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Steve Zimmer, a second term member of the LAUSD school board, became furious because of the charter industry’s vicious attacks on Bennett Kayser. And why should he not be furious? The charter industry accused Kayser of being biased against Latinos and mocked his disability (Parkinson’s).

Here is the speech that Zimmer gave:



“This (election) is NOT just about Board District 5.
This is about the ENTIRE CONTROL and FUTURE of LAUSD.

“This is about CONTROL. Make NO mistake about it.
The control of the (LAUSD) school board hangs in the balance.

“And listen…. you don’t have to applaud on this line,
but you can.

“I have a lot of dear friends in the room,
and sometimes we have disagreed,
and sometimes we look at an issue,
we see it from a different lens,
and sometimes there are painful moments.

“That’s true for me.
That’s been true for Jackie (Goldberg) in her service.
That’s been true for Bennett.

“But the difference between the people
who believe that it’s ALL of us TOGETHER—
—that it’s ALL of us working together,
that… that… that our employees,
that our teachers are our greatest partners.

“NOT our enemies,
NOT … NOT… litigants to be challenged in court,
NOT … NOT…. people to be blamed for
the crisis that is facing our children,
but the VERY PEOPLE who can
lift our children out of this crisis.

“Even if we disagree on some issues,
the difference between
the folks like Bennett Kayser,
the folks like Jackie Goldberg,
Jeff Horton before her…

“ … the folks… the folks who have tried
to fight the fight over the years that
I am proud to associate myself with.

“The difference between THAT and…

“And what the folks who are
trying to destroy Bennett Kayser—
NOT BEAT Bennett Kayser—DESTROY him
AS A PERSON, not just as a political figure, but
DESTROY him as a person.

“The difference between…
we who believe that it’s ALL OF US together.

“and …

“those who believe that it’s ‘us against them’…

“It’s NIGHT and DAY.

“We CANNOT let them
take control of the school board
because if they take control of the school board,
they’ll have control of who becomes the
next Superintendent of this district.

“They’ll have control over the budget.
They’ll have control over the policies.
They‘ll have control over the schools.

“And it took us too long for us to realize it—
Bennett realized it WAY before I did,
and I give him credit for it EVERY day—

“What John Deasy tried to do to this school district.

“He tried to bring public education DOWN.
And the MISIS crisis was NO accident.
That is… that WAS INTENTIONAL, because
if you read their websites,
if you read what they’re trying to do…

“ ‘Stability’ is an ugly word.

“ ‘Disruption’ is what it is about.

“But WE know
WE the teachers
WE the principals
WE the school workers
WE KNOW that disruption causes
REAL collateral damage
to REAL children EVERY DAY!

“And Bennett and I have been
about trying to re-STABILIZE and
re-HUMANIZE our schools.

“And at the end of the day,
we are about an ALL-kids agenda—
ALL kids, NOT SOME kids.

“And if you go to a door, and if you’re on a phone.
and people say,

“ ‘Why should I care?‘
“ ‘Why should I vote?’

“PUBLIC education is about
EVERY CHILD that comes to the
schoolhouse door—those who are the most gifted,
and those who have the most DIFFICULT
of challenges that are facing them.

“What makes public education PUBLIC education is
that it’s EVERY child that comes to the schoolhouse door,
and no one, NO ONE—NOT ME, NOT anyone else—
has been a better champion of that than Bennett Kayser.

“That said…
the MOST reprehensible,
the most DISGUSTING thing that they have done
is to somehow challenge—that while
Bennett has struggled, and continues to struggle
valiantly, publically, VICTORIOUSLY
against Parkinson’s disease,
they have SOMEHOW THOUGHT that it is okay
to suggest… to suggest that somehow,
because of this struggle, he is incapable of serving.

“Every … ANY one of us could go to a neurologist
some time over the next year,
and come out with that diagnosis—ANY ONE of us.

“And thank God we have Bennett Kayser to
show us that this is NOT a death sentence,
that it’s NOT a way of having to fade into
the background,
that you can serve with pride,
with integrity,
with intelligence
with capability.

for questioning that!
Damn them for questioning that!

“Don’t let that win!

“Because I’ve known Bennett for over 20 years,
but in our private conversations…
what he now knows is that there is a new
empathy for what our children with
the most challenges face.

to serve on the Board of Education.
than someone who INTIMATELY
and PERSONALLY understands those challenges
because he will NEVER turn way from them.

“So these next three weeks, Bennett…
these next three weeks…
they are about you, but they are also about
the future of public education
in this country, and in this city.

“We will NOT let this stand, Bennett,
and we WILL stand by you.

“But the last thing I want to say, Bennett, is….

“Thank you for your courage, for enduring this
on behalf of all of us, and most especially
on behalf of all the children who need you
the most.

“Thank you, Bennett!”

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Here’s where you can donate on-line to Bennett’s campaign:

Here’s his website in general:

A story by Annie Gilbertson of public radio station KPCC reviews the dramatic increase in national spending on local school board races by the charter industry.


Billionaires like Reed Hastings (Netflix), Eli Broad of Los Angeles, and Michael Bloomberg, former mayor of New York City have spent millions to help candidates take control of the city’s public school system and to expand privatization. L.A. already has more students in charter schools than any other city.


Political action committees are spending 15 times the cash they did six years ago ahead of the Los Angeles Unified school board election on Tuesday.


Just this spring, more than $4.5 million flowed to PACs for glossy mail fliers, robocalls and ads on Spanish language radio in support or against school board candidates.


With runoffs set in west San Fernando Valley, east Los Angeles and South Bay board districts, PAC organizers hope to swing the ideological composition of the seven-member school board to their side, potentially altering the direction of the 650,00-student district and its $7.3 billion budget.


The stakes in this year’s election are especially high because the new board will select the district’s next superintendent. His or her leadership of the country’s second largest school district will be closely watched both statewide and nationally.


Donors looking to influence education policy may be migrating from national to local elections where their dollars can have a greater impact, said Raphael Sonenshein, director of the Pat Brown Institute of Public Affairs at Cal State L.A.


On one side are the billionaires who want privatization. On the other are the teachers who want reduced class sizes, ,the arts, and full services for students.



Over $5.5 million has been poured into races for the Los Angeles school board., according to Thomas Hines of the LA Daily News. A large portion has gone into attack ads and flat-out lies in two races that put charter supporters against supporters of public education.

“Teachers union-supported groups have spent $82,630 opposing Galatzan’s bid for re-election. A recent flier gives the two-term incumbent an “F” for failing to support students and protect tax dollars – apparently blaming her for a recession that cut revenues prompting layoffs.

“Charter school groups that support Galatzan, meanwhile, have spent $141,211 attacking her opponent, Scott Schmerelson.

“According to the mailers, the retired LAUSD principal and teacher is actually a lobbyist, responsible for trying to convince legislators they should “increase the already bloated salaries and benefits for administrators, taking money out of the classroom.”

“Schmerelson is not a lobbyist. He’s also backed by the teachers union. A political newcomer, Schmerelson said he’s shocked by all the money and lies used in a nonpartisan race for the school board.

“I just can’t believe people would say things that are absolutely not true,” Schmerelson said.

“But the most vigorous attack ads were made in efforts to influence voters in areas of Eagle Rock, Echo Park and other neighborhoods inside District 5.

“Charter school advocacy groups have spent $554,604 in an effort to oust board member Bennett Kayser and install Ref Rodriguez.

“The onslaught started before the primary, when a mailer made the unfounded claim that Kayser tried to stop Latinos from attending “schools in white neighborhoods.” While the stir caused by the mailer prompted Rodriguez to disavow the group “Parent Teacher Alliance in Support of Rodriguez, Galatzan, Vladovic, and McKenna for School Board 2015,” the negative campaigning continues.

“Recent attacks portray Kayser as being responsible for the district’s plan to buy $1.3 billion in iPads. Kayser never voted for the contract that sent money to Apple and Pearson – a deal now under federal investigation – because he owned a small amount of stock in Apple. He was also an outspoken critic of the program’s failings.

“Meanwhile, groups funded by the teachers union have spent $167,582 attacking Rodriguez. Recent mailers have largely focused on an audit of a charter campus Rodriguez co-founded, Lakeview Charter Academy.

“The audit concluded Lakeview Charter Academy, which is one of 16 schools operated by Rodriguez’s Partnership to Uplift Communities, operated in the red and had poor fiscal oversight. According to the attack ads, Rodriguez tried to hide the audit from the public.”

One major difference between the ads directed at Kayser and at Rodriguez is that the anti-Kayser ads are manifestly false, while the anti-Rodriguez ads are demonstrably true.

The Los Angeles Times reported on April 29 that one of Rodriguez’s charter schools had been audited and that the audit was being withheld from public release. Reporter Howard Blume wrote:

“Two well-placed district sources said that the release of the audit was delayed at the request of school board member Monica Garcia, a political ally of candidate Ref Rodriguez. Rodriguez works for the charter organization.”

When the media obtained a copy of the audit, it showed that the charter school had multiple financial woes: “The audit focuses on the bookkeeping of one of PUC’s 16 schools from July 2011 to June 2013. It noted numerous fiscal “deficiencies,” including poorly documented expenditures, failure to meet minimum reserves and questionable oversight by the parent organization.” The school was “insolvent for nine years.”

Rodriguez was both a co-founder of the charter chain and its treasurer, so his fiscal stewardship is a legitate issue, not a smear.

Even more embarrassing to Rodriguez was the revelation that his charter chain had awarded a multi-million dollar contract for food services to a high-ranking official at the charter offices.

“A Los Angeles-based charter group awarded food-service contracts worth millions of dollars to a company partially owned by one of the schools’ high-ranking employees, a state investigation has found.

“The probe involved Jacqueline Duvivier Castillo, who is the director of business and development for PUC Schools and a part-owner in Better 4 You Meals, a company that has provided food to the charter group for the last five years. Investigators said the charter failed to demonstrate that the contract was “awarded properly despite the apparent conflict of interest.”

As treasurer of the chain, Ref Rodriguez is accountable for monitoring its finances and compliance with the law. His failure to do so is a legitimate campaign issue. It raises questions about his judgment and competence. Will he be vigilant about oversight of the city’s large charter sector or will he take a hands-off approach? Voters need to know.

Steve Zimmer knows what it is like to be targeted by the billionaires. He was outspent 4-1 or more in his last run for school board in Los Angeles. Nonetheless, miraculously, he prevailed.

Now board member Bennett Kayser is the target of the billionaires’ fury. They are spending millions to devote this gentle man and replace him with a charter operator.

Please watch Steve Zimmer’s brilliant endorsement of Kayser.

Los Angeles will vote on three contested seats on the school board on May 19. The future of public schools in the city may be at stake. L.A. now has more charter schools than any other city.

The California Charter Schools Association has targeted board members who support public schools, especially Bennett Kayser.

The Los Angeles Times reports that spending exceeds more than $4.6 million, with the largest share coming from the charter lobby. The usual billionaires have put in large contributions, including Eli Broad, Michael Bloomberg, Reed Hastings (Netflix), Jim Walton (Walmart), and Carrie Walton Penner (Walmart).

“California Charter Schools Assn. Advocates has put $1.8 million into unseating Kayser. More than half a million dollars has gone into negative advertising against him.

“We’re expecting a low turnout, possibly as low as 8%,” said Gary Borden, executive director of the charter group. “But the folks who went to the polls for Ref in the primary care deeply about his campaign and we’re optimistic that they’ll make sure to vote for him again in the runoff.”

“A New York-based group, Students for Education Reform, has spent about $47,000 to assist local college students in campaigning on behalf of Rodriguez.

“United Teachers Los Angeles, meanwhile, has spent more than $800,000 on efforts to keep Kayser in office.”

Another pro-charter PAC “Great Schools Los Angeles” added nearly $500,000 to fund pro-privatization candidates.

If you live in Los Angeles and care about the survival of the essential democratic institution of public education, vote for Bennett Kayser and for retired principal Scott Schmerelson.

As regular readers know, this blog posted intensive and critical coverage of the failed iPad fiasco in Los Angeles, thanks to the many Los Angeles friends who forwarded articles and commentary. At a time when the editorial board of the Los Angeles Times continued to defend the commitment of $1.3 Billion for iPads, I questioned the legality of spending voter-approved bond funds dedicated to capital projects on disposable iPads.

Make no mistake: the iPad deal was Superintendent John Deasy’s creation. He said it was a civil rights issue. Anyone who opposed it, in his telling, did not care about civil rights.

Of course, the done deal with Apple and Pearson collapsed when journalists obtained emails showing contacts between Deasy and the winners of the contract well before the bidding. The FBI scooped up many boxes of documents and is still investigating the deal. Deasy moved on and now works for Eli Broad, the billionaire leading the national charge to privatize public education. Broad’s legacy will be: “I tried to destroy American public education…..” And we hope to add these words to Broad’s legacy: “And I failed.”

But don’t forget: the iPad mess was Deasy’s baby.

Now, however, the charter school industry (Deasy’s allies) is attacking school board member Bennett Kayser for approving the iPad deal.

This is the definition of chutzpah. Kayser, a former teacher, is a strong supporter of public education and was a critic of Deasy and an advocate for charter school accountability and transparency. That makes him an enemy of the charter lobby, which raises vast sums to silence critics. Anyone who wants accountability from the charter industry is its enemy.

Kayser’s opponent in the May 19 election, Ref Rodriguez, says he would have been more responsible than Kayser in oversight of the iPad deal. This is laughable since Rodriguez’s charter chain was recently criticized by a state audit for its lax financial practices. Rodriguez is treasurer of his charter chain. He didn’t notice, for example, that the husband of a high-level employee of the chain won a contract for food services, worth millions of dollars. Ref may have many strengths, but financial oversight is not one of them. Given his financial backing by the charter-Broad crowd, he would have been a reliable vote for Deasy.

Don’t forget to vote on May 19.

Vote for Bennett Kayser, dedicated friend of students and public schools.

After years of setting “rigorous” requirements, Los Angeles finds that nearly 75% won’t be qualified to graduate. Superintendent Ramon Cortines says it is time to be realistic.

“This has prompted some in the L.A. Unified School District, including Supt. Ramon C. Cortines, to suggest reconsidering the requirements, which were approved a decade ago to better prepare students for college. The plan came after years of complaints that the nation’s second-largest school system was failing to help underprivileged students become eligible for and succeed in college.

“In an interview, Cortines said the effort is laudable, but that it would be unfair to penalize students who otherwise could graduate.

“I do believe the goal is a good one, but we need to be realistic,” Cortines said. Enforcing the plan is “not practical, realistic or fair to the students of 2017. I don’t think we’ve provided the supports to the schools.”

“But the college prep requirements still have significant backing within the district and among community activists, who say L.A. Unified must do a better job helping students pass the challenging classes.”

Many “reformers” think that high expectations are self-fulfilling. The evidence says they are not. Without a host of supports, both in school and outside, students are not able to overcome high hurdles.

After eight years without a raise, teachers in Los Angeles overwhelmingly approved a new contract.

Howard Blume reports:

“An overwhelming majority of teachers union members voted to ratify a three-year contract with the Los Angeles Unified School District, the union announced Friday.

“More than 97% of 25,407 educators who cast ballots favored the pact, which includes a 10% raise over two years.

“Union members also ratified a separate benefits package that retains key current features of employee health plans.

“The collective bargaining agreement is good for educators and students,” union President Alex Caputo-Pearl said in a statement.

“The Board of Education must give formal approval to the deal, which is widely expected as soon as next week.

“The raise is phased in: 4% is retroactive to July 1, 2014; 2% retroactive to Jan. 1, 2015. Pay goes up another 2% on July 1, and the final 2% on Jan. 1, 2016. Teachers have the right to negotiate for an additional raise in the third year of the contract.

“Teachers had gone without a pay increase for eight years, although they continued to receive salary boosts based on years of experience and additional eligible education credits.

“During the recent recession, teachers had agreed to temporary salary reductions. Still,thousands of educators and other employees were laid off.

“The agreement includes funding to reduce the size of classes in key subjects or grade levels. Schools may also get more counselors, although the maximum ratio of students per secondary school counselor is still 500 to 1.”

Charter school founder Ref Rodriguez is running for the Los Angeles school board, seeking to beat incumbent Bennett Kayser. Kayser is known for his insistence that charter schools be financially transparent and accountable for their use of public funds.

The Los Angeles Times reported that the charter school chain co-founded by Rodriguez (who is its treasurer) is embroiled in financial scandal.

“A Los Angeles-based charter group awarded food-service contracts worth millions of dollars to a company partially owned by one of the schools’ high-ranking employees, a state investigation has found.

“The probe involved Jacqueline Duvivier Castillo, who is the director of business and development for PUC Schools and a part-owner in Better 4 You Meals, a company that has provided food to the charter group for the last five years. Investigators said the charter failed to demonstrate that the contract was “awarded properly despite the apparent conflict of interest.”

“Late Saturday, the charter organization said in an email to The Times that Duvivier Castillo would no longer be an employee of PUC….

“Duvivier Castillo failed to properly report her financial interests in the company. The company was ineligible for the food contracts because it lacked a health permit and relied on a subcontractor to prepare meals. PUC Schools did not select the lowest-priced bidder as required.
One of the area’s largest charter groups, PUC serves about 4,800 students in 15 schools, including in the east San Fernando Valley and north of downtown. PUC’s test scores typically compare well with nearby traditional neighborhood schools. It recently started a national organization that opened a campus in Rochester, N.Y….”

Charter officials said they were unaware of the conflict of interest but official documents showed otherwise.

“Tax documents for 2010 list the company as a vendor in filings signed by Rodriguez or Elliot. PUC, the documents said, was “party to a business transaction” with a “key employee.”

“The charter’s tax returns for 2012, however, no longer listed the company as a vendor.

“Company documents provided by the state show that Duvivier Castillo’s husband, Fernando Castillo, is a top official with the company, which provides meals for students at more than 100 charter and private schools.

“He could not be reached for comment.

“Annual audits paid for by PUC and released by the state indicated charter officials knew of the alleged conflict of interest.

“Additionally … PUC has signed a contract with a company that is one hundred percent owned by PUC’s director of business and development,” the PUC audit said. “PUC’s management believes that all transactions, including the bidding process, were done in arm’s length.”

“According to these audits from PUC, the charter group paid Better 4 You Meals more than $339,000 in 2011, more than $947,000 in 2012 and about $970,000 in 2013. No figures were available for other years.

“Charter officials reported to the state that Duvivier Castillo had a controlling interest in the company until 2014. She and her husband now have 19% stock ownership, charter officials said.”

I don’t live in Los Angeles, but then neither do the hedge fund managers and equity investors and billionaires who regularly pump money into campaigns in districts where they don’t live. I am giving Bennett Kayser’s campaign $100 because he expects charter schools to be financially and academically accountable. All schools that receive public money should be held to the same standards. His opponent Ref Rodriguez operates a charter school which tried to keep a recent audit secret until after the election. It has been leaked, however. See the KPCC public radio summary here. Rodriguez is the charter’s co-founder and treasurer; the audit finds the school was “insolvent” for nine years and was poorly managed in terms of its finances.

Here is a comment on the blog:

“Here’s where you can donate on-line to Bennett’s campaign:

“Here’s his website in general:

“One more thing, Ref portrays himself as a poor Chicano from the barrio who cares about the education well-being of poor Chicanos in the barrio.

“Well, let’s see… because charters are unregulated, he can pay himself whatever he wants, and he works as little as he wants.

“So what does he do?

“He pays himself $350,000 (a third of a million dollars) annually, while he pays his custodial and cafeteria workers—all low-income Latinos—$8/hour instead of the living wage that their counterparts in the traditional public schools get paid… while principals in traditional public schools earn around $100,000 annually.

“Try to live in L.A. on $8/hour.”


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