Saturday, September 26, 2009

Green Dot's Privatized Animo Watts II versus LAUSD's Public Garfield HS

"It's like me saying, 'Duffy's a pig fucker.' Have I seen him fuck a pig? Do I have photos?" -- Steve Barr (Founder and Chairman, Green Dot)

Support Parents and UTLA against LAUSD and Green Dot's corporate charter cash cowsHoward Blume's latest piece in the Los Angeles Times discusses Superintendant Cortines' list of "focus schools" (read privatization targets).

In the comments section, the second comment posted poses an excellent observation by @sethook: "Are any of the mayor's schools being auctioned off for poor performance?" Given the miserable performance of many of the Mayors' Partnership Schools run by former Green Dot executives Marshal Tuck and Ryan Smith, this question is entirely valid.

Taking that astute observation further, will any Green Dot schools be available to outside bidders? After all, Green Dot sports three schools in the lowest 100 APIs in the County. They also feature five schools in the lowest 35 average SAT scores in the County.

In fact Green Dot's Animo Watts II boasts API scores so much worse than Garfield's it's astonishing! This despite the fact that it has only 139 students versus Garfield's 4,603. By any account this vaunted Green Dot institution should be a failing school, but corporate charters don't play on an even field. Why isn't Animo Watts II on your list Mr. Cortines? [1] Why can't all Green Dot's six figure salary types like Barr, Petruzzi, and Austin figure out how to fix their own failing schools? Too busy lounging at the county club with Howard Blume, Yolie Flores Aguilar, Maria Brenes, and Monica Garcia discussing how they feel teachers are overpaid? Is Animo Watts II an example of Steve Barr's exceedingly brash, but obviously erroneous statement "our model should work in any educational context, because the principles are embodied in all high-performing schools?" [2] Is Green Dot Corporation's Animo Watts II an example of LAUSD VP Yolie Flores Aguilar's infamously smug statement about "high performing charters?"

Green Dot Animo Watts II
2008 Academic Performance Index (API) 494
No Child Left Behind (AYP) Missed seven of 12 federal targets for 2008

Green Dot Animo Watts II
2009 Academic Performance Index (API) 534
No Child Left Behind (AYP) Missed 12 of 18 federal targets for 2009

James A. Garfield Senior High
2008 Academic Performance Index (API) 597
No Child Left Behind (AYP) Missed five of 20 federal targets for 2008

James A. Garfield Senior High
2009 Academic Performance Index (API) 594
No Child Left Behind (AYP) Missed 10 of 18 federal targets for 2009

Data courtesy

[1] Feel free to email this post to LAUSD Superintendent Ramon Cortines

[2] See, and The second reference is nothing short of a printed infomercial, given the fact Green Dot buys their educational products from Scholastic. Graft and kick backs are the specialty for Poverty Pimps and Privatization Pushers like Marshall Tuck, Antony Ressler, Steve Barr, and Marco Petruzzi. With millions of dollars of public money to hand out to the outsourced services of their choice, corporate charters like Bright Star, Alliance, and Green Dot have a very lucrative thing going on. Remember 501C3 is just a tax designation, non-profit status doesn't address astronomical executive salaries, honoraria for speaking, kick backs, trips, meals, etc. This pool of public money corporations are salivating over is what Jonathan Kozol spoke to in "The Big Enchilada."


Friday, September 25, 2009

Potluck with the Trinational Coalition to Defend Public Education

Support Parents and UTLA against Green Dot's corporate charter cash cowsSee speakers from

Trinational Coalition to Defend Public Education

Join parents, community activists, and teachers from several of the schools mentioned in the LA Times "Garfield High among 12 schools available to outside bidders" tonight (09/25/09) at the

Potluck with the Trinational Coalition to Defend Public Education
Friday, September 25, 2009 5:00pm - 8:00pm
Parque de Culebras
238 S Avenue 57
Highland Park, California 90042
(between Omaha and Benner Streets)

Bring food or beverages to share.

Garfield High among 12 schools available to outside bidders

Resisting this corporate agenda, especially at the famed Garfield HS, is paramount. Nothing would be sadder than Petruzzi, Barr, Rose, and Austin getting their filthy corporate claws on Garfield with it's storied history including the East LA blowouts and Jaime Escalante. They'd be sure to teach their corporate values in place of social justice. Green Dot's Locke Charter actually contains language about children being "required to demonstrate a believe in the VALUE OF CAPITALISM.


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Transparency has left the Beaudry Building!

"If this study shows anything, it shows that we've got a two-to-one margin of bad charters to good charters, that's a red flag." -- Margaret E. Raymond (Director Stanford Center for Research on Education Outcomes CREDO 2009)

Keep the PUBLIC in public schoolsLAUSD President Monica Garcia and Vice President Yolie Flores Aguilar at the behest of ever the opportunist Mayor Villaraigosa and his boss Eli Broad have shown complete willingness to implement neoliberal Pinoche politics here in Los Angeles. Their no holds barred school privatization plan warms the hearts of extreme reactionary right wing corporatization advocates like Newt Gingrich, The Hoover Institution, The Hudson Institute, and the Cato Institute.

Ms. Garcia and Flores Aguilar's ruthless three step methodology for destroying public education:

Step 1: Vote to lay off hundreds and hundreds of hard working teachers. The direct results of their cynical vote is massive class size increases with some public schools suffering 40-60 students per class. This is by design, making public schools more prone to failure in order to bring in another wave of privatization.

Step 2: During the summer, when there is no resistance, pass the most sweeping privatization plan imaginable. Their Corporate Charter Choice resolution hands public schools and public property over to Charter Management Organizations (CMOs). CMOs are known for unelected boards whose hallmark is being utterly opaque, undemocratic, top down, private, and unaccountable -- despite taking the public's money and plenty of it. CMOs are entirely beholden to nefarious benefactors like the Waltons, Broads, Gates, and other right wing ideologues. Their hangers-on include unsavory characters like Marshall Tuck, Antony Ressler, Steve Barr, and Marco Petruzzi.

Step 3: ALL BUT ELIMINATE PUBLIC COMMENT, COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT, AND DEMOCRATIC PARTICIPATION in the district with their "Changes to Rules of the Board of Education." This is essentially Mayoral control (read corporate control) in everything but name. LAUSD Board Member Marguerite P. LaMotte's principled statement statement regarding Ms. Garcia and Flores Aguilar's reprehensible sneakiness is brilliant: "We are giving away our schools and now we want to get rid of transparency... so we can do whatever we want in the dark of night."


Los Angeles Clinic Defense - Family Planning Associates

Free abortion on demand!
Free abortion on demand
I was able to stop by and visit the brave women and men defending the Family Planning Associates women's clinic from reactionary right wingers this morning on the way to the office. I say brave since there's always the chance of violent right wing extremists, like murderer Scott Roeder might show up.

There were members of the International Socialist Organization, Radical Women, and other groups and individuals on hand. Their courageous and principled stand to protect the clinic and its patients is beyond admirable. Free abortion on demand was the call!

Please show up and support those protecting women's rights against the barbaric misogynistic reactionaries. Access to legal and safe abortion is an important health care issue and a basic issue for women’s equality.

Los Angeles Clinic Defense
Family Planning Associates
601 S. Westmoreland Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90005
Wednesday, September 23, 2009 6:30am to 6:00pm
Saturday, September 26, 2009 6:30am to 6:00pm
more info:


Monday, September 21, 2009

Open letter to Mr. Ben Austin regarding LAUSD proposed rule changes

To his credit he posted the following on the 21st: Ben Austin "I actually happen to agree with Robert Skeels on this particular issue. the more accountability, transparency, and opportunity for parent and community input, the better."

From:     Robert D. Skeels <>
Subject: Open letter to Mr. Ben Austin regarding LAUSD proposed rule changes
Date: September 21, 2009 13:12:02 PDT
To: Ben Austin <>,
Mr. Austin:
On August 25, 2009 you and your organization claimed a victory that was in your words "historic." You've stated "we need true accountability" in our school district on numerous occasions. You're on the record that LAPU/Parent Revolution supposedly both stands for and has won transparency, accountability, and parent involvement in LAUSD.

Shockingly, your closest allies on the LAUSD Board, President Monica Garcia and Vice President Yolie Flores Aguilar -- at the behest of your close friend Mayor Villaraigosa -- have suddenly proposed taking all that back from you tomorrow. That's right, all of the things you claim to have garnered via "grassroots organizing" could vanish instantly with the passage of "Proposed Changes to Rules of the Board of Education."

The proposed rule changes will eliminate LAUSD committees, limit the number of board meetings, and
ALL BUT ELIMINATE PUBLIC COMMENT, COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT, AND DEMOCRATIC PARTICIPATION. They want to take away the only opportunities for parents and community to speak directly to the board at the very podium you yourself have spoken from many times Mr. Austin! If the board votes to implement these rules, then LAUSD becomes just as opaque, undemocratic, top down, private, and unaccountable as the boards of typical CMOs and EMOs.

Mr. Austin, here's a golden opportunity to prove your rhetoric is sincere in both practice and principle.
Will you take a public stand, preferably on behalf of your organizations LAPU and the so called "Parent Revolution," against the proffered "Proposed Changes to Rules of the Board of Education?"

I'll let you know where I stand. I stand with my community in demanding a transparent LAUSD fully committed to democratic principles with complete participation of all stakeholders. I stand firmly with LAUSD Board Member Marguerite P. LaMotte's principled statement "We are giving away our schools and now we want to get rid of transparency... so we can do whatever we want in the dark of night."

So where do you stand Mr. Austin?

Do you and your organization really stand for accountability, choice, transparency, and parent involvement in LAUSD? Will you allow the board to snatch away the victory you've claimed against what you've termed the "Beaudry bureaucracy?" Are you and your constituents against the "Proposed Changes to Rules of the Board of Education?"

Anything less than a simple yes or no answer would be disingenuous. In fact, not taking a stand against the "Proposed Changes to Rules of the Board of Education" is tantamount to supporting it.

Advocating Public Education

Robert D. Skeels

BCC: Dozens of education and community activists, social justice advocates, and members of organized labor.
ENC: Copy of the current
"Proposed Changes to Rules of the Board of Education."


Sunday, September 20, 2009

All about the Kids -- thanks for overcrowded classrooms Yolie!

Support Parents and UTLA against LAUSD and Green Dot's corporate charter cash cowsWe're now several weeks away from the giant crocodile tears shed by LAUSD Vice President Flores Aguilar when she defended her [1] privatization resolution as being all about the kids. Indeed, all of the Corporate Charter Choice resolution's defenders constantly went on and on about how the resolution somehow put kids first. The way proponents framed it, anyone opposed to their neoliberal tenets of privatization and corporate handouts was against kids. Highly paid Green Dot executive Ben Austin's now infamous schtick about a "system designed for adults by adults," was intended to create a false dichotomy between children and their parents, and is a great example of such unscrupulous rhetoric. However, real education activists [2] saw through what Quang Tran cites as VP Flores Aguilar's "principles, [and] moral conviction."

We knew this of course, because of a vote Ms. Flores Aguilar made a few weeks earlier -- to lay off hundreds and hundreds of teachers. The direct results of her vote is massive class size increases: "Budget cuts push some classrooms way over capacity." Some principles and moral conviction. Of course this was by design, to make public schools more prone to failure in order to bring in another wave of privatization. In fact, Ms. Flores Aguilar's cynical vote to massively increase class sizes for public schools followed by her resolution to privatize nearly a third of the district comes straight out of the playbook of corporatization advocates like Newt Gingrich, The Hoover Institution, The Hudson Institute, and the Cato Institute.

Where were all these so called children's advocates like Ben Austin, Maria Brenes, Quang Tran, and Gabe Rose when the board was deciding to fire teachers and increase class sizes -- guaranteeing a substandard education for children? Sure it isn't as glamorous to protest the school board as it is to appear on TV with self colonizers like Bill "blame the victim" Cosby [3], but you think all these people claiming they passionately support education would have joined us protesting both the budget cuts and increases in class sizes. None of them said a word, and now we see the results of Ms. Flores Aguilar's vote, with "English and math classes have gone from an average of around 34 students last year to 42 this year."

I'm sure the young women of Fairfax High sitting on the file cabinets in the photo accompanying the Los Angeles Times article really appreciate all you've done for them Vice President Flores Aguilar! Thanks for all your advocacy for the kids!


[1] More properly, Marshall Tuck and the Green Dot grant writing staff's resolution written at the behest of Eli Broad and the Mayor.

[2] In other words, activists who don't get paid six figures a year to be activists and have read Paulo Freire. The Wall Street Journal recently listed Austin as an activist, which is exactly what he postures as, despite having never been an activist in his entire life. If Parent Revolution's Austin or any of his network of rich boys with white savior complex were really children's' advocates, then where were they when the community was engaged in struggle against the budget cuts? Green Dot's Ben Austin was almost certainly lounging at home in his gated Beverly Hills community while we supported the parent campers at John Liechty Middle School and Miguel Contreras Learning Complex. While LAPU's Ben Austin enjoyed lavish luncheons with ever the opportunist Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, we supported the hunger strikers and parents in front of Cortines office. While Ben Austin was endorsing fat checks from Eli Broad and William Gates, we were raising funds for Aurora Ponce. A "parent advocate" and "revolutionary" indeed! Furthermore, Austin's constant mention of his daughter's school is just another example of his unending stream of lies. Ben Austin has two daughters, a toddler and an infant. Someone should ask the pathological liar which one of those children currently attends a LAUSD school.



Thursday, September 10, 2009

In Depth: Jonathan Kozol

Books on TV C-Span2 presents In Depth: Jonathan Kozol click the link entitled Watch This Program to view the amazing interview. Roughly three hours with the most respected voice on education today. Warning to privatizers like Green Dot, corporate hacks like LAPU/Parent Revolution, and union bashers like Ben Austin: you will not enjoy this program! GEM posts this excellent quote describing the content of the program.


He also challenges many of the "reform" policies such as the NCLB "teach to the test mania", rote learning, Charter schools and vouchers. He is not afraid to take on Sec. Duncan and others who want to use a business model for education, blaming teachers and their unions , and replacing many experienced African American teachers with White "Kinderwonder" middle class recent Ivy League graduates who will only stay in teaching a few years as they have in New Orleans and Chicago, etc.

He points out how KIPP and Green Dot charter schools cherry pick their elite students while leaving most other poor children in run- down Ghetto schools.

Keep the PUBLIC in public schoolsFrom the In Depth website:

Author and education activist Jonathan Kozol was our guest for In Depth on Sunday, September 6, 2009.  Mr. Kozol is the author of over a dozen books, including The Shame of the Nation: The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America, Savage Inequalities: Children in America’s Schools, and Death at an Early Age: The Destruction of the Hearts and Minds of Negro Children in the Boston Public Schools that was the recipient of the National Book Award for Science, Philosophy, and Religion in 1968. Mr. Kozol is the founder of Education Action an organization that advocates against the government’s No Child Left Behind legislation and promotes educational reform in the public school system.


Monday, September 07, 2009

Los Angeles Immigrant Workers March for Immigration Reform

Stop the raids, amnesty now!
Support Parents and UTLA against Green Dot's corporate charter cash cows
Support Parents and UTLA against Green Dot's corporate charter cash cows
September 5, 2009. Roughly 700 workers and supporters braved 96 degree temperatures in the late summer sun during their march through downtown Los Angeles. Workers from Overhill Farms, American Apparel, and Farmer Johns called the action under the banner of "Marcha para Reforma Migratoria" (March for Immigration Reform), to demand President Obama stop both sanctions to employers, and employee verification, which have led to the mass firing of people.

Marchers carried signs demanding a halt to the firings, and chanted in unison along the route. A popular chant was "¡Obama escucha, estamos en la lucha!" (Listen Obama, we're engaged in struggle). Spirits were exceptionally high, in part due to palpable anger workers feel over what have become clear enforcement only policies stemming from Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano's office.

The slightly over a half mile route ended at Los Angeles' historic Pershing Square where a range speakers addressed the rally. The speakers were primarily workers from the effected workplaces. They addressed several issues including the fact that their employers were under no obligation from the government to fire their workers. They told of how employers often used this tactic to eliminate experienced workers, and replace them with lower paid workers with no benefits.

One woman's sentiments were particularly powerful:

"Many of us supported President Obama because he promised us hope, change, and immigration reform. Instead we all lost our jobs, and many of us may be deported. What sort of hope is that? I have children to feed, and now I have no job."

Nativo Lopez called on Obama and Napolitano to end punitive enforcement measures including 287(g), E-Verify, and Secure Communities immediately. Many speakers demanded the administration stop pushing talk of comprehensive immigration reform into the future and to embrace the tenets of the "Legalize America" campaign.

Another rally is planned for this October. Given the rampant increase of DHS/ICE enforcement policies as of late, there's an urgent need to continue this push back and demand legalization for all immigrants now!


Sunday, September 06, 2009

Marguerite P. LaMotte's Open Letter to LAUSD President over board becoming more opaque

Support Parents and UTLA against LAUSD and Green Dot's corporate charter cash cowsSunday, 30 August, 2009 1:09PM


I have just read your memo dated (actually it is not dated) entitled "Proposed Changes to Rules of the Board of Education".

My first reaction was that after the controversy caused by the Board's action on Tuesday and the possible legal ramifications of that, let's find another way to alienate and disenfranchise the people who elected us to office - not only is the Board abdicating some of its responsibilities to external operators, now the Board wants to eliminate its committee structure which is its only opportunity to ensure some degree of transparency and accountability of the takeover process and operations. Your opening paragraphs state...


As the Los Angeles Unified School District strives to absorb significant budget cuts, the Board of Education--together with the rest of the District--must increase the efficiency of its operations. At the same time, as the public governance body for the District, the Board must fully maintain its commitment to transparency and inclusiveness.

Below please find several recommendations to streamline Board operations. The proposals were designed to maximize efficiency, transparency, and inclusiveness. These changes would apply to the 2009-10 School Year only, and would be subject to evaluation and revision in the following years. The "Rationale" and "Challenges" represent my own best thinking; the "Legal Implications" were provided in a memo from the Office of the General Counsel (attached). This memo is intended as a springboard for discussion and action by the full Board of Education."

I think your recommendations are the antithesis of reasons why our constituents elected us to represent them on the Board and do the opposite to "maintain its commitment to transparency and inclusiveness." Small school districts have difficulty being transparent with a single monthly meeting. The sheer volume and magnitude of this District dictate more than a single meeting if transparency is really the goal.

Rather than eliminating the committee structure, may I suggest the Board's consideration of the following:

  1. Because the current structure provides our stakeholders access and fosters real inclusion through their participation, input, and involvement and negates some of the charges of exclusivity that are often lodged against the Board, assemble a representative group of all stakeholders to review, refine, and streamline committees for the 09-10 school year. Results to be presented in thirty days and during the interim, committees that are currently on the books operate so that the business of the District is handled properly. We are beginning the third month of this fiscal year and we still are not organized as a "full seven-member Board."

  2. The accompanying legal opinion indicates this should be discussed openly at a regular meeting. The Special Meeting on Tuesday is not a regular meeting and because this is so serious and important to our constituents, I suggest we not take action on this under the cover of dark, but at a regularly scheduled televised meeting for full transparency. Like special interests, our constituents deserve some consideration, also.

  3. As I stated earlier, there is no date on the proposed recommendations, but at the latest, is was publicized last Thursday, which gives Board members (who were not privileged to it earlier per our conversation last Wednesday) and constituents one working day to prepare any type of response or plan to be at a Tuesday meeting. (Monday is Admissions Day, a holiday.) For this reason, coupled with the rationale given in Bullet 2 above, it would behoove this Board to postpone this discussion.

Personally, just like the Mayor predicted the votes on his Resolution, I feel that it is a foregone conclusion that the same is true for this action, I felt compelled to at least make this appeal on behalf of parity for the hundreds of thousands of constituents who still have some trust and hope in our efforts as public servants - some of whom I have taken the liberty to copy on this e-mail.

I await your response.




Friday, September 04, 2009

Carrie Jacobson's response to an Eductopia Corporate Charter Article

Keep the PUBLIC in public schoolsEducator Carrie Jacobson was kind enough to give me permission to reprint her response to an Eductopia article on corporate charters and privatization.

You can read the article and other responses at -- "Public Schools Changing into Charters"

It goes very deep. Deeper than most think.

First, I should say that I am a teacher in a West LA middle school that is specifically being targeted by a hostile charter takeover, because we are the neighborhood school of a highly paid "consultant" of one of the largest corporate charter operators in existence, who also happens to be a city official with strong personal ties to the mayor and the organizer of the most vocal of the parent groups advocating for charters.

With that said, let me give you a little background of our demographics and experience, and then I will respond to your article.

Roughly, 71% of our student population is living in poverty and are on the federal lunch program, a la Title 1, 23% are special ed with moderate to severe learning disabilities, and 35% are english language learners. 12% are Caucasian, 33% are African American, 55% Hispanic. We have a nominal amount of Asian and Pacific Islanders, but not enough to make even 1%. I would say that of the 12% Caucasian, about 10% come from the neighborhood with the rest of the school's population bussed in from Mid-City or beyond.

For many years, parents that visit our campus have expressed fear when they see our diverse student population. They ask if it is true that we've stopped busing, or that they want their child in the gifted classes because "those" children do not have the work habits or would be a negative influence on theirs, or that we have a reputation for a culture of failure and have a "gang" problem (we don't). They've actually been rude enough to say these things directly to myself and others that work here, with students within earshot.

Frankly, they are afraid of the very thing that the teachers, administrators, and staff members believe is one of our greatest assets: We are a true microcosm of Los Angeles. We are unique. Thirty different languages are spoken on our campus. We have a student body that is growing up without racial prejudices and biases because they are personally familiar with the variety of cultures, sub-cultures and ethnicities that exist in this city - the very thing desegregation was to promote. It is working on our campus!

Yet, we are a PI 5+ school primarily due to the lower test scores of the Ells, special ed, and the kids living on the edge in poverty and/or homeless, AND the fact that many are holier than thou, nothing-can-affect-or-touch-me, the devil may care, young adolescents (as we all once were) - just as most schools across the country are. Yet they "fail" to score well on an upper-middle class normed test.

Their scores have nothing to do with their learning. I personally get them all to read and critically discuss Shakespeare, yet we are a "failing" school.

Now my response:

You should be very afraid of the corporate privatization of public schools. It is the new form of segregation, union busting, and graft. The robber barons are back.

The mayor in Los Angeles has been seduced by the money and power in the Westside - the greatest opponents of desegregation still. And this mayor has the majority of the school board in his pocket, as well as the promises of support by the wealthy charter EMO/CMOs.

Particularly on the Westside, it is the final push back, the last, bitter act (for now) of the white flight that began with the desegregation of public schools and the busing that began in LA in the 1970s. It is also brown flight in South and East LA (read up on Ritter Elementary, for instance).

All of these people will profit greatly by charterization - don't let the term non-profit fool you. Most of the PI schools are in South and East LA, and there are way more of them than on the Westside.

When you really study the Chicago and NY models, you will see the lack of access to neighborhood schools for special ed kids and the behavior problems when they get expelled from their neighborhood charter - if they can even get in on their lottery systems (which are a part of the charter movement here).

In Chicago, I believe this has a direct connection to the rapid rise of violence and murder rates of children this year. These kids are very, very angry as they become more and more disenfranchised. Here in LA at Locke HS, Green Dot expelled 8 kids last year - who must take multiple buses now to attend regular public schools (if they go at all).

Finally, the rhetoric that has been ingrained in the masses through the continuous marketing of "failing schools" and NCLB has clearly worked. Schools are judged strictly by this one test, not by what goes on in the schools themselves.

It seems that the soldiers for democracy and the true advocates for children are now left to fight this monster alone, as they sweat in their classrooms, offices, cafeterias, and the maintenance sheds in their schools. Fortunately, many parents and students are right there with them, too, otherwise we would all simply walk away to earn a better living in other fields that require our level of education. We do not have many friendly outlets to allow our voices to be heard above the clamor and rhetoric of the special interests that would like to monopolize our schools for profit and/or political gain.

To your assertion that the problem lies in capitalism, my reply is simply that democracy is neither easy, nor pretty, and requires an educated populace. However, a fully educated populace creates a society that questions authority - something that capitalism can not have in order to function to its fullest profit potential, or even function at all. Capitalism requires the system of haves and have nots. Think about it...

Carolyn Jacobson
Emerson Middle School
Grade 7 Los Angeles


Open Letter to Howard Blume from Professor Ralph E. Shaffer

Support Parents and UTLA against LAUSD and Green Dot's corporate charter cash cowsAN OPEN LETTER TO HOWARD BLUME [and the Editorial Board], in response to his article on L A charter schools, 9/2/09

Was it an inadvertent selection of words, Howard, that led you to refer to the Flores Aguilar plan in your second paragraph as a "school control" program rather than one of "school choice?" You are, in fact, absolutely right in calling it "school control." There never was any "choice" given to students, teachers or parents in the resolution that the LAUSD board adopted. The "choice" in her plan was in the form of outside operators "choosing" which schools they would pick off. Can't you see a smoke-filled room where Villaraigosa, Barr, Palisoc and others are meeting to decide who bids for the right to "control" which campuses?

I thought from the onset that the use of "Choice" in Aguilar's resolution was a come-on, designed to lure unsuspecting but dissatisfied parents into thinking this plan was somehow going to give them a greater say in the education of their children. But, Howard, you know that was never the intention of the charter crowd or the mayor's cabal. It was always an empty gesture - and it worked. Where is the charter school in L A that truly gives parents a decisive voice in the education of their kids? It would be the exception to an almost ironclad rule of no parental authority.

I assume you are aware, Howard, that "school choice" was a code phrase used by the anti-integration rednecks and ultraconservative gentility who wanted the right in the 1960s and 70s to send their kids to racially homogeneous public schools or, better yet, get a voucher from the state to send their kids to private schools. What you may not be aware of is that the California charter school law was enacted in the early 1990s partly as a ploy to block the voucher movement.

May I make a suggestion for a future article over your byline: interview Gary Hart and Delaine Eastin, the two legislators who ushered the original bill through the state legislature. Ask them to comment on how the charter school movement of today equates with the very precise objectives they had for such schools. Also ask them what they think of this whole new cottage industry of charter "companies" - I'm glad to see that you are referring to them as "companies" rather than "educationally institutions," which they are not. We might as well have Blackwater running the schools.

Anyway. a published interview with Eastin and Hart ought to win a Pulitzer.

So now it's in the open. The Flores Aguilar plan was really a move for "control" of the schools by charters and has nothing to do with "choice." We will probably never again hear the word "choice" used in connection with this theft. And theft it is. Didn't Cortines use the word "steal" in a quotation in your article?

As I read your piece it became apparent that a flock of vultures is drooling over the feast that will begin in January. And the vultures are Villaraigosa, Tuck, Hill, Palisoc, Barr, Austin, and the angels bankrolling them: Broad and Wasserman. You tell us that Broad wants to dismantle the LAUSD. I'm not surprised. One of his pets, Green Dot, has apparently catered to him by writing into the curriculum at Locke a requirement that all students there will have to demonstrate a "belief" in capitalism. My, my! Editorial page editor Jim Newton stands by Broad, citing the philanthropist's liberalism. Well, he isn't liberal when it comes to allowing students to have freedom of thought. Apparently Broad would like to dismantle the First Amendment to the U S Constitution as he works to dismantle the LAUSD.

Perhaps, then, "control" has a greater meaning. Not only will private entrepreneurs - with their six figure salaries at their "noon-profit" charters - control the billions of dollars in school property but they will also "control" the mindset of the students they plan to "educate." I will not be surprised if the guru of American Indian Public Charter School in Oakland makes a play for an LAUSD school. You surely remember that character, Howard. Your fellow reporter Mitchell Landsberg did a piece about him in late May, describing how the kids there have to give a pledge every morning -not to the American flag ... but to "Capitalism." This is also the guy who tells teacher applicants that no liberals need apply. He ought to fit right in with the Flores Aguilar "control" plan. Yes. not only will the charters control the property, they will also control kids' minds.

I know you love Green Dot, Howard. You've listened to Steve Barr and his cronies far more than you have to those of us who see in this plan the destruction of public education. You are cordial to the opponents, but in the end Broad is where the power is and it's the Broads of this community who will carry the day. The real opposition to this plan did not come from A J Duffy and the UTLA. Duffy and UTLA were, however, a convenient whipping boy. Reference to them in the Times brings back memories of the old days - before Otis Chandler - when the Times was so anti-union that some of us were ashamed to admit we read the sheet. But vilifying the union was a winning tactic for the plan. It certainly took up enough space that there was no room for genuine opposition to Flores Aguilar's proposal. And, of course, the op-ed staff refused to run two powerful submissions that spoke direct about L A charters and their operators. And Newton could write with a straight face: the Times wants "an honest campaign."

There was no honest campaign, Howard. The Times, Green Dot, the mayor and Broad won. But they didn't do it honestly. And if the Times can live with that, it speaks volumes about the journalistic integrity of the Editorial Board and the staff writing about education.

To the victors go the spoils, and in L A the rot will be worth billions to those vultures.

Ralph E. Shaffer
Professor Emeritus, History
Cal Poly Pomona


Brian Jones: Public Schools vs. Corporate Charters

The incomparable Brian Jones debates a suit over the evils of privatization.


Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Choice and Accountability according to Green Dot's (Counter)Revolution

Support Parents and UTLA against Green Dot's corporate charter cash cowsThe Parent (Counter)Revolution, and its financiers including Green Dot, Alliance, and Bright Star love to gush on and on about the words "choice" and "accountability." The word choice also features prominently in the title of the LAUSD Vice President's Corporate Charter School Choice Resolution (more properly Public School Choice: A New Way at LAUSD), despite the fact that nowhere in the resolution is there explicit language allowing parents and communities a choice of which operator seizes their school. [1]

The words choice, accountability, and competition play a big role in Ben Austin's 1980's business buzzword bingo schtick. The way he tells it, you'd think parents will now have a smorgasbord of premier educational choices at their disposal, regardless of where they live, or their socioeconomic status. If only it was like that! Ask the good folks of Maywood how they feel about the so called choices they've been given.

Well it turns out the corporate hacks and free market sycophants running Green Dot's front group Parent Revolution (née LAPU), have an entirely different understanding of the words choice and accountability than the rest of us. Remember, part of our oppressor's advantage lies in their ability to define the terms used in the debate. You know, "the ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas."

Here is the school privatizers' conception of accountability and choice, straight from Green Dot's LAPU/Parent (Counter)Revolution own website's Corporate Charter FAQ [2]:

How are charter schools held accountable?

Unlike a traditional public school, parents choose to put their children into charter schools. If a charter school is not meeting a parent's expectations, the parent can simply switch their child back to the traditional public school, or a different neighborhood charter school. If enough parents are unhappy with the charter, the state will shut it down. Parents have choice, and the school is held accountable-unlike traditional public schools.

Translation from corporate-speak: While you have no recourse or redress whatsoever with the unaccountable corporate charter school's administration or the CMO's equally unaccountable unelected board, you can choose to enroll your child back in a traditional public school! That's right folks, your choice is limited to Barr's way or the highway!

Sounds like Green Dot's corporate hacks have employed the hackneyed right wing idiom in which people somehow "vote with their feet." This false notion of choice is often proffered by reactionaries like Robert Galloway and Dick Cheney in regards to chronic labor and human rights violator Wal-Mart. No small coincidence that the notorious Walton Clan also runs corporate charter schools as well.

To all the corporate charter advocates foisting their right wing agenda on us: a choice between undesirable outcomes isn't a choice, it's a dilemma!

Real choice comes from being able to participate fully in the process. Real choice would involve accountability from top to bottom. Real choice is part of our vision for both education reform, and a society in which workers and ordinary people would have real and meaningful control over every aspect of their lives.

[1] To Superintendent Cortines credit, he seems a little less hostile to community input than LASUD VP Flores Aguilar is. Recall how defensive Ms. Flores Aguilar and Garcia were during the August 25, 2009 LAUSD Board meeting when Mr. Zimmer and Ms. Martinez tried to add some toothless amendments including language providing for parent and community input. In addition to be unequivocally opposed to any language mentioning actual input or choice, all Garcia and Flores Aguilar could say repeatedly was "How will that effect charters?"



On Parent Revolution (née LAPU) Pretending to Distance Themselves from Green Dot

Support Parents and UTLA against Green Dot's corporate charter cash cowsLos Angeles Parents Union's (LAPU aka Parent (Counter)Revolution) Gabe Rose and Ben Austin have been hard at work trying to obfuscate the connection between their Astroturf organization and their parent corporation Green Dot. This is understandable considering the political pressures that have begun mounting since some of their secrets have been revealed and their nefarious connections to certain LAUSD board members, the Mayor, and other officials are now public knowledge. At the August 25, 2009 LAUSD Board meeting when Ms. Garcia and Ms. Flores Aguilar's adamantly denied their corporate charter choice resolution had anything to do with charters, until Mr. Zimmer and Ms. Martinez tried to add some toothless amendments, then all Garcia and Flores Aguilar could say repeatedly was "How will that effect charters? Will that effect charters? Counsel, would that restrict charters?" As vapid, vacuous, and disingenuous those rogue board members appeared, so does LAPU when it tries to deny its direct relation ship with Green Dot.

Here's an example via Gabe Rose posting on the LAPU message board for the hostile take over of Emerson Middle School [1]:

I don't believe Green Dot has interest in coming into the Emerson community... Parent Revolution works with a number of the highest quality charter operators in LA... Just wanted to help this dialogue remain productive--doesn't make a ton of sense for it to center entirely about Green Dot.

To Gabe Rose's credit, Parent (Counter)Revolution does now represent several corporate charter organizations. Fresh out of college, Mr. Rose probably has had little exposure to Barr, Petruzzi, and Austin's insatiable greed and ruthlessness. Also in Mr. Rose's defense is the fact that he might not be aware of the origins of LAPU/Parent (Counter)Revolution.

To educate ourselves on the origins of LAPU, let's look no further than a Green Dot white paper entitled "Green Dot Public Schools & Los Angeles Parents Union" [2] since it is more authoritative than anything I could write:

Recognizing the need for parents to organize and work collectively to demand high-quality education, Green Dot formed the Los Angeles Parents Union (LAPU)

There you have it, Green Dot's own admission they founded LAPU. For those still maintaining Parent Revolution is a wholly different organization see: "Parent Revolution was started by a coalition of organizations, led by the Los Angeles Parents Union (LAPU)." [3]

I've been accused of hyperbole when discussing Green Dot's despicable plans to privatize as many schools as possible. Well, here's another interesting quote from the document introduced above:

Green Dot’s initial strategic plan called for opening 100 charter high schools like Ánimo in neighborhoods across Los Angeles

100 schools! Maybe, just maybe, I wasn't exaggerating, huh? That's what happens when you get a group of right wing ideologues from the DLC/DFER and shower them with millions of dollars from real estate tycoons from Los Angeles and convicted predatory monopolists from Redmond. Given the nature of the Corporate School Choice Resolution, Green Dot may well end up with many more than 100 schools. As I've written before:

I think an important point to make about Flores-Aguilar's plan is that there's really only one organization with massive outside funding and a bevy of professional grant writers to present seemingly the best plans on paper in order to garner a lion's share of the 50 schools. While everyone is saying other organizations like UTLA or community groups can submit plans, how do they compete against organizations funded by the likes of Eli Broad, The Gates Foundation, The Waltons, or the LA Chamber of Commerce? Why should parents, teachers, and communities have to compete with businessmen to teach children in the first place?

We'll be handing over facilities paid for by taxpayers to unaccountable private non-profits. If LAUSD seems obtuse and unresponsive, try calling Green Dot, Alliance, or Brightstar about anything. They're corporations for goodness sakes. Their top executives aren't educators, they're businessmen. At least with traditional public schools, there's a sense of community and people are allowed on campuses. These CMOs treat public property as, well, their corporate property.

Another major problem with Barr, Duncan, and Gingrich's model is the loss of community schools. This is addressed by those familiar with the aftermath of Arne Duncan's dismantling of public schools in CPS. Barr's CMO admission typically involve lotteries, steep requirements, and other bars of entry to assure inflated APIs are typically an anathema to local children being able to attend. Since these 50 new schools were supposed to be for overflow of existing neighborhood schools, we can see where that's going. For more on how the Barr/Duncan/Gingrich model destroys community schools see: Arne Duncan and the Chicago Success Story: Myth or Reality?

Despite the huge amount of damning evidence it contains, the Green Dot document, "Green Dot Public Schools & Los Angeles Parents Union" is still available from right wing think tank AISR.

The document dates from when Ryan Smith was the head of LAPU (now Parent Revolution). Ryan Smith left Green Dot to work for Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's Partnership for Los Angeles Schools with fellow former Green Dot executive Marshal Tuck. Yes, Green Dot is that politically connected and flush with Eli Broad's cash that it was able to position two former executives as Director of Family and Community Engagement and Chief Executive Officer respectively in the Mayor's project -- and no Howard Blume wont be writing about that anytime soon.

The document also comes from the same period when Steve Barr was still the CEO of Green Dot, before he was replaced by even more ruthless Marco Petruzzi. More on that soon.



For privatization cheerleaders, you could also try emailing and tell Ben your his biggest fan, just like the fawning sycophants from Inner City Sellout, er, I mean Struggle told Ms. Yolie Flores Aguilar at the July 14, 2009 Board meeting.


A Town Hall Meeting Closed to the Townspeople

Keep the PUBLIC in public schoolsThis is my original submission of the piece that ran in Los Angeles Daily News after their editing and a title change to Why school choice plan is a bad idea for our district. Although the Daily News strongly endorsed the privatization plan, at least they had the integrity to publish dissenting views.

CSU Professor R. Shaffer had several people, myself included, submit Op-Eds to the Los Angeles Times just to see if they'd print any dissenting views. Especially considering the vast amount of ink the Times dedicated to cheerleading the resolution and school privatization in general. In an act of utter intellectual and journalistic dishonesty they rejected all of them (Diane Ravitch's piece notwithstanding, as it was a general Op-Ed without a direct connection to Los Angeles or the resolution). In a discourse between Prof. Shaffer and LA Times Editorial Pages Editor Jim Newton, Newton stated:

"We just want an honest campaign for it [the resolution]"

That isn't what they did! Far from it! Their servile, obsequious, Green Dot cheerleading went to the extent that even writers not on their education staff, like Steve Lopez, began writing privatization propaganda. Moreover, considering all the lavish lunches the Los Angeles Times education staff including Messrs. Blume and Song have enjoyed with the CMO elite, their objectivity is beyond suspect, they come off as shills for Eli Broad's nefarious designs for public education.

A Town Hall Meeting Closed to the Townspeople

How can you have an education "town hall" where the townsfolk aren't invited? Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Green Dot Corporation's Ben Austin staged two such events last week touting LAUSD Vice President Yolie Flores-Aguilar's school privatization resolution, which is up for vote on August 25. Locking out those most concerned with the content of those meetings--parents, educators, and the community--is a harbinger of how public education may look should the resolution pass. In fact, the closed meetings stand as metaphors for how the majority of Charter Management Organizations (CMO) work: undemocratic, top down, run by non-educators, and unaccountable to the communities where they operate.

Noting widespread public opposition to Flores-Aguilar's resolution, particularly at town halls featuring LAUSD Superintendent Cortines, the Mayor and his Green Dot allies made sure their Boyle Heights and Venice meetings were town halls in name only. The first was held midday Tuesday. The Garfield Town Hall was hosted at Catholic Charities, instead of Garfield, notably because Garfield's parents, teachers, and community have vehemently opposed Green Dot's ongoing hostile take-over attempts for over a year. The community was locked outside while parents bused in from other locations comprised the audience.

Those locked out were told they would have been admitted had they called to RSVP. Obtaining the phone number to RSVP for the Venice event, many people called to RSVP. The number was paid Green Dot organizer Shirley Ford’s voicemail, but none of us were ever called back. Wednesday saw Austin and the Mayor host a second closed meeting in Venice.

Despite the fact that he’s a former Deputy Mayor, many people are unaware of who Ben Austin is. Austin poses as a concerned parent from an impacted community bravely fighting for school reform in public settings. Instead, Austin holds two six figure positions and lives in Beverly Hills. Austin’s day job is an Assistant City Attorney, his second job is Executive Director of Parent Revolution (née Los Angeles Parents Union). Surprisingly, this seeming conflict of interest goes unabated, despite his financial interest in passage of Flores-Aguilar's resolution.

Parent Revolution is an astroturf group founded by, share an office building with, and are funded primarily by Green Dot. Parent Revolution supplied the audience at these town halls, an audience vetted for its allegiance with the Mayor, Flores-Aguilar, and Austin's corporate charter school choice resolution.

Mayor Villaraigosa claims his town halls were closed for fear of disruption. It's far more likely the Mayor and Austin were afraid parents, educators, and community members would inevitably ask inconvenient questions:

There's a reason the Stanford Study, the disastrous aftermath of Secretary of Education Arne Duncan's same policies in Chicago, and other serious questions regarding school privatization aren't being addressed. They're the same reasons why the Mayor's meetings locked the community out. While supporters of Flores-Aguilar's resolution claim it's "for the kids," an examination of facts, conflicts of interest, nefarious benefactors, opportunism, and political maneuvering shows they're doing it "for the cronies."

Students, parents, communities, and tax payers deserve better.

Robert D. Skeels is a technical writer and activist in Los Angeles


Upcoming Social Justice Events

El Pueblo Unido, Jamas Sera VencidoMarcha for Reforma Migratoria - March for Immigration Reform!
Stand up against increasingly stricter enforcement policies

Corner of Olympic and Broadway
Saturday, September 5, 2009 @ 11:00am - 1:00pm
S Broadway & W Olympic Blvd Los Angeles, CA 90015

Los Trabajadores de Overhill Farms, American Apparel, Farmers Johns y otros llaman a todas las organizaciones de Derechos Humanos e Immigrantes y otras a Demandar que Presidente Obama Pare las multas a Patrones y verificacion de documentos que resultan en despidos masivos.

The workers of Overhill Farms, American Apparel, Farmers Johns and others are calling to all the organizations of Human Rights and Immigrantes and others to Demand Obama to Stop Sanctions to employers, and employee verification due to the mass firing of people.

a better world is possibleSOCIALISM
What It Is And Why We Need It

USC Leavey Library Auditorium
Wednesday, September 9, 2009 @ 7:00pm - 8:30pm
651 West 35th Street, Los Angeles, CA 90007

The word "socialism" has returned to the mainstream of American political debate. But there are widespread misconceptions of what socialism is-and what it isn't.

Republicans fret that the U.S. is fast becoming a socialist country-with government spending on bank bailouts and Barack Obama's proposed health care reform.

But the genuine tradition of "socialism from below" means something more than state intervention in the economy. Socialism is really about the struggle to oppose discrimination in all its forms and to put the needs of working people before corporate profits.

Come to this meeting to discuss the idea of socialism-and socialist strategies for changing the world.