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.

-rds




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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



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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 https://b3ta.com/board/7293522

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.



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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.



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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."


Postscript:

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



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Wednesday, March 06, 2019

LAUSD District 5 Special Election morning after (March 6, 2019)

Looks like the two good candidates — Jackie Goldberg and Graciela Ortiz — will be in the run-off, and the vile California Charter Schools Association (CCSA) has no candidate to support in Los Angeles Unified School District 5. The CCSA shouldn’t be able to replace their convicted felon Refugio “Ref” Rodriguez with another one of their own ever again.

Glad to see that right-wing privatizers Allison Greenwood Bajracharya, Heather Repenning, and Ana Cubas are likely done. Cubas couldn’t even manage 1,000 votes on Tuesday — I finished with 5,244 votes in 2013.



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Thursday, August 23, 2018

Professor Anita Faye Hill, Esq.

This brilliant attorney and legal scholar was smeared and slandered by a wealthy, white male politician in order to protect an arch-reactionary SCOTUS candidate with a sordid history of sexual harassment/abuse.

That politician’s name? Joe Biden. #joebiden



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Tuesday, August 14, 2018

PEOPLES COLLEGE OF LAW COMMENCEMENT CEREMONY CLASS OF 2018



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Thursday, June 21, 2018

How fringe-right are business banker Marshall Tuck’s education views?

How reactionary is Marshall Tuck on education issues? One measure is to compare his views to those of the notoriously right-wing JBS and GOP stalwarts. Here we look at some critical issues facing students, families, and our public schools.

Sources: ontheissues.org, marshalltuck.com, jbs.org

Remember that Marshall Tuck, like his white supremacist counterparts Tom Horne and John Huppenthal, shuttered Ethnic Studies, killed Dual Language Immersion Programs, and eliminated Heritage Language Programs.

Resources on Marshall Tuck

[list to be continued]



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Friday, March 16, 2018

Florina Rodov: The Truth About Charter Schools

“[W]hen teachers aren’t unionized, they’re exploited — and when teachers suffer, so do kids.” — Florina Rodov

This amazing piece by Florina Rodov on Shondaland is a must read. Taking place at one of the seedy charter corporations here in Los Angeles, the story Rodov tells is all too familiar to all of us that are anti-privatization activists. Much of the mistreatment of faculty and students mirrors the accounts in Professor Horn's Work Hard, Be Hard: Journeys Through "No Excuses" Teaching. Hat tip to Leonie Haimson, whose Tweet regarding this essay caught my eye.

An excerpt, but please go and read the whole work:

"But I soon realized there was a gulf between charter school hype and reality. Every day brought shocking and disturbing revelations: high attrition rates of students and teachers, dangerous working conditions, widespread suspensions, harassment of teachers, violations against students with disabilities, nepotism, and fraud. By the end of the school year, I vowed never to step foot in a charter school again, and to fight for the protection of public schools like never before."



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Friday, February 16, 2018

Resisting ICE is the principled thing to do

Nine years ago the Southern California Immigration Coalition (SCIC), Brown Berets, Union del Barrio, and others organized a protest against ABC’s racist, ICE-fascist glorifying, Homeland Security USA show.

Nativist Minutemen, the Ku Klux Klan, and Neo-Nazis counter-protested us, and liberal Democrats criticized us for being too radical. We were right! #not1more



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Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Elmo isn't Gramsci for kids and the mythical soft bigotry of low expectations

This short essay was originally published on The Daily Censored on August 11, 2011. It would seem that all of the old works on that site are gone. That's unfortunate because I published a lot of work there. I had a teaser here linking to it, a practice I stopped doing precisely because I've learned from harsh experience that websites die and all the content is lost (like my At The Chalkface works). I was able to track down a reprint on Susan Ohanian's site, but her site is having issues as well. Ultimately, I was able to retrieve a copy of the reprint from the Wayback Machine.

I want to reproduce this last sentence from Ohanian's introduction, since she had such insight into why the essay was important:

“The hardline right wing may well love the vacuous phrase “soft bigotry of low expectations,” but let’s remember that education deform democrats love it just as much. It is mostly used to put progressive activists on the defensive.” — Susan Ohanian


Elmo isn't Gramsci for kids and the mythical soft bigotry of low expectations

“We address the soft bigotry of low expectations so that we may ignore the hard racism of inequity.” — John Kuhn

Although this footage isn't new and commentators have already discussed it, it deserves reexamination since it illuminates one of the core false tenets of the corporate education reform canon.

Amidst the bizarre assertion that Sesame Street is indoctrinating children in some sort of insidious left wing plot, reactionary Ben Shapiro says that:

"I talked to one of the guys who's at Children's Television Workshop originally and he said the whole purpose of Sesame Street was cater to black and hispanic youths who, quote unquote, did not have reading literature in the house, there kind of this soft bigotry of low expectations that's automatically associated with Sesame Street."

Ahhh — the chimerical "soft bigotry of low expectations." As opposed to the hard bigotry of the pervasive institutional racism underpinning our economic system, which facilitates the division of workers and submerses a majority in abject poverty in order to make a small minority obscenely rich. The very same minority, by the way, that supports privatizing public education via charters and vouchers.

The dubious phrase is beloved by the hardline right. The Birchers at the Heartland Institute [1] use the phrase with reckless abandon. Cato, Manhattan, Hoover, and all the other reactionary right wing think tanks repeat the phrase "soft bigotry of low expectations" as if it's the mantra necessary to permanently bring back the gilded age they all pine for.

Of course the nonsensical phrase isn't limited to fringe right-wing kooks that also think John Galt and Howard Rourke are historical figures. Many supposed-liberals, or at the very least Democratic Leadership Council party operatives, use the phrase as often, if not more often than their teabagging counterparts.

The vile billionaire hedge fund shyster Whitney Tilson uses the phrase incessantly. Remember too that the ever obtuse Tilson helped form two of the most virulent corporate reform and privatization pushing organizations in existence: Teach for America (TFA) and Democrats for Education Reform (DFER). The latter, DFER, uses the phrase in its privatization propaganda. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has used the phrase. TFA's Wendy Kopp has had a lucrative career peddling the phrase. The snarling queen of Erasuregate, Michelle Rhee, cherishes such phrases. Los Angeles' poverty pimping opportunist Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa proudly plasters the phrase on twitter.

The unprincipled construction "soft bigotry of low expectations" is typically credited to the Council on Foreign Relations's arch-reactionary Michael Gerson, who was the speechwriter for fraudulent Rod Paige's Texas Education Miracle co-fraud, George W. Bush.

Like all the philosophically threadbare propaganda from the right, the expression is vapid and vacuous, without any real meaning whatsoever, putting it right along with "no excuses," and "working hard and being nice." Professor Noam Chomsky best addresses these types of phrases:

"It doesn't mean anything... That's the whole point of good propaganda. You want to create a slogan that nobody's going to be against, and everybody's going to be for. Nobody knows what it means, because it doesn't mean anything. Its crucial value is that it diverts your attention from a question that does mean something: Do you support our policy?" [2]

The policy in question is to ignore poverty and demand a false accountability from all of poverty's victims. While there are countless works discussing this, a recent pair of essays by my Schools Matter colleague Professor P. L. Thomas, EdD, really get to the heart of this issue: Poverty and Testing in Education: "The Present Scientifico-legal Complex" part 1 and part 2.

Humane Expectations Devoid of any Bigotry

In my many years I've never come across an educator that had anything but "realistic expectations tempered with compassion and empathy" for their students, regardless of where they taught. Moreover, for right wing reactionaries to accuse hard working women and men that have dedicated their lives to educating inner city students of bigotry of any sort smacks of hypocrisy of the highest order. It's laughable on its face.

Of course compassion and empathy are foreign words to the rogues gallery discuss above, none of whom have ever taught in their lives. Well, with the exceptions of Wendy Kopp and Michelle Malkin — I mean, Michele Bachmann, er, — I mean Michelle Rhee (sorry it's so easy to confuse those three). Rhee is so devoid of empathy and compassion that one of the most enduring stories from her short stint as a TFA missionary is when she taped her students mouths shut with masking tape and then walked them to the lunchroom, bleeding lips and all. Kopp is seemingly less of a sociopath than Rhee, but it's clear her passion for fame and fortune outweigh any compassion she might have once had.

Access To Books

The other thing reactionary Shapiro gets entirely wrong before employing the hackneyed "soft bigotry of low expectations" nonsense, was to dismiss the Children's Television Workshop's catering to children that "did not have reading literature in the house." Access to books in the home is a major indicator of academic achievement and impoverished families have very limited access to books. This is a fact, and not something to be dismissed by a sniveling right winger threatening to "take them [Elmo and Big Bird] out back and cap them."

Another one of my Schools Matter colleagues, the distinguished Professor Stephen Krashen, PhD, has researched and written extensively on the subject of access to books. Here are a small sampling of his available short articles linking to longer works on the subject.

Given the staunch anti-intellectualism, lack of knowledge about all thing pedagogical, and academic aversion that whiny right wingers like Shapiro are known for, it's no wonder that he didn't get the whole importance of providing additional educational resources for children that "did not have reading literature in the house" like the prescient folks at Children's Television Workshop always have.

"True generosity consists precisely in fighting to destroy the causes which nourish false charity." [3]

Now that we're discussing these things, let's talk about the stark racism and classism stemming from the corporate education reform movement, which is orchestrated by the same plutocrats that aired Shapiro's television program. After all, those are the sort of things that vacuous phrases like "soft bigotry of low expectations" are supposed to distract us from.


NOTES

[1] Heartland Institute is none other than Parent Revolution's sister organization. Word is that in addition to co-hosting school privatization forums that Ben Austin and Ben Boychuck formulate policy together.

[2] Chomsky, Noam. Media Control: The Spectacular Achievements of Propaganda, Second Edition. New York: Seven Stories Press., 1991. pp. 25-26.

[3] Freire, Paulo. Pedagogy of the Oppressed, 30th Anniversary Edition. New York: The Continuum International Publishing Group, Inc., 2009. p. 45.



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