Archives for category: California

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?

Marshall Tuck, running against educator Tom Torlakson, got a late infusion of huge campaign contributions.

Former Mayor Michael Blomberg sent $250,000.

Eli Broad sent two checks totaling $1,000,000.

Alice L. Walton of the Walmart family sent two gifts totaling $450,000.

Carrie Penner (of the same Walton family) sent $500,000.

Doris Fisher of the family that owns The Gap sent two gifts totaling $950,000.

Arthur Rock, a member of TFA’s board, sent $250,000.

Laurene Powell Jobs sent two checks totaling $500,000.

There are many other very large contributions, plus earlier contributions made by many of the same people.

The reformers really, really, really want to elect Tuck.

Think of the expansion of privatization!

Think of having a charter advocate running the State Department of Education. Their guy!!

Do the voters know about this? Are they informed? Will they allow the billionaires to buy this job?

 

There is one school in the United States where the “parent trigger” has been used to convert a public school to a charter school: Desert Trails in Adelanto, California.

 

According to this article in Capital and Main, the new charter is a disaster. Children with special needs are ill-served. Teacher turnover is outrageously high. Teachers buy supplies out of their meager salary.

 

Among the most serious accusations are charges that administrative chaos at Desert Trails has resulted in both a stampede of exiting teachers and staff; that uncredentialed instructors have taught in its classrooms; and that Desert Trails had an unwritten policy of dissuading parents of students with special learning needs from seeking special education. The teachers also allege that they had to endure a bullying regime in which, they say, they were continually screamed at, spied on, lied to and humiliated in front of parents and their peers by Tarver and her deputies. Capital & Main spoke with the teachers, four of whom agreed to go on the record for this story. (“The High Desert is a small place and Debbie Tarver has a long reach,” said one teacher who requested anonymity.)….

 

The most telling outward sign that all was not right at Desert Trails, however, may be its startling turnover in administration and teaching staff. During its first year, teachers say, the charter lost a principal (Don Wilkinson) and a director (Ron Griffin) — both before the Christmas break — its vice principal, six classroom teachers and its behavioral specialist. In addition, only nine of Desert Trails’ first-year teacher roster — or 33 percent — are returnees this year. Desert Trails’ charter promises “less than five percent annual employee turnover.” And, teachers say, Desert Trails seems to be running true to form for the 2014-15 year, with four teachers jumping ship as of this writing — including two from the kindergarten level….

 

 

 

 

The leading advocates for privatization are funding Marshall Tuck’s campaign for State Superintendent of Education in California. If you want to get rid of public schools, Tuck’s the guy. If you want to improve public education, vote for Tom Torkakson.

From the Torlakson website:

Pension/School Privateers Invest in Tuck for Schools Chief

A handful of ultra-wealthy donors who support school privatization and cutting public pension systems are behind a flood of spending supporting former Wall Street Banker Marshall Tuck’s campaign for state schools superintendent, campaign disclosure records show.

Far from “Parents and Teachers for Tuck,” the $4.7 million collected so far comes instead from sources that support school vouchers, privatization of public pension systems and using disruptive business tactics to overhaul public schools.

Major funders include:

$500,000 from Carrie Walton Penner, whose family made its fortune running anti-union, low-wage paying Wal-Mart. The Walmart 1% website reports that Penner’s biography includes serving on the board of the Alliance for School Choice – a school voucher advocacy group.

$300,000 from John D. Arnold, a former Enron trader and funder of efforts to persuade governments to cut public employee pensions. In February, the New York Times reported that a public television station returned $3.5 million Arnold’s foundation had paid to underwrite a series examining the economic sustainability of public pensions.

$1 million from corporate CEO Eli Broad. He drew statewide attention when it was revealed he had donated $500,000 to a group with ties to the Koch Brothers to defeat Proposition 30 and pass Proposition 32.

Here’s how Parents Across America, a public school advocacy group, described Broad’s approach: “Broad and his foundation believe that public schools should be run like a business. One of the tenets of his philosophy is to produce system change by ‘investing in disruptive force.’ Continual reorganizations, firings of staff, and experimentation to create chaos or ‘churn’ is believed to be productive and beneficial, as it weakens the ability of communities to resist change.”

Carl Cohn is one of the most respected and wisest figures in American education today. He was a successful superintendent in Long Beach and San Diego. He currently is a member of the California State Board of Education.

He writes here about the flawed logic of the Vergara decision, in which the judge ruled that teacher tenure and seniority were unconstitutional in California.

Cohn says the decision contradicts the reality of schools today, as well as what he observed as a superintendent.

He writes:

“What’s wrong with the ruling is that it reinforces a completely false narrative in which incompetent teachers are portrayed as the central problem facing urban schools.

“Serving as superintendent in both Long Beach and San Diego for 12-plus years, I didn’t see the “teacher jails” or “rubber rooms” – the places where teachers are assigned and do nothing while any of a range of charges against them are adjudicated – that have become a part of the popular-media-driven narrative about urban schools and districts.

“I saw remarkably heroic classroom teachers who delivered high-quality instruction on a daily basis. Sure, there were times when a teacher wasn’t performing up to par and needed help. And yes, there were times when a teacher needed to find a new career. But the notion that the only choice facing an urban district is to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars removing such teachers says more about poor leadership and poor human capital management in that district than it does about the existing state statutes under consideration in this court case.

“In my experience at Long Beach, the biggest help in counseling a teacher toward finding a new career was the head of the local teachers union, who understood that keeping a sub-par teacher in the profession was bad for both the district and the union. Most of the heavy lifting on getting that resignation was done by the union, not the district.

“In recent years, it has become fashionable to suggest that the battle in urban districts is all about adult interests versus the interests of schoolchildren. The truth is that an effective leader of an urban school system goes to work every day trying to figure out how best to motivate, inspire and develop the adults who work with kids. Those superintendents who feel that they can transform kids’ lives by fiat from the superintendent’s suite are kidding themselves and fooling the public. Enlisting, engaging and collaborating with classroom teachers are the only ways to genuinely move the needle on student achievement.”

He adds:

“Some change may well need to be considered in the length of time teachers must serve before gaining tenure. Most observers are waiting for some grand bargain to be crafted at the state level. But I think this would be best done from the “bottom up” in urban districts like San Jose and others, where district and union leaders are coming to the same conclusion that some beginning teachers are better served by lengthening the probationary period. State leaders and CTA need to get out of the way and let this happen.

“The work of improving urban schools is a long, hard slog. It requires stability of leadership and governance, along with taking the time to develop mutual trust between administrators and unions on building the capacity of the vast majority of the teacher workforce. Unfortunately, there are no shortcuts.

“California is a great state that should never consider turning back the clock either on the civil rights of urban students, who have the right to a high-quality public school education, or on the employment rights of the dedicated teachers who I saw serving them so well in both Long Beach and San Diego.”

Peter Greene has a very engaging post about the insanity of Marshall Tuck’s run for State Superintendent of California.

 

Greene can’t believe that Tuck believes what he is saying and promising. If he delivers, he will destroy public education in California, get rid of experienced teachers, somehow find inexperienced replacements for them, and then what? Then Californians will know that the whole reformster agenda is a fraud. Maybe, just maybe, Greene thinks, it would be a good thing to have this expose happen.

 

What qualifies Tuck to run the state education department? Well, he was an investment banker. The rich and powerful like him. He has friends in Hollywood. He thinks no teacher should have tenure. He failed as leader of Green Dot. He failed running the mayor’s takeover schools. That means he is an expert on reform.

 

Greene writes:

 

Tuck is popular with the Let’s Kick Teachers’ Asses crowd, which is why this election matters. Current Superintendent Tom Torlakson pissed off a lot of powerful people by deciding to challenge the Vergara ruling, and if elected Tuck will put an end to that toot suite.

 

I confess to being a little fascinated by the Tuck candidacy, because what is the end game here? I mean, unless he’s an idiot, he has to know that the same smoke and mirrors that create the illusion of success for charter schools cannot be scaled to the state level, and his bold claims that he can raise California’s educational standings will fail hugely. “Throw out difficult students who make school look less successful” only works if there are other schools to send them to. Maybe he has figured out how to scale charter success with, say, a plan to push all low-performing California students into Nevada. But I’m doubtful. He has to know that he cannot deliver any of the results he is promising.

 

So if he’s not an idiot, what’s the plan here? Just get in there and strip as much money as possible out of the system and walk away? Destroy the teaching profession and public education and just hope nobody notices or cares? The usual reformster profile is to find yourself a job where you aren’t accountable to much of anybody and where the reporting of results is entirely under your control. But Tuck wants to be responsible to the state voters for an entire state system whose results will be pretty hard to hide.

 

If this guy is elected, shame on the voters of California. Their children will get what they don’t deserve.

 

 

David B. Cohen is a National Board Certified Teacher at Palo Alto High School, respected by his peers and students. He is spending this year traveling California, meeting teachers, learning about their practices, and writing about the great teachers he finds.

He has started a Kickstarter campaign and needs your help.

Unlike the “reformers,” David is not looking for failure. He is looking for success and knows he will find it and document it. He is a gifted writer.

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