Archives for category: California

Look west for hope!


The New York Times has a good article about the new generation of leaders in California who have the dynamism and energy to replace the aging lions, the national leaders who are now in their 70s.


The leaders of the party affirmed their intention to ward off the worst of Trump’s policies.


Previewing an adversarial relationship between California and the federal government over the next four years, legislative leaders opened a new session on Monday by vowing to preserve California’s liberal agenda and passing a resolution rejecting President-elect Donald Trump’s hardline immigration stance.
Members of both houses directly confronted Trump’s tough-on-immigration rhetoric, which has included calls to deport millions and block immigration by Muslims. Lawmakers passed a resolution that says “California stands unified in rejecting the politics of hatred and exclusion” and exhorts Trump “to not pursue mass deportation strategies that needlessly tear families apart, or target immigrants for deportation based on vague and unjustified criteria.”
“We have all heard the insults, we have all heard the lies, and we have all heard the threats,” said Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, D-Paramount, adding of an undocumented immigrant population that is the nation’s largest, “if you want to get to them, you have to go through us.”
Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, opened his chamber’s business by accepting the election results but rebuffing Trump. He urged Trump and the Republican-controlled Congress to “treat immigrant families and children humanely, with a modicum of dignity and respect.”
“They are hard-working, upstanding members of our society who contribute billions of dollars to our economic activity and tax revenue to our state each year,” de León said.
The immediate challenge to Trump drew criticism from Republican members who said Democrats were demonizing a man who had not yet taken office. Assemblywoman Melissa Melendez, R-Lake Elsinore, said the tactic “seeks to flare up tension between communities.”
“To throw down a gauntlet and say ‘here we go’ without ever having time to discuss this” is inappropriate, said Assemblyman Rocky Chavez, R-Oceanside.
But dark warnings about the coming Trump administration set the tone, with Assemblyman Marc Levine, D-San Rafael, saying the president-elect had advocated “ethnic cleansing policies.”
With fiery language that broke from his usually staid public demeanor, Rendon said California faces a “major existential threat.” He spurred raucous applause for an apparent dig at Trump aide Stephen Bannon, saying that “white nationalists and anti-Semites have no business working in the White House.” Bannon’s Breitbart website has drawn admiration from nationalists and opponents of multiculturalism as well as criticism for pushing bigotry into mainstream discourse.
“It is up to us to pass policies that would firewall Californians and what we believe from the cynical, short sighted, and reactionary agenda that is rising in the wake of the election,” Rendon said, adding that “unity must be separated from complicity…Californians do not need healing. We need to fight.”

Mike Klonsky has some thoughts about why Antwan Wilson, superintendent of schools in Oakland, left his $400,000 a year job to take Kaya Henderson’s job in the District of Columbia.

It can’t be for the money. He will probably earn about the same, maybe more.

Could be because he is a Broadie, and Broadie don’t set down roots in any community.

Must be for the visibility.

The people in D.C. credited him with raising test scores in Oakland, but he was only in Oakland for two years.

He will bring some Broadie ideas with him that folks in D.C. were not expecting, like trying “to dismantle special education.” Although, having weathered nine years of Rhee-Henderson policies of high-stakes testing and privatization, they must have some idea of what they will be getting. More of the same.

Joshua Leibner is a National Board Certified Teacher in Los Angeles. He wrote this post.

The elephant in the room of School Reform, is, the Elephant.

When Republican Donald Trump announced his choice of Betsy DeVos to serve as his Education Secretary, The California Charter Schools Association wrote: [We] congratulate Betsy DeVos, a longtime supporter of charter schools, on her appointment as Secretary of Education. Mrs. DeVos has long demonstrated a commitment to providing families with improved public school options and we look forward to working with the administration on proposals allowing all students in California to access their right to a high quality public education.

If you have one ounce of Progressivism in your blood, that mealy-mouthed congratulations would create a lethal dose of moral leukemia. This disgusting endorsement of DeVos, a person who is one of the most hateful, gay demolishing, anti-child, free market embracing, Big Business darling, reveals clearly to Californians who CCSA is and who they put their faith in.

I’ll leave it to other columns to specifically go through all her contemptible sins in the world of education. Those yucky particulars are not the concern of this column: Betsy DeVos as emblematic of the entire Reform Education movement is my focus.

DeVos is the rich and ignorant School Reform Education Secretary that the entire School Reform movement and CCSA have pined for. Yes, they also got the President they implicitly yearned for–but more importantly, they now have the education ideology that is their entire raison d’etre and central to their cause.

In President-Elect Donald Trump (and especially in Vice President Mike Pence), they see the opportunity to have their public policy way on the federal level and translate it to local jurisdictions nationwide.

The bottom line here in California? Our Democrat candidates can no longer accept CCSA money pretending that this organization doesn’t represent America’s most heinous politics.

To be clear, there is zero degrees of separation between CCSA and the Koch Brothers.

The one great truth that Donald Trump did reveal was in the first GOP debate. There he honestly said that he “bought” politicians because he was a businessman and that’s what he is supposed to do.

CCSA is a business. A huge multi-billion dollar business.

CCSA plays both sides of the fence. It has bought the Democrats for Education Reform as well as a veritable Who’s Who of the most evil Republicans in the game today.

CCSA knows full well the disgusting, hateful, chauvinistic, anti-women, anti-immigrant, pro-life, pro-unregulated firearms, pro-rich corporate giveaways platforms of MANY of the people who support their and give it its lifeblood. They have endorsed some terrible Republicans who make life miserable for so many Californians in other economic, judicial and quality-of-life portions of their lives.

CCSA and its dark money allies give to Reform candidates across our state.

If the Democrats insist that Trump repudiate the Neo-Nazi’s and White Supremacist groups who have embraced his cause, the Democrats of California need to strongly repudiate the vile money, support and influence of CCSA. They are not fascists, but their ties to the Right and those who seek to fundamentally reshape America to regressive ends, should give concerned liberals pause.

Mike Pence is a hero to School Reformers. Pence’s home state of Indiana, is not only fraught with the dark perils of School Reform in hyper-drive, but a place where women, gays and minorities fear for their safety and liberties.

CCSA’s mouth piece in California, Campbell Brown’s The 74, is where many in the Republican Party have found a happy home. The LA School Report is owned by them and its former owner “liberal” multi-millionaire Jamie Alter-Lynton has happily partnered with Republicans who are anathema to Civil Rights, gay rights and economic justice proponents. Worse, they are proud of their associations with these politicians as long as they vote on the one issue they care about most: Education Reform. They cozy up to some of the most loathsome politicians in America.

Thus we get Betsy DeVos.

Betsy DeVos is seen as a messiah that will push through their agenda nationwide.

What does the Charter School and Ed Reform Movement share much in common with the current President Elect and many Republicans? Forgive my bluntness, but they love the Jerk Autocrat.

Look at the type of preening, aggressive narcissists whom the GOP admires: Chris Christie, Rudy Giuliani, Newt Gingrich, Scott Walker and Ted Cruz. These are men who take particular delight in their tough, bad-ass, in-you-face bravado.

To be fair, the movement also loves tough-talkin’ Reform Democratic Jerks like Rahm Emanuel who qualifies as a Republican on the Arrogance Scale. School Reform, like the GOP, adore these personalities. Flexi-Democrat and uber-autocrat, Michelle Rhee, interviewed for the Ed Secretary position with Trump, and offered her support and enthusiastic endorsement of DeVos as well. The very first person’s name floated was New York’s Success Academy’s Eva Moskowitz, the Big Stick swinging Charter operator, who also has sung DeVos’s virtues.

The fealty to the wealthy, entrepreneur class is a hallmark of Education Reform. Billionaire DeVos contributed almost $10 million to Trump and is rewarded with her dream assignment. THIS is precisely business as usual and anyone who believes that Trump is going to combat the system that has rewarded him so handsomely is waiting for Godot. The billionaires used a rigged Republican/Wall Street tax system they fueled to reap untold fortunes exploiting a system that exploits the rest of society—and after a lifetime of plundering that system, live long enough to receive the holy civic term “philanthropist” from the impoverished public sector.

Here in LA, we have these autocratic personalities like Eli Broad (and in fact, his whole Broad Academy Superintendent philosophy is basically how to be a CEO Asses in the schools). Eli Broad and Donald Trump, knew how to game a system for themselves and pay off people of both parties to further their personal fortunes. In both cases, “Moral Politics” and “Ethics” were not high priorities in each of their wealth gathering operations.

Broad’s star pupil here was former LAUSD Superintendent, John Deasy, who never missed a chance to assert his authority, relishing despicable delight in exercising his bullying personality.

In contrast, these rich people have no fear of speaking their truth to labor, to unions and the teaching profession. These rich American titans claim the moral authority to speak on the behalf of the working class and the communities of color. Their grand designs for re-working education continues to favor a certain class and color of people, while never displaying a modicum of humility in their engineering.

Betsy DeVos is the epitome of the wealthy’s hubris and their oligarchic approach to education.

Trump’s selection of DeVos was as if Hollywood contacted Central Casting to provide CCSA with a person who would accurately mirror their Portrait of Dorian Gray. Her portrait is indeed reprehensible. DeVos’s beliefs of white privilege, class entitlement, stomach-churning religious imperative, grand American Exceptionalism/racist “manifest destiny” imperatives are the backbone of the charter school industrial complex.

Michelle Rhee who actually interviewed for the Ed Secretary position with Trump, offered her support and endorsement of DeVos as well.

Most Democratic candidates are quick to protect undocumented Latino children or claim that gay rights is sacrosanct here–not particularly tough positions for a Democrat in California. There are many CCSA Democrat candidates who espouse education policies that are cooked in the putrid stew of Right Wing economic and pedagogical philosophy. Predictably, they would not be happy about GOP’s barbaric social agenda, but CCSA would have any problem if any assortment of nightmarish GOP politicians controlled American education: Scott Walker? Jeb Bush? Sam Brownback? Rick Scott? Bobby Jindal? Mike Pence (they got their wish here).

In matters of education, CCSA and the Right are simpatico.

The CCSA throws enormous amount of money backing candidates across our state. Look who gratefully and self-righteously takes their money “in the name of the kids”. Think about what other positions the Ed Reform Money is supporting through their chosen candidates across the nation. Many of these politicians have a view of America and justice that is the antithesis to what Progressives demand.

It is disingenuous to believe yourself “liberal” and embrace the ideology of CCSA. There is no separation between them and who else supports them.

Again, this debate among Democrats is a long time coming. In California, where we are basically a One Party state, corporate money and influence goes to a certain sort of centrist Democrat who will back their policies. These are the Democrats who don’t care about what other policies their proponents support-or refuse to see the connection between their Education cause and the other rest of the Right’s Agenda for America.

Follow that money.

Follow that money.

Follow that money.

CCSA contributions to the Corporate Democrats in California (on the state and local level)…but elsewhere, out of the confines of our Blue World, it’s CCSA’s sister organizations that are supporting whatever Right Wing monster runs the unfortunates in other states.

If you think Donald Trump and Mike Pence are wrong about everything else in America, but got it dead right on what America’s students require, then you really can compartmentalize as delusionally as the folks who take CCSA money.

People who think of themselves as Progressives don’t have that luxury.

This is unbelievable!


The California Charter School Association pretends to be fighting for the civil rights of children by pushing school choice and undermining public schools.


Yet it wrote a note congratulating the Billionaire Queen of Vouchers, Betsy DeVos, on her nomination to be Secretary of Education:


The California Charter Schools Association congratulates Betsy DeVos, a longtime supporter of charter schools, on her appointment as Secretary of Education. Mrs. DeVos has long demonstrated a commitment to providing families with improved public school options and we look forward to working with the administration on proposals allowing all students in California to access their right to a high quality public education.


Let’s be clear. DeVos is first and foremost a supporter of vouchers. When vouchers are not available, because voters don’t approve them (as in her home state of Michigan), she supports charters. She doesn’t necessarily support “high-quality charters,” she supports low-quality charters, no-quality charters, and for-profit charters. Last spring, she and her husband spent nearly $1.5 million in campaign contributions to block legislative efforts to make charter schools accountable. Detroit is her petri dish; it is the lowest-performing urban district in the nation on NAEP measures. In addition, she and her family have also devoted large sums to anti-gay legislative campaigns.


How hypocritical can CCSA be?




This is a statement by Parents United for Public Schools, on the news that their Superintendent is moving to D.C.



“Parents United for Public Schools released the following statement on the announced departure of OUSD Superintendent Antwan Wilson:



“The departure of Superintendent Antwan Wilson midway through his contract to lead our schools presents Oakland with a unique opportunity to learn from the mistakes of the past, and select a new leader who is committed to making a difference in our students’ lives and who will stay in Oakland long enough to see those changes through.


“The past two years have seen a decline in enrollment while upper-level administrative salaries have skyrocketed more than 500%. Major changes in the Programs for Exceptional Children and Student Enrollment have come without meaningful input from parents, teachers, staff or community, and the departure of long time administrators has further destabilized the district. Planning for major district initiatives has been made in closed meetings with charter leaders, but without input from our public school community. It is time for our District to put our public schools first by hiring a superintendent who believes in our public school system, who will work to create true community schools that will support and educate the whole child, and who will stay at least long enough to see those changes through.


“We call on the School Board to conduct an open and transparent search for a new superintendent in partnership with those most impacted by District policies: students, parents, teachers, staff and true community-based organizations. Our children deserve a leader with deep connections to Oakland, a strong belief in its public schools and a commitment to following through with the transformation of OUSD as a quality full-service community school district.”


The charter industry in California never has a shortage of money or will for power. It spent more than $19 million on legislative races and won almost all of the ones it sought to purchase. After the results came in, charter industry spokesmen gloated that voters were on their side.

If they really believed that, they wouldn’t have to spend so much to buy seats.

With Trump in power, the California Charter School Association can celebrate the advance of privatization.

A history teacher at Mountain View High School in Mountain View, California, was suspended after comparing the rise of Trump to the rise of Hitler.

“Frank Navarro, who’s taught at the school for 40 years, was asked to leave midday Thursday after a parent sent an email to the school expressing concerns about statements Navarro made in class. Mountain View/Los Altos High School District Superintendent Jeff Harding confirmed the incident Friday but declined to describe the parent’s complaints.

“Navarro, an expert on the Holocaust, said school officials declined to read him the email and also declined his request to review the lesson plan with him.

“This feels like we’re trying to squash free speech,” he said. “Everything I talk about is factually based. They can go and check it out. “It’s not propaganda or bias if it’s based on hard facts.”

“Though Navarro said school officials originally told him to return on Wednesday, Harding said he could return as early as Monday….

“Navarro, who is Mexican-American and was raised in Oakland, said he’s concerned for many of his students during this political climate.

“I’ve had Mexican kids come and say, ‘Hey, Mr. Navarro, I might be deported,’ ” he said.

“Is it better to see bigotry and say nothing? That’s what the principal was telling me (during our conversation). In my silence, I would be substantiating the bigotry.”

You may recall the Livermore Charter Schools in Livermore, California. In August, some 500 students fled the charters and returned to the public schools in the district.

Now the company that runs the charter schools has filed for Chapter 11 protection in bankruptcy proceedings. This enables them to default on their bonds and save money while they reorganize financially.

The two Livermore charters recently had seen a mass exodus of students to the local school district. On Nov. 14, the Livermore Valley Joint Unified School District plans on opening a satellite elementary school for more than 300 students coming from the charter school. In August, about 400 students from both the K-8 charter and high school left the charter schools for district schools.

A TVLC spokesman at the time denied the amount of students, and claimed that the district was inflating the numbers.

TVLC interim CEO Lynn Lysko said in a statement to parents on Tuesday that filing for bankruptcy was the first step in debt reorganization for the company.

Lysko said TVLC will continue to operate while “an agreement to reorganize their debit is negotiated with creditors and approved by the Federal Court.”

The company will have 120 days to propose a plan of debt reorganization, she said.

“TVLC’s action today is the next step in the organization’s work to clean up its fiscal house and directly address the concerns of the districts,” Lysko said.

The Bond Buyer reported (behind a paywall):

In a letter posted to the company’s website, interim chief executive officer Lynn Lysko explained that she inherited a multi-million dollar deficit when she took the interim CEO job six months ago and that the school has already made drastic cutbacks including a 70% management staff reduction.

Bondholders are the ones that stand to take a hit in the reorganization, because the school has already settled up with nearly all other creditors including the state pension plan.

The company has about $42 million of outstanding bond debt issued in 2012 and 2015 through the California School Finance Authority, according to financial documents filed on the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board’s EMMA website, and it is that debt that the company hopes to reorganize.

“The vast majority of TVLC’s debt relates to the 2012 bonds and a 2015 lease agreement for school site renovation that were incurred under previous management,” Lysko wrote. “The present restructuring will allow TVLC to reorganize that debt in a responsible manner.”

Charters are a risky investment.

Investigative reporter Bill Raden of Capitol & Main exposes the political machinations of the billionaire-funded charter industry, which wants more kids, more schools, more market share. Enough is never enough.

Expenditures by charter school lobbying groups was near $24 million, pumped into 35 legislative races. The charter industry wants to buy influence to protect its market share.

Raden writes:

California’s “school choice” movement has always benefited from generous subsidies by a narrow spectrum of big-spending entrepreneurs, many of whom are billionaires. Their wealth has helped give the state the highest number of charter schools in the U.S., even as their election largess has left it with the nation’s most expensive school board elections.

Capital & Main’s analysis of the latest campaign-finance records for the five largest charter school IECs reveals that those same personal fortunes are at the center of the charters’ apparent attempt to buy some Sacramento political insurance against a growing resistance among both lawmakers and the public to the industry’s unbridled expansion in the state.
The amount spent by charter IECs represents about $40 for each of California’s 581,100 charter school students, and a 300 percent jump from 2014 charter election spending — about 570 percent over 2012.

Most of the charters’ IE spending (88 percent) was directed by three committees that served as the 501(c)(4) political arms of industry lobbyists California Charter School Association (CCSA) and EdVoice, the charter school advocacy nonprofit founded by Netflix CEO Reed Hastings: CCSA’s California Charter Schools Association Advocates IE Committee, and the Parent Teacher Alliance (sponsored by the CCSA’s IEC); and the EdVoice Independent Expenditure Committee. (Neither EdVoice nor CCSA responded to requests to comment for this article.)

The remainder was distributed by the Govern for California Action Committee, a PAC controlled by anti-public-pension gadfly and neoliberal Democrat David Crane; and by Parents and Teachers for Student Success – StudentsFirst, the IEC of the national pro-charter group founded by Michelle Rhee.

“They’re investing heavily in maintaining a deregulated environment,” said United Teachers Los Angeles Secretary Daniel Barnhart before the election. “This really isn’t about kids. In their own words, they say it’s about market share.”
He may be right. Though the teachers union spent nearly $33 million on the election, the bulk of that (around $20 million) went to Proposition 55, the education-funding measure that aimed to benefit all California classrooms — both charter and public school students. The charter IECs spent solely on pro-charter legislative and school board candidates.

The unions spent money to support education, both for public schools and charter schools. The charter industry spent only to protect its future prospects for opening more charters and draining more resources from public schools.

Governor Jerry Brown is the ultimate protector of the charter industry. He vetoed a bill to block the educationally disastrous for-profit online charter industry. And he vetoed other bills to rein in charter abuses.

The industry may have become more aggressive this year because the public is growing wary of its promises, its scandals, and its propaganda. The ACLU issued a blistering report about charters in California, and the NAACP call for a moratorium on charters was a body blow to billionaires who think they are in the forefront of the civil rights movement. They are not.

This greedy, self-absorbed industry has overplayed its hand. The public is catching on. The billionaires will have to spend more to buy more legislative seats to stave off a public uprising against them.

Dark money leads to dark actions.

The usual billionaires are funding a campaign to put pro-charter candidates on the Oakland school board.

Rather than openly debate the issues, they have attacked a school board member with negative ads and flyers.

Dark money is turning School Board races into ugly, partisan elections, not divided by party but by allegiance to either democratically controlled schools or privatization.