Thursday, September 29, 2011

Special Event - Punishing our Future: School Discipline in Los Angeles

"While KIPP schools ostensibly claim that college acceptance for all students is their primary goal, the principles and practices that undergird their mission are founded upon capitalistic and militaristic ideals that run counter to the ideals of democratic education... By subscribing to a dictum of no excuses, KIPP essentially puts the onus on the victims of poverty and institutional racism. This clearly conveys the fallacy to urban students that failure in this society will solely be a reflection of not working long and hard enough, or simply not complying with rules set by those with authority." — Brian Lack

I'm attending this event next week. I'm not too familiar with the organizations holding it, but anyone questioning the outrageous and racist disciplinary systems proffered by the corporate education reform camp is worth checking out. Go to the event site for full details on this panel and the speakers.

Punishing our Future: School Discipline in Los Angeles
Special Panel - Punishing our Future: School Discipline in Los Angeles
Texas suspension and expulsion rates are no longer a secret to most, but in California, almost 800,000 suspensions and expulsions are administered each year, approximately doubling Texas’s rates. In Los Angeles alone, these extreme policies are proving to be all too common for nonviolent offenses, like being tardy to school, which historically would have warranted a trip to the principal’s office at most. More alarmingly, research indicates that resulting student absenteeism can be used to forecast school dropout rates with chilling accuracy, causing a spiral of negative consequences with lifelong repercussions for affected youth, their families, and our communities.

In an effort to explore how we can return to common sense alternatives instead of current disciplinary measures, CenterScene Public Programs invites you to an evening of surveying the advocacy, policy, and social justice work being done around school discipline. Moderated by journalist and author of Lockdown High, Annette Fuentes, panelists will demystify school discipline jargon, examine the implementation of Zero Tolerance policies, and tackle the issue of school bullying to highlight the nuances of school discipline and student safety today.

Join us Wednesday, October 5, 2011 for an evening discussion with those at the forefront of reshaping a more just school discipline landscape. 


Saturday, September 24, 2011

Dissident Voice: Lying to Mother Jones

The Compton experience and others across the country reflect parents' real frustrations with their schools. However, the four trigger choices don’t address much of what upsets parents most—lack of attention from teachers, canceled programs, old textbooks and learning materials, and poor, rundown facilities. In short, the trigger solution seeks changes in governance and organizational structure without addressing key problems ailing struggling schools. — UCLA IDEA

Defend Public Schools from Corporate Charter-Voucher Charlatans like the foppish millionaire from Benedict Canyon, parent trigger pusher Ben Austin
Pointing out Ben Austin's egregious lies is quickly becoming a full time job, since the mendacious man can't seem to open his mouth without uttering falsehoods. Here we catch him making a statement about his funders that completely contradicts the statements his funders make. That's the great things about corporate education reform, truth is always subservient to profits, and hired spokeslawyer Ben Austin never forgets that. See my latest short essay entitled Lying to Mother Jones for more.

Published 2011-09-24 on Dissident Voice, please read it there and share widely.


Schools Matter: John Deasy's Queen Antoinette moment: "let them eat ebooks"

First published on Schools Matter on September 24, 2011

"Right now, only higher-income readers can afford ebook readers and ebooks." — Dr. Stephen Krashen

Plutocratic priest of privatization LAUSD Superintendent John DeasyOn September 14, 2011 former Gates Foundation executive and Broad Superintendents Academy graduate John Deasy gave a much ballyhooed speech at Occidental College. While I may have time in the future to critique his mendacious stream of business-speak, which amounted to a clever corporate couching of school privatization in the language of "civil rights," it was his aloof response to an attendee's pertinent question on school libraries that deserves an immediate response. Here's a quote from an attendee who endured Deasy's verbal assault on public education:

"[O]ne of Rosemary's questions about his shutting school libraries got through. He said libraries would be irrelevant soon as books will move to electronic format. This was after he lamented about the plight of a homeless student living in a tent. I kid you not. I guess the kid in the tent will have to access books on the $800 I-Pad he can't afford."

A pointed and poignant question indeed to Los Angeles Unified School District's (LAUSD) Superintendent John Deasy, a man who deliberately gutted LAUSD's libraries in defiance of California's Assembly Bill 114, which was supposed to mandate the district spend its copious surplus funds on retaining the very personnel Deasy and company gleefully laid off. Laid off in a most ignominious fashion by the way, as Hector Tobar's The disgraceful interrogation of L.A. school librarians chronicled. Deasy's vapid and vacuous response to the library question sums up everything about corporate education reforms and shows why Deasy was hand selected to implement the neoliberal agenda in Los Angeles.

As disgusting as Deasy's quote about libraries being irrelevant was, it wasn't surprising considering his astonishing wealth and privilege. For wealthy white males like Deasy, poverty is something you see on television and it's easily solved by applying forms of the meritocracy myth via vile "no excuses" rhetoric and corporate privatization policies cloaked as promoting "high expectations." Deasy's own phrasing of the threadbare right-wing no excuses rhetoric reads as follows: "I actually believe that no other issue—circumstances of poverty, one parent, no parent, race, language proficiency, special need—none of that has a greater affect on the achievement gap than our belief about the ability of youth."

More to the point, Deasy's flippant remark that electronic format books would soon replace libraries has no grounding in reality. Such thinking and policies exacerbate the inequality of access to books in a way that is both classist and racist. A brief, but fact packed essay by Schools Matter's own Dr. Stephen Krashen entitled Kindelizaton: Are Books Obsolete? patently disproves everything Superintendent Deasy claims. Let's look at some of the important facts the essay presents.

Data shows that "ebooks appear to be capturing some of the paperback book market, but certainly not all of it, and not the hard cover or tradebook market. Thus far ebooks make up only a tiny percentage of total school library collections." [1] In other words, while ebooks are making inroads in the profitable popular paperbook sector, there hasn't been a great deal of investment in the more costly and lower volume textbook and hardcover sectors. As a consequence "ebooks only account for one-half of one percent of school library collections, and this is predicted to increase to only 7.8% in five years." [2]

It isn't just that ebooks aren't widespread enough to be considered a suitable replacement for school libraries. It's that access to ebooks is strictly class based:

The problem is the expense. Right now, only higher-income readers can afford ebook readers and ebooks. Kindles, for example, cost at least $100 each, and ebooks cost about $10, beyond the budget for those living in poverty. [3]

A table in Krashen's paper shows only four percent of people with household incomes under $30,000 owned ebook-readers, and that percentage remained constant for the nineteen months prior to publication of the paper. Krashen's conclusion is equally revealing:

The cost of ebook readers and ebooks makes them much less available to students from high-poverty families and under-funded school libraries. (Note that it is usually not possible to share ebooks.) Ebooks are allowing the print-rich to get even print-richer. [4]

It isn't surprising that people who get doctoral degrees from Cracker Jack boxes, or worse, purchase them from convicted criminals like Robert Felner in exchange for six figure grants, might be unaware of such research. More cynical readers might be tempted to suspect Deasy's deep ties to monopolistic software moguls like Bill Gates and technobabble charlatans like Tom Vander Ark as possible explanations for his intentional razing of school libraries in favor of profitable, but income exclusive, ebooks. Those things said, one would like to think the head of one of the largest school districts in the country would have a grasp of the basic fundamentals surrounding pedagogical issues and would be immune from pandering to his deep pocketed associates. Given the frightening lack of capacity of California's schools, outlined in UCLA Institute for Democracy, Education, and Access "The Train that is about to Hit," Deasy's notion of "let them eat ebooks" borders on criminal.

Research emphatically puts to lie Deasy's assertion that "libraries would be irrelevant soon as books will move to electronic format." In a state where the ratio of students to librarians is nearly 5,500 to 1 [5], Deasy's outright dismissal of the importance of libraries and books, combined with policies that exacerbate the problem, strongly convict him in his role in neoliberal dismantling of public education. Of course that's Deasy's capacity, he wasn't brought in by the Broad/Gates/Walton Triumvirate to fix LAUSD, he was brought in to destroy it. Collectively we need to reject Deasy's false narrative and demand he spend our funds on libraries and classrooms, not he and his fellow administrators' lavish lifestyles! Collectively we need to fight the privatization of public education!


[1] Krashen, Stephen. 2011. Kindelizaton: Are Books Obsolete?. Books and Articles by Stephen D. Krashen. Accessed September 20, 2011.

[2-4] Ibid.

[5] This wonderful infographic from the UCLA IDEA article mentioned above illustrates what the plutocrat class has done to California's education system.

UCLA IDEA "The Train that is about to Hit"


Friday, September 23, 2011

October 24, 2011 Save the Date for a Special Event

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Saturday, September 17, 2011

Schools Matter: Eli Broad pays Parent Revolution to champion charters not to empower parents!

"To support efforts to help Charter Management Organizations apply for new LAUSD schools under LAUSD's School Choice Resolution" — Broad Foundation Donation to Parent Revolution

Eli Broad, a staunch opponent of academic freedom and intellectuals, is one of the billionaires funding the neoliberal slash and burn campaign against public education.
My newest Schools Matter piece Eli Broad pays Parent Revolution to champion charters not to empower parents! once again exposes the astroturf fakes, phonies, and frauds of the foppish millionaire from Benedict Canyon, Ben Austin, and his posse of privatizers piloting the so-called Parent Revolution. In the essay I look at their corporate funders, and put to lie all of Austin's disingenuous bluster about a "kids-first agenda." A direct quote about the purpose of a whopping $50,000 donation to Parent Revolution from plutocrat Eli Broad reminds us that school privatization and growing charter school market share is Parent Revolution's only purpose and agenda.

Published 2011-09-17 on Schools Matter, please read it there and share widely.


Elizabeth Terzakis and Adrienne Johnstone on Pedagogy and Liberation

"It is not surprising that the banking concept of education regards men as adaptable, manageable beings. The more students work at storing the deposits entrusted to them, the less they develop the critical consciousness which would result from their intervention in the world as transformers of that world. The more completely they accept the passive role imposed on them, the more they tend simply to adapt to the world as it is and to the fragmented view of reality deposited in them." — Paulo Freire (Pedagogy of the Oppressed)

Elizabeth Terzakis and Adrienne Johnstone speaking at Socialism 2011 on July 01, 2011 — Chicago, Illinois.

[Click if you can't listen to the audio]


Friday, September 16, 2011

Shirlee Smith: Parent Revolution? Not really

"The idea of the Parent Revolution is to say fuck you." — Ben Austin (Executive Director, Parent Revolution) [1]

The foppish millionaire from Benedict Canyon, school privatization pusher and poverty pimp Ben Austin
Shirlee Smith's brilliant essay on the so-called Parent Revolution (née Los Angeles Parents Union) is factual, cogent, and strikes at the heart of the astroturf phonies' real agenda. She exposes Ben Austin, Pat DeTemple, Gabe Rose and their little band of privatization profiteers, and also lists some of their plutocratic funders.

Parent Revolution? Not really

Originally published at,0,7623274.story yet now somehow mysteriously gone.

[1] this one sided pro-privatization article quotes Austin as saying "The idea of the parent revolution is to say fuck you." While we already knew that was how Austin felt about our communities, poor people, and people of color, to hear it coming from the wealthy white charter profiteer's mouth was quite startling. This footnote was first published in Ben Austin's Biography.


Tuesday, September 13, 2011

How do we win back our schools?

"After years of teachers union bashing and corporate-led school 'reform' efforts, anti-public school forces are now on the defensive. And the main reason is that the statistical measurements do not support their arguments, and even show a pattern of falsification." — Randy Shaw

Progressive Educators for Action (PEAC)
For our students, communities and ourselves.

September 15, 2011 @4:15PM
3303 Wilshire Blvd., Room 816, Los Angeles, CA 90010

PEAC will be holding a forum to talk about how bottom-up reform, community organizing, and union transformation are key to preventing school takeovers and fighting for educational change and full funding!

Come and make a plan for how your school can get involved and how you can be part of shifting both UTLA and LAUSD.

Join other social justice education activists from around the city to discuss what's going on with LAUSD and UTLA, and plan out a proactive plan for what UTLA can be doing citywide around PSC, the contract fight and winning back RIFed jobs. We will also focus on how we can be pushing for reform that will serve our students and communities in communities that have historically underserved.

Join PEAC on September 15th at 4:15PM in room 816 to get involved.

Rebecca Solomon
Call (213) 713-1402 for childcare or translation needs


Thursday, September 08, 2011

Schools Matter: A match made in privatization purgatory? Capricious Young and A.J. Duffy!

"Improving education is not the goal. Privatization is the goal... Private interests are just that – private." — Bruce A. Dixon (Managing Editor, "Black Agenda Report")

Caprice "Capricious" Young, Privatization Princess, CORO Fellow, CCSA Alum, ICEF Flunky, and Poverty Pimp.
I recently posted a short essay on political opportunist and public education turncoat A.J. Duffy jumping on the privatization bandwagon. In that essay I mentioned how the Los Angeles Times was using the episode to push their vile privatization agenda via an odious editorial. Right on the heels of the Times' gleeful hit-piece, expounding on their love for all forms of corporate rule, they gave Duffy's newfound partner in poverty pimping, Caprice "Capricious" Young, a platform to further pimp privatization. Young, an unelected board member of Duffy's lucrative foray into the privatization pool was quick to lay on the corporate charter spin. My Schools Matter essay entitled: A match made in privatization purgatory? Capricious Young and A.J. Duffy! looks at Duffy's newfound neoliberal colaborator. Remember Caprice Young is a devil. For a reminder see her endorsement on the back cover of this book on union busting and community exclusion.

Published 2011-09-07 on Schools Matter, please read it there and share widely.


Schools Matter: Perfidious Petruzzi calls for accurate evaluations of Green Dot Charter Corporation?

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

Marco Petruzzi. Stand up to Green Dot's corporate charter-voucher racism
I dismantle and debunk all of Green Dot Charter Corporation's lies in yesterday's Schools Matter essay entitled: Perfidious Petruzzi calls for accurate evaluations of Green Dot Charter Corporation? Not only do I remind everyone of Marco Petruzzi and Steve Barr's outlandish (and unfulfilled) promises, I use well documented facts to combat their claims that their so-called program of "Retention, Rigor, and Results" is anything more than smoke, mirrors, and snake oil.

Published 2011-09-07 on Schools Matter, please read it there and share widely.


Schools Matter: Initial thoughts on Duffy's duplicity

Duffy has not kept the faith. He has sold his soul. He is prepared to betray untold numbers of teachers for his own personal gain, while helping to destroy an institution that is vital to maintaining a democratic government, and that institution Is public education. — UTLA member in response to Duffy announcement

Charter Schools are privatization and are a vehicle for vouchers
I share my Initial thoughts on Duffy's duplicity in a recent piece on Schools Matter. Before Howard Blume's article was published, he contacted me (Howard is one of the only somewhat honest writers at the Times, the other being Teresa Watanabe). He wrote me a note explaining the thrust of his story and asked for a quote on his forthcoming Duffy story. Unfortunately my quote didn't get used. In the article I reproduce my response.

Published 2011-09-04 on Schools Matter, please read it there and share widely.


Nativo Vigil Lopez: Katt Wiliams' Anti-Mexican Rant a True Kramer Moment

Katt Wiliams' Anti-Mexican Rant a True Kramer Moment

By: Nativo Vigil Lopez

Nativo Vigil Lopez speaking at a demonstration. Photo by Robert D. Skeels.
Not dissimilar to an experience lived by standup comedian Michael Richards, who played the fictional character of Cosmo Kramer in the sitcom Seinfeld, who repeatedly yelled the n-word at a supposed audience heckler, Katt Williams repeatedly taunted an audience member with anti-Mexican vitriol in a recent comic performance in Phoenix, Arizona.

Williams' set began with an assumptive statement that "it seems to me that you all like it over here a lot." He ridiculed the giving up of California by Mexicans to the U.S. An audience member yelled back to him that "this is Mexico," but not all was picked up by the audio. Williams taunted back with, "this used to be Mexico motherfucker, and now it's Phoenix" - to cheers from the crowd. He even referred to the audience member as "nigger," although he was clearly of Latino appearance. The heckler vulgarly gestured back to Williams. It was clear that the heckler dished out as well as he got from Williams. It was obviously no accident that the standup comic had a large statue of the American eagle on the stage surrounded by six young black women?

And, so it continued, taunting the heckler with chants of "USA, USA, USA," which were repeated by other audience members. The Latino man, now standing, engaged Williams who was visibly reactive and at one point even declared, "fuck him," and told him, "if you love Mexico, bitch, get the fuck over there." He angrily engaged the Latino with his interpretation of the Star Spangled Banner, and others in the audience picked up the tune in chorus. After physically plucking the eagle statue in front of the heckler he yelled, "we were slaves, bitch, you all just work like that at a landscapers, motherfucker." After that outburst he circled the stage and was high-fived by a black audience member.

He referred to the heckler as "nigger," and "bitch." At the end of the tirade five burly security guards removed the Latino from the audience.

The crowd was clearly racially mixed, and as much as could be observed from the video, now replayed ad nauseam on YouTube, was supportive of Williams' rage.

Williams was subsequently interviewed on CNN and refused to apologize for his angry outbursts. He excused his words as responsive to a heckler who "claimed this land as Mexico." He wrapped himself in the American flag as a defense of his comments. He even disowned and disapproved of a public apology that was issued by his publicist.

Sad is the day that the popular comedian would choose Phoenix, Arizona as the place to unleash his jaded sense of patriotism to his public. Only a fool would not be aware of the political significance of the location in what is considered the national epicenter of the anti-immigrant/anti-Mexican right-wing movement, nationally. The origin of virulently anti-immigrant laws, SB1070 in particular, Arizona has become the template model for similar legislation in other states. Today, Phoenix is to Mexicans what Birmingham, Alabama of the Deep South was to blacks during the civil rights movement era. Williams' rant more than hurt, it was outright destructive and divisive.

Williams' comments could be reflective of a current of opinion amongst the African American community, albeit not a majority one, especially in these tough economic times. It trashes, however, the historic strides towards unity between brown and black communities throughout the country before a common foe. Our common African origin is ignored. The violent annexation of half the national territory of Mexico, now the southwest of the U.S., is ridiculed, as is the uninterrupted resistance to conquest by indigenous peoples.

Just as Richards' tirade had no place in a public forum (or private for that matter), notwithstanding the comic venue where in most instances everything goes, Williams' comments have no place in the America he proclaims to love, nor does his use of the terms "nigger," or "bitch."

Some comedians, journalists, and media commentators still believe that they are protected by the First Amendment in their use of colored language, and terms as "illegal alien," "illegal immigrant," and other such references to immigrants, people of color, women, and gays. The word is powerful, and its inappropriate and uncultured use denigrates and dehumanizes the powerless. What is even worst, however, is when individuals of the powerless use the word of the powerful to refer to themselves and others of the same social class. And, when such occurs they are nothing more than servants and slaves to their pay-masters - the corporate media, even those of medium stature or alternative "progressive" mediums.

I have a remedy for Katt, though, and it relates to a personal story of mine. One day as young boys, 8 and 9 years of age, my brother and I were playing outdoors within earshot of my mother. My brother called me a "nigger." Well, when my mother heard that she called him into the house and literally washed his mouth out with a bar of soap. He claimed to her that he didn't even know what it meant, and that he was just repeating what a Mexican girl, with much darker complexion than him, had called him on the school playground. He was never again heard to utter the word.

My suggestion is that we boycott Katt Williams, not unlike the black community called for a boycott of Michael Richards after his uncouth racial tirade, and that this boycott should continue until Williams' makes an unreserved public mea culpa to the Mexican community or until his Mama publicly washes his mouth out with soap. In the alternative, I have only one thing to tell Mr. Williams, as I would to any Minuteman spewing anti-Mexican hate language - No, fuuuuck you, motherfucker!

* The author authorizes the re-publication of this article. Please credit the author.