Sunday, September 15, 2013

SM@TCF: Los Angeles parent-activist sounds off on CCSS

First published on LA Schools Matter on September 14, 2013

"We had 23 different language groups at my son's school. How can one common core be relevant to all of these very different people?" — Teresa Sitz, LAUSD Parent-Activist

I founded Communities & Families Resisting Proposition 39 Charter Colocations along with several families fighting against the privatization project's latest ploy, the colocation. While the group was pretty 90026 specific (we have two colocations in our community), it grew quickly throughout Los Angeles.

Common Core State Standards CCSS represent the corporate sector's latest attempts to privatize education and cash in on harmful standardized testingAs the group grew, its focus broadened to cover all school privatization and the neoliberal corporate reform project in general. Over the weekend one parent asked about Corporate/Common Core State Standards (CCSS). Paraphrasing, she said she understood the whole opposition based on the profit motive behind CCSS, but asked why national standards were bad in general. There were a lot of excellent responses, but one of the most interesting came from a prominent Silver Lake parent-activist named Teresa Sitz. It was so cogent, I felt it needed a larger audience than that of a facebook message board. Here it is in its entirety.

From what I understand, and I haven't looked at this deeply, school districts have to buy (rent) the common core at an exorbitant price that drains funds from the everyday running of schools. The money - billions - goes to for-profit corporations who have lobbied heavily to implement what for them is a cash cow. In essence it's a transfer of wealth (tax payer dollars) from the poor to the rich. ALEC is a principle lobbyist. This is no small thing.

I don't know that you can tease out possible benefits from the corporate interests, but here are another couple of things to consider. I believe this locks down curriculum, so a teacher teaching inner city students, who in their class might be behind in reading, couldn't add the book ALWAYS RUNNING, for instance, to their class. Teachers have to stick to corporate/state approved curriculum even if it has no relevance to the students and the students do not engage. The teacher's hands are tied.

This won't be implemented in private schools - it's only for public schools - a grand experiment on the poor. Our corporate and state leaders are not famed for their promotion of critical thinking. In addition, would we need real teachers to teach the core? If you just follow a standard dictated day by day, couldn't any Teach for America employee with 5 weeks of training step in and act as the teachista? Doesn't it take someone with a background in critical thinking, with a background in education, highly qualified, to teach critical thinking?

What about schools with highly successful programs like MAS (Mexican American Studies). Sorry. Success doesn't matter. Keeping the steady stream of money flowing to the corporations to fund a state sponsored curriculum that may be entirely irrelevant to students and families is a type of violence. Students and families want to see their own lives reflected in their studies instead of having their cultures ignored and whitewashed.

We had 23 different language groups at my son's school. How can one common core be relevant to all of these very different people? You need fully qualified and supported teachers to reach all of these students. Education in our very diverse culture cannot be one-size-fits-all.

Common standards have been tried in the past and failed. I believe the common core might be tied to federal funds so the poorest school districts would be blackmailed into funding it just as they are with No Child Left Behind and other unfortunate reforms. Not exactly consensus or adoption - more like another state-sponsored corporate giveaway.

solidaridad: Developmentally Inappropriate Common Core Standards

Dr. Megan Koschnick discusses the inappropriateness of the Common Core Standards for K-3 at the Common Core Conference held at Notre Dame on September 9, 2013. H/T @slekar

Trinational Coalition's statement of support for teachers in Mexico

Trinational Coalition to Defend Public EducationLETTERS TO THE GOVERNMENT CAN BE SENT TO:
Presidente Constitucional de los Estados Unidos Mexicanos

Secretario de Estado

Secretaria de Educación Pública

Maestra Graciela Rangel de Michoacán sección XVIII:
Prof. Eligio Hernández de Oaxaca XXII:

We stand in solidarity with the teachers of CNTE in Mexico who are calling upon the government for a genuine dialogue, that their demands be acknowledged and that violent repression not be used against the nationwide movement in defense of public education as it was today in Mexico City. The rights to assemble and express legitimate concerns are rights that are inalienable rights that are part of the civil and democratic freedoms for which humanity has fought and died for during the last two centuries.

WHEREVER POSSIBLE, ORGANIZE DEMONSTRATIONS IN FRONT OF MEXICAN CONSULATES AND TAKE PHOTOS TO BE SENT TO THE SAME ADDRESSES AS THE COPIES OF PROTEST LETTERS. Even a photo of 5 people in front of a consulate is a tremendous morale booster for our brothers and sisters fighting against the destruction of teacher unions & public education!

Hi all,

Here is a copy of the letter that the US section of the Trinational Coalition to Defend Public Education to Defend Public Education send to the protesting teachers in Mexico. Use it as a template and send copies to:
Maestra Graciela Rangel de Michoacán sección XVIII:
Prof. Eligio Hernández de Oaxaca XXII:

September 13, 2013

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The Trinational Coalition to Defend Public Education-USA extends our support for your valiant and militant struggle to defend not just your rights as teachers and trade unionists, but the Mexican people's right to a public education that is guaranteed in your federal constitution. We applaud your courageous resistance against implementation of the present changes in the constitution which would use standardized tests for teachers to be hired and to keep their jobs, standardized tests for students that will limit their future opportunities in life as well as reducing federal funding to state and local schools. These changes will have the worst impact on the poorest states and communities, especially those whose population mainly speak languages other than Spanish.

We face similar attacks in the United States of America under the guise of “reform”. Your struggle for educational and union justice is an inspiration to us about how teachers and communities can unite to defend public education. You have clarified for the world that the forces behind these so-called reforms are powerful corporate interest that intend to privatize public education.

In solidarity,
Rosemary Lee,


Trinational Coalition to Defend Public Education-section USA

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Joining Forces for Education's statement on using Broad's Jaime Aquino's resignation to push for authentic reforms

"Once Broad alumni are working inside the education system, they naturally favor hiring other Broadies, which ups the leverage…" — Sharon Higgins

Plutocrat Eli BroadWhile Los Angeles' corporate media bemoans scoundrel Jaime Aquino's resignation, replete with descriptions of tears from fellow Broadyte John Deasy, there are other voices that see the fall of one of Eli Broad's key chess pieces as an opportunity to demand genuine community input into the hiring of high level administrators running 333 S. Beaudry Avenue (aka Broad's Eastern Palace). Joining Forces for Education, an organization formed in response to Ben Austin and Parent Revolution's vicious attack on the former Weigand principal, issued a powerful statement and call to action today in response to Aquino's resignation.

I'm including the unedited letter from Joining Forces for Education in its entirety here. This needs to be disseminated far and wide. Their call not only for community participation, but for an end to Deasy's abject reign dovetails neatly with the LAUSDHope Campaign to remove Deasy and give the public authentic input into his successor.

Time is of the Essence to raise public voices in the choice of new senior LAUSD administrators.

With the resignation on Friday, Sept. 13.  of Asst. Supt of LAUSD, Jaime Aquino, we, the public, have an opportunity to influence the hiring of new administrators. 

Since Supt. Deasy will be evaluated by the Board at their next meeting, and his contract is in real jeopardy due to the iPad fiasco for which we California taxpayers will be on the hook for decades, possibly a search will be made for both a Supt, and an Asst. Supt.  There will be a closed meeting this Tuesday of the LAUSD School Board, at 200 S. Beaudry Street location.  Some people have asked me to announce that a community group is forming and will be on the sidewalk with signs and handouts.  Any readers here who are with media, please note this, and readers feel free to send this entire email to others.

1.  FACTS....

When Supt. Deasy was hired, we know there was no search and no competition. Eli Broad mandated to the Board that they hire Deasy, and they did and Aquino was their choice for second in command.  Now we have a new composition on the Board who could be better overseers of public schools and taxpayer money in the future.

With all the Deasy messes at LAUSD,

....and his questionable PhD credentials, and his work for the privatizers like Broad whose Academy trained and graduated him, and Gates who hired him for a short time....

....and his generous fee paid to his academic mentor (who awarded him the questionable doctorate in a few months and with only 9 units) by hiring him as a consultant, raising the issue of quid pro quo at a cost of taxpayer funds of approximately $375,000 (with this mentor now in prison for defrauding millions from the U. of Louisville),

....and for a plethora of poorly conceived decisions like 'teacher jail'  and his hidden actions with Miramonte School,

....and the arbitrary firings. 

For these, and those many things that have been done so 'rapidly' like the shutting down of successful bottom-up programs at Crenshaw HS (where, last week he fired all the teachers who complained including math teacher of 20 years Alex Caputo-Pearl who is/was running for President of UTLA), Verdugo HS, Hamilton HS, and others, where he derided programs designed from bottom-up with teacher/community success, and shut them down in favor of his own administrators and even embedded some charters. 

For all this, perhaps the LAUSD School Board will decide he is a detriment to LA's schools, students, and taxpayers, and will fire him in their next evaluation this month.  Also, since the preponderance of teachers voted 'no confidence' in him, the Board will do a fair and proper search for the two top positions in LAUSD. 


Let's all join together NOW and make our voices heard by demanding of the Board that they stop being ruled by Eli Broad and his profiteer ilk, and that they institute a new regime of fairness by having a committee comprised of local citizens, local educators, local parents all involved in the wide search for a new Asst Supt, and may be for a Supt...but these all vetted carefully by real people in conjunction with the Board.  We should not have input from politicians and privatizers, but only from sincere supporters of public schools. No Blue Ribbon Committee needed or wanted...none of those who impede a fair selection such as charter promoters Melendez, Sullivan, Riordan, Mrs. Eric Garcetti, Eli Broad, Villaraigosa, Nunez and his boss, Rhee.  Just we plain folks who know the issues and we who pay for all this.

3.  SPEAK OUT NOW by...

writing/calling the LA Times and the LA Weekly, the State Supt. of Education, the Governor, the LA Board of Supervisors, the LA City Council,

contacting other media sources and all the teachers' unions,

and contacting each LAUSD School Board member.

Urge them all to do the right thing for public education and never again be duped and ruled by Broad and his other free market investor-minded cohorts such as Gates, Bloomberg, Murdoch, and the Waltons.  Students and education cannot be successful if run on a profit making business model, and students are not widgets that can all fit into the same sort of testing mode as Common Core which Deasy pushes. 

4. Conclusions...

Billionaire investors who see public education as a great profit opportunity should not be influencing public school board elections such as our recent two, and others nationwide, with huge donations to candidates who are willing to sell themselves for profit. We beat them  this year at this intrusive undemocratic venture by electing teachers Steve Zimmer and Monica Ratliff, who both campaigned on a pittance in comparison with their billionaire financed opponents.

They showed us that change can happen.

Even Governor Jerry Brown, with vast public and teacher pressure, has done an about face on the Obama/Duncan Common Core edicts, and Brown seems to agree with slowing down the process of CC testing. This past weekend was monumental with two of our legislators writing and carrying a bill to NOT test California students on Common Core in 2014 as mandated, but to wait until the students at least study this curriculum before testing.  Brown will probably sign this immediately.   The LA Times and other news sources had reported this testing would be done in January, 2014, and only grades 3 - 8 plus 11 would be electronically tested...but the big caveat was that NO ONE would see the results, not parents, nor teachers, nor the public. This certainly would have been to protect the CC 'pushers' from the scathing results that NYC recently proffered whereby around 90% of students were labeled as failures. It is all online for you to research.  Of course, it would also have meant that 8 year olds would take the test with no keypads, and no ability to even use a keypad, this due to the failure of Deasy and Aquino whose outrageously expensive iPad decisions were so ill-conceived.  This test is mandated for English Language Learners, and also Special Education and Learning Disabled students...and it is time-specific.  Visualize all this...and ask yourself how the outcomes of this testing could ever be accurate.

5. DO IT NOW...

Please get involved Right Now...and join in on this and educate and encourage your own constituencies to immediately write/call all suggested contacts and insist on this public, not political, committee to vet all candidates.   If the Board agrees right now, we can tap volunteers for the committee make up.  This can all be done rapidly online with the active participation of all of us.

Joining Forces for Education

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Group to protest Deasy's corporate reform regime

An anonymous group has announced a protest and press conference at LAUSD Headquarters on September 11, 2013. The rally is planned for Noon and the press conference is slated for 5:00 PM.

Among their list of complaints is the iPad boondoggle and the singular focus on standardized tests.

Los Angeles Unified School District
333 S. Beaudry Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90017

Friday, August 23, 2013

We support public education because it is a pillar of our democratic society

"We support public education because it is a pillar of our democratic society. We support schools that offer a full and rich curriculum for all children, including the arts, physical education, history, civics, foreign languages, literature, mathematics, and the sciences."—Professor Diane Ravitch

Sunday, July 28, 2013

School choice, it's the new apartheid. Proposition 39 illustrated!

First published on tumblr on July 28, 2013

From the Communities & Families Resisting Proposition 39 Charter Colocations group on Facebook. The photograph is from a LAUSD public school with a Proposition 39 charter colocation on its campus. The privately managed charter corporation, with its extra funds donated by right-wing plutocrats, has resources to provide arts and other activities for students that public school students are denied. Here a performance at the charter school in which the children listen to a song about loving everyone—while the public school children look on through a chain link fence.

School choice, it's the new apartheid. Proposition 39 is the tacit reinstitution of Plessy v. Ferguson. Join the struggle to end the lucrative charter industry and return education to the realm of public commons governed by the public.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Contractor using charter school construction as a tax shelter for condos and commercial space?

"Jose Huizar is a land use attorney. He was just named the head or chair of the city's land Use Committee. Monica Garcia represents the area where the new proposed charter will be." — Dr. John Fernandez

It's no secret that some of the primary sources of income generated by the lucrative charter school sector are construction and real estate. Los Angeles Unified School District's District 2 has been a windfall for land transactions and real estate swindles both under Board Member José Huizar (whose Chief of Staff was Mónica García), and his successor, the incumbent Mónica García. The latest shady deal in District 2? Read the following reprint of a facebook post from folks living in the targeted area.

Did you know that a developer has purchased 3 vacant lots on Lombardy/Eastern and has submitted a variance to change to zoning from residential to commercial and to change the height limitations and to construct a 500+ student charter school, a 20 unit apartments building or 20 condos, and a 2000+ square foot cafe.

Some neighbors on Kimball have impressively compiled the attached information, organized, and obtained signatures from residents/homeowners from over 130 of the 156 homes within 500 feet of the project, opposing the project as written.

You may want to look at these items on the attachment:
Mitigated Negative Declaration pg 11
Traffic Study p 33

A group of neighbors is going to make public comments on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday. The Friday hearing is the most important day, as the zoning administrator will make a recommendation on whether to approve of the variance requests.

Maybe you can come by.

Wednesday, July 10
LA32 Neighborhood Council General Board Meeting
6:00p.m.- 9:00p.m.
El Sereno Senior Center.
4818 Klamath Pl.

Thursday, July 11
Land Use and Development Committee Meeting
6:00PM – 7:00PM
4927 Huntington Drive North,
3rd Floor Conference Room

Friday, July 12th
Department of City Planning - Public Hearing
LA City Hall
200 N. Spring St.
10th Floor, Room 1010
Hearing Officer: Lynda Smith 213-978-1196;

LArepresents: Emperor has no clothes? iPad giveaway to cost LAUSD $1Billion

'By the time we know whether the brave new technology helps, the computer industry will be much wealthier and the schools much poorer. And if it doesn't help, teachers will be blamed and the "reformers"  will call for more technology.' — Professor Stephen Krashen

LArepresents is an activist group that has created a whole series of videos in defense of public education. One of their latest videos and corresponding caption is causing quite a still in LAUSD.

Emperor has no clothes? iPad giveaway to cost LAUSD $1Billion


  1. The cost is estimated to be $1 Billion in first 4 years alone (ipads, infrastructure, etc.)
  2. LAUSD only has $7 Billion in bonds left, but needs many times that for facility improvements. How has the iPad giveaway become such a top priority?
  3. iPads are obsolete after 3 years, but bond money has to be repaid for 25-30years, what a poor use of so much bond money!
  4. Apple will only replace up to 5% of broken, lost, stolen iPads, with 3 year warranty. But at a pilot program in the UK, breakage rate was 50% in just 1st year! Learn more here:
  5. So is this just a ploy for superintendent John Deasy to get on the cover the nation's newspapers, at the expense of taxpayers and our children?
  6. Kids can get beaten up on the way to school for having just $5-10. How can we endanger kids by requiring them to take home a $678 device?
  7. Isn't LAUSD liable for any bullying or other inappropriate usage of the device?
  8. What happens after the 3 year warranty when iPads are no longer replaced? For example in a classroom with only 20 iPads for 30 kids...who gets to take one home, and who doesn't?
  9. Phase 1 (47 schools) which was approved in June 2013 is supposed to be a "Pilot Program". Students get iPads when school starts (August 13). But how can a Pilot Program last only 1 month before LAUSD Board votes on Phase 2 in September, which if approved iPads will be given to half of all LAUSD schools? What is this a joke? You can't possibly get any meaningful data/analysis to make such a huge decision in such a short turnaround. The Pilot Program, or Phase 1, should last at least 1 full school year.
  10. Remember LAUSD's last colossal IT failure? It was the BTS payroll scandal. Read more:

LAUSD Board Members, voters are watching you! Phase 1 was approved without dissent. Phase 2 (approximately half LAUSD schools) is coming up this Fall 2013. Phase 3 (remaining schools) in early 2014.

1st public speaker: 1:09
2nd public speaker: 4:27
Mr. Vladovic: 8:05
Mr. Zimmer: 17:20
Ms. Lamotte: 29:31
Mr. Zimmer: 32:44
Ms. Galatzan: 35:24
Ms. Garcia: 40:04
Ms. Lamotte: 42:45
Ms. Garcia: 44:24
Michelle King, Deputy Sup't: 45:07
Mr. Vladovic: 46:19
Board Votes: 47:35

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Parent exposes Citizens of the World Charter Corporation's misdeeds part 1

'"We have no say in what sort of fences they raise between us and them. I don't think it's right that charter students will eat a catered organic lunch, while our students receive reheated foods wrapped in plastic. What signs they place on the walls, what field trips they go on, that will be different than our kids' field trips. There is no standard, no explanation. It's chaotic because nobody really devised a plan. It's just a sign of the gradual advance of corporate America into our public schools," states parent Jordan Crane.' — Lulu Wilson

Parent exposes Citizens of the World Charter CorporationCitizens of the World Charter Corporation (CWC) was founded by a number of school privatization veterans with an existing track record of scandals and malfeasance. From J. Kristean Dragon's "double-dealing" at her Wonder of Reading project, to segregation scoundrel Eric Grannis, to I tell racist jokes to my employees Mark Gordon, CWC's board members and executives are a microcosm of how the charter school industry attracts all sorts of duplicitous types. A local parent who has been intimately involved with CWC has released a mother load of emails and documents to LA Schools Matter that they said the corporate media wouldn't write about. We will be releasing this information as time permits in hopes that criminal investigations will be lodged and these unscrupulous individuals find long vacations as guests of the California Department of Corrections.

email regarding CWC's Free and Reduced Lunch Eligible student scam

California Education Law says charter schools have to admit everyone who wants in, and use a lottery if there's more interest than space available. California Education Law does not say that filling quotas for Free and Reduced Lunch Eligible students (FRL) is more important than admitting all students who want in.

Citizens of the World Charter Corporation (CWC) had a charter approved over a year ago to open a school in Mar Vista. They already have a $575,000 Public Charter Schools Grant Program ( PCSGP) grant in place. They already applied for a $300,000 California Revolving Fund loan and got it, they already have an open $150,000 line of credit to cover disbursement delays, and they already have $450,000 start up loan available from their "national" entity. Money is not a problem.

CWC applied for Prop 39 space from both Braddock Elementary School, and Stoner Elementary School (a 100% FRL school). They got approved to occupy both spaces for 2013-2014, fulfilling their needs to open according to their enrollment mission/vision as a full K-3. (Described in their charter).

CWC went in front of the School Board April 19, 2013 and was granted a lottery preference for FRL students, to "fulfill their socio-economic diversity goals, in accordance with their charter." They got the preference by only one vote, Zimmer, who waited til the end to cast his vote, if I remember correctly. Galatzan chastised CWC, saying that quotas are wrong and that she suspected they were using FRL's to strategize for funding. You can see this in the video.

It was widely known that CWC had failed to do adequate outreach at the low income housing centers around the two co-locating sites. They were very worried that they did not have sufficient applications for full enrollment as it was envisioned in their charter, nor did they have adequate numbers of FRL applicants.

CWC held its lottery for Mar Vista after the April 19, 2013 Board meeting, weighing FRL's 4:1. But because they had done such an awful job of outreach to FRLs, and couldn't get enough interest in the school, they declined the Prop 39 offer on May 1, 2013, deciding that they would not open the site at Braddock, even though they had all the elements in place to do it. They had everything they needed but denied Mar Vista hopefuls the chance for a spot at CWC.

  1. They had the funding, plenty of it
  2. They had key staff already in place
  3. They had Prop 39 classrooms they needed to open at both sites as a full k-3
  4. They had more than 500 applicants wanting to attend
  5. They chose to deny entry to students who wanted in just to serve CWC's own interests
  6. They declined the 5 classrooms confirmed at Braddock to "open smaller" and get a higher number of FRL students
  7. They should have let everyone in who wanted in, even if it meant having more Kindergarten and 1st grade classes
  8. This same scenario happened last year at Silverlake, and they had to open with 5 Kindergarten classes

Instead, CWC broke the law. They opened smaller to ensure the FRL quota, instead of following California laws.

A Braddock Elementary School PTA member has documentation and witness sources from the housing projects in the area. CWC failed in their outreach efforts to this community and used the LAUSD lottery preferences to get themselves the quotas they were looking for to qualify for Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) dollars. If they had actually let in all the Kindergarteners who wanted spots, they would be much farther from the FRL quota and its bonus money.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

¡Venceremos! Join the community search for a new LAUSD superintendent!

An open letter and call to action to our LAUSD community and national education experts like Professor Ravitch regarding the urgent search for a new LAUSD Superintendent

UPDATE August 2014

If the union is sound and the teachers voted of their own free will, then the relationship between the school superintendent and the teachers is not simply bad, but dysfunctional of historic proportions. — Professor Bill Tierney

¡Venceremos! Join the community search for a new LAUSD superintendent!When John Deasy was proffered by Eli Broad and Mayor Villaraigosa as the sole candidate to replace the retiring Ramon C. Cortines, there was no attempt to consider the appropriate superintendent for the community. Even the typically equivocating Los Angeles School District (LAUSD) Board Member Steve Zimmer voiced serious concerns:

"We didn't have a process — internal or external — for the most important job in public education in the United States right now," he tells the Weekly. "It has nothing to do with John Deasy. I'm a big fan. ... But I can't be sure that I got the best person for the job if I didn't get to even talk to anybody else."

Democracies depend on processes. There was no process with Deasy. No vetting. No considering the pro and cons of multiple candidates. The only words that could begin to describe his installment are coronation and ordination.

Far more corporate executive than educator, Deasy's reign as LAUSD Superintendent been an abject exercise in neoliberalism. Marked first by a rash of school closures, reconstitutions, and new school giveaways to private institutions, Deasy made it clear to Los Angeles that he would indeed put his ideology derived from his stints at at the Broad Superintendents Academy and the Gates Foundation before the needs of students and community. There's a litany of complaints against Deasy, most of which are related to callous cuts to vital programs, wasteful and inappropriate spending priorities, adoption of discredited and unproven policies, defiance towards our publicly elected schoolboard, and open hostility towards the very educators tasked with teaching our community's children.

However, this isn't the space to discuss Deasy's glaring shortcomings and myriad failures as superintendent. Given that his only supporters are billionaires, nonprofits that are funded by those selfsame billionaires, and the disgraced former Mayor, there is no longer any reason for this individual to continue his neoliberal project of dismantling our public commons. Instead we are commencing the search for a new superintendent now so that we don't end up in the same situation as we did when Deasy was crowned.

To that end, we are soliciting a list of viable superintendent candidates we feel will best serve the students of Los Angeles. We are also soliciting a list of attributes the community wants our next superintendent to have. Some starter items are here, but it's important that this is a community project, so we want people to submit their suggestions here. Both of these lists will be continually updated. Join us. We can identify the next superintendent candidates who will serve our community. ¡Venceremos!

Candidates for LAUSD Superintendent

Responses to the campaign have been both encouraging and overwhelming. Over the weekend dozens of candidate names have been submitted, and we haven't even reached out to local grassroots groups for their suggestions. There is now a easy to fill out form at the bottom of this post.

Qualities we want in our next superintendent

Either enter qualities wanted in the comments below or email suggestions. If necessary, we'll create another form, but will continually update this list as needed.

  • Believes in educating the whole child
  • Believes in educating the children of every community.
  • Determined to listen to the community
  • A professional educator who has had at least some classroom teaching experience
  • Understands the relation between poverty and test scores, and advocate to ameliorate the devastating effects of poverty outside as well as inside schools
  • Bilingual or multilingual a big plus, but openness to openness to learning the languages of the community

Social media campaign

We intend to launch a social media campaign in support of this historic community project to find the right superintendent for our community. Stay tuned for details.

Candidate Suggestions

Thursday, July 11, 2013

AALA and UTLA Presidents write LAUSD Board Members with serious concerns over Superintendent's irresponsible comments and behavior

Deasy stayed at the Gates Foundation only a year and a half, practicing that "responsible philanthropy," which amounts to handing out money with one hand while throwing a bomb with the other. Many speculate that the Gates job was just a holding pattern for the Los Angeles appointment, which will give him the opportunity to turn LA in to the Gates model district. — Susan Ohanian

It's about time that someone demanded the Superintendent follow the directives of the elected representatives of the people of Los Angeles rather than those of the small minded tyrant named Eli calling the shots from 10900 Wilshire Boulevard. Let's applaud both Dr. Perez and Mr. Fletcher for this wonderfully worded letter demanding a modicum accountability from Mr. Deasy.

Dear Board Members:

We are writing on behalf of the members of our two organizations: United Teachers Los Angeles, which represents the 36,000 classroom teachers and health and human services professionals of LAUSD, and Associated Administrators of Los Angeles, exclusive representative for over 2,300 certificated and classified administrators within the District.

We wish to raise a concern about recent statements by Superintendent John Deasy, related to his obligation to abide by the policy positions and directives of the Board of Education.

On June 20, the "LA School Report," published a story entitled, "Defiant Deasy Says He'll Push Targeted Spending Plan Anyway." In that article Mr. Deasy clearly indicates that it is his intention to circumvent the Board vote on use of new state LCFF monies. Specifically, Mr. Deasy is quoted as stating that, "The Board voted down the directive. . . ," referring to Ms. Galatzan's recent local spending resolution, "[But] they can't stop me from doing it; we're doing it anyway." To date, we have not been able to locate any report that Mr. Deasy has disavowed these public statements, nor has he indicated that he was misquoted.

The Superintendent is an employee of the District, and is legally required to operate "under the control of the Board." The California courts have recognized that a Superintendent does not "exercise independent powers" (Main vs. Claremont, Unified School District, 161 CalApp 2d189, 204).

As the presidents of two organizations charged with representing and bargaining for a large proportion of District employees, we do not expect that Mr. Deasy's statements and policy positions will always align with those of our respective organizations. However, as both District employees and as taxpayers, we do expect that the Superintendent will, at all times, discharge his duties in a manner that is consistent with his role as the District's chief executive officer. Statements and conduct to the contrary can only erode public confidence in the Board and the District. California law clearly places both the power and the responsibility for ultimate leadership of the District in the hands of its elected governing board. Regardless of Mr. Deasy's motives or intentions, no district, and no community, is served when this democratic authority is undermined.

Please contact either of us if you have any questions. We are thankful for your time and attention to this matter.


Warren Fletcher Judith Perez
President, President,
United Teachers Los Angeles Associated Administrators of Los Angeles

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Farewell to Mayor Villaraigosa: Pragmatist or Lacky of the Rich?

Farewell to Mayor Villaraigosa: Pragmatist or Lacky of the Rich? via Diane Ravitch's blog.

As Antonio Villaraigosa exits the mayoralty of Los Angeles, there will be both tributes and brickbats.

Among other things, he will be remembered for his failed attempt to take control of the public schools and for his hostility to teachers, to their union, and to public education. On his watch, there was “an explosion” in the number of privately managed charter schools, a high priority for the billionaires.

He did get control of a small number of schools, raised millions of dollars to turn them into “incubators of reform,” but demonstrated that his schools performed on state tests no differently from regular public schools. Mayoral control has no magic elixir.

He fought hard to tie teachers’ evaluations to test scores, despite the absence of any evidence for doing so. He controlled the school board through his surrogates, but recently lost control when two of the candidates he supported were defeated despite the millions raised by the mayor.

This turn of events is especially surprising in light of Villaraigosa’s early career in the labor movement. His conversion is a tribute to the power of money in American politics.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa speaking at a school privatization event hosted by ALEC, Parent Revolution, and The Heartland Institute. Photo by Robert D. Skeels
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa speaking at a school privatization event. Photo by Robert D. Skeels

Monday, July 8, 2013

Daily News' Rick Orlov discusses Monica Ratliff's LAUSD vote

District 6 LAUSD Board Member Mónica RatliffDaily News' Rick Orlov discusses Monica Ratliff's LAUSD vote near the end of his Rick Orlov's Tipoff: Mayor Eric Garcetti creating coalition of proven staffers piece.

Monica Ratliff, the newest member of the LAUSD board, found herself right in the middle of the battle for board president last week. She was able to break with the board's tradition of launching into an automatic vote by getting the two candidates, Tamar Galatzan and Richard Vladovic, to explain what they would do as board president. "I was interested in what they had to say and to know who their choice for vice president would be and why," she said later. "I want to make sure that everything is transparent." Ratliff ended up voting for Vladovic, saying she was persuaded by his speech to promise more academic support for students and a better working relationship on the board.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Darn it! #LAUSD Superintendent @DrDeasyLAUSD threatens to resign if Vladovic becomes Board Prez, then welches

The following tweet is from a good friend who is an author, educator, and dedicated activist.

Supt. John Deasy faces rocky relationship with new LAUSD president

solidaridad: The 99 Cents Store School... brought to you by the lucrative charter school industry

First published on solidaridad on July 7, 2013

Lalo Alcaraz's La Cucaracha strip often features pro-public education items, which are also typically sensitive to ongoing attacks on the teaching profession and the difficulties of teaching. This particular strip is a favorite of mine, highlighting both the institutional racism and profit motive behind the neoliberal school privatization project.

In Los Angeles, the 99 Cents Store School model is reserved for impoverished children of color at centers of creativity culling and cultural sterilization like Green Dot, CNCA, ICEF, KIPP, and Alliance.

Wealthier white parents, send their kids to boutique charters — essentially private schools where the public foots the bill. Larchmont, Los Feliz, Gabriella, CWC, and Mike McGalliard's Metro Charter are all examples of the "Saks Fifth Avenue School" discussed in the comic strip. Bear in mind that children with special needs aren't welcome at either type of privately managed charter school.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Villaraigosa: The Myth of The Progressive Mayor

First published in a slightly edited form by LA Progressive on July 5, 2013
By Robert D. Skeels

Statuesque in a six thousand dollar suit, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa graced the June 2009 cover of Los Angeles Magazine. Emblazoned across his photograph was the bold word "Failure." The tenuous article, embodying the sentiments of many hopeful Angelenos, reproached the Mayor for not being the visionary progressive many envisioned him to be, and in that regard, a failure.

While Villaraigosa disappointed supporters and failed to deliver any progressive policies whatsoever, he was hardly a failure to those he really serves. Indeed, for developers, real estate tycoons, billionaires, and school privatization profiteers, Villaraigosa's eight year reign was a smashing success.

As a young man, Villaraigosa was involved in some progressive, even radical groups. His college years saw him participating in organizations including MEChA and CASA [1]. He even attended People's College of Law, where he learned the language of the labor movement. Many at the time reckoned he would carry those experiences and ideas into his political career, but by the time he became an California Assembly member, his propensity for serving moneyed interests was becoming crystal clear. Supporter and author of a number of anti-labor initiatives, in 1999 Assembly Speaker Villaraigosa authored the bill amending California's Stull Act for teacher evaluations with the reactionary provision of tying into student performance on culturally and class biased standardized tests.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa speaking at a school privatization event. Photo by Robert D. Skeels
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa speaking at a school privatization event. Photo by Robert D. Skeels

When Villaraigosa was elected as the first Latino mayor in 138 years, many thought he would be a mayor of the people and focus on fostering affordable housing, community building, and improving public education. Instead, one of the first things he did was try to seize mayoral control of the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) in the fashion that billionaire bully Mayor Michael Bloomberg had done in New York City.

After a bitter court battle and a loss in a referendum, Villaraigosa relented and settled for a group of schools run by a quasi-private organization known as the Partnership for Los Angeles Schools (PLAS). PLAS went on to hire former Green Dot Charter Corporation CEO flunky Marshal Tuck and school privatization veteran Joan Sullivan, two individuals poorly qualified to run public schools. PLAS schools, while staffed with hardworking unionized teachers, have floundered as a direct result of Villaraigosa and Tuck's "leadership," drawing criticism from many quarters, including the normally privatization friendly Los Angeles Times in L.A. Unified bests reform groups in most cases, data show. The Mayor's disastrous meddling and manipulation of schools extends much further, and we'll return to his ongoing assault on public education in a bit.

Heartlessly terrorizing the homeless

Not content with attempting to mimic Bloomberg's heavy handed education policies, Villaraigosa also borrowed New York City's media mogul mayor's playbook for creating gentrification friendly regions for the then nascent Downtown Los Angeles real estate boom. Along with outgoing Councilwoman and recent mayoral hopeful Jan Perry, Villaraigosa launched an all out war on the poor and the homeless in order to create a developer friendly environment for both new construction and the conversion of older structures into highly profitable lofts and condominiums.

Safer Cities Initiative (SCI) is the name of the vicious set of policies Villaraigosa inflicted on downtown residents with the help of Bloomberg veteran Police Chief Bill Bratton, who brought his wrongheaded "broken window" policies that were hatched from theories originated from the fringe right Manhattan Institute. The broken window theory posits that a crackdown on innocuous violations like jaywalking or littering somehow improves "quality of life" and reduces more serious crimes. There is scant evidence that this is true, but the policy continues unabated to this day.

A 2007 Socialist Worker piece entitled Clearing out skid row exposed both the cruelty of and the motives behind SCI. A quote near the end of the article spoke to what SCI looks like in practice: "Los Angeles' best response to its homeless crisis is to criminalize, intimidate, and incarcerate its most vulnerable." The ethnic cleansing of skid row and its surrounds created a lucrative boon for real estate, and essentially transformed Downtown Los Angeles into a gentrifying area that grows more expensive and exclusive by the day. None of Villaraigosa's policies helped the homeless or other downtown residents displaced by gentrification. Professor Gary Blasi of UCLA summed up SCI's real accomplishments in terms of helping the homeless in a landmark report highly critical of the policy thusly:

Indeed, the main source of additional shelter and housing for homeless people, at least on Skid Row, has been provided by the State Prison system or the Los Angeles County Jail, at enormous cost to both homeless people and the taxpayers.

Villaraigosa's war on the homeless in order to appease his deep pocketed developer friends and campaign donors has been the antithesis of progressive policy. Indeed these programs have made him a pariah with homeless advocacy groups and organizations dedicated to serving the poor. Once, during a self congratulatory Villaraigosa press conference on skid row, nuns and volunteers at the Catholic Worker soup kitchen (affectionately known as the hippy kitchen) began an impromptu protest which effectively shut the press conference down. Ironically, the press conference was a venue for the Mayor to claim he was helping the homeless. This is something he has become quite adept at — offering platitudes to the very people he is victimizing.

Ousting OccupyLA — making Los Angeles safe for banksters

Villaraigosa's handling of Occupy Los Angeles mirrored his callous, but carefully stage-managed, strategy toward the homeless. His media campaign gave the appearance that he cared or even supported those camping for economic justice, but his actions demonstrated the polar opposite.

Eager to avoid the missteps of Mayor Jean Quan of Oakland, Villaraigosa made press statements expressing an understanding of the Occupy movement, and went as far as to let the media see him passing out rain ponchos to protesters. However, his mollifying Occupy would only extend so far with an impending presidential election in which Villaraigosa hoped to play a prominent role in promoting. It's widely documented that the FBI coordinated the crackdown on Occupy, but it's unknown how involved they were with Los Angeles. Regardless, under the Mayor's orders the raid and closure of OccupyLA occurred with lightening paramilitary precision from the notorious Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) with full cooperation from the corporate media.

The carefully orchestrated attack on OccupyLA was held at night in order to minimize media coverage of LAPD's brutal offensive against the encampment. Accounts of alleged beatings, torture, and collective punishment were published in alternative media, while the corporate press bemoaned the state of the lawn surrounding city hall. Some of the more interesting accounts included those by high profile sitcom writer Patrick Meighan, journalist Yasha Levine, and activist Bruce Cooley. While Villaraigosa gushed about LAPD's "professionalism and restraint in clearing the park around City Hall of protesters," others told dark tales of Villaraigosa sending a political message to his OccupyLA captives:

After we were finally booked at 10 a.m., we awaited word on what was going to happen. Suddenly, a police captain appeared in front of the jail cell and began to talk to us. He flat out said the following: "Yes, normally all misdemeanors are immediately released with a citation and spend no time in jail, but it's been decided, at the highest levels of the department and city government, that you are going to spend the maximum time we can keep you in jail without charging you with anything, not for criminal reasons but to be made political examples." Literally that is almost a word-for-word quote of what the captain told us.

Our bail was set at $5,000. We were never formally charged with anything, never given lawyers and never read any rights. It's true, the law states you can be held in jail for 48 hours without being charged with anything.

Ever looking to stage manage his image and always in damage control mode, the Mayor released a mildly apologetic press statement regretful of LAPD's brutality some seventeen months after the fact. A convenient apology, given that Occupy's importance was its conspicuous visibility to keep the crimes of the finance capital class in the forefront of everyone's mind. Ousting Occupy made it easier for people to forget that today's austerity for working people was rooted entirely in the excess and recklessness of CEOs who crashed the world economy. Meighan best sums this up:

What does it say about our country that nonviolent protesters are given the bottom of a police boot while those who steal hundreds of billions, do trillions worth of damage to our economy and shatter our social fabric for a generation are not only spared the zipcuffs but showered with rewards?

Imperialist aspirations and taxed enough already

Like many Mayors and Governors with their eyes on loftier (read national) political posts, Villaraigosa holds positions on international affairs. While he never claimed that he could see Russia from the lavish Mayoral Mansion on Irving Boulevard, he does hold some extremely reactionary views mirroring those of the erstwhile Governor of "The Last Frontier." Villaraigosa's June 12, 2011 twitter post explains this best:

Quite simply, supporting a foreign policy promoting depictions of pregnant women in cross-hairs with the inscription "1 Shot 2 Kills" is diametrically opposed to any reasonable definition of progressivism.

Villaraigosa's reactionary foreign policy stances find an equally reactionary counterpart in his unbridled support of the Tea Party's obsession with national debt. To wit, he sits on the steering committee of Peter G. Peterson's "Fix the Debt" austerity organization. Fix the Debt's "solution" to our country's regressive tax system is to enact massive cuts to Social Security and Medicare. Instead of making the progressive case for a progressive tax structure that returns the wealth from those extracting it back to the broader society that created it, Villaraigosa calls for cuts to programs effecting the most vulnerable.

The long list of transnational corporations supporting Fix the Debt undoubtedly love that Villaraigosa has become an apologist for ideas long the domain of the most fringe right think tanks. Meanwhile, working class Angelenos continue to suffer from these austerity for the poor only policies. As the predatory firms behind Fix the Debt continue to take advantage of "performance pay" tax loopholes, they can rely on Mayor Villaraigosa to provide them "bipartisan" political cover, as he did in this Op-Ed he co-authored in USA Today:

...we've also taken heat from those on the left who feel that the notion of compromise and collaboration across party lines is somehow a betrayal of Democratic principles.

We strenuously disagree. We believe reaching a comprehensive, bipartisan debt deal will demonstrate to the financial markets, and to people everywhere, that America has the political will to tackle difficult issues and provide a tremendous boost to the economic recovery. The stimulating effect of these developments will unlock billions of dollars in currently inactive capital, spur investment and, most importantly, produce real job creation.

Squelching the South Central Farm

The South Central Community Garden, often called by its shorter name, the South Central Farm, was the largest urban farm in the country. Provided to the community in 1994 as means of ameliorating the trauma South Central residents suffered from the rebellion following the LAPD's vicious beating of Rodney King, the once arid wasteland was transformed into productive, fertile green space by hard working local campesinos (farmers). From the point when wealthy developer Ralph Horowitz began vying to reacquire the 14 acres from the City of Los Angeles, Villaraigosa again played the game that he has developed to a fine art — feigning support for a progressive movement and workers, while arranging victory behind the scenes for the propertied class. One of the best accounts of this is by prominent activists Leslie Radford and Juan Santos:

The cynicism of the top-level players is profound; Mayor Villaraigosa, for all his posturing about searching out large donors to save the Farm, always had the money to save it at his disposal. He chose not to spend it...  

...But Villaraigosa sank no roots in the Farm, even though he had used the Farm for campaign photo ops. While constantly reassuring the Farmers behind the scenes, promising them $5M in private fundraising to buy the Farm from Horowitz, he cynically refused to endorse their efforts publicly...

...In the end, when Villaraigosa offered to "raise" money from charitable sources to buy back the Farm from Horowitz, he had at his disposal both the profit the City had made from the Harbor Department sale, and also the money it had made in the more recent back room sale to Horowitz. The Mayor didn't have to beg money from anyone. He didn't have to lose a moment. He only had to use the massive profits from the land to buy it back.  

To do so of course, would be problematic; it could only emphasize a question the Farmers are asking this week in court — "Why would the City sell land to Horowitz for $5.3M when it was worth at least three times that amount"? Especially when the City had already sold it once before for triple that amount?  

Note the mention of Villaraigosa using the struggle to save the farm for photo opportunities. Always conscious of his tinsel town image, Villaraigosa wanted to be associated with the long list of celebrities supporting the South Central Farm. In the end, the developer friendly Mayor's actions didn't reflect his rhetoric, and like the homeless, OccupyLA activists, immigrant rights supporters, and other progressive movements, the family farmers found themselves face to face with Los Angeles' paramilitary police forces.

Predatory developer Horowitz, with enthusiastic assistance of Villaraigosa and Jan Perry's offices, unleashed the Sheriff's bulldozers on hapless community members. This final act adding much insult to injury, with taxpayers footing the bill for Horowitz's eviction force after he had wrangled two highly profitable deals out of the same parcel of land at the public's expense twice. Horowitz, also sat on the unelected board of the colocated Gabriella Charter School Corporation, which has the dubious history of constantly encroaching on more space of one of Los Angeles' oldest public elementary schools.

South Central Farm activist Rufina Juárez's stern words for Villaraigosa encapsulate his Janus-like modus operandi:

She also had strong words of criticism for Villaraigosa, who over the course of his corporate ladder-climbing, power-hungry career has used his "origins" and "race" as political bargaining chips.

"Mexicans," she said as tears welled up in her eyes, "have a long tradition of defending our land and we aren't going to forget this aggression. Those who don't love their land have no mother, so it's clear that Villaraigosa has no mother. It would be better if he dropped his name and just went by 'Tony.' He doesn't care about women, kids, nothing."

Impounding impoverished immigrants' livelihood

MEChA students protest Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa at his lavish mansion for his role in the confiscation of immigrants' cars. Photo by Robert D. Skeels
MEChA students protest Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa at his lavish mansion for his role in the confiscation of immigrants' cars. Photo by Robert D. Skeels

Given the Mayor's cultural and early political background one would think that the issue he would be most progressive on would be that of immigrant rights. Here too, Villaraigosa's uncanny ability to seek out photo opportunities and venues for self-promotion have always taken precedence over any substantive actions to help the plight of undocumented peoples. Quick to embrace and promote the California Dream Act created by his childhood friend Gil Cedillo, Villaraigosa has no tangible accomplishments of his own. In fact, with his penchant for law enforcement, one could argue that his tenure has been harmful to Los Angeles' extensive immigrant population.

Villaraigosa wouldn't participated in, but never failed to show up at the end of the massive immigrant marches of 2006 and subsequent years. Allowed to speak at the ending rallies, he relished the opportunity to be photographed with immigrant rights organization leadership. However, the Mayor repeatedly refused to designate Los Angeles a sanctuary city, despite repeated calls to so by those selfsame leaders. Villaraigosa vocally supported the Los Angeles City Council's resolution to boycott Arizona in response to their SB 1070 racial profiling law. However, when it came to actually implementing the boycott as the Chief Executive, "little ha[d] changed."

Tragically, perhaps the most enduring images of the Villaraigosa administration's immigrant rights policy are those of LAPD in paramilitary gear trampling and beating helpless women and children during the 2007 MacArthur Park May Day rally. While the Mayor condemned the use excessive force (a progressive would use the phrase police brutality), he never condemned LAPD's pervasive institutional racism that was at the heart of the attack. Several subsequent incidents involving LAPD and immigrants saw Villaraigosa siding with the police, including the widely protested murder of Manuel Jamines by officers seemingly all to eager to discharge their weapons.

Immigrants and all communities of color also need to be wary of Villaraigosa and LAPD's Special Order 11/1, which all but codifies racial profiling and surveillance. The Stop LAPD Spying Coalition website features an explanation of who is targeted by the spying initiative.

A few years ago the National Lawyers Guild (NLG), the Southern California Immigration Coalition (SCIC) [3], Instituto de Educacion Popular del Sur de California (IDEPSCA) and other community organizations created a coalition to demand an end to LAPD's seizure of immigrant vehicles. Their campaign called upon Mayor Villaraigosa to adopt the same no-impound policies that cities like San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose, Santa Ana and others smaller towns had implemented. The no-impound rationale was deeply rooted in social justice principles, since most undocumented immigrants are day workers, and vehicles are vital to support their families. This excerpt from a 2011 press release spells out how disastrous impounds are to immigrant families:

Cities and counties throughout the state are confiscating thousands of cars a month at drivers license checkpoints and during random traffic stops. Most drivers are often the victims of racial profiling. 

The towing and impound business is quite lucrative for tow companies, the city and the county. The average victim of an impound cannot pay the estimated $2,000 in towing fees, storage fees and the citation. Those unable to pay these charges lose their vehicles completely as they are sold at auction just days after the 30-day impound period.

The coalition's spirited campaign went on for months, and at one point saw protesters picketing the Mayor's magnificent mansion. Aside from the irony, nothing was more telling about Villaraigosa's political trajectory than the sight of MEChA students protesting the Mayor, an erstwhile MEChA member himself, to demand human rights for immigrants.

Championing corporate education reform

A thorough treatment of Villargaigosa's fanatical participation in the neoliberal project to destroy Los Angeles' public school system would probably require a chapter in a book, or perhaps even several chapters. As mentioned earlier, his mismanagement of PLAS schools have made them point of criticism from the mainstream media, a subject of ridicule by activists, and even an issue of concern by his fellow corporate reformers. Local education activists have called for the end of PLAS control at Villaraigosa' alma matter Roosevelt High School, and a recent protest by families at Santee High School saw a disgraced Marshall Tuck of PLAS ducking for cover. Yet the failed PLAS experiment pales in comparison to the rest of Villaraigosa's education agenda and policies including: a proliferation of corporate charter schools, the so-called parent trigger, outright attacks on teachers and unions, and a penchant for killing heritage language programs and ethnic studies courses.

In 2008 right-wing fundamentalist Andy Smarick wrote an essay entitled Wave of the Future for the reactionary Hoover Institution sponsored EducationNext journal. Extolling the spurious advantages of market-based schooling, Smarick laid out a road map for bankrupting urban school districts by ever increasing the market share of privately managed charter schools—the end goal to replace public education altogether. [4] Smarick's model has been the objective of corporate education reformers nationwide, and Los Angeles is their archetype. Villaraigosa proudly boasts that the number of charter schools in Los Angeles more than doubled during his tenure. Indeed the number of these institutions grew to 241 during the past eight years. Aside from draining critical finances and other resources from the public school system, charter schools exacerbate segregation, and openly discriminate against children with special needs or other issues like discipline problems.

The corporate charter school chains most promoted and supported by Villaraigosa are some of the worst offenders in the discrimination against the must vulnerable of students. A watershed report by the Office of the Independent Monitor (OIM) for the Modified Consent Decree for LAUSD found that children with disabilities are "significantly underrepresented" at privately managed charter schools. [5] Cynically, the charter school industry's discrimination against special needs students is part of the neoliberal plan, and mentioned explicitly in the aforementioned Smarick essay:

The district, despite educating fewer and fewer students, will still require a large administrative staff to process payroll and benefits, administer federal programs, and oversee special education. With a lopsided adult-to-student ratio, the district's per-pupil costs will skyrocket. [emphasis mine]

Following his stinging defeat to take over the entire district, Villaraigosa began a strategy of stacking the publicly elected school board with privatization minded board members. His grand design led to the formation of the Coalition for School Reform (CSR), a SuperPAC with the sole purpose of ensuring candidates espousing neoliberalism, austerity, and corporate education reform would control the Board of Education. The Mayor had no problem finding like minded candidates to run, and more importantly, like minded contributors to fund them. Arch-reactionaries like News Corp's Rupert Murdoch, creationists including Phillip Anschutz, neoliberal ideologues like Eli Broad, and Villarigosa's privatization mentor Mayor Michael Bloomberg are among the ideologically charged billionaires who have funded the CSR. With no entity able to compete financially with the plutocrat class funding CSR, it had early success electing candidates dedicated to dismantling the public school system, though as of late, voters have been less swayed by CSR's millions of dollars and have elected educators in place of ideologues. [6]

Educator and activist Randy Childs best captured the modus operandi, motives, and mendaciousness of Villaraigosa and the billionaire plutocrats funding his SuperPAC:

In what education historian Diane Ravitch calls the "dominant narrative" of education reform today, buzzwords like "accountability" and "choice" are used as window dressing for a concerted effort to impose corporate management techniques and market-style competition on the education system. Teachers unions and anyone else who dares to disagree with this agenda are invariably accused of being "against reform" and "for the status quo."

These allegations come straight from Bizarro World, where the richest and most powerful people in the U.S. are cast as a plucky band of selfless rebels fighting for the civil rights of poor children of color, while dedicated and overworked teachers who can't afford a house or pay for their children's college tuition are imagined to be the greedy overlords of the old order.

The early success of Villaraigosa's CSR SuperPAC yielded two board members who inflicted considerable damage to public education: Mónica García and Yolie Flores-Aguilar. Hand picked by the Mayor for their disdain of the public commons and working class people, they oversaw an unprecedented period of educator layoffs, school closures, school reconstitutions [7], charter giveaways, and more. Flores-Aguilar, who was unabashedly a Gates Foundation employee while holding her LAUSD seat, introduced a particularly pernicious reform named Public School Choice (PSC). The resolution was crafted in response to the strong push to ever increase charter school market share, and was designed to give away brand new public school facilities away to corporately managed Charter Management Organizations (CMO). The PSC school giveaway project was widely condemned by grassroots civil rights groups and social justice organizations like Association of Raza Educators. CSUN Professor Theresa Montaño's analysis of PSC is spot on:

"The alliance, formed between the mayor, the school board, and Los Angeles' corporate elite to design the idea of "public school choice," is another example of how neoliberal economic policies have influenced educational policies. [8]

Villaraigosa lobbied city wide to push through the PSC giveaway resolution, recruiting help from neoliberal leaning nonprofits funded by the Broad and Gates Foundations, and a city attorney moonlighting as a charter school consultant named Ben Austin, whose wife also happened to be Villaraigosa's political fundraiser. Villaraigosa and Austin held a series of closed town halls to help pass the unpopular resolution. PSC gave millions of dollars in brand new public school facilities away to the corporate charter industry despite concerted resistance by local communities. The partnership between the Mayor and Austin would continue to produce ways to achieve Smarick's plan of privatizing urban school districts, the most virulent being the parent trigger.

The idea of manipulating parents against the rest of the stake-holders comprising the social contract to provide public education isn't new. Variations of that theme have floated in right wing think tanks like The Heritage Foundation and The Heartland Institute for years in support of their voucher, and later charter, school choice schemes. [9] Villaragosa's close ally Austin, who worked so hard to foist PSC on the public, would take that right wing idea and repackage it into one of the most vile corporate education reforms of all time. Initially hired as a part time consultant by the Green Dot Charter School Corporation, Austin was tapped to take over their Los Angeles Parents Union which was left in shambles financially by outgoing director Ryan Smith. To justify the organization's continued existence (read funding), Austin crafted a hybrid idea by taking a page from reactionary think tanks on parent manipulation, market solutions, and so-called school choice, and combined those ideas with the 50% faculty petition provision of the seldom utilized California conversion charter law Green Dot used to convert Locke High School into a privately managed charter. The concept would allow Austin's organization to grow charter market share by merely getting a simple majority of parents to sign a petition. They named this corporate villainy the Parent Trigger. Austin and Villaraigosa unsuccessfully pushed to have the parent trigger included in the PSC process. However, they found a receptive audience with then Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, and State Senators Bob Huff, and Gloria Romero.

Seeing the potential to open a floodgate of growth and revenues for the lucrative charter school industry, Austin's allies managed to get the Parent Trigger (officially the Parent Empowerment Act) passed by the California legislature by one vote. Meantime Austin changed the branding of Los Angeles Parents Union to Parent Revolution, and was appointed by Schwarzenegger to the State Board of Education (SBE) so that he could craft the regulations to be of maximum use to the charter school sector. Even after he was removed from the SBE by incoming Governor Jerry Brown, Austin continued working on the regulations illegally. From the start Villaraigosa crusaded for the parent trigger, and he was joined by fringe right groups including The Heartland Institute, and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). Austin's Parent Revolution hosted forums with Heartland, and the parent trigger became ALEC template legislation.

Villaraigosa successfully lobbied The U.S. Conference of Mayors to adopt and endorse the trigger law for use on hapless school communities nationwide. He continues to promote the trigger at every opportunity. An anathema to democratic processes, the public commons, and community building, the trigger has been a highly destructive weapon in the war on public education. Despised on the left and discredited by prominent education experts like Professor Diane Ravitch, even political moderates realize "Triggers Create Nothing but Chaos and Division."

Early in Villaraigosa's career he worked as a paid staffer for United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA). While it was just a paycheck for him, he's continually tried to leverage that distant past association with unions as cover for what at times seems to be an irrational loathing towards teachers. Truth is he never misses an opportunity to virulently attack both the teaching profession and their working class organizations.

A few years ago at the high profile Public Policy Institute of California, Villaraigosa gave an unhinged speech in which he called UTLA an "unwavering roadblock to reform," "most powerful defenders of the unacceptable status quo," and the "the largest obstacle to creating quality schools." His unfounded and mean-spirited tirade segued into a call to remove basic job protections and academic freedoms from teachers, including seniority and tenure. He also made a renewed call to further tie teacher evaluations to the culturally, racially, and class biased standardized tests that California subjects its public schools students to for a good portion of the of the school year. Villaraigosa's diatribe was so beyond that pale, that a distinguished education expert took exception to it:

And Stanford University School of Education professor Linda Darling-Hammond said she was taken aback by Villaraigosa's reference to eliminating the process in which bad teachers get pushed from school to school. "This isn't just about doing away with the 'Dance of the Lemons,' it is about chopping down the trees that grow bad lemons," the mayor said.

Darling-Hammond said that teachers should be trained and professionally supported to develop skills and good teaching practices. A good orchardist carefully feeds, prunes and cultivates a harvest - and doesn't arbitrarily cut down 10 percent of the trees in the orchard every year, she said.

Villaraigosa's contempt for teachers was also apparent in his unequivocal support of the poorly thought out Reed settlement, instead of calling for an end to teacher lay offs and a return to the sensible and sustainable solutions of the previous Rodriguez consent decree. However, supporting that latter would have addressed the systemic issues underlying schools staffing problems, something Villaraigosa has apparently never been interested in.

One would think the first Latino mayor in nearly 140 years, especially one with Villaraigosa's associations as a young man, would be a champion of heritage language programs and ethnic studies programs. Regrettably that notion would be erroneous. At his PLAS schools, the Villaraigosa's camp callously eliminated the only ethnic studies program at Santee High School and...

The decision to rob Santee's impoverished students of color of their chance to learn about their culture and history follows on the heels of PLAS killing heritage language programs at two of their other schools. Four years ago they banned the Dual Language Program and the Academic English Mastery Program at Ritter Elementary School, and two years ago they banned the teaching of core subjects in Spanish at Roosevelt High School as they had had as a response to the activism of the famous East Los Angeles Blowouts in 1968.

Calls by activists for the Mayor to restore those programs before leaving office were ignored. The disposition of PLAS schools is unknown with a new Mayor in office, and the replacement of Marshall Tuck by Villaraigosa's former Deputy Mayor of Education, Joan Sullivan.

A prominent immigrant rights activist used to always say "show me your friends and I'll tell you who you are." On September 19, 2011 the arch-reactionary American Enterprise Institute (AEI) held an event celebrating Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa's role in their brand of education reform. Both Villaraigosa and right-wing fundamentalist Frederick M. Hess spoke at the affair. The function culminated with Villaraigosa being presented [10] with the Champion for Charters 2011 Award. That occurrence pretty much sums up Villaraigosa's education policies in a nutshell. A "progressive" politician would never win an award from the AEI or its allies, much less travel to AEI's Washington, D.C. headquarters to receive it.

It's important we remember Villaraigosa's true allegiance

Los Angeles' largest medical-marijuana-store-and-escort-service-advertisement-supported gossip magazine —LA Weekly— recently published a tawdry account of the outgoing Mayor's extravagant excesses and personal indiscretions. Unsavory as the article paints him, it's safe to say that Villaraigosa would prefer we would reflect on his flamboyant self promotion and opulent lifestyle rather than his actual political record and alliances.

In the final analysis, Villaraigosa has been a faithful servant of the rich and powerful, and his politics in practice have been downright reactionary. Any claims to his being progressive are mythical, and he should never be allowed to run for another office claiming the progressive mantle again. His recent announcement that he will seek the Governorship of California adds to the urgency of true progressives' need to educate our communities on how Villaraigosa's politics have been disastrous for working people, so he isn't afforded another opportunity.

Robert D. Skeels and Yoon Jung LeeRobert D. Skeels is a social justice writer, public education advocate, and immigrant rights activist. He lives, works, writes, and organizes in Los Angeles with his wife and cats. Robert is a U.S. Navy Veteran, and a proud member of Veterans for Peace. He attended Glendale Community College and is currently attending the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), majoring in Classical Civilization. Robert is a committed member of CEJ, PESJA, SCIC, and the Trinational Coalition To Defend Public Education. In addition to advancing working class struggles, Robert is an adherent of Liberation Theology. He devotes much time towards volunteer work for 12 step, church, and homeless advocacy. Robert's articles and essays have appeared in publications including Schools Matter, CounterPunch, Dissident Voice, Daily Censored, Echo Park Patch, and The Los Angeles Daily News. In 2013 Robert ran for the LAUSD School Board against a billionaire funded corporate reform candidate, finishing second in a field of five, with over 5,200 votes.


[1] MEChA: Movimiento Estudiantíl Chicano de Aztlán; CASA: Centro de Acción Social Autónomo.

[2] The original post was!/villaraigosa/status/80036981161205760, but Villaraigosa's twitter account was split into two at some point by the city.

[3] Disclosure: I was one of the twenty-some-odd founding members of the SCIC, which was formed on the initiative of prominent immigrant rights activists Carlos M. Montes, Gloria Saucedo, and Jessie Diaz. However, I was inactive by the time that the frequent protests against Villaraigosa began.

[4] The charter school industry has been very effective at marketing their schools as being public. They go as far as to call themselves "public charter schools." The truth is that these unaccountable, privately managed entities with unelected boards have been repeatedly determined by both the courts and numerous other government bodies to be private sector agents. For a concise compendium of information, examples, and links on this see: Charter Schools are NOT Public Schools!

[5] See both the Executive Summary and the Data Tables for the OIM Report. This is just one of many reports confirming the abject exclusiveness and discrimination practiced by the charter sector.

[6] CSR lost a key seat in the 2011 elections to retired teacher Bennet Kayser, and lost two out of three races in the 2013 elections. Professional educators Steve Zimmer and Monica Ratliff beat their CSR funded non-educator opponents. The only CSR candidate to win in 2013 was long time Villaraigosa ally Mónica García (Disclosure: I was the runner up in the five candidate race that García won). Experts like Professor Diane Ravitch are asking Is the Tide Turning Against Corporate Reform in Los Angeles?

[7] Reconstitutions are a particularly terrible method to undermine public schools by the reformers. One of the best papers on this is "The Human Costs of Education Reform: The Case of School Reconstitution" by King Rice and Malen.

[8] Carr, Paul R., Porfilio, Bradley J., Editors. The Phenomenon of Obama and the Agenda for Education: Can Hope Audaciously Trump Neoliberalism?. Charlotte, N.C.: Information Age Pub., 2011. p. 176.

(Montañez's chapter is highly recommended — Obama, Eschucha! Estamos en la Lucha! Challenging Neoliberalism in Los Angeles Schools).

[9] Education author Jonathan Kozol explains the negligible distinction (and symbiotic relationship) between vouchers and charters: 'In the long run, charter schools are being strategically used to pave the way for vouchers. The voucher advocates, who are very powerful and funded by right-wing foundations and families, recognize that the word voucher has been successfully discredited by enlightened Americans who believe in the public sector. So they've resorted to two strategies. First, they no longer use the word "vouchers." They've adopted the seemingly benign phrase "school choice," but they are still voucher advocates.'

[10] The actual award was from the National Alliance for Public [sic] Charter Schools, though the fact they choose AEI as the venue for presenting the award is telling about their politics and who they serve.

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