First published on Schools Matter on November 9, 2011
"Making students accountable for test scores works well on a bumper sticker and it allows many politicians to look good by saying that they will not tolerate failure. But it represents a hollow promise. Far from improving education, high-stakes testing marks a major retreat from fairness, from accuracy, from quality, and from equity." — Sen. Paul Wellstone (1944-2002) quoted on Alfie Kohn's site
Apparently the right wingers at Parent Revolution are immune to cognitive dissonance. How else could we explain an organization that frequently co-hosts meetings with The Heartland Institute calling the National Educators Association (NEA) teabaggers? In a desperate attempt to preserve George W. Bush's fringe right-wing No Child Left Behind legislation (NCLB), the Parent Revolution reactionaries claim that anyone opposed to Rod Paige's vicious anti-public school project are teabaggers, and somehow opposed civil (read corporate) rights.
The basis for these wild and specious claims? Parent Revolution doesn't want to see what they term "accountability" removed from ESEA/NCLB. Never mind that NCLB's false forms of accountability were never intended to do anything other than make it easy for the neoliberal consensus in Washington to push the corporate agenda. That agenda includes forced school closures, reconstitutions, and ultimately the privatization of the whole system for the benefit and profits of Wall Street hucksters like Whitney Tilson, real estate moguls like Eli Broad, and convicted predatory technology monopolists like Bill Gates. Indeed, in defending NCLB, Parent Revolution wants to maintain the standardized testing status quo.
All their astroturf blather about "accountability" got me thinking. When I think of paragons of accountability, Ben Austin and Parent Revolution are poles apart from those thoughts in every sense. Let's look at the facts. California Parent Trigger author Austin was under investigation by the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission (Case # 2010-36) because he was collecting a check at the City Attorney's Office while at the same time he was a full time charter school advocate (and part time Green Dot consultant) at Los Angeles Parents Union (aka LAPU or Parent Revolution). Besides double dipping, he used his city employee connections to host closed meetings with his political connections garnered from his City job, like with Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. Those connections also brought lucrative business to his wife, Tracy Austin, who makes a fortune as a fundraising consultant for the very same politicians that gave Austin a pass on his ethics violations. Where was the accountability in all of that?
Of course, Austin's conflicts of interest while working at the City of Los Angeles pale in comparison to when arch-reactionary Milton Freidman acolyte Schwarzenegger appointed the Parent Revolution chief to the California State Board of Education (SBE) to join the rest of the charter-voucher profiteers the SBE was stacked with. Austin used his SBE seat to push through the California Charter Schools Association agenda. He also used the seat to lobby for and manipulate the implementation of his and Gloria Romero's hideous charter takeover law entitled the Parent Empowerment Act, but most often referred to by culturally loaded name Parent Trigger. Austin's unethical and illegal behaviors on the SBE earned him a letter of censorship from the SBE demanding he stop breaking the law. Where was the accountability in all of that?
Ben Austin's latest foray into the realm of accountability?
Parent Trigger charlatan Ben Austin booted off State Bar of California
I'll reproduce my original take on this situation:
Parent Trigger author, Benjamin Benchley Lain Austin, aka the Beverly Hills Barrister, aka the Foppish Millionaire of Benedict Canyon is not eligible to practice law in California because of his failure to take a LEGAL ETHICS course as part of Minimum Continuing Legal Education. It's no small irony that a charlatan that claims to know so much about education doesn't keep up with his own, and more importantly, avoids taking classes on ethics!
I suppose we can't blame Austin for avoiding classes on ethics, since ethics are anathema to him. So next time the slick charter school spokesman and his band of pernicious privatizers prattle about accountability, we can remember that they have no understanding of the word whatsoever.
Special thanks to Lisa for bringing Austin's current State Bar of California status to our attention.
Addendum: A reader chastised me for not noting another form of accountability Parent Revolution astroturfers are guilty of shirking, and that's keeping their paperwork for tax exempt status in order. I'm a little embarrassed that I neglected to mention this, but in Trigger Happy Parent Revolution Refuses Form 990 Request, we explored how the Parent Revolution scoundrels weren't accountable to the tax paying public. The IRS sent me a letter explaining that they are investigating these poverty pimps.
While we're at it, let's not forget wealthy white Gabe Rose, deputy director of Parent Revolution, has the dubious distinction of being caught posing as a Compton parent when he has never lived in Compton, nor been a parent.