Archives for category: Parent trigger

Colleen Wood, parent leader in Florida, active in 50th No More, and board member of the Network for Public Education, here remembers a true champion of children and public education, Terry Stetson Wilson, who died suddenly a few days ago. Colleen asks that we all Tweet a comment to honor Terry’s good life and work for others. Write your words on Twitter, marked #ForTerry. For her dedication to our children and our society, I add her to our honor roll of heroes of American education.

Colleen writes:

“Relentless, persistent, and dedicated. That is what comes to mind when I think of Terry Stetson Wilson, a friend and fierce advocate for public school children in Florida. Terry unexpectedly passed away Monday evening leaving behind her husband, Tom, two adult children, Christopher and Linzy, dear friends, and countless beneficiaries of her advocacy.

Terry’s work began like many of us when she was first concerned with her own child’s school experience, and grew over time into what is now the Florida Gifted Network. If your child received gifted services in Florida, you can thank Terry Wilson.

When her own children graduated, Terry didn’t leave public education behind. The day she died a group of us were sitting together working on building a statewide coalition. We talked about needing to expand our group, and attract new supporters to public education when someone said we needed more people like Terry. People who stayed even after their own children were gone. She was a role model and inspiration to each of us.

Through her 30 years of advocacy, Terry fought for a high quality public education for every child, and became a staunch defender of teachers. She saw the onslaught against our public school teachers and knew it was not a battle they could win alone. When teacher merit pay was first proposed in Florida in a bill known as SB6, and many of us were upset, Terry wanted action. She always prodded us to do something.

And she did. Terry and a few others formed a Facebook group called Stop SB6. Within a month there were over 60,000 members. That group was a driving force behind the push for our Governor to veto the bill, but many people didn’t know Terry was behind it. She often flew under the radar, but her impact was far-reaching.

And if she met you, if she knew you cared about public education you were hooked. A day didn’t go by without an email, text or call about something you needed to do, and you needed to do it now. Funny thing is that after her death, we’re all learning that’s how Terry was in her whole life: from her family, to her friends, to her love of Florida and fishing. She wanted you to support you, help you, and get you to do something. Now.

In every fight in Florida, from parent trigger to school grades, her first question was, “What are we going to DO?”

We’ve been struggling with how to honor Terry, and then it occurred to us – what are we going to DO? What action are we going to take today to honor Terry and defend public education?

So that’s what we’re asking of you. #ForTerry what are you going to do today to support and defend public education? Share with all of us and #ForTerry who inspired you to this work.

In the words of our colleague, Ray Seaman, “That is perhaps one of the many things Terry taught all of us who had the pleasure of knowing and working with her. Tireless, impatient persistence is oftentimes the only way you get things done, and you never know who you’ll inspire by it.”

We will all have to be tireless, impatient, and persistent if we are to save our schools and our children. Terry inspired all of us to be just that, and we know she’ll inspire you to do something too. #ForTerry.

- Colleen Doherty Wood, parent advocate, 50thNoMore.org

Two parents who fought the takeover of their public school and its conversion to a charter school have been charged with vandalizing the school last June. They deny the charges.

The vandalism occurred at the Desert Trails elementary school in Adelanto, California, which was the site of a bitter battle among parents after the state’s “parent trigger” law was invoked. The school is the first school where the 2010 law led to a charter conversion. The parent trigger law and the conversion process in Adelanto was led by a group called Parent Revolution, funded by the Walton Foundation, the Eli Broad Foundation, and the Gates Foundation.

During the battle over the future of the school, parents were divided, lawsuits were filed, and ultimately only 50 parents chose a charter operator for a school of 600 children.

Some lessons:

One, vandalizing a school is wrong, no matter who does it or for what reason. It is criminal. Those who committed this crime must be held accountable.

Two, the parent trigger process is inherently divisive, tearing communities apart, when parents, teachers, and the community should all work together on behalf of the children.

Three, the “parent trigger” is a failed law, created during the Schwarzenegger era to allow charter operators to take over public schools by slick campaigns. Four years after its passage, there is only one school that has been taken over, after a divisive campaign, and there is still no evidence that charter operators can provide better education than properly resourced public schools.

Ben Austin, the executive director of Parent Revolution, recently wrote a post for Huffington Post saying that “community power” saved Superintendent John Deasy, whose job was on the line in Los Angeles.

Parent Revolution is an organization funded by the Walton Foundation, the Gates Foundation, and the Broad Foundation to promote the “parent trigger,” that is, to encourage parents to seize control of their public schools and impose changes, such as handing the school over to a private charter operator and/or firing the staff.

Ellen Lubic, a professor and community activist, wrote the following commentary on Austin’s post. She begins with introductory remarks, then follows with a point-by-point dialogue.

I welcome a response from Ben Austin.

Lubic writes:

I have taken this opportunity to respond to Ben Austin’s misleading account about the events at the LAUSD Board of Education meeting on Oct. 29 wherein the Board was to decide on extending Supt. John Deasy’s contract. I am a semi-retired higher education professor of public policy and an educational researcher and have been in this field of education for 40 years. I grew up in Los Angeles and attended public schools from elementary through university. Last winter I started Joining Forces for Education, an organization of retired teachers who believe strongly in public schooling and are dismayed at the overarching rush by billionaires such as Broad, Waltons, Murdoch, Kochs, Anshutz, Peterson, Bloomberg, Tilson, and others, to privatize them so as to make all public education in America a free market opportunity for accumulating wealth. We also are focused on the many dangers of flawed laws like the Parent Empowerment Act of 2010 which too often are used to manipulate uninformed parents into turning over their schools to profit making charter operators who use ill trained Teach for America students at low cost, and who fire long term, highly trained professional teachers, to improve their profit margin.

The misleading article by Ben Austin needs some first hand correction. I will do this point by point as I was in the midst of this ‘show’ for many hours, from 8:30 AM to 3:30 PM, waiting to enter the BoE building on Beaudry, and then I was in the Board Room. As a handicapped, older educator, I was the first one permitted to enter the building on this very strange day and found myself inadvertently in the midst of the Austin-paid day of partying that he now calls “a huge public outcry.”

[What follows is point-counterpoint, identified by author.]

Austin

Last week, something extraordinary happened
Grassroots organizations across Los Angeles organized and fought against powerful special interests and long odds. For one single moment the people of Los Angeles stood together for the simple proposition that we must elevate our kids above our politics. And the people won.
Lubic
The “special interests” Austin alludes to are the parents, teachers, and community, and the taxpayers of California…We, the People. As opposed to the special interests who paid for this day of scripted actors and a phony scenario, the tycoons law firms and PR firms representatives who beat the drums for this media device, using highly paid organizers from Parent Revolution and United Way.
This carefully orchestrated photo op event was put on by Ben Austin and his young Westside followers from Parent Revolution, the group he started in 2009 with major financing from the Waltons of WalMart fame, Eli Broad of the Broad Academy which trains CEOs like Deasy to run school districts according to a business model, and some others of the wealthiest people in the world, and also the ever questionable United Way. The two event leaders, Gabe and Ryan, both young men in suits and paid in the neighborhood of a reported $200,000 a year to help run these “non profits” rapidly drummed up this dramatic scenario over the weekend before the LAUSD Board of Education meeting on Oct. 29 when the Board would evaluate a new 3 year contract for Supt. John Deasy.
Deasy, who we are told leaked to the the LA Times that he had resigned the previous Wednesday, was helped with this created “public outcry for him to stay” by about 100 – 160 bussed-in inner city people. This group of mainly Latino community members, included a few older women who spoke as parents, but many were young ‘partying’ Latino youth who claimed that they were paid for the day of acting and who all clapped and cheered when Monica Garcia entered the Bd. room. Gabe and Ryan also arranged for Teach for America teachers to leave their classrooms, making taxpayers foot the bill for substitute teachers. There were many staff and young lawyers from the various law firms which work for Broad and the billionaires seeking to privatize public schools. These were the people handing out free food and drink to the bussed-in actors and even to a homeless man who participated in their chants.
Although Austin claims to have had a major group of collaborators in attendance, many of those he lists claim not to have been any part of this PR stunt, nor to have known about it.
When I drove up to the building in early morning I saw the most unusual sight of a row of buses, a large police presence, and many media vans parked in the red zone. There were about 100 or so people milling around the front entry although the line for the public was not very long. At the front of the line was Ben Austin looking every bit a ‘surfer dude’ in a grimy plaid jacket and unkempt hair. He was ‘high fiving’ with many of his group at the ‘coup’ he felt he had pulled off. He claims not to have gotten into the meeting yet he was in the front of the line, so if he chose not to enter the meeting room, it was not for lack of seating since at least 1/4 of the room was empty. Many his cute young Westside supporters in their green Parent Rev t-shirts were there. However, I did notice that most of the day’s actors did leave after the photo op, so they were not very serious about this vital Board meeting. They had had much fun, for pay we were told, outside the Room.
The media bought in to all of this. They interviewed only pro Deasy folks, and did not seem to seek out others who were there who were anti Deasy. This became the spin on the evening news…just as Austin plannedit.to be. The power of the billionaires PR and law firms is vast and showed clearly that day. I personally went up to a KNX reporter after the meeting and volunteered to be interviewed in response to this set up. She talked with me for at least 20 minutes, but the evening news reflected only what Austin and his collaborators had intended, and no mention was made of the anti Deasy people who were not allowed to speak.
In the Board room, I sat next to an older well dressed man who was taking notes even faster and more detailed than I. I noticed he had a credential hanging from a Stanford Law School lanyard and I asked him if he was Deasy’s lawyer. He seemed embarrassed and defensive and said he was not a lawyer, though he quickly took off and pocketed the lanyard. He was quite out of place seated in the midst of the yellow daisy brigade, those who had been handed daisies by the young lawyers leading the show (daisies for Deasy chants, and to be easily recognized by Vanessa, the monitor who handed them, alone, speaker’s forms). The young Latino men seated behind me told me that they loved the day and that Monica Garcia was wonderful and they came at her personal invitation.
I spoke with many of the participants, from the dozens of young SCRIPTED chanters, to the young women lawyers in blue jeans who handed out the their hand painted signs for the actors to carry in a protest circle for benefit of the media which filmed it all. Gabe and Ryan were also handing out printed sheets of paper with both chants and talking points for the actors to use. I was amazed at how rapidly these power brokers had pull off this detailed media event. Young inner city participants told me that they had been called over the weekend and were both mandated, and wooed, to attend.
Austin
How did that happen? While the LAUSD still has a long way to go, for the past three years it has been steadily improving in a number of key categories. Under Superintendent John Deasy’s leadership, LAUSD students have been learning more, scoring higher and graduating in greater numbers. They’ve also been suspended a lot less.But change is hard. Lots of politicians spend a lot of time talking about kids. But a genuine kids-first agenda — where we make every single decision as if it would literally impact our own children — still remains disturbingly radical when compared to the status quo.Two weeks ago, word leaked that Dr. Deasy might be leaving. Dr. Deasy often faces powerful opponents who challenge his independent, kids-first agenda. These interest groups have been working for years to push him out. This was their moment.
Lubic
The teachers of LAUSD voted an overwhelming 91% NO CONFIDENCE in Deasy some weeks prior to this farce meeting on Oct. 29. Voices from all over Los Angeles County and the entire state complained for many weeks at the terrible decisions of Deasy, the Broad anointed Supt., and his Broad grad pal, Asst. Supt. Aquino, not only about the firing of innocent teachers, the embedding of charter schools in public school venues, keeping so many in teacher jail, and not reporting egregious teacher offenders to the State as required by Education Code, but mainly about the huge $1 BILLION dollar expenditure of taxpayer money for iPads at over retail cost and with no keyboards and no plan for WiFi (which had been investigated by a prior Board as a serious and dangerous health issue for young children) and for having made no plan for who was responsible for loss/theft/breakage of these soon to be outdated iPads. Deasy had been the education face of these iPads when Apple advertised them for school use, and he was also a stockholder, so many people question what seemed a sweetheart deal.
As to word being leaked to the LA Times of the Deasy resignation, the ‘insider’ information at the Times is that Deasy and his crew were the leakers, so as to prepare for this charade of phony “public” support. Some weeks prior to this meeting, Monica Garcia, the big Deasy supporter on the Board, sent out a cyber letter by eblast from her office at Beaudry to support Deasy, but she signed it with the names of two others. These kinds of things have muddied the truth for a long time. A few weeks ago the other Deasy Board supporter, Tamar Galatzan, decided for the first time in LAUSD history, to call for censure of the Board’s current president for accusations made against him from 12 years ago, and already a settled issue, but she clearly set this up to deflect from the investigation of the committee headed by new Board member Monica Ratliff, into the financing and choice decisions surrounding the iPad fiasco. (Jaime Aquino in public testimony called all the real and vast public outcry, including articles by the LA Times, just “NOISE” and said it was a minor distraction.) This investigation is now turning up many financial and other decisions made by Deasy and his staff wtih NO transparency to the Board nor the public which foots all the bills and should be his ultimate employer.
With this vast amount of publicly voiced disapproval, Deasy should have been gone, and not given another 3 years of these ill advised decisions which could easily lead to to bankrupting LAUSD. In private sector he would have been removed long ago, but with the lawyers from the biggest and most powerful law firms in America, who represent Eli Broad (who got Deasy hired without a search forother candidates), Bloomberg, Murdoch, Waltons (all of whom who poured money into the LAUSD School Board elections), and their ilk, who are determined to make public education a huge free market investment opportunity, and with their well paid toadies like Deasy and the mendacious and manipulative Ben Austin, a majority of the Board renewed his contract. This is a travesty.
Austin
During a 72-hour window leading up to the board meeting, parents looked at each other and realized that nobody was coming to their rescue. Parents recognized that they must become the change. So they organized. One mom at my daughter’s neighborhood elementary school even organized parents during our annual “Halloween Haunt” festival.
Lubic
Austin lives on the Westside among the weathiest LA residents.
As to how this event was all put together, you can read the Ravitch posts of Oct. 28, 29, 30 to see the real facts with the actual tweets between the leaders of Parent Rev and United Way as to how to do this for the most media impact. A farce all the way…Moliere could not have done it better.
The day was all phony! It was a set up, all orchestrated by the lawyers and PR folks, from the phony orange robe the young lawyers and Gabe and Ryan handed to a young woman to pretend she was a recent high school grad, to the setting up the circle of Latinos who were told to keep their faces angry and aimed always at the media cameras as they chanted the scripted words while carrying the signs made by the leadership, to the lawyers handing out of the daisies for the hired ‘Public” to wear behind their ears, and then, the coup de gras of speaking to the Board.
I was first person to enter the Board Room and immediately requested a speaker’s form from the Board’s monitor, Vanessa, to give my testimony to the Board and the public. She stood near a phalanx of police who lined the wall of the room. I was told emphatically that no one would speak that day. However within mere moments, some of the bussed in folks with their daisies were handed numbered speakers forms. I again asked the monitor, Vanessa, for a form, and again she told me I was not allowed to speak, that only the bussed-in women could speak.
This was the most undemocratic, one-sided, set up I have ever witnessed at a public meeting in a building owned by the public. A few other people who were against rehiring Deasy asked for forms and they too were turned down. Only the pro Deasy ‘actors’ were given forms. They mainly testified in Spanish with an English translator generally reading from a script as to what they said. I spoke with some of these women outside as we waited so many hours for the meeting to begin, and they all spoke to me in English, but by using Spanish to give their testimony, and then with the translator, they each got 10 minutes to make their points, whereas the public comments are limited by the Board to only 3 minutes each. Only Mr. Walter Wattles, an older and most erudite member of the public who, I was told, was a former teacher, and who attends most meetings, was finally allowed to speak against the Deasy contract renewal. He had only 3 minutes to make his points, which spoke for all of us who recognize the many faults of this Superintendent.

Austin
Mayor Eric Garcetti, former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan and civic leaders across the political spectrum one by one stood up and stood behind this organic grassroots movement.United Teachers of Los Angeles, the local teachers union, stood alone — politically isolated on this seminal issue. Not even other teachers unions would support UTLA’s extreme cause.
Lubic
At the end of the meeting, Warren Fletcher, president of UTLA came forward and demanded that a substitute teacher who had been screamed at, maligned and insulted, and fired on the spot, in a fit of uncontrolled rage by Deasy, and in front of her class, be allowed to speak about this incident. She did give her powerful testimony, and together with that of Wattles, and the No Confidence vote of thousands of teachers, and all the issues presented over many months by a multitude of teachers, it was clear that there are so many factors of his questionable behaviors, that Deasy should never have been rehired.
So what really happened behind those closed doors?
Austin
Following this outpouring of public support, Dr. Deasy emerged from last week’s school board meeting with an agreement to remain as superintendent through 2016.
Lubic
Austin’s claim of an “outpouring of public support” is the biggest lie of all…there was NO “outpouring of public support” but rather it was a pay day and party day for all the hired actors, the scammed inner city attendees, and all the support staff from the law and PR offices and non profits which were active in the charade. I researched some of these non profits, and their Boards are filled with lawyers from the same powerful firms who represent the tycoons behind it all. These purveyors of planned disruption, all paid by a hidden community of vast wealth and power, created a totally dishonest scenario. They manipulated uninformed inner city people of color once again.
This sham was put in place not by the public, but by the power players who forced their voices to be the only ones heard.

Austin
How did community power save the superintendent?Saving Dr. Deasy did not happen because of the traditional power players: Mayors, philanthropists, unions or any other traditional institutional interest group. It didn’t even happen because of Dr. Deasy. He was actively discouraging his supporters — making it very clear that he felt it was time for him to go. Parents kept going despite his admonitions because this wasn’t about any single person. It was about our kids.
Lubic
Clearly the manipulation by Deasy and his supporters used the non profits of Austin’s Parent Revloution, and United Way, to put this day together. Sadly, not only former Mayor Tony Villaraigosa who now works for the ponzi company Herbalife and who bragged about closing LAUSD public schools in favor of charter schools, and charter supporter and new Mayor Eric Garcetti whose wife worked for former Mayor Riordan to set up his Catholic School Charters, got in on this farce.
Austin ‘spins’ this to say the actual, voiceless real public, We the People with no access to the best law firms in the nation and no endless funding by the billioniares who even seek to manipulate our local elections, that we are the “power players”…. while Broad, Murdoch, the Waltons, Bloomberg, et al, are the downtrodden supporters of the communities living in poverty. It would be laughable if were not really the most disgusting deception.
The media repeatedly falls for this artifice and created spin. Are they just lazy, or do they collude for their own profit?
Austin speaks of doing this for “our kids” when his kids, and those of all the major players in this day of infamy, go to the best schools in Los Angeles, both public and private. None of them are inner city parents struggling to survive. Austin earns his big income (only a portion of which is approximately $250,000 from donations mainly from the Waltons to Parent Revolution) by using the inner city parents to his own end, and to further the goals of his benefactors, the Waltons, who support ‘parent trigger laws’ to break the unions, Teach for America to fire well trained teachers and use inexperienced and ill trained youngsters at minimum cost in their place, and ‘stand your ground gun laws’ for all Americans. The Waltons, now listed by Forbes as the richest family in the world, choose to starve their employees with low wages, and teach them how to apply for food stamps and free health care at the expense of the public, the taxpayers. These are Ben Austin’s bosses who pay him handsomely to manipulate society in their behalf.

Austin
If this movement did have a single leader, it was the team at United Way of Greater Los Angeles. They helped to organize this loose coalition of over 60 organizations, and they stood up and took and action when we had very little time or hope.But there were dozens of other leaders. Grassroots community organizations like Alliance for a Better Community, Community Coalition and Inner City Struggle helped to lead this movement partly because of Dr. Deasy’s commitment to poor communities and communities of color.Parent leaders like Amabilia Villeda, who serves as chapter coordinator for the 24th Street Elementary Parents Union, helped turn out dozens of parents to support Dr. Deasy. Amabilia and other parents worked collaboratively with Dr. Deasy to transform their failing school using California’s landmark parent trigger law. Today their children attend the first-ever school where the district is working collaboratively with a charter school to serve the same kids, while also providing free universal preschool for all neighborhood kids. Parent Union members spoke movingly about Dr. Deasy visiting them in the rain to extend his hand in partnership.
Lubic
There was one parent there speaking for 24th Street, and these better informed parents chose not to turn their school over to be charterized, and instead worked with the administration to promote some positive change. This was unlike Adelanto/Desert Trails and Wiegand where minimally informed parent groups were manipulated to vote for change and then got charterized.
The scripted parents who spoke to the Board were not true representatives of the plethora of LAs inner city communities and parents. Not one representative of the tens of thousands of unhappy parents who are outraged by the Deasy administration, and who want public schools enriched, but not charterized, was allowed to speak at this ‘fix’ of a meeting.
Why did the BoE allow this?

Austin
Parents waited in line for hours to get into the meeting, even though many didn’t get in, including me. They passed the time by passing out “Daisies for Deasy.” In one resounding collective voice, the chants from hundreds of parents and community leaders could be heard from blocks away: “Don’t be Crazy — Keep Doc Deasy!”
Lubic
This is pure baloney. Everyone waited for hours, not just the bussed in actors. There were only a few inner city parents, of those who were bussed in, who chose to stay and speak in favor of Deasy while the rest went home after the media left. They were given free food and drink as they waited outside. Music was played by the leaders for their enjoyment in this party atmosphere all set up by Gabe and Ryan at great monetary expense. One reporter estimated that it cost the leaders over $40, 000 to put on this media event party. Yes, the loud speakers that Gabe and Ryan had set up magnified the shouting from the printed chants they handed out, and that all their high paid professional worker bees led, loudly. It was a mind-bending sham and truly Goebbels-like behavior.
Austin
These are the unsung heroes whom our children may never thank, but who stepped up for them when it mattered.Under the leadership of Board President Dr. Richard Vladovic, the LAUSD school board listened to the will of the parents and the will of the people. Now is the time for all adults on all sides of this debate to start acting like grown-ups, including Dr. Deasy and his supporters.
Lubic
We the real People, we the taxppayers and parents, need to hear from the Board about this travesty and why they colluded with the billionaire opportunists to orchestrate such a blatant undemocratic situtation? We need to know why they would allow the ‘use’ of the bussed-in community of color to make their singular scripted pro-Deasy points while those of us who wanted to testify as to Deasy’s faults were not permitted to speak? We find this disrespectful to all. Also we need to hear from Steve Zimmer who has done an about face since his election.
And we need to know why the Board extended the contract of this shoddy Superintendent for another 3 years? The Board got many angry emails from endless real community members who were outraged at this manipulated dance, but to date the Board has refused to reply to their electors.
It is time for us all to find candidates who are not intimidated by the wealth of the power players who actually run/own LAUSD, and the big businesses which grease so many palms for unjust enrichment. We need honest brokers for education.

Austin

Moving forward, everyone must commit to live by one simple rule: if it’s not okay on the playground, it’s not okay in our politics either. This is not about adult interests or petty political games. It’s about our kids. Anyone who deviates from that simple rule, as one mom at the board meeting scolded, we’ll have to put in a time-out.
Lubic
“Time out” Austin says…yes, these robber barons would love us, the informed and activist public, to sit quietly while they play out their schemes to enrich themselves as they are diminishing the educations of our students in public school, and generations of students to come….all for an investment opportunity and profit. They want to shut down our voices while they continue to pick our pockets.
Ben Austin, whose resume reads like a story of a master of manipulation, from his Sacramento shenanigans, to his two full time jobs paid by taxpayer money while working for both Villaraigosa and the city of LA, and concurrently for Green Dot Charter School’s former director, Steve Barr. And now it seems payback time and Steve Barr, Austin’s not so Secret Sharer in the Deasy/Broad/Walton escapade, is still working at operating charter schools for major profit even though he left Green Dot under a cloud. This is all information that can be researched online.
Ben Austin is not a person to look to for truth telling, nor for pure motives.
Austin
Ben Austin is the executive director of Los Angeles-based Parent Revolution, a nonprofit organization that works to empower parents striving to improve their children’s education. Ben is the proud parent of two young daughters.
Lubic
Various of these groups Austin lists below say that they were not part of this charade. Those participating were mainly supporters Michelle Rhee and Eli Broad, who are both board members and/or directors of some of these “non profits.” Other reports show only about a dozen organzations that were active participants on Oct. 29.

Austin

Community groups and organizations that turned out at the rally, aided with organizing efforts, or voiced their support to save Superintendent John Deasy’s job include: Alliance for a Better Community, ACLU of So Cal, the Advancement Project, Asian Americans Advancing Justice, Bend The Arc, Campaign for College Opportunity, CARECEN, CCSA, CFY LA, Children Now, CHIRLA, City Year, Community Coalition, Communities in Schools, Educators 4 Excellence, Ed Pioneers, EdVoice, Families In Schools, Goodwill of So Cal, Green Dot,, KIPP LA, LA Gay & Lesbian Center, LA Small Schools Center, LACER Afterschool Programs, LA Educational Partnership, LA Gay and Lesbian Center, LAMP Community Center, Lanai Road Education Committee, LA Urban League, LA Voice, Mind Research Institute, Music Center, New Teacher Center, Parent Partnership, Parent Revolution, Parent Institute for Quality Education, Partnership for LA Schools, SEIU 99, Students for Education Reform, StudentsFirst, Students Matter, Teach For America, Teach Plus, The California Endowment, Think Together, UCLA Center X, United Way of Greater Los Angeles, and the Youth Policy Institute.

Joanne Barkan has an excellent essay in Dissent magazine that explains how foundations founded by plutocrats use their wealth and political power to damage democracy.

She uses the example of public education to demonstrate how a small number of large foundations have captured control of public policy, taking it out of the hands of voters and parents to impose their will and get what they want.

She offers the examples of the AstroTurf groups created by the Gates Foundation; these are groups that pretend to represent local, grassroots groups but in fact carry out the wishes of the plutocrats.

Then there is the example of grants offered to districts that ar contingent on certain officials remaining in office.

Then there is TE example of the “parent trigger,” which manipulates parents to hand over their public school to a private corporation.

And another example is the practice of the Broad Foundation, which underwrites the salary of certain public officials to ensure that it gets its way.

She asks a god question: why are these plutocrats allowed to get tax breaks as they impose their control over and subvert a democratic institution?

This is a subject that deserves a book-length treatment. With her meticulous research skills and her understanding of the political dynamics involved, Joanne Barkan is just the one to do it.

Bruce Baker of Rutgers University here dissects the fundamental flaws at the heart of the corporate reform agenda.

This is the set of policy prescriptions that he reviews:

What I have found most intriguing over time is that the central messaging of these reformy template policy prescriptions is that they will necessarily improve accountability and transparency of education systems, and that they will do so largely by improving the responsiveness of those intractable systems through altered governance and finance, including but not limited to “market” based choice mechanisms.

The standard list of strategies that are supposedly designed to increase accountability and transparency of our education system include, among other things:

  1. Expansion of charter schools, coupled with multiple charter authorizers (including private entities) and minimized charter regulation
  2. Adoption of tuition tax credit programs providing individuals and corporations the option to forgo paying a portion of taxes by contributing that amount to a privately governed entity (or entities) that manages tuition scholarships to privately governed/managed schools.
  3. Parent trigger policies that permit a simple majority of parents of children currently attending any school within a district to mandate that the local board of education displace the entire staff of the school and potentially turn over governance and management of school’s operations (and physical/capital assets?) to a private management company to be operated as a charter school.

It is argued that current large bureaucratic public education systems are simply intractable, non-responsive and can’t be improved – That they are simply not accountable to anyone because they are run by corrupt self-interested public officials elected by less than 2% of eligible voters (turnout for board elections) and that they have no incentive to be responsive because they are guaranteed a constantly growing pot of revenue regardless of performance/quality/responsiveness.

Whatever problems do exist with the design of our public bureaucracies, I would argue that we should exercise extreme caution in accepting uncritically the belief that we could not possibly do worse, and that large scale privatization and contracting of private entities to provide the public good is necessarily a better and more responsive, more efficient, transparent and accountable option.

Read the entire post. He shows, step by step, why each of these claims are misleading; and why they do not lead to greater accountability or transparency, or even to better outcomes for students.

In his analysis of “parent trigger,” he writes:

Parent trigger is quite possibly the most ludicrous corruption of public governance and accountability on the education reformy education policy table. Put simply, parent trigger is the most ill-conceived subversion of governance I’ve seen out there in the reformy playbook.

And he explains why.

It is an important read.

 

I posted a link to this article yesterday. It is hilarious. It is a conference call in which Ben Austin, the leader of Parent Revolution, talks to Congressman George Miller, the senior Democrat in the House of Representatives. P-Rev is funded by the Walton Family Foundation, the Gates Foundation, and the Broad Foundation. Miller is beloved by the charter lobby and has received generous campaign contributions by the Wall Street hedge fund group DFER (Democrats for Education Reform).

Unfortunately, the link was taken down by someone at MyEdNext, and the article is no longer available online. I asked the author for permission to print the article, and she sent it to me for your reading pleasure.

Here it is.

‘Parents Can Only Listen’

I attended a conference call today initiated and led by Ben Austin, Executive Director of Parent Revolution, to honor “National Parents Day.” The call from start to finish focused on the complexity of the parent trigger law, the controversy, the process, and the status of California schools.

Although the call’s password was “Parents,” parents couldn’t ask questions – only reporters could. Perhaps Parent Revolution should consider a name change or a re-branding.

I’m confused.

A few minutes into the call, a personable Ben Austin stated, “We’ve been outspent 100 to 1 by opponents of parent trigger.” Florida parents were opponents of parent trigger. I’m certain the money depleted from my personal savings account and those of the dynamo parents from Stop Parent Trigger and Fund Education Florida and others wouldn’t total a fraction of what Parent Revolution spent. I would have asked him to elaborate if parents were allowed to participate in the Parent Revolution, National Parents Day conference call but, we weren’t.

Austin later stated that there is well-funded opposition to Parent Revolution to the tune of $8 billion. Wow! As parents we shared packages of almonds and granola bars in the senate gallery vs. eating lunch outside because we spent our savings on travel expenses, child care, and shared hotel rooms. Maybe whoever has that $8B can buy us lunch in Tallahassee next year?

Austin reflected, ”I wish I had the army of lobbyists our opponents had.” The Florida lobbyist directory shows that the California firm, Parent Revolution, has three lobbyists registered in Florida along with Students First’s five Florida lobbyists, added to the eight from Jeb Bush’s Foundation. That’s 16 paid lobbyists not to mention Florida’s Charter Consortium, the Charter Alliance Group and each individual charter with multiple lobbyists who all advocated for parent trigger. That represents an estimated 220 paid lobbyists. I think Mr. Austin has his army in place, don’t you?

I’m confused.

When describing the controversy surrounding parent trigger, Austin discussed “conspiracy theories.” To counter a widely held theory, Austin definitively stated: “Parent Revolution opposes all for-profit charters.” Say what? Wait a minute. Parent Revolution was founded by Green Dot charter school chain operator, Steve Barr. Green Dot operates 18 schools in LA and will expand to handle multiple turnaround schools in Memphis in 2014.

Many charter chains register as “non profits” then set up “for-profit” firms to handle facilities, food services, operations. Does Green Dot charters have for profit firms operating their schools? If so, does Ben Austin oppose them? For-profit charter management is almost always the case in Florida. Mr. Austin, that’s not a conspiracy theory–that’s a fact.

I’m confused. Grassroots?

Mr. Austin talked about Parent Revolution being a grassroots effort. In 2012, Parent Revolution’s funders included: the Broad Foundation, Walton Family Foundation, Gates Foundation, and the Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisers. This is anything but ‘grassroots.’

If Florida parents, who are in the trenches at schools, in board meetings, in the state capitol fighting for all children, could have 10% of Parent Revolution’s funds, we’d put education back on track in our state. I’d appreciate it if Mr. Austin would mount a campaign for that.

I’m confused. Parents represent the status quo?

Also participating in this call was Parent Revolution’s ‘hero’ Congressman George Miller-D (Martinez). In a quote released the day before Rep Miller said, “We can no longer pay lip service to parental involvement in schools. Instead parents must stand up and say that the status quo isn’t good enough for their children.” Say what?

Isn’t Rep Miller still the head of the Committee on Labor and Education? He was, I believe, for over a decade. Hasn’t he held office over 35 years? Yet now Rep Miller admits to paying lip service to parents in a conference call where parents are not allowed to ask questions! Forgive me, Congressman Miller, but I do believe you are the status quo.

Congressman Miller also said, “Parent trigger gives parents a voice and a say in the involvement in the quality of their child’s school. They have a right to be heard.” Just not on this conference call, I suppose. Congressman Miller, where can Florida parents be heard and when? We’ll be there.

I’m confused. No measurements?

Two great reporters asked substantive questions. It was unfortunate that Congressman Miller left before reporters were allowed to ask questions.

The first was Natasha Lindstrom. She asked: “What key measurements, Mr. Austin, are you looking for to determine if these turnarounds work?” Austin’s immediate reply was, “well, this is a two steps forward, one step back type process.” Say what? Mr. Austin seemed to take us on a tour of his stream of consciousness as he searched for a better reply. He talked about being a public school parent and how his daughter’s school is a good school. He said the benchmarks would “not be just test scores!” He discussed his favorite topic of the day being dead animal carcasses in a turnaround school where parents were forced to demand the carcasses be removed for health reasons. He concluded with, “if parents are happy with their child’s education, then it’s successful.” That’s a nice, straightforward answer. However Natasha Lindstrom asked for key measurements which, as you know, dangles over the heads of public school educators like a cleaver hung with dental floss.

To add to my confusion. Parent Revolution’s website states their goal is “to improve academic outcomes.” How does Mr. Austin expect to accomplish that without key measurements as factors? Perhaps they will change their goal to read “happy parents” so the website is properly aligned with what its Director says.

I’m confused. Relevant?

Next up was the K-12 News Network journalist, Cynthia Liu. Her spot-on question and follow up went directly to the core of the controversy over parent trigger. “Aren’t the examples you gave of effective parent petitions at Haddon Elementary and 24th Street Elementary evidence that Parent Revolution is irrelevant?” Boom!

Remarkably, the most memorable quote of the call followed that question when Mr. Austin said: “Parents don’t need Parent Revolution.” (No kidding, he actually said that!)

He explained that parents can work through PTAs and local school councils with grassroots petitions. Gee, Parents Across Florida has said that for years. Then Mr. Austin gave a lengthy example of a Los Angeles school that organized a protest demanding common sense changes. He said no one responded to them. So Parent Revolution, he concluded, is needed. It is relevant in cases like that.

However, if I’m not mistaken, the example he provided when no one empowered responded to parents was one that Parent Revolution was already involved in. Could that be why parent’s demands went unanswered? Could it be that the school was paralyzed over the turmoil created by a controversial third party with a reputation for instigating long court battles and creating divisiveness in communities?

I’m confused. Petition names can be rescinded?

The holy crow moment for me was when Mr. Austin stated: “Of course parents can rescind their names from a petition.” How many months of turmoil did the Adelanto, CA court case cost when their organization refused to allow parents to rescind their names and took them to court? How much did that cost taxpayers? Say what?

In what seemed to be a teeter-totter pattern of responding in this call, Ben Austin then jumped on the other side to say: “But, of course, signing a petition is just like voting.” He gave an example of someone who voted for President Obama in November but then chose to rescind afterwards. While the analogy is interesting, it simply doesn’t apply. A petition on a clipboard shoved at you by someone guaranteeing they’ll “improve the school with nurses, after school care, more books, etc.” while you’re dashing off to work is a far cry from casting a vote for President on election day. Good try though.

I learned that July 28th is National Parents Day.
I learned that a school in Los Angeles has a problem with dead animal carcasses being removed.
I learned that Parent Revolution sees parents as “them and us.”
I learned that a long time chair of an education committee says he wants to give parents a voice– now.
I learned that as much as I try to understand Parent Revolution’s position, their Executive Director confuses me.

Rita Solnet, Florida

This is a hilarious description of a conference call in which Ben Austin of Parent Revolution joined with Congressman George Miller of California to discuss the value of parents seizing control of their schools.

Rita Solnet, the Florida parent activist who joined the conference call, quickly learned that parents were not allowed to ask questions, only journalists.

She heard Ben Austin claim that his organization, funded by the Gates Foundation, the Walton Foundation, and the Broad Foundation, is not only “grassroots,” but that it was vastly outspent by its opponents. Austin said they (the Parent Associations of Florida) have $8 billion (!) to spend, but he didn’t say where that $8 billion came from.

She heard him say that the Florida parent groups had more lobbyists than his allies in the charter industry. She counted 122 paid lobbyists working for the charter industry.

She heard George Miller decry the terrible status quo, but recalled that he has been writing the nation’s education policy for years. George Miller IS the status quo. In fact, George Miller was one of the architects of No Child Left Behind, and still defends it. Miller is a hero to Democrats for Education Reform (DFER), the Wall Street hedge fund managers’ organization. DFER raises money for politicians who agree to support charters, and DFER has raised large sums for Miller.

This is a conversation you should read about.

Ellen Lubic and other education activists have formed a new organization called Joining Forces to help parents fight off corporate takeovers of their public schools. Imagine this: an earnest young man or woman comes to your neighborhood, even rents a house there, and button-holes parents to collect their grievances against the neighborhood school. What about that principal? Is there a teacher you don’t like? Do you need more of this or less of that? Sign here. Sign the petition and we can make them change. One day, if they are successful, you won’t have a neighborhood school. Instead, it will belong to a charter corporation, it will have its own board, and it may kick out your child.

Lubic writes:

“It is called divide and conquer. if parents are kept at bay and do not have a common cause of their neighborhood public school, they are easier to fool, to manage, to usurp…yes a low form of social engineering.

“Anyone who wants to work against Parent Revolution, please contact me at

Joining Forces for Education
joiningforces4ed@aol.com

“This particularly pernicious form of privatization is spreading like wild fire across the US. We must join together to educate the community about parent trigger laws and how the inner city parents are manipulated to sign phony petitions to essentially give their schools away to free market, for-profit, charters.”

The forces advocating privatization of public schools are well-funded and relentless. They cloak their goals in high-flown rhetoric about “saving kids from failing schools.” Or they cynically claim the mantle of the civil rights movement as they seek to disrupt communities and replace public control with private ownership. As the public gets wise, resistance grows.

This comment came from a reader:

I have been researching this whole privitatization of public services since Parent Revolution has targeted my school. Ben and his like are interested in taking publuc services like schools and even libraries to privateers. Always promoted as being able to provide better services. With dwindling tax dollars public entities can unburden themselves of unions, costly health care, and underfunded pensions. Under eleaborate PR campaigns boards and councils are sold on the ideas.

Next, is to convince the public needing the services. The gray area of being ethical is where the privateers work in. Their campaign is well groomed. A student looked at the Parent Revolution web site. He said ( a 5th grader) that it was well written to appeal to parents. Just what parents would want to hear. He researched those opposed to PR and found explicit examples of not doing what they promised. He said “bait and switch”.

Privitization is just another way for the 1% of America to mine new monies for profit to line their pockets. Their desire to help students is only if there is profit to be made. Besides if things don’t work out well and these kids hit the street being undesirables there are privitized psychiatric hospitals and private prisons these people can be warehoused with tax dollars and at a profit.

Parent Chrissy Guzman-Alvarado is a parent  at Desert Trails Elementary School in Adelanto, California. This is the school–the only school in California–where the billionaire-funded “Parent Revolution” has been able to wheedle enough parents to sign petitions to close the school and hand it over to a charter school. When some parents who had put their names on the Parent Revolution petition asked to withdraw their signatures, the organization went to court and won a ruling that signing a petition was like an election and they couldn’t rescind their signature. When the court battles ended, only 53 parents in the school of more than 600 students voted to choose a charter school. Guzman was one of the parents who opposed the takeover and closure of her children’s neighborhood school. This is Guzman’s description of the last graduation day at Desert Trails Elementary School:

How the Trigger Left Our Community

It was a beautiful Thursday morning in Adelanto, CA.  Sixth graders were dressed in their Sunday best, parents were lined up with balloons and everyone was preparing for a wonderful ceremony.  So why was there a table set up across the street for recruiting parents to the new charter school?  This was a sixth grade promotion…  All students would be transferring to junior high.  Why the need to harass parents on such a special day?  Desperation? Harassment?  Lack of a Spine?

 

This is just one of the several times we have had to endure harassment from the people who have been hired to take over our school.  Desert Trails Elementary was home to thousands of families, some having been there for several years, some arriving as early as this month.  Today these families watched their students cry their eyes out and mourn loss of their second family – the teachers, staff, principal and even parent volunteers of Desert Trails Elementary.  I was fortunate enough to share this day and many others, filled with great memories, with these families and am truly thankful for the time I spent there.

 

I can say this about the DTE family – they are loved by thousands, probably tens of thousands, of students and their families.  Grateful for what they have done for them.  For attending those Wednesday night Little League baseball games, or private tutoring them on their own time, for working with them until they have gone from a second grade reading level to fourth grade reading level – in less than a year.  These are just a few of the many, many things these families will remember.

 

What they won’t remember is how Desert Trails Prepatory Academy set up a table across the street from the sixth graders promotion ceremony, right under the No Stopping Any Time sign.  They may have not even noticed how when confronted with how low and pathetic a parent felt they were for disrespecting the ceremony they smiled and waved back at that parent.  They will definitely not remember how they stopped parents exiting the parking lot to force a flyer on them or how they remained there until long after the last student had left for the school day.  They won’t think twice about the parents who Parent Revolution used to pull the Trigger and how most of them have been long gone.

 

What I will remember… the RIP Desert Trails Elementary 1995-2012 written in chalk in the quad… The many, many I will miss you’s that were said that day.  The kids chanting Once a Coyote, Always a Coyote. Most of all, I think I will remember standing in the driveway waving to the last few students driving off – looking back at their school with swollen red eyes and tears streaming down their cheeks knowing they will never see their DTE family again.

 

Chrissy Guzman-Alvarado

 

 

Brief biography:  I am a parent who was concerned for the well-being of our community and school when Parent Revolution brought in their organizers in 2011.  After doing much research on the funders, Ben Austin and the previous trigger, I started speaking up against them.  After a few days, more and more parents came up to me and wanted to know more.  After meeting with several parents I learned I was correct in speaking against pRev.  I continued with my fight against them, collecting rescissions and getting parents to speak up.  Unfortunately, we lost in court.  We did the only thing we could – moved forward with our children’s school year and let the lawyers and politics work themselves out.  I was voted PTA President this last school year and ran Desert Trails Elementary’s Journalism Club.  I was on campus, almost daily, since 2008 and have been extremely involved at the school.

Thank you for your time.  I hope this helps others realize the real impact it had on us.  
Thank you again. 

Chrissy Guzman-Alvarado

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