Friday, February 27, 2015

K12NN Wire: Fact checking LA Weekly on Kayser, Aspire, Rodriguez’s PUC, and Barr

First published on K12NN Wire on February 25, 2015

"It is not legally or morally acceptable that these so-called “schools of choice” that are concentrated in urban communities and supported with public funds, should be permitted to operate as segregated learning environments where students are more isolated by race, socioeconomic class, disability, and language than the public school district from which they were drawn." — COPAA (Charter Schools and Students with Disabilities p. 42)

Resist the California Charter Schools Association (CCSA) putting profits before pupils!

That trashy porn and masseuse ad pennysaver known as the LA Weekly (more like Weakly) has long been a bastion of Ayn Rand Libertarianism. Their propensity to serve as a public relations arm for the Steve Poizner founded, deep pocketed California Charter Schools Association (CCSA) and its proxies is nothing new. However, today's vicious attack piece on the Honorable Bennett Kayser would be considered the lowest in bottom feeding even by a Pacific hagfish.

The piece is notable for being entirely devoid of facts. That didn't stop Dan "students must pledge love to capitalism" Chang of the Non-Profit Industrial Complex fundraising foundation (GPS:LA) from giving it love on Twitter though. What can we expect from a guy with a MBA and a license to malpractice reform from billionaire Eli Broad? So while I really wish LA Weakly would interview people besides wealthy CCSA executives and Steve Barr, I know Jill Stewart doesn't let factually complete articles run in her bird cage liner.

Let's take a look at a few of the more egregious errors in the piece.

Aspire: where civil rights are eschewed in the name of "high performance"

On opposition to renewing the charter for the Aspire corporate charter chain, LA Weakly reproduced profiteer Refugio "Ref" Rodriguez's words, "morally reprehensible". Truth about Apsire:

"But a look at area special education programs provides insight into the types of students served by Aspire. ¶ El Dorado's special ed program does not serve a single visual or hearing impaired student nor students with multiple disabilities, orthopedic or brain injuries, according to state reports. L.A. Unified's program serves many of these disabilities, requiring highly-specialized, costly care." (KPCC, April 16, 2014)

Unlike Rodriguez and his ilk, I make no money from education. So I'd be more inclined to state that Aspire's openly discriminating against Students with Disabilities (SWD), while their "CEO," James R. Willcox, stuffed a staggering $293,687.00 in his pocket a year (2012 Form 990, Part VII§A) was "morally reprehensible". That Kayser opposes this most vile form of ableism, is a mark of courage that profiteers like Rodriguez will never understand. To use the phrase "high performing charter" when discussing a school that enrolls no low incidence disability SWD is beyond the pale. Rodriguez, who is either immoral or amoral, depending on how generous one is, has zero credibility when talking about what is "morally reprehensible".

PUC: where "high achieving" means 50% failure

On PUC academic scores being, according to the Weakly, "well above the state average". In 2013 students from Rodriguez’s PUC Early College Academy for Leaders and Scholars (ECALS) took the California State University (CSU) entrance exams. Half (50%) of those taking the test FAILED to test proficient in either mathematics or English. The fifty percent that failed had to take remedial high school classes. How does that compare to the state average?

2013 CSU English
50% PUC ECALS Not Proficient in English
32% All California High Schools (i.e. the state average)
2013 CSU mathematics
50% PUC ECALS Not Proficient in mathematics
29% All California High Schools (i.e. the state average)

Please tell us again about how Refugio "Ref" Rodriguez's schools are "serving… minority and working-class kids." I'll admit this one thing, they've served his income quite well.

Steve Barr never heard of corporate support for charters?

Regarding Steve Barr's bizarre assertion that he started Green Dot Corporate Charters with his own money only, and his equally strange statement that they've never taken a dime from ideologically charged foundations. Perhaps next time LA Weakly interviews him they might want to ask if he really denies receiving start up funds from right-wing plutocrats Reed Hastings (Netflix) and Don Fisher (Gap). Moreover, they can remind him that Green Dot gets millions from foundations like the Walton Family Foundation every year (e.g. $0.5-Million in 2010). This is easily fact-checked, and there's no need for Barr to pretend he's never heard that Walmart is a corporation. For the record Steve Barr was getting paid by Green Dot some $198,855.00 in 2008 (2008 Form 990, Part VII§A).

Since I'm in law school, I'll do Barr a favor regarding his reckless accusations of libel towards the Honorable Bennett Kayser. Truth is always an affirmative defense to libel causes of action. Claiming the charter chain that made you rich has never taken a penny from the Walton Family Foundation, well, that's something else altogether.


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