First published on K12NN Wire on March 18, 2015
Dr. Andrew Thomas:
Congratulations on your respectable election finish, and on noting on your website that out-of-town billionaires are financing the campaign of charter industry profiteer Refugio “Ref” Rodriguez against an incumbent endorsed by United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA). Your analysis ignores the fact that most UTLA teachers are also public school parents, live in our communities, and are our working class neighbors. Meanwhile profiteer Rodriguez’s reactionary billionaire backers, like Carrie Walton-Penner, Reed Hastings, Michael R. Bloomberg, and Eli Broad, have absolutely no connection or stake (other than financial) in our communities. Dr. Thomas, your hackneyed “parents as customers” rhetoric is shallow, groundless, and doesn’t assess the reasons why Rodriguez and his ilk are spending the obscene amounts of money they spend. You can stick with your vapid binary arguments that this is simply UTLA versus the charter industry, leaving everyone else out of the equation, or you could tell the truth and say this is the billionaires versus all the rest of us.
I have been an education activist in the 90026 area for roughly two decades. My burning question is, where have you been Dr. Thomas? I’ve never seen you at a Neighborhood Council Education Committee meeting, any anti-Prop 39 actions, the March 22 actions to save Public Education, the struggle to save CRES 14 from privatization, at a meeting of the Honorable Jackie Goldberg’s TEACh (Transparency, Equity, and Accountability for Charter Schools) coalition, or any other public school related struggle. While you may be involved at Marshall High School, you clearly have only become a “parent advocate” quite recently, and your agenda seems to be limited to those issues concerning white, upper middle class parents. If you are indeed interested in supporting public education, and increasing community and parent involvement, then I welcome you. If that is true, prove it by making a strong statement against the lucrative charter industry and their candidate Rodriguez. If you won’t endorse the incumbent, at the very least you should take a strong and principled stand against his neoliberal opponent, who faithfully serves the very billionaires you seemingly challenged when you asked on your website “Why are out-of-district billionaires... spending over a $1 million in this school board race?”
At the end of the day if you sincerely support public education, you should be asking why is it that a well-heeled charter industry executive can run for our public school board, but no member of the public can ever run for the board of his charter school empire? That question strikes at the heart of what it means to support public schools and democracy in general.
I challenge you to take a principled stand.
“Washing one’s hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless means to side with the powerful, not to be neutral.” — Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed