Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Stand up for Obama and Clay Middle Schools!

LAUSD continues is top-down reform efforts of pouncing on the will of the community and educators of local schools.

Charter Schools are privatization and are a vehicle for vouchers
Take a stand for Educational Justice.

Stand up for Obama and Clay Middle Schools!

Join the South L.A. Coalition to Defend Public Schools press conference and rally!

We need supporters to attend the press conference on Wednesday, July 27 12pm at Obama Middle School, 1700 West 46th St. (by corner of Vernon & Western).

What: Press Conference and Rally
When: Wednesday, July 27, 2011
Time: 12pm (noon)

Who: All honest people who care about creating more socially just education system. Join the South LA Coalition to Defend Public Schools at this action.
Why: Its time we stand up against Charter Schools and the Top-down education "de-form" efforts. Demand community control of our schools!
Contact: John Parker at johnthompsonparker@gmail.com

LAUSD continues is top-down reform efforts of pouncing on the will of the community and educators of local schools. On June 29th the Principal of Obama Middle School, Veronique Wills, was removed with no consultation with the educators and/or community. Obama is a new campus that was put up for bid during the first round on LAUSD Public School Choice Plan. Through the hard work of teachers, community, and the Local Teachers Union, UTLA, the Obama team wrote a 5-year school-wide plan that was developed on very progressive education ideas and received approval from the reluctant pro-charter School Board majority.

Despite the approval of the school plan, the Local District Superintendent, George McKenna unilaterally and unjustly removed Principal Wills at the end of the first year of the school plan. Principal Wills has built relationships with the surrounding the community and brought in many community groups to work with the school and tried, despite roadblocks from LAUSD and Local Supt. George McKenna, to not only raise test scores, but also develop the "whole child."

At neighboring Clay Middle School, the LAUSD School Board Majority once again, pushing their top down school "de-form" and giveaway agenda, has given away Clay Middle School to Green Dot Charter School Management Company. LAUSD School Board Majority has once again defied the will of the community and educators with this unilateral move and has shown the influence outside charter school companies and other venture philanthropist have on the school board.

LAUSD has shown complete disrespect for the South Central LA community and Educators at both Clay and Obama Middle Schools.

The South LA Coalition to Defend Public Schools demands Clay remain a Public School and the Principal Wills stay at Obama Middle School.


Labor Victory - NFL Players Association!

Congratulations to the NFLPA! How inspiring to see the workers' (players) solidarity win out over the insatiable greed of the NFL owners and bosses. We win when we're united, our rulers win when we're divided.

Let's hope the NBPA will also be able to overcome the plantation mentality of their bosses.

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

Here's the message from the NFL Players Association.

Dear NFL Fan:

The players of the National Football League want to thank you for your support and patience during the lockout. We worked hard to reach a fair agreement and now that the lockout has been lifted, players and fans can enjoy the game they love.

Please find below an exclusive video featuring several of your favorite players thanking you the fan for rallying around them during this tough time.

We encourage you to share the video with other NFL fans that have supported the players during the lockout:

Forward this email to fellow NFL fans and share the video on your Facebook page
Retweet players using #ThankYouFans hashtag and share the video on your Twitter handle telling us how excited you are for the start of the 2011 season
Be sure to "like" the official NFLPA Facebook page for ongoing updates on all your favorite NFL players

Players of the National Football League

Also see Dave Zirin's: Against All Odds: NFL Players Association Emerges From Lockout as Bruised, Battered Victors


Monday, July 25, 2011

Roles and responsibilities of public officials?

The foppish millionaire from Benedict Canyon, school privatization pusher and poverty pimp Ben Austin
Recently, the agents of school privatization have been exposed for their criminal behavior and utter disregard towards the public at large in pursuit of market share and profitability. Their response? On rare occasions they recused themselves from votes or lobbying when the policies that dumped ever more money into their charter school colleagues pockets looked too obvious.

Gloria Romero, Ted Mitchell, and Ben Austin recused themselves as spectacle only, they're master manipulators. It's no secret that their tenures as State Senator in Romero's case and the SBE in Mitchel and Austin's case consisted of boosting lucrative charter market share and nothing else. The constitution of the Freidman worshiping Schwarzenegger's SBE was akin to letting the Environmental Protection Agency be run by petroleum and coal executives — their interests were not those of Californians, but of profit.

Austin had to be told that he was breaking the rules, and his lame excuses about fellow privatizer Ted Mitchell telling him it was okay fall on deaf ears outside of the corporate privatizers. A wealthy Beverly Hills lawyer couldn't figure out simple and straightforward rules for public officials? Right.

Here's the real account of Austin's epic hypocrisy:

Pots, Kettles, and Ben Austin's Unconscionable Hypocrisy

"Parent" Trigger co-author Austin knew he was breaking laws while he lobbied the California State Board of Education

Austin and company are so adverse to the truth that they're making up a new version of how their little Walton Family Foundation funded privatization 501C3 was founded. Yuritzy Anaya recently lied to the Altadena media that Parent Revolution was formed by a group of moms! I guess if Steve Barr and Ryan Smith count as a group of moms, then Anaya would be telling the truth. I suppose privatizers are wholly incapable of telling the truth.


Or should we say Crooks and Liars.


Sunday, July 24, 2011

Schools Matter: "Parent" Trigger co-author Austin knew he was breaking laws while he lobbied the California State Board of Education

'[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. — Caroline Grannan (Journalist, Editor, Educator)

Defend Public Schools from Corporate Charter-Voucher Charlatans like the foppish millionaire from Benedict Canyon, parent trigger pusher Ben Austin
"Parent" Trigger co-author Austin knew he was breaking laws while he lobbied the California State Board of Education, my latest Schools Matter piece, contains incontrovertible evidence that criminal mastermind Ben Austin, of the Walton, Broad, and Gates Foundation funded astroturf charter school proxy group Parent Revolution, illegally and unethically influenced the passage of the so-called Parent Empowerment Act (aka parent trigger) law while it was being considered at the California State Board of Education (SBE). The letter from the SBE is dated March 30, 2011, which means Austin was making personal appearances for three months unabated, and even after the admonishment for his lawlessness, sent his lieutenants and Walton Family Foundation sponsored busloads of duped parents to the SBE.

Although the State Board warned Austin that his actions were in violation, he and his group were able to circumvent democracy and get their charter school market share growing legislation pushed through the SBE. The SBE letter vindicates my informed accusations of Austin's malfeasance in Pots, Kettles, and Ben Austin's Unconscionable Hypocrisy.

Published 2011-07-23 on Schools Matter, please read it there and share widely.


The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting for Superman Sneak Peek

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

We are trying to organize a public screening of "The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting for Superman" in Echo Parque. The event is to be hosted by local groups. We're most likely going to show the film at the Echo Park Film Center, but haven't chosen a date as of yet. Our intention is to find a date in late August or early September.

"The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting for Superman" was created in response to the mendacious charter school propaganda film created by Davis Guggenheim with funds from Philip Anschutz and Bill Gates. It counterposes social justice solutions to the corporate reforms proffered by those supporting the charter industry.

As an added bonus, the filmmakers held a lottery when distributing the film for public showings. The prize was a call from Professor Diane Ravitch, which our community won. Our intention is to have Dr. Ravitch on speaker phone or skype following the film.


How standardized testing is being expanded

Washington Post "Answer Sheet" Blog — June 27, 2011 By Lisa Guisbond, FairTest

Parents, teachers, and students: Raise your hands if you think what our schools need is more new tests and a greater emphasis on testing. If not, listen up, because this is exactly what our students and teachers face because of the reactions of Massachusetts, Maryland, Virgina, New York, North Carolina and other state policy makers to the federal Race to the Top (RTTT) program. These states have all marched to the RTTT beat, quickly passing laws that, among other things, insist that teacher evaluations must be linked to student outcomes.

Now we are seeing all the devilish details emerge, as state departments of education devise the regulations for how school districts must march to the RTTT beat.

In Maryland, for example, the Council for Educator Effectiveness voted to tie 50 percent of each assessment to student growth on standardized exams, despite vehement objections from teachers on the panel. Similar battles have erupted in New York and Charlotte, N.C., over proposed teacher evaluation systems that rely heavily on student test scores and use flawed methods to judge teacher quality.

Massachusetts’ proposed teacher evaluation system is scheduled for a vote on Tuesday by the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education. But a group of educators and analysts assembled by the National Center for Fair & Open Testing (FairTest) examined the proposal and concluded it is deeply flawed and should not be approved.

The recently released FairTest report, "Flawed Massachusetts Teacher Evaluation Proposal Risks Further Damage to Teaching and Learning" criticizes the state" proposal for five major flaws:
  • It will require districts to use state test results (Massachusetts’ test is called the Massachussetts Comprehensive Assessment System, or MCAS) to judge educators.
  • It will require districts to evaluate every teacher in every grade and subject with two "assessments" each academic year, forcing districts to make or purchase dozens of new tests at a time of drastic cutbacks and layoffs.
  • It relies on a pseudo-scientific "growth" or "value-added" measures that are unable to distinguish good teachers from bad, according to researchers affiliated with the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences.
  • It will increase pressure to teach to low-level tests, drive good teachers away from working where they are most needed, and damage the learning environment by forcing teachers to "compete" for high-scoring students.

A working group of educators and analysts from the elementary, high school and university levels collaborated on the report. We wanted to be sure that parents and others understand the potential negative impact of these proposals. If adopted, our over-tested students would have to take even more narrow and low-quality standardized exams, when there are already too many tests taking time from learning.

Mitchell Chester, the Massachusetts education commissioner, says the new system will be "objective" and "scientific" — partly because they always define tests as "objective," but also because they want to claim that "value added" or "growth" models are "scientific." However, research shows these models are no better than a coin toss at sorting good teachers from bad.

This system is opposed to the approaches taken by the nations whose school systems are praised for their equity and excellence. Among the most striking features of successful nations such as Finland and Singapore are their professional recruitment, development, support and support, as well as the pay and respect given to teachers. They don’t use tests to judge schools or teachers. Sadly, this sets them apart from our own country.

A focus on tests will undermine much of the most important work that teachers do. Good teachers do not simply convey information. They identify the diverse needs of their students, engage student interests and build students’ confidence. They also help develop team interaction and cooperation, while challenging and assisting students to overcome barriers. Unfortunately, the Department" proposal is likely to rupture the essential relationships between teachers and students that make this work possible.

We need not reinvent the wheel. Comprehensive, high-quality teacher evaluation systems already exist and are used in many schools and districts. A recent story in The New York Times praises Montgomery County, Maryland" system, which does not use student scores at all. The problem is not the lack of good models, but the lack of resources, time, training, and focus needed to implement them.

Teacher evaluation should be used to provide assistance where needed, and to recognize talented teachers who can lead and mentor their peers. Where necessary, a system should play a role in removing teachers who are clearly not effective. Proposals like the one in Massachusetts fail these tests.

This was written by Lisa Guisbond, a policy analyst for the nonprofit National Center for Fair & Open Testing, known as FairTest. The report, Flawed Massachusetts Teacher Evaluation Proposal Risks Further Damage to Teaching and Learning, is available here.


Friday, July 22, 2011

Pots, Kettles, and Ben Austin's Unconscionable Hypocrisy

First published in Schools Matter on 2011-07-18

There's nothing the matter with teachers that a little less unionization and more COMPETITION couldn't cure. — Ann Coulter (racist reactionary right wing pundit)

It would force the district to learn how to run great schools by forcing them to COMPETE. — Ben Austin (Executive Director LAPU/Parent Revolution)

The foppish millionaire from Benedict Canyon, school privatization pusher and poverty pimp Ben Austin
Few people are more despicable than Ben Austin, Executive Director of the so-called Parent Revolution (née Los Angeles Parents Union - LAPU) school privatization junta. After all, anyone mendacious enough to claim they're a parent with children enrolled in school when they have no school age children is lacking of any scruples. [1] Moreover, a man who can walk into impoverished neighborhoods like Boyle Heights or Compton and tell parents "I'm just like you" when he has chosen to live in a community that's "87.5% white and has a median household income is $169,282" goes beyond being amoral, he's downright immoral.

Of course Austin's ongoing campaign of dishonesty and pressing scorched earth policies for public education have made him more than just a pariah in Los Angeles. He and profiteering organization recently joined the ranks of fellow reactionaries like Donald Rumsfeld, George W. Bush, Glen Beck, Dick Cheney, Rush Limbaugh, and Ann Coulter on the world famous "Crooks and Liars" website.

Public education advocates like myself have been following the Green Dot Public [sic] Schools' LAPU/Parent Revolution spinoff since its inception, and have beem following the vile Ben Austin since he first took [2] the helm of the privatization pushing organization. We've seen them do cynical things like having their well to do white male Deputy Director Gabe Rose pose as a Compton parent in order to deceive real Compton parents. We've heard parents from Garfield High School tell us paid organizer Mary Najera used to go monolingual Spanish church services with English only petitions and tell unwitting parents to sign the petition if they wanted their children to go to college — those petitions were actually to turn Garfield over to the Green Dot corporate charter chain. The list of Austin and his organization's lies, deceit, and duplicity goes on and on, and one would think that there's no lower depths that they could plumb.

They've found a way to sink lower.

A couple weeks ago, in preparation for last week, when the California State Board of Education (SBE) was about to vote on revisions to the deceptively named "Parent Empowerment Act," right wing reactionary "parents" Lydia Grant, Bruce Wasson, Monica Jones, and Carolynn Martin, with pro-bono legal support from the "Parent Revolution's" deep pocketed plutocrat backers, filed an ethics complaint against SBE member Patricia Rucker. Their claim? They stated that Rucker's employment with the California Teachers Association constituted a conflict of interest and that they would only drop their charges if Rucker would recuse herself on voting on the privatization regulations.

One wonders where these parents were when Parent Revolution's foppish millionaire leader was sitting on the selfsame board, voting on the very same regulations, but the hypocrisy of these "parents" and their "revolution" goes much deeper than that.

Kettles and Caldrons

Let's look at the first "parent" on the list of privatization plaintiffs against Ms. Rucker, the loathsome and imposing [3] Lydia Grant. The one thing all the mainstream (read corporate) media left out regarding Grant is that she is a long time board member of the so-called Parent Revolution. Yet she can speak about conflicts of interest. Aside from being nearly as detestable, Grant shares another quality with Ben Austin — she too has no children currently enrolled in the school she is attacking. Libertarian Grant is also a follower of right wing libertarian Ron Kaye and is a member of his "SLAP" project.

The loathsome and imposing Lydia Grant, volunteer poverty pimp and privatization pusher.
Grant's claim to fame is that she turned a personal beef with Los Angeles Unified School District's (LAUSD) Mount Gleason Middle School's principal into a festering vindictive campaign to oust them. She began signature gathering with Austin's blessings to have the principal removed. Of all the Sunland/Tujunga area parents I spoke with that knew of Grant, only one sympathized with her, and the rest described her as a pariah that browbeat many parents into signing petitions with her overbearing and abrasive personality.

My one encounter with the snarling, mean spirited Grant was outside the Beaudry Building at a LAUSD meeting where she was accosting and haranguing hardworking teachers. The woman's seemingly sociopathic resentments run deep, and I was somewhat taken aback listening to her bark at anyone not wearing the blue t-shirts identifying themselves as members of the reactionary school privatization groups Families That Can and Parent Revolution. I took these photos of her at that event, and even at that proximity I couldn't believe the vitriol spilling out of her mouth. Grant will be the subject of an upcoming article when time permits.

Parent activist Scott M. Folsom, whose popular 4LAKids blogs chronicle all things LAUSD, had the following to say about Grant being on the list of plaintiffs at the behest of her puppet-master Austin:

smf: One of the "four California parents", Lydia Grant, was the Parent Revolution Community Organizer of the Month for Oct 2010.

Parent Revolutionary-in-chief, PR Executive Director, Parent Trigger author, former Green Dot and Mayor Riordan staffer Ben Austin (whose 'day job' is Assistant LA City Attorney @ $119K per year) was removed from the State Board of Ed (Can you say 'Conflict of Interest?') in Brown's ascendency. Austin lobbied for the Parent Trigger Law in the State Board of Ed and also in the legislature.

But, hey - it's not personal!

Pots, Kettles, and Brewing Free Market Fantasies

Next, let's consider that when the reactionary Milton Friedman worshiping former Governor of California wanted a way to help his good friend and fellow charlatan Jed Wallace, of the California Charter Schools Association (CCSA), increase market share with as little resistance as possible, he brought in two well known neoliberal opponents of public education: former State Senator and current Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) California Director Gloria Romero, and Ben Austin of Green Dot's LAPU/Parent Revolution. In what was a perfect storm of Rand/Friedman ideologies, neoliberal principles, naked opportunism, greed, Heartland Institute and Hoover Institution fantasies, and lucrative charter market share grabs, Schwarzenegger, Austin, and Romero crafted a vile piece of legislation that became colloquially known as the "parent trigger." The law allows for well financed charter-voucher advocacy groups, like say, Parent Revolution, to drop into impoverished neighborhoods to bamboozle, browbeat, and bribe a bare majority (ie. fifty percent, plus one) of parents from the school in question, and/or the feeder schools [5] into "triggering" one of the four punitive provisions from Rod Paige and arch-reactionary George W. Bush's No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law. Of course the only provision Schwarzenegger, Austin, and Romero were ever interested in is the charter conversion clause, in which publicly financed schools are handed over to privately run corporations. The law could be most appropriately referred to as the corporate charter trigger, as it has nothing to do with empowering parents.

For his enthusiastic participation in co-authoring the charter market share growing law, Austin was granted a seat on Schwarzenegger's hand picked SBE, which was already stacked with charter school executives, vendors, and other profiteers. Austin, as a highly paid spokesperson for the charter-voucher industry, was a perfect fit, and his job was to insure that the so-called Parent Empower Act be implemented without a hitch, and that both market share and profitable side enterprises of the lucrative charter sector grew to satisfy their investors. Austin was all at once, the bill's author, biggest advocate on the SBE, and the sole stewart of how the regulations were being written, and rest assured he was making them as friendly to charter advocacy groups like his own as he could. There were no cries of conflict of interest then. No astroturf "parents" lodging complaints. No accusations in the mainstream press of ethics violations. No cacophony calling for Austin to recuse himself from the proceedings.

Austin knows a quite a bit about conflicts of interest and ethics violations, he was under investigation by the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission (Case # 2010-36) when he was collecting a check at the City Attorney Office while being a full time charter school advocate (and part time Green Dot Employee) at Los Angeles Parents Union (aka Parent Revolution). He was also using his connections to host closed meetings with his political connections garnered from his City job, like with Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

But Austin's own myriad conflicts of interest and ethics violations while on the SBE pale in comparison to his recent transgression. His hypocritical and self serving attacks on Patrica Rucker will look at the more reprehensible in the following section.

Pots Calling the Kettle Black, Austin Illegally Lobbied the SBE

In early March of 2011 an activist showed me footage of Ben Austin speaking at the SBE on behalf of the charter trigger legislation. Bear in mind that by March, Austin and several other of Schwarzenegger's fringe right wing appointees had been swept from the Board by the incoming Governor, and while many charter-voucher industry profiteers remain — like the reprehensible Yvonne Chan — a few of the most egregious members are gone. I knew that former Board members were barred from lobbying at the Board for a period of time, although I thought the span was twenty four months. Astonished that Austin would be so brazen to flout the law and regulations in such a high profile forum, I immediately contacted the State Board of Education and spoke with then employee Regina Wilson.

Wilson confirmed that Austin had indeed spoken and lobbied at the SBE after he had been officially removed from the board. She also informed me that the period they weren't allowed to appear at the Board to lobby was twelve months, rather than what I thought, and that Austin had certainly violated the rules. I told Ms. Wilson I was working on a story, and asked her to get back to me on a few other questions I had, including: "were the other Board members aware of the regulations regarding former Board members lobbying?"

I waited a week for Wilson and called her again, she said she gathering information and would get back to me. I then went on holiday with my wife to visit her family in Korea. When I returned from Daegu, I called Wilson, but was greeted with an answering machine informing me that she was no longer with the SBE [6] and to contact a Ms. Carol Gorman. I called Gorman, discussed the situation with her and was told to expect a call back. There was no call back. After leaving several voicemails, I grew wary of carrying out my investigation verbally and sent Gorman an email on June 10, 2011. Following is her response that contains my original email:

Dear Mr. Skeels:

I am in receipt of your email of this date, and have forwarded it to the attention of our Deputy Executive Director, Patricia de Cos, for her review. Thank you for your patience in this matter.


Carol K. Gorman
Executive Assistant
California State Board of Education
1430 N Street, Suite 5111
Sacramento, CA 95814
916-319-0705 Direct
916-319-0175 Fax

-----Original Message-----
From: Robert D. Skeels [mailto:rdsathene@sbcglobal.net]
Sent: Friday, June 10, 2011 3:54 PM
To: Carol Gorman
Cc: Superintendent ; Rebecca MacLaren
Subject: Ben Austin at SBE meetings before 12 months completed
Importance: High

Ms. Gorman:

I've spoken with you on the phone and left multiple voice mails about this issue. I was in contact with former SBE employee Regina Wilson prior to that.

I am a freelance education writer in Los Angeles. I have seen video footage of former SBE member Ben Austin speaking at the board in February or March of this year. I am aware of the rule prohibiting former SBE members from lobbying at the SBE for 12 months.

My questions still remain. Are the SBE members aware that Mr. Austin has broken these rules. Will there be disciplinary measure brought against Mr. Austin.

I am about to publish my article about the incident and have expended due diligence trying to obtain answers from the State board of Education. At this point, and I hate to say this, it seem like a cover up. I was hoping a Governor Brown appointed board with be less opaque than that of our reactionary former Governor. Sadly, this doesn't seem to be the case.

Mr. Austin has violated ethics, and perhaps even the law in what he did. He should be held accountable for his vile actions.

Advocating public education and social justice

Robert D. Skeels

Note she uses the phrase "email of this date," as if that was our first communication, despite having spoken on the phone with me. There's still been no word from Ms. Gorman although I wrote her again on July 8, 2011 requesting a status on the above email.

Ms. Gorman:

Now that Mr. Austin and company have attacked SBE Board Member Rucker, it's imperative that his and his own organization's clear conflicts of interest and violation of SBE rules be brought to light.

It's unfortunate that the SBE is seemingly stonewalling my efforts to expose Austin's malfeasance, and I am somewhat taken aback by the intransigence of the board regarding this matter. Does Mr. Austin still have this much influence that this entire affair is being swept under the rug? I'm of of the mind to publish all of our correspondence publicly if there is no response on this.

Robert D. Skeels

Clearly a cover up is taking place. The Board is not only well aware that Ben Austin has violated the rules, but seem oblivious that his connections to the well financed charter voucher industry and their plutocrat backers provide him with immunity to consequences for his actions. Meanwhile he sicks his dogs on current SBE members like Patrica Rucker with impunity. Moreover the SBE members are still clearly pawns of the deep pocket charter school sector as evidenced by SBE President Michael Kirst's disgusting pro-privatization comments during last week's vote to ratify the clean up of the corporate charter trigger law deceptively named Parent Empowerment Act.

The hypocrisy of Ben Austin and his school privation organization claiming Rucker has a conflict of interest is staggering. I like to fancy myself an aspiring wordsmith, but lack the vocabulary to describe the scope of this reprehensible, repugnant, and revolting incident in the light of Austin's ongoing unconscionable behavior. The charter industry has a real gem in Austin, since no lie is unspeakable and no scruples are necessary in his orbit. Like I said in my email above "Mr. Austin has violated ethics, and perhaps even the law in what he did. He should be held accountable for his vile actions."

The only way we can stop these crooks and charlatans is to continue real, grass roots parent and community organizing. They have dozens of paid charter drive "organizers" in the field preying on parents looking for answers to systemic problems. We need to expose the Ben Austins, Gabe Roses, and Pat DeTemples for the reactionary agents of privatization they are. We need to point out that the narrative of parents versus teachers has been forced on us by the same Wall Street hucksters who just swindled us all, and are now tricking us into blaming each other. The real battle is communities versus corporations, but as long as charlatans like Ben Austin and Scott Walker push working people into blaming other working people, the longer the corporations will continue to win.

[1] Austin's eldest child, already a preschooler, will probably be starting Kindergarden this fall. Listening to Austin's perfidious rhetoric would lead one to think that she's been enrolled for over decade.

[2] By all accounts Austin first took a consulting position (paying $94,475) with LAPU quite unwillingly, and only after persistent persuasion by his close friend the businessman Marco Petruzzi. Once Austin recognized how lucrative and politically expedient it was to be working for the Broad/Gates/Walton Triumvirate did he, ever the opportunist, agree to take the Executive Director position. Petruzzi is still on the Parent Revolution Board, having ousted Steve Barr from both the organizations Barr founded.

[3] One Tujunga/Sunland area parent I spoke with called Grant "girthsome" and made several other rotund references, but I felt it more appropriate to use the word imposing despite the chance to use my favorite literary devices to follow loathsome.

[4] Green Dot Charter Corporation and Parent Revolution didn't break ties until the Summer of 2010. Until then Green Dot paid LAPU/Parent Revolution's rent and many other expenses. They were still receiving money from the Broad/Gates/Walton Triumvirate, but not nearly as much as they do now. To wit, the bigots comprising the Walton Family Foundation dumped a half a million into Austin's school privatization efforts last year.

[5] "Feeder" schools comprise the school from which the next classes of students at a school will potentially come from. In the example of a middle school, all the attendance boundary elementary schools would be considered its feeder schools. Never mind the fact that those families may move, choose to send their kids to parochial, charter or other private schools, their signatures are as good as gold under the so-called Parent Empowerment Act. Inequitable and unfair that a community's public school could be turned over to a private corporation with only a tiny minority of the community making the decisions? Sure, but the law was to build charter school market share, not empower parents or communities in any way.

[6] So that the rest of the press can reluctantly (given their aversion to public schools and love affair with the profiteers in the charter sector) verify my story, the number I was using to contact Regina Wilson (916) 319-0693. Now that number has a message that says "I'm no longer with the State Board of Education, if you need assistance please call Carol Gorman at (916) 319-0705.


Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Open Letter to Danielle Katzir of Parent Revolution and Green Dot Charter Schools

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

Parent Revolution are reactionary agents of neoliberalsim and school privatization
Gabe Rose, Deputy Director Parent Revolution aka McKinley Parents for Change
From: "Robert D. Skeels"
Date: February 07, 2011 15:03:33 PST
To: Danielle Katzir
Cc: info@parentrevolution.org, pdetemple@parentrevolution.org, Shirley Ford , Marco Petruzzi , Jed Wallace , mayor@lacity.org, Gloria Romero
Subject: Follow up questions, plus Gibson Crutcher Dunn representing Wal-Mart?

Ms. Katzir:

I'm a little perplexed as to why you haven't answered my calls and emails. I want you to know that several journalists and I saved copies of your Gibson Dunn bio page before you conveniently removed the portion that listed you as a member of LAPU/Parent Revolution's board. I can send you a copy if you'd like for nostalgia.

My original line of questioning was going to be regarding that situation. However, another journalist sent me the following today.

I learned from a New Yorker article (read on today's flight to NYC to see Diane Ravitch) that Gibson Crutcher Dunn, one of the law firms repping Parent Revolution, represents Wal-Mart in contesting an OSHA charge over employee crushed to death in that Black Friday stampede on Long Island. Wal-Mart money funds Parent Revolution. Coincidence?

Given how reactionary right-wingers Messrs. Austin and Rose keep harping on Littler Mendelson’s less than stelar record with labor, I wanted to see if any of you could justify that in the light on this development. It doesn't get any more anti-labor than Wal-Mart (or misogynistic, or racist for that mater), mot to mention their well known use of child labor. It goes without saying of course, that Austin only thought he had the high ground in that regard.

This is my third attempt to reach you for comment. I don't like publishing articles without balanced quotes from both sides, but my experience has shown that right wing sources, like your firm and your client, don't like to be questioned by the social justice media. You can rest assured that there will be a lengthy article about you and your involvement with Austin's vile organization published soon. The question is, do you want to defend your position?

I look forward to hearing from you and discussing these questions at length.

Advocating Public Education
Robert D. Skeels

PS. perhaps you're not familiar with social justice journalism. It looks like this.


Tomorrow: Echo Park Moms 4 Education on KPFK 90.7 FM

"You are playing with the lives of children — not cars, not bicycles." — The Honorable Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte (LAUSD District 1)

Politics Or Pedagogy with John Cromshow
Next show is Thursday, July 21, 2011 at 8 PM*

Echo Park Moms 4 Education once again provide an another exciting example of genuine parent activism, not the kind that is funded by the nefarious Broad, Gates, or Walton Foundations like the wholly astroturf Parent Revolution or Families That Can charter proxy groups.

Here's the announcement of their upcoming radio appearance by our very own long time educator and activist Cheryl Ortega:

Tomorrow on "Politics or Pedagogy" John Cromshow will be speaking with Echo Park activist parents Windy O'Malley, Kim Pesenti and Eva Rivas and me about the board giveaway of CRES 14 to Camino Nuevo. Windy was the mom that Nury publicly denounced as a racist. When I listened to the "Beautiful Struggle" interview last night, it hit me again how similar are all the giveaway stories. CRES 14 is a new school and Clay is an already-existing school, but they were both thrown over to charters in spite of parent/community wishes. Please do listen and call in. — Cheryl Ortega

Photo Credit: HJ Ralston. Echo Park Moms for Education led the fight to keep the only democratic and public portion of the PSC privatization process -- the Advisory Vote.
For full coverage of LAUSD Board Member Nury Martinez's unconscionable accosting of an activist mother from our community who had the courage to speak truth to power see: A Mother's message to LAUSD Trustee Nury Martinez.

Our struggles to have had our publicly financed CRES #14 become a public school are well documented. While the privatization junta of Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) thought that their underhanded decision would end all community activism in the Echo Parque/Historic Filipinotown area, it only served to strengthen our resolve. Possible topics for tomorrow's discussion could include the giveaway of CRES #14, the killing of democratic Parent Advisory Vote in the PSC privatization process, the Board's unwillingness to listen to community and parents, and future local education activism opportunities.

Ms. Ortega's comparison of our community's and the Clay community's struggles against privatization and takeover by private charter corporations is very profound. She mentions the recent "Beautiful Struggle" program featuring Clay activists and The Honorable Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte, which further showed how our communities are ignored by LAUSD in favor of corporations. My favorite quote is when Ms. LaMotte calls the give away of Clay MS to the deep pocketed Green Dot Corporation "racist and discriminatory." To download a podcast of the show: Beautiful Struggle Tuesday, July 19, 2011 7:00 pm.

Please listen to our local mothers tomorrow and call in to support them! Please consider joining Echo Park Moms 4 Education and/or the local Coalition for Educational Justice to help strengthen our community's voice.

* The program is on air Third Thursdays of the month at 8 PM.


Monday, July 18, 2011

Open note to Jim Newton regarding his July 18, 2011 Los Angeles Times Op-Ed

"When you have total control over the media and the educational system and scholarship is conformist, you can get that across." — Professor Noam Chomsky (Media Control)

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.
Mr. Newton:

I'm not a member of UTLA or any union for that matter, but I find your constant vilification of UTLA offensive and caustic. You come off as nothing more than a shill for the lucrative charter-voucher industry, and your prose reads as yellow journalism of the worse kind. I've written about your shameful defense of the vile Ben Austin in the past, but your recent disgusting op-ed smearing UTLA and public education deserves attention as well. It's disconcerting to see you use your high media profile to push reactionary ideas and serve as a spokesperson for school privatization. You should be ashamed of yourself.

Advocating public education and social justice

Robert D. Skeels

Candidate District 2 LAUSD Board Seat 2013


Friday, July 15, 2011

A reader speaks out on CNCA Corporation's Shannon Leonard's questionable credentials

I pressed the issue and asked, "so was [Mr. Leonard] a professor of education?" LMU's Director of Communications and Media retorted, "No, he was part time faculty."

Slide featuring Shannon Leonard's credentials. The last line mentioning he was a
The essay Camino Nuevo Corporation: A Little Less Than Honest Again? on EchoParkPatch demonstrated again that the well paid business executives running the corporate charter have little respect for the truth, and even less respect for our community. Catching Camino Nuevo Charter Academy Corporation in yet another lie precipitated much feedback, mostly positive, although several right wing privatization fanatics were angry that ordinary people were paying attention to corporate malfeasance.

However, one reader went further and actually did more research than anyone on Mr. Leonard's highly suspect resume. I feel it's worth reproducing here.

I read your blurb about Shannon Leonard, and did a little cyber-digging and found this:
"Shannon Leonard '01 selected for Echo Park's new school" Experienced educator Shannon Leonard has been selected to lead Echo Park's new school, Central Region Elementary School (CRES) #14."
it's at William & Mary's alumni page: https://www.wmalumni.com/?alumninews
My point is... this means that, as an 2001 B.A. Graduate of William & Mary, he should be, at most, 31-32 years of age (i.e. he turn 32 in calendar year 2011);
Now, it's a stretch to believe that he has done all of  the following since graduating from William & Mary in May 2001:
  • Received 1 Master's Degree from UCLA;
  • Received a 2nd Master's degree from Loyola Marymount;
  • Earned "his California administrative credential from UCLA’s Principal Leadership Institute" (from the Camino Nuevo website... also someone else posted skepticism about the "UCLA's Principal Leadership Institute")
  • Then worked "a distinguished educator with over ten years (!!!) of experience as both a teacher and a leader in urban and international school settings." (from the Camino Nuevo website.)
  • Worked as a "Professor in Loyola Marymount's Department of Education"

Wow!!! That's a busy ten years!!!

Busy is an understatement, clearly when CNCA Corporation's public relations people were making his resume up, no one had the presence of mind to do the math and see if it added up. Perhaps the reactionary right wing M.V. person that claims that they will "support [Leonard] in any way possible" can explain how someone can have over ten years experience teaching when they have only been a graduate themselves for ten years. It's astonishing that CNCA can get away with such perfidy.

There's lying, and then there's mendaciousness that's nothing short of duplicitous. CNCA Corporation seems to have created a pervasive culture of the latter. No wonder, since their COO Hoa Truong is a graduate of the vile Broad Residency in Urban Education.

My recent Schools Matter piece Los Angeles privatization pushers take second biggest slice of reactionary Walton pie addresses the smug and sullen MBA Truong's Broadyte influence on CNCA Corporation:

Sure enough, in practice CNCA's principles and actions reflect that of their funders. Remember this tidbit from the Broad Residency FAQ:

[P]rivate sector experience is important because there are business best practices which can improve the way the education organizations are operated.

I'm always wondering which of the three core business practices (lying, cheating, and stealing) Broadytes are referring to. Well in this case it's lying.

Given the magnitude and the scope of all the things CNCA Corporation has been dishonest about to this point, we should all have grave concerns about all of their dealings. Every community deserves better than to have corporate charlatans running their schools, but fighting the groundswell of lucrative charter-voucher organizations out to profit off the public commons will take organizing and struggle on a much greater scale than we've seen so far.


Thursday, July 14, 2011

EchoParkPatch: A Mother's message to LAUSD Trustee Nury Martinez

"If there's one thing I hope comes out of this is that Ms. Martinez thinks about the incident and reflects upon how she and the other board members ignored our community's voices throughout the entire process." — Windy Anne Bunts O'Malley

What this was about was silencing any dissent against the lucrative privatization of our public schools, and the filtering out any parents or community members that actually represent their constituent communities instead of well funded astroturf 501C3 groups.
A Mother's message to LAUSD Trustee Nury Martinez contains my interview with Windy O'Malley, the local mother who was wrongly and viciously accosted by LAUSD Trustee Nury Martinez at the March 25, 2011 School Board Meeting. Following the interview is analysis of how Martinez was sidestepping issues of removing democracy and ignoring community voices.

The incident further exposes the so-called Public School Choice (PSC) resolution as the farce it is. PSC has always been about privatization, never about "choice" or to respond to communities. We also see in the essay how right wing privatization 501C3 groups, like the vile Families That Can, have unfettered access to LAUSD's halls of power, while actual parents and community members are entirely shut out. Here's a quote from the essay addressing why Martinez was so quick to hurl the hurtful accusations.

What this was about was silencing any dissent against the lucrative privatization of our public schools, and the filtering out any parents or community members that actually represent their constituent communities instead of well funded astroturf 501C3 groups.

Ultimately, Ms. Martinez should consider stepping down from the LAUSD board after she showed that she has nothing but contempt for parents and community members. Sadly, since LAUSD's Board currently serves the interests of plutocrats instead of constituents, she'll be around at least until the end of her term.

Published on EchoParkPatch, please read it there and share widely.


Schools Matter: Los Angeles privatization pushers take second biggest slice of reactionary Walton pie

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

In the long run, charter schools are being strategically used to pave the way for vouchers. - Jonathan Kozol
In Los Angeles privatization pushers take second biggest slice of reactionary Walton pie I take the Valerie Strauss piece discussing where and how funds from the arch-reactionaries of the Walton Family Foundation were divvied out to various entities engaged in the privatization of public education, and put the spotlight on egregious local offenders.

The list includes: Camino Nuevo Charter Academy, Parent Revolution (née Los Angeles Parents Union), Green Dot Public Schools, California Charter Schools Association, and Inner City Education Foundtion.

My favorite quote:

[C]orporate charter chain Camino Nuevo Charter Academy (CNCA), which claims that it wants its students to become "agents of social justice with sensitivity toward the world around them" is on this list. Camino Nuevo Elementary School #3 got $250,000 from the right wing extremists at the Walton Family Foundation who also fund anti-gay, anti-female, anti-union, and a host of other reactionary causes and organizations. Seems to me that you can't teach the principles of social justice if you're taking money from organizations whose entire purpose is to perpetuate and exacerbate injustice.

Published on Schools Matter, please read it there and share widely.


EchoParkPatch: Camino Nuevo Corporation: A Little Less Than Honest Again?

"[Camino Nuevo Charter Academy Corporation]'s board is UNELECTED by the public and composed exclusively of investment management executives, high powered lawyers, and other wealthy business types. Not one of them is an actual educator, and none of them have been teachers or principals in a K-12 setting. Furthermore, not one of them lives in Echo Park or Historic Filipinotown." — Robert D. Skeels

Slide featuring Shannon Leonard's credentials. The last line mentioning he was a
Camino Nuevo Corporation: A Little Less Than Honest Again? is my report back from the final meeting held by Camino Nuevo Charter Corporation at Union Avenue School reveals very serious resume padding for Shannon Leonard, CNCA's new Principal of CRES #14. Most importantly we photographed a slide featuring Shannon Leonard's "credentials." The last line mentioning he was a "Professor at LMU's School of Education" is wholly untrue as per officials at Loyola Marymount University's School of Education. Turns out that claim was an out and out lie. If CNCA Corporation can't be honest about things like that, what can they be honest about?

Published on EchoParkPatch, please read it there and share widely.