First published on @TCFKSM on June 8, 2013
These myths falsely portrayed desegregation's failures as the product of autonomous individual choice. Meanwhile, these myths obscured inequalities in desegregation. A new, but parallel, kind of mythmaking about choice is underway in today's charter school efforts. — Ansley T. Erickson
Parent Revolution's executive director, wealthy white Beverly Hills lawyer Ben Austin, has made himself out to be a "victim" of the esteemed Professor Diane Ravitch's stern words for him and his organization's vile operations at Weigand Elementary School in Los Angeles. In a bombastic Huffington Post diatribe attacking Dr. Ravitch and accusing her of being immature and bullying, he then launches into a sob story of white privilege that borders on the bizarre even for egotistical ed-reformers.
You see, Ben Austin—in his words, can tell us about Hell. Austin's hell consisted of attending an exclusive private school in the upscale area of Venice Beach California. He constantly worried that the wealthier kids might be better off than him. His unfortunate private school hell wound up only getting him into "second rate" schools like UC Berkeley and Georgetown Law School. A hellish, but lucrative political career working for neoliberal triangulators that eliminated welfare for millions of poor then followed. Now, after all those bad breaks, misfortune, and hardscrabble living, Austin is redeeming and sacrificing himself by making a mere quarter million a year privatizing and disrupting public schools. Cry us a river!
Professor Ravitch responded with grace and dignity, and her cogent dismantling of everything Austin stands for is nothing short of breathtaking. Her piece is My Reply to Ben Austin’s Open Letter to Me.
Of course, nearly all the comments under Austin's idiotic post supported of Professor Ravitch. There were a few exceptions, and I immediately recognized those of a bwsmith (Bruce William Smith), a longtime corporate education reform cheerleader and sycophant to any billionaire looking to privatize education. He was one of the ringleaders in the handover of Alain Leroy Locke High School to the Green Dot Charter Corporation, which didn't work out too well. Smith insinuates that the corporate reformers actually debate those who see education as something other than an opportunity for profit.
I replied to Smith, but those commentes haven't been approved. My Huffington Post censor rate is around 50% despite having over 300 "fans" there. I've addressed that situation before: On Huffington Post censorship and Parent Revolution puff pieces. Here are my edited comments:
Mr. Smith, your inability to tell the truth is matched only by your unseemly groveling to powerful rich white people. I've followed Austin's trajectory in the corporate reform project ever since he first was hired by Barr and Petruzzi as a consultant for Green Dot for a staggering amount of money. I watched him arrange illegal, closed meetings with the Mayor during city working hours to push charters and PSC. Those incidents were so scandalous, even the charter friendly Daily News published my Op Ed exposing it: http://www.dailynews.com/opinions/ci_13185224 As a corporate ed-reformer, Austin's salary has almost tripled from when he was a lawyer.
I watched when Ryan Smith ran Barr's Los Angeles Parent Union (née Small Schools Alliance) into the ground and Petruzzi brought in his crony Austin to take his place. Austin, seeing the astonishing amounts of money being dumped into school privatization, changed the name of LAPU to Parent Revolution (all this is on their 990 forms) and never looked backed. Next he illegally booted Steve Barr of their board. When he worked with ALEC, Bob Huff, Schwarzenegger's staff, Heartland Institute, and Gloria Romero to craft the disgustingly racist trigger law, we all knew he was going to inflict a lot of damage on poor communities of color. Austin illegally lobbied the SBE after he was thrown off, and was later censored for his actions. He later was dropped by the California State Bar for failing to take required ethics courses.
At every turn, Ben Austin has been dishonest, opportunistic, greedy, self-serving, and vicious. Professor Ravitch's calling him and his unconscionable actions "loathsome" doesn't begin to address how depraved, despicable, and deplorable Austin is. Who knows which circle of hell is reserved for him, it's the hell he's creating for impoverished communities and children of color that I'm concerned with.
Now how about a little disclosure Mr. Bruce William Smith, tell everyone how you are trying to open a privately managed charter school, and how you'll ingratiate yourself to anyone who might make your lucrative dream come true.