Archives for category: Los Angeles

The Network for Public Education has endorsed Bennett Kayser for re-election to the Los Angeles school board. Kayser is a retired educator. He is a strong supporter of public education. He has fought for reduced class sizes. He opposes efforts to deny due process to teachers. He opposes privatization of public education.

He is enemy number one to the California Charter Schools Association Advocates, the political action arm of the wealthy charter industry.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the charter lobby has far outspent Kayser in its effort to defeat him with a pro-charter candidate.

The charter association has distributed malicious flyers falsely implying that Kayser is a racist and anti-Latino. The flyers feature a picture of Governor Jerry Brown, falsely implying that the popular governor endorsed their candidate (he did not). Their TV ads have ridiculed Kayser’s disability (he has Parkinson’s). The anti-Kayser campaign has been scurrilous and shameful.

The LA Times says:

“Through Wednesday’s campaign filings, the charter group had spent $699,688 to support [its candidate] Rodriguez. UTLA had spent $384,109 for Kayser. Those totals far surpass donations directly to the candidates as well as the spending totals for the other contested board races.

“Since September, the donors to the charter PAC include Netflix Chief Executive Reed Hastings ($1.5 million), former New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg ($450,000), Jim Walton of the Wal-Mart founding family ($250,000) and local philanthropist Eli Broad ($155,000). All are longtime charter school backers with a broad interest in education.”

These billionaires have a specific interest in education: they want to replace public schools with charter schools, and in the case of Walton, with vouchers. They also believe in disruption as a strategy for change. Disruption is not good for children or education.

Billionaire Reed Hastings told the charter association that he looks forward to the day when local school boards are gone and almost all schools are charters.

Bennett Kayser wants to improve the public schools, not replace or destroy them. Every high-performing nation in the world has a public school system, not a system of privately managed schools.

That is why the Network for Public Education endorses Bennett Kayser for re-election to the Los Angeles school board.

Ramon Cortines, interim superintendent of schools in Los Angeles, said that the district can’t afford to buy iPads or computers for every student and staff member. This is a repudiation of his predecessor John Deasy’s signal initiative, which was couched as a civil rights issue.

“Los Angeles Unified School Supt. Ramon C. Cortines said Friday the district cannot afford to provide a computer to every student, signaling a major reversal for his predecessor’s ill-fated $1.3-billion effort to distribute iPads to all students, teachers and school administrators.

“Instead, Cortines said, the L.A. Unified School District will try to provide computers to students when needed for instruction and testing.

“I don’t believe we can afford a device for every student,” said Cortines, who added that the district never had a fleshed-out framework for how the devices would be used in the classroom and paid for over time.

“Education shouldn’t become the gimmick of the year,” Cortines said in a meeting Friday with several reporters.”

There has been much discussion on the blog about the “Coffee Cup” ad sponsored by the political action arm of the California Charter Schools Association. (See here and here.)

 

Here is the ad. 

 

Kayser is accused of being anti-public school, when in fact he has been a strong supporter of public schools and public school teachers. He is a strong critic of charters. That is why the CCSAA is spending big bucks to defeat him. He has voted to reduce class size, increase teacher pay, and restore programs lost to budget cuts.

 

The broken coffee cup, Kayser and his allies believe, is a subtle reference to his hands shaking because of Parkinson’s. Why else would he drop his coffee cup? If that was the intention of the ad, it is reprehensible. If it was not, CCSA has some explaining to do.

 

 

The political action arm of the California Charter Schools Association funded a political attack ad making fun of school board member Bennett Kayser’s disability.

Robert Skeels posts a blog by Scott Folsom of 4LAKids who asks the inevitable question:

“The appropriate quote here is from Joseph Welch to Joe McCarthy: “You’ve done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?”

Steve Lopez of the Los Angeles Times reports on the vile tactics that the charter lobby is using in hopes of defeating school board incumbent Bennett Kayseri in the approaching election.

The issue of the moment is the unbridled proliferation of charter schools in LA. Kayser has been a charter critic. The California Charter School Association would like to defeat Kayser and replace him with a friend of charters.

CCSA and allies have been handing out a flyer smearing Kayser as an anti-Latino bigot.

Lopez writes:

“The flier essentially calls him a bigot.

“BENNETT KAYSER TRIED TO STOP LATINO CHILDREN FROM ATTENDING SCHOOLS IN WHITE NEIGHBORHOODS.”

“That’s the screaming headline on a vile, two-page missive in Spanish and English, and the flier includes a lovely photograph of five Latino children sitting forlornly on a curb, as if their world has been crushed by the cruel Caucasian board member.

“Kayser condemned the ad, calling it garbage.

“Character assassination and bullying have no place in our school district; these people should be ashamed of themselves,” he said in a statement his staff sent me Thursday evening.”

The charter supporters play rough. And dirty.

Parents at the Julian Nava Academy in South Los Angeles loved their middle school. They worried about their children moving on to a high school where they might get less attention, where the education would not be as good as it had been at Nava Academy. So the parents organized, met with the principal, met with the district administrator, and won permission to open a new high school, called Nava College Preparatory Academy.

 

The school opened this fall, and the parents remain engaged with it. Its first class has 300 students, and it will eventually grow to 1100 students. Note there was no parent trigger, no confrontation between parents and educators. The parents loved the school they had, they wanted more of it, they made their case, and they won.

Karin Klein of the Los Angeles Times wrote an excellent editorial about the disastrous decision to spend $1.3 billion on iPads for every student and staff member of the LA schools. It should be a cautionary tale for every school district that is about to invest hundreds of millions or billions of dollars in new technology.

 

The District’s Inspector General investigated the purchase and found nothing wrong. But he never looked at the emails that passed between district officials and the winning vendors (Apple and Pearson). The school board never released the results of that investigation. Now a federal grand jury has been impaneled to look at the evidence of possible wrong-doing, and that is a very good thing. The grand jury will also examined the botched computer system that cost millions of dollars and never performed as it was supposed to.

 

She writes:

 

When the school board reached a severance agreement with Deasy in October, it issued a statement that board members do “not believe that the superintendent engaged in any ethical violations or unlawful acts” in regard to the emails. That statement was completely inappropriate considering that Bramlett’s investigation into the emails was still underway—as it is now. The board has no authority to direct the inspector general’s investigations—but it can hire and fire the person heading the staff office, and controls his office’s budget. (In fact, just a week or so before the board made its statement, Bramlett’s office pleaded for more funding, according to a KPCC report.) The statement could be seen as pressuring the inspector general not to find wrongdoing; in any case, board members are in no position to prejudge the matter.

 

For that matter, none of us are in that position. The emails could be perfectly legal and appropriate—or not. It’s unknown whether even a federal grand jury will be able to ferret out the full picture, since many earlier emails were apparently deleted and aren’t available. And if it uncovers ethical rather than legal problems, the public might never know; the grand jury is looking for evidence of crime. Federal crime at that. This might not be the best mechanism for examining the iPad purchase. But the investigation at least ensures that an independent authority is examining the matter, unimpeded by internal politics or pressures.

 

Yes, the public has a right to know and a right to expect that public officials will act in the best interests of students. As for the huge purchases for technology, we in New York have learned that even the sharpest and most ethical city officials have trouble monitoring the technology purchases. The largest financial scandal in the city’s history occurred recently, when a company called Citytime won an IT contract for $63 million in 1998 which ballooned into a $600 million payout; the principals went to jail. The school system’s ARIS project, launched in 2007, was supposed to aggregate data on the city’s 1.1 million students; it was recently dumped because so few teachers or parents used it, at a loss of $95 million. There were other instances where consultants bilked the city, in large part because no one supervised what they were doing.

 

Is there a moral to the story? Choose your own. Mine is that these multimillion dollar technology purchases must be carefully monitored, from beginning to end, to be sure that the public interest is protected and served. The problem is that many school districts lack the expertise to know whether they are getting what they paid for, or getting a pig in a poke. When even New York City and Los Angeles can be misled, think how much easier it will be to pick the pockets of mid-size and smaller districts.

Steve Lopez of the Los Angeles Times has written column after column that make sense about the accumulating disasters at the Los Angeles Unified School District.

 

In this one, he describes the latest series of embarrassments for the districts. So the FBI carted off 20 boxes of documents connected to the plan to spend $1.3 billion of bond money dedicated to school construction and repairs to buy iPads.

 

What about the other huge wastes of money in a district that has none to spare?

 

I’m wondering why the feds didn’t kill two birds with one stone, so to speak. While they were rummaging around at district headquarters, they could have grabbed another 20 boxes of documents related to the disastrous multimillion-dollar electronic student tracking system that created chaos in August and still hasn’t been fixed.

 

And speaking of the FBI, district officials were oddly complacent about the storm troopers, if you ask me. You’d think someone would have enough self-respect, even if it was just for show, to put up a fuss or demand an explanation for the raid. But I watched a district lawyer tell a TV reporter, with a smile, “I have no idea what it’s about.”

 

I’ll tell you what it’s about.

 

It’s about a disastrous year for the nation’s second-largest school district, which has managed — thanks to bungling, sloth and political squabbling — to let down more than 600,000 students.

 

And the iPad and MISIS (My Integrated Student Information System) failures were not the only things that went wrong. The district paid out a staggering $139 million last month to settle claims against a teacher who fed his own semen to elementary school students, among other monstrous behavior, some three decades after the district received its first complaint about him.

 

 

And he adds:

 

The challenges in school districts like LAUSD are largely about socioeconomic issues, and that’s the purview of county officials. So why is it that L.A. County supervisors, whose constituents fill L.A. schools, act as if LAUSD is somebody else’s problem rather than everybody’s responsibility?

 

We don’t need a politician to hijack the district, as former L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa tried to do, or to stock the board with lackeys. But there’s middle ground between Villaraigosa’s hostile takeover bid and Mayor Eric Garcetti’s unapologetic invisibility.

 

Where’s the leadership and collaboration in one of the richest cities in the world, home to some of the greatest universities on the planet, as well as some of the largest nonprofits devoted to lifting up communities?

 

I’m not a fan of blue-ribbon panels that have no authority and produce voluminous reports nobody reads. But I’d be willing to temporarily waive my bias if a team of good people got together to help the district find a new superintendent and map out a plan to turn things around in 2015, especially if no one on the school board is going to lead or get out of the way.

 

There’s too much at stake to plod along, business as usual, as a horrible year ends with the FBI at the door.

Thanks to the reader who reminded me of this curious incident just two months ago. The Los Angeles school board voted to shred all internal emails more than one year old, then, after a public backlash, voted to reconsider that decision. I am not sure whether they decided to start shredding emails or not. Clearly, those emails would have a direct bearing on the problematic $1.3 billion iPad deal. Were any of them shredded or were they preserved? I don’t know.

 

More breaking news: A federal grand jury is investigating the iPad deal. KPCC staff, especially Annie Gilbertson, is all over this story.

 

 

This is a shocker. FBI agents raided LAUSD offices and carted off 20 boxes of documents related to former Superintendent John Deasy’s controversial $1.3 billion iPad deal.

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