Thursday, July 31, 2014

K12NN Wire: The case against Alex Johnson

First published on K12NN Wire on July 25, 2014

Poverty pimp Alex Johnson puts profits before pupils The original draft of this essay was written in mid-June, 2014. The figures cited in the piece are indicative of the Form-460 information available at that time. I will be writing another piece which discusses the currently fundraising figures soon. Given the despicable smear job the Johnson campaign has run against the distinguished Dr. McKenna, expediency dictated publishing this without the benefit of updates.

Ridley-Thomas has plenty of money left over from his $800,000 campaign war chest that was filled with donations from special interests like Monsanto, oil companies, liquor stores, big developers and Eli Broad. His father raised the money for the 26-year old, so surely Sebastian will fork over as much as he can for a campaign for his daddy's education deputy and fellow Morehouse alum, Johnson. — Celes King IV

Johnson is the billionaire's and California Charter Schools Association's (CCSA) Candidate

Alex Johnson was the frontrunner of the three anti-public education candidates the neoliberal corporate reformers ran in the primary election. Despite raising more money than anyone else in a crowded field, he finished a distant second to the community favorite, and experienced educator, Dr. George McKenna. Johnson raised a staggering quarter of a million dollars on his own, and did something even more amazing than that. Of the $244,426 raised from hundreds of donors, NOT A SINGLE ONE OF THEM WAS FROM A SCHOOLTEACHER! Lots of unsavory characters though, here's a few:

  • Anti-public school plutocrat Eli Broad was all in for the max contribution
  • Republican Frank E. Baxter, a charter industry magnate, invested max amount
  • Jeanette Parker, a charter school profiteer gave maximum, as did her husband a Beverly Hills based developer
  • Chick-fil-A, who supported Prop-8, donated to the Alex Johnson Campaign, a slap in the face to our LGBT students
  • Kevin De Leon for Senate 2014 gave $1,100 — indicating that Monica Garcia's school privatization orbit supports Johnson
  • The Meruelo Group, which milked LAUSD for millions of dollars in the past, invested max contribution
  • Right-wing real estate developer Rick J. Caruso chipped in

The list goes on and on. It's like a rogues gallery of plutocrats, developers, charter chain tycoons, and others looking for more parasitic business relations with the district.

The CCSA goes big with an IE for Johnson

Johnson is so closely tied to the lucrative charter school industry that the CCSA started a new 501C3 "nonprofit" and a SuperPAC to support him. Dubbing themselves the "L.A. Parents, Teachers & Students for Great Public Schools, sponsored by CA Charter Schools Association Advocates Committee, supporting Alex Johnson for L.A. School Board 2014" they and a few others raised an ADDITIONAL $80,781 as an Independent Expenditure.

Let's put this into context. The CCSA themselves sank more into Johnson than most of the candidates raised in total. In fact, the aggregate of contributions for the three UTLA endorsed candidates was less than the CCSA's funding of Johnson alone. Nothing sums up Johnson's deep ties to the charter sector than this tweet by an ICEF consultant: which boldly states "Charters are our business & will be his." They're a business alright. Johnson, like the author of the tweet, quite simply puts profits before pupils.

Johnson called out in the LA Sentinel and CityWatch for ties to wealthy special interests

While Larry Aubry is a mixed bag politically, he captured the dynamics of this school board race perfectly in an Op-Ed entitled LAUSD District 1 Election and Big Money Politics. Here's an excerpt:

Reflective of the difference between opposing sides is the amount of money already raised by Alex Johnson, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas' candidate, and George Mc Kenna a grassroots candidate. Johnson raised $113,000 in the first reporting period, many contributing $1100, the maximum allowed- and he will get a lot more from political action committees (PAC) and IEs (Independent Expenditures) that have no limit on the amount they contribute to a campaign. This was predictable given the Supervisor's ties to big money in Los Angeles and beyond. McKenna raised half that amount.

The late civil rights activist Celes King IV also blasted both Johnson and his patron, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, in a piece entitled Playing Politics with the Kids, Ridley-Thomas and Rev. Tulloss Show Their True Colors. King does a steller job of naming the names of some of the most pernicious poverty pimps and privatization pushers in town:

A special election hurts the kids of District 1. In calling for a special election, what Mark Ridley-Thomas, Alex Johnson, Rev. Tulloss, Corri Revere, and the charter schools along with their billionaire puppet masters are really saying is we have to hurt the children to protect the children.

Johnson endorsed by company unionist Courtni Pugh

I typically don't care for the phrase "labor aristocracy," especially as employed by Maoists and Stalinists, but in Courtni Pugh's case it's hard for me to argue any other description could be more appropriate. Taking Andy Stern's penchant for company unionism to another level, Pugh is what corporate executives dream of for union leadership. Her "kids first" agenda includes pushing for schools managed by private corporations, deprofessionalization of educators, and advocating for children to eat expired processed foods in unsanitary conditions. Hardly a working class campaign. Nothing convicts Pugh and SEIU 99 more than the fact that with the sole exception of Steve Zimmer's run for a second term, that they endorsed the identical candidates as Philip Anschutz, Reed Hastings, and Eli Broad's Coalition for School Reform (CSR) endorsed.

Johnson, the favorite of the anti-public education Nonprofit Industrial Complex (NPIC)

I've already published on this, but the work bears repeating here. First, from an April 15 post:

Regarding the Alex Johnson Campaign an ally sent me the following (I'm keeping them anonymous for now):

Curious why no one is mentioning how the same brigade that was pushing for an election is now pushing for Alex Johnson - their Facebook page has even morphed from demanding an election to exclusively covering the Johnson campaign:

Bear in mind that it was the usual NPIC suspects who pushed for the Special Election: Urban League, Inner City Struggle, United Way Greater Los Angeles, and Parent Revolution. Given what I've already uncovered about Johnson, It's no wonder that he's their candidate of choice, while Hayes is their backup candidate. Parent Revolution was an early backer of Hayes, but has since shifted to the frontrunner, Johnson.

From my LA Progressive piece in April:

Alex Johnson is the worst of bunch. He is an unscrupulous opportunist who only views LAUSD as a political stepping stone. He has been getting $1,100 a shot contributions from charter school moguls, real estate developers, and right-wing bankers. According to his 460 filing, of the 195 contributions for $113,051 to his campaign, not one comes from a teacher, principal, librarian, or social worker. One would think if he really cared about students and education, that he'd have a working relationship with the professionals that work with the community's children. He has dodged multiple requests for policy positions, undoubtably because he is a hand puppet for the neoliberal corporate education reformers. Former LAUSD District 5 candidate, the distinguished Dr. John Fernandez, had this to say about him:

This does not surprise me at all Robert. At a recent candidate's forum at UTLA, I submitted a question commenting that District 1 has been historically represented by an African American but that the students in District 1 now comprise 70% Mexican/Latino student population. I asked what were the three main issues affecting Mexican/Latino students in District 1? All Mr. Alex Johnson could say was they needed resources. Mr. Johnson could have stated that Mexican/Latino students need a culturally relevant and responsive education, they need bilingual cross cultural education, teachers must be trained to teach Mexican/Latino students, textbooks must used to highlight the achievements and contributions of Mexican/Latino students, Mexican/Latino students must be provided with high tech vocational training and teachers must provide English language strategies--all the very things that African American students need.

Alex Johnson would be a disaster for students our district that are poor, immigrant, working class, or having special needs. He would be a windfall to special interests, privatizers, and developers. We must resist him and his neoliberal agenda at all costs.

I am supporting Dr. George McKenna in the runoff election for the District 1 LAUSD Board of Education Seat.


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