Archives for category: Los Angeles

Andrea Gabor, professor of journalism at Baruch College in New York City, recently interviewed Stuart Maguder, an architect in Los Angeles who serves on the Bond Oversight Committee of the school district. He was unusually outspoken in his criticism of John Deasy’s deal to spend construction bond money on IPads for all. For his criticism, he was briefly ousted from his unpaid position, then restored after a public outcry. He is critical of both Deasy and the teachers’ union, finding them both intransigent.

Gabor, an expert on the work of W. Edwards Deming, observed:

“As Magruder spoke of Deasy defeat and the union’s intransigence, I was struck by an irony: My principle purpose in traveling to Los Angeles was to attend the annual conference of the Deming Institute, which was founded in order to continue to work of W. Edwards Deming, the management guru whose ideas about systems thinking and collaborative improvement–informed by statistical theory–helped turn around struggling American industries in the 1980s.

“The unraveling in Los Angeles is just the latest example of education reformers who have yet to absorb the most valuable management lessons of the last half century–achieving lasting institutional change and improvement involves teamwork, collaboration among all the constituencies in an organization, and systems thinking. None of which have been on display in Los Angeles.”

Millions on millions have been spent by billionaires to push through their agenda of privatization and to disrupt entire school districts, on the assumption that disruption is “creative.” No doubt, they are getting ready for the next elections, opening their wallets to anyone who promises to open more nonunion charters and to attack due process for teachers. In this statement, Steve Zimmer–who overcame a billionaire-funded candidate in his last election for the Los Angeles school board–calls for a truce. He asks the billionaires to work together with school leaders to make schools better for children, instead of squandering more millions to “win.” Win or lose, the problems for the kids remains the same. Why not collaborate and do what is best for them, which is not political but consists of meeting their needs for smaller class size, medical care, the arts, librarians, social workers, and the same kind of education that the millionaires want for their own children.

 

He writes:

 

The results of yesterday’s election once again confirm that public education is
not for sale. Against a gale storm of unprecedented funding, Tom Torlakson,
State Superintendent of Instruction narrowly won re-election. This was the most
expensive State Superintendent race in U. S. History. I congratulate
Superintendent Torlakson and urge him to continue his collaborative approach to
transforming outcomes for all students in California. I look forward to
continuing our close working relationship so that the Department of Education
expands the resources available to classrooms in support of student learning
throughout our District.

I also offer my best wishes to Marshall Tuck whom I have known well for many
years. I know that Marshall will continue to be a passionate advocate for
schools serving students in the most peril.

While it is tempting to feel exhilarated in the wake of this important victory,
I mostly feel exhausted. I am sick and tired of dodging bullets from corporate
education reform billionaires who have an endless magazine of resources to shoot
at folks trying to solve the problems facing our schools.

There must be another way we can have this important conversation. Instead of
reflecting on how the millions we spend distorting truths, attacking and
bullying one another could help real kids in real classrooms today, the
California Charter Schools Association is simply reloading their guns for the
Spring School Board elections. I am sure CTA and our other labor partners will
gear up their defense systems again in response. I have a long list of programs
we could fund in LAUSD with the close to $20 million dollars that went into this
latest battle. More and more it seems like a zero sum game in which kids lose
every time.

The solutions to the problems facing our kids are never simple. They require us
to roll up our sleeves and work together to find the difficult answers in
policy, in pedagogy and in practice. Finding solutions starts with listening.
Teachers listening to parents, parents listening to teachers, school leaders
listening to the community and everyone listening to our students. The last half
dozen election cycles have had a ton of screaming. Close to $50 million dollars
worth. And barely an ounce of listening.

I still believe that collaboration trumps conflict and that we can find common
ground. I still have hope that we can transcend the power struggles in the name
of the promise that public education still holds for families who dream of a
better life for their children. If we remember that we hold those dreams in our
hands, maybe we can do more than dust ourselves off and prepare for the next
battle.

This article from Bond Buyer is behind a paywall. The gist of it is in the headline and summary. The expansion of charters “is a credit negative” and causes districts to pay a higher rate for their bonds, thus leaving the district less money to support public schools. If anyone has a subscription, please send the rest of the article.

http://www.bondbuyer.com/news/regionalnews/moodys-charter-school-expansion-credit-negative-for-lausd-1067623-1.html

 

Moody’s: Charter School Expansion Credit Negative for LAUSD
BY KEELEY WEBSTER
NOV 3, 2014 10:05pm 
Charter school giant KIPP School’s announcement that it would more than double its Los Angeles enrolment by 2020 is a credit negative for Los Angeles Unified School District, according to Moody’s Investors Service.
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Philadelphia was warned about its bond rating by Moody’s.

 

 

With San Antonio ISD anticipating school closures, Austin ISD enrollment down, how soon will Moody’s downrate their bond ratings?

 

Aside from directly sapping funds from public education, now we see another cost of charter schools to taxpayers.

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

Ron Chandler, head of technology for LAUSD, abruptly resigned.

The Los Angeles Times said that Chandler oversaw two of the disrict’s most controversial and troubled programs: the $1.3 billion iPad purchase, which was former Superintendent John Deasy’s signature initiative, and the botched MISIS computer system.

“Chandler, 52, became associated with two major troubled projects. The first was a $1.3-billion effort to provide every student, teacher and campus administrator with an iPad, a flagship initiative of former Supt. John Deasy.

“Chandler was responsible for some of the problems that accompanied the iPad rollout at 47 schools last year. For example, immediately after receiving iPads last year, students at three high schools figured out how to delete the security filter and freely browse the Internet.

“Officials immediately took back the devices and some schools made little use of them for the remainder of the year….

“But Chandler’s position apparently became untenable in the wake of a second technology project called My Integrated Student Information System, or MISIS. The system eventually is expected to integrate all student records, keeping parents informed, allowing educators to tailor instruction and helping students stay on track with graduation and college requirements. But the system wasn’t ready and caused chaos across the sprawling district of about 600,000 students.

“As if to underscore the link between Chandler’s departure and MISIS, new Supt. Ramon C. Cortines tersely announced the resignation at the beginning of an update on the records system.

“There will be a change of leadership … Mr. Ron Chandler, Chief Information Officer, has resigned,” Cortines said. “We thank him for his service.”

Ramon Cortines, the new superintendent of schools in Los Angrles, is moving swiftly and decisively to clean up the district’s technology mess. Today he fired the chief of technology, who was responsible for the malfunctioning MISIS system, which left students without programs and scrambled schedules.

No excuses, no delay. This 82-year-old has taken charge.

In one of his first actions as
Superintendent of the Los Angeles public schools, Ramon Cortines said that money in a construction bond should not be used to pay for iPads.

Superintendent John Deasy often said that providing an iPad to every student was a civil rights issue.

Apparently Cortines believes that using money intended to renovate schools and provide children with a safe and wholesome climate is even more compelling.

“Newly installed Los Angeles schools Supt. Ramon Cortines said he opposes using construction bond money to pay for curriculum on student computers, raising new questions about the future of the system’s controversial $1.3-billion technology project.

“Using voter-approved bonds for curriculum rather than building and repairing schools has been a contentious element in the effort to provide every student, teacher and campus administrator with a computer. Critics and some officials harbor lingering concerns about its legality and wisdom, according to interviews and documents reviewed by The Times.

“Cortines left no doubt about where he stands.

“I don’t believe the curriculum should be paid for with bond funds, period,” he said in an interview.”

The Los Angeles Times reports that KIPP plans to double its enrollment in Los Angeles over the next six years.

 

KIPP has received many millions in gifts from the U.S. Department of Education, the Walton Foundation, the Gates Foundation, and others committed to privatizing the public schools.

 

“KIPP LA currently operates 11 schools that serve about 4,000 students; by 2020, the organization wants to grow to 9,000 students in 20 schools.”

 

In the second-largest district in the nation, 9,000 is not a significant number, but the ripple effect will cause the closure of public schools in the district.

 

 

 

 

Karin Klein of the Los Angeles Times wrote a blistering editorial about the LAUSD school board’s failure (thus far) to get to the bottom of departing Superintendent John Deasy’s $1.3 billion iPad deal.

 

Did the board agree to let him go quietly and to quash the investigation? That would be wrong. Klein rightly says: The public has a right to know.

 

In the separation agreement, the board said it “does not believe that the superintendent engaged in any ethical violations or unlawful acts.”
Why is the board voicing anything about its belief system while a second investigation is ongoing? There have been rumors that Deasy wanted this investigation to go away as part of his agreement; Deasy vehemently denies that. Although the inspector general is an independent office within the district, the board still has authority over the office’s budget, and there shouldn’t be anything that could be perceived as pressure on the investigation to go one way or another. The appropriate response from the board? Radio silence until the investigation is complete and reviewed by the district attorney’s office, as state law requires.

 

The problem is that, although the investigation might well find that nothing criminal happened, what if it finds some ethical issues? The board has promised to take no action against Deasy on that, which makes sense; probably the worst it would have done to him was ask him to leave, so the issue is moot. It could still take action against any employees remaining, but it’s unclear who those would be. Aquino’s already gone.

 

Unless the board decides to make both reports public, the rest of us will never know whether there was a problem with the way this was handled, or whether Deasy and Aquino were utterly exonerated. Both would be equally important to know. United Teachers Los Angeles President Alex Caputo-Pearl, during a meeting with the Times’ editorial board Thursday, was already talking about Deasy’s “bid-rigging,” without so much as a qualifier, as though Caputo-Pearl had some kind of criminal divining rod. Reminded that we’re a long way from knowing whether there was anything wrong with those or any other emails, much less something criminally wrong, he corrected himself, adding a couple of “allegeds” to his words. There would always be a cloud over Deasy’s head, always these conversations in which he is “convicted” by words on an utter lack of evidence, unless an investigation is made public that clears him.

 

Or the opposite. Before the project was slowed, diversified and then suspended, the public almost spent half a billion dollars on iPads that were about to be made obsolete by new models, with software that hadn’t yet been completed. If there were ethical breaches, the public has a right to the truth in every detail.

 

The board’s appropriate response to an ongoing investigation should have been to say nothing except, “We look forward to a complete and unstinting investigation that we promise to make public.” Deasy’s departure shouldn’t alter the district’s commitment to the public in any way.

 

 

 

 

Howard Blume reports in the Los Angeles Times that Superintendent John Deasy is likely to step down as early as today.

He retained the fierce loyalty of business and civic leaders, but alienated teachers and parents. His flubs of key technology projects made his position untenable.

Blume reports that former superintendent Ramon Cortines is likely to be the interim superintendent. Cortines, 82, has served twice before as leader of the L.A. Schools.

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