Tuesday, August 11, 2015

LA Charter Onslaught

Last Friday, the LA Times brought the news that "a major charter expansion" is "in the works for LA Unified students."  It might have also noted that the expansion was in the works for parents and taxpayers, but I suppose that's not as powerful as noting that this is For The Children.

But the lede will give you an idea of whence this wind is blowing:

A prominent local education foundation is discussing a major expansion of charter schools in Los Angeles aimed at boosting academic achievement for students at the lowest performing campuses.

The prominent foundation is, of course, the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, though apparently the folks at Keck and Walton are in on this, too, and my hat is once again off to folks who have the chutzpah to unilaterally declare themselves the head of a previously-democratic sector of society. Did somebody elect the Broad Foundation to the school board of the LA USD? No? Well, why let that stop them from going ahead and setting policy. I think I may go ahead and declare myself the chief of police here in my town, stop down to City Hall, and let them know what the new policies are going to be.

"People have been demanding better public schools forever and not getting them," said Swati Pandey, a spokeswoman for the foundation."But we say, screw public schools-- let's just replace them with privately owned and operated charters." Ha! Okay, she's only quoted as saying that first part. I filled in the rest for her.

Folks who have attended the meetings about this unelected initiative have shared other tidbits, like a goal to enroll half of all LA students in charters over the next eight years. There also seemed to be a lot of looking at maps of where all the students trapped in failing schools are, and discussing how to get charters operating for those students.

Although they note that "an ambitious expansion of charter schools would be costly and would likely face a political fight," there's no indication of a discussion about the relative expense of supporting and improving those public schools as compared to the expensive charter-launching approach.

There's also no indication that any part of this conversation was held with the actual public school system. LAUSD board president Steve Zimmer, whatever his faults, has a quote in the article that shows he understands the problem.

"The most critical concern would be the collateral damage to the children left behind," he said.

Because this charter plan for a huger private school system (and all the major players, from Green Dot to ICEF are apparently in on this) would get its operating expenses by stripping resources from the public system.

And if you're a fan of LA school foolishness, you'll love this final line from the Times article:

The foundation declined to discuss what role, if any, Deasy is playing in the new effort.

Yesterday, the LA School School Report followed up on this "bombshell story" by getting Broad to offer some non-clarification clarification. The foundation sent an email saying, "Some schools bad. All students should have the benefit of contributing to the financial health of a privately operated charter school." I'm paraphrasing.

Because when you are announcing your intention to launch a hostile takeover of the entire public school system in a major city (or at least a takeover of its funding), the last thing you need to do is clarify yourself to the taxpayers, voters, elected officials, parents, and all those other little people that you don't have to answer to.


  1. All charter? Great goal. Where do the kid go who have been counseled out of charters? Take the 20% of kids whose special ed status, behavior issues and limited English cause them to be tossed from charters. Add low funding. Either social services for adults, or crime, will go up in ten years.

  2. Hostile takeover indeed. Exactly what it is.

  3. "Did somebody elect the Broad Foundation to the school board of the LAUSD?"

    Quite the contrary. The Broad-backed candidate have been defeated time and again, even though they outspent their opponents 5-to-1, or in Monica Ratliff's defeat of Broad-backed Antonio Sanchez 40-to-1.

    Broad, Gates, Walton, John Arnold, Reed Hastings... they don't care what the people want and vote for. They're going to shove privatization down L.A. citizens' throats whether those citizens want it or not.

  4. No Jack, the Broad academy elected most of the board, they bought it fair and square. Money is speech so they get the most voice and we lose any choices. That is how fascism works isn't it?

    1. Seriously, though, Broad and his corporate reform buddies actually did buy control of the LAUSD board from 2009-2011... and had a semi-control over the LAUSD board from 2011-2013.

      (The 7 LAUSD school board members are elected in odd-numbered years. 3 in one election, then 4 in the next. REPEAT... with the exception of special elections for members who pass away or resign in even-numbered years.)

      After doing well in elections up to 2003---a particularly good election that year for proponents of public education---UTLA and pro-public education groups started botching elections (long stories) in 2005, 2007, and 2009.

      2005 also saw the defeat of several public employee union-busting nitiatives that would have turned California into what Wisconsin is now. It was a bitter battle with Schwarzenegger, and the Terminator lost. (long story)

      The defeats in 2005, 2007, and 2009 allowed the forces of corporate reform darkness to take a commanding majority starting in August 2009. As soon as they got that commanding majority, the Broadies went to work fast. They laid off 5,000 teachers. UTLA quickly took a paycut (furloughs) to save about 3,500 jobs, but 1,500 went through, causing turmoil and chaos.

      Young teachers turned against veteran. Full-time teachers turned against subs. Union members turned against leadership. It was a deliberately orchestrated disruption. Even though others (like me) pointed this out, and tried to persuade those fighting amongst themselves not to give in to this divisiveness---as that reaction was one of the purposes of all these actions... to get different groups to turn on each other. It worked.

      (Those wounds have yet to fully heal... though last spring's LAUSD/UTLA contract, with that 10% permanent, certainly raise helped.)

      The layoffs also freed up classroom space---laid off teachers meant higher class size meant empty classrooms---for those privately-run charters to invade public school campuses and expand their presence in LAUSD.

      However, this all paled in comparison to the August 2009 Public School Choice Motion (P.S.C.)... a plan to turn over 300 (about 1/3rd of total schools) of the lowest performing schools (again, based on test scores) to private companies. These included dozens of shiny, newly-built schools with state-of-the-art facilities ... and the annual school budgets that would be handed over to the private sector. I was furious because I had worked on the elections to pass the bond measures to fund those schools' construction.... as I was pissed at the overcrowding and its ill effects on students... and now we faced turning them over to Nabisco Schools, Inc. and Acme Charter Schools (not real names)

      The corporate reformers announced this vote while hundreds of UTLA leaders were away for a Leadership Conference in August 2009. This was to be the first Board Meeting with former teacher and recently-electd Steve Zimmer. The UTLA leaders rushed back, and there were massive protests against P.S.C. from parents and teachers, plus fabricated astroturf protests by pro-charter parents in favor of it.

      I remember these clueless parents being handed new T-shirts---right out of the box---as they got off a chartered bus. Like extras in a movie crowd, Parent Revolution staffers ordered them around, and led their sadly disciplined chanting: "We want change! We want choice!" I went over and asked some of them if they knew what they were chanting about. One replied, "No, I have no idea... but this helps fulfill our required volunteer hours."

      It was horrific.

      That vote was Steve Zimmer's first-ever board meeting. After being sworn in, he gave a great speech about how his fellow board members and he must now rise above differences and work together for the good of children.

      CONTINUED ON NEXT POST --- more LAUSD history

  5. CONTINUED FROM LAST POST --- more LAUSD history

    The next thing that happened?

    Steve recalled, "They then declared war on me" with the P.S.C. motion.

    Eventually, UTLA and the community were able to stop most---but sadly not all---of these P.S.C. give-aways, and eventually cancelled Public School Choice. (again, long story).

    2010 saw Jerry Brown defeat the privatization-minded billionaire Meg Whitman, and incumbent U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer defeated privatization proponent Carly Fiorina.

    (2010 was the Republican sweep of Walker and the rest, if you recall. I remember getting a call from my conservative brother on the East Coast, who joked, "How are things on The Left coast?")

    In January 2011, the first day he took office, Brown threw all the privatization puppets like Ben Austin off the California State Board of Education. God that felt good!

    Then, starting in the next election of 2011, things started to turn around, with Bennett Kayser's upset of his corporate opponent.

    2012 had the defeat of Prop 32... a Vergara-like union buster, and also saw the passage of Prop 30, which raised taxes to fund education, and only education. No more layoffs after that.

    2013's miracle victories of Zimmer and Monica Ratliff followed.

    2014 featured a special election to fill the seat of a pro-union anti-privatization Board Member who suddenly passed away, (God's speed, Margueurite!) George McKenna won a bitter battle against a corporate reform stooge to take that open seat.

    2014 also had the victory of Tom Torlakson for State Superintendent of Education (Public Instruction), over the privatization puppet and charter school executive Marshall Tuck.

    2015, this year, only Ref Rodriguez' defeat of Bennett Kayser marred an otherwise successful election. (3 out of 4 ain't bad.)

    Back in 2011, unfortunately, before all these victories could happen, Broad and company were able to ram through John Deasy's ascension to LAUSD Superintendent in a secret closed-door meeting by that horrible board majority. Neither the public, nor the union, nor anyone in the community were allowed input, or even informed before hand. Only Steve Zimmer voted against this coup.

    "John Deasy's gonna be the new Supe, like it or not, so suck on it!" was the basic message.

    In October 2014, Deasy was forced to resign due to multiple scandals (again, long story). Cortines took over as interim Supe, and the pro-public ed board is currently searching for a new Superintendent to take over in December 2015.

    1. Wow, this history is fascinating. I'd love to know more about the "long stories" referred to.

  6. Here's a great comment from L.A. teacher Julie Tran on all of this (from the Ravitch blog COMMENTS board)


    Julie Tran:

    For over a decade, Broad and his billionaire privatizers nave spent tens of millions trying and failing to subvert LAUSD's democratic process, and effectively buy control of the LAUSD school system. Alas, for all that payout over the years in supporting their various school board puppet candidates, they only managed to grab 2 out of the 7 LAUSD Board seats.

    On top of that, two of their most fervent opponents sit at the head of LAUSD School Board: LAUSD Board President Steve Zimmer, and LAUSD Board Vice-President George McKenna.

    But that doesn't seem to phase them in the least.

    Now, according to the L.A. TIMES piece, Broad and those same billionaires are pretty much telling us...

    "You know what, everybody? We really don't care that we lost at the polls, and you 15 million voting citizens of LAUSD rejected our plan to privatize Los Angeles schools.

    "We're just going to go ahead and do it to you anyway, and shove the privatization of your schools down your throats whether you want it or not. And we've still got more than enough money, and bought more than enough clout and connections---TFA, CCSA, & politicians at every level---to put our plans into effect.

    "And we don't even need any Katrina disaster to make that happen, either. Just face it, folks. When it comes to schools, we know better than all of you citizens and parents and teachers what's best for schools, so why don't you just make this whole process easier on all of us, and stop making all this trouble?

    "Why don't all of you just accept the new privatization of schools that we're bringing, stop all your complaining, and get the-hell out of our way?"

  7. Thanks to Jack Covey and Julie Tran for the succinct history of our dysfunctional school system. Let's not forget that DZ installed many of the current school administrators and they are good at following orders. Broad gave millions to LAUSD to fund the salaries of Broad "Academy" trained executives and they are still there. Our teacher jail still functions with industrial efficiency and UTLA doesn't do anything to protect teachers. Same old, same old.