Archives for category: Education Industry

Make no mistake: The purpose of privatization is to make a profit. The promise of privatization is efficiency. But in its pursuit of both profits and efficiency, privatization creates perverse incentives. It encourages privately managed charter schools to avoid or get rid of “expensive” students” (unless the reimbursement formula makes them profitable to keep); it encourages for-profit hospitals to over diagnose patients and perform unnecessary surgeries; it encourages private preschool providers of special education to misdiagnose children as in need of services to produce profits.

 

And it encourages private managers of prisons to keep the prison population as large as possible, since an empty cell is a cell that produces no revenue.

 

Here are some recent examples, drawn from the invaluable website “In the Public Interest,” which reports regularly on privatization of the public sector:

 

On the tenth anniversary of Operation Streamline, Free Speech Radio News reporter Shannon Young interviews Grassroots Leadership’s Bethany Carson. The policy “significantly increased the caseloads in criminal courts along the southern U.S. border by criminalizing what used to be a civil offense: illegal re-entry into the United States.” Carson says “this is also a policy that has funneled people into for-profit federal prisons, that are segregated prisons specifically for immigrants, with worse conditions, the rationale being that they don’t want to spend money on people who are not going to be coming back into American society and will be deported afterwards. This has also dramatically increased the proportion of Latinos in the federal prison system.”

 

A new report by the Center for American Progress says “a key factor underlying the explosion in the number of immigrants in custody is the expanded role of for-profit prison companies in the U.S. immigration detention system. (…) The millions of dollars that for-profit prison companies poured into lobbying have paid off in a big way, resulting in an increase in the guaranteed minimum number of immigration detention beds, both nationally and within individual facility contracts.”

 

The National Journal’s J. Weston Phippen reports on how privatized probation systems victimize and trap the poor and lead to a loss of public control. “In the Mississippi Delta town of Greenwood, a for-profit company promised city leaders it could take over its cash-strapped probation system without any expense to taxpayers. Not only that, but the company said it could actually turn a profit for itself, and the city, by collecting fines. Just eight months later, nearly 10 percent of the town’s 15,000 population was on probation for minor offenses like traffic violations and owing fees to the company.”

 

Corrections Corporation of America is awarded a new 10-year management contract with the state to house up to an additional 1,000 medium-security inmates at CCA’s Red Rock Correctional Center. The one-bid contract was the subject of a “public” hearing at which “there was not one member of the public at the meeting.” “It was not a public hearing, it was a CCA staff meeting,” said Caroline Isaacs, program director of the American Friends Service Committee—Arizona. “Half the people in the room were in uniform.”

 

Tucson stands up against an unjust immigration detention system buttressed by the for-profit prison industry. “Asked to describe a case that gave her the most satisfaction, Launius singles out that of her friend Alma Hernandez, a community leader and activist in Corazón de Tucson. ‘She wasn’t (an activist) when she first started working with us, but she was stopped and arrested and held in a CCA (Corrections Corporation of America) prison in Louisiana for months. That turned her into an activist. She was one of our first clients and has volunteered with us ever since.’”

 

 

 

 

I earlier reported that Steve Van Zant, superintendent of a small district, had been charged with conflict of interest for helping districts authorize charters in other districts (which is legal under California law), then getting contracts with the charters for his private business.

 

Now, crack reporter Maureen Magee of the San Diego Union-Tribune reports the story (reprinted in the Los Angeles Times):

 

By the time Steve Van Zant left the Mountain Empire Unified School District in 2013, he had overseen the authorization of more than a dozen charter schools to operate in other districts throughout San Diego County — with several going on to hire his education consulting firm.

 

All the while, Van Zant coached at least one other district on how to approve out-of-town charters, according to emails obtained by the San Diego Union-Tribune. As more districts approved far-flung charters, Van Zant’s EdHive consultant business took on some of the schools as clients.

 

The San Diego district attorney’s office arraigned Van Zant on Jan. 15 on a felony conflict-of-interest charge from an undisclosed incident in May 2010 while he was superintendent of Mountain Empire.

 

The district attorney’s office declined to disclose details of its investigation, and it is unclear whether the charge relates to his work with charter schools. According to the criminal complaint, Van Zant violated laws that prohibited him “from being financially interested in contracts made by him in his official capacity.”

 

The Union-Tribune has tracked a charter empire built by Van Zant by taking advantage of what some call a shortcoming in state law that gives districts a financial incentive to place charters in other school districts. By placing charters outside its boundaries, a district can raise new funds — up to 3 percent of a charter’s revenue — without any threat to enrollment or state attendance funds.

 

More than 80 out-of-district charters have been approved in San Diego County, the vast majority of which were authorized by small East County districts — several with help from Van Zant, who includes a list of charter clients on his LinkedIn professional network profile…

 

When Van Zant accepted the job in 2013 as superintendent of the Sausalito Marin City School District, he was positioned to devote even more time growing his consulting business. He would commute from his Mission Bay home for the three-day-a-week position in Northern California with a starting salary of $165,000 and still run EdHive, which recently opened an office in Symphony Towers in downtown San Diego…

 

 

California secretary of state documents show that Van Zant’s wife, interior designer Ingrid Van Zant, registered the corporation in 2011. Steve Van Zant listed himself as both president and vice president of EdHive in 2015 on financial disclosure forms filed with Marin County

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After leaving Mountain Empire in the summer of 2013, Van Zant helped usher through another charter in the Pine Valley-based district.

 

You are a charter God. Like Matt Damon in ‘Good Will Hunting.’ – Former Alpine Superintendent Tom Pellegrino in an email to Van Zant
The former superintendent personally petitioned the Mountain Empire school board to authorize the County Collaborative Charter School. Van Zant would go on to serve as director, and he listed his EdHive consulting firm as the provider of back-office services in charter petition documents.

 

By soliciting business from the district so quickly after leaving office in Mountain Empire, Van Zant has raised questions about whether he violated the Political Reform Act, which calls for a one-year “cooling off” period before government officials can lobby their agencies — or do business with them — after leaving.

 

The County Collaborative charter enrolled 201 students in the 2014-15 school year, and lists Van Zant’s downtown San Diego EdHive office as the school’s address on a California Department of Education website. Van Zant is listed as the charter’s director, a position missing from financial disclosure documents filed in Marin after taking office in Sausalito.

 

 

 

NC Policy Watch reports that legislation is advancing that would permit for-profit charter operators to take over the state’s lowest-performing schools, the great majority of them in low-income minority communities. The models for the takeover is the Tennessee Achievement School District, the Michigan Educational Achievement Authority, and the elimination of public schools in New Orleans. However, sponsors of the legislation say that the North Carolina would be the same only different. It would be done the North Carolina way.

 

N.C. Rep. Rob Bryan, the Republican from Mecklenburg County who chairs the committee and the leading proponent for achievement school districts in the legislature, said that the districts—pioneered, to mixed results in states like Louisiana, Michigan and Tennessee—could be phased into North Carolina as soon as the 2017-2018 academic year.

 

“We are neither Tennessee, nor are we New Orleans,” said Bryan. “But what I’m looking to do here is do what’s right for North Carolina.”

 

Bryan authored a much-discussed draft of legislation last year that would have funneled five of the state’s lowest-performing elementary schools into the state-controlled achievement districts as a pilot program, although the notion did not gain any significant traction during the General Assembly’s long budget debates last summer.

 

The draft Bryan unveiled Wednesday had few differences from last year’s prospective bill, potentially ceding the power to hire and fire teachers and administrators to private, for-profit charter leaders. Pilot schools would be placed into a special state-run district, with a superintendent chosen by the State Board of Education who would have the power to negotiate operation contracts with private companies, effectively seizing control from local school boards.

 

The charter operators would be expected to help turn around academic performance in the schools.

 

As N.C. Policy Watch reported last year, lobbying for the movement was financed by Oregon millionaire and conservative private school backer John Bryan (no relation to Rep. Rob Bryan).

 

One of the researchers at Vanderbilt who studied the Tennessee ASD model and found it ineffective was in town to speak to a public education group about his study, but the legislative committee did not invite him to address them about what his group learned.

 

The state superintendent said that the public schools should lead any turnaround effort; the Tennessee study from Vanderbilt showed that the iZone schools, created and led by the public schools, outperformed the ASD charter schools:

 

“I believe that the taxpayers of North Carolina would get a better return on their investments by going with a model that has proven positive results,” North Carolina Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson told N.C. Policy Watch Tuesday.

 

To Atkinson, that means pursuing public school-led initiatives, offering low-performing schools greater support, access to preschool programs and more flexible calendar years.

 

As Atkinson points out, students in low-performing schools can lose two to three months of reading development during traditional schools’ summer break.

 

“We have to address these root causes or we’ll continue to have these conversations 10 years from now,” said Atkinson.

 

And then there was a startling statement, startling because it was plain common sense, which has been in rare supply since 2010 in North Carolina:

 

Meanwhile, Rep. Ed Hanes Jr., a Democrat from Forsyth County, blasted state officials during Wednesday’s committee meeting for failing to do enough to address the societal and economic causes of low-performing schools.

 

As Barbour pointed out Wednesday, low-performing schools in the state are disproportionately serving low-income and minority children.

 

“It sounds like a lot of talk,” said Hanes. “It sounds like we don’t really dig into what the real issues are. … And it sounds to me like we really don’t care a whole lot about poor people.”

Karen Quartz wrote a powerful article explaining why Eli Broad’s plan to grab control of half the students in Los Angeles is a huge mistake. Quartz is the director of research at the UCLA Community School, a K-12 university-supported neighborhood public school in Pico Union/Koreatown.

She wrote:

“In September, a proposal from Great Public Schools Now, an initiative led by billionaire Eli Broad, unleashed ferocious debate. Rife with business-speak, it suggested LAUSD could be fixed by attracting edupreneurs to launch 260 new charter schools that would capture 50% of the district’s “market share” by 2023. Within weeks, battle lines were drawn. Rallying anti-charter-school activists, former school board president Jackie Goldberg declared “This is war!” On its website, the teacher’s union posted “Hit the Road, Broad.”

“Another coalition of local foundation leaders then weighed in with its own open letter in November and offered to mediate. Without taking sides, they cautioned that “intended reforms often fall short if they are done to communities rather than with communities.”

“Then, in an abrupt turn, Great Public Schools Now announced in December that it would channel its resources not just into adding more charter schools, but into replicating models of success at traditional schools as well. It released a list of 49 schools that were models of success, 42 of them magnets and charter schools. Both types of schools rely on competitive admissions policies that are based on lotteries or criteria such as giftedness.

“The list’s near-exclusive focus on charters and magnets rather than neighborhood schools sends a powerful message about how these private reformers want Angelenos to think about education — as savvy consumers competing for scarce resources needed to help their children get ahead.

“What does this process of edupreneurship and innovation look like on the ground? Magnets and charters use aggressive recruitment campaigns to draw families with more social capital away from their neighborhood public schools. The most vulnerable children, then, are left behind in quickly emptying buildings, which sit waiting for a Proposition 39 takeover bid, which allows new charter schools to open in the unused classroom space.”

Quartz explains why Broad’s proposal is harmful to the democratic concept of public education.

“My point is not that one method of reform trumps all others. Rather, it’s that to ensure high-quality schools for all children requires recognizing that public education is both an individual good that helps people get ahead — “the great equalizer,” as Horace Mann put it in 1848 — and a collective good that defines how we together determine our shared fate.

“Edupreneurship is designed to unleash creative energy into conservative school systems and disrupt longstanding patterns of underachievement. But if that comes at the expense of our common good, it threatens the very foundation of public schooling.”

Of course, there is no guarantee that the edupreneuers will succeed. Based on their spotty record, they are likely to fail and move on, leaving communities in shambles. For the Broad team, the little people are pawns on their chess board.

Despite the documented failure of the Tennessee Achievement District, the Charlotte Observer thinks it is worth a try to copy the same model in North Carolina. In Tennessee, the ASD was created to take over neighborhood public schools that rated in the lowest 5% in the state based on test scores and give them to charter operators. Within five years, starting in 2012, those charter schools would rank in the top 25% in the state. But the ASD schools are not on track to show any improvement.

 

Gary Rubinstein demonstrated that four of the original six schools in the ASD remained in the bottom 5%, while the other two are in the bottom 6%.

 

A recent Vanderbilt study concluded that the ASD schools were ineffective, although they held out hope that they might get better over time.

 

Ron Zimmer of Vanderbilt said the study showed that the district’s own innovative public schools outperformed the charters:

 

Zimmer’s team, which was asked by the state to keep tabs on progress from the outset, zoomed in on test data more closely than the typical measures of “below basic” and “proficient.” While there were some changes year-to-year — up and down — there was no statistical improvement on the whole, certainly not enough to catapult these low-performing schools into some of the state’s best, which was the lofty goal.

 

“It may be a little disappointing to those who were advocating for the Achievement School District that we haven’t seen better results at this point,” Zimmer says.

 

The Vanderbilt researchers found more encouraging results with the turnaround efforts known as iZones led by local districts in Memphis and Nashville.

 

Chalkbeat Tennessee stressed that if the state wants real improvement, it should look to the iZone model run by the Shelby County public schools.

 

Days before the Tennessee Achievement School District is to announce whether it will take over five more Memphis schools next year, Vanderbilt has released a study suggesting the city’s low-performing schools would be better off in Shelby County Schools’ Innovation Zone.
The study, released Tuesday, shows that iZone schools have sizeable positive effects on student test scores, while the ASD’s effects are marginal. That means that students at ASD schools are performing mostly at the same low levels they likely would have had their school not been taken over by the state-run school turnaround district.

 

A little over a year ago, two Metro Nashville school board members complained that the ASD (which now manages 27 charter schools) wanted to take over one of Nashville’s high-performing public schools as a way of boosting ASD’s lackluster performance. Parents were outraged, as they were in many of the other takeover schools.

 

While the charter movement is allegedly predicated on parental “choice,” that choice seems to vanish when appointed ASD officials decide to impose a charter school on a community. The ASD is pushing forward despite protests by parents, teachers, community members, a variety of elected officials from the community (including current and former school board members), and even the MNPS Director of Schools.

 

Why, under these circumstances, would the ASD insist upon a hostile takeover of Neely’s Bend when other local schools clearly require more attention? The answer is simple: The ASD is trying to save itself. It has cherry-picked a school to boost its own dismal performance. This is a prime example of a government bureaucracy attempting to justify its own existence.

 

Although originally conceived as something very different, the ASD has become a way for state officials to hand over neighborhood schools to charter operators. This has not proven to be an effective solution. Despite higher per pupil expenditures (the exact amount has not been revealed), the ASD is underperforming. In Memphis, where nearly all ASD schools are located, district-operated schools outpace ASD schools, and, in fact, the ASD overall showed negative growth in every single subject area in 2014.

 

The ASD did take over Neely’s Bend, and just last month the Black Caucus in the Legislature called for a halt to ASD expansion because of community opposition and no results.

 

Why should North Carolina adopt a model that has shown no results? What is it about failure that the Charlotte Observer editorial board likes? Why not adopt proven practices that strengthen public schools–like reducing class size, adding a health clinic– instead of handing them over to privately operated charters?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is the seventh in a series of exchanges about the new federal law, the Every Student Succeeds Act. I asked the questions, and David P. Cleary, chief of staff to Senator Lamar Alexander, answered them.

Does the law impose any requirements on charter schools regarding funding, selection of students, financial transparency, or accountability?

Short Answer:

Sen. Alexander has been a long-time advocate of charter schools. In his last act as Secretary of Education in 1993, he wrote a letter to all of the nation’s superintendents encouraging them to look at the idea of creating charter schools like those started in Minnesota.

The Every Student Succeeds Act makes several updates to the federal public charter school program to modernize the program and ensure public charter schools are held to the same standards as other public schools. The charter school program provides federal grants to support the creation of new charter schools, and the new law is updated to also allow such grants to support the replication and expansion of high-quality charter schools. The bill also includes important changes to eliminate barriers to enrollment for some students, increase charter school financial transparency, and include charter schools in the state accountability system in the same way that traditional schools are included.

Long Answer:

Funding: The law continues support for the competitive grant program for grants to states and other state entities for the purposes of opening new, or replicating or expanding high-quality charter schools, and to provide technical assistance to improve the quality of authorized public chartering agencies (including developing capacity for and conducting fiscal oversight and auditing of charter schools). The new law also continues support for the facilities grants programs to enhance the availability of loans or bond financing for charter schools since so many charter schools are denied access to the capital budget of state or local school construction and financing. We also focus efforts at the federal level to make competitive grants to replicate and expand high-quality charter schools to try to build on their success.

Funding in the latest appropriations bill for all of these activities was $333 million.

Selection of students: The new law requires grantees to “work with charter schools on recruitment and enrollment practices to promote inclusion of all students, including by eliminating any barriers to enrollment for educationally disadvantaged students.” This language is found in section 4303(f)(1)(A)(viii)(I) of the new education law. Section 4303(f)(2)(C) requires the state’s public chartering agencies to adequately monitor charter schools in recruiting, enrolling, retaining, and meeting the needs of all students.

Financial transparency: The law made several changes to improve financial transparency of charter schools, both to ensure that public funds are being spent well, and to learn more about the disparities in funding for public charter schools compared to other public schools.

State grantees are encouraged to adopt strong authorizer practices, including increased financial transparency for charter schools. The law includes changes to increase financial transparency, oversight, and monitoring, including through financial audits. State grantees also need to focus on promoting quality charter authorizing, including through more efforts to audit charter finances and hold charter schools accountable for academic, financial, and operational efforts.

Accountability: In the new law, charter schools are treated the same as traditional public schools in the state’s accountability system. All public schools in the state are included in the accountability system that the state develops. The law explicitly requires that the law’s accountability provisions are overseen for charter schools in accordance with state charter school law.

This is a shocking development. Associates of Jeb Bush have filed public records requests about elected local school board members. Behind this tactic is a growing anti-charter sentiment. Floridians have become aware of the numerous financial scandals connected to charters. Because of Bush, Florida is one of the friendliest environments in the nation for the charter industry.

 

 

“Folio Weekly has learned that three of Duval County’s seven sitting board members have been targeted for public records requests by Robert H. Fernandez, a litigation attorney who once served as Deputy General Counsel to Gov. Jeb Bush.

 

 

“Fernandez, a partner in the Coral Gables-based Zumpano Castro Law Firm, has issued two separate public records requests to Duval County School Board members Becki Couch, Dr. Connie Hall, and Paula Wright.

 

 

“Who is Robert H. Fernandez?

 
“As Deputy General Counsel in the then-Governor’s office, Fernandez served as a top lieutenant in Bush-brand education reform, particularly on school privatization efforts. Fernandez and one other attorney represented Jeb Bush in Florida’s landmark school voucher case, Bush v. Holmes. The Holmes case ended Bush’s plan for tax dollars to be used for private school vouchers. (Now, pre-treasury, “tax-credit” dollars are used for private school vouchers through the 501c3 organization, Step Up For Students.)

 

 

“According to his firm’s website, Fernandez “… is considered one of the leading lawyers in South Florida on representation of elected officials and candidates on election and ethics law issues.”

 

 

“Fernandez also once served as a reference for the cousin of charter school lobbyist Ralph Arza.

 

 

“Hugo Arza listed Fernandez and one other Bush-affiliated attorney when he applied to serve on the Florida Schools of Excellence Commission in 2007. The commission, which was designed to take charter school decisions out of the hands of local school districts, became defunct in 2008, when the First District Court of Appeals found it unconstitutional. Folio Weekly left a message for Fernandez on his office voicemail, but the call was not returned in time for our publication deadline.

 

 

“Who is Ralph Arza?

 

 

“Ralph Arza, a former member of the Florida House of Representatives, turned himself into the police for witness tampering charges in 2006. He admitted to leaving an obscenity-laced voicemail message for fellow lawmaker Gus Barreiro, and to using a racial slur in that recording. Barreiro had previously filed a complaint against Arza for calling a sitting schools superintendent a racial slur. Arza pled guilty in the criminal matter, served probation and community service, enrolled in anger management classes, and apologized publicly for his actions. He also withdrew his name from consideration for re-election to the House.

 

 

“Prior to the scandal, Arza was regarded as an important point-person in the Florida House for implementing Bush’s education reform initiatives. Arza, quoted often in the media as a longtime friend and adviser to presidential candidate Marco Rubio, now lobbies for the Florida Charter School Alliance. FSCA is one of several school-privatization advocacy organizations that are organized under the umbrella “Florida Alliance for Choice in Education,” or FACE.

 

 

“A vocal champion of school privatization, Arza told CBS affiliate WPEC-TV Channel 12 in South Florida, “The parents decide where the money goes, not the school district.”

 

 

“Charter schools have become more controversial in Palm Beach County recently, where, on Nov. 9, the school board voted 6-0 against opening a new CharterSchoolsUSA operation, citing a lack of innovative programming, which state statutes require. Charter schools are privately run, publicly funded organizations. Charter schools operate in privately held real estate assets, which receive public dollars for capital improvements.”

 

 

Jeff Bryant has an excellent article in Salon about the year that the out-of-touch Establishment reformers saw their narrative of failure collapse. 

 

He writes:

 

A well-funded elite has labeled public education as generally a failed enterprise and insisted that only a regime of standardized testing and charter schools can make schools and educators more “accountable.” Politicians and pundits across the political spectrum have adopted this narrative of “reform” and now easily slip into the rhetoric that supports it without hesitation.

 

But in 2013 a grassroots rebellion growing out of inner city neighborhoods from Newark to Chicago and suburban boroughs from Long Island to Denver began to counter the education aristocracy and tell an alternative tale about schools.

 

The education counter-narrative is that public schools are not as much the perpetrators of failure as they are victims of resource deprivation, inequity in the system and undermining forces driven by corruption and greed. In other words, it wasn’t schools that needed to be made more accountable; it was the failed leadership of those in the business and government establishment that needed more accountability.

 

The uprising has been steadily growing into an Education Spring unifying diverse factions across the nation in efforts to reverse education policy mandates and bolster public schools instead of punishing them and closing them down.

 

2015 became the year the uprising reached a level where it forever transformed the hegemonic control the reformers have had on education policy.

 

NCLB is gone, and the battle for control of children’s education now shifts to the states, where parents and educators have a shot at taking back their schools. Hillary Clinton let slip her skepticism about charter schools and her recognition that teachers should not be evaluated by test scores.

 

The bigger, more important story emerging from 2015 is that the American public is increasingly at odds with a reform movement that seeks to remake schools into an image promoted by wealthy private foundations, influential think tanks and well-financed political operations such as the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

 

The evidence against the education establishment’s case piled up as the year rolled on, and the narrative of public education policy will never be the same.

 

The reformers are not about to give up and go away–yet. But as it becomes clearer that their goal is to destroy public education, their claims of “good intentions” ring hollow and the mask of reform falls away. As some point, the big money propping up this hoax will pull out. Wise investors don’t like to throw good money after bad. The Status Quo is failing, and the reformers own it now.

Mercedes Schneider dug into the records of Eva Moskowitz’s Success Academy in Fort Greene (Brooklyn). This is the school where the principal prepared a “Got to Go” list of the students that would be pushed out one way or another.

 

The school was opened in 2013. Its first principal, Kate Cunningham, had a Teach for America background. She had earned her “master’s degree” at the fake Relay “graduate school of education,” where charter teachers teach other charter teachers and give each other degrees without any reference to scholarship. She ran Success Academy’s special education program, although her resume doesn’t mention any credentials for doing so.

 

She didn’t last long–not even a year.

 

She was succeeded by Candido Brown, who had been with SA since 2009. It was Brown who compiled the “Got to Go” list. As Schneider points out, SA in FG needed to be “turned around” less than two years after it opened. Brown has recently taken a leave of absence.

 

Her post includes the details of a lawsuit filed by parents of some of the children who were pushed out. Their complaint goes into detail about the strict disciplinary policies at Success Academy schools. They are suing the principal, Success Academy Charter Schools, the city Department of Education, and the New York State Education Department.

 

This should be interesting.

 

 

 

 

Will wonders never cease!

 

The LAUSD school board voted 7-0 for a resolution that rebuffs Eli Broad’s plan to take control of half the students in the district and enroll them in privately managed charter schools. After a lively discussion, the board passed a resolution that made clear it would oppose any effort to weaken the LAUSD public schools. This is a startling development, since some of the members were elected with Eli Broad campaign funds.

 

The focus of the discussion was a resolution put forward by Scott Schmerelson, strongly in opposition to a corporate takeover of the public schools. Some of the members openly acknowledged that the expansion of charter schools put the public schools at risk by diminishing their resources and programs. The Los Angeles Times noted with surprise that the board had selected its new superintendent by unanimous vote, and now voted to support the public schools by unanimous vote. The resolution directed Superintendent Michelle King “to analyze how the outside plan, which was developed by the Broad Foundation, will “affect the district’s enrollment, fiscal viability and ability to provide an outstanding public education.”

 

The Times writes:

 

Board member Scott Schmerelson, who authored the resolution, agreed to make changes proposed by other board members to soften some of the language describing charter schools, such as removing the word strangulation from a sentence describing the plan.

 

Schmerelson said he struggled to understand why Eli Broad and others did not work to improve traditional public schools by investing in successful programs.

 

“The point is that we have thrown the glove down to big business and they know they’d better be very careful how they work with LAUSD,” he said. “We’ll accept their help in limited forms, but they will not take over our district.”

 

Sarah Angel, managing director of regional advocacy with the California Charter School Assn., told board members that the resolution was polarizing. But board discussion settled some of her concerns. (I had to laugh when I saw that she called the resolution “polarizing,” because that was the same comment that the CCSA wrote in response to an opinion piece I wrote for the Los Angeles Times in support of public schools. According to CCSA, if you support charter schools, you are “for the children.” But if you support public schools, you are “polarizing.”)

 

Board president Steve Zimmer deserves credit and high praise for uniting the board behind a resolution in support of the public schools. Member Scott Schmerelson deserves credit and high praise for boldly and clearly opposing privatization and for laying out the disastrous consequences if the Broad plan were allowed to move forward.

 

My observer in Los Angeles watched the school board meeting and reported:

 

There was some pontificating, but basically, not one board member would say they were against the resolution. Just before the vote, Steve Zimmer spoke eloquently and signaled what I hope is the dawn of a new day at LAUSD. I want to send you his statement. When it was declared to have passed unanimously, the audience went crazy. In fact, a rhythmic chant of extreme support for Schmerelson and the resolution followed. While the camera was focused on the whole board and not specifically on Schmerelson, you could see his reaction. His body language was unmistakable. It was as if an extreme burden had been lifted from him. There is little doubt that he must have suffered greatly from attacks by the charter industry. In fact, you will hear Zimmer complain bitterly about nasty public comment from charter advocates made during the morning session and apparently before the resolution came up for a vote in the afternoon (I wasn’t watching at that time).

 

I would say that Schmerelson provided the board with a jump start to take the battle against privatizing education to a higher level.

 

When the video is available, I will post it.

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