Friday, August 20, 2010

On "Lessons from the Locke experiment"

"As for Charter schools, its not quite so simple. They collect the data, but often do not provide it reliably to the public school district." — Jason Felch (Los Angeles Times)

"The lowest-performing, based on test scores, is the large Green Dot chain." — Los Angeles Times

On Lessons from the Locke experiment

Injustice courtesy of Green Dot Public Schools and the greedy Charter Voucher Industry!
I applaud the Times for finally making a somewhat fair and sober assessment of the charter-voucher industry's long unchallenged claims. This statement in the editorial: "[T]he charter school movement [sic] in general, and Green Dot leaders in particular, criticized slow-to-improve scores at public schools for too long to now claim that it's unfair to emphasize those scores" is something I've said for years, and have even had Op-Eds I wrote to the same effect rejected by the Times on several occasions. 

Nevertheless, it's good to see the Times demonstrate a modicum of honesty in this piece, even though there is no mention of the millions and millions of taxpayer dollars Marco Petruzzi has used to create these 'modest' improvements at Locke. We have to ask if a publicly controlled entity wouldn't have used those same funds to better effect, not to mention in a democratic fashion.

Regardless, Steve Barr, Marco Petruzzi, and Ben Austin's prognostications of complete proficiency in a year have been proven entirely false! While social justice advocates like myself don't place much credence in standardized tests, APIs were the blunt object those well heeled Green Dot executives used to club everyone into handing the public school over to them. They were the chorus of 'no excuses,' now they're there singing an entirely different tune.


Thursday, August 19, 2010

Open Letter to Jed Wallace: Jason Felch statement conflicts with CCSA claims?

Any surprise that the CCSA's Jed Wallace, like everyone in the charter-voucher industry, is a liar, cheat and thief.
Mr. Wallace:

On numerous occasions you've asserted that charter-voucher school operations are completely transparent to both the communities they supposedly serve, and the taxpayers whose money they use to operate with. You've gone as far as to write an Op-Ed in the Los Angeles TImes making the highly specious claim that 990 tax forms contain all the information anyone would want to know. As recently as a few weeks ago you were on the Pat Morrison radio show claiming that charter-voucher schools are completely transparent and accountable. You further stated that all CCSA members are compliant with the Brown Act.

So imagine my complete astonishment when the Los Angeles Times' Jason Felch, whose bias and utter deference to your industry is legendary, said the following today:

Jason Felch: As for Charter schools, its not quite so simple. They collect the data, but often do not provide it reliably to the public school district. Because of this, we were unable to amass enough data to analyze their results.

My question is, for all your bombastic bluster about charter-voucher school accountability and transparency, how do you reconcile the above Felch quote to the distorted reality you present?


Robert D. Skeels


Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Dr. Stephen Krashen - Why are educators supporting RTTT? Time to reread C Lutenbacher.

Duncan and Obama's privatization plans failed in Chicago, and will fail here.I am reposting Cindy Lutenbacher's letter to the NCTE from March.  It applies not only to NCTE, but to IRA, and to all 21 of the organizations that are demanding that they too be required to submit standards, and be tested.

What is going on?

It could be that people have no idea what is really happening. In a recent article posted on yahoo, it was pointed out that some members of congress are supporting Race to the Top but don't really understand it. Is this true of education professionals also? Do they know what the Duncan plan entails? Not just magnet schools, not just teacher evaluation connected to standardized tests, but also a skill-building based approach, and massive testing such as we have never seen before. I have posted the evidence.  The tests will be followed by texts, you can be sure.

Or could it be that people think that if they have a "seat at the table" they can soften the blow? Or take advantage of the situation and receive lots of stimulus money?  I have several responses to this: You won't soften the blow to any significant extent. Duncan et al have made it clear that it is their way or the highway.

And if you think you can personally profit from all this while students suffer, you have no honor.

Stephen Krashen

Cindy Lutenbacher letter:

March 12, 2010

Dear NCTE,

For many years, you were my professional organization, and I was proud to participate in the annual conventions.

But you betrayed me.

You sold your soul for a "seat at the table." You sold us out because "withholding expertise and comment from this effort would be inconsistent with NCTE's mission and could further isolate teachers from a process which might profoundly influence the conditions of teaching and learning" (Open Letter to NCTE Members). You pretend that you don't know what follows this "standards" or goal setting. Such pretense is specious at best, for this Duncan DOE is already accepting bids for the standardized tests.

Did you imagine that all of a sudden, Arne Duncan would throw out the absurd, research-denying multiple-choice "measures" and turn over the assessment to the teachers?

Did you imagine that Mr. Duncan would suddenly reverse his position that teacher jobs be tied to student scores, that he would suddenly trust us?

Did you imagine that what just happened in Central Falls was/is an aberration? In Central Falls, demographics make the story more complex and real: "According to the NECAP results (New England Common Assessment Program), of the Central Falls High School students who participated in the assessments, 22% were identified with Limited English proficiency with English as their second language compared to 3% for the state. Twenty-three percent had an IEP (individualized education plan designed for students with special needs) compared to the state average of 17% and 85% were classified as economically disadvantaged compared to the state average of 35%."

Did you imagine that we would forget the research that conclusively shows that poverty is the central problem with our schools? Did you think we wouldn't know that the United States has the highest rate of children in poverty of all industrialized nations in the world?

By sitting at this table, you have colluded with the very people whose motives are diametrically opposed to what education in a democracy must be. You have joined forces with the likes of the Business Roundtable and its cadre of corporations ready to steal fortunes from the pockets of taxpayers.

I said that you have sold us out, but the truth is far worse. For your precious seat at this poisoned table, you have traded the lives of our children, as if they were commodities on a stock exchange.



Cindy Lutenbacher
A former member of NCTE


Blume piece mentions Perfidious Petruzzi and Mayor Failure*

The Animo Social Justice (?) Charter is closing for no other reason than Green Dot cannot show a return on their financial investment. Skeels' - a very adept freelance forensic accountant - questioning of Petruzzi's "We don't have a rich guy...." is right on. It shows that Green Dot's rich guys are putting their eggs in more lucrative baskets - like another Green Dot school on the Westside. [Read the Billionaires Boys Club chapter in Diane Ravitch's The Death and Life of the Great American School System] — Scott M. Folsom (4LAKids)

Well, now we know why the Los Angeles Times set school privatization bulldog Jason Song loose on another fact-free teacher bashing tirade comprised of the highly discredited "value-added" theory over the weekend. It was to mitigate the damage from today's piece by Howard Blume, Annual test scores rise in L.A. Unified schools, which shows LAUSD Public School scores up, and privatized charter-voucher industry darlings like Green Dot and PLAS only making nominal gains. I had some thoughts on these very telling revelations which appear in the comments under the article. They are reproduced here.

Privatizer Marco Petruzzi. Stand up to Green Dot's corporate charter-voucher racismCould Marco Petruzzi be any more contradictory or mendacious? He and Ben Austin railed endlessly about Locke's low APIs and the so-called achievement gap (since silver-spoon-babies like Petruzzi and Austin can't fathom how poverty effects performance) as part of their hostile take over of Locke. They used test scores like a club to pummel the district and the community into handing public property over to their little private clique. Suddenly "There is so much focus on test scores that people miss the bigger picture of what a turnaround is about."

Let me get this straight. When a school is run by a public and democratically controlled entity, test scores are the sole criteria for judging. When run by private and secretly controlled entities (CMO/EMO), test scores are irrelevant. Nice! Given the litany of lies Petruzzi told the Animo Justice community, it's astonishing that Howard Blume would quote the pathological liar to begin with. I guess Petruzzi's quarter million a year salary qualifies him to make statements no matter how fact-free they are.

As soon as Petruzzi went on public record saying Green Dot doesn't get outside money from millionaires, [1] he should have lost any and all credibility with the press. He and Austin also guaranteed that all Locke students would be proficient within in a year, but we'll ignore that for now. When will the Los Angeles Times just come out and admit the are the public relations arm of the DFER and charter-voucher industry.

Marshall Tuck was a failure at Green Dot and now he is a failure at PLAS!Aside from exposing Green Dot's deviously dishonest CEO for being the serial liar he is, it's also great to see that the 'Education Mayor" has managed to pull off such stellar proficiency rates!

Just think. If we allow Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Marshall Tuck, Joan Sullivan, and Ryan Smith to apply their Project for Los Angeles Schools (PLAS) best practices, derived from Green Dot Public [sic] Schools and Alliance for College-Ready Schools, district-wide, then the whole district can boast that "fewer than 2% of students scored as proficient in math."

Funny how all Los Angeles' CMOs, EMOs, and schools under mayoral control are also the leaders in remediation rates for the students they manage to get into college as well. Somehow, the Los Angeles Times ignores the smoke and mirrors there too.


[1] Perfidious Petruzzi

The former Bain Capital employee has made a fortune in the crooked charter-voucher industry. Well known for his mendaciousness, another of Petruzzi's despicable stream of lies starts around the 4:05 mark of this video. Gotta love when he says "We have no money. We're a non-profit. We don't have a rich guy that even [sic] gives us extra."

Even given the kind of wealth Petruzzi, Barr, and Austin are accustomed to, it's disingenuous at best for him to not consider Green Dot's extremely well heeled donors as not being rich. Eli Broad, William Gates III, The Walton Family, Reed Hastings, Donald Fischer, et al. certainly would qualify as those rich guys that perfidious Petruzzi denies receiving money from!

[Click if you can't view the video]

The "no rich guy" falsehood is just one of Green Dot Public Schools CEO Marco Petruzzi's standard fare of fallacies. This is the kind of dishonesty that only Jed Wallace, Gabe Rose, Yolie Flores Aguilar, and Ben Austin could love. Look for a full blown article on this real soon.


* The reference to Mayor Failure, of course, comes from the absolutely brilliant cover of the June 2009 Los Angles Magazine. The milquetoast article it was plugging isn't all the critical of the pro-corporate, pro-privatization, pro-business Mayor, but it was a start.


Friday, August 06, 2010

Open Letter to Journalist Pat Morrison Regarding Public Education

Not only do the teabaggers and the edreform crowd use the same right wing reactionary think tanks, they both cling stubbornly to the thoroughly discredited notion that markets benefit anyone outside the ownership class. That's why Whitney Tilson quotes AEI, Ben Austin quotes the Hoover Institution, and RiShawn Biddle writes for 'Reason' magazine. These, and the rest of Arne Duncan's most stalwart supporters are to public education as the teabaggers are to civil rights. Not that there isn't a ton of overlap between teabagger and edreform memberships in the first place.

Open Letter to Journalist Pat Morrison Regarding Public Education

Written in response to her recent radio show on KPCC featuring CCSA Executives

Defend Public Schools from Corporate Charter-Voucher Charlatans
I want to invite Pat Morrison to discuss this issue with grassroots and volunteer public education activists, rather than just highly paid charter-voucher industry demagogues like Jed Wallace and Ben Austin. While I sincerely hope that Ms. Morrison has had to opportunity to read celebrated education professor and author Diane Ravitch's watershed book: The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education, she would also do well by talking to public education advocates. I for one, and many of my fellow public education activists engaged in the struggle to preserve public education from privatization, would be happy to be interviewed, or consulted on this issue.

Many of us have spent years observing the real effects of privatization and other fallout of the so-called 'edreform' movement (I'm loathe to call anything funded by billionaires a movement). We've also watched hucksters like Wallace, Tuck, Barr, Ponce, Canada, Ressler, Christie, Smith, Piscal, Austin, Petruzzi, Burton, and McFarlane all get rich off the booming charter-voucher industry.

Over the years, Pat Morrison has tended to report from a progressive angle, and we all appreciate that. One wonders if she is aware that not only are these charter-voucher spokespersons she allows on her show in total agreement with institutions like The Heritage Foundation, The Hoover Institution, The Cato Institute, AEI, and other far right think tanks on these issues, but they frequently quote and use information from these reactionary organizations to forward their privatization agenda.

Those of us that advocate public education are in favor of fully funded, democratically run public schools, in which community, families, and faculty participate in the decision making for running schools. This is a far cry from the agenda of those private, secretive, unelected boards of EMO, CMO, and other charter-voucher institutions whose members are typically comprised of investment bankers, CEOs, businessmen, and hedge fund managers--none of whom have children in those schools, nor live in our communities. Rather than pit working class parents against working class unionized teachers, as Wallace and Austin do on a constant basis, we seek to unite both of those groups with the rest of the community and use our public schools as a focal point to forward the struggle for social justice, equality, and egalitarianism.

Please Ms. Morrison, give the social justice side of this debate a fair hearing. Businessmen like Austin and Wallace already have enough corporate media outlets for their antiquated and discredited ideas.


Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Advocating Public Education Roundup 10W31

Barr's parent organization [LAPU/Parent Revolution] gave... a grass-roots visual... And his paid staffers hit the right rhetorical notes... while identifying themselves to reporters and officials only as parents. — Howard Blume (Los Angeles Times)

Failure doesn't begin to describe charter sycophant Villaraigosa and PLASA really interesting piece on the self colonized queen of privatization — Yolie Flores Aguilar's real employer!


Of course, what more could we expect from the cutthroat capitalist and convicted predatory monopolist from Redmond, who, by the way, has been caught engaging in more malfeasance as of late. To wit: Bill Gates' other company dinged for fraud. The corruption, graft, fraud, billionaire bribery, and general malfeasance will continue unabated until the charter-voucher school industry is confronted by communities and social justice activists.

Special thanks to 4LAKids for sharing this story. I have a big piece featuring Yolie coming out soon — stay tuned.

This is from Leonie Haimson's excellent NYC Public School Parents blog:

"Diane Ravitch and Leonie Haimson on Democracy Now"

[Click if you can't view the video]

Push back against their propaganda

Some responses to some very unfortunate pieces in the always charter-voucher friendly local corporate media.

First a response to Joan Sullivan's utterly disgusting Op-Ed in the Daily News.

The Mayor's failed PLAS experiment should be enough to condemn his efforts, along with those of Marshall Tuck, Joan Sullivan, and Ryan Smith as untenable. Whether we look at PLAS schools' miserable API scores, their laughable remediation rates for the students they do manage to get into higher education, or the fact that their own staff have voted no confidence in the institutions, Sullivan's assertion that PLAS is a model is like Green Dot suggesting Animo Watts II is a top school!

Sullivan then trots out the highly discredited phrases of the privatizers' handbook: "competition, choice, and innovation." Three concepts that when put into practice have demonstrated to be utter failures. Whether we look at Chicago's failed renaissance 2010, Bloomberg's heavy handed blunders in NYC, or Los Angeles own rogues gallery of PLAS and charter-voucher disasters, it becomes clear that letting business executives without even a cursory understanding of pedagogy run schools always results in disaster.

We understand the Mayor wants to appease and ingratiate himself to the reactionary, wealthy, and powerful advocates of school privatization like Broad, Gates, and Hastings. We understand he hopes to garner their financial support for his future political aspirations. However, offering up our communities and children's futures to these vile robber barons is despicable. He needs to understand that our communities will fight him and his wealthy patrons tooth and nail.

We want PUBLIC schools that serve our communities! We want PUBLIC schools that are accountable to our communities! We want PUBLIC schools with publicly elected transparent boards! We want PUBLIC schools that treat students, teachers, parents, and employees with dignity! In other words, we want the exact opposite of what Villaraigosa, Wallace, Tuck, Barr, Ponce, Ressler, Christie, Smith, Piscal, Austin, Petruzzi, Burton, and McFarlane are trying to foist on us. PLAS, like all it's charter-voucher counterparts, is a money making scheme at the expense of the public.

Sullivan should apologize to the DN readers for perpetrating this fact-free op-ed on them, and then be forced to read Diane Ravitch's The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education.

Next a comment on the ever charter-voucher obsequious Los Angeles Times Weeding out underperforming charter schools

The CCSA is only worried that the smaller charter-voucher schools can't contribute enough to Jed Wallace's already bloated salary. Avaricious Austin and the charter-voucher industry lackeys on the State Board are making noise about this for two reasons. First, it provides them some political cover in their ongoing march to privatize public schools and garner more coveted public funds for their wealthy friends — who just happen to be charter operators. Second, it insures that only the largest, best capitalized members of the charter-voucher industry are able to funnel more public tax money into their coffers. When we look at any measure, API, remediation rates, the CREDO study, the charter-voucher 'movement' (I'm loathe to call anything funded by billionaires a movement), has proven to be a bust. Well, a bust for everyone except those getting rich from it. Tools like quatidion try hide their pro-corporate agenda by blaming organized labor, but we all know that charter-voucher bubble is nothing more than the next big housing crash. Our communities, families, and children deserve better than having our futures dictated by Broad, Gates, Hastings, Fischer, et al.

Here's a novel idea, let's weed out any school that won't commit to educating every child. That requirement would shut down the entire charter-voucher industry!


Take the Offensive! L.A. Peoples' Campaign for City Council

The following is courtesy of activist Jubilie Shine

Take the Offensive! L.A. Peoples' Campaign for City CouncilWe must get off the habitual defensive if we are to actually accomplish the goals we proclaim. Even from a defensive position we need to mount a counter offensive if we are to win:

  1. To build serious grassroots organization door by door and block by block
  2. To convert activists into organizers
  3. To unite democratic and revolutionary forces
  4. To win positions of power and influence and convert those resources into weapons for the peoples' struggle
  5. To concretely expose the irreconcilable contradiction between peoples' democracy and imperialism/monopoly capitalism

Protest campaigns are not enough! cursing your enemy is not the same as fighting him, as Mao said. campaigns for positions we are not now able to win are handcuffed at best and at worst, providing objective assistance to the most dangerous elements of the enemy.

But through local electoral campaigns we can raise all the large issues. war, immigration, economy, police abuse, the universal is in the particular!

In March '11 the even numbered city council districts are up in L.A. -- cross-hairs on bernard parks, Crenshaw District 8.

The disgraced (Rampart!) ex-LAPD Chief ran unopposed last time and won with a patry 6,480 votes. Since then he ran for County Supervisor and got thrashed by Ridley-Thomas. Now his own campaign manager has filed a $146,000 lawsuit against him. His machine is fractured. 3 people so far have stepped up to challenge him--all likely business candidates who will split their votes.

The door is wide open for an aggressive, uncompromising, peoples' campaign to run our own candidate on a united front platform and seize a seat in city government or at minimum establish unprecedented working unity among all local progressive forces.

We do not want a personality showcase. We want an issues-driven program democratically determined by the community itself as the driving force. We are proposing a PEOPLES' CONVENTION! In which all residents can participate--regardless of residency status, prison record, or affiliation--to openly nominate and democratically elect their candidate behind the platform they will ratify, to challenge the city establishment and its corrupt ex-police chief for who best represents the interests and needs of the community.

We are inspired by the recent city council victories of Chokwe Lumumba in Jackson, Mississippi, of Ras Baraka in Newark, NJ, and our very own sweep of the south central neighborhood council.

We invite all honest forces who are ready to put in work to our jump-off meeting. 1:30 pm sharp! Saturday, August 7 at the Afiba Center, 5730 Crenshaw North of Slauson. Parking in the US Bank next door.

City of Newark 2010 Inauguration -- Ras Baraka Speech

Unite the many, defeat the few!


Tuesday, August 03, 2010

What Are Teachers Worth?

[Click if you can't view the video]


Monday, August 02, 2010

Caught Ben Austin and Jed Wallace's incessant lies on KPCC today

"The original vision of charter schools was that they would help strengthen public schools, not compete with them." — Diane Ravitch (celebrated education professor and author)

Defend Public Schools from Corporate Charter-Voucher CharlatansPat Morrison featured pathological liars, and charter-voucher industry beneficiaries, Ben Austin and Jed Wallace on KPCC today. Sadly, since Morrision is very unfamiliar with the topic, she allowed her guests to continue unabated in a non-stop stream of lies, misinformation, and propaganda. One of the more memorable — and certainly laughable — fallacies was Austin's reactionary claim that market forces will fix education. The second coming of misanthrope Ayn Rand, or all time huckster Milton Freidman anyone?

Fortunately, several people (myself included) were able to call into the radio show and make an effort to expose these two charlatans. Unfortunately, in most cases we weren't able to rebut the fact-free responses of the charter-voucher industry's highly paid representatives.

Here are edited comments I typed on the KPCC page for the show segment.

Charters are private institutions taking public funds and extending education to a small subset of public students. Charter-voucher schools are not subject to most laws, including the Public Records Act. They have private, unelected boards that do not accommodate community or even the parents whose children attend their institutions. A perfect example of this is how Green Dot closed Animo Justice without any input whatsoever from the students, parents, teachers, or community where the school served. Here are some articles addressing that:

A REAL Parent and Student Revolution brewing at Corporate Green Dot CMO Charter Schools

South Central protests school closures

Taking on a charter school closing

Wallace and Austin have both made a killing on the Charter-Voucher industry. For an in depth look at Austin's shady dealings, please see this piece:

Political Patronage for Green Dot Public Schools' Chief Propagandist

What the CCSA, Austin, Wallace, and all the others making a fortune in the charter-voucher industry won't tell you amidst their claims of college placement are their epic remediation rates. Some of Green Dot's schools boasting placement in the CSU system have up to 70% of their students having to take remedial math. Their percentages for English aren't much better. There is so much to expose about charter-voucher schools, but since they are generating so much money for their executives and vendors, many are looking away.

I don't know if anyone remembers the well heeled Jed Wallace's nonsensical piece defending charter-voucher accountability in the Los Angeles Times a little ways back. In the piece he makes the outrageous statement that a charter school's 990 form has all the information the public were ever needs to know about their closed and secretive operations. Really? Trying to determine a 501c3 operations from a 990 is akin to grokking someone's lifestyle from a 1040EZ form. They're both tax returns! The California Charter School Association's Jed Wallace and his slimy charter-voucher counterparts like Barr, Ponce, Ressler, Christie, Smith, Piscal, Petruzzi, Burton, and McFarlane don't want the public to know any details of their money making machines — they're far too profitable!

A very special thanks to the la_teacher_guy for contacting me about the broadcast and encouraging me to call in to put the heat on scoundrels like Wallace and Austin. I'm sure both of them were well compensated for their misinformation campaign today.