Archives for category: California

This is an astonishing report about the destruction and privatization of public schools in Oakland, California, and the billionaires who facilitated the looting of that city. The article by Eugene Stovall appeared in “Black Agenda Report.” The audacity of this attack on public education is astonishing. The mechanism for the destroyers were graduates of the Broad Academy, known as Broadies. Since billionaire Eli Broad gave Yale University $100 million to take charge of his program, someone should warn Yale about its record.

Read it all. It will take your breath away.

Stovall writes:

Eli Broad (rhymes with “toad”) conconcted a scheme to privatize Oakland’s public schools and produce a revenue stream for his billionaire cronies.

Operating unethically and illegally, Broad managers used their training to cripple and plunder Oakland’s schools.”

Eli Broad is a liberal Democrat. He opposes Trump’s Muslim ban, immigration policies and withdrawal from the climate change treaty. In fact, like Democratic billionaires Tom Steyer and Michael Blloomberg, Broad opposes Trump’s entire right wing agenda. However, just as the Trump Foundation created the Trump University scam, the Eli Broad Foundation created the Broad Superintendent Academy, an educational enterprise that has become so successful that it is now associated with the home of the Skull and Bones Society, Yale University. But despite its aura of respectability, the Broad Superintendent Academy is no less a scam than Trump University.

Billionaires Want More

Eli Broad created two Fortune 500  companies, Kaufmann-Broad Homes and SunAmerica Bank. With an estimated net worth of $6.7 billion, Eli Broad ranks as Forbes  Magazine’s 78th wealthiest man in the United States. But like many billionaires who create mechanisms to increase their wealth, Broad created a “non-profit” academy as his entré into the private education market. The Broad Superintendent Academy attracts applicants who willingly pay exorbitant tuition fees for the chance to get placed in a top management public education position. Broad academy applicants do not need educational degrees or teaching certificates. Neither are they experienced teachers or successful school administrators. The Broad academy is uninterested in strategies for improving student achievement and does not teach its students about fundamental educational issues, pedagogies and methodologies. The Broad academy only indoctrinates and commits its students to the privatization of public education and the generation of revenues for private corporations. Broad Academy attendees are taught the disruptive management tactics needed to ignore “best educational practices.” They are taught how to overcome objections when mandating school closures and school property sell offs to the billionaire-owners of private schools. When Broad placed his academy graduates in management positions at the Oakland Unified School District, they left a trail of fiscal mismanagement, budget overruns and demoralized staff, students and teachers. Operating unethically and illegally, Broad managers used their training to cripple and plunder Oakland’s schools.

The Broadies Who Plundered Oakland’s Schools

In 1998, Eli Broad recruited Jerry Brown, the former Governor of California and a former presidential contender, to become mayor of Oakland. Broad needed someone with Brown’s political clout with the Democratic Party to implement his plan to privatize Oakland’s schools. Broad had been a close personal friend of Jerry Brown’s father, Pat Brown, and had financed all of Jerry Brown’s political campaigns. Now Broad realized California’s top Democrat and his control over the statewide Democratic Party machine gave him a unique opportunity to make money from private education.

Broad’s scheme to privatize Oakland’s public education resources required the support of other billionaires capitalizing on the private education market. Netflix founder, Reed Hastings, a Bay Area resident with a net worth of $3.7 billion, was associated with the multi-million dollar Rocketship Charter Schools. The late founder of The Gap, Don Fisher, with a net worth of $3.3 billion, was associated with the Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP), one of the largest chains of charter schools in the country. With a net worth of $3.5 billion, John Doerr, partner in the investment firm, Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield & Byers, the firm that brought Google and Amazon to the market, cofounded the New Schools Venture Fund which sucks public school resources into for-profit K-12 corporations. Another critical partner in Broad’s clique of billionaires was the bishop of Oakland’s catholic diocese, a representative of the multi-billion dollar, worldwide Vatican empire. With its profound interest in co-opting public funds and real estate for its own network of parochial schools, Oakland’s catholic bishop gave Broad’s unholy coalition a solid block of votes that not only put Jerry Brown in City Hall, but changed Oakland’s charter into the ‘strong mayor” form of government, that gave “Boss” Brown the power function as Eli Broad’s “bag man.” In return for its electoral support, the diocese of Oakland received a multi-million dollar cathedral on the downtown shore of Lake Merritt.

Once “Boss” Brown controlled City Hall, Reed Hastings went into action. Hastings funded another charter amendment that gave the mayor the authority to pack the school board with his own unelected appointees. Greasing the wheels of the Democratic machine, Hastings financed the passage of a State Assembly bill that permitted charter schools to operate without  accreditation and to hire teachers without  teaching credentials. Then Hastings funded the Proposition 39 campaign to force local school districts to share revenues with charter schools. “Boss” Brown’s buddy, Democratic Governor Gray Davis, who later was recalled on corruption charges, put Reed Hastings on the State Board of Education. In the meantime, Don Fisher gave Jerry Brown’s wife, Gust Brown, the position of CEO over The Gap Corporation.

Getting Control Of The Schools … And The Money

In 2001, the Oakland Unified School District had a $37 million budget deficit. The district’s fiscal managers decided to resolve the shortfall by borrowing from its construction fund, a practice other California school districts in similar situations routinely used. But Brown and Broad saw the school deficit as an opportunity to advance their scheme.

Brown contacted Tom Henry, CEO of the Fiscal Crisis and Management Team (FCMAT), a firm located in Sacramento and staffed by lobbyists and political hacks. Brown used Henry’s services, on occasion, when he was governor. FCMAT did “hit” jobs for anyone willing to pay. Brown paid Tom Henry to prevent Oakland from solving its fiscal problem. FCMAT lobbied the State Attorney General, Bill Lockyer, the former Democratic Assemblyman from Alameda, to rule that Oakland’s plan to borrow construction funds was a violation of state and local law. Then Henry worked with Don Perata, the State Senator for Alameda County, to lobby a bill through the state legislature that forced the Oakland school district to accept a $100 million loan to cover its $37 million shortfall. In addition, the bill put the Oakland school district under the control of a state administrator to be appointed by Jack O’Connell, the State Superintendent of Public Education. When Jack O’Connell campaigned for state superintendent, he received financial support from Eli Broad’s billionaire cabal. Reed Hastings contributed $250,000, John Doerr $205,000 and Eli Broad, himself, contributed $100,000 to O’Connell’s campaign. With the state takeover of Oakland’s schools, O’Connell agreed to appoint anyone “Boss” Brown wanted. Thus Eli Broad and his cronies got complete control over the $63 million slush fund  forced on the Alameda County tax payers. Jerry Brown described the state takeover as a “total win” for Oakland’s schools. In reality, the state takeover was a total win for Eli Broad and his billionaire cronies. For the tax payers forced to repay the loan and for the Oakland school children whose schools were plundered by malicious billionaires, the state takeover was a disaster.

The Table Was Set And The Feasting Began

The Democratic state superintendent of education, Jack O’Connell, appointed Randolph Ward, a graduate of Broad’s superintendent academy, as Oakland’s state administrator. Ward appointed Arnold Carter, another Broad academy graduate, to serve as his chief of staff. Both state administrators appointed a bevy of Broadies  to fill the Oakland school district’s top management positions. Then Ward implemented Broad’s privatization agenda. He closed public schools and opened charter schools. He created additional management positions for Broad academy graduates and issued multi-million dollar consultation and construction contracts to private corporations. Randolph Ward gave Broad’s billionaire cronies complete access to the $63 million slush fund created by top Democrats, Jerry Brown, Bill Lockyer, Don Perata, Jack O’Connell, Tom Henry as well as other members of “Boss” Brown’s Democratic machine.

When the state took over the Oakland schools in 2002, Randolph Ward fired the superintendent, Dennis Chaconas. When Ward resigned in 2006, Broadie Kimberly Statham replaced him. A year later, Statham left and her chief of staff, Vincent Matthews, another Broadie, took her place.

In 2008, Oakland Assemblyman Sandre Swanson broke with “Boss” Brown and introduced a bill to force the state to relinquish its control over Oakland schools. Eli Broad gave a Sacramento lobbyist $350,000 to oppose Swanson’s legislation, but Swanson’s bill passed and local control was returned to the Oakland School Board. In July 2009, the school board hired Anthony “Tony” Smith as the district’s superintendent.

Smith was not associated with Eli Broad. However, even though local school board resumed control over the schools, Eli Broad was not finished, He funded a front group, Greater Oakland [GO], which financed the election of five Broadies to the Oakland school board. In 2014, the Broadie school board forced school superintendent Tony Smith to resign and appointed another graduate from Broad’s academy, Antwan Wilson , Oakland’s next school superintendent, resuming Broad’s decade-long privatization scheme.

A Decade of Corruption

Under Randolph Ward, Oakland Schools struggled with the overwhelming debt imposed by the Democratic Party machine. When Ward left Oakland, millions of dollars went missing with him. Though FCMAT received a multi-year contract to help manage the debt, Tom Henry provided little substantive support, financial or operational. In 2007, Jerry Brown left Oakland for his cattle ranch in Northern California. In its 2007-08 report, an Alameda County grand jury investigation found that the Oakland Unified School District had been looted.

Between 2003 and 2006, Ward shut down 14 public schools and opened 13 charter schools. He increased the district’s shortfall by nearly $15 million. Ward’s successor, Kimberly Statham, another Broadie, opened 4 charter schools and Broadie Vincent Matthews, who followed Stratham as state administrator, opened 9 charter schools. Under state control, the district’s debt ballooned from $37 million to $89 million while school enrollment, the district’s primary source of funding, dropped from 55,000 in 2002 to 38,000 in 2009. When Assemblyman Sandré Swanson forced the state to return local control, Oakland’s schools had $5.6 million less than what was reported and a total of $9 million unaccounted for and completely missing. But with the return of local control, the district’s fiscal mismanagement problems only worsened. Eli Broad now directed his Broadie school board to support his schemes. 

Antwan Wilson: The Most Corrupt Broadie Of Them All 

When the Broadie school board replaced Tony Smith with Antwan Wilson, it hired a thoroughly corrupt, incompetent and morally reprehensible superintendent to run the Oakland Unified School District. Ignoring all budgetary, ethical and legal constraints, Wilson zealously implemented Broad’sprivatization plan. Wilson overspent the school district budget by overpaying Broadie administrators and conniving with Broadie consultants. In 2015, though the school board authorized only $10.4 million, Wilson paid consultants $22.6 million. The board approved only $7.1 million for administrators and supervisors, but Wilson spent $22.3 million. From July 2014 to January 2015, Wilson spent $22.3 million on district office managers while Smith spent only $13.1 million the entire previous year. From 2013-2014, Tony Smith spent $10 million on classified managers, but in 2015-2016, Antwan Wilson spent $22.3 million. Under Wilson, the number of students shrunk, but spending for administrators and supervisors with teaching certificates grew from $13.9 million in 2013-2014 to $20 million in 2015-2016. Wilson increased spending on outside consultants from $22.7 million in 2013-2014 to $28.3 million in 2016-2017. In Wilson’s last year with Oakland schools, he exceeded the budget for consultants by 32 percent.

These revelations galvanized Tom Henry’s FCMAT into action. Henry immediately lobbied for another state take over even as he collaborated with the Broadie school board to close even more schools and make even more valuable real estate available to billionaire-owned charter schools. But without Boss Brown’s backing, Henry was unsuccessful in getting Governor Gavin Newson’s support for another state takeover.

Open the article and read the ending. It doesn’t get better for the students of Oakland. Eli Broad, Jerry Brown, and their allies used Oakland as their Petri dish. Oakland was raided and looted. Antwan Wilson left Oakland to become chancellor of the D.C.schools, where he was booted out after seeking preferential treatment for his own child. Upon Wilson’s abrupt departure, the mayor of D.C. replaced him with Lewis Ferebee, superintendent of Indianapolis, who is also a graduate of the Broad Academy.

Several years ago, I met Ken Futernick, then a professor of education at Cal State University in Sacramento, where he was director for the Center for Teacher Quality. He shared with me a report he had written in defense of teachers. This was 2010, as the wave of teacher-bashing was beginning to reach new heights. I was immediately impressed that he looked at the obstacles thrown in the path of teachers that demoralized them. His report was called “Incompetent Teachers or Dysfunctional Systems?”  It was published in the Kappan, and this was the summary:

Rather than blame teachers, we must ensure that teachers work within a highly functional system that provides meaningful evaluations, high-quality professional development, reasonable class sizes, reliable and stable leadership, and time for planning and collaboration.

I was immediately impressed by his identification with teachers and his effort to see the world through their eyes.

Recently he has been collecting what he calls “teacher stories.” He thought readers of this blog would enjoy reading some of them. Feel free to share your own with him.

Elevating the Profession Through Teacher Stories 
By Ken Futernick, ken@teacherstories.org
Professor Emeritus, California State University, Sacramento
In recent years a good number of education reformers have promoted the false narrative that the decline of America’s once-envied system of public education is mainly a result of “bad teachers” and how difficult it is to get rid of them. I’ve argued that much of what looks like teacher incompetence is actually a consequence of dysfunctional school systems that prevent capable teachers from succeeding and repel many would-be teachers from the profession itself. The resulting teacher shortagescaused not just by high levels of attrition but by sharp declines in the number of new people entering the profession, have forced school districts across the country to use substitutes and underprepared teachers—a phenomenon that disproportionately harms the most vulnerable among us–poor students and students of color. 
One has to wonder why, in a wealthy, democratic society, founded on the principles of equity and social justice, teaching has become so unattractive. In part, it’s because we don’t pay teachers enough, but it’s also because teachers in America have lost respect, a disturbing trend that’s been bolstered by the “bad teacher” narrative. 
I recently launched Teacher Stories, a website and iTunes podcast, as a counter-narrative that celebrates the teachers who have elevated people’s lives, strengthened communities, inspired a passion for their subjects, and enabled students to attain what they thought was unattainable. Teachers deserve our respect and admiration because nearly every one of us has a story about a teacher who made a difference, often a profound one, in our lives. My hope is that these stories will draw more smart, committed, and caring people to the profession and remind those already in it (and the media, and the rest of us) that their work matters. 
Here are some notes about a few of the stories I’ve collected so far. Rachell Auld’s is about Dr. John Rosario, a community college anatomy professor who convinced her she could become not just an athletic trainer, but an orthopedic surgeon. And she does, but that’s not the end of the story. After practicing medicine, Rachell finds a higher calling—teaching biology to high school students. 

In a podcast episode, New York Times best-selling novelist John Lescroart says he might still be a typist in a law office, or possibly homeless, were it not for his high school English teacher, Father Stadler, who taught him what it really takes to be a good writer. Tavis Danz tells a story about teaching “mindfulness” to his 5th graders, but he worries that this diversion from the standard curriculum will lead to complaints from parents. In fact, it does the opposite.

I recently interviewed education Alfie Kohn, who has written extensively about teaching, parenting, education, and schooling. In this thought-provoking podcast, Alfie says we must be clear about our shared, long-term goals for children before we can describe what good teachers do in the classroom. If we want thoughtful, life-long learners, Kohn says, then we would want teachers who encourage their students to be questioners and challengers and in control of their learning—not passive receptacles of facts. 
I told Alfie that a common theme among the stories I was collecting was that the teachers truly cared about their students. But he pushed the point further: “Students have to experience that care as being unconditional, which means [it’s] something that they never have to earn. What I care about is how students will answer this question 10 years later, “When you were in so-and-so’s classroom, if you ever acted up or didn’t do the assignment or didn’t behave well or whatever, did you ever have the sense that your teacher cared about you less, was less excited about you?” 
I hope you will take a moment to enjoy these teacher stories and will share them with your friends and colleagues. Given the current threats to our democratic institutions, I cannot imagine a more important time for all of us to acknowledge the skill, commitment, and contributions of those who educate our youth.  

 

 

This is good news from California. A large group of school districts are suing JUUL Labs from the damage that their vaping products are causing to students.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Anaheim Union High School District Files Suit Against JUUL Labs, Inc. for Creating the E-Cigarette Epidemic that Disrupts District-Wide Education

 

Anaheim, California – January 28, 2020 – Today, the Anaheim Union School District filed a lawsuit against JUUL Labs, Inc. for the company’s role in cultivating and fostering an e-cigarette epidemic that disrupts the education and learning environment across the District. The suit was filed in the Orange County Superior Court on January 27, 2020 (Case No. 30-2020-01126712-CU-MT-CXC).

Five districts, all members of a consortium of California school districts filing against JUUL, filed on Monday, January 27th, including the following: Rocklin Unified School District, Alcanes Union High School District, Monterey Peninsula Unified School District, Anaheim Union High School District, and Poway Unified School District. 

Ten more school districts in the consortium had filed prior to January 27th, including the following: Los Angeles Unified School District, San Diego Unified School District, Glendale Unified School District, Compton Unified School District, King City Union School District, Ceres Unified School District, Anaheim Elementary School District, Campbell Union High School District, Chico Unified School District, Davis Joint Unified School District, all against JUUL for the same negligence and nuisance claims. Together, the consortium of school districts serve more than 1 million California students. 

The lawsuit seeks injunction and abatement to stop the e-cigarette epidemic, which has severely impacted the school districts by interfering with normal school operations. The District also seeks compensatory damages to provide relief from the district’s financial losses as a result of students being absent from school, coordinating outreach and education programs regarding the health risks of vaping, and enforcement actions – such as vape detectors, video surveillance, and staff to monitor the school’s property in an effort to combat the e-cigarette crisis. 

“We are holding JUUL accountable for its role in affecting our youth, our schools, and families across the country due to irresponsible practices.” said District Superintendent Michael Matsuda, “JUUL has used deceptive practices to market to our students and create a nicotine addiction. They must be held responsible for their actions.”

Since entering the market in 2015, JUUL has dominated the e-cigarette industry and now controls over 70% of the market. Reports found that in 2018, 4.9 million middle and high school students used tobacco products, with 3.6 million of those students using e-cigarettes. From 2017 to 2018, youth e-cigarette users increased by 1.5 million. The lawsuit alleges that growth is largely based on JUUL’s market strategy, which is to target school-age children to ensure the continual growth of their consumer base. 

The National Institute on Drug Abuse found that the 2018 spike in nicotine vaping was the largest for any substance recorded in 44 years. The lawsuits allege that JUUL’s aggressive, strategic marketing and product designs not only created an addiction crisis among youth consumers, but also a widespread burden on school districts. 

Anaheim Union High School District is represented by John P. Fiske and Torri Sherlin of Baron & Budd, P.C. and Brian Panish and Rahul Ravipudi of Panish, Shea, & Boyle, LLP.

About the Anaheim Union High School District

The Anaheim Union High School District serves approximately 30,000 students in the communities of Anaheim, Cypress, Buena Park, La Palma, and Stanton.  For more information about AUHSD visit our website, subscribe to our YouTube channel, and follow us on social media: Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

John Bautista

Public Information Officer 

The Los Angeles Times published this story of a for-profit film school that made bold promises to students, folded, then sued its former students for not paying their debts.

Only two months into pursuing his dream to be a sound engineer, David Gross knew he’d made a mistake.

The single father in 2013 signed up at a for-profit college in Burbank that convinced him it was his path to a Hollywood job. But after two classes, he realized it was “definitely not what I was promised,” he said.

Gross took a leave of absence. But before he decided whether to return, the U.S. Department of Education forced the school, Video Symphony EnterTraining, to close after an investigation found altered records and thousands of dollars in missing financial aid money.

Five years later, Video Symphony, now transformed into a debt holding company, took aim at Gross. It sued him for $14,000 — the amount covering almost eight months of the program that it says Gross attended, and including federal loan amounts the government refused to give the school after the allegations of misconduct.

More than 500 lawsuits have been filed against the school’s ex-students by Michael Flanagan, the educator-turned-debt collector who owned Video Symphony. He says students signed binding contracts and are obligated to pay.

“This is not money you were getting for free,” Flanagan said in a recent interview with the Los Angeles Times. “Demonstrate that you don’t owe the money and we will certainly revise and drop or reduce the demand, but essentially every single person here owes the money.”

Students and legal experts say the cases are more complicated. They claim Video Symphony broke its end of the deal by not providing the education it advertised, letting them believe they were receiving federal aid when they weren’t and failing to keep accurate records.

The story of Video Symphony highlights a larger problem with regulation of for-profit colleges and the aftermath when they fail, say legal experts: No level of government, from local prosecutors to federal and state education officials, has enough interest or responsibility to examine these cases.

In California, oversight of for-profit colleges and student loan debt remains convoluted and unreliable, despite years of reforms. Its patchwork nature has left each student to fight their own battle in a limited debt collection court that lacks the jurisdiction to look at the complaints collectively.

The result, said multiple legal experts familiar with the cases, is that Flanagan has won many lawsuits — collecting more than $300,000 — when students attempt to represent themselves or fail to show up at court, a common occurrence for those without legal savvy who don’t understand that not being present means losing.

Robert Muth, managing attorney of the Veterans Legal Clinic at the San Diego School of Law, has successfully represented two veterans sued by Video Symphony. He said the lack of scrutiny by authorities is “surprising.”

Attorneys at Public Counsel, a Los Angeles nonprofit legal firm that has successfully defended several Video Symphony students, have argued in court that there may be issues of fraud if the cases are viewed as a whole. Like multiple attorneys who have defended Video Symphony clients and spoke with The Times, they believe the lawsuits should be examined by state or local prosecutors, who have the ability to file civil actions on behalf of residents.

The Times found that the offices of Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey and state Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra were contacted about Video Symphony, but so far have taken no action on behalf of the students.

Lacey’s office referred students to Public Counsel. Becerra’s office declined to comment on Video Symphony, issuing a statement that it was “deeply disturbed by the lack of accountability of for-profit colleges” in general and “focused on system-wide fixes.”

Large-scale for-profit failures such as Corinthian Colleges, ITT Tech and L.A.-based Dream Center schools have received such scrutiny from public prosecutors for similar complaints — though the financial stakes were higher.

In 2013, then-Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris filed a civil action against now-defunct Corinthian Colleges on behalf of its 27,000 California students. Investigations found the school used deceptive marketing and unfair debt collection practices. Harris won a default judgment that required Corinthian to pay more than $800 million in restitution to students. Becerra has also weighed in on high-profile failures and the resulting debt, including an ongoing civil suit against Ashford College, an online for-profit owned by a San Diego company.

Prosecutors are meant to be the last line of defense for for-profit students in California, though. Another source of frustration for those familiar with Video Symphony is the track record of a key state regulator, the California Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education, a troubled agency whose future will be debated by legislators in coming months. The agency is charged with investigation and oversight of the state’s 700 for-profit colleges, which cater largely to low-income people, veterans and students of color.

Jennifer Hall Lee is a parent activist in Pasadena, California. She wrote this article about the different amounts of money available to different types of schools in Pasadena. Remember that one of the goals of American public education is “equality of educational opportunity.” How is this possible when children in public schools do not have access to the resources as children in other kinds of schools in the same community?

Here is an excerpt:

Let’s look at a few of the current annual fund goals for schools in the Pasadena area.

  • $75,000 is the annual fund goal for Eliot Arts Magnet Academy (a PUSD school).
  • $500,000 is the annual fund goal for an Altadena charter school.
  • $4.3 million is the annual fund goal for a Pasadena private school.

These annual fund numbers reflect the income levels of parents because when you set a goal for an annual fund you must reasonably expect that the goal can be reached. Annual funds in public schools derive monies primarily through parents and alumni.

 

The Los Angeles County Board of Education has denied renewal to a troubled charter school in the Inglewood school district.

The school has a long history of self-dealing, conflicts of interest, and a mixed academic record. This charter demonstrates that even “non-profits” can be very profitable to its owners.

The California Charter Schools Association is on high alert because of a change in state  law that allows local districts to weigh in on the future of charter schools, especially their fiscal impact on public schools and whether they duplicate what the public schools are already doing.

The Los Angeles County Board of Education voted Tuesday to close an Inglewood charter school with a lengthy history of financial problems and mixed academic performance that illustrated flaws in California’s oversight system.

The board’s unanimous decision marks the third time it has attempted to shut down a charter school run by Today’s Fresh Start, a nonprofit started by a wealthy couple, Clark and Jeanette Parker of Beverly Hills. The group currently operates two charters on three campuses in Los Angeles, Compton and Inglewood.

A Times investigation published last year found that although the Parkers have portrayed themselves as philanthropists, they have made millions from their charter schools.

The schools paid more than $800,000 annually to rent buildings the couple own, financial documents showed. They contracted out services to the Parkers’ nonprofits and companies and paid Clark Parker generous consulting fees, all with taxpayer money.

The couple spent tens of thousands of dollars on lobbyists and campaign contributions to many of the people responsible for regulating their schools, including school board members and state elected officials.

The Parkers have denied any wrongdoing, calling the claims against them baseless and manufactured by opponents of their schools.

The board’s Tuesday vote, which affects only the Inglewood charter, leaves the future of the school, its staff and its more than 400 students in doubt.

Jeanette Parker declined to comment following the decision.

Under current California law, Today’s Fresh Start can appeal the county’s decision to the State Board of Education. A possible appeal would most likely be heard before July, when a new law takes effect that significantly limits the state board’s power to approve charter schools that have been rejected elsewhere.

Decisions like the county board’s vote to close Today’s Fresh Start are rare. Los Angeles County is home to more than 350 charter schools, most of which are routinely renewed every five years by the local school districts where they are located. Only six schools appealed renewal denials to the county in 2017-18 — the last time appeals were heard — and three were denied.

In their recommendation to close the school, consultants hired by the county voiced concern about students’ stagnant performance on the state’s standardized English language arts tests and said the school hadn’t met the necessary academic criteria to be renewed. On both English and math tests, students’ scores increased between 2015 and 2017 and spiked upward in 2018 before declining last year. The overall picture, they wrote, was “troubling.”

The consultants also raised questions about the nonprofit’s management and fiscal practices, adding that many of their concerns had surfaced more than a decade ago when the county board last tried to close one of the organization’s schools.

“It should be noted that concerns regarding conflicts of interest and self-dealing were significant bases for revocation 12 years ago,” the report stated. “Those concerns regarding conflicts of interest and self-dealing have continued to follow [Today’s Fresh Start] to this day.”

 

Earlier this year, LAUSD board member Scott Schmerelson revealed that 82% of the charter schools in Los Angeles have empty seats (no waiting lists).

Yet because of California’s charter-friendly environment, the privately managed schools continue to open.

A report in 2017 found that charters in Los Angeles are proliferating where they are not needed. 

The report points out that traditional school districts can’t build new schools when real or potential enrollment fails to justify expansion. But those rules don’t apply to charter schools, which can open anywhere and qualify for state funding or subsidies to build or lease facilities. The report says public funds helped open and sustain at least 450 charters in areas with plenty of existing classroom space.

“Paying for more schools than are needed wastes taxpayer dollars,” the report says. “Furthermore, an oversupply of schools serves to undermine the viability of any individual school.”

The latter argument has been made repeatedly by L.A. Unified officials, who say that rapid and widespread charter growth is one of several factors threatening the solvency of the nation’s second-largest school system.

The report’s lead researcher, Gordon Lafer, an associate professor at the University of Oregon’s Labor Education and Research Center, attributes the problem to a lack of clarity and vision in state policy.

Thomas Ultican, the chronicler of the Destroy Public Education movement, writes here about the calculated destruction of the Oakland Public School District, which has suffered at the hands and by the wallets of billionaires.

In 2003, the district had a deficit of $37 million.

The state forced the district to take out a loan of $100 million.

In return, the state took control of the district.

After six years of state control, the district’s deficit increased from $37 million to $89 million.

Unfortunately for Oakland, the billionaire Eli Broad decided to turn the district into his petri dish.

Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown welcomed the state takeover.

The Broadies romped.

A California central coast politician named Jack O’Connell was elected California’s Superintendent of Public Instruction in 2002. He selected Randolph Ward, a Broad Academy graduate, to be Oakland’s state administrator. When O’Connell ran for state superintendent, his largest campaign donors had been Netflix CEO Reed Hastings ($250,000), venture capitalist John Doerr ($205,000), and Eli Broad ($100,000). Brown described the state takeover as a “total win” for Oakland.

The Broadies of Oakland

2003-2017 Broad Academy Graduates and Superintendents of OUSD

Broad Academy graduates are often disparagingly called Broadies.

The OUSD information officer in 2003 was Ken Epstein. He recounts a little of what it was like when Ward became the administrator:

“I remember a school board meeting where Ward and the board were on stage. Each item on the agenda was read aloud, and Ward would say, “passed.” Then the next item was read. In less than an hour, the agenda was completed. At that point, Ward said, “Meeting adjourned” and walked out of the board room and turned out the lights, leaving board members sitting in the dark.”

When Ward arrived in Oakland, the district was in the midst of implementing the Bill Gates sponsored small school initiative which is still causing problems. The recently closed Roots that caused so much discontent in January was one of the Gates small schools. Ward opened 24 of them (250-500 students) which in practice meant taking an existing facility and dividing it into two to five schools. He closed fourteen regularly sized schools.

When Ward arrived in Oakland there were 15 charter schools and when he left for San Diego three years later there were 28 charter schools…

Kimberly Statham, who was a classmate of Ward’s at the Broad Academy, took his place in 2006. The following year a third Broad Graduate, Vincent Mathews took her place.

After a short period of no Broadie in the superintendent’s seat, Antwan Wilson was hired in 2014. Shortly after that, the New York Times reported that the Broad Foundation had granted the district $6 million for staff development and other programs over the last decade. The Broad Center also subsidized the salaries of at least 10 ex-business managers who moved into administrative jobs at the district office.

Kyla Johnson-Trammell, an Oakland resident who and educator with OUSD, was named to replace Antwan Wilson in 2017. When he left to lead the Washington DC’s schools, he left a mess in Oakland. Mother Jones magazine says Wilson saddled the district with a $30 million deficit. They continue, “A state financial risk report from August 2017 concluded that Oakland Unified, under Wilson, had ‘lost control of its spending, allowing school sites and departments to ignore and override board policies by spending beyond their budgets.”’

The preponderance of the problems in OUSD are related to the state takeover, FCMAT and the leadership provided by Broad Academy graduates.

The usual billionaires have selected several of the OUSD board members and showered them with donations from out-of-district and out-of-state.

The fundamental problem is Oakland has a dual education system with 37,000 students in public schools and 15,000 in charter schools. It costs more to operate two systems. Every school district in California that has more than 10% of their students in charter schools has severe financial problems. Oakland has the largest percentage of charter school students in the state with 29% so financial issues are the expectation.

This is an education crisis that was manufactured by the super wealthy and implemented by neoliberal politicians.

 

 

Summit Public Schools, a Bay Area chain of charter schools that receives tens of millions of dollars from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative and the Gates Foundation, found a way to skirt the intention of California’s recently passed charter transparency bill, SB 126. They held a board meeting 12/12/19 and only allowed six members of the public in the boardroom. Summit’s CEO said it was because allowing more of the public to join in person would “create an inappropriate working environment.” The rest of the 40 or so students, parents, and teachers who drove 30 miles to attend the meeting were shuttled into in a nearby Summit charter school to watch over video.
One provision of SB 126 requires charter management organizations with multiple campuses to establish two-way video-conferencing from each campus for their board meetings — with the intent of making these board meetings accessible — so that families, students, and teachers don’t have to travel hundreds of miles if they are not able to attend in person. It appears that Summit is using this provision to decrease transparency and democracy by preventing members of the public from being able to attend charter board meetings in person.
This was an important meeting because, last month, out of nowhere, Summit announced it was closing one of its schools, Summit Rainier, at the end of the school year, with seemingly little plan for what would happen to Rainier students. Summit educators, who recently unionized, have demanded to bargain for weeks about the impacts of this closure on Summit students, families, and teachers.
Students from Summit Rainier wanted to attend the meeting but were told to watch it in an adjoining room by video.
Student journalists wrote this article about being excluded from what should have been an open public meeting of the Summit board.
They got a lesson about what democracy is not.

Numerous community members prepared to attend today’s Summit Public Schools board meeting to discuss the closure of Summit Rainier but faced a surprise. Upon entering Home Office, where the board was meeting, they found out they had limited access to speaking to the board in-person. 

CEO Diane Tavenner informed the crowd a total of six people could enter the board meeting and the rest would have to watch from an overflow room at Summit Prep, a school building adjacent to the SPS Home Office. 

Jennifer Hall Lee lives in Pasadena, California. Her child is now enrolled in the high school, but Lee continues to volunteer and raise money for the middle school, where she is needed. In a note to me, she said that 45% of the students in Pasadena are attending private schools, charter schools, or home schooled. The public schools are suffering because of this splintering of civic energy.

She explained why she cares about the middle school:

The annual fund committee raises money throughout the year to help Eliot pay for teacher salaries, supplies, programs, technology and more–all of which keeps Eliot an arts magnet school. Annual funds, once the staple of private schools, are now necessary for many public schools. Pasadena Unified doesn’t receive money from a parcel tax and California ranks very low in per-pupil spending. Let me explain that by referring to the words of Pasadena School Board Member Pat Cahalan as he explains the funding disparity well: “Wisconsin funds public education at about $2,000 more per student. If California funded PUSD at that rate, the district would have over $30 million more every year.”

Eliot is a Title 1 school, which means that our student body is over 50% socio-economically disadvantaged. Moreover, we have to deal with reality: low statewide spending on students, no parcel tax, and misperceptions about PUSD. When the annual fund committee meets to discuss fundraising ideas, we have to deal with those three realities. They are in the room with us, underscoring our ideas as we decide which events to hold and what monies we can reasonably expect to raise. It’s difficult, but also joyful.

During the first year of the Eliot annual fund, we reached the goal of $50k; believe me, it was a huge lift. It took 12 months, but we succeeded, and I have to say this: we couldn’t have done it without everyone, including community members who had no children in Eliot but who participated, reached out to us, donated, and encouraged us. We are so grateful.

In today’s political climate we need everyone’s generosity and interest in our school to help us succeed. Children need to know that everyone in their community cares about them.