Saturday, April 16, 2016

Schools Matter: The schools Steve Barr made: Green Dot Charters post NINE of lowest fifty SAT scores

First published on Schools Matter on April 06, 2016

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

Steve Barr. Stand up to Green Dot's corporate charter-voucher racism.
Beleaguered Green Dot schools have dealt with charges of racism, embezzlement, poor performance, and even cheating. Green Dot Founder Steve Barr created a mythology about his corporate charters that persists even today. Barr photo
CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

Corporate profiteer Steve Barr is in the news again. Now he is mulling a run at Los Angeles Mayor. Barr calls himself an "educational innovator" despite having no background in either education or pedagogy. While his attempts to "turn around schools" have been epic failures in New Orleans and Los Angeles, his Green Dot Corporate Charter Chain is frequently held up as a measure of his so-called success. Except they're anything but successful.

Green Dot Corporate Charter Schools hold the dubious record of NINE of the lowest fifty average SAT scores in Los Angeles County for 2015. The billionaire backed charter chain, founded by corporate executive Barr and run by hedge fund manager Marco Petruzzi, group of SAT bottom dwellers leads all other charter chains in comprising 18% of the fifty worst. These schools were (lower numbers are worst performing):

  • 4. Animo Locke Charter High School #1 (Los Angeles): SAT Composite 1033
  • 12. Animo Watts Charter High (Los Angeles): SAT Composite 1092
  • 14. Animo Locke Charter High School #2 (Los Angeles): SAT Composite 1104
  • 16. Alain Leroy Locke High (Los Angeles): SAT Composite 1107
  • 19. Animo Ralph Bunche High (Los Angeles): SAT Composite 1117
  • 25. Animo Locke Technology High (Los Angeles): SAT Composite 1129
  • 26. Animo Oscar De La Hoya Charter High (Los Angeles): SAT Composite 1129
  • 34. Animo Jackie Robinson High (Los Angeles): SAT Composite 1150
  • 50. Animo South Los Angeles Charter (Los Angeles): SAT Composite 1180

The privately managed charter chain's marketing slogan is "…all students graduate prepared for college, leadership and life." These dismal SAT scores would seem to indicate otherwise. For context 1500 is considered the minimum threshold for college readiness, while 2052 was the composite average for Freshmen accepted into UCLA in 2013.

Barr has never been able to get his own house together at his lucrative charter chain. Why would we trust him meddling with our public schools?

(Source: LATimes accessed 20160210)


Schools Matter: Shining light on the charter school industry's biggest player

First published on Schools Matter on April 05, 2016

“This increasingly well-rooted network provides the Gulen Movement with daily access to the minds of over 45,000 students, and yearly access to hundreds of millions of hard-earned tax dollars.” — Sharon Higgins

KILLING ED is a new documentary feature film that exposes a shocking truth: that one of the largest networks of taxpayer-funded charter schools in the U.S. are a worst-case-scenario—operated with questionable academic, labor, and H1-B visa standards by members of the Gülen Movement.The largest chain of charter schools in the United States is that of those associated with the secretive Gülenist religious cult. With financial might sufficient to buy off politicians, and the political clout to push legislation, Gülen charters, like all charter schools, are the inevitable result of what happens after putting public money into private hands. Gülen is just one of many cults dominating the corporate charter school industry. Charter schools are symptomatic of the privatization of the public commons.

After years of being able to remain in obscurity while silencing their opposition, the Gülenist Network is beginning to find itself under ever increasing scrutiny. The Turkish government hired Amsterdam & Partners LLP to investigate. Their findings are even more shocking than many Gülen observers expected. Additionally, a full length documentary film entitled KILLING ED has been released, which outlines the shadowy Gülenist Network’s pervasive involvement with privately managed charter schools.

While some of lucrative charter school industry's top profiteers have been brought in to attempt damage control, there remains hope that this story of corruption, greed, and indoctrination will begin to reach an ever widening circle of people.

Please find below Amsterdam & Partners LLP’s press release, press conference video, and trailer for KILLING ED. Stopping the charter school industry must become one of our top priorities if we value public education as a society.

State of California Urged to Investigate Gülen-linked Magnolia Charter Schools

By Editor | Published: February 16, 2016

The following press release was distributed to media on Tuesday, February 16, 2016:

LOS ANGELES, February 16, 2016 – A formal complaint has been issued under the California Uniform Complaint Procedure (“UCP”) urging the California Department of Education to conduct a full investigation into the financial practices of the Magnolia Public Schools charter school network, which currently operates 11 active charter schools in California.

The UCP Complaint – brought by the law firm Amsterdam & Partners LLP, in conjunction with interested California taxpayers Dr. José Moreno and Tina Andres – notes that a 2015 audit conducted by the California State Auditor discovered widespread accounting impropriety and raised numerous other important questions about Magnolia’s financial practices. Notable among them is Magnolia’s connection to the global organization of charter schools and businesses headed by Turkish national Fethullah Gülen, a reclusive Islamic cleric who resides in Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania.

“The State Auditor was unable to verify the propriety of a staggering 69% of financial transactions from a sampling at the Magnolia schools, but it did identify large contracts from Magnolia to affiliated vendors, and revealed that Magnolia has improperly spent hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars on immigration lawyers to import teachers from Turkey,” said Robert Amsterdam, founding partner of Amsterdam & Partners LLP. “Although Magnolia’s CEO and Superintendent insists that there is no connection between Magnolia and the Gülen Organization, we respectfully direct the California authorities to Magnolia’s financial ties to the Pacifica Institute in Irvine, and to the similarities between Magnolia’s operating profile and that of other known Gülen Organization charter schools.”

Tina Andres, one of the individual Complainants, said, “Magnolia’s misuse of public funds is intolerable. They use our tax dollars to pay for visas to hire Turkish teachers, while there are plenty of talented and highly qualified teachers looking for positions in our area.”

Magnolia has submitted multiple new charter school applications valued at more than $48 million each. The UCP Complaint asserts that the volume of negative findings of the California State Auditor from a mere sampling of Magnolia’s transactions and vendor agreements should have spurred a comprehensive investigation into the Magnolia charter school network, and that the State of California owes a fiduciary duty to California taxpayers to probe further.

The UCP Complaint was delivered to the California Department of Education, as well as to various stakeholders concerned about the issue. It is available for viewing at, where supporters may also sign a petition urging the California Department of Education to initiate the requested investigation

Dr. José Moreno is an Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Chicano & Latino Studies at California State University, Long Beach, and a former President of the Board of Education for the Anaheim City School District. He has four children currently attending public schools in Anaheim, where Magnolia is seeking to expand. Tina Andres is a veteran public school teacher in the Santa Ana Unified School District, which hosts a Magnolia school. She has two children attending public schools in the district, one of which is a charter school.

Amsterdam & Partners LLP – an international law firm with offices in London and Washington, DC – acts for the Republic of Turkey, and is conducting a global investigation into the alleged illegal activities of the Gülen Organization. Additional information about Amsterdam & Partners LLP is available at

Gülen Charter Schools Investigation Press Conference

Robert Amsterdam, lawyer at Amsterdam & Partners LLP, holds press conference updating the public on the latest developments and upcoming legal suits relating to alleged illegal conduct by the U.S. charter school network controlled by controversial Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen.

Documentary film exposing charter schools and the Gülenist Network

KILLING ED is a new documentary feature film that exposes a shocking truth: that one of the largest networks of taxpayer-funded charter schools in the U.S. are a worst-case-scenario—operated with questionable academic, labor, and H1-B visa standards by members of the “Gülen Movement” – a rapidly expanding, global Islamic group whose leader, Fethullah Gülen, lives in seclusion in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania.


Schools Matter: Guest Post: Tom McIver: Caprice Young and the Master of Deception

First published on Schools Matter on April 04, 2016

“Jed’s predecessor, Caprice Young, made over $250,000 for her work at the CCSA. Check out the cast of characters on CCSA’s board of directors.” — Kenneth Libby

Caprice "Capricious" Young, Privatization Princess, CORO Fellow, CCSA Alum, ICEF Flunky, and Poverty Pimp.These pages have addressed right-wing school privatization pusher Caprice Young before. Her early history working with Richard Riordan, predatory capitalist and junk bond felon Michael Milken, and racist, bigoted, anti-immigrant nativist Steve Poizner was discussed in a piece that also exposed her profiting from the dubious online charter school sector. What was missing from that piece is that she openly boasts of Walmart's John Walton being her mentor. Another piece addressed her taking the helm of Fethullah Gülen's failing Magnolia corporate charter chain.

Credit to Young. Two times she was able to step into situations where charter schools had squandered millions of taxpayer dollars, and make the investigations go away. Young, along with her Gülen corporate charters in Los Angeles, are currently being investigated by Amsterdam & Partners LLP.

I received a communiqué from Dr. Tom McIver in November of 2013 regarding another one of Young's unsavory colleagues, which, in turn, was another one of her charter business "ventures" (read scams). However, I had just returned to UCLA after a nineteen year hiatus to complete my BA, and my focus was on that. The email went unnoticed until recently. Checking the links led to me asking for clarification, and with his permission, his initial email, and excerpts from another email appear here:

From: tmciver@
Subject: Caprice Young and the Master of Deception
Date November 03, 2013 17:46:35 PST
To: rdsathene@

Robert Skeels,

I came across some blog posts by you that mentioned Caprice Young. At one point, when she was supported by the Milken Foundation, she was collaborating with Al Seckel, who I know all too well. He has boasted of his partnership with her, e.g. this interview with billionaire (and convicted sex offender) Richard Epstein:

Here they are at Jeff Pulver's prestigious DLD conference joined by Arianna Huffington and CNN chief Jonathan Klein:

Seckel is currently defendant in this fraud case: This case is just the tip of his fraud. In case you are interested, attached is timeline of his activities (including his association with Young).

Tom McIver

I too discovered the DLD link was dead.  The whole session was on video, but no longer.  I have put my Seckel timeline online and updated it and added links: I do not mind attribution.  Seckel is reportedly dead, as the now timeline indicates.  Some new information has come to light, and I hope more will follow.

DLD is a global conference network ( LifeDesign). Here is there speaker bio for Seckel (mentioning the panel with Young):

Tom McIver

Excerpts from McIver's original chronology implicating Young (emphasis mine), which is displayed below. His updated chronology timeline is here.

2009 Oct 29: Seckel hosts presents and hosts panel on information technology and education at internet entrepreneur Jeff Pulver’s 140-Characters conference; panelists include Arianna Huffington, Jonathan Klein (CNN chief), and Caprice Young (Milken Institute).

2010 Oct 23: Seckel and Maxwell host G4G10 event at their “beautiful Malibu home.” Features Robert Lang and Chris Palmer origami displays and guest of honor Nolan Bushnell (Atari). Attendees include Jeff Scanlan, Catherine Mohr, Stuart Anstis, Jonathan Delbruck, Solomon Golomb, Caprice Young, Irving Biederman, Brad Templeton, Arana Greenberg, Brock Pierce, Michael Kaliski, Victoria Skye, Amy Sterling Casil, Eric Gradman, Brian Deagon, Philip Lelyveld, Richard Bilow, Glenn Kaino, Michael Naimark, Sanford Climan

2010 Oct: Seckel interview is lead item on Jeffrey Epstein’s science website. Self-promotional claims here are similar to his original Wikipedia entry. Says he got funding for “massive interactive website on thinking skills” with friend Caprice Young (Milken Institute). Claims “Tommy” Gold was his Cornell advisor, and at Caltech he was in Feynman’s “very close inner circle” with Michael Douglas and one other person, spending hours with him “almost every other day.” Claims to be very close to M. Gell-Mann, and friends with “Shelly” Glashow, Lisa Randall, Sean Carroll, and Jimmy Wales.

Gülenist Caprice Young's association with Al Seckel by Robert D. Skeels


K-12NN Wire: California charter school industry bill attempts to eliminate only source of public oversight

First published on K-12NN Wire on April 1, 2016

“…charter schools have used their public characteristics to qualify for public funding under state constitutional law, while highlighting their private characteristics to exempt themselves from other laws that apply to public schools.”—Professors Preston C. Green and Joseph Oluwole

Save Public Schools! Adult Education Students protest school privatizer Monica Garcia in Koreatown after she voted to shut down all adult schools and use the money for privately managed charters.

School privatization promoting Nonprofit Industrial Complex (NPIC) EdSource has long been a source of both political cover, and highly biased "journalism" on behalf of the lucrative charter school industry. Their pay-to-advocate paradigm is evidenced by a donor list that is replete with the usual suspects of ideologically charged (read reactionary) billionaires and foundations. On March 30, 2016 they posted a puff piece on behalf of the California Charter Schools Association (CCSA) regarding AB 2806, a bill that would further block oversight of charter schools, and impede any investigations into charter school wrongdoing. Trade association CCSA, essentially a U.S. Chamber of Commerce for the lucrative charter school industry in California, has increasingly used its seemingly endless source of lobbying funds to push the bill.

My comments are reproduced here:

The lengths these revenue hungry charter school executives will go to avoid any and all oversight is astonishing. The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) and the Office of the Independent Monitor (OIM) are the only organs of public oversight that come close to the de minimis scrutiny these privately managed schools should be subject to. As a legal scholar whose research into the various misrepresentation and malfeasance perpetrated by the charter sector, I depend on access to information gathered by the OIG/OIM. I would find impossible to discover facts that would otherwise remain undisclosed by the secretive charter industry without these bodies. I am not alone in this regard. The United States Census Bureau is on record for not being able to report information on charter schools because of their private nature (US Census Bureau. (2011). "Public Education Finances: 2009 (GO9-ASPEF)". Washington, DC: US Government Printing O ce. Print. vi).

It is in the public interest that charter schools be subject to a modicum of oversight. One would think that it would be public policy that any organization that takes public money should be subject to public scrutiny. AB 2806 would severely hamper the OIG's already minimal ability to investigate an industry that essentially runs with no other public oversight or control. The charter industry's attempts to eliminate this one mechanism for holding them accountable is unconscionable, but not unexpected.

The irony of well-heeled charter school executives like Caprice Young decrying the OIG should not go unnoticed. In defense of her beleaguered Magnolia charter chain, Young has written several Op-Eds. In them she discusses a 2015 audit of the schools claiming it was "financially solvent", but omits that scores of previous audits found the chain insolvent. For instance, the 2014 audit revealed them "operating on a $1.7 million deficit" and that there multiple instances of "missing, misused funds" (SPRC, 2014). This misrepresentation by omission alone impeaches Young's credibility beyond any reasonable standard. Moreover, it demonstrates why public agencies like the OIG and OIG are so critical. AB 2806 is further evidence of the lucrative charter school industry's revenue-first agenda, and their ongoing efforts to avoid any oversight is another example of how they harm both their own students, and the students in our public schools.

Defeat AB 2806 & Empower the LAUSD Inspector General's Office


Schools Matter: Debunking the charter school industry’s “lotteries prevent cherry picking” trope

First published on Schools Matter on March 30, 2016

A brief response to a charter school industry apologist encountered on Professor Ravitch's site:

A threadbare trope of the charter industry (profit and nonprofit alike), is that of “lotteries prevent cherry picking”. Cherry picking, or what we term selective enrollment in more learned circles, is far more easily achieved by attrition. High attrition is facilitated through push out policies (e.g. charter school disciplinary practices, onerous requirements for parents, etc.), through counseling out (a practice used by most Los Angeles charter chains for Students With Disabilities (cf. Office of the Independent Monitor. “Pilot Study of Charter Schools’ Compliance with the Modified Consent Decree and the LAUSD Special Education Policies and Procedures”., Los Angeles: Modified Consent Decree., 2009. Print.)), and a number of other practices. Moreover, students lost (a euphemism) through attrition are generally not replaced with students mid-year (revenue hungry charter operators call this not “backfilling”).

Debunking the charter school industry’s lotteries prevent cherry picking tropeIn addition to effectively selecting their student body through attrition (the de facto “cherry picking,” so to speak), charters frequently screen children out during pre-lottery enrollment through difficult to understand applications, and/or applications that require disclosure of information that discourage families from the process to being with. For example, in Los Angeles, so-called 501c3 “non-profit” charters were found to require parents “to indicate if their child had an IEP or received special education services. Of these, about two-thirds (64.77%) requested that a copy of the IEP be provided with the application. Similarly, 34.83% of the applications asked if a student had a 504 plan, with 79.03% of these requesting a copy with the application.” (Office of the Independent Monitor. “Findings of the Review of Charter Applications and Enrollment Forms”., Los Angeles: Report on the Progress and Effectiveness of the Los Angeles Unified School District's Implementation of the Modified Consent Decree During the 2010-2011 School Year., 2011. Print.)


Schools Matter: Guest Post: Dr. Jill Stein: A failing grade for Obama's Education pick

First published on Schools Matter on March 27, 2016

“Public education is another example where there has been a complete scam [regarding privatization]—charter schools are not better than public schools—and in many cases they are far worse. They cherry-pick their students so they can show better test scores. The treasure of our public schools system has been assaulted by the process of privatization.” — Dr. Jill Stein

Dr. Jill Stein: A failing grade for Obama's Education pick

Dr. Jill Stein, Green Party candidate for President, has consistently articulated the best public education platform of all the candidates. Her basic education tenets are the anthesis of those advanced by the neoliberal corporate education reform crowd:

Education as a Right: Abolish student debt to free a generation of Americans from debt servitude. Guarantee tuition-free, world-class public education from pre-school through university. End high stakes testing and public school privatization.

Her campaign sent out a press release on the woefully inappropriate appointment of John King as Secretary of Education. So well reasoned and written, it warrants reproduction here:

A failing grade for Obama's Education pick

Dr. Jill Stein, Green Party candidate for President President Obama’s choice for Education Secretary has earned a failing grade from parents, students, teachers, and education advocates across the nation.

Former New York State Education Commissioner John King’s education reforms have been such a disaster for NY schools that last year an incredible 20% of students opted out of the Common Core high-stakes tests introduced by King.

King’s corporate education agenda has given Wall Street A+ profits, but has robbed our children of the quality education they need and deserve.

That’s why I’m asking you to join my call today for a public education system that puts our children first, not corporate profits!

How do we know that Obama’s new Education Secretary is the wrong choice to be in charge of our schools? Let’s look at his report card.

John King co-founded Roxbury Academy in Boston, a charter school noted for rigid, authoritarian zero-tolerance policies that gave it one of the highest suspension rates in the state. In some years, students were punished with suspension at a rate ten times the state average or more.

As NYS Education Commissioner, King moved quickly to implement Common Core standards, which the Obama administration coerced schools into accepting by offering “Race to the Top” money while many school budgets were being slashed due to the recession and austerity.

Despite a firestorm of controversy across the state over the rushed implementation of high-stakes testing, as well as the lack of field testing and input from parents, teachers and students, King brushed off these concerns and insisted on ramming his plan through.

Warnings from King’s critics came true in 2013, when just 31% of students passed the new Common Core math and reading tests.

We’ve seen a common pattern with the education agenda pushed by Wall Street and standardized test corporations: high-stakes testing sets up public schools to fail, paving the way for the takeover of education by charter schools with their profits subsidized by taxpayer dollars.

Within two years after King’s disastrous Common Core rollout, 20% of students were sitting out the tests in protest. Even NY Governor Andrew Cuomo, who appointed King as commissioner, told state education officials that “Common Core’s implementation in New York has been flawed and mismanaged from the start.”

So John King gets an A for boosting corporate profits from high-stakes testing, but an F for improving educational opportunities and outcomes for students.

It’s outrageous that both Democrats and Republicans agree on an education agenda that comes from Wall Street profiteers.

Sign and share my call for an education system designed to educate our children, not to enrich corporate profiteers!

As President, I will halt the destructive push for high-stakes testing and school privatization. Instead of teaching to the test, we need to teach to the whole student for lifetime learning.

We also need increased federal public education funding to correct the shameful disparities between rich and poor school districts, and policies to reverse the growing de facto race and class segregation in public schools.

I will work together with educators, parents, and students to create a world-class public education system that works for people, not profit.

Because our children deserve better.

It’s in our hands!


Whitewashing Ghost in the Shell

Sign the petition!

This twitter thread by Jon Tsuei sums up the WHITEWASHING of Ghost in the Shell better than I ever could. As a longtime fan of both the films (I own the 1995 DVD), and the series, and as a social justice activist, I find what Hollywood has done (again) abhorrent. I've linked midway through his thread, because I found this single tweet most compelling. The story is inherently Japanese, and Hollywood has engaged in shameless cultural appropriation yet again, not to mention devaluing women—specifically Japanese women—in casting an Anglo as Major Motoko.

h/t @vergesstuck for posting the original, which includes a petition.