Yes. not only will the charters control the property, they will also control kids' minds.

I know you love Green Dot, Howard. You've listened to Steve Barr and his cronies far more than you have to those of us who see in this plan the destruction of public education. You are cordial to the opponents, but in the end Broad is where the power is and it's the Broads of this community who will carry the day. The real opposition to this plan did not come from A J Duffy and the UTLA. Duffy and UTLA were, however, a convenient whipping boy. Reference to them in the Times brings back memories of the old days - before Otis Chandler - when the Times was so anti-union that some of us were ashamed to admit we read the sheet. But vilifying the union was a winning tactic for the plan. It certainly took up enough space that there was no room for genuine opposition to Flores Aguilar's proposal. And, of course, the op-ed staff refused to run two powerful submissions that spoke direct about L A charters and their operators. And Newton could write with a straight face: the Times wants "an honest campaign."

There was no honest campaign, Howard. The Times, Green Dot, the mayor and Broad won. But they didn't do it honestly. And if the Times can live with that, it speaks volumes about the journalistic integrity of the Editorial Board and the staff writing about education.

To the victors go the spoils, and in L A the rot will be worth billions to those vultures.

Ralph E. Shaffer
Professor Emeritus, History
Cal Poly Pomona


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