Friday, March 11, 2022

Schools Matter: Reflecting on Green Dot’s Disastrous Locke Takeover

“Green Dot came and made it into more of a jail.” — Chris

My history of opposing the Green Dot Charter School Corporation back when I was an activist is well known. On Schools Matter alone there’s over a dozen pieces I wrote on them.

These days, as an educational rights attorney, I’ve successfully litigated against the corporate charter chain on a few occasions. Today I had a legal research assignment that involved looking up information on them and I came across this academic paper:

Taken Over: The Story of the Locke High School Takeover Through a Qualitative Study of Student Voice

by Loyola Marymount University’s Joshua Michael Beardall.

I only had a few minutes to skim through the paper, but it features some excellent feedback on how the students felt about the hostile take-over of a once public school by the corporate charter chain. Written through a Critical Race Theory (“CRT”) lens, the paper takes a student-centric view of what Green Dot did. It also exposes the intrinsic racism of Green Dot and its carceral, white supremacist campuses. Passage like this confirm what activists have said for years:

“The students also believed that the community and school did not interact and that the school was in opposition to the community surrounding it…”

I recommend people check the paper out.

Reflecting back on the hostile Locke takeover, a couple of things come to mind. First, the takeover was, and still is, a disaster. The Green Dot Corporation had to restructure Locke a number of times as their failed management and policies played out. Second, Green Dot, which boasted it would dramatically improve student scores on racist and classist standardized tests, actually set records for having so many schools at the very bottom — including four Locke HS branches in the bottom 25 SAT scores in 2015.

Ironically, the well-healed, white executives running Green Dot at the time of the take-over boasted that they would “turn the school around” and make it a “great school” in short order. Boastful Marco Petruzzi claimed they’d do it in three years. Braggart Steve Barr said they’d do it in one. Neither prediction by the two non-educators came true. Green Dot has run Locke for more than a decade now. Where’s all the compliant press parroting bromides of how Green Dot “cracked the code”?

Petruzzi was a hedge fund manager prior to running the corporate charter school behemoth Green Dot. His lack of background in pedagogy showed in everything he did. Today he’s a furniture salesman. Truth is, Petruzzi’s always been a furniture salesman. This passage by one of his vendors sums up the real essense of the “education reformer,” Marco Petruzzi.

“…Marco Petruzzi, is an ex-Bain partner who joined Dovetail in 2018 to increase sales and profitability and overhaul their physical and technology infrastructure. Marco appreciates working with analysts that can make short work of thorny Excel problems, as well as going beyond spreadsheets to assist in the technical complexities of an ERP database migration.”

KPCC did a piece on how the Green Dot Charter Corporation did not meet its promises with Locke. This passage is instructive:

“Yet for all these improvements, Green Dot has also found out just how difficult it is to act on its initial promises. Locke High School's graduation rate — at 55.9 percent — is one of the lowest of any comprehensive high school in L.A. Unified, charter or otherwise.”

Caught this during further search: ‘The Myth of Charter Schools’ Marco Petruzzi, reply by Diane Ravitch.

First published at: Schools Matter


Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Resign Mitch O'Farrell


Saturday, March 27, 2021

Major victory over a corporate charter school chain and their trade association

Indeed, “corporate charter schools—which bear attributes of both public and private enterprises” (101 Ops.Cal.Atty.Gen. 92, at 6) have long resisted efforts to make them more transparent and accountable to the public from which they draw their funding. Corporate charters schools, and their aggressive trade association, the California Charter Schools Association (“CCSA”), vehemently opposed application of the Brown Act, CPRA, and conflicts of interest laws to charter school corporations. Likewise, as Respondent admits in their pleadings, they opposed AB 1505. Oppo. 12:20.

 Adapted from my Twitter thread.

ON Tuesday, March 23, 2021 I got my second big win in court against a charter school corporation. It was also a major victory over their Califonria Charter Schools Association (“CCSA”) trade association, which tried to use this case to carve out immunity to the California Public Records Act (“CPRA”). I represented @DotKohlhaas in this action.

Here was my tweet from the day before, after skimming through the tentative:

My first win against a corporate charter school was a year ago as third chair in a suit to overturn a wrongful expulsion of a student of color. The Partnerships to Uplift Communities (“PUC”) charter chain (of convicted felon Ref Rodriguez fame) violated that student’s due process rights. Violated isn’t a strong enough word for what they did. PUC unilaterally changed the charges at the appeals hearing and branded the child as a terrorist in his permanent record. Under the tutelage of the brilliant partners at the law firm I was a part-timer at the time (I am currently transitioning to full time there), plus sage advice from @DrPrestonGreen, we built a strong case.

It was my argument that the charter corporation never proved specific intent — a crucial element to Ed. Code § 48900.7, as well as PUC’s glaring lack of notice afforded to the student, that saw the court overturn the wrongful expulsion and give the student their life back.

This latest case was a charter trying to hide all its dirty secrets by not complying with the CPRA. The scandal-ridden The Accelerated Schools (“TAS”) charter chain’s leaders absconded when the community started pushing back and started asking questions about union busting.

Michael Kohlhaas dot org sent sent TAS several CPRA requests in 2018, which they ignored (unlawfully). A year later, I filed the petition for writ of mandate for them. Some ten months later TAS sent some records, but claimed “blanket exemptions” on a bunch of other ones.

The good folks at Michael Kohlhaas dot org documented the part when it was decided to continue with the litigation. This was for Hilda, an amazing educator, and all the other people wronged by TAS/CCSA.

An infamous law firm that only represents lucrative, privately managed charter school corporations staked out the position that any communications with the charter school industry’s trade association — the CCSA — was subject to a range of exemptions under the CPRA.

I suppose I can’t blame them. The charter industry — long used to unaccountably spending tax dollars in total secrecy — fought tooth and nail the imposition of the CPRA and Brown Act added by Ed. Code § 47604.1(b)(2)(A). When the law took effect January 2020, charter school corporations were already looking for ways to skirt the law. At the firm I’m a junior associate at, we use the CPRA for pre-discovery work against charter corporations. Michael Kohlhaas dot org, on the other hand, has used it to expose some of the ugliest, scandalous conduct by an industry already infamous for scandal. Uncovering the vile Nick Melvoin’s sharing Los Angeles Unified School District’s (“LAUSD”) confidential legal strategies with their party-opponent in a lawsuit (the CCSA) was a blockbuster revelation enabled by the CPRA.

Of course, when you start using the sunshine laws on one of the darkest and vilest industries hatched out of the neoliberal project, you’re going to expose a lot of charter school scandals. There’s so many documented here:

Back to TAS claiming blanket exemptions. When I tried to explain the law to them, they responded: “The claim based on your legal analysis that these exemptions do not apply to the records withheld in this matter is incorrect.”

I was a little nervous going into this, but got a great deal of advice from three National Lawyers Guild attorneys who have also represented Michael Kohlhaas dot org in the past like the incomparable Matthew Strugar, Colleen Flynn, and Abenicio Cisneros. The two former helped me with procedural questions and sample pleadings. The latter provided me argument strategies for my reply brief and gave me the best authority to cite on exemptions (Golden Door Properties, LLC v. Superior Ct. of San Diego Cty., 53 Cal. App. 5th 733, 267 Cal. Rptr. 3d 32, 64 (2020), as modified on denial of reh’g (Aug. 25, 2020))(“Golden Door”). How on point was that case? The Court cited that same case three times in their minute order.

We had already prevailed since the lawsuit caused TAS to produce some records last October, but the dispute over the blanket CCSA exemptions was a proxy political battle. TAS surprisingly claimed exemptions on emails that Michael Kohlhaas dot org had obtained via CPRA from other charter school corporations that had followed the law. Weird hill to die on, but this was the CCSA trying to establish blanket exemptions. The Court ruled that every one of those emails was not exempt! A major win for us.

Also, because we caught TAS in (several) obvious lies, including one where they claimed in one pleading that only a small percentage of documents had been exempted, and then had a high-paid TAS executive claim in their sworn declaration that there were “hundreds of thousands” of records exempted. We pointed out that inconsistency, which led to the court granting our request for a privilege log. Better still, the court used Golden Door to order TAS to produce declarations for each record they claim exempt. While we didn’t get everything we put in our prayer, this was a major victory — especially in regards to the claims for blanket exemptions from the CCSA. I’m sure this isn’t the last time they’ll try this strategy, but at least we can share how to argue against it.

The final disposition will be decided in the summer, but TAS having to produce privilege logs supported by sworn declarations totally justified us continuing to litigate after the settlement offer. Let the corporate charter school industry know that they aren’t going to be able to hide their dark secrets anymore. Here’s a few excerpts from my briefs that probably didn’t sit well with the corporate charter school industry, their CCSA trade association, and their hired mercenaries. ¡La lucha continua!

Lastly, huge shout-out to Michael Kohlhaas dot org. They’re doing the lord’s work. From exposing self-dealing by tax payer funded Business Improvement Districts (“BIDs”), to uncovering some extremely disturbing activities by the Los Angeles Police Department (“LAPD”), to putting the lucrative, corporate charter school industry on notice that the sunshine laws are coming for them, to using the CPRA to protect the most vulnerable in our communities, as like I always say: “not all heroes wear capes.”


Sunday, January 10, 2021

Recommending: Time to End Tax Breaks for Charter Schools and The Ultra-Rich

 “The same day he revealed Cardona as his education nominee, it was announced Biden rehired Reed as deputy chief of staff, despite pre-emptive protest from progressives…” — Jake Jacobs

Educator and writer Jake Jacobs has written an excellent essay that not only explores some of Joe Biden's more questionable appointees, but also curates all of the highly profitable school privatization schemes that the billionaire class have built into their charter heist laws and programs. The piece is entitled Time to End Tax Breaks for Charter Schools and The Ultra-Rich.

Of note is how the essay describes many of TOP๐Ÿ‘ฎ‍♀️COP Kamala Harris' connections to various techbros, all of whom profit mightily at the public expense. Hope you find the essay as useful as I did.


Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Outgoing Administration Admits Charters are not Public Schools

The latest executive order by troglodyte Trump tacitly admits that charter schools are *NOT* public schools. We all knew that, but it's nice when the vile privatizers tell on themselves. *

While it is good to see DeVos and Trump on the way out, there's little to hope for with Biden. It's already been announced that right-wing, neoliberal hatchetman Bruce Reed will be Biden's Deputy Chief of Staff, and the choice of seemingly apolitical Miguel Cardona is probably for a reason.

At the end of the day Biden was part of the second worst administration for education. The damage doltish Arne Duncan did prior to Trump is what opened the door for DeVos in the first place.

DeVos = Duncan + Dominionism *


Saturday, August 01, 2020

Open Letter to LAUSD Board Regarding the Implementation of AB 1505

A copy of this letter was sent to each individual member via email

August 1, 2020

Dear Members of the Board of Education:

I am an educational rights attorney and law professor here in Los Angeles. I live within the boundaries of the Los Angeles Unified School District (“LAUSD”) and I am a registered voter.

I am writing you regarding the implementation of AB 1505. I’m asking you to vote YES on said implementation this Tuesday, August 4, 2020.

As you know, Assembly Bill No. 1505 went a long way towards reigning in the more egregious excesses of the charter school industry. Most notably, it discouraged the practice of “forum shopping” in which a charter school corporations found to be out of compliance with the law, and thus denied a petition or renewal, could circumvent the law by seeking authorization with another authorizer. Public policy supports placing more oversight and accountability on these private entities that divert funding from our public schools.

Assembly Bill No. 1505 also implemented a number of other student-centered policies that force the charter school industry to be more accountable, transparent, and responsive to the communities from which they draw their funding. A key issue advanced by AB 1505 was in regards to credentialing. Students in our communities deserve instruction from educators with appropriate education in child development and pedagogy.

A YES vote on the implementation of AB 1505 provides a path for placing pupils over profits.




Wednesday, April 08, 2020

Please consider reading, signing, and sharing today!

Betsy DeVos is trying to use the current crises to impose IDEA waivers, robbing students with disabilities of their right to a free and appropriate public education (FAPE). Students with disabilities, their families, educators, special education (SPED) advocates, and SPED organizations are encouraged to read and sign.

The organizers are also looking for testimonials and anecdotes from parents.

Please consider reading, signing, and sharing today

Also featured here on Professor Diane Ravitch’s blog: Save IDEA! Sign This Petition to Betsy DeVos!


Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Open Letter to LAUSD Board regarding Citizens of the World Charter School Corporation

A copy of this letter was sent to each individual member via email

March 11, 2020

Dear Members of the Board of Education:

I am an educational rights attorney and law professor here in Los Angeles. I am writing you regarding the Citizens of the World Charter School Corporation (“CWC Corp.”), an alleged non-profit benefit corporation that operates a number of privately managed charter schools authorized by the Los Angeles Unified School District (“LAUSD”).

CWC Corp. is currently trying to occupy a portion of a public school, Shirley Avenue Elementary School, under the provisions of Proposition 39. I will not discuss the myriad flaws, inequities, and attendant problems associated with Proposition 39 in this communication. I do, however, want to ask you to put off any consideration of allowing CWC Corp. to move forward with its hostile occupation of a public school while they have seemingly repeatedly refused to pay their legally obligated bills to LAUSD.

As you know, charter school corporations utilizing Proposition 39 to force their hostile occupations of public schools are obligated to pay over-allocation fees in certain circumstances. CWC Corp. currently owes LAUSD hundreds of thousands of dollars in over-allocation fees. Before allowing them any further opportunities to continue operating in bad faith, LAUSD should collect all payments past due and obtain written assurances from CWC Corp. that they will pay their obligations in the future.

Children in Los Angeles public schools are starved for resources. Our students go without school librarians, full-time health-care professionals, adequate access to services, etc. Meanwhile, just three years ago, CWC Corp.’s Executive Director Mark Kleger-Heine received a staggering salary of over $231,000.00 USD (see CWC Corp.’s 2017 Form 990 Part VII). This disparity of resources is by design, and underlies the purpose of the charter school industry. Public school students go without, while charter school executives collect fat checks.

As a member of the LAUSD Board of Education, I hope you will turn your attention to resolving this matter not only with CWC Corp., but with all of the charter school corporations that are in arrears in their over-allocation fee payments with LAUSD.



Tuesday, February 04, 2020

Cheryl Ortega for UTLA Director of Bilingual Education

Maestros Unidos Los Angeles con Oaxaca

Cheryl Ortega’s tireless advocacy and effective activism for students and bilingual education stems from her years of dedication to the same. There is no better choice for United Teachers of Los Angeles’ (UTLA) Director of Bilingual Education. Her vast experience, institutional knowledge, and devotion to providing students bilingual programs is peerless. Let all persons know that I endorse and strongly support her candidacy for reelection.

— Robert D. Skeels, Education Rights Attorney and Law Professor


Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Schools Matter: Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue

First published on Schools Matter on January 21, 2020

“In the long run, charter schools are being strategically used to pave the way for vouchers. The voucher advocates, who are very powerful and funded by right-wing foundations and families, recognize that the word voucher has been successfully discredited by enlightened Americans who believe in the public sector. So they’ve resorted to two strategies. First, they no longer use the word “vouchers.” They’ve adopted the seemingly benign phrase “school choice,” but they are still voucher advocates.” — Jonathan Kozol

The end goal of school privatization projects like charter schools has always been vouchers. While both charters and vouchers prevent the public from being able to control the curriculum taught with public dollars, vouchers are far worse in that regard. Vouchers represent an attack on democratic institutions and they represent an attack on rationality in general. Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, a case about to be heard in front of the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS), could open the flood gates to scare community tax dollars being squandered on dominionist curricula and schools that can openly discriminate.

Vouchers mean Jeanne Allen's dream of teaching children that Jesus rode dinosaurs will finally come true
image by Monty Propps

With a SCOTUS populated by arch-reactionaries like Kavanaugh and Gorsuch, it's highly likely that the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment will either be ignored or explained away in order to justify funding extremist religious organizations. You know Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue represents a major threat to public education when charter-voucher promoting organizations like the Center for Education Reform file an amicus brief in favor of the right-wing plaintiff. Reactionaries Jeanne Allen and Paul Clement also got a piece published in Time in favor of using public funds to teach religious extremism.


Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Schools Matter: Lawsuit against The Accelerated Schools corporate charter chain

First published on Schools Matter on December 18, 2019

This action against The Accelerated Schools (TAS) corporation, on behalf of Michael Kohlhaas dot org, is my second lawsuit against a charter school. My first was against the Partnerships to Uplift Communities (PUC) corporation as third chair at the amazing education law firm that I clerk part-time at. We won that one back in October on behalf of a student of color that was wrongfully expelled — look for a blogpost on the Law Offices of Hirji & Chau, LLP regarding that major victory soon. I'm so fortunate to have the esteemed Rosa K. Hirji and others at her firm as my mentors.

Back to the TAS suit, which is my first for the Michael Kohlhaas dot org activists. They gave me a choice of several to pick from, but I felt like starting with the corporate charter that wronged Hilda Rodriguez-Guzman was the right thing to do. My motivation to suffer through law school at night while working during the day, and then to pass the bar exam on the first attempt despite having no time off from work and no commercial bar prep class, was the prospect at becoming a threat to these vile, discriminatory charter school corporations that steal from children and our communities. I'm glad that I'm finally able to threaten the one thing charter corporations care about— their revenue streams.


Sunday, April 21, 2019

Schools Matter: A charter school story

First published on Schools Matter on April 16, 2019

I want to apologize to Schools Matter readers for my infrequent contributions. I thought once I graduated from law school and passed the most difficult bar examination in the country on my first attempt, that I'd have more time to write. Instead, in addition to my long-time day job, I now have an internship once a week at an education law firm, and I am teaching on Thursday nights at my law school. In a word — I'm swamped. However, I managed to piece together this twitter thread on Monday, that I thought was worth reposting here.

Researching for a case and came across a personal injury settlement between a charter school corporation in the Central Valley and multiple student plaintiffs for some $6-million+. The amount is on the low side considering the horrific injuries some of the students suffered.

It was the typical charter school money-making scam. They had a former employee form an unregistered and uninsured transportation company. The charter's Vice Principle provided one of their family's vehicles to that company. They paid themselves $6K a month from public money to operate a vehicle that had several defective seatbelts. Moreover, they consistently exceeded the vehicle's passenger capacity. Students had to share seats and some had to ride on the floor.

Struck by another vehicle traveling at high speed, the charter corporation's vehicle rolled multiple times and ejected several of the unrestrained students. The injuries were as bad as you could imagine them to be.

This was the inevitable result of putting public money into private hands. Because charter school corporations are privately managed with de minimis oversight, transparency, and accountability, they find ways to channel public revenue streams into their pockets, all the while cutting corners on students. Here, that cost cutting had drastic consequences that altered the lives of several students whose injuries were severe.

In this case it was a transportation company that the charter corporation created, but we've seen the same thing with Charter Management Organization real estate holding firms, and charter school side-companies like convicted felon and charter school mogul Refugio 'Ref' Rodriguez's Better 4 You Foods and Better 4 You Fundraising.

The diversion of public funds to private pockets doesn't stop at individual charter school corporations, as evidenced by their trade association—the California Charter Schools Association (CCSA). CCSA sells its member charter schools products and services, paid for out of the public purse. One of them, which would later become known as CharterSafe, generated profits so lucrative, that large firms like Travelers and Gallagher & Co. partnered with them. Here's a quote from a CCSA executive:

"…generated 30% profit margins in subsequent years–with 20-30% lead generation and 20-50% close ratios."


The examples of charter corporation greed and self-dealing keep increasing. It's the inevitable result of putting public money into private hands.