Sunday, May 24, 2015

Schools Matter: 2015 Week 21 Education Odds and Ends

First published on Schools Matter on May 22, 2015

“We believe that this recognition has come about because of the “blatant” move by corporations to take over public education and the creation of these charter schools who are limiting the rights of teachers and the type of education that our children are receiving.” — Juan Orozco

Professor Antonia Darder this weekend in Los Angeles

Dr. John Fernandez writes:

Roosevelt High School and the Boyle Heights community have a long and proud history of fighting for social justice, from the election of Ed Roybal to the Los Angeles City Council in 1949, to the fight against Prop.187, and to the current struggle against the scheduled layoffs of 23 RHS teachers and the struggle to dump PLAS. This video was taken when the Great Recession began and when PLAS came in. In June of 2008, when this video was produced, there were about 240 RHS teachers, now there are only 110 and dozens of classes have been cut. This Saturday, May 23, 2015 at 8:30 a.m., RHS will be having a youth conference. Dr. Antonia Darder will be presenting. Antonia is a world renowned writer on critical education theory, Latino education, and Paulo Freire. I am sure that Antonia will connect theory and practice to the situation at RHS. Please attend this important event. La Lucha Sigue

Charter billionaires buy L.A. school board election

Professor Mike Klonsky's post Charter billionaires buy L.A. school board election is worth the read. I left the following comments:

Thank you for this Professor Klonsky. Poverty pimp Refugio "Ref" Rodriguez has spent his entire career viewing and utilizing school children as ATM cards. Now that the billionaires have installed him at #LAUSD, he has the combination to the entire bank vault.

The right-wing billionaires who financed charter profiteer Refugio Ref Rodriguez!

Karen Wolfe on LAUSD election fallout

Public school parent and member of the Venice Neighborhood Council Education Committee Karen Wolfe wrote an excellent piece looking at the May 19, 2015 Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) Board elections entitled LA Election Lessons: Anatomy of a Shakeup … in the LAUSD Board Races. I made the following comments:

Thank you for this excellent analysis Ms. Wolfe. Charter profiteer and poverty pimp Refugio "Ref" Rodriguez has spent his entire career viewing and utilizing school children as ATM cards. California Charter Schools Association (CCSA) boasted that they "generated 30% profit margins in subsequent years–with 20-30% lead generation and 20-50% close ratios" when Rodriguez was a CCSA board member. Meanwhile he ran Lakeview Charter in the red for the better part of decade, and oversaw Jacqueline Duvivier Castillo's self-dealing with the now breaking Better 4 You Meals scandal. Now that these right-wing billionaires have installed him at #LAUSD, he has the combination to the entire bank vault. We can only hope that the LAUSD OIG and LA District Attorney's office will indict Rodriguez, but a cover-up is more than likely since José Cole Gutiérrez was one of Rodriguez's employees when Rodriguez sat on the CCSA board.

Professor Julian Vasquez Heilig testifies on Parent Trigger

Professor Julian Vasquez Heilig traveled to Texas to speak truth to Walton Family Foundation funded Parent Revolution's attempts to place a loaded "Parent Trigger" gun in corporate charter hands. Best quote from his testimony: "SB14 is parent empowerment without the empowerment. Parental involvement without the involvement."

Keeping up with Ref Rodriguez's possible crimes

Charter industry mogul Refugio "Ref" Rodriguez is under investigation by a number of authorities including the LAUSD Office of Inspector General and the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office. Keeping up with all of the financial scandals and possible felonies by this Rodriguez charter is difficult, the following articles should help.

Whitney Tilson does rape culture!

Right-wing hedge fund manager and school privatization pusher Whitney Tilson was quick to jump on the blame-the-victim bandwagon. An email to his cult of fellow neoliberals said "I question her story" of Emma Sulkowicz.

Scott M. Folsom on student mental healthcare

Suing a school district for failing to provide mental healthcare may seem, at first blush, to be a stretch. What part of the 3Rs is mental healthcare? But this is a stretch that is needed – like those stretches people who exercise do before they exercise.

Education is about stretching our little grey cells. It’s about being safe and well and healthy. Maslows’s Hierarchy of Needs: Food, Comfort, Safety.

  • You can’t learn if you are hungry.
  • You don’t learn if you don’t have a place to live.
  • You won’t learn if you don’t feel safe.

Then and only then can we get down to the Rs.

In Compton and in most of the brink o’ th’ apocalypse they inhabit the school nurse is most students’ primary-and maybe-only healthcare professional and medical provider. The school nurses’ office has become the Health Office has become the School Wellness Center – even as the School Nurse has become a vanishing species, repurposed to paperwork shuffling and IEP Compliance Officer – often traveling from school-to-school on a one-day-a-week rotation.

This has all worked out because school health crises: The flu outbreak, the second grader who falls out of a tree, the incident of diabetic or anaphylactic shock – these only occur on the days the nurse is at the school and is otherwise available. I have spent some of the last month reading essays by middle-schoolers about the impact of violence and trauma on their lives. Most need additional instruction on narrative storytelling  (and grammar+punctuation) …but the far more pressing need is for mental health professionals to begin to have the conversation with them about their lives.

LAUSD in planning to eliminate some psychiatric social workers in next year’s budget. The bad-news masquerading otherwise is that the District is not going to eliminate as many as first proposed. Nobody in their right mind is proposing to rehire mental health workers previously laid off.  But I am.

Post Traumatic Shock Disorder is not just for returning warriors anymore. This is not John Boy’s America. This is not the Bobsey Twins’ America. Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm graduated decades ago and doesn’t come back for the alumni meetings ‘cause she’s scared of the neighborhood. Today’s narrative was written back in 1969: “Oh, a storm is threat'ning / My very life today / If I don't get some shelter / Oh yeah, I'm gonna fade away.”

By ‘75 Bob was feeling better about it than Mick+Keith in ‘69:

“Come in,” she said, “I’ll give you shelter from the storm”

It’s an apt metaphor to duck in under.

Alliance Charter's Judy Burton still union busting

Right-wing extremists Antony Ressler, Richard "Dick" Riordan, and Judy Ivie Burton are still turning children into profit centers, and union busting at the Alliance Corporate Charter Chain. The ongoing struggle for their beleaguered educators to organize themselves continues. Community activists are taking the struggle to the streets, and posted this and other photos on facebook with the following caption:

Attending the Lincoln Heights Neighborhood council asking them to adopt our resolution calling on Alliance to let teachers form their union without harassment ([i]t passed unanimously!)

Alliance Charter Corporation still union busting

I left the following thoughts on the photo:

I document Judy Burton's mind-boggling salary in this piece about her fellow charter school profiteer Refugio "Ref" Rodriguez. That obscene $330,400.00 doesn't include the additional six-figure income she gets from CalSTRS+CalPERS. She will go to any length to prevent educators from exercising their lawful right to organize. Any movement to put students and educators ahead of executive salaries and board member sweetheart deals at Alliance Charter Corporation will be resisted with extreme prejudice, as you are already experiencing.


Monday, May 18, 2015

This morning saw me studying Sugiura Ayano style!

This morning saw me studying Sugiura Ayano style!

Previously: When someone asks me "How's Law School?"


Eli Broad "alumni" John Deasy, Jaime Aquino, and Matt Hill ran LAUSD's iPad Project

Citizen Jack responds to LA Weekly's fluffing Ref Rodriguez

WHAT WENT WRONG WITH L.A. UNIFIED’S iPAD PROGRAM? To put it simply: There was a complete breakdown in the planning and execution of the initiative.


Schools Matter: Ref Rodriguez's school scandals unreported by LA School Report?

First published on Schools Matter on May 17, 2015

“Of course, the network of power and privilege that eases access to the Ivy League isn’t severed at matriculation—it supports the scions of the superrich throughout. Further emails from the Sony hack show the Lynton nepotism machine gearing up for his elder daughter, Eloise, an undergraduate at Harvard who found herself unable to get into a very popular class with Dr. Jerome Groopman, a New Yorker writer and professor of biology.” — Sam Biddle

Jamie Alter-Lynton's Deasy (LA) School Report
Jamie Alter-Lynton's blog byline should read "what Deasy wants you to think is really going on in LAUSD"

Professor Diane Ravitch discussed a recent Daily News piece in her Los Angeles School Board Race: Attack Ads and Lies Aplenty. The Thomas Hines article in question rightly points out that all of Ref Rodriguez's and his California Charter Schools Association's attacks on the Honorable Bennett Kayser have been patently false, but the issues brought up about Rodriguez—like the PUC Lakeview Charter Academy Audit—are true. Of course, not every Los Angeles media outlet has covered the myriad scandals surrounding the billionaire's candidate. I addressed this issue in the following commentary.

I keep wondering when Jamie Alter-Lynton, sibling of the dubious Jonathan Alter, will have her “news” blog — LA School Report — cover either the Lakeview Audit, or the Jacqueline Duvivier Castillo (Better 4 You Meals) self-dealing scandal, or both? Alter-Lynton’s site claims that it practices “journalism in the public interest”, yet somehow misses two of the biggest Los Angeles education scandals of the year, both centering around their candidate: charter industry profiteer Ref Rodriguez.

This quote says it all: “audits… indicated charter officials [i.e. Ref Rodriguez] knew of the alleged conflict of interest”

The well heeled Rodriguez was PUC Corporation’s CEO, and then their Board Treasurer during both the Lakeview financial malfeasance and Duvivier Castillo incidents. He claims to have known absolutely nothing about either situation, the former occurring for over a decade, the latter for several years now. Giving him the benefit of the doubt, that means Rodriguez is either grossly incompetent, or criminally complicit (there are some that would posit he manages to be both). Neither of those are desirable qualities for a trustee of the nation’s second largest school district.

Maybe the LA School Report can run this piece on education and privilege?


Friday, May 15, 2015

Guest Post: Citizen Jack further comments on L.A. Weekly's Yellow Journalism

Citizen Jack responds to LA Weekly's fluffing Ref Rodriguez

"Jack," a frequent commenter on Professor Diane Ravitch's site, sent a follow up to his Citizen Jack's Open Letter To The Author Of The L.A. Weekly Article About Ref Rodriguez.

On the subject of class and socio-economic status in this election, some things need to be said.

Ref portrays himself as a poor Chicano from the barrio who cares about the education well-being of poor Chicanos in the barrio.

Well, let’s see… because his PUC charters are unregulated, Ref can pay himself whatever he wants, and his workers as little (or as much) as he wants.

So given that unchecked power, how does Ref use it to provide for the well-being of his fellow poor Chicanos from the barrio?

Rodriguez pays himself $350,000 (a third of a million dollars) annually, while he pays his custodial and cafeteria workers—all low-income Latinos—$8/hour instead of the living wage that their counterparts in the traditional public schools get paid… while principals in traditional public schools (a brutal job in so many ways) earn only around $100,000 annually.   To quote Gordon Gekko, that's a zero-sum game.  The money that Ref pays himself is money that doesn't go to those workers, (or doesn't get to the classroom, for that matter)

Try to live in L.A. on $8/hour.

Now let's say that you're a parent (or just a citizen concerned about public education) that objects to the gross salaries that Ref and other bosses at PUC receive, and also object to the custodial and cafeteria workers (all low-income Latinos) get paid slave wages... You want to go in front of the LAUSD Board (the one Ref is trying get elected to) and demand a reduction in the bosses' salaries, and an increase in those workers' salaries ... as those are your economic peers in the community.

WELL, YOU CAN'T.  Well, you can, but you'd be wasting your breath.  That's the way this whole privatized charter thing works.  A huge multi-million-dollar amount of your tax money gets dumped into an account and is the school's annual budget.  That's it as far as any oversight that the Board has from that point on. The charter bosses can spend that money any way they damn please (concerns about "Better Meals 4 You"-style nepotism corruption be damned).  You can only uncover such corruption after the fact, and by that time, your tax money is gone, baby, gone... never to be returned.   Ref makes $350,000 for supervising about 3,000 students, while LAUSD Superintendent Cortines gets less, ($300,000) for supervising 670,000 students.

I would like to know exactly what Ref does in a typical 9-to-5, 40-hour week to justify getting paid that kind of cash?  It can't be improving the operations of the school, or helping teachers... critiquing instruction, helping design a lesson plan, assisting in classroom management, leading I.E.P. / S.S.T. meetings, or professional development.  Ref has ZERO education, training, or experience teaching high school or working as an administrator.  (Just out of college, he got in early on the whole charter school racket (1999), without ever learning anything from the ground up.)

As opposed to incumbent Board Member Bennett Kayser, who has 30 years in classroom followed by years as an administrator.  Kayser went straight from decades of dedicated work in the schoolhouse to then serve on the Board, so he has an intimate, and detailed knowledge of what students, need, what teachers need, and, in general, what schools need.

Also... Bennet's most certainly not in it for the money... the job pays only $40,000 year., and that's all he earns, or desires to. 

The choice is easy, but the trouble is that Ref is outspending Bennet 8-to-1.... dozens of colored cardboard stuffing your mailbox attest to this.

Now, think about that for a second.  Billionaires from out of the state and within the state--money-motivated privatizers who don't even live here in LAUSD, whose kids don't go to school here---have pumped in $5 million total tp a PAC to elect Ref.. for a political office that pays only $40,000 ???!! 

And we're supposed to believe that they're doing it because they care so much about the education of poor and middle class students?  Does that pass the smell test?   Look closer and you see how---once Ref is elected and has to power to do their bidding---they will profit from chunk after chunk of the district being given to charter school companies owned and/or allied with them (and then removed from any public oversight), and also profit from companies that they own---in whole or in part---that will reap billions in exchange for providing dubious digital learning, on-line learning, curriculum. etc. to both charters and traditional public schools.

Ref's backers are those oxymoronic and entrepreneurial creatures that populate today's landscape of what's called neo-liberalism... "vulture philanthropists"... "philanthro-preneurs".   Unrelieved greed covered the thinnest false veneer of social responsibility.

If you want to keep a money-motivated privatizer like Ref Rodriguez (and his corporate backers) out of power...

if you want to keep our schools truly public---accountable & transparent to the public, controlled by the public via democratically-elected school boards, and educating all of the public, including... as the Good Book says.... the "least of our brethren"... the most vulnerable... special ed. kids, ESL kids, homeless, foster care kids... (the ones charters kick out with abandon, or refuse to accept in the first place)...

If you want all this, then donate to Ref's opponent, Bennett Kayser—a 30-year teacher and administrator who's not in it for the money, but for the students, and for the community.  Tell eveyrone you know in District 5 to vote for Bennett Kayser--friends, neighbors, co-workers, people you went to high school with, grade school, college, whatever.

Here’s where you can donate on-line to Bennett Kayser’s campaign:

Here’s his website in general:

Re-Elect Bennett Kayser for School Board 2015


AALA: Bain V. Cta, Another Attack On Unions

Associated Administrators of Los Angeles From the May 18, 2015 issue of Update

Bain v. CTA is the latest lawsuit to be filed against teacher unions specifically, but public employee unions in general. This lawsuit has been brought forward by StudentsFirst, the organization founded by former Washington, D.C., schools' chancellor Michelle Rhee, on behalf of four public school teachers. Named in the lawsuit are not only CTA, but UTLA, NEA, CFT, AFT, United Teachers of Richmond and various school superintendents. The plaintiffs (teachers from Los Angeles, West Contra Costa and Arcadia unified school districts) are challenging the law that allows unions to call them nonmembers because they only pay the agency fee. Those who only pay the agency fee exempt themselves from the political activities of the union, but also from some of the perks of membership such as voting on the contract, representation during conferences, extra insurance, etc. Bain and the other teachers in the suit say that it is unfair and unconstitutional (violates their free speech) for them to be denied any benefits of membership as a result of their decision to pay a reduced amount in union dues. In essence, they want to be able to both opt out of full membership in the union and pay significantly reduced dues, yet be able to vote for union officers and participate in other decision-making activities, which union rules currently prohibit.

Antiunion groups have been arguing for years that unions violate workers' First Amendment rights by charging dues. However, the question in this case is not that teachers can opt out of membership and pay a reduced amount of dues, but what benefits members and nonmembers receive from the union. Moshe Z. Marvit, a Philadelphia labor and civil rights attorney and Century Foundation Fellow, says that it is a strange First Amendment argument, that " should still have the right to vote in an organization that you don't want to be a part of...It is a strange irony of this case that the plaintiffs readily admit the myriad benefits that come with union membership, but argue that it is unfair to require them to be members of the union to get those benefits."

StudentsFirst, which is financially backing the suit, is funded by a virtual who's who of billionaires and right-wing education reform foundations that include the Walton Family Foundation, the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, the Charles and Helen Schwab Foundation, former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, hedge-fund managers David Tepper and Alan Fournier, Charter Schools USA and the Laura and John Arnold Foundation. Attorney Marvit concludes, "...this litigation funded and promoted by antiunion groups that is part of a general strategy to defund unions, destroy solidarity and erase the benefits of union membership..."


Guest Post: Joining Forces for Education's Ellen Lubic on the May 19, 2015 LAUSD Election

Why Would Anyone Want to Replicate Stupid, Greedy, Inept, Fraudulent?

On Tuesday there will be an election for three LAUSD Board of Education members. These candidates are Kayser v. Rodriguez, Galatzan v. Schmerelson, and Vladovic v. Gutierrez.

The most highly funded race by the billionaires who wish to privatize all of America's public schools (with the goal of making public schools Free Market Wall Street opportunities for vast profit) is that of Rodriguez. They have poured over $2,000,000 into the coffers of Refugio Rodriguez who is the multi millionaire PUC charter school chain organizer, owner, CEO, treasurer...and other titles he chose over the years. A forced internal audit of his PUC charter chain was finally exposed only weeks ago despite his (and his ally on the Board, the notorious charter supporter, Monica Garcia, the clone of Tamar Galatzan and John Deasy) great efforts to hide it from public view until after the election. It showed repeated violations at many of his schools over a long period of time. Most were financial and some leading to his own enrichment.

Last week, the LA Progressive published the article linked below, showing his insider dirty dealings with his own Board leadership in contracting for food services from companies they actually owned, to provide all school meals. This was a very profitable, though probably illegal, enterprise for Rodriguez.

The LA Times, which endorsed Rodriguez (and Galatzan who is also a Deasy and charter supporter), has not backed down from their ill advised endorsement even though they published a similar story on his potential illegal and ostensibly fraudulent behaviors.

How come with this audit evidence and the facts on the food services contracts which are possibly indictable, Rodriguez has not resigned as a School Board candidate, after running one of the dirtiest campaigns in history? And why is he allowed to join with the Latino SouthWest Voters program to now bribe inner city Latino voters to come the polls for a payoff of $25,000? An LASR article lauds them for getting out the vote with 2700 first time Latino student voters, who also are given the payoff motive to go to the polls. What a message for new voters, to sell their vote for cash and prizes! Of course, the 'wink wink' is to vote for the Latino surnamed candidate.

It would seem that the LA Times and their billionaire publisher Austin Beutner, and billionaire advisors Eli Broad and Richard Riordan, have learned nothing from the entire LAUSD/Deasy four year fiasco which cost the District over $167,000,000 in losses from the inept and possibly fraudulent dealings of former Superintendent John Deasy who is now being investigated by the FBI and the SEC, with his Apple and Pearson early emails indicating he gave them insider information on how to be the low bidders for $1.3 Billion for iPads and for Common Core Software curricula not even designed at that point of contractual assignment. Also with Deasy's poor judgement insisting on using the MiSiS software which he knew was flawed for many years, and at the point he insisted on using it in LAUSD, was still not viable. It failed, and it hurt students and schools immeasurably. Now LAUSD is trying to get some of the public's money back from these rotten deals. Do not forget that this huge amount of $1.3 billion in probable sweetheart deals, was snatched from the Construction Bond Fund that LA voters and taxpayers approved to build new public schools and to repair old schools which are falling apart. Taxpayers were 'snookered' by these machinations of the billionaires and their puppets.

Only yesterday did the public learn that the BoE, once again in secret, was influenced to hire interim Superintendent Cortines back for another year despite his rancor with and against teachers and their unions, and despite the second sexual harassment law suit filed against him. He also recently named charter school supporter, Thelma de Melendez, as his second in charge.

At Beaudry, Cortines and the Board of Education evidently never did start a national search for a better superintendent than Deasy (who trained to be their "CEO" at the Broad Academy, and who has now been hired full time to work for Eli Broad), and they seem to have no intention of doing so in the near future. Is this more of Broad's intrusion into the affairs of LAUSD?

Why are voters once again exposed to all this brouhaha and the buying of elections by these wildly wealthy Wall Street profiteers and non-educators who seek to bring all public services into the Free Market to expand their greed in forcing the direction of even more redistribution of American's wealth upward, to themselves?

Stigler, Schumpeter, and Milton Friedman, with their Ayn Rand parroted theories of the Invisible Hand, and Creative Destruction, have long been proven false by modern Nobel Prize winner economists Joseph Stiglitz and Paul Krugman, looking at a Free Market that is anything but FREE.

Please use good judgement and vote for Bennett Kayser and Scott Schmerelson when you go to the polls, without being bribed, on Tuesday, May 19.

Ellen Lubic, Director, Joining Forces for Education, Public Policy educator/writer


Roger Waters to Dionne Warwick: “You are showing yourself to be profoundly ignorant of what has happened in Palestine since 1947″


Thursday, May 14, 2015

Guest Post: Parent reminds us that Tamar Galatzan and John Deasy were joined at the hip

Although much was initially promised to gain buy-in to school choice campaigns, most teachers, parents and communities of color have not experienced greater participation within charter schools.—Professor Antonia Darder

Tamar Galatzan and John Deasy discussing Eli Broad's latest plans to profit from the privatization of of public education title=

TAMAR GALATZAN + JOHN DEASY = 1.3 billion dollar iPad fiasco
Dear Friends and Neighbors:
A few months ago, I wrote to you about the March 3 primary election which included a race for the LAUSD Board of Education.     The result  was that Tamar Galatzan faced a shocker - 60% voted against her.   This Tuesday, we will be choosing who will be representing us for the next four years.   
I am writing to you again because I have become increasing disturbed by the visuals and verbiage of many of the flyers that are arriving in my mail on an almost daily basis.     The funders of Ms. Galatzan’s campaign have chosen to use the lowest level of tactics to undermine and mislead the public.   In one example, her opponent, school principal Scott Schmerelson, is referred to as a “paid” lobbyist for a school administrators’ organization.   There is ZERO evidence to support these claims.     WHAT OTHER LIES ARE THEY TRYING TO SPREAD???     WHY ARE THEY DEMONSTRATING SUCH DESPERATION????  MAYBE THE PUBLIC IS NOT BUYING WHAT THEY ARE TRYING TO SELL!!!!
These same funders were long and vocal supporters of disgraced superintendent John Deasy.   They would like nothing better than to bring back a John Deasy clone to LAUSD and Ms. Galatzan, as Deasy’s closest ally on the board, would most certainly make that her priority.   Money is no object for these billionaires when it comes to taking over our local school board elections.
 According to the LA City Ethics Commission, violations of election rules can be filed, but it is clear that any investigation would not take place until after the election and would only result in a fine.     Clearly, it appears to be safe to print and distribute these false materials with the knowledge that any actions by the city would occur after the fact and would not cause a candidate to lose their seat.
On Tuesday, we have a choice.    On one hand, we have Tamar Galatzan, close ally of ousted superintendent John Deasy and whose board resolution prompted Deasy to create his “tablet for everyone” plan.  In contrast,  revered teacher, counsel and school principal Scott Schmerelson, has expressed a much different view of how our school construction bonds should be spent and how to prioritize spending where it belongs, in the classroom.
Ms. Galatzan has received endorsements from politicians(she works full time in City Hall as a prosecutor) while Mr. Schmerelson’s main supporters are students, parents and teachers who have had the priviledge of working directly with him and witnessed his ability to make a difference on every campus he has worked at.


Schools Los Angeles Students Deserve (SLASD) May General Assembly

Schools Los Angeles Students Deserve (SLASD)

Schools Los Angeles Students Deserve (SLASD) General Assembly

Thursday, May 21, 2015
St. Marks Lutheran Church
3651 South Vermont Ave,
Los Angeles, CA 90007

(2 blocks north of the Expo line's Vermont station)

Final General Assembly of the school year. This year we have accomplished so much!

  1. Parent Leadership Institutes provided space for parents from across the city to strategize about how to make changes in their children's schools
  2. SLASD-GC parents exposed conditions at schools across LAUSD through participating in UTLA's Parent Caravan
  3. In multi-day Youth Leadership Institutes, students discussed systemic oppression and resistance and built cross-school strategies
  4. Students developed a social media campaign to spread awareness of issues at their schools
  5. On their campuses, students took action to educate their peers about the Black Lives Matter movement 
  6. Students gathered over 1,200 petitions to demand changes in their schools and delivered these to the School Board
  7. We supported the fight for Ethnic Studies, and urged the School Board to fund new teaching positions to cover these new courses
  8. Parents and students spoke at rallies across the city in support of the campaign for the Schools LA Students Deserve
  9. In meetings with School Board members Zimmer, Kayser, and McKenna, we moved towards a School Board resolution
  10. Overall, our campaign created more pressure on LAUSD to sign a good contract with UTLA!

At our General Assembly, we'll be assessing our work this year, and planning for our work over the Summer and next Fall to hit the ground running!

Please join us!


Guest Post: Citizen Jack responds to L.A. Weekly's fluffing Ref Rodriguez

“That’s not exactly investigative reporting or a critique of the powerful. But it represents the kind of contrarian, screw-you mentality that fits the New Times worldview now evident at the LA Weekly.” — Professor Jon Wiener

Citizen Jack responds to LA Weekly's fluffing Ref Rodriguez

"Jack," a frequent commenter on Professor Diane Ravitch's site, sent me the following critique of Joshua Emerson Smith fluff-job of charter school profiteer Refugio "Ref" Rodriguez. The fact-free ham-fisted Smith piece appeared in that trashy porn and masseuse ad pennysaver known as the LA Weekly (aka Weakly)—a bastion of Jill Stewart's brand of Ayn Rand Libertarianism.


To Joshua Emerson Smith, (the author of the above L.A. WEEKLY article):
As with someone else who just posted, I'm also utterly shocked that you didn't mention the troubling and shocking revelations about Ref Rodriguez that emerged from a recent state audit---the same audit that Ref's ally Monica Garcia pulled out all the stops to keep sealed, but ultimately failed to do so.  (See the video of Monica and Ref standing side-by-side at last year's California Charter School Association shindig---this video is posted elsewhere in the COMMENTS section.)
Seriously, dude, writing an article about the Kayser / Rodriguez 2015 election, and not mentioning "Food-gate" even once is akin to... oh, I dunno... 
... writing about the 2004 Presidential election and not mentioning Bush's ill-advised invasion of Iraq, and most importantly, the fact that no WMD's were found... therefore the entire justification for taking us into that war was all a  manufactured hoax...

... writing about the 2010 Brown / Whitman gubernatorial election, and not mentioning "Maid-gate"...

What's up with that?  

To get you (and others) up to speed, here's a recap:

In a May 2nd Los Angeles Times' article, reporters Zahira Torres and Howard Blume detailed the troubling corruption and outrageous malfeasance that a state audit uncovered operating within Ref Rodriguez' charter school organization, "Partnership to Uplift Communities"(PUC).  Mr. Rodriguez founded this charter chain, and currently serves as its PUC's CEO and Treasurer.
Check it out here: 
or here, ( if, like me, you're too cheap to subscribe to the Times on-line site;-) ) : 

Employing a wealth of documentation, the state auditors cite systemic wrongdoing and illegal misuse of taxpayer funds on the part of PUC’s Director of Business and Development, Ms. Jacqueline Duvivier Castillo, and by extension, on the part of Founder / CEO, Mr. Rodriguez, and Jacqueline Elliot, PUC's other Chief Executive.  

After all, Ms. Castillo---it should be noted---was hired by Mr. Rodriguez and Ms. Elliott, and works under their direction.  As such, Mr. Rodriguez and Ms. Elliot bear ultimate responsibility, and gave ultimate approval to the problematic purchases and decisions that that both the state audit condemned, and that the May 2 Times' article exposed to the public.
And exactly what did Ref & Co. at PUC perpetrate? 

Ms. Castillo willfully chose to misuse her position to award PUC's multi-year, multi-million-dollar food contract to "Better 4 You Meals", a company that, to quote the audit, is "one hundred percent owned" by Ms. Castillo (!!!).  In the process, she enriched both herself and her husband Fernando---a top executive in that company, "Better 4 You Meals."  

While the charter school laws technically require Ref to run PUC as a "non-profit", so as to prevent such profiteering by charter officials, Ms. Castillo (and perhaps Ref?) evaded this by contracting out their food service to a for-profit company that she and her husband own.   (This is a common shabby practice within the charter industry... by the time such shenanigans are uncovered, that taxpayer money that these crooks pocket is gone, baby, gone... never to be recovered... as is the case with Ref's / PUC's "Foodgate" imbroglio.)

Again, this is all detailed to the state audit report, quoted and reported on by the reporters in the Times' article.

The Times' article further states:

"The state Department of Education, which released emails and documents about its investigation to the Los Angeles Times under the California Public Records Act, also found:

" --- Duvivier Castillo failed to properly report her financial interests in the company

" --- The company was ineligible for the food contracts because it lacked a health permit and relied on a subcontractor to prepare meals.

" --- PUC Schools did not select the lowest-priced bidder as required."

So, in addition to the gross impropriety of the process itself, and to the heinous misuse of the taxpayer money that funds charter schools like the PUC chain, Ms. Castillo's company, "Better 4 You Meals", operates in a substandard fashion, and thus delivered a demonstrably substandard product, as the food preparation, delivery, storage, etc. "lacked the required health permit."

Since Mr. Rodriguez hired Ms. Castillo to work at PUC, he almost certainly knew of her business holdings and interests---i.e. her and her husband's ownership of "Better 4 You Meals." 
Might Mr. Rodriguez have profited from any secret kickback from Ms. Castillo in exchange for approving the "Better 4 You Meals" contract?  Perhaps.  We do not know.  If the answer is "No" and he knew that Ms. Castillo owned "Better 4 You Meals", then why did he approve a multi-year, multi-million dollar contract for this same company ?  To quote "THE SOPRANOS", do you really think that Ref (or Ms. Elliot) didn't "get a taste" of this?  If not, what was in it for him to do so?

Furthermore, even if you assume that Mr. Rodriguez is criminally "innocent", and really did NOT know of Ms. Castillo's conflict of interest, then, at the very least, Mr. Rodriguez most certainly SHOULD have.   That's a key part of his freakin' job, for God's sake!!!  His failure to know this, and his failure to do the due diligence necessary to discover it, and to remain aware of this when making relevant decisions reflects poorly on his abilities as an administrator.  He also should have asked and required that Ms. Castillo produced the required health permit.  At the very least, Ref is most certainly "guilty" of gross administrative incompetence and negligence.   All of this renders Ref unfit to manage LAUSD's $7-billion-dollar budget. 

To date, Mr. Rodriguez himself has refused to comment on this scandal---hoping to just lay low until the election is over, as he squeaks through to an ill-gotten victory.  Such silence on his part speaks volumes.

To paraphrase Harry Truman, "the buck should stop" with Mr. Rodriguez, as he is PUC's Founder, CEO, and Treasurer.  
Bennett Kayser's constituents (like me) can tell you that "the buck" most certainly DOES stop with Bennett, as evidenced by his diligent responsiveness to their concerns (i.e. his opposition to the I-pad purchase and resulting debacle.)  
The students, parents, and citizens of LAUSD District 5 can ill afford to have someone like Mr. Rodriguez to be one of only seven individuals (the seven Board Members) in charge of LAUSD finances, a solemn responsibility that Board Member Kayser---a 30-year teacher and school administrator, by the way---has approached with the utmost care and seriousness.  

In the last four years---and in contrast to Ref's record---neither Kayser nor anyone on his staff, nor anyone connected to him in any way has benefited financially from any action that Board Member Kayser has taken.  Nor has anyone been involved in any corruption of any kind while he has been fulfilling the oath that he took in July 2011.  Profiting or enriching himself is most certainly NOT why Bennett is serving on the board.  Just as in his teaching and school administrator career, it's not about him;  it's about the well-being of 670,000 students, their parents and the community as a whole for which he is responsible.  
Unlike Rodriguez and others, it's not a fear of being caught that drives Board Member Kayser to avoid financial impropriety, eschew personal enrichment, and remain on the "straight and narrow";  it's Bennett's own conscience and moral code.  I can vouch for this, as I've known him personally for years.  That's all part of the solemn vow that an LAUSD Board Member takes when he is sworn into office.  If re-elected, Bennett's track record on this score, of course, will continue for the next four years, and for as long as Bennett serves as a public servant. 
Mr. Rodriguez' actions, as detailed in the May 2 Los Angeles Times' article, call into serious question his own ability to do likewise.

Indeed, a key part of Bennett's job as the incumbent District 5 Board Member these last four years on LAUSD's board has been to manage LAUSD's budget, and know in as great detail as possible where every penny of that $7 billion goes.  This truly is a task on a par with memorizing the phonebook, but it is a job that a School Board member must be willing and able to take on. Bennett has overseen and balanced three consecutive budgets of $7 billion each, and one that services 670,000 students and the adult staff that serve them!!! Top that, will you?
How does Ref's track record compare to this?
Well, according to writer and activist Robert Skeels, "Ref Rodriguez couldn’t keep one school, with only 100 students, balanced for nine years (9) straight! This 'insolvent' bad apple is Lakeview Charter, part of the Rodriguez/PUC charter chain. Ham-handed attempts by Rodriguez’s supporter to hide the Office of the Inspector General’s (OIG) audit of the Rodriguez-run PUC Lakeview Charter School, and affiliated enterprises, have been exposed."  

Read more of Robert Skeels' article at:

Again, the state audit's report clearly calls into question Mr. Rodriguez' capabilities in this area.  

Once the audit hit the news, Ms. Castillo quickly left PUC, with PUC executive Ms. Elliot making the only public comment on the matter... stating that they didn't know about the conflict of interest, and that there was no wrongdoing on anyone's part.

What about Ref's response? So far, incredibly, there's been RADIO SILENCE FROM REF RODRIGUEZ HIMSELF.  I am sorry, but the Mr. Rodriguez and the folks at PUC cannot have it both ways.  They cannot, on the one hand, fire Ms. Duvivier Castillo (or pressure her to resign), and then, on the other hand, claim---as Ms. Elliot has---that there was no wrong-doing on her or anyone else's part.  
If Ms. Castillo--and by extension, Ref and Ms. Elliot--- truly did nothing wrong, as PUC officials claim, there is no reason for Ms. Castillo to leave PUC, and no reason for Ref to clam up about the whole sordid affair.
Innocent people do not run away (like Ms. Castillo has);  guilty people do.
Innocent people don't clam up (like Ref has); they speak out and clear their name.

If you've got nothing to hide, you hide nothing.



Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Didn't dullard Duncan say Katrina was the best thing to happen to New Orleans?

“…let me be really honest. I think the best thing that happened to the education system in New Orleans was Hurricane Katrina.” — Arne Duncan

The absolute worst education President, and Secretary of Education in U.S. history: Barack Obama and Arne Duncan
The absolute worst education President, and Secretary of Education in U.S. history.

For Immediate Release: May 13, 2015
Contact: Madison Donzis,, 210.488.6220

New Report Exposes Holes in Louisiana’s Charter School Program and Millions in Taxpayer Dollars Wasted on a Broken System

Coalition for Community School New Orleans and the Center for Popular Democracy (CPD) Highlight Consequences of Louisiana’s Failed Academic and Financial Oversight of Charter Schools
**See the report here:** 

new report released this week finds that the drastic growth of overinvestment in charter schools and underinvestment in oversight has left Louisiana’s students, parents, teachers and taxpayers at risk of academic failures and financial fraud. The report, “System Failure: Louisiana’s Broken Charter School Law” cites billions of taxpayer dollars plunged into charter schools since Hurricane Katrina hit, including over $831 million in the 2014-15 school year alone. 

Since 2005, charter school enrollment in the state has grown 1,188 percent. The Louisiana Department of Education’s Recovery School District, originally created to facilitate state takeover of struggling schools, is now the first charter-only school district in the country. 
The report identifies five fundamental flaws with the financial and academic oversight of Louisiana’s charter schools: 

1.    Oversight depends too heavily on self-reporting by charter schools or the reports of whistleblowers. Louisiana’s oversight agencies rely almost entirely on audits paid for by the charters themselves and whistleblowers. While important to uncover fraud, neither method systematically detects or effectively prevents fraud. 

2.    The general auditing techniques used in charter school reports do not uncover fraud on their own. The audits commissioned by the charter schools use general auditing techniques designed to expose inaccuracies or inefficiencies. Without audits specifically designed to detect and uncover fraud, however, state and local agencies will rarely detect deliberate fraud without a whistleblower.

3.    Inadequate staffing prevents the thorough detection and elimination fraud. Louisiana inadequately staffs its charter-school oversight agencies. In order to carry out high-quality audits of any type, auditors need enough time. With too few qualified people on staff—and too little training for existing staff—agencies are unable to uncover clues that might lead to fuller investigations and the discovery of fraud.

4.    Underinvestment in systems that help struggling schools succeed. Lawmakers and regulators have invested in systems that set high standards and then close schools that fail to meet them, rather than helping them improve to meet the standards. This investment in a severe accountability system does not support schools achieve academic success.

5.    Heavy reliance on data that is vulnerable to manipulation. The state’s academic oversight system relies largely on sets of data that can be manipulated by regulators, authorizers, or the charters themselves. Without reliable data, schools, parents and the public have no way to accurately gauge academic quality at their schools.

Since 2005, approximately $700 million in public tax dollars has been spent on charter schools that currently have not achieved a C or better on the state’s grading system. As the state has insufficiently resourced financial oversight, it has failed to create a structure that provides struggling schools and their students with a pathway to academic success. Coupled with an unwillingness to help failing schools succeed, the rapid growth of charters has failed Louisiana children, families and taxpayers. 

The report calls for a set of core reforms to end the hemorrhaging of public funds to fraudulent charter schools and also calls on state and federal lawmakers to put systems in place to prevent fraud, waste, abuse and mismanagement. To address the serious deficiencies in Louisiana school districts, the Center for Popular Democracy and CCS suggest mandating new measures designed to detect and prevent fraud, increasing financial transparency and accountability, redesigning the data collection process, and redesigning the system to support struggling schools.


The Center for Popular Democracy is a nonprofit organization that promotes equity, opportunity, and a dynamic democracy in partnership with innovative base- building organizations, organizing networks and alliances, and progressive unions across the country.

Coalition for Community Schools New Orleans (CCS) is a New Orleans alliance of parent, youth and community organizations and labor groups fighting for educational justice and equity in access to school resources and opportunities.

New Report Exposes Holes in Louisiana’s Charter School Program and Millions in Taxpayer Dollars Wasted on a... by Robert D. Skeels


Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Ref Rodriguez's Game of Hide the PUC Audit

May 12, 2015

Contact: Bennett Kayser HQ
Cell: 323-535-9930

Los Angeles – Bennett Kayser, Board member of the second largest school district in the nation, has balanced three, $7 billion dollar budgets affecting 660,000 students, their families and those who serve them.

The report shows that Kayser’s Board District 5 challenger Ref Rodriguez couldn’t keep one school, with only 100 students, balanced for nine years (9) straight! This “insolvent” bad apple is Lakeview Charter, part of the Rodriguez/PUC charter chain. Ham-handed attempts by Rodriguez’s supporter to hide the Office of the Inspector General’s (OIG) audit of the Rodriguez-run PUC Lakeview Charter School, and affiliated enterprises, have been exposed.

The audit became a hot political football to be deflated by Rodriguez’s ideological ally. Howard Blume of the Los Angeles Times first reported last week on the surreptitious attempts to hide the facts:

Under extraordinary circumstances, the independent audit of Rodriguez’s charter was withheld from the public, diverted into a “closed session” of the Tuesday, May 12th Board meeting and shoved under “attorney-client privilege” in an attempt to bury the damning report. The audit was also withheld from the usual public posting on the OIG’s website. Though still not posted, the audit can be viewed here:

The Inspector General's report lays out how Rodriguez's school violated child abuse requirements, the State’s Education Code, State labor rules, best practices, and even its own charter, multiple times. On page three the report highlights “...the fact that for nine straight years of school operations, the Lakeview Charter Academy had poor financial results, and was fiscally insolvent.” (aka bankrupt!)

Perhaps out of fear that the scathing audit would trigger calls for additional investigations and oversite of Rodriguez’s schools, the topic was dropped from the Board’s Closed Session agenda for May 12, 2015.

The fact the PUC audit was pulled from the Board’s closed session agenda is proof-positive that games are being played by political allies to hide poor management, if not serious violations by Rodriguez and his executive team. What the PUC?

Paid for by Re-Elect Bennett Kayser for School Board 2015 - General – 419 North Larchmont Blvd., #37, Los Angeles, CA 90004 – ID #1375891 – More information available at – – (323) 535-9930


Thursday, May 07, 2015

Rally against the cuts to Adult Education, Early Education, School Nurses, and Counselors

Rally against the cuts to Adult Education, Early Education, School Nurses, and Counselors

All the Pieces Matter

Join us at LAUSD headquarters on Beaudry next Tuesday, May 12, for UTLA's "All the Pieces Matter!" rally against the RIFs. Come together and show support for our students and Adult Education, and other programs being cut such as Early Education, and counselors. As educators, we are all an important piece in the fight for the Schools L.A. Students Deserve: Parent-enriched Early Education to K-12 to Adult Ed to every classroom to Health and Human Services.


Tuesday, May 05, 2015

LA Progressive: Ref Rodriguez—What the PUC Is Going on Here?

“The L.A. County district attorney’s office indicated Monday that it expected another, separate probe to be conducted by L.A. Unified’s inspector general.” — LA Times

Ref Rodriguez: What the PUC Is Going on Here?

In the LA Progressive piece What the PUC Is Going on Here? Hans Johnson and Hector Huezo of the East Area Progressive Democrats take a look at Refugio "Ref" Rodriguez's myriad financial "mishaps." These include: the fishy max campaign contributions from employees paid minimum wage; the eye-opening audit of PUC's Lakeview finances; and passing mention of the FoodGate money laundering scheme that saw PUC employees self-dealing. The latter issue has become such a scandal that now has both the The L.A. County District Attorney and the L.A. Unified Inspector General are investigating PUC corporate officers including Jacqueline Elliot and Ref Rodriguez. Rodriguez was PUC's Chief Executive Officer at the time the Better 4 You contract was awarded, and has been their Corporate Board Treasurer ever since. Rodriguez has shamelessly promoted profiteering on behalf of the burgeoning corporate charter school sector for years.

Ref Rodriguez: What the PUC Is Going on Here?


Saturday, May 02, 2015

The First Bilingual Education Fair of Los Angeles

The First Bilingual Education Fair of Los Angeles

The First Bilingual Education Fair of Los Angeles