Thursday, April 28, 2011

GRITtv: The F Word: Top Secret: Privatizing Fails

Laura Flanders asks why there's plenty of money for espionage, but none for public schools.

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


Wednesday, April 27, 2011

UTLA May 1st Teachers Press Conference! Teachers, we need you!!

"I have seen UTLA representation at these type of events, coalition meetings, and other such organizing for over a decade. I've NEVER seen an Alliance for a Better Community, LAPU/Parent Revolution, or Families in Schools banner at any immigrant rights event." — Robert D. Skeels (Social Justice Candidate for District 2 Seat, LAUSD)

Save public schools and communities from the corporate charter-voucher campaign led by Alliance for a Better Community!
United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) is holding a press conference at the UTLA building tomorrow to announce their support for the Southern California Immigration Coalition May 1st march!!

We need as many UTLA members as possible to show up to this Press Conference and please bring your RED UTLA gear!! Community members are welcomed!!

Wednesday, April 27th at 4:00pm!
UTLA Building
3303 Wilshire Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90010
Corner of Wilshire and Berendo

UTLA teachers and community supporters! EVERYone is welcomed!!

This is a great chance for teachers to show their solidarity with the labor movement on International Workers Day and also for the Immigrant Rights Movement!

Remember to wear your UTLA Red!

Ron Gochez
Social Justice Educator/Community Organizer
Union del Barrio
Southern California Immigration Coalition


Fielding a local reporter's questions about Camino Nuevo Charter Corporation's designs on CRES #14

By every account: legal, moral, and ethical, CNCA should be required to serve every child in my community. By allowing them to dodge the requirement as a school in our attendance boundary to provide a Mainstream English program, we allow CNCA to continue their discriminatory practices that smack of exclusivity and elitism. — Robert D. Skeels (LAUSD District 2 Board Candidate)

By allowing them to dodge the requirement as a school in our attendance boundary to provide a Mainstream English program, we allow CNCA to continue their discriminatory practices that smack of exclusivity and elitism.
A local reporter had some question about our struggle to get CNCA Corporation to follow through with LAUSD Vice President Yolie Flores' promise to have CNCA offer multiple language tracks in addition to their already existing program. The questions with my answers are reproduced here to provide public transparency into how corporate charters brashly ignore community needs and input. In the interest of providing both the reporter and some Echo Parque parents with a degree of anonymity, I've excluded their names from this reproduction of the interview.

Q: How do you respond to people including [Some Echo Parque Parents] and Anna Ponce who say that the English only track issue has been resolved?

I've responded to this several times, but will reproduce some of it here. My first and somewhat cynical thought is, given Ponce and CNCA Corporation's track record, who would take them at their word? More to the point though, I wrote this recently on the list:

The charter document needs to contain the language, and we didn't see it in the charter document. If someone can email me a pdf of or fax me the page in their charter that says what we want, then I'll back off this issue.

Without the phrases Mainstream English program, Structured English Immersion program, and Dual Language Immersion program appearing in their charter for this school, CNCA Corporation and Yolie Flores have essentially pulled off a deception. Ms. Flores promised the other LAUSD Trustees that she'd address CNCA Corporation's one-dimensional language program offering. To this point, no one has shown evidence that this is the case. Frankly [An Echo Parque Parent] shouldn't be the one scrambling to get this information. In a democracy, where communities had some power over the public commons, then the onus would fall on CNCA Corporation to document what we are asking for. Unfortunately, since they're a private corporation with an unelected board, they can and have chose to ignore us and our community's very real needs.

Since the charter is a legal document, it gives our community a modicum (however slightly) of recourse when CNCA Corporation's business executives don't deliver what they promise.

Q: Also, this follow up: should there be an English-only track? Given the recent reporting and academic literature about the benefits of bilingualism, couldn't this conceivably be an excellent way to set CRES #14 from its competitors?

First question. Yes, absolutely — a publicly financed school must be obligated to educate every child. Given the demographics of CRES #14's attendance boundary, CNCA Corporation's existing program would only serve a portion of students potentially wanting to attend.

For your second question, you're conflating different bilingual programs with each other. ALthough this is addressed above, please familiarize yourself with the difference between Developmental/Transitional Bilingual Model Versus Dual Immersion Models. More to the point, CNCA Corporation's model assumes that all entering students are ELL with Spanish as their mother language. How does this benefit Korean, Mandarin, Tagalog, English, or other speakers?

Addressing your last question. I hope your intention was be facetious when you discuss "competitors." Public schools are tasked with the moral, ethical, and legal responsibility to educate every child, not to be bastions of divisiveness and duplicity brought on by competition. There are no credible peer reviewed studies indicating that contrived "competition" between schools fosters anything except for widespread cheating (Michelle Rhee's DC Schools for example), and demoralization of both students and educators. 

Instead of having a narrowly defined language program that reeks of exclusivity and elitism, let the publicly financed CNCA Corporation choose to serve potentially any student that wants to attend. I know that will cut into their bottom line somewhat, but that should be their obligation given that we're the ones that foot their bills.

It's a real shame that an organization like CNCA Corporation, that claims its goal is to create "agents of social justice with sensitivity toward the world around them" is in practice agents of injustice in our community. I'm a little shocked at their intransigence, especially at Philip Lance, who used to have a good reputation before he got into the charter school business.

Q: [B]ilingualism, of course, does not have to assume that [S]panish is the dominant language.

Ordinarily, but not in this narrowly defined case. CNCA Corporation's program assumes precisely just that. It's a transitional program for Spanish speaking ELL to transition to English. While we discuss this as not necessarily a good thing, and inappropriate for serving every child's needs, CNCA Corporation sells it to many mono-lingual Spanish speaking parents as a good thing, since their children will be predominately English speakers by the eighth grade. Meaning of course, that their Spanish skills would not be sufficient for even undergraduate level essay writing. In fact, Cervantes would probably be too difficult for those "bi-lingual" speakers CNCA Corporation produces. If that's fine with some parents, great. What about all the other families? They don't deserve consideration? Optimally we'd like to see CNCA Corporation offer a range of language programs, but at this point it's a struggle enough to get these mendacious businesspeople to just comply with offering a Mainstream English program.

For a review of the different bi-lingual programs, see: Developmental/Transitional Bilingual Model Versus Dual Immersion

Q: [W]hat would be device for rewriting CNCA's definition of bilingualism?

I don't think it's a matter of their definition versus ours at all. In academic and pedagogical circles, these distinctions are clearly defined. CNCA Corporation has many employees that know all of this, any one of them would be able to tell you the same thing. Ana Ponce could tell you the difference, given her educational background. The definition(s) of bilingualism isn't in question here,  and this isn't a matter of semantics. For more on bilingual education see Prof. Jeff Bale of MSU and Prof. Stephen Krashen of USC.

What's in question is why won't CNCA Corporation commit in writing what LAUSD Vice President Flores promised they would when she gave them our school?

Q: that something you've considered?

I'm not sure it would take much for them to write what we want into their charter for CRES #14. I can't speak for them, but I think their resistance stems for economics rather than any other explanation. It will cost them slightly more to do the right thing. Perhaps Ms. Ponce or another CNCA Corporation representative can correct me here, but they seem to be afraid to commit resources when they aren't sure what the composition of their student body will look like yet.

Given that they've just been handed a multi-million dollar facility for free, and that all their student related costs are borne by the public, they should only be focused on educating every child. Because we're asking CNCA Corporation to accommodate our community instead of our community accommodating them, there has been resistance. They still have to hire staff for CRES #14, all they'd really have to do is make sure that they hire enough teachers qualified to teach what we're asking. After they write what we want into their charter.

Let's be clear. We're not asking CNCA Corporation to replace their transitional bilingual education model. We're asking them to commit, in writing, to offering several different language models — including Mainstream English. I don't think we're asking too much.

Q: [W]hat's the status of your letter and your quest to get a meeting with the Board of Education?

I've been patently ignored by the Board of Education. I suppose this isn't unexpected, but you'd think they'd leave personal issues aside and do what's best for my community. After all, Ms. Flores promised.

The letter to the LAUSD Board that the reporter was asking about is:

Open Letter to LAUSD Board Regarding Grave Issues with CNCA's Charter for CRES #14

There's also a follow up letter:

On LAUSD's urgent need to pressure CNCA to revise the CRES #14 charter

Because we're constituents, community members, and parents, LAUSD ignores us. Rest assured, if our names were Burton, Barr, Ponce, Piscal, or Petruzzi, we would have been granted an immediate hearing. This quote from the Los Angeles Times demonstrates why:

"Luis Sanchez...worked the room at a posh Beverly Hills condo...The nearly 50 guests drank Au Bon Climat chardonnay and Piper Sonoma sparkling wine as Sanchez's backers, including school board President Monica Garcia and charter school leaders, lauded him..." — Los Angeles Times

These privatization minded LAUSD Board Members, like Mayor Villaraigosa, are bought and paid for by the lucrative charter-voucher school industry and its ideologically charged plutocrat backers long before they take office. That's why the have no scruples about serving every whim of the the charter school sector at the expense of the communities they're stealing from.


Poor Teaching for Poor Children... in the Name of Reform

By Alfie Kohn
[This is a slightly expanded version of the published article.]

Love them or hate them, the proposals collectively known as "school reform" are mostly top-down policies: divert public money to quasi-private charter schools, pit states against one another in a race for federal education dollars, offer rewards when test scores go up, fire the teachers or close the schools when they don't.

Policy makers and the general public have paid much less attention to what happens inside classrooms — the particulars of teaching and learning — especially in low-income neighborhoods. The news here has been discouraging for quite some time, but, in a painfully ironic twist, things seem to be getting worse as a direct result of the "reform" strategies pursued by the Bush administration, then intensified under President Obama, and cheered by corporate executives and journalists.

In an article published in Phi Delta Kappan back in 1991, Martin Haberman, a professor at the University of Wisconsin, coined the phrase "pedagogy of poverty." Based on his observations in thousands of urban classrooms, Haberman described a tightly controlled routine in which teachers dispense, and then test students on, factual information; assign seatwork; and punish noncompliance. It is a regimen, he said, "in which learners can 'succeed' without becoming either involved or thoughtful" — and it is noticeably different from the questioning, discovering, arguing, and collaborating that is more common (though by no means universal) among students in suburban and private schools.

Now, two decades later, Haberman reports that "the overly directive, mind-numbing... anti-intellectual acts" that pass for teaching in most urban schools "not only remain the coin of the realm but have become the gold standard." It's how you're supposed to teach kids of color.

Earlier this year, Natalie Hopkinson, an African American writer, put it this way in an article called "The McEducation of the Negro": "In the name of reform... education — for those "failing" urban kids, anyway — is about learning the rules and following directions. Not critical thinking. Not creativity. It's about how to correctly eliminate three out of four bubbles."

Those who demand that we "close the achievement gap" generally focus only on results, which in practice refers only to test scores. High-quality instruction is defined as whatever raises those scores. But when teaching strategies are considered, there is wide agreement (again, among noneducators) about what constitutes appropriate instruction in the inner city.

The curriculum consists of a series of separate skills, with more worksheets than real books, more rote practice than exploration of ideas, more memorization (sometimes assisted with chanting and clapping) than thinking. In books like The Shame of the Nation, Jonathan Kozol, another frequent visitor to urban schools, describes a mechanical, precisely paced process for drilling black and Latino children in "obsessively enumerated particles of amputated skill associated with upcoming state exams."

Not only is the teaching scripted, with students required to answer fact-based questions on command, but a system of almost militaristic behavior control is common, with public humiliation for noncompliance and an array of rewards for obedience that calls to mind the token economy programs developed in prisons and psychiatric hospitals.

Deborah Meier, the educator and author who has founded extraordinary schools in New York and Boston, points out that the very idea of "school" has radically different meanings for middle-class kids, who are "expected to have opinions," and poor kids, who are expected to do what they're told. Schools for the well-off are about inquiry and choices; schools for the poor are about drills and compliance. The two types of institutions "barely have any connection to each other," she says.

Adds Kozol: "The children of the suburbs learn to think and to interrogate reality," while inner-city kids "are trained for nonreflective acquiescence." (Work hard, be nice.) At one of the urban schools he visited, a teacher told him, "If there were middle-class white children here, the parents would rebel at this curriculum and stop it cold."

Among the research that has confirmed the disparity are two studies based on data from the periodic National Assessment of Educational Progress. One found that black children are much more likely than white children to be taught with workbooks or worksheets on a daily basis. The other revealed a racial disparity in how computers are used for instruction, with African Americans mostly getting drill and practice exercises (which, the study also found, are associated with poorer results).

Yet another study, by a researcher at Michigan State University, discovered that students in more affluent neighborhoods were given more choice in their reading, more opportunities to talk with one another about books, the chance to analyze and write poetry and to learn skills in the context of real literature.

Well before his brief tenure last year as New Jersey's Commissioner of Education, Bret Schundler expressed considerable enthusiasm about the sort of teaching that involves constant drill and repetition and "doesn't allow children not to answer." This approach is "bringing a lot of value-added for our children," he enthused. Our children? Does that mean he would send his own kids to that kind of school? Of course not. "Those schools are best for certain children," he explained.

The result is that "certain children" are left farther and farther behind. The rich get richer, while the poor get worksheets.

To be sure, the gap is not entirely due to how kids are taught. As economist Richard Rothstein reminds us, all school-related variables combined can explain only about one-third of the variation in student achievement. Similarly, if you look closely at those international test comparisons that supposedly find the U.S. trailing, it turns out that socioeconomic factors are largely responsible. Our wealthier students do very well compared to other countries; our poorer students do not. And we have more poor children than do other industrialized nations.

To whatever extent education does matter, though, the pedagogy of poverty traps those who are subject to it. The problem isn't that their education lacks "rigor" — in fact, a single-minded focus on "raising the bar" has served mostly to push more low-income youths out of school — but that it lacks depth and relevance and the capacity to engage students. As Deborah Stipek, dean of Stanford's School of Education, once commented, drill-and-skill instruction isn't how middle-class children got their edge, so "why use a strategy to help poor kids catch up that didn't help middle class kids in the first place?"

Essentially the same point has been made by one educational expert after another, including two prominent African Americans in the field: Linda Darling-Hammond (who observed that the "most counterproductive [teaching] approaches" are "enforced most rigidly in the schools serving the most disadvantaged students") and Claude Steele ("a skills-focused, remedial education...virtually guarantee[s] the persistence of the race gap").

Rather than viewing the pedagogy of poverty as a disgrace, however, many of the charter schools championed by the new reformers have concentrated on perfecting and intensifying techniques to keep children "on task" and compel them to follow directions. (Interestingly, their carrot-and-stick methods mirror those used by policy makers to control educators.) Bunches of eager, mostly white, college students are invited to drop by for a couple of years to lend their energy to this dubious enterprise.

Is racism to blame here — or perhaps behaviorism? Or could it be that, at its core, the corporate version of "school reform" was never intended to promote thinking — let alone interest in learning — but merely to improve test results? That pressure is highest in the inner cities, where the scores are lowest. And the pedagogy of poverty can sometimes "work" to raise those scores, which makes everyone happy and inclined to reward those teachers.

Unfortunately, that result is often at the expense of real learning, the sort that more privileged students enjoy, because the tests measure what matters least. Thus, it's possible for the accountability movement to simultaneously narrow the test-score gap and widen the learning gap.

What's to be done? In the short run, Deborah Meier is probably right when she remarks, "Only secretly rebellious teachers have ever done right by our least advantaged kids." To do right by them in the open, we would need structural changes that make the best kind of teaching available to the kids who need it most.

And we know it can work — which is to say, the pedagogy of poverty is not what's best for the poor. There's plenty of precedent. A three-year study (published by the U.S. Department of Education) of 140 elementary classrooms with high concentrations of poor children found that students whose teachers emphasized "meaning and understanding" were far more successful than those who received basic-skills instruction. The researchers concluded by decisively rejecting "schooling for the children of poverty . . . [that] emphasizes basic skills, sequential curricula, and tight control of instruction by the teacher."

Remarkable results with low-income students of all ages have also been found with the Reggio Emilia model of early-childhood education, the "performance assessment" high schools in New York, and "Big Picture" schools around the country. All of these start with students' interests and questions; learning is organized around real-life problems and projects. Exploration is both active and interactive, reflecting the simple truth that kids learn how to make good decisions by making decisions, not by following directions. Finally, success is judged by authentic indicators of thinking and motivation, not by multiple-choice tests.

That last point is critical. Standardized exams serve mostly to make dreadful forms of teaching appear successful. As long as they remain our primary way of evaluating, we may never see real school reform — only an intensification of traditional practices, with the very worst reserved for the disadvantaged.

A British educator named David Gribble was once speaking in favor of the kind of education that honors children's interests and helps them to think deeply about questions that matter. Of course, he added, that sort of education is appropriate for affluent children. For disadvantaged children, on the other hand, it is . . . essential.

Originally published in Education Week on April 27, 2011

Copyright © 2011 by Alfie Kohn. This article may be downloaded, reproduced, and distributed without permission as long as each copy includes this notice along with citation information (i.e., name of the periodical in which it originally appeared, date of publication, and author's name). Permission must be obtained in order to reprint this article in a published work or in order to offer it for sale in any form. We can be reached through the Contact Us page.


Five Factual Articles on Corporate Candidate Luis Sanchez

Luis Sanchez...paid for by the Coalition for School Reform. Major funding by Jerry Perenchio and Reed Hastings. — From the website of the corporate and plutocrat funded Coalition for School Reform

It doesn't take much to realize that Villaraigosa's Luiz Sanchez, whose backers and politics are identical to Flores, will treat our community with the same arrogant disdain.
Here are some great quotes on Sanchez. First, from a community activist and educator in District 5:

Luis Sanchez candidate for LAUSD school board has accepted over half million from GOP Bush supporters. One of them is billionaire Phil Anschutz who has also supported anti-gay and lesbian measures (Colorado's Amendment 2), the FreedomWorks foundation that organizes the Tea Party and anti-immigration campaigns, the Discovery institute which promotes teaching creationism instead of science and other regressive efforts

Next, from none other than the Los Angeles Times, who in fact, endorse Sanchez:

"Luis Sanchez...worked the room at a posh Beverly Hills condo...The nearly 50 guests drank Au Bon Climat chardonnay and Piper Sonoma sparkling wine as Sanchez's backers, including school board President Monica Garcia and charter school leaders, lauded him..." — Los Angeles Times

Let's all remember that just when you think corporate LAUSD hopeful Luis Sanchez couldn't be more scandalous or unscrupulous, he surprises with ever more deplorable acts of ignominy. Here are FIVE articles explaining why LAUSD District 5 voters should REJECT the unethical and unprincipled corporate candidate Luiz Sanchez.


Monday, April 25, 2011

¡Marcha a Primero de Mayo! May Day 2011 March

¡La Marcha esta para derrechos de todos trabajadores. Ven con nosotros a Primero de Mayo!

As a social justice candidate for the District 2 Board seat of Los Angeles Unified School District, I'll be marching in support of teachers and communities with the Educators Contingent. See you there.

Sunday, May 1, 2011 from 10:00am — 1:00pm
Starting at Olympic and Broadway, Los Angeles, CA 90015

We support all workers' rights. Immigrants, Women, Teachers, and more!

ARE-LA Endorsement of SCIC May Day March

Dear Members of the Southern California Immigration Coalition,

privatization = segregation, immigrant rights = workers rights
The Association of Raza Educators, Los Angeles chapter stands in solidarity with the SCIC and its work to organize for our peoples' rights. Below is a statement of solidarity and endorsement of the SCIC's May Day march that we are sending out to our listservs. On May 1st, we march with the SCIC and stand with our communities!

Venceremos! Karen Salazar Chairperson Association of Raza Educators, Los Angeles

ARE Los Angeles Endorsement of May 1st Action:

Full Legalization Now! No Guest Worker Program!

The Association of Raza Educators (ARE), Los Angeles chapter believes in community self-determination. Because education is the cornerstone of our struggle for self-determination, reclaiming education often involves fighting against the oppressive system that seeks to deny the human rights and dignity of our students and their families.

ARE Los Angeles stands in solidarity with the Southern California Immigration Coalition! As educators and community organizers, we will march on May 1st as a sign of protest against Immigration and Custom Enforcement raids, which we view as an attack on im/migrant communities. On May 1st, we will march alongside our students, sisters, brothers, and families, in solidarity with im/migrant communities throughout the United States.

Association of Raza Educators, Los Angeles


What: May Day mobilization, immigrant's rights are worker's rights
When: May 1st Time: 8:30am
Where: 2100 Maple Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90011 (Centro Cultural Francisco Villa)


Saturday, April 23, 2011

Yellow Journalist Jim Newton Hails a Dubious Civil Rights Hero

"Soviet style elections" — Ben Austin in response to parents and communities choosing community school plans over corporate charters.

The foppish millionaire from Benedict Canyon, school privatization pusher and poverty pimp Ben Austin
Jim Newton, chief crusader of the notorious school privatization propaganda publication known as the Los Angeles Times, recently penned a piece that reaches far beyond absurdity, it borders on irrational and inane. In Newton's topsy-turvy world view, oppressed and impoverished people of color just need to look to wealthy white male saviors from Beverly Hills to solve all their problems — Rudyard Kipling would have been proud. He sets up his ludicrous Op-Ed with a false dichotomy of parents versus school districts, in which the former "demand a decent education," and the latter "blithely ignores them." A phantasmagorical tale at best, told by someone who lets, to use a phrase coined by the illustrious Dr. Diane Ravitch, "ideology trump evidence." No mention in Newton's amateurish essay about the intentional chronic underfunding of public schools, the deliberate demoralization of public schools imposed by the impossible goals set forth in the reactionary NCLB, or the crushing effects of poverty on students discussed by education experts like Dr. Stephen Krashen.

In Newton's reactionary right-wing account, Compton Unified School District (CUSD) Board Members are the "rogues," not billionaires who don't pay taxes, politicians that spend all our money on wars and occupations, or corporations that sent inner city jobs to remote corners of the world years ago. Newton's utter detachment from reality is even more apparent when he calls McKinley Elementary School "a tragically underperforming school." Like his abominable underlings Jason Feltch and Jason Song, Newton feels no need to research or fact check his bombastic assertions. Had he done so, would have learned McKinley's APIs have been rising steadily over the years. Tracy Douglas has pointed out "There are 7 Green Dot charter schools that scored well below McKinley." Respected journalist Caroline Grannan found the "Spring 2010 API for McKinley Elementary in Compton, CA: 684; Spring 2010 average API for all Green Dot charter schools in California: 657." Apparently in Newton's Randian world view only public schools "tragically" underperform, underperforming charter schools, no matter how awful, aren't discussed in the pejorative, especially when they're the former employer of the person he's lionizing in his Op-Ed.

I was compelled to write him a letter, expressing my discontent with his dishonest screed.

Mr. Newton:

You cast an all African American CUSD Board as "civil rights villains" and then speak of the wealthy white Ben Austin, and his right wing charter school trade association as heroes for hoodwinking parents into handing a community school over to the vile Vielka McFarlane? The same McFarlane who dismissed institutional racism by declaring children of color merely need to "dress for success..." rather than "focus on how the history of the country has been checkered."

Austin a civil rights hero? With no background in education, he was recruited via a six figure salary to represent CCSA interests and increase charter school market share. While he poses as a disgruntled parent and champion of people of color, he has no school age kids and according to The Times Austin's neighborhood [Benedict Canyon] is 87.5% WHITE with a median household income of $169,282. Austin's house cost $1,210,000. He holds public events with The Heartland Institute [1]. That's a civil rights hero Compton parents and the rest of us can all identify with!

Talk about taking Newspeak to a new level. We've come to expect this non-stop charter cheerleading from the Times. Newton and Stanton come off as Jed Wallace's personal public relations firm. Your defense of the Walton, Broad, and Gates funded Austin and his corporate trigger law is deplorable. Is a glowing tribute to the late Generalissimo Franco next?

Advocating Public Education and Social Justice

Robert D. Skeels

[1] For those that don't know, The Heartland Institute is essentially the John Birch Society with a budget. See also: Teabaggers, Fascists, Bigots, and Reactionaries.


Thursday, April 21, 2011

Urgently requesting a meeting with the LAUSD Board President

[A] harbinger of how public education may look should the resolution pass. In fact, the closed meetings stand as metaphors for how the majority of charter management organizations work: undemocratic, top down, run by noneducators, and unaccountable to the communities where they operate. — Robert D. Skeels (Social Justice Education Essayist)

Our voice is being patently ignored, our community disrespected, and an entire set of prospective students are being robbed.
President Garcia:

I've sent a paper letter in the mail. I've left multiple voicemail messages with several extensions in your office. I've sent multiple email messages. I have not have any success scheduling a meeting with you.

In fact, one of your staff sent me this sardonic response:

I wanted to make sure you are aware that CRES#14 is part of Board District 5. I would invite you to contact Ms. Ana Ponce, Executive Director of Camino Nuevo, to address any questions you might have of the school.

To which I replied

Please understand that at least half of the attendance boundary for CRES #14 is comprised of District 2. Parents and community members have repeatedly tried address this with Ms. Ponce, CEO of the CNCA Corporation, and the matter remains unresolved.

Since LAUSD is the entity approving and authorizing the charter, our final recourse is to appeal directly to the LAUSD Board.

President Garcia you are the President of the Board of Education for the City of Los Angeles. Surely you can see that in addition to this school being partly in your District's attendance boundary, that ultimately, you as President are directly responsible for the content of this charter.

I know that my dogged advocacy of public education and my wide publication in social justice publications has seen me critical of both you and several of your staff members on many occasions.

However, please don't let any disdain you have for me personally cause you to ignore this burning issue at the expense of my entire community. Our community paid for this brand new multi-million dollar facility. From our community will come hundreds of children to attend this school. None of these people deserve to be ignored. If you don't want to meet with me alone, then let's schedule a meeting with the community. If need be, I won't attend. Just agree to meet with parents asking for the CRES #14 charter revisions that Vice President Flores promised when she gave the campus away to CNCA Corporation. We want this charter revised to reflect State law, Ms. Flores' promises, and the needs of the community. My community deserves better than the current injustice it is undergoing.

I'm pleading with you to do the right thing and give us a hearing. I understand how much wealth and power CNCA Corporation brings to bear on this issue, but ordinary working people deserve a voice too. Our voice is being patently ignored, our community disrespected, and an entire set of prospective students are being robbed.

Advocating Public Education and Social Justice

Robert D. Skeels


"The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting for Superman" Premieres in May

"The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting for Superman" is finally available.

Get a copy of the film and hold a Movie Party!

GEM - (The Grassroots Education Movement) wrote and directed this documentary in response to the Davis Guggenheim highly misleading film, Waiting for Superman. Waiting for Superman would have audiences believe that free-market competition, standardized tests, destroying teacher unions, and above all, the proliferation of charter schools are just what this country needs to create great public schools.

Our film, the Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting For Superman highlights the real-life experiences of public school parents and educators to show how these so-called reforms are actually hurting education. Our film talks about the kinds of real reform – inside schools and in our society as a whole- that we urgently need to genuinely transform education in this country.

Schedule a Movie Party and you will automatically be entered into a lottery to win a phone call from Diane Ravitch! Winner will be chosen at the official movie premiere at Riverside Church in Harlem on May 19th from 6-10 pm. This event is free and open to the public. The evening will include a panel featuring a NYC parent, teacher, and student as well as Dr. Ravitch and a few other prominent education advocates.

Fill-out this form and we'll send you a free copy of the film along with a Film Party Guide. Any questions, email us at

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


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

On LAUSD's urgent need to pressure CNCA to revise the CRES #14 charter

"Parents having decision making power over a budget is not a sustainable model." — Ana F. Ponce (CEO, CNCA Corporation)

Corporate Camino Nuevo Charter's Ana Ponce trying to explain CNCH's 94% remediation rate at the CSU
The EastsiderLA's Becky Koppenhaver reports in New Echo Park school to bend on bilingual instruction that the corporate executives of Camino Nuevo Charter Academy (CNCA) are insisting that they "revised their instructional model  in response to the needs of the community."

The lavishly paid CNCA COO Truong and CNCA CEO Ponce are being evasive and perhaps even mendacious. CNCA's official charter submitted to LAUSD still does not contain language specifically outlining a Mainstream English option. This is covered in length here:

Open Letter to LAUSD Board Regarding Grave Issues with CNCA's Charter for CRES #14

Given that CNCA's single minded executives have been, to put it kindly, less than honest on many occasions, community members should demand that the LAUSD force CNCA to put this so-called "revised instructional model" in writing into their charter. Otherwise, there is no way of holding them accountable. In short, CNCA's charter must specify a Mainstream English option. While social justice activists would have liked to see them offer more, akin to that of the public school plan submitted, we'd be satisfied with seeing these market share minded charter charlatans follow the law and listen to the community at the very least.

In fact, all of our groups and associated Echo Parque/Historic Filipinotown community members need to press this issue with the District and CNCA now, before it's too late. Without this being in writing, CNCA Corporation is under no obligation to offer a Mainstream English program. Furthermore, they could offer something that appears to be Mainstream English, or offer some like it at first to appease the community and then drop it latter.

At this point, there are no provisions in their charter for CRES #14 addressing what the community is demanding. CNCA is not used to having to listen to the community, so they're scrambling to figure out how to make their one-size-fits-all corporate model appear to accommodate our neighborhood's diverse population and needs. We need to demand that they serve every child, and that verbal assurances are not sufficient.

While charters are technically legal documents between the school district and the private operators of the charter schools, they offer little in way of accountability. Most courts [1] have found that charter schools are not "public entities." This always works in their favor. What this means is that even if we get CNCA to commit to what the community wants in writing, we have little recourse to hold CNCA accountable. So much more so if we don't get them to commit to it to writing. After all, CNCA's CEO Ana Ponce and her executive staff are tasked with increasing market share and keeping their costs down, so they are naturally far less concerned with what the community wants.

Community members in District 2 and District 5 should be calling their Board Members every day demanding CNCA revise their charter to fit the needs of our community!

District 2 Mónica García
(213) 241-6180

District 5 Yolie Flores
(213) 241-6383
[1] Two examples are the California Court of Appeals (2007-01-10) and the 9th Circuit US Court of Appeals (2010-01-04).


Mayor Villaraigosa's "Stars (M)Aligned" Education [sic] Speech

My longtime compañero the incomparable activist José del Barrio asked me to share and post to the blog. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa outlines plans for ramping up education 'reform' in Los Angeles Unified School District during his "State of the City" address. He refers to new superintendent John Deasy as LAPD's "Bill Bratton with a ruler." Location: Jefferson High School in South Los Angeles. Student drummers play at the start of the video. Date: April 13, 2011

My take: the Mendacious Mayor (aka Mayor Failure) Villaraigosa is speaking to "his" constituents in this speech: Eli Broad, Philip Anshutz, Judy Burton, Marco Petruzzi, Ana Ponce, Ricardo Mireles, Jed Wallace, Vielka McFarlane, and all the other corporate charter luminaries. Mayor Failure even gives a big shout out to the foppish millionaire of Benedict Canyon, when he gushes about Ben Austin's corporate charter trigger.

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


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Women's Rights Activists and Groups Press Conference (Sponsored by SCIC)

Southern California Immigration Coalition
Tuesday, April 19, 2011 at 5:30PM
6th Street and Union Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90017

Women's rights leaders and groups will hold a press conference on Tuesday, April 19, 2011, at 5:30PM, at the corner of 6th and Union, to announce their intention to participate in the May 1st Immigrant Rights march in Downtown Los Angeles, and to call upon all women to join the march and together demand immigration reform that includes 'Legalization for all' but without a 'Bracero' program, an end to the raids and deportations, and a complete halt to police/ICE repression.

Speakers include:
Julia Wallace - SCIC (moderator)
Celina Benitez - CISPES and President, South Central Neighborhood Council
Roxanna Gaspar - Inquilinos Unidos (friend of murdered Guatemalan immigrant Manuel Jamines)
Estela Jimenez - Angeles Sin Fronteras
Aracely Espinosa - International Action Center
Ingrid Villeda - UTLA activist/Teacher
Terrie Cervas - Gabriela USA (an Asian immigrant women's organization)
Yuisa Gimeno - Radical Women
And more.

For more information, please contact: Julia Wallace (310) 404-6729 (English) and Graciela Anquiano (626) 688-2737.


Monday, April 18, 2011

Community activist priorities for LAUSD versus those of Food Revolution

"Let Jamie chase our Senators through the halls of the Capitol Building and insist that they eat the kind of school lunch served to millions of children every day. Then he can shove a microphone in their faces and demand they tell the viewers why it is that Congress was only able to squeeze out a paltry 6 cents increase to the per-meal budget for school lunch, to take effect in late 2012, and why they thought that taking that 6 cents from the budget for food stamps (now called SNAP) was going to help improve nutrition for the kids whose families rely on both SNAP and school meals to literally keep from starving. Now that would be a Food Revolution!" — Dana Woldow

Community activist priorities for LAUSD versus those of Food Revolution
Journalist Caroline Grannan wrote me asking what I saw as the top ten priorities for LAUSD since certain opportunistic celebrities are trying to shift the dialog away from more pressing problems. Her friend Dana Woldow recently wrote a piece He can cook, but can he fix education?, and there has been a rash of people insisting that all of LAUSD's problems could be solved by letting celebrity chefs run the proverbial show. I responded with a few more than ten priorities, all from the perspective of a community activist supporting public education.

I feel it's both arrogant and overbearing for this smug British celebrity-hipster to be dictating terms to a district that's already under attack by the Broad/Gates/Walton Triumvirate. We are facing the utter collapse of our district and public schools in general right now and this guy is trying to socially blackmail the district into letting him get some more publicity? For shame. I'm not opposed to healthy food, but the timing on this couldn't be more cynical or inappropriate. Certainly childhood obesity is an important issue, but I feel Jamie Oliver and his ilk, including The First Lady, are using it as a smoke an mirror campaign to distract us from the real issue — which is childhood poverty!

Community activist priorities for LAUSD

  • Find a way to begin the process of desegregation now in both public and charter schools
  • Finding a way to prevent the massive Reduction in Force (RIF) notices to teachers (layoffs)
  • Finding a way to prevent the massive RIF notices to school nurses, librarians, and other essential personnel
  • Keeping school libraries open, staffed, and funded (Dr. Krashen)
  • Returning to reasonable class sizes
  • Ensuring that charter schools stop violating the modified consent decree and begin educating special needs children
  • Implementing a wider curriculum and de-emphasizing of standardized testing
  • Jettisoning VAM/AGT and diverting the millions of dollars used implementing those discredited evaluation "methods" into the classrooms instead
  • Repairing unsafe and unhealthy campus infrastructure
  • Slim-lining LAUSD bureaucracy and using those funds to put teachers' aides in the classroom
  • Jettisoning the resource wasting privatization minded "Public" School Choice Resolution which gives public schools away to charters
  • Finding a way to stop public school classrooms from being stolen and occupied by charter-voucher schools under the Machiavellian Prop 39
  • Rededicating resources to ensure that any school in the district, public or charter is educating every child
  • Implementing more bilingual education programs and ensure wider availability of ethnic studies programs
  • Work more closely with communities to serve as a social justice nexus in which people are provided material support, education, and leadership training to combat the budget cuts in their own neighborhoods
  • Work to insure that all teachers are given adequate support and professional development to reach a goal that all teachers in the district are fully credentialed
  • Find a way to return to fully funded summer school programs


Open Letter to LAUSD Board Regarding Grave Issues with CNCA's Charter for CRES #14

It is a model that is antithesis and anathema to Camino Nuevo. When democratically elected community members, parents, and teachers comprise the board of directors for a school, then we can begin to speak of social justice. — Robert D. Skeels (LAUSD District 2 Board Candidate)

By allowing them to dodge the requirement as a school in our attendance boundary to provide a Mainstream English program, we allow CNCA to continue their discriminatory practices that smack of exclusivity and elitism.
April 18, 2011

Board of Education
333 S. Beaudry Ave., 24th Floor
Los Angeles, CA 90017

LAUSD Board President Garcia and Members of the Board:

I'm writing to express my grave concerns with Camino Nuevo Charter Academy's (CNCA) charter for CRES #14. I am a seventeen year resident of District 2, and CRES #14 serves my neighborhood attendance boundary.

When Vice President Flores awarded CRES #14 to CNCA against the wishes and explicit votes of my community, and against the express recommendation of the Superintendent, she promised she would address the grievously problematic issues with CNCA's proposal regarding their exclusive and inflexible language program.

Indeed, several Board members expressed concerns over CNCA's "one size fits all" so-called bilingual program — which is nothing more than an English Language Learner (ELL) transition program. If I recall, Mr. Zimmer and other members had questions that Ms. Flores unilaterally dismissed by saying that she'd insure CNCA would comply with state law and my community's needs.

I, like many others, waited patiently to see if CNCA's revised charter would reflect Ms. Flores' promise and provide a Mainstream English program option for CRES #14. We even waited for meetings between local parents and the well heeled executives of CNCA to resolve this. Other than a lot of empty promises and marketing phrases, the issue has not been resolved! CNCA's charter for CRES #14 does not contain a Mainstream English program option. This is an outrage!

Let's be clear, I've been a lifelong advocate of bilingual education. I champion dual language immersion and other models. This is not what CNCA offers. Theirs is a transitional program intended to transition Spanish speaking ELLs to all English. Certainly a transitional program like CNCA's may be desirable for a portion of the students that will attend CRES #14. However, when non-educators like CNCA's Hoa Truong insist that their program needs no modification and that it is considered "best practice," I shudder to think that business executives are allowed to discuss pedagogy. Best practice? Perhaps for for monolingual parents of ELL that don't want their children to be biliterate. Is CNCA's program best practice if the child's first language is Mandarin or Tagalog? Is CNCA's program best practice for parents that want their English only child to study in English only? Is CNCA's program best practice for parents who want their Spanish or English speaking child to be biliterate? The obvious answer to all these questions is no.

This begs the question why hasn't CNCA or Ms. Flores addressed our community's needs. I understand that offering another language program might cause CNCA to incur some work, and even might cost them money that they would prefer to channel into their executive salaries, but they should be obligated to serve our community and educate every child! Their take-it or-leave-it language program is unacceptable. As one prominent Echo Parque parent recently said: "You can't tear down our houses, use our money, and build a school that doesn't serve the community!" Those are my sentiments precisely.

I'm appalled at Ms. Flores' mendaciousness in this matter. Ms. Flores hasn't addressed this with her close friends at CNCA. Instead of spending time writing apologetics for awarding CRES #14 to a private operator using outdated and therefore inaccurate census data to justify her rationale, she should be working to insure that CNCA serves the needs of every family in the attendance boundary. Until CNCA offers a Mainstream English program option for English only speakers — which must be in writing in their charter — Ms. Flores remains in contempt of our community.

Ms. Garcia you and the other Board members have the power to correct this transgression. By every account: legal, moral, and ethical, CNCA should be required to serve every child in my community. By allowing them to dodge the requirement as a school in our attendance boundary to provide a Mainstream English program, we allow CNCA to continue their discriminatory practices that smack of exclusivity and elitism. Please take action immediately.

Advocating Public Education and Social Justice

Robert D. Skeels

P.S. After sharing a draft of this letter with parents and activists, they had several suggestions which I feel deserve mention. First was a concern that asking CNCA to simply offer Mainstream English wasn't enough: "might I suggest that you stress a little more of the need for an authentic dual language program - two populations, two languages, all subjects K-8, no transitioning, plus a Tagalog language class should be offered." Many of the more militant parents are shocked that CNCA is intransigent on the language issue altogether. They suggested that the tone of my letter was too passive. One of them wrote me "They are using unfair tactics and should know these parents won't quit until it's been corrected."

LAUSD and CNCA can rest assured that these parents will continue struggling for justice, and I will keep publishing about CNCA's contemptuous treatment of my community.

Dist: Paper copy mailed to LAUSD Board, emailed to individual board members, Superintendent, CNCA executives, print media representatives, CRES14ParaCommunidad list, and select online media outlets.


Saturday, April 16, 2011

The sad legacy under Rhee: a DC community speaks out

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


Thursday, April 14, 2011

Public schools fight to keep their rooms from being seized by privatized charter-voucher schools

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

Special thanks to Aja Dang for having the courage to cover this story. She and Kevin Douglas Grant are two of the very few Los Angeles journalist that provide fair and honest stories about people struggling against school privatization.


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

For education, fringe right wing is no longer confined to the fringe

"[W]orthless as pedagogy but they are a brilliant mechanism for undermining the school systems, instilling fear and creating a rationale for corporate takeover. There is something grotesque about the fact the education reform is being led not by educators but by financers and speculators and billionaires." &mdash Chris Hedges

Anti-immigrant racism from California Charter School Association (CCSA)'s Steve Poizner is a perfect example of right wing charter school ideas.
Larry Miller's Beware of the Heartland Institute: Brought to you in part by the Koch Brothers does yeoman service illuminating the extremists pushing Ayn Rand/Milton Freidman fantasies on behalf of the vile plutocrats funding them. In this passage:

They are key propagandists to the present right wing movement in the U.S, supporting any demand that increases corporate profits and weakens the peoples' movements and democratic rights. In education vouchers are at the center of their reform demands.

Miller highlights Heartland's damaging contributions to the corporate education reform tsunami presently deluging public eduction. What's missing from his analysis is the fact that this frightening agenda is not confined to the teabaggers, proto-fascists, and other right wing reactionaries.

It's important to note that many of the ostensibly "liberal" types in the corporate education "reform" camp, have very close ties to reactionary groups like Heartland.

In fact, just a few weeks ago, privatization pusher and poverty pimp Ben Austin of the Parent Revolution 501C3 and author of the callously named Parent Trigger hosted an event with none other than the Heartland Institute. I like to say that the Heartland Institute is essentially the John Birch Society with a budget.

Michelle Rhee, Gloria Romero, Ben Austin, Whitney Tilson, Steve Barr, Davis Guggenheim and many other charter-voucher school luminaries also draw upon Heartland and other right-wing extremist organizations for both their ideology and "information." A favorite of the DFER/TFA school privatization camp is The Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace, Stanford University. I recently wrote on DFER, and how they've found myriad ways to subvert democratic processes in order to further the corporate agenda.

Sadly, this Administration's education policies are precisely those that were considered the fringe ideas of reactionary think tanks like Heartland, AEI, Cato, Hoover, Hudson, Heritage et al just a decade ago. It's going to take more than pointing out these groups have the most vile right-wing agendas, we need to point out that their deplorable ideas have been adopted by individuals and organizations that people would never associate with these groups.

We need to be clear that it isn't only Koch Kooks that want to eschew public education and create an inferior, racist, discriminatory, but profitable voucher system. Ultimately, the entire impetus behind charter schools and so-called school choice is vouchers as well.

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


Monday, April 11, 2011

Tim Delia: Who's really behind VAM

[The University of Colorado at Boulder study] drives a proverbial stake through the heart of the VAM pseudo-science, that like its cousin phrenology, should have passed off the scene long ago. — Robert D. Skeels (LAUSD District 2 Board Candidate)

Are Value Added Methods (VAM) the new Flat Earth? How long do discredited theories linger?
Tim Delia published the following over the weekend, reprinted here with permission:

Who's really behind VAM

A survey of the people most vigorously supporting Value Added Measurement (VAM) reveals that they are not educators, nor psychologist nor psychometricians who have studied testing and human behavior.

Those pushing most ardently for value-added measurement models generally are a group that likes to call themselves "school economists." These education economists include Stanford University "courtesy professor of education" Erik Hanashuk, Harvard professor of right-wing politics Paul Peterson, Fordham Institution's (not to be confused with Fordham University) Chester Finn Jr and Caroline Hoxby.

The one thing they all have in common is that they are all senior fellows at the Hoover Institution on War, Revoulution, and Peace housed at Stanford University. The Hoover Institution counts Newt Gingrich, Dick Cheney and Condoleeza Rice as members (imagine them setting education policy).

The Hoover Institution is the home to some of this country's most, crazed, right-wing zealots. The Institution has a long history of ignoring science in supporting of its right-wing agenda. The Hoover Institution is well known for denying the facts of global warming. You can not talk science with a right-wing zealot — ask Galileo.

Just how right wing is the Hoover Institute? Their worst education event of 2010 was the one that saved thousands of teaching jobs. This isn't a joke. This is an actual cut and pasted from their website.

WORST Education Events of 2010
1. Stimulus dollars for education were mainly spent on avoiding layoffs.
About 80 percent of the administration’s $100 billion education stimulus money went to avert teacher layoffs and continue existing programs without regard to their effectiveness and with no hint of school improvement. The $10 billion EduJobs bill did more of the same. Such spending rewarded schools for inefficiency at an enormous cost in dollars and missed opportunities.

The fact that so called liberals and progressives support any of these measures is truly scary.

Tim Delia


In a follow up post Delia wrote:

Just how right wing is the Hoover Institution, major VAM proponents?

The Hoover Institution has a long history of supporting right-wing dictators around the world, most notably Chile's Augusto Pinochet. The Hoover Institution continues to argue that dictator Pinochet was actually good for Chile, ignoring the thousands killed, the lack of democracy, the banking collapse and the fact that Pinochet stole $25 million from the Chilean people. This is the Hoover Institution's idea of good governance.

This article below is not a joke. It argues that an earthquake in Chile that was far from any urban area was less deadly then the Haitian earthquake that struck 16 miles from the nation's capital because of Pinochet and his friend Milton Friedman.

Actual article:
How Milton Friedman Saved Chile | Hoover Institution
Jul 2, 2010 ... In 1973, the year the proto-Chavista government of Salvador Allende was overthrown by General Augusto Pinochet, Chile was an economic ...

By contrast, Chile's earthquake measured 8.8. That was nearly five hundred times more powerful than Haiti's, or about a million Hiroshimas. Yet Chile's reported death toll was a tiny fraction of the 230,000 or so believed to have perished in Haiti.

Value Added Measures, much like everything else coming out of the Hoover Institute is absolute craziness.



Right Wing Think Tanks, Ben Austin, Steve Barr, and Marco Petruzzi

I've been writing about the inordinate influence of these extreme right wing "think tanks" on public education policy for some time now, as has Dr. Danny Weil.

I sent the following comments in response the Delia's post:

Lest us not forget Hoover Institution and Fordham's school privatization journal EducationNext. It's in that bastion of reaction, that Andy Smarick published "Wave of the Future," a roadmap for converting public schools to charters, followed by Smarick's acolytes including the vile Ben Austin [1] to the letter. The end goal is to create in Smarick's words a "marketplace marked by parental choice."

Most frequently appearing phrases on the The Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace, Stanford University?

  • Private Enterprise
  • Free Markets
  • Individual Liberty

Pretty clear about who they serve and what they believe.

Robert D. Skeels

[1] This is the same Ben Austin who held an event with The Heartland Institute recently. For those of you that don't know, The Heartland Institute is essentially the John Birch Society with a budget.


Comments on Hedges on Why the U. S. is Destroying Its Education System

"We have our cake, and are eating it too." — Eli Broad (Predatory Pseudo-Philanthropist and Charter School Backer)

Corporate school privatization criminals Eli Broad and Arne Duncan
Chris Hedges latest enlightened essay entitled Why the U. S. is Destroying Its Education System lays out much of the corporate agenda behind privatization via charters and vouchers, the standardized testing obsession, and the vilification of schoolteachers.

It's a powerful piece and a must read for social justice activists and public education advocates. One of my favorite passages follows:

Up until very recently, the principal of a school was something like the conductor of an orchestra: a person who had deep experience and knowledge of the part and place of every member and every instrument. In the past 10 years we've had the emergence of both [Mayor] Mike Bloomberg's Leadership Academy and Eli Broad's Superintendents Academy, both created exclusively to produce instant principals and superintendents who model themselves after CEOs. How is this kind of thing even legal? How are such 'academies' accredited? What quality of leader needs a 'leadership academy'? What kind of society would allow such people to run their children's schools? The high-stakes tests may be worthless as pedagogy but they are a brilliant mechanism for undermining the school systems, instilling fear and creating a rationale for corporate takeover. There is something grotesque about the fact the education reform is being led not by educators but by financers and speculators and billionaires."

"What kind of society would allow such people to run their children’s schools?" Indeed, the most important question of our age. The fact that plutocrats can commit such unscrupulous acts against the public good is beyond unconscionable, it's unpardonably criminal.

Hedges' main thrust is that the destruction of public education goes hand-in-hand with corporate dominance. He speaks of the amoral and inhuman pursuit of corporate profits which require the dehumanization and commodification of the many. I posted the following comment, which hopefully added to the discussion:

Hedges' point about charters teaching corporate values isn't merely rhetorical. Let us recall the Eli Broad funded Green Dot Public [sic] Schools' original Alain Leroy Locke Charter High School petition contained language requiring students "demonstrate a belief in the value of capitalism." Professor Ralph Shaffer's exposé of the right wing reactionary American Indian Model Schools' requiring a "pledge to capitalism" is further testimony to the corporatization of pedagogy.

Another egregious example is when the plutocrat funded Celerity Charter CEO Vielka McFarlane [1] dismissed institutional racism by declaring children of color merely need to "dress for success..." rather than "focus on how the history of the country has been checkered."

I'd like to see if people could provide more examples. My goal is to compile a list of these types of corporate ideology being foisted upon today's students for a future essay. Sharon Higgens and Caroline Grannan have done an excellent job exposing the Gulen Movement's involvement in charter schools. I'm certain that solidaridad readers can contribute many more such tales of woe.

[1] The selfsame McFarlane in collusion with the vile Ben Austin to seize McKinley ES in Compton using the callously named "parent trigger."


Friday, April 08, 2011

Education: Saints and Scoundrels

Troubletown © 2011 Lloyd Dangle

Troubletown © 2011 Lloyd Dangle


Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Readers speak out on Ben Austin, Parent Revolution, and Green Dot Public Schools

"This is a legitimate threat to the school district. And this is how we have to play to be heard. This is going to steamroll." — Mary Najera (hostile takeover specialist, Parent Revolution/Green Dot Corporation)

Report Green Dot's Ben Austin on the City Ethics Commission Complaint Form Online
We get a lot of comments and emails on the foppish millionaire from Benedict Canyon, school privatization pusher and poverty pimp Ben Austin. Here are a few of interest, demonstrating how much of a pariah he is in our communities:

CarolineSF said...
An underdog with an array of billionaires, checkbooks at the ready, to fund its every move, and with the avid support of the president of the U.S., the governor of California, and so on? That really is an interesting new definition of "underdog."

This is a good piece, though there's one erroneous notion behind it: the assumption that Rose and Austin actually believe in the principles they extol. Both are paid spokesmen, mouthpieces, flacks. They extol whatever principles they're paid to extol. On that basis I even disagree with my co-blogger Robert Skeels here: "...[Skeels] believes that Austin is only pretending to show concern for students at underperforming schools, and that his primary concern is promoting the "privatization" of public schools. "

I would restate that: Austin's primary concern is promoting whatever he's paid to promote, and pretending to show concern for whatever he's paid to pretend to show concern for.

Michele Levin Said...
Ben Austin sat and talked. The air grew thin in the parent center as he went on and on about what “they” weren’t about. He apologized for his inflammatory remarks about Emerson. He said that any parent in his group who supported a separation of class and race was not welcome. I paraphrase. He was indignant at the thought. How offensive.

He could not tell me why Emerson was a failing school.
He could tell me that he would not stop his takeover attempts.
He would not answer a direct question.
Nayla gave me her card.

I graduated from Emerson in 1976. I teach there now. I look out of the tall Neutra window and see the light filtering in and the leaves of the elm tree outside. I think of Ralph Waldo Emerson. I think of my students. We shall not not be moved.

Anonymous said...
Ben Austin's conivery doesn't surprize me. When he and I attended law school at Georgetown, he used tricks to inflate his grades. He got a doctor's not stating that he had a learning disability so that he would have longer to complete his exams. for one exam, he wrote in the voice of a black woman because the prof was a black woman teaching a class on race and gender issues.

Anonymous said...
It sickens me the type of raw sewage and the degree of ignorance that anthony spews from the sewer he calls a mouth. Austin is NOT a hero. As a former member of the SBE he had a chance to implement true reform and his only claim to fame is a move in which he has come to pull the emotional strings of the parents he has come to use as his puppets. Krinski must be truly evil or truly stupid to state what he has mentioned here for they reak of Kumbaya ignorance of the reality of education. Thank Goodness that Austin is out of SBE and he cannot do any more harm. He is a beast who will stop at nothing to destroy what little is left of education.

He has lied about what charter schools are expected and, lo and behold, Crecendo, a charter school was found to be cheating. Austin's Green Dot has an API much lower than that of McKinley, yet he claims to reform Mckinley? give me a break. The truth is that he attempted to preempt the reform plans that have been at the school for the past three years before they come to fruition. Of course, once QEIA proves to be a successful reform method the need for charter schools will be less.

THe truth is that Austin lied to the parents and used such lunatics in the media as Fernando Espuelas to push his evil antichild agenda. Once his lies were pointed out by the committed teachers of the school he proceeded to attempt to destroy the integrity of the most dedicated teachers at the school. How perverse! His flunkies the "parent" revolution, many of whom are paid to pose as parents in the schools they attempt to hijack, performed illegal activities such as threatening parents with deportation unless they sign the procharter waiver. Lying to parents claiming it was for beautification and painting the school, harrassing students. Yet, they shamefully come back and raise false testimony accusing the staff of doing exactly what they, PR, did! How shameful! Austin needs not be revered- he needs to be tried for libel and for treason!!!

By the way, the true reason why education is failing is not the teachers. It is that we have too many people without teaching credentials in positions of power. What the hell was Austin, who has no teaching credential doing as part of SBE? As long as jerks as Romero, Schwarzzeneger, Villaraigoza, Austin, Waltons, Gates, Rhee and Broad decide to leave education to the real educators, schools will continue to fail.

Consider this analogy, I know some neurology, but I am not a neurologist. What would happen if I were to be telling a brain surgeon how to operate on a prefrontal cortex? The patient would most likely die! Here we have hundreds of wealthy businessmen who have no teaching experience telling teachers how to do their job and pushing policies that run coutner to good teaching strategies. When their policies fail due to their ignorance, this fools are quick to blame the teacher. THey need to shut up and let teachers do their jobs.

Anonymous said...
@Gabe, unfortunately, I have met Ben. The description of Ben as, in your words, 'a greedy white trying to get rich,' is not far from the truth. Interesting how after working with the guy 'everyday' you would describe your dad, I mean your boss, in that manner. Truth is Gabe, your not very good at what you do--running corporate take-overs is a lot harder than playing politics at UCLA--after spending large sums of money on PR, what have you got to show for it? Oh yeah, a secure job.

sleepyowl61 said...
Exactly why Ben Austin would not tell us WHY Emerson is a failing school. If test scores are only a part of the equation (as he said), then what makes us a failure?

The attack on our school is an attack on our kids and families. Our demographics shouldn't be in 90024. But hey, that can't be the issue because then you'd be a bigot, right? So label us a failure that doesn't do right by our students.

Parents have more opportunities to participate in our school governance and budget processes than most of the Charters and private schools I've seen. And there is no pay to play. We are grassroots, not astroturf. Caroline's stats say it all.


anonymous said...
McKinley Elementary school has a very diverse population of teachers. Many of the teachers grew up in Compton. There are Hispanic, African American, white and Asian teachers. All of the teachers are fully credentialed by the state of California. It is a fairly young and very energetic staff. The teachers voluntarily participate in professional development with UCI Math and Science Project. Many teachers seek and pay for workshops to learn new strategies to help their students. The staff, as a whole, is currently working on becoming National Board Certified (this is a very difficult process and only fifty percent of teachers that apply are certified). Most of the teachers have masters degrees. There are teachers with masters in science, linguistics and education. There are several teachers who have a B-CLAD. The test scores have been rising and continue to rise. This year has been very difficult on the morale of the hardworking staff and the parents that support them. Parent Revolution has actively campaigned against this school and the teachers that work there. The teachers and parents at McKinley do not have the political and media connections to defend this assault. This is an emotionally violent attack on a school and is pitting parents against parents. I can’t imagine that the type of behavior exhibited by this organization (Parent Revolution) would be tolerated in a wealthy suburban community. All parents need to have a voice in their child’s education. The way this was done . . . no one will really every know what McKinley parents want. Some parents weren’t contacted at all. Some believed they were signing a document to help beautify the school or improve the school (not supplant the principal and staff). There are parents that want the charter school and everything that was promised with that charter school. We will never know.

caroline said...
Robert, I was really shocked when I looked up the statistics for Warner Ave. Elementary after seeing Ben Austin praise it as a school worth emulating, and I think its statistics deserve more of a spotlight, as they are so very revealing about Green Dot's ideals. Here I am comparing to LAUSD's statistics.

Latino students
Warner Ave. 5%
LAUSD 73.2%... Read More

Low-income students
Warner Ave. 2.4%
LAUSD 75.9%

English-language learners
Warner Ave. 6.2%
LAUSD 32.1%

African-American students
Warner Ave. 2.1%
LAUSD 10.7%

White students
Warner Ave. 73.6%
LAUSD 8.8%

Asian students
Warner Ave. 18.3%
LAUSD 3.7%

tamara said...
i’m a parent of two kids who attend/ed Emerson, and live two blocks from the school. The “Parent Revolution” employee who came to my door with a petition to have it turned into a charter school was a young, white man with light brown hair.

excellent article. spot on.

i particularly liked Caroline’s telling statistics and Lichen’s “The rich already have their “choice” of private schools–any further privatization just means that most students are caught up in bad, test-oriented schools, run like prisons , where the teachers get paid pennies, there is no pta or school board, or any other system answerable to democracy.”

weilunion says...
Thanks, Robert the public needs to see this tallywhacker for what he really is. A chainsaw for schools.

I hope people will call and write their senators and congress people. Like Duncan, who never taught a blade of grass or Sharpton, who dropped out of Brooklyn Collge, or Gates wh dropped out of university, these men somehow know something about education teachers and students don’t. How could this be?

And the dung like Schwartzenegger who appoints these scurillous bums does so to shore up the charter school race to the slop.

Austin is as inauthetnic as the tests he promotes for students and without going into ad hominems, you make the case well as to why these baseless sycophants, who roam around schools in penny loafers are suffering from what can be only called MCD. Mad Curriculum Disease.

The oligarchs will not come out of their mothballed closets to talk to the public abut their privatization plans for LA schools and California — the plutocrats like philanthro-pirates, Gates, Walton, et. al. so they send out their rhetorical boyish looking prevaricators who wine and dine the corporate press with noble lies and pious frauds.

These people not only are vicious bodyguards for the denuding of education, their gun slinging rhetoric is anti-child, anti-teacher and anti-community.

Best to put them on Megan’s List as serial child molestors and not allow them to get within one hundred feet from a school or anywhere kids play.

In a decent society we wou ld perp walk these malignants to San Quentin but now that it is up for sale along with our schools and Austin and friends are bought, this seems unlikely.

Jerry Brown will have a ruthless educational landscape to dodge when he makes his bid for Governor but since he supports charter schools he should feel quite at home with Austin.

Thanks Robert

Robert D. Skeels said...
I've dedicated my life to providing those you condesendingly refer to as "poor parents" with the tools necessary for self determination and emancipation.

Here's some fun facts for you Anthony

According to the LA Time's mapping project

Ben Austin's neighborhood is 87.5% white and the median household income is $169,282.

Robert D. Skeels' neighborhood is 4.5% white and the median household income is $26,787

You should look up your neighborhood stats and post them here too Mr. Krinsky. I know West LA isn't as affluent as Benedict Canyon, but still.

According to Trulia

Ben Austin's house cost $1,210,000 (1.2 million dollars)

Robert D. Skeels' house cost $194,000 (a little less than Ben makes a year)

Did I mention Ben's neighborhood is 87.5% white?

Unlike Ben Austin and Gloria Romero, who get lavishly paid for increasing corporate charter-voucher school market share, all my work for Coalition of Educational Justice, Community for CRES14, and other organizations is strictly voluntary.

¡La lucha sigue!

Anonymous said...
Loved this part, "In other words, when he gets up in front of the school board and talks about "our schools," and "our kids, our communities, and our collective futures" [1] he's using a very rhetorical our."

Anonymous said...
We are trying to deal with these folks at Mark Twain MS in Venice/Mar Vista. The "Parent Revolution" claims it is not "targeting" our school, but if you check out the web site, you'll see that is a myth. Now that the parents and teachers are speaking, up, Ben Austin is getting a little irritated. This school is not "good enough" for kids of his other Green Dot buddies, and the revolution is on. They've collected over 1,000 signatures, but have admittedly never been to the school, met the teachers, or kids, yet send their reps out to all neighboring schools to explain what makes the place unacceptable for their kids. Too brown, too black? We're not sure, but we will defend our wonderfully diverse students and dedicated teachers as we confront this so called revolution.