Sunday, December 25, 2011

Social Justice Schools Conference by CEJ and PEAC February 2012

CMO Corporate Charters discriminate against SWD, Special Ed, and ELL students! Support CEJ in its struggles for educational justice!
What does real school transformation look like? How will we win? Real transformation is rooted in the communities that schools serve, respect the rights of all school employees, and is fully funded.

February 10 & February 11, 2012
Fri: 4:30 to 7:00pm
Sat: 8:30 to 5:00pm
UCLA Community School
700 S. Mariposa Avenue
Los Angeles CA 90005

RSVP: or (909) 753-9007 ASAP
Childcare, Food, and Translation Provided Both Days

Conference Presented Jointly by
Coalition for Educational Justice and Progressive Educators for Action

Keynote Speakers
Bill Fletcher
Labor/civil rights leader and author Bill Fletcher will speak to the attacks on the public sector, the need to project an alternative social vision, and the critical need for an organizing strategy (he is co-author, with Fernando Gapasin, of Solidarity Divided: The Crisis in Organized Labor and New Pathways Towards Social Justice).

John Rogers
John Rogers from UCLA IDEA (Institute for Democracy, Education, and Access), will speak on a panel with student, parent, and teacher leaders on real, community and labor led reform models in schools, including a community schools model, and the difficulty of implementing reform within a climate of unrelenting attacks against our communities.

There will also be over ten workshops led by students, parents, and teachers that demonstrate the work currently being done in our schools that are signs of real community-driven, democratic, culturally relevant, and transformative practices. These include (along with others):

  • Balanced Literacy
  • Dual Language Programs
  • Alternative Teacher Evaluation System
  • Problem-Based, Community-Connected Instruction
  • Restorative Justice/Alternative Discipline

20120210 CEJ PEAC Social Justice Schools Conference


Thursday, December 22, 2011

United Way' Elise Buik's Myopic One Percent Policies

First published on

"By what logic does United Way engage in an activity that is shunned by all the other charities?"—Professor Ralph E. Shaffer

Occupy United Way! Group founded and manifesto publishedUnited Way of Greater Los Angeles' CEO Elise Buik's total compensation in 2010 was $286,985. Entering that figure on provides the following insights:

  • You're in the TOP 0.001% richest people in the world!
  • You are the 107,565 richest person in the world!

With that in mind, is it any wonder that United Way of Greater Los Angeles' policies to help the homeless consist of criminalization and marginalization? Buik works with the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce to find homeless "solutions" that are wildly popular with downtown developers gentrifying everything in sight.

Is it any wonder that Buik personally argued to kill the PSC parent and community vote? Advocates privatized charter-voucher schools at every opportunity? Laundered Gates Foundation money to pay for the discredited NCTQ LAUSD report? Co-founded the right-wing Don't Hold Us Back Coalition to attempt and dictate terms to UTLA in the midst of labor contract negotiations? Is it any wonder that the Don't Hold Us Back Coalition hasn't uttered a single word about trying to save School Readiness Language Development Program (SRLDP), Adult Education, and Busing in LAUSD, but wants the district to spend more to give public schools away to private corporations?

No, it's no wonder at all.

A campaign to divest and discontinue all donations to the United Way is a must. Join Occupy United Way and OccupyLAUSD to fight for social justice!


Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Coalition for Educational Justice (CEJ) Annual Fundraiser Party December 10, 2011

UCLA Community School ASGE multi-purpose room
3201 W. 8th St. Los Angeles, CA 90005
Saturday, December 10, 2011 from 6:00 — 10:00 PM


CMO Corporate Charters discriminate against SWD, Special Ed, and ELL students! Support CEJ in its struggles for educational justice!
C E J MASQUERADE fundraising party!
CEJ parents, students and teachers invite you to our annual end of the year party. Please come celebrate a successful year with us.
Dinner, child care, games, performances, translation and DJ/dancing
Teachers and other professionals - $25 donation
Students, Parents and Community Members - $5 donation

C J E ¡MASCARADA! Fiesta para recaudar fondos
Padres, alumnos y maestros de CJE les invitan a nuestra fiesta anual del fin del año. Por favor vengan a celebrar un año de éxito con nosotros.
Cena, cuidado de niños, juegos, representaciones, traducción y DJ/bailar
maestros - donación $25
alumnos, padres y miembros de la comunidad - donación $5


Monday, November 28, 2011

Deception 101 - Charter Schools: from co-location to astro-turf parent groups

[click here if you can't hear this audio]

Public School advocates Cheryl Ortega and Robert D. Skeels on KPFK's Politics or Pedagogy with John Cromshow November 17, 2011. Posted on November 20, 2011 by #occupyLAUSD


Thursday, November 17, 2011

Tonight on 90.7FM KPFK's Politics or Pedagogy: Cheryl Ortega and Robert D. Skeels

Essentially we have a school board that was elected primarily with money from the Coalition from School Reform, which is Eli Broad, Jerry Perenchio, Philip Anshutz... all of these people represent the 1%. Their ideas and their policies are being implemented, while the 99% are being ignored. Parents, community members, students, and educators are shut out of LAUSD. — Robert D. Skeels

Keep the PUBLIC in public schools

8:00-9:00 PM, Thursday, November 17, 2011
Politics or Pedagogy? with John Cromshow
KPFK 90.7 FM and online @

CALL-IN: (818) 985 -5735. That's (818) 985-KPFK
GUESTS: Cheryl Ortega and Robert D. Skeels
TOPIC: Deception 101 - Charter Schools from co-location to astroturf parent groups


Saturday, November 12, 2011

Occupy United Way! Group founded and manifesto published

"By what logic does United Way engage in an activity that is shunned by all the other charities?" — Professor Ralph E. Shaffer

Occupy United Way facebook group

Occupy United Way twitter hashtag: #OccupyUnitedWay

Occupy United Way! Group founded and manifesto published
Whereas United Way Greater Los Angeles actively lobbied LAUSD to eliminate the democratic mechanism of the PSC parent advisory vote.

Whereas United Way Greater Los Angeles CEO Elise Buik receives a staggering six figure salary to smear and slander public schoolteachers at every opportunity she gets.

Whereas United Way Greater Los Angeles commissioned the corporate reform policy paper for LAUSD from the right wing think tank National Council on Teacher Quality.

Whereas United Way Greater Los Angeles is the leading organization in the so-called Don't Hold Us Back Coalition which advocates for anti-community and anti-teacher policy positions that are nothing more than overt union busting.

Whereas United Way Greater Los Angeles receives funding from some of the most notorious anti-public education foundations around, including the Broad Foundation, Gates Foundation, Ford Foundation, and others.

Resolved that public education advocates, grassroots organizations, community members, students, parents, and educators will actively boycott and campaign against anyone providing material support to the United Way Greater Los Angeles in terms of donations or volunteer work.

Any organization that actively uses its resources to destroy public education and undermine teachers is not only unworthy of our support, but shouldn't enjoy tax exempt status.


Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Schools Matter: Vander Ark getting cranky regarding negative NEPC report

The true path to higher test scores is reading. — Dr. Stephen Krashen

Perhaps no one is less qualified to discuss education than Gates stooge Tom Vander Ark.
My latest Schools Matter short: Vander Ark getting cranky regarding negative NEPC report examines how preposterous it was for disreputable businessman and former Gates Foundation executive Tom Vander Ark to try and criticize the distinguished professors of the National Education Policy Center (NEPC) at University of Colorado at Boulder School of Education.

Vander Ark, who is making a fortune on the entirely unregulated and somewhat shady world of online "learning," attacked the NEPC after a recent paper that observed there isn't sufficient research into the effectiveness of online schools, and moreover, that since they receive public funds, they should be subject to public oversight. As always, when businessmen try to match wits with academia, they demonstrate their profound ignorance, and Vander Ark doesn't disappoint in that regard.

Published 2011-11-01 on Schools Matter, please read it there and share widely.


Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Caprice Young: You can define me however you'd like and it still won't change the fact that we both want students to succeed

Caprice Young took issue with my recent article about her on Schools Matter. She asked for an opportunity to publish her account of her career, and with quite a bit of misgiving, I relented. One thing about her rebuttal, she conflates my writing in the beginning of the my recent article with the anonymous letter that appeared in the second part of my article. The entire section of my article in block-quote that discusses EnCorps is, as explained in the original article, a letter from one of my readers. Although I do make some observations following that letter, the letter itself is not my prose, which should have been evident to Young by the change in narrative and style — alas. So wherever Young says "you say" in that section of her essay, she's really referring to the author of the email as opposed to me. As with the recent fact-free polemic against me by Mike McGalliard, I will have to wait to respond to Young's piece here since I have several other writing deadlines to focus on. Unlike the corporate deformers, who get paid to destroy the public commons, I actually have a day job and do all of my education activism for free on my own time. That said, there are many things in Young's essay I'm astonished at, like the inference that Gloria Romero is anything other than a rank opportunist or that monsters like Fisher, Walton, or Poizner have redeeming qualities of any sort. It's clear by the tenor and tone of Young's writing that she accepts the fatalism of class society, and that she actually believes that the ruling class shares some common interests with the working class. More on that and this whole essay in the future. — Robert D. Skeels

You can define me however you'd like and it still won't change the fact that we both want students to succeed 
Your quote:
"We are told that this 'reform' alliance of everyone from Rupert Murdoch to the Walton family to leading hedge funders spends huge amounts of money pushing for radical changes to public schools because they suddenly decided that they care about destitute children, and now want to see all kids get a great education." — David Sirota
They’ve tried for decades to get things done through the existing hierarchies and have seen no improvement. Anyway, what is wrong with people wanting to see all kids get a great education?

I knew John Walton well and consider myself lucky to be able to call him a mentor. He worked tirelessly for decades to improve the lives of inner city kids. He was a Ranger and a medic who served selflessly in the Vietnam War—as a medic, he rescued fallen soldiers and brought them home. I remember him best for his basic purpose: to ensure that children from poverty have the same educational opportunities as rich kids. He believed that the divide in this country between rich and poor, and between those with educational opportunities and those locked in terrible schools, is destroying our democracy. He never made a penny from his work in education. On the contrary, he gave away hundreds of millions to community based non-profit organizations serving low-income families. I am proud to be able to call him a mentor.

I was raised by a special education teacher and a juvenile probation officer/Unitarian Minister who took in more than 24 foster kids before I went to college. Childcare in our family was licking stamps for McGovern. I learned organizing and protest by the time I was six. After serving as a US Senate Page for SI Hayakawa, I received a letter of recommendation for college from Democrat William Proxmire, a man I greatly respected. After I graduated from college and completed my Coro Fellowship (during which I did not work for Riordan because he hadn’t yet been elected Mayor), I was the Director of a community non-profit program serving high risk kids. A Coro mentor convinced me to come work in transportation instead of going to law school (I had been accepted to the Carter Center at Emory). Making lots of money has never been my primary motivation. I have moved consistently into positions where I could make the biggest positive difference for the community. If I had wanted to make a ton of money, I would have stayed at the MTA, where by now I would be making $150,000+ and have more than 20 years into a pension system that would pay me my full salary and health benefits from the time I reached 55 on. Then, I could have a whole extra career with no financial worries. If I were to save enough money to have an equivalent pension, I would need more than $5 million in the bank… Clearly the life of a serial do-gooder hasn’t gotten me anywhere close.

I did work for Mayor Riordan later on and am proud of the work I did to put city information online and to provide the political support for smart career civil servants to get their ideas implemented. Later I was the board president of a home for abused and neglected children and a principal consultant for IBM when I decided to run for the school board. I ran because I was enraged at the lousy treatment foster children were given in the schools and horrified at the tremendous overcrowding and long bus rides endured by LAUSD students. I quit my job at IBM just as I was getting out of debt (my condo collapsed in the Northridge earthquake) in order to serve as a board member. It was a huge financial hardship for my family. I gave birth twice while serving on the board and never missed a meeting. I did vote against teacher raises in 2000 because I knew the economy was moving into the first recession of the decade (I worked in the tech sector so it hit all our jobs first). I didn’t want us to repeat the mistakes of 1988 when teachers were given huge raises only to see them rolled back when the economy tanked in 1991. I’ve never been anti-labor. I do believe that you can’t spend money you don’t have—to do so would weaken our vital institutions. The past 10 years have proven my point, unfortunately.

I’ve never been pro-privatization. I have enough experience in the private sector to know that the grass there isn’t necessarily greener than government run institutions. However, I do believe that an education that prepares students to be successful economically and to participate thoughtfully and actively in democracy is a basic civil right—and if it takes collaboration among the various sectors of our society to ensure that right, I’m for it. To believe otherwise is to accept a deeply racist, classist and defeatist condition in our cities. Our children deserve better.

For my vote against the teacher’s contract, the union got me completely redistricted from an urban seat into a West Valley seat. They left me with fewer than 15% of my original constituents and then spent more than $1.1 million dollars to vilify me. They never bothered to note that because I served, we ended school overcrowding and forced bussing, or that I insisted on funding for the arts and college counselors, or that we radically expanded afterschool programs, supported school site health centers, and taught hundreds of thousands of elementary students to read that wouldn’t have been successful otherwise. Did I end poverty in Los Angeles? no—although I would like to have done that. I suppose if I had stayed in the private sector longer I could have made more progress creating meaningful jobs. I had tremendous support from the business community and families—but it could not overcome the outright lies (which were documented in the Daily News) of John Shalman, my opponent’s campaign guy—who later had the nerve to ask me how to get his kid into a charter school. The deepest pockets were the union’s, and they won—that saved my marriage and kept us from losing our house because I could go back to a full time job.

I was approached by charter school leaders running non-profit organizations on shoe-string budget serving kids from high poverty neighborhoods with failing schools, and the philanthropists who backed their work, to start CCSA in order to keep charter schools focused on student success. You can say what you want about those philanthropists: Don Fisher, John Walton and Steve Poizner—but I know that their focus was completely on ensuring that students got high quality public schools. All of them had spent years making contribution to school district projects, only to see nothing get better. My job was to create the space for talented educators to get the support they needed to create great schools for kids. I was proud then to do that, and still am. There is nothing stopping traditional schools from being brilliant in their education of children—they choose to accept the limits of tradition, bureaucracy and hopelessness. Some of us don’t.

I did get paid well. By then I had a master’s degree, experience raising millions of dollars for good causes and a solid managerial track record. If someone else had been willing to take the job, I could have happily gone back to IBM, but I wanted to serve. And I worked hard. I worked 80-90 hour weeks and traveled up and down the state constantly seeking out educators and parents who wanted to create great schools. I am proud to have been able to develop resources for them and to be their political shield while they served the kids.

My board was carefully balanced to include school leaders, community leaders and funders. The give and take was fierce and very valuable. The give and take led to kid-centric strategies. We made tough calls to hold our own charter schools accountable for their ability or inability to educate kids. And, we advocated for all charter schools to be fully funded and fairly treated.

After five years, I went to work for Knowledge Universe because I wanted to work in education internationally and because it gave me the opportunity to integrate my two loves: technology and education. I took a small failing company and made it profitable by improving student outcomes. Principals like implementing programs that help students succeed so that’s what we did. Among the hundreds of thousands of students we served, more than 1,000 students graduated from the Chicago Public Schools that wouldn’t have without our help. It seems so simple, serve kids well, work closely with educators and you win the right to stay in business. When the company was transferred to K12 in a stock swap, I didn’t get rich because I had no ownership stake in the company. I won’t make that mistake again. Live and learn. I was happy to return to Los Angeles to help save the ICEF public schools. We sent hundreds of seniors to college last summer because we refused to let the schools go under financially.

I did work as a guest lecturer and teacher in the Broad program for school boards and was once a guest speaker for the Broad Residency. It’s great to meet talented people, and preparing them for public service in schools is insanely difficult.

The fact that you believe my husband has made “boatloads of cash” because of my career is ridiculous. His career has consistently suffered because of mine. He has had to turn down great job offers to lead in his field—land use planning and public affairs—because my work caused him conflicts of interest. He is enormously talented and under-appreciated. My career choices have rarely been in his best interest and I owe him a great debt because of that.

You reference that entities like Goldman Sachs and other major financing enterprises are attracted to the charter school movement. I wish more were because charters are running their schools on far less money that traditional schools—even including very respectable philanthropy. The real money is in financing school districts, where they have made billions, but you don’t seem concerned about that.

I am really glad that Democrats for Education Reform (on whose founding board I served) was lucky enough to attract Gloria Romero. She is a fighter for the rights of inner city and rural families, especially immigrant kids, and a constant fighter for their right to a high quality public education. She has proven that improving public education is not just a concern of Republicans. That's a Kids first agenda.

You expressed concern that I have de-professionalized the teaching industry. I believe I have done just the opposite. Teachers choose to teach in charters because they have a real say in the management of the school and the instructional strategies, and are willing to take responsibility for educating their kids. The charter leadership teams that have failed to keep that promise to teachers have found it increasingly difficult to recruit teachers and have sometimes seen their schools close. Charters are not just schools of choice for families, but also teachers. I am working right now with AJ Duffy to extend that collaboration to union represented teachers. That’s a volunteer thing for me and I am happy to support him and the teachers creating the Apple Academy schools.

I also am CEO of EnCorps—we recruit and train new math and science teachers who we find among scientists, finance people, techies and engineers looking to switch to a career where they can make a more direct positive impact on their communities. The teaching layoffs have not been a barrier because there is still a shortage of qualified math and science teachers, and that shortage will get worse as our current generation of math and science teachers retire. Our teachers serve in LAUSD schools (Westchester and West Adams HS, for example) as well as charters. Our teachers earn the same wages as other teachers in their schools once they reach a similar level of seniority. Our non-profit doesn’t work on labor contract issues. We just help talented professionals with relevant experience get their teaching credentials so they can teach.

Our teachers are anything but “desperate, compliant, cheap labor that can teach those hard-to-place subjects of Math and Science.” They are seasoned professionals who know how hard it is to find engineers, mathematicians, scientists and techies with creativity and strong technical skills to invent the products and solutions our word needs. They have left often high paying positions to start over as newbie teachers to learn a new craft and help train the next generation.

We are not TFA, although I have great respect for TFA and have hired TFA teachers over the years. Our program is supporting the development of teachers who want to teach as a career, not “just a community service stint like the peace corps.” You stated that we are sending unqualified people with no experience to teach and chided me for not accepting people who already have teaching certification into the program. If you already have a teaching credential, you don’t need to be an EnCorps fellow because the whole point of being a fellow is to GET A TEACHING CREDENTIAL and experience to be a great secondary teacher in inner city schools. I’m sorry you find that shocking, but, as you say, “WTF???!!!” If you know anyone who is a qualified math or science teacher who knows how to teach inner city kids well, I’d be happy to help them find jobs—but most likely they already have jobs because of the shortage.

You say,”There are thousands of fully-credentialed MATH/SCIENCE teachers without a job right now in California.” Well, there are plenty of schools looking for them so send them my way and I’ll see what I can do. I can’t get them a job, but I can put them in touch with schools that are hiring. Lots of schools are looking for special education teachers too.

At our Boot Camp training, we focus of helping the future teachers to learn classroom management skills, to set high expectations, to hold students’ interest and to help students to succeed. We help teachers to lead their classrooms of students to academic success. When we use the metaphor of training teacher to be the "CEO's of their classroom,” we mean that they are in charge and responsible for student learning. Is that a bad thing? As a parent, I want my kids to be taught by expert teachers with real life science experience. That means that the more we can get teachers supported by science industries and get scientists to become teachers, the better. It’s a chocolate and peanut butter thing. We also work with math and science teachers with no industry experience to help them get access to science and math professionals as guest teachers, as well as to industries and labs to enrich their teaching.

And, our program lasts two full years, although some can do it in 18 months. They have to do the same university courses and internships as any other teacher AND another 20 weeks of specialized pre-service.

As for Dr. Diane Ravitch, I was really bummed that she called in to speak at your event and then wasn’t allowed to speak. I’ve heard so much about her since I now sit in her former seat on the Fordham board. I was looking forward to hearing her. 
My point is simply this. I am not your enemy. I care about education all students and am frustrated that our 120 year old industrial education system isn’t up to the task anymore. We’re in the information age now and our kids shouldn’t be held back. They understand that many of the schools are simply obsolete—not working for kids, families or teachers. I believe that the talent we have in public education should be teaching a broad, rigorous curriculum in new and old ways doing whatever works to educate kids. I do think it is a problem that the institutional reaction to testing is a narrowing of the curriculum. That doesn’t need to be the case—just read Dr. Seuss’ last book if you don’t believe me. No great conspiracy theory, just education.
We should all be working together wherever we can find common ground. Life is short.


Sunday, October 30, 2011

Panel following screening of "The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting for Superman"

Panel following screening of "The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting for Superman" from Robert D. Skeels on Vimeo.

Dr. Stephen Krashen and activist Robert D. Skeels spoke following a screening of "The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting for Superman" on Monday, October 24, 2011.

[click here if you can't view this video]


LA Weakly proudly pushes propaganda for Broad/Gates astroturfers

No question: the Business Roundtable and its bedfellows insist that schools become data-driven depots, or, as Frederick W. Smith, CEO of Federal Express puts it on the Business Coalition for Education Reform website: "If you can't measure it, you can't manage it." One would point out to Smith and his allies that kids aren't packages to be delivered from one teacher to the next."Kathy Emery and Susan Ohanian

Best part of Don't Hold Us Back astroturf coalition? None of their leaders make less than six figures. It's all about kids!
The repulsive libertarian rag the LA Weakly has inked mendacious material supporting corporate education reform for years, and their latest assault on the public commons keeps that tradition alive. The trashy masseuse and porn ad pennysaver's Simon Wilson puts together an article so full of lies and deceit, that only Parent Revolution's Gabe Rose, who once posed as a Compton parent, would be proud.

Choking back bile, I read Wilson's garbage and responded thusly:

I know facts are of little consequence to yellow journalists like Ms. Wilson, but for those of us outside of the Ayn Rand circle of influence, there are some egregious factual errors in this piece.

"self-serving antics of our local teachers union -- ahem, Occupy L.A."

No need to tell the truth that many of us at OccupyLAUSD were not members of UTLA, or any union for that matter, since that would get in the way of the false narrative this drivel presents. Unlike the well paid members of the "Don't Hold Us Back" astroturf coalition, we were grassroots activists demanding former Gates Executive Deasy to hire back librarians in our schools and to stop wasting our money on programs proven not to work.

"may not see the correlation between failing students and teachers' job protection."

Please cite one legitimate peer reviewed study that backs this wildly specious statement. I know you aren't really a journalist, but this goes beyond the pale. Yolie Flores' wholly uneducated opinions, policy papers or preliminary reports from right wing thinks like the NCTQ, or the vile Gates Foundation itself are not considered peer reviewed studies. You won't be able to find any such studies, since none exists, but don't let that inconvenient fact muddle your mendaciousness Ms. Wilson.

Another amusing oversight of this article is to state that the individuals on the list above are in addition to the Broad/Gates backed groups that comprise the so-called "don't hold us back coalition."

I know this would require Wilson to research her writing, but she might want to look at names like Kwoh, Buik, Avila, Taylor, and Mack and see if they have anything in common with the groups already onboard the reactionary anti-public education groups comprising "don't hold us back." Here's a hint, they are the CEOs and Executive Directors of those selfsame organizations, each of whom make massive six figure salaries and collect money from anti-public school foundations including the Broad, Gates, Milken, and others to advocate their policies and ideas. Now that's self serving!

The handful of other 1%ers on above list that aren't Gates Foundation hacks are some folks really concerned about inner cities? I mean, the Chamber of Commerce? That's a bastion or worker and civil rights if we've ever seen one.

I'm sure this disgusting piece of propaganda will be well received by those who read the Weakly in between chapters of The Fountainhead, but for those of us that actually possess critical thinking skills, it is repugnant. Aside from her extremist boss, Wilson has an uncanny ability to write on education without ever having to tell the truth or reference factual information. Bravo.


Thursday, October 27, 2011

Cutting Libraries in a Recession...

"Cutting Libraries in a Recession is like Cutting Hospitals in a Plague." — Eleanor Crumblehulme

"Cutting Libraries in a Recession is like Cutting Hospitals in a Plague." — Eleanor Crumblehulme



Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Schools Matter: Dana Goldstein "Hearts" Yellow Unions and Company Crafted Contracts

First published on Schools Matter on October 26, 2011

California is the only state that does not tax oil extraction, we need to fund education.Dana Goldstein is a widely read journalist and a fellow of the right-of-center New America Foundation think tank. Her education writings are occasionally mildly skeptical of the corporate reform clique's claims of miracles, but at the same time she has no problem casting vile villains like Joel Klein, Michelle Rhee, Eva Moskowitz, and Joe Williams as individuals with legitimate concerns and ideas for public education, rather than the insatiably greedy opportunists they are.

She discusses KIPP's so-called "successes" without ever mentioning their abysmal attrition rates, uses the factually incorrect construct "public charter school," and has no problems calling arch-reactionary Rick Hess of the fringe-right American Enterprise Institute think tank an education expert. Hess may write extensively on education, but his "expertise" is confined to privatization policies. No serious scholar considers him anything more than a shill for Ayn Rand's long disproved ideas.

Goldstein, while not as deceptive or reactionary as Matt Ygelsias, nonetheless provides a progressive veneer to reactionary right wing education policies espoused by nefarious organizations like the billionaire funded Democrats for Education Reform and Communities for Teaching Excellence.

With all of that in mind, we consider Goldstein's latest essay, Meet the Teachers' Union Contract of the Future, in which she lionizes one of the higher profile corporate reform outfits — Green Dot Charter Corporation.

The essay is a fluffy cheerleading piece for Value Added Measures and other discredited corporate reforms. It posits that Green Dot's machiavellian management has somehow created a "highly-vetted workforce operating in an environment that emphasizes collegiality and professionalism." At no point does she question Green Dot Public Schools' assertions or slick marketing materials, whether on look into the real history of the colossal charter chain's real record on labor relations. I left Ms. Goldstein the following note after her post:

What a wonderful Public Relations piece for a lucrative Charter Management Organization! Those of us that follow Green Dot Charter Corporation in Los Angeles can shed a little light on the yellow unionism that Green Dot holds up as a model for the future. Asociación de Maestros Unidos (AMU) has never had single case of successfully defending a teacher against termination by Green Dot Corporation's capricious unelected board of trustees.

Moreover, AMU's CTA/NEA affiliation notwithstanding, tell us of a single "right" AMU has in their contract that isn't superseded by the unchecked power of their unelected corporate board. Anyone who has actually read the corporate contract knows the answer to this since they're familiar with article 4.1 which states:

"It is understood and agreed that the Board retains all of its powers and authority to direct, manage and control to the full extent of the law. While input from the staff will be considered and decisions will be derived in a collaborative model; final decisions will rest with the Board." (emphasis mine)

That's some real collective bargaining! That's why the pernicious former hedge fund manager, Marco Petruzzi, CEO of Green Dot Corporation was able to close Animo Justice by fiat, and neither the school community, parents, students, nor the supposedly "unionized" teachers were able to do a thing about it. Some "culture of fairness."

Let's hope that this isn't the "contract of the future," since all it does is further consolidate power into the hands of those that are the least knowledgeable and most unqualified to be making decisions about pedagogy. Their only concern? The bottom line and the bloated salaries of their executive staff.

Rest assured that Eli Broad, Bill Gates, the Walton fortune heirs, and all the other funders of the corporate Green Dot model to educate impoverished children on the cheap really appreciate your article though. We know how much those plutocrats care about kids.


99% Educator Sarah Knopp interviewed at OccupyLAUSD

Teachers and students and parents are part of the 99% and that we're really one of the groups that has taken the brunt of the economic crises... In reality public employees and our unions are being blamed for a problem that was caused by the banks. Where the banks are getting a 700 billion dollar bail out, whereas the banks, Chase Bank in particular owes the City of Los Angeles 15 million dollars in unpaid property taxes, and yet 1,200 Los Angeles schoolteachers have been laid off, and 400 clerical staff, and we think there's the money exists to hire them back if there's the political will to do so. — Sarah Knopp (Educator and Activist)

[click here if you can't view this video]

High school teacher, UTLA member, and renowned activist Sarah Knopp was recently interviewed at OccupyLAUSD. Sarah and her class were one of the case studies in Jonathan Kozol's watershed Shame of the Nation: The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America, and in turn, she has interviewed Kozol on several occasions.

A lifelong proponent of social justice, Sarah has championed for her students and their families for years, and she even ran for California State Superintendent of Schools in 2006. Her many articles articles and reviews can be found in the International Socialist Review, Counterpunch, United Teacher, and Rethinking Schools. Sarah is also the coeditor of the forthcoming Education and Capitalism title being published by Haymarket Books.

Disclaimer: Sarah was one of my most important political mentors and played an integral role in my becoming a social justice writer.


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

OccupyLAUSD starts now! Robert D. Skeels interview

Essentially we have a school board that was elected primarily with money from the Coalition from School Reform, which is Eli Broad, Jerry Perenchio, Philip Anshutz... all of these people represent the 1%. Their ideas and their policies are being implemented, while the 99% are being ignored. Parents, community members, students, and educators are shut out of LAUSD. — Robert D. Skeels

[click here if you can't view this video]

Interview Transcript

Subha Ravindhran: Good morning Leslie. Yes, hundreds of people are expected to turn out today. They will be marching to LAUSD headquarters, and they will be joining in with the Occupy LA Movement, they say that they too are part of that 99%, and they want an end to corporate greed. I'm actually standing here with Robert Skeels, he's an activist, and you're going to be joining in on this movement today. Tell me exactly what's going to be happening later on today.

Robert D. Skeels: Later today starting from here at four o'clock the teachers, community members, and other activists interested in defending public education are going to march from this location in order to tie in to the Beaudry Building, to LAUSD Headquarters.

Subha Ravindhran: And what they are demanding?

Robert D. Skeels: What we're demanding is that LAUSD stop being run by the 1%. Essentially we have a school board that was elected primarily with money from the Coalition from School Reform, which is Eli Broad, Jerry Perenchio, Philip Anshutz... all of these people represent the 1%. Their ideas and their policies are being implemented, while the 99% are being ignored. Parents, community members, students, and educators are shut out of LAUSD.

Subha Ravindhran: And you want the District to hire back a lot of people right?

Robert D. Skeels: Absolutely, the District has at least 50 million dollars that they have not used to rehire librarians that have been let off, nurses that have been let off and teachers that have been laid off.

Subha Ravindhran: Robert Skeels, good luck on your march today, thank you so much for the information. Again this march is going to be starting later this afternoon. They'll be holding a rally at LAUSD headquarters at 5:00PM and we understand that they'll be camping out there as well, just as these occupy LA people have. They say they will be pitching tents and staying out there for as long as it's needed.


Sunday, October 16, 2011

Special LA Screening: The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting for Superman, October 24, 2011

The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting for Superman
A screening of the film. Followed by a panel with special guests including Dr. Stephen Krashen. Event opens with Dr. Diane Ravitch via conference call introducing the film.

The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting for Superman Directed by The Grassroots Education Movement
Monday, October 24, 2011 at 6:30PM
Union Avenue Elementary School Auditorium
150 S. Burlington Ave.,
Los Angeles, CA 90057

Nota: Cuida de niños disponible y traducción en Español disponible.
Note: Childcare and Spanish Translation Available.

Sponsored by PESJA-LA, Coalition for Educational Justice, Echo Park Moms 4 Education, and UTLA North Area.

About the film: The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting for Superman
Dir. The Grassroots Education Movement, 2011, 55 min. See the trailer.

A group of New York City public school teachers and parents from the Grassroots Education Movement wrote and produced this documentary in response to the Davis Guggenheim's film, Waiting for Superman. The Inconvenient Truth provides a critique of an increasingly free-market driven education system, the undermining of teachers unions and the overall faith in the idea that charter schools are just what the country needs. This film highlights the real-life experiences of public school parents and educators inside schools and in our society and takes a holistic look at education reform.

Building grassroots struggle
Building grassroots struggle: If you’re an educator planning to attend, please attempt to bring at least one community member or parent along. The information about corporate charters and school privatization presented at this event is far too important to be "preaching to the proverbial choir."

RSVP: Due to building safety requirements, we have a limit on attendance. Please RVSP with Robert D. Skeels or (213) 234-8561. Other confirmed guests include prospective District 2 LAUSD School Board candidates Abelardo Diaz, Gloria Martinez, and Robert D. Skeels.

The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting for Superman


Echo Park Patch: Taking our schools back from the 1% is OccupyLAUSD's goal

"We have our cake, and are eating it too." — Eli Broad (Predatory Philanthrocapitalist & Charter School Patron)

"Occupy LAUSD" and Reclaim Our Schools!
Inspired by the Occupy Movement for social and economic justice nationwide, educators and community members are planning to Occupy Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) starting Tuesday October 18, 2011. Taking our schools back from the 1% is OccupyLAUSD's goal discusses the movitations, planning, goals, and actions for the OccupyLAUSD movement.

Published 2011-10-16 on Echo Park Patch, please read it there and share widely.


GEM NYC: Teachers and Parents at Occupy Wall Street

"Our public schools need to be in the control of parents and the community, as opposed to businessmen who see the $23 billion budget as a means to giving no-bid contracts to their cronies." — Charles Barron (Brooklyn City Councilman)

The Grassroots Education Movement and Real Reform Studios — the folks that brought us The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting for Superman — have produced a short video examining the education aspect of the battle against the 1%.

[click here if you can't view this video]

Additionally, Valerie Strauss chronicles how many activists are also seeking to associate the opt-out of high stakes testing movement with the occupy movements. Strauss' story discusses United Opt Out National and lists their demands. This is the same group Schools Matter introduced earlier this week.


One of Los Angeles' most notorious 1% controlling LAUSD

"[T]here should be no education marketplace." — Diane Ravitch (celebrated education professor and author)

Eli Broad, a staunch opponent of academic freedom and intellectuals, is one of the billionaires funding the neoliberal slash and burn campaign against public education.


Saturday, October 15, 2011

Why OccupyLAUSD ?

[click here if you can't view this video]


This is a call out to the 99% who live, work, play and learn in the Los Angeles Unified School District. It is time we Reclaim Our Schools from the 1% wealthy Billionaires and Corporate Management Companies who continue to set educational policies of school giveaways, increases in corporate charter schools, and constant school lay-offs.

Despite an LAUSD Board memo indicating a district surplus of $55-million dollars, LAUSD Supt. John Deasy has laid off 1200 teachers, hundreds of custodial and clerical staff, and untold numbers of librarians, nurses, and school psychologists. Secondary classes routinely pack more than 40 students in academic classes, leading to further student disengagement and higher drop-out rates. Under Deasy's direction, the District recently laid off 80 PSA counselors in charge of stemming school drop-out rates and ensuring adequate state funding based on attendance. School libraries are being closed or inadequately staffed.

It is time the LAUSD School Board listens to us, the 99%. We demand full funding of our schools, an end to layoffs that disrupt our school communities, and an end to Public School Giveaways. It is time we hire back our teachers, counselors, nurses, office workers and all others who make our school communities great. We demand Wall Street out of LAUSD. It is time we bail out our schools, not banks.


Thursday, October 13, 2011

"Occupy LAUSD" and Reclaim Our Schools!

"Occupy LAUSD" and Reclaim Our Schools!

"Occupy LAUSD" and Reclaim Our Schools!
Open Planning Meeting
Friday, October 14, 2011 at 5:00pm
UTLA Building
3303 Wilshire Blvd. Los Angeles CA,90010
Room 815

Reclaim and Occupy LAUSD
Begins Tuesday, 10/18/11
4:00pm Meet w/Occupy LA in Downtown LA and march to LAUSD HQ

4:45pm Rally and Protest at LAUSD HQ
333 S. Beaudry Ave. Los Angeles CA, 90017

Suggested Signs: "Bail out Schools, Not Banks," "Corporate Greed out of LAUSD," "Stop Starving our Schools" t-- t"Bring Back our Teachers, Librarians, Custodians, and More!" "We are the 99%, Lower Class sizes now!" "Classes with 42 plus? "Stop School Giveaways!" "LA School Board, Shame on YOU!"

For more information and endorsements contact: or call info line at: (323) 500-0232


This is a call out to the 99% who live, work, play and learn in the Los Angeles Unified School District. tIt is time we Reclaim Our Schools from the 1% wealthy Billionaires and Corporate Management Companies who continue to set educational policies of school giveaways, increases in corporate charter schools, and constant school lay-offs.

Despite an LAUSD Board memo indicating a district surplus of $55-million dollars, LAUSD Supt. John Deasy has laid off 1200 teachers, hundreds of custodial and clerical staff, and untold numbers of librarians, nurses, and school psychologists. tSecondary classes routinely pack more than 40 students in academic classes, leading to further student disengagement and higher drop-out rates. tUnder Deasy's direction, the District recently laid off 80 PSA counselors in charge of stemming school drop-out rates and ensuring adequate state funding based on attendance. tSchool libraries are being closed or inadequately staffed.

It is time the LAUSD School Board listens to us, the 99%. We demand full funding of our schools, an end to layoffs that disrupt our school communities, and an end to Public School Giveaways. It is time we hire back our teachers, counselors, nurses, office workers and all others who make our school communities great. tWe demand Wall Street out of LAUSD. It is time we bail out our schools, not banks.

The information herein represents the views and opinions of the Reclaim and Occupy LAUSD committee and does not necessarily represent or reflect the opinions of UTLA. tThis has not been officially endorsed by the United Teachers of Los Angeles or it's affiliates. At least not yet.


Aaron Krager begins Petitioning Progressive Sites to Stop Promoting Michelle Rhee

After I signed the petition, other petitions popped up for me to consider as a member of Change.Org.  One of them was from nation's leading teacher foe, the venomous Michelle Rhee, under the name of her corporate reform schooler astroturf group called Students First. — Dr. James Horn

Michelle Rhee is a favorite among teabaggers and other disciples of Ayn Rand. Rhee collaborates with, and has even worked on the transition teams of the most reactionary right-wing Governors from Florida, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Ohio.
Schools Matter was the first place I read about the vile and venomous Michelle Rhee and her plutocratic backers scamboozling unsuspecting activists into unwittingly signing petitions supporting reactionary causes dear to the furthest right-wing think-thanks in existence.

Rhee is a favorite among teabaggers and other disciples of Ayn Rand. Rhee collaborates with, and has even worked on the transition teams of the most reactionary right-wing Governors from Florida, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Ohio. All of the ideas Rhee champions have come straight out of the most vile right wing think tanks including Hoover Institution, Hudson Institute, The Cato Institute, The American Enterprise Institute, The Heritage Foundation, The Heartland Institute, Manhattan Institute, and other John Birch Society derivatives.

I'd be curious as to why anyone outside of the deplorable reactionaries mentioned above would support Rhee in any fashion. After all, supporting her is tantamount to supporting the fringe right, whose end goal is not only the destruction of the public commons, but the privatization of our entire education system. So I found the idea that tricking people leaning left of center a little more than nefarious.

Yesterday I received an email from a person who decided to set up petitions on those very same sites, petitioning them to stop supporting Rhee and her astroturf union busting organization. I reproduce it here with the author's permission. Please follow the last two links in his email to sign the petitions against Rhee's deceptive tactics.


As an avid user of petition sites such as and I was shocked to see Michelle Rhee's Students First organization utilizing this platform. These sites promote progressive values and push for progressive change. Rhee's organization is anything but progressive. Students First advocates against collective bargaining, teacher unions and contrary to its name, does not put students first. 

I unknowingly signed a petition on's site from Students First... as a result of this deception I am asking both and to stop promoting Rhee's pro-corporate agenda. Below are the links to my post announcing the actions as well as the links to the petitions themselves.

Feel free to contact me at this email if you have any questions.

Aaron Krager


Sunday, October 09, 2011

So-called LA's Promise isn't all that promising

"The bottom line is clear: In attempting to change the mission of public education from one focused on educating kids to one focused on generating private profit, corporate leaders in the 'reform' movement are pursuing a shrewd investment strategy. Millions of dollars go into campaign contributions and propaganda outfits that push 'reform,' and, if successful, those 'reforms' guarantee Wall Street and their investment vehicles much bigger returns for the long haul." — David Sirota

LA's Promise aka MLA Partners Charlatan Board Member Tom Vander Ark and former President and CEO Mike McGilliardPerhaps the most entertaining aspect of listening to the malevolent and misinformed rhetoric of the corporate education reform crowd is how they've mastered the art of elusive promises and shifting goals. Pin them down on any point and it turns out that that wasn't their point all along. They'll vehemently argue against research showing class size matters, but then shamelessly tout low class sizes in their glossy brochures and marketing materials. They claim they're open to every student, until they're exposed for openly discriminating against children with special needs, then they'll make specious and mendacious arguments that overwhelming evidence of charter school discrimination is a "manipulation of data." Even in terms of their singular obsession on test scores the corporate cabal keeps moving the target. They'll use low test scores as cover for closing down or privatizing public schools, but have found myriad ways of explaining away their own failures in this regard (of course we social justice advocates call for an abolishment of high stakes standardized testing).

An interesting case study is the beleaguered LA's Promise, a colonial project that while not a charter corporation per se, may as well be given the top-down and neoliberal methodologies it utilizes for running its subject schools. LA's Promise's former President and CEO Mike McGilliard is somewhat unique in that he is one of the few people working for the privatizers who is actually willing to debate with public education advocates and social justice activists. While he is certainly glib, he is at the very least courageous, since most people in his position avoid any interaction with the community as a rule. We first encountered Mr. McGilliard when he took exception to my tweet regarding a somewhat convoluted article in the LA Times on how some public schools were marginally outpacing their supposed reform (read privatization) counterparts. We're been alternatively corresponding and trading polemics ever since, but that's not of interest here. Instead, let's look first at how after all McGilliard's complaints that LA's Promise was being unfairly judged by the LA Times on a single performance metric, yet just weeks later he was shamelessly boasting about about a different, but favorable metric. We'll also look at his accusations that anyone criticizing LA's Promise's heavy handed top down management is a whiner, but then whines when it's clear that LA's Promise's management is exposed as incompetent bumblers. We'll also take a brief look at LA's Promise's board and other nefarious characters involved in their orbit.

No more than a few weeks after the Blume and Poindexter piece that McGilliard objected to came out, was he bombastically crowing about the combined API gains of two of his former schools in The High Price of 84 API Points. He goes on to call the modest gains "undeniable success," called LA's Promise a "frontrunner," and in another post where he viciously disparages teachers he went as far as to say:

"give LA's Promise credit for the massive increase in scores"

Massive? Hardly. More to the point, McGilliard, like Blume and Poindexter, focuses narrowly on marginal increases in API scores and CAHSEE rates. In other words he is guilty of the exact same thing he was so furious about. It's hard to fathom someone so quick to accuse others of both hyperbole and hysteria, but so smugly oblivious to their own.

Let's look at what what McGilliard asserts as "undeniable success." One of the easiest ways of discerning if privatizers are playing with figures, be it APIs, CAHSEE passage, graduation rates, college placement rates, [1] etc. is to look at their SAT scores and remediation rates — that is the number of students having to retake high school level courses once they get to college.

LA's Promise Schools SAT and CSU Remediation Results

LA's Promise SATs are below the LAUSD average for 2009-10
LA's Promise West Adams Preparatory High SAT Composite 1,128
LA's Promise Manual Arts Senior High SAT Composite 1,171
Los Angeles Unified School District's SAT Composite 1,334

Their mediocre SAT scores are nothing compared to their astonishing remediation rates:

Fall 2010 West Adams Preparatory High Admits to CSU
Proficient in English 09%
Proficient in Mathematics 18%

Or 91% and 82% NOT proficient in English and math, respectively.

Fall 2010 Manual Arts Senior High Admits to CSU
Proficient in English 03%
Proficient in Mathematics 10%

Or 97% and 90% NOT proficient in English and math, respectively.

When public education advocates see such numbers, we typically suspect that an institution has been forcing their teachers to teach to the test (in this case the CSTs and the CAHSEE). Teaching to the test is tantamount to the Banking Model of Education discussed in Paulo Freire's prodigious work. More to the point, it shows that the obsession with APIs (and the flawed concepts behind the right-wing legislation No Child Child Left Behind and Race to the Top) is wrongheaded at best.

None of that stops McGilliard from ranting:

I only resigned from LA's Promise last month. In fact, I was still celebrating the awesome academic gains we just got, good numbers that I thought would finally shut up all the negative chatter from the haters like Board Member LaMotte and her cronies. I mean, the school actually achieved undeniable results in CAHSEE pass rates, attendance, API growth, and other metrics this last year. But today's articles by Howard signal a strange turn of events indeed: even though LA's Promise delivered substantially better results than the District and the other reform efforts, LaMotte and unnamed "District leaders" want to give the school back to the District.

I'm confused. Isn't the increase in scores what we are all hoping for? Doesn't that mean the reform is working?

There's no need for McGilliard's feigned confusion. The remediation rates above pretty much bear out that LA's Promise's so-called reform isn't working. Clearly, if these students were being educated as opposed to being taught to the test, we'd see better than single digit proficiency in English. Perhaps McGilliard and company should familiarize themselves with some of Dr. Krashen's work.

To be fair, McGilliard isn't alone in the unsubstantiated hyperbole department. The organization's slick marketing department bills the organization as such: "LA's Promise is a leader in the national school turnaround movement, showing undeniable results, rapid improvements and early dramatic gains." As we saw above, this is pure perfidy.

Shifting Demographics Further Confound LA's Promise's Claims

There's more to this story. My colleague Caroline Grannan, a respected journalist and Parents Across America cofounder, had some very interesting observations to make about LA's Promise's API jump. Her first email:

My friend has been following the doings at this quasi-charter school due to their association with Jamie Oliver, since she's into school food issues. An observation:

Up about 50 points - BUT (isn't there always a BUT) if you click on the link to last year's API, you can see that they lost almost 400 kids since last year. For a school which was over 1900, that is a loss of more than 20% of their kids in just one year, including what appears to be about 1/3 of their AA [African American] population. So one has to wonder what, if any, effect that had on their big jump.

A good question is why and how they lost 20% of their school population!

McGilliard was kind enough to respond:

And your friends numbers are off. We are enrolled at about 2500-2600 at West Adams. We've always, regrettably, had a small number of African American children. But that number isn't declining or increasing in any substantial way. The growth is real... our CAHSEE shows it too for our tenth grade. Our college going rates, our graduation rates. It all lines up.

I wouldn't call it quasi charter either. it's full union contracts. Just staffed with a bunch of great teachers and a strong leadership team.

Grannan wrote back in two separate emails:

The enrollment figures came from the API and STAR test reports posted at the CDE; they may not be accurate, but we didn't make them up either.

The numbers given were for students in the TESTED grades (9-11); I assume the 25-2600 number is total enrollment, which would also include 12th graders.

This school demographic report for 2010-11 (2011 growth) shows 1723 enrolled in the tested grades on the first day of STAR testing , with 1673 actually tested

The comparable report from 2009-10 (2010 growth) shows enrollment in the tested grades of 2146, with 2100 tested.

How is this not 400 fewer tested students in the tested grades, and 427 fewer tested?

The only thing I can think of that would explain it is if there had been a much bigger class of seniors last year; those kids would have been tested as 11th graders in spring 2010, but not as seniors in spring 2011; the pig moving through the python. Is that the case, and if not, what's the explanation?

Enrollment by ethnicity 2010-11
total enrollment 2491
2221 Latino
227 African-American

(the figures show that the number of African-American students is declining every year -- last year's 12th grade, class of '11, had 67 African-American students; in 11th grade, the class of '12 had 65 African-American students; in 10th grade, the class of '13 had 50 African-American students, in 9th grade, the class of '14 had 45 African-American students.)

Going back two years to 08-09 via the drop-down menu.
total enrollment was 2663
2312  Latino
282 African-American ( 51 in 12th grade (class of 09), 43 in 11th grade (class of 10), 106 in 10th grade(class of 11), and 82 in 9th grade (class of 12)
So the class of 11 lost 39 (of 106, or about 37%) African-American students between 08-09 and 10-11
The class of 12 lost 17 (of 82, about 21%) African-American students in the same 2 years.

Go back another year to 07-08: when the class of 11 entered as 9th graders, there were 150 African-American students; by 2011 when they graduated, it was 67. Assuming they all graduated, that is a drop of 83 African-American students, or 55% of the number who entered in 9th grade did not graduate 4 years later.

McGilliard's response:

Yes. See enrollment of our senior class which was unusually large. Far exceeded schools capacity when they came in as our schools first 9th graders.

Regarding AA enrollment: if you think those declines are substantive in some way, I suppose I'd need to hear your argument.

At any rate, not sure what the argument is. School, made 113 point API growth over three yrs. With very high attendance. Not bad!

While neither Grannan nor myself are accusing LA's Promise of culling their student population like Judy Burton's corporate charters do, it's pretty outrageous for McGilliard to say "At any rate, not sure what the argument is." The argument is as follows: it's disingenuous at best to boast of API growth while simultaneously these schools have undergone rapid and radical changes in demographics. Primarily because there is the possibility of a correlation between the two changes. While not comparable to vile privatizer Ben Chavis style ethnic cleansing, there's something disconcerting about such demographic shifts in general.

Mismanagement a hallmark of unelected boards

On top of abject remediation rates and suspect demographic changes, LA's Promise has been in the news quite a lot lately. In all fairness to Mr. McGilliard, the recent stumbles of the quasi-charter organization have all occurred after his resignation. That hasn't kept him from chiming in on these developments though. LA's Promise corporate management team, many of whom have little or no teaching experience, have created such abject conditions at Manual Art HS, that even the far-right privatization cheerleaders at the LA Times had to document it. At Manual Arts High, a caring teacher is at the end of his rope exposes horrors like class sizes of 60 to 65 students, a dearth of textbooks, unclean conditions, and rampant overcrowding. McGilliard, instead of placing blame squarely on mismanagement by LA's Promise's board, berates the dispirited teachers for "whining" and posits that they "lack the balls." He certainly does have a penchant for blaming the victim. With absolutely no sense of irony, McGilliard reproduced the following indictment by a Manual Arts HS teacher on his blog:

I believe the Rudyard Kipling poem ["White Man's Burden"] is an analogy to [your] goal to colonize South LA from Pico to Slauson...

...honestly I get sick to my stomach when I look at you. Maybe it is the arrogance of your white, male, class privilege that thinks you have all the answers for the people of south central or perhaps it's... the horror of what is possible in all white folks socialized under white supremacy.

The management at the LA's Promise run Manual Arts was so incompetent that even Wall Street golden child Superintendent Deasy was concerned enough that LAUSD is now intervening directly as documented in L.A. Unified to retake considerable control of Manual Arts High. McGilliard took exception to this as well. Always lost in these debates is the student voice. The article quotes Senior Andrea Leyva as saying:

"My education is at risk," she said. L.A.'s Promise "claim[s] to want to do a community turnaround. They've definitely done that, but not in a positive way."

Out of the mouths of babes.

Who's Running LA's Promise?

Typical of unelected boards charged with running neoliberal quasi-private schools like charters in Los Angeles, LA's Promise's twelve member board doesn't have a single educator. Instead their board is dominated by entertainment industry types (here in Los Angeles simply known as "industry") with some investment capitalists, bankers, CEOs, and a couple of corporate lawyers thrown in for good measure. Their Board of Advisors has the same dearth of educators or even people remotely connected to education. Most frightening among their decision makers is former Gates Foundation charlatan, the technobabbling Tom Vander Ark. Everything we need to about how Vander Ark operates is summed up in this New York Times quote:

But after spending more than $1.5 million of investors’ money on consultants and lawyers, Mr. Vander Ark, 52, has walked away from the project, and the schools will not open as planned this fall, leaving others involved stunned and frustrated.

Talk about take the money and run.

Because of their unelected board's own extensive personal wealth, close connections to celebrities and their deep ties to the entertainment industry, [2] LA's Promise is very good at fundraising. However, being able to raise funds at lavish galas doesn't translate to good pedagogy, neither does being cutthroat capitalists managing a school setting where collaboration and cooperation are of far more use than competition.

"For the truly humanist educator and the authentic revolutionary, the object of action is the reality to be transformed by them together with other people — not other men and women themselves. The oppressors are the ones who act upon the people to indoctrinate them and adjust them to a reality which must remain untouched." — Paulo Freire

Instead of a board comprised of educators, community members, and parents, LA's Promise's board is a paternalistic group of wealthy outsiders that are more than a little melanin deficient — and McGilliard wonders why some of his critics keep quoting Kipling?


[1] In fact LA's Promise's home page now boasts that they've "tripled college attendance rate at West Adams Prep." Accessed 2011-10-08. Too bad those they've actually "prepared" for college are in the single digit percentages for proficiency in English. Perhaps they should read chapter two of Emery and Ohanian's book.

[2] To wit the LA Times piece details Deasy's fears of crossing LA's Promise's well heeled Megan Chernin.


Saturday, October 08, 2011

Make Banks Pay

My dear friend Ernest Savage produced these documenting a local struggle to save a homeowner from foreclosure by their capricious bank. Like the man at the end of the first video says, "you can't foreclose on justice."

[click here if you can't view this video]

[click here if you can't view this video]


Thursday, October 06, 2011

CAMS October Actions: Stop Military Recruiters from having easy access to our children!!!

Inform students about their right to "opt out" of their school giving their private information to MILITARY RECRUITERS! Join Palisadians for Peace and CAMS as they distribute Student Privacy (Opt Out) forms to high school juniors and seniors.

Stop Military Recruiters from having easy access to students
October Student Privacy (Opt Out) Actions:

Thursday, October 6, 7am
Belmont High School
1575 W 2nd St
Los Angeles, CA 90026

Tuesday, October 11, 7am
Jordan High School
2265 E. 103rd St.
Los Angeles, CA 90002

Monday, October 17, 7am
Lincoln High School
3501 No. Broadway
Los Angeles, CA 90031

Wednesday, October 26, 6:30am
Bell High School
4328 Bell Ave.
Bell, CA 90201

RSVP: Sandra Sunshine Williams 310-573-1901

OPTING-OUT: Section 9528 of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 2001 (No Child Left Behind) mandates that school districts must provide the contact information (names, addresses and telephone numbers)of juniors and seniors to the military upon request unless an Opt Out form is signed and returned to the school.

Students must Opt Out every year.

LAUSD deadline:
Opt Out forms must be returned by October 28, 2011.


Monday, October 03, 2011

Mayberry Street Elementary School Needs Help!

"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)

NOTE: This is happening precisely because the deep pocketed CNCA Charter Corporation was allowed to go outside of its attendance boundaries and poach students from neighborhood public schools including Mayberry. LAUSD promissed that CNCA would not effected our local public schools, but clearly that isn't the case. Once more, our neighborhood public schools are being sacraficed so that lucrative charter-voucher companies can increase market share and profitability. — Robert D. Skeels

Mayberry Street Elementary School Needs Help
Mayberry Street Elementary sent out an urgent email asking for help - please read the following communication and help take action:

Hello Everyone - WE NEED YOUR HELP!

We are calling on you today to please take action and take a stand!
At Mayberry we need 6 new student enrollments to meet NORM DAY requirements. If by next week, October 5th we don't have these 6 students (K-3rd) then we lose Mr. Avina, 6th grade teacher.

That's not all! It will also have a domino effect in all grade levels and most would be forced to become split classes to meet the numbers. We can't permit this mass disruption for our children and fine teachers. Our students are not just numbers that you pack into a classroom! LAUSD promised that Mayberry would not be affected with a new school less than a mile away! We have already lost 2 of our fine teachers due to enrollment... NO MORE!!

Important phone numbers and contact information:
Mónica García, Board President, Board District 2:, 213-241-6180, Fax 213-241-8459
Bennett Kayser, Board Member, District 5:, 213-241-5555
Dale Vigil, Local District 4, Superintendent:, (213) 241-0100
John Deasy, LAUSD Superintendent:, 213-241-7000
Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte, District 1:, 213-241-6382

Echo Park Improvement Association
PO Box 261021
Los Angeles, CA 90026