First published on @ THE CHALK FACE on July 29, 2014
"Financed by conservative billionaire philanthropists like Bill Gates and Eli Broad, charters willingly carry out the indoctrination their benefactors seek." — Professor Ralph E. Shaffer
Corporate candidate Alex Johnson and his backer Mark Ridley-Thomas have already raised incredible amounts of money in their attempt to seize a seat on the Los Angeles Unified School (LAUSD) on behalf of the school privatization project. The charter school industry trade group, California Charter Schools Association (CCSA), has raised huge sums on his behalf in the form of an Independent Expenditure (IE) as well. All of this to try to overwhelm the community candidate of choice, the highly regarded lifelong educator Dr. George McKenna.
Notably missing from this LAUSD special election is the notorious neoliberal corporate education reform SuperPAC — the Coalition for Education Reform (CSR). Founded and funded by right wing billionaires, anti-government ideologues, and charter school sector profiteers, the CSR has provided unparalleled support to anti-public school LAUSD candidates for years. Manipulated by former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, candidates including Tamar Galatsan, Antonio Sanchez, Monica Garcia, Yolie Flores, Kate Anderson, and other privatizers have all counted on a flood of CSR money over the years. Philip Anschutz, Rupert Murdoch, Michael Bloomberg, Frank Baxter, Eli Broad, Jerry Perenchio, and many other reactionary right-wing ideologues have funded the CSR over its existence.
In the absence of the CSR to pump even more funds into non-educator Johnson's campaign, corporate reformer Dan Chang has conjured yet another SuperPAC: the Great Public Schools Los Angeles Political Action Committee. Chang might not be a household name, but he has been a longtime operative on behalf of the ALEC/Gates/Broad/Walton agenda to destroy public education. A graduate of Eli Broad's Urban Residency, his previous positions includes stints with the struggling Green Dot Charter School Corporation, the lackluster Education Management Organization (EMO) LA's Promise, and recently with John Deasy's 501c3, the LA Fund — an organization best known for serving LAUSD students expired processed foods in unsanitary conditions.
Chang's connections to fellow Ayn Rand acolytes has paid dividends for the already asymmetrical fundraising of the Alex Johnson Campaign. In only a few days Chang's corporate SuperPAC managed to raise nearly $100,000. With the big money to be made in the lucrative charter industry through no-bid contracts and sweetheart deals with their unelected boards of directors, charter schools are a favorite investment vehicle of the one percent, who consider these political donations prudent investments.
Like many born into privilege and having studied business rather than the humanities, Chang has difficulty acknowledging that right-wing heroes Howard Roark and John Galt are in fact fictional characters. His obsession with so-called free markets and social darwinism is so unshakable, that he was the central figure in perhaps one of the more shameful episodes of the Green Dot Charter School Corporation's dubious history.
Shortly after the hostile take over of Alain Leroy Locke High School by the privately managed Green Dot corporate charter chain, an important ideological battle played out over astonishing language in the Locke "charter" document itself. The language was discovered by Ralph E. Shaffer, Professor Emeritus of History, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. The charter required for students in history and social studies to "demonstrate an understanding of American history, government, economics and a belief in the values of democracy and capitalism." [emphasis mine]. Here is a copy of the orignal charter.
Standing up to Green Dot Corporation's indoctrination of students that clearly violated the US Constitution's First Amendment, Shaffer was right to say Green Dot "can't require students to believe in any ideology. Even requiring a belief in democracy violates students' right to believe in whatever political system they wish." Dr. Shaffer took the issue to Green Dot Corporation and to LAUSD, which, as the authorizing body for the charter, had nominal "oversight" in the issue. Rather than admit to indoctrinating students with the ideology of their backers, Green Dot, and namely Dan Chang — their Vice President of New School Development — dug in. They desperately tried to hold on to their ability to subject young minds to the propaganda of their top funders (e.g. the Walton Family Foundation, the Gates Foundation, and the Broad Foundation). This letter from Chang shows breathtaking corporate arrogance.
Chang's patronizing statement that "Mr. Shaffer may have interpreted a few words of our petition out of context" is stunning in both its arrogance and its ignorance. Only in Eli Broad's version of reality is non-educator with a MBA somehow better equipped to understand a civics rubric than a lifelong educator with a PhD in history. Shaffer, author of several books, and hundreds of published articles and Op-Eds, is infinitely more qualified to "interpret" a rubric than Chang, whose ignorance of the "California state content standards [sic]" is clear in his haughty letter. To be sure, "California's social studies guidelines do not even mention capitalism" whether on require that students demonstrate a belief in its "value." In the end, much to their chagrin, Chang and his corporate charter chain employer were forced to remove the highly offensive requirement from their charter. It's likely that Chang had to bury himself in Rand's The Fountainhead, or The Virtue of Selfishness to salve his wounded pride after having to write this last letter
Being able to raise money for fellow neoliberal corporate reformer Johnson is the sort of thing Chang thrives on. While he himself is not a member of the one percent, he is a loyal servant to the power and privilege of the plutocrat class. The dirty money raised to push the Alex Johnson Campaign has been used to try and besmirch community candidate Dr. McKenna. Chang's lack of respect for students, as demonstrated in his letters above, is no different that that of his wealthy backers. Trying to force an unqualified Alex Johnson on a community in desperate need of authentic leadership by a lifelong educator is one more example of how the plutocrat class pushing corporate education reform will stop at nothing to achieve their aims.