Archives for category: California

On his blog, Julian Vasquez Heilig reports that the California Charter Schools Association is shocked! shocked! to learn that some charters require parents to volunteer time or pay not to volunteer their time. He discusses a survey conducted by a civil rights group called Public Advocates, which reached this conclusion.

 

 

Apparently the California Charter School Association hasn’t heard of such a thing happening in practice or charter school policy, even though Public Advocates delivered the evidence to the public via parent whistleblowers and publicly available policy documents. Public Advocates’ report documented its year-long investigation into an inequitable and illegal practice by some of California’s charter schools, and calls for charter schools to end requiring payment in lieu of volunteer hours. Public Advocates is demanding that the state take immediate action to stop the practice and increase its oversight of charter schools more generally.

 

Heilig quotes the story in the San Francisco Chronicle:

 

At least 170 California charter schools are violating the state Constitution by requiring parents to volunteer up to 100 hours a year if they want their kids to participate in field trips and other activities or remain enrolled in the school, according to civil rights lawyers in a report released Thursday.

 

A survey of 555 California charter schools — about half of all charters in the state — found that nearly a third impose family volunteer time, with some allowing parents to pay $5 to $25 per hour to buy their way out of the commitment.

 

“One of the reasons it’s so alarming to us is it’s punishing a kid for something that’s not the kid’s fault,” said Hilary Hammel, attorney at the nonprofit law firm Public Advocates and lead author on the report.

 

Hammel cited an Oakland parent who found on the first day of seventh grade that her son was not enrolled at his charter school because she had not completed the required volunteer hours the previous year. She was told she could either pay $300 on the spot or go buy three large boxes of paper.

 

She went and bought $80 worth of paper and returned to enroll her son.

 

Does that happen in public schools too?

 

 

 

 

The race for state superintendent in California cost over $26 million, far more than the governor’s race. Tom Torlakson, the incumbent, was supported by the California Teachers Association. Marshall Tuck, the charter school executive, received large sums from billionaires. The key issue between them was teacher due process rights. Torlakson appealed the Vergara decision; Tuck prouded not to do do.

The Network for Phblic Education, which endorsed Torlakson, analyzed the spending behind Tuck’s campaign.

“Heavy hitters in the “education reform” movement, namely Broad, Walton and Fisher, really stepped up to the plate for Tuck by donating millions to multiple Independent Expenditure Committees, (AKA Super PACs) as well as smaller direct contributions to Tuck’s campaign. The biggest Super PAC contributing to Tuck was the deceptively named “Parents and Teachers for Tuck for State Superintendent, 2014.” The Super PAC’s funding came from no less than a baker’s dozen of privatization focused billionaires, and assorted elites from the financial and technology sectors, with a net contribution of almost 10 million dollars.

“Parents and Teachers for Tuck also received contributions from a host of other Super PACs with names like Parents and Teachers for Putting Students First, Education Matters, EDVOICE, and Great Public Schools for Los Angeles. A closer look at these Super PACs tells us that they too are funded by essentially the same cast of characters behind Parents and Teachers for Tuck, with additional millions from the Broad, Fisher and Walton families lining the coffers of each of the Super PACs.

“But you’d be hard pressed to find a public school parent or teacher who contributed to any of the Super PACs for Tuck.”

There was once an ideal in American education, which held that the community public school would be a place where children of every background would meet, learn together, and learn to live amicably. This ideal was supposed to promote a sense of American citizenship, a realization that regardless of our origins, we are all Americans.

 

That ideal, as we all know, was frequently violated. It was violated by racial segregation, which assigned black and white children to attend different schools. It was violated–and continues to be–by class segregation, in which the children of the affluent live in communities with elegant facilities while the children of the poor attend cinder-block schools lacking the playing fields, the small classes, the arts programs, the foreign language classes, the laboratories, and the beautiful libraries found in the schools of the outer ring of suburbs.

 

And yet the ideal is not dead. There are schools that are racially and economically diverse and that are much admired in their communities. It is important not to forget the ideal, the belief that the common school would bring us together, teach us about what we share as human beings, and teach us the duties and responsibilities of citizenship. The ideal teaches that we are all in the same boat and that we have mutual obligations to one another.

 

Now we live in a time of growing racial and class segregation. Charter schools are facilitating that segregation. Where the media would once look askance at a segregated black or white or Hispanic school, they are now more than willing to celebrate the “success” of segregated schools.

 

Sacramento now has a charter school designed for the children of immigrants from the former Soviet Union.

 

In their early years in Sacramento, members of the region’s fast-growing population of immigrants from the former Soviet Union clashed with public schools. Children had a hard time communicating with teachers, and parents, many of whom were evangelical Christians, expressed alarm over sex education, Halloween and laws forbidding religious instruction.

 

Today, these families have a public school of their own.

 

The Community Outreach Academy, an elementary school built inside the former McClellan Air Force Base, is open to all students, but its pupils come overwhelmingly from families that emigrated from the former Soviet Union. The children attend Russian language class twice a week. There’s a Russian library that serves parents as well as children. The principal, a Belarussian refugee, frequently appears on Russian radio.

 

School administrators say they don’t teach religion, and they follow state laws on sex education. But they’re cognizant of parents’ sensibilities. Halloween, for instance, is not promoted as a school celebration.

 

The school has high test scores.

 

Community Outreach is also one of California’s most segregated schools. About 98 percent of its 1,231 students are white. No other school in the state with more than 20 students had a higher percentage of white students in 2013, state data show. In a district with 4,800 black students and 12,000 Latino students, Community Outreach Academy enrolled three black students and six Latinos last year.

 

Futures High School, a Gateway school that also serves the area’s Slavic population, is 95 percent white, data show.

 

Charter schools are booming in California; more than 515,000 students attended them last year. And like the Outreach Academy, a growing number are drawing most of their students from a particular ethnic group.

 

During the 2008-09 school year, roughly 34,000 students attended California charter schools in which at least nine of every 10 students belonged to a single ethnic group, according to the state Department of Education. By 2013-14, that number had nearly doubled to 65,000.

 

Let us not forget that the public schools were supposed to make us one nation, not to provide a setting in which each ethnic, racial, and cultural group could self-segregate. That was the meaning of the Brown decision. It seems to have been forgotten.

 
Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/news/local/education/article3654240.html#storylink=cpy

My friend Deborah Meier tells me she loves this school in Long Beach, California. It is a charter school that fulfills the original vision of what charters were supposed to be: innovative, risk-taking, open to all kinds of kids. That’s what this school is and does, but its test scores are low. The Long Beach school board wants to close it; they should not.

To the members of the Long Beach school board: Save the Néw City School. Let innovation thrive. Let this functioning community live.

This is the letter that Deb Meier forwarded to me:

Dear Dr. Ravitch:

Several hundred low-income kids in Long Beach, CA need your immediate help. Their teachers and parents are desperate.

I have been following your work over many years, in particular the series of letters between you and Debbie Meier – she is a friend of mine whom I met through the North Dakota Study Group. It is for this reason that I dare to write a request, will the full knowledge that I might come off as a bit crazy.

15 years ago, I co-founded the New City School in the center of our city. Long before most had heard of charter schools, we rescued an abandoned hospital building [and later a warehouse] and turned them into learning oases in a blighted community that had long been without a small, loving neighborhood school. Consistent with the original intent of charter school legislation, our school would innovate in a district that has a single-minded focus on Broad-funded test-prep. Our school is fully bilingual – Spanish speakers learn English AND English speaking students of many backgrounds learn to read and write in Spanish too. We feature lots of art, great literature with read-alouds every day in every grade, 2 huge libraries, and music instruction for all students, grades TK-8. Members of our community built the area’s biggest playground AND a 1/3-acre working organic farm, growing fresh fruits and vegetables with our students and their families.

Scholars, including Deborah Meier, Stephen Krashen, and Constance Kamii have visited and worked with our teachers to help them be the best they can be. Students share their accomplishments via quarterly public exhibitions in two languages. We are a neighborhood school that does not prequalify students for enrollment. Parents love the school and would do anything to help it survive.

The problem is that The Long Beach Unified School District cannot stand us because we don’t get high test scores and we won’t stop our teaching and learning practices in order to simply prepare students for exams day in and day out. For years, the LBUSD has threatened our school with closure for refusing to comply with their dystopian view of education as standardized test preparation. Two years ago they nearly closed us down, but we closed our high school and combined our 2 small elementary campuses into one, and kept moving forward. In addition to ideological blindness, LBUSD seems hell-bent on reclaiming the meager per pupil allocation our school manages to live on. We have no corporate sponsors or celebrities hosting galas on our behalf, just working-class parents and highly professional constructivist teachers sacrificing to save a school they love.

As you might imagine, the constant threat of closure distracts us from our mission of educating young people.

This Tuesday, November 18th, the LBUSD is holding ANOTHER hearing to discuss whether or not to renew our charter or close our school. When this happened a few years ago, the school district police ended up dragging parents out of the meeting and turned off their cameras! One parent was hospitalized in the melee.

You have an enormous platform to generate assistance for us. Would you please consider writing a letter of support? I would appreciate it so immensely if you could ask your colleagues and readers to do one of the following:

Send a message of solidarity and support for The New City School – a small community-centered, authentic public school – to the Long Beach Unified School District Board [Diana Craighead, President] and Superintendent Christopher Steinhauser. Long Beach Unified School District Board of Education – 1515 Hughes Way, Long Beach, CA 90810…send letters to info@newcityps.org

Visit the New City Public Schools (Long Beach) Facebook page or the New City Farm Facebook page and leave an encouraging message there – we will collect and send them as well – say why it matters to stand up to relentless testing and “accountability” that discounts parents’ involvement in teaching and learning, as well as their children’s development and interest!

For any support or encouragement you could offer to us, I will be forever in your debt.

Sincerely,

Stephanie nicole Lee
Public school educator since 1990

At the end of the elections yesterday, there were two very bright spots.

 

First, Tom Torlakson was elected state superintendent of education in California with 52% of the vote, despite the accumulation of millions of dollars for his opponent from people like Eli Broad, Michael Bloomberg, the Walton family, and other billionaires. It was teachers that re-elected Tom.

 

Second, the proposal to enshrine value-added assessment of teachers into the state constitution in Missouri failed, and it wasn’t even close. Amendment 3 would have ended teacher tenure and put teachers on renewable contracts, with everything tied to test scores. It went down by about 75-25%. This vote showed enormous popular support for teachers.

 

There was not a lot to celebrate, but these were big victories.

 

 

Network for Public Education endorses Tom Torlakson for California State Superintendent

Network for Public Education is proud to endorse public education champion Tom Torlakson for California State Superintendent. NPE Board president Diane Ravitch says, “I hope that the voters choose Tom Torlakson, a veteran educator who will truly fight for the kids, their teachers, and their public schools.” The race in California is a test of democracy and a referendum on public education. Can the voters be hoodwinked by Big Lies and Big Money?

The 2014 election receiving staggering contributions from Big Outside Money is the State Superintendent race between the incumbent, former teacher and legislator Tom Torlakson and the challenger, former Wall Street and charter school executive Marshall Tuck. It’s no surprise that corporate reform heav y weights have come out in droves in support of the candidate with ties to Wall Street and charters.

The race has been flooded with more than 25 million dollars, with Tuck raising approximately $3.5 million more than Torlakson at latest count. Much of the corporate reform money for Tuck is flowing through a PAC deceptively named “Parents and Teachers for Tuck for State Superintendent 2014.”

Familiar corporate-ed reform philanthropists top the list of donors, including Eli Broad ($1,375,000); Walton daughters and heirs, Alice ($450,000) and Carrie ($500,000); Julian Robertson of the Robertson Foundation ($1,000,000) and Doris Fisher of the Donald and Doris Fisher Fund ($950,000). Ex NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg contributed $250,000, as did Houston billionaire and DFER friend John Arnold and San Francisco venture capitalist and TFA Board member Arthur Rock.

Why so much money in this particular race?

Vergara.

Torlakson released a definitive statement within hours of the decision, and has appealed the ruling that could decimate tenure laws in California and beyond.

“All children deserve great teachers. Attracting, training, and nurturing talented and dedicated educators are among the most important tasks facing every school district, tasks that require the right mix of tools, resources, and expertise. Today’s ruling may inadvertently make this critical work even more challenging than it already is.

“While I have no direct jurisdiction over the statutes challenged in this case, I am always ready to assist the Legislature and Governor in their work to provide high-quality teachers for all of our students. Teachers are not the problem in our schools, they are the solution.”

Tuck not only supports the ruling, the plaintiffs in the case have endorsed his candidacy. Tuck offered his whole-hearted support for the decision at an event he recently attended with the Vergara plaintiffs.

“For too long, we have defended a broken system that fails to put the needs of our kids first. As State Superintendent, I will be an advocate for our students in Sacramento. I will immediately push to stop the defense of the onerous laws challenged by Vergara and will work with any and all stakeholders who are interested in building a better education future for our state. We owe it to our kids, and they deserve nothing less.”

Torlakson holds the slightest of leads among likely voters over Tuck, but with a third of the electorate still undecided, it’s anyone’s race. A field poll last week found an even tighter margin, with the candidates even at 28% and 44% of voters undecided!

Public education activist Robert Skeels says, “Tom Torlakson, AALA-endorsed candidate for California’s Superintendent of Public Instruction, will fight to increase education funding, fight to restore funding for science, social studies, art, music, drama and sports and fight to reduce class size.”

This race is crucial. We simply cannot allow Big Outside Money to install a Wall Street and charter executive in the California State Superintendent’s seat. We simply cannot allow Big Outside Money to spread the Vergara verdict across the country.

Re-electing Tom Torlakson will send a powerful message to those that seek to privatize public education and undermine our nation’s teachers. It will send the message that our schools are not for sale.

Support The Network for Public Education

The Network for Public Education is an advocacy group whose goal is to fight to protect, preserve and strengthen our public school system, an essential institution in a democratic society.

Over the past year, donations to The Network for Public Education helped us put on our first National Conference, and the first PUBLIC Education Nation. In the coming year, we will hold more events, webinars, and work on the issues that our members and donors care about the most!

To become a Member or to Make a Donation, go to the NPE website and click on the PayPal link. We accept donations using PayPal, the most trusted site used to make on-line payments.

http://networkforpubliceducation.org

The Network For Public Education | P.O. Box 44200 | Tucson | AZ | 85733

Steve Zimmer is a member of the Los Angeles Unified School Board. He began his career in education with Teach for America, then stayed as a classroom teacher in Los Angeles for 17 years. When he ran for re-election, corporate reformers amassed a huge campaign chest to defeat him. He was outspent 4-1, but he won.

Zimmer is known as a thoughtful board member who cares about children, class size, and the quality of education for all children.

He posted the following on his Facebook page:

Friends,

It is less than 24 hours until Election Day.

I never imagined the right wing billionaires that tried to take me out of my school board seat in 2013 could donate more and distort the truth greater than they did against me. But that time has come. In tomorrow’s election for California State Superintendent of Public Instruction, the billionaires have outdone themselves, pouring over 11 million dollars into Charter School Operator Marshall Tuck’s campaign to unseat former teacher Tom Torlakson. This incredible cast of characters represents a who’s who of the corporate school privatization movement. Just take a look at who is on Marshall Tuck’s 500,000+ donor list. Each and every one of these donors has supported Republican campaigns, efforts to deregulate almost every major industry, gut workers rights and fight every sensible Obama initiative. And now several of the​m​ are among the largest donors to the Republican effort to take the U.S. Senate. Here are just a few:

Julian Robertson 1,000,000
Eli Broad $1,000,000
Michael Bloomberg $1,000,000
Bill Bloomfield $1,000,000
AliceWalton $1,000,000
Carrie Penner Walton $500,000
John Douglas Arnold $500,000

The billionaires have distorted Tom Torlakson’s moderate, successful record during his first term. They ignore the substantial improvements in all measurable areas throughout the state that have culminated in our first ever 80% statewide graduation rate. Because they mostly opposed Proposition 30, they want us forget that Tom Torlakson led they way towards rescuing our and fighting for all forms of local control. And in Marshall Tuck they have found the perfect private sector candidate. I’ve worked directly with Marshall. He is not a bad person and he is not trying to ruin our schools. But he fundamentally believes schools should be run as a business. He slashed classified jobs and promoted cut throat competition between schools as a charter school leader. As a candidate he has raised the ugly flag of demonizing teachers and has promised to drop t​he appeal of the Vergara lawsuit. He has also promised to force all California districts to have teacher evaluation systems directly linked to student’s standardized test scores.

We can’t let this happen. Tomorrow we have to show that public education in California is not for sale. Tomorrow we have to show that we can transform outcomes for students by working together not blaming those who have dedicated their lives to our schools. We can’t let these modern day​ robber​ barons steal this crucial election.

I ask you to do everything you can in the next 24 hours to turn out every progressive, every democrat, every person who care​s​ about our schools and every person who cares about democracy to vote for Tom Torlakson. The ultra rich controlling our democracy is not a new story. But the consequences if they are successful tomorrow will be unprecedented. I still believe we are more powerful than money. Let us all​,​ in California and throughout our nation, show the power of the people. Thank you for doing all you can.

Steve

Paul Karrer, a veteran teacher in Castroville, explains why Californians should not vote for Marshall Tuck, who is a candidate for state superintendent. He represents the tiny but fabulously wealthy hedge fund managers who want to destroy public education. With backing from the powerful charter school industry, he has garnered endorsements from newspapers across the state, despite his lack of any accomplishment in education.

 

Karrer writes in The Herald of Monterrey:

 

I want to weep when noneducators use the destructive words and framing of those who would destroy public education. The Herald writes, “Tuck led Green Dot public schools in L.A., garners support from charter operators, and even tech companies along with wealthy backers who champion reform. He supports merit pay for teachers, and using student test scores as a means to evaluate teachers.”

None of those things are good!

 

He add, referring to Tuck’s experience at the Green Dot charter chain:

 

Green Dot Charter Schools: It is a student-skimming charter operation where parents or guardians who care opt their students into the school — meaning the kids are not the bottom of the bottom of the bottom. Outlier kids are booted, the teaching staff has quit en masse, and $15 million (double the normal federal investment dollars amount) had to be infused to make the venture survive. Slick charterists get public schools condemned and then Green Dot moves in to make money. Green Dot claims the scores go up (*see below). However, scores are only marginally increased (if that) and only if one massages the numbers with carefully selected framing. But they should, with all the low-performance and disabled kids who were not attending the school.

 

By the way, when a business is designated as not-for profit, grab your wallet and tighten up because intellectually you may be in for a nonconsensual act. Not-for-profit is merely an IRS filing. It means nothing morally or ethically. Many not-for-profit businesses choke their board of directors with obscene salaries, like Green Dot does.

 

Wealthy supporters: Hedge fund managers, or technocrats who although very successful in the world of finance have no clue about education. And they think a spreadsheet leads to all worldly answers and profits.

 

Bottom line: Vote for Tom Torklakson, not flashy, but a real educator.

 

 

The Network for Public Education has issued a BIG MONEY ALERT about efforts to swamp state and local school board races with outsize campaign contributions.

The ALERT focuses on a handful of races where corporate reformers are using their vast financial resources to win control. Many of the biggest donors are out-of-state and have no ties to the public schools other than a desire to promote charter schools, high-stakes testing, and test-based evaluations of teachers.

The race for state school superintendent in California has attracted the most corporate reform money. Marshall Tuck is the favorite of the billionaires and hedge fund managers. State superintendent Tom Torlakson is an educator with solid support among the state’s teachers and administrators. Torlakson is supported by teachers and their unions.

Tuck is the darling of the corporate ed-reform donors, having received such contributions as:

Eli Broad’s donation of $1,375,000;
Walton daughters and heirs, Alice and Carrie with $450,000 and $500,000 respectively;
Julian Robertson of the Robertson Foundation with $1,000,000;
Doris Fisher of the Donald and Doris Fisher Fund with $950,000;
Ex NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg contributed $250,000;
Houston billionaire and DFER friend John Arnold;
San Francisco venture capitalist and TFA Board member Arthur Rock.

If you know of other races where the big corporate money people are tilting the scales, please contact Robin Hiller, executive director of the Network for Public Education rhiller@voicesforeducation.org, or leave a comment here.

California blogger “RedQueeninLA” reviews the contest between Marshall Tuck and Tom Torlakson for state superintendent and concludes that Tuck is unfit for the office.

Tuck is the candidate of the power elite, the billionaires who cynically employ fake rhetoric about “it’s all for the kids,” when their real goal is to demonize teachers and invest in technology. They have zero commitment to public education as a civic responsibility.

Tuck comes from the world of investment banking. His education experience at Green Dot Charter Schools and at former Los Angeles Mayor Villaraigosa’s takeover schools was a failure. On that ground alone–his dismal experience–he should be disqualified.

But his greatest liability is his contempt for public education. With him at the helm, public school students would have no advocate in Sacramento. But the oligarchs would.

On behalf of the power elite, Marshall Tuck is running a:

“professionally organized, PR-driven, fact- and experience-free, 1%-obsessed campaign. With relentless repetition their agenda is focused on issues to degrade the influence of organized labour and drive the market predominance of high technology. The challenger, Marshall Tuck, simply blusters through one Big Lie after another, disingenuously claiming to be all about “the children” when in fact this is seemingly the opposite of his agenda. Marshall Tuck’s resume offers no evidence to suggest children’s best interests are the focus of his attention. What all these billionaire-backed candidates – whether Sanchez I v Kayser, Anderson v Zimmer, Sanchez II v Ratliff, or Johnson v McKenna – is about, is the corporate interests of their paymasters.”

Will the 1% buy the state superintendents’ job in California? Will Tuck–the puppet of the oligarchs–win despite his record of failure? Will the public ignore his contempt for public schools and their teachers?

Or will they see through the mask of power politics and reject his deceptive and divisive rhetoric?

I hope that the voters choose Tom Torlakson, a veteran educator who will truly fight for the kids, their teachers, and their public schools.

The race in California is a test of democracy? Can the voters be hoodwinked by Big Lies and Big Money?

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