Archives for category: Los Angeles

The Los Angeles school board voted not to renew five charters, and required the removal of the leader of a sixth charter. That leader had acknowledged charging many thousands of dollars for first-class air travel, hotels, and meals while moonlighting as a scout for a pro basketball team.

Three of the five charters that were not renewed are a Gulen charters.

The five can appeal to the county board and the state board. They undoubtedly expect a reversal as the county board loves charters and the state board is under the thumb of pro-charter Governor Jerry Brown. After meeting him a few years ago, I thought he was a hero (especially after he railed against Race to the Top as an effort to subvert state control). But he turns out to be an admirer of privatization. He started two charters when he was mayor of Oakland, and he recently vetoed a bill to ban for-profit charters.

Here is a report on the meeting by Karen Wolfe, a parent activist. She points out that charter renewals will cost the district 6,000 more students, leading to more budget cuts. She expects the county board might overturn the school district’s non-renewal.

There is something creepy about the way charter students and parents are bused to hearings in matching T-shirts, obviously to intimidate the board or legislators. Call them the charter Orange Shirts. Charter Troopers. The charter leaders should stop using the kids as political pawns.

Howard Blume reports in the Los Angeles Times that the Los Angeles school board is considering closing three Gulen charter schools. The schools are part of the Magnolia Science Academy network of 10 schools.

The problem is that the schools rely heavily on a Turkish teachers brought in on temporary work visas.

The three charters now under review have five-year operating agreements that are expiring, and the L.A. Unified School District must either approve or deny their renewal applications. The official word, with no accompanying explanation, reached their campuses by email Tuesday afternoon: School district staff will recommend denial.

The Board of Education is expected to vote next Tuesday on the recommendations for Magnolia Science Academy 1 in Reseda, Magnolia Science Academy 2 in Van Nuys and Magnolia Science Academy 3 in Carson.

Magnolia’s schools have attracted increased attention in the wake of a failed coup in Turkey in July. The government of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has accused Turkish cleric Muhammed Fethullah Gulen of masterminding the revolt. Erdogan claims American charter schools with Turkish ties supported — and even helped fund — Gulen’s alleged activities.

L.A. Unified has not yet released its rationale for recommending that the schools’ renewal requests be denied. But sources inside and outside the district make it clear that one major issue is Magnolia’s foreign workers, most of whom came in to teach.

The school group applied to bring in 138 teachers from abroad, almost all from Turkey, and 97 eventually worked for Magnolia. Thirty-seven still do. As required by law, Magnolia covered the visa-related costs, which it estimated at about $3,000 per employee, and chose to pay for the visas of spouses and children.

L.A. Unified estimated the total cost of that effort at about $929,000, according to Magnolia Chief Executive Caprice Young, the former L.A. school board president who took over Magnolia in 2015.

Young said she ended the practice, though she has brought in a Chinese citizen to teach Chinese.

L.A. school board president Steve Zimmer, however, says Magnolia’s past actions remain a problem. Magnolia never indicated it intended to import teachers en masse, Zimmer said, when before the Board of Education for approval.

“The role of an authorizer includes making sure that a charter follows the instructional and business practices outlined in its petition,” said Zimmer, who declined to discuss the district’s internal report.

The significance of any alleged ties to Gulen is a matter of intense debate. The cleric, who lives in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania, has denied involvement in the coup. And Turkish-associated charter groups, including Magnolia, have denied financial or management ties with each other or with him.

Magnolia’s Turkish employees agreed to be interviewed only on condition of anonymity, out of fear that family members back home could be targeted in a wide-ranging crackdown on dissidents and suspected Gulen followers. Magnolia governing board member Umit Yapanel recently stepped forward as an admirer of Gulen, he said, to emphasize the peaceful intentions of like-minded people.

“In discussing whether the schools should be renewed, L.A. Unified officials will bring up the spending of public education funds on the visas, the employment of foreign nationals over American workers and the failure to disclose the hiring strategy, said district sources who were not authorized to speak on the record. The work visas, known by the designation H-1B, are supposed to be used only when no qualified American job seekers can be found.”

Like other Gulen schools, the Magnolia chain denies any ties to the Turkish Gulen movement yet is heavily staffed by Turkish teachers. Gulen schools typically have Turkish board members and in other states have been investigated for steering contracts to Turkish contractors and vendors.

Mercedes Schneider describes here the billionaire-funded plan to disrupt and privatize public education in Los Angeles, while deceiving the public and hiding the men behind the curtain.

Mercedes uses her superb investigative talents to follow the money and show the tight collaboration be tween the faux-Democrat Eli Broad and the far-right, union-hating Waltons of Arkansas.

She writes:

“It seems that the Walton-funded writing on the Los Angeles wall might well entail expanding charters as the answer to making all Los Angeles schools better. It also believes in bringing traditional school districts around to its market-driven-reform thinking via corporate-reform-group infiltration. Too, it seems that the Walton Foundation believes that grass roots support for its effort is a matter of getting the public mind in line with the Walton charter expansion priorities.

“The Walton intentions in incubating and expanding corporate reform fit hand-in-glove with the Broad intentions for Los Angeles. On its website, the Broad Foundation generously tosses around the term “public schools” even as it features KIPP, Success Academies, and Teach for America among its handful of “key grantees.” Furthermore, the Broad listing of current grantees is for the most part a corporate reform festival:

4.0 Schools
Achievement First
Achievement School District
Bellwether Education Partners
Bright Star Schools
Broad Center for the Management of School Systems
Building Excellent Schools
Center for American Progress
Central Michigan University Foundation
Charter School Growth Fund
Common Sense Media
Education Reform Now
Education Week
Great Public Schools Now
Green Dot Public Schools
Harvard University
IDEA Public Schools
Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP)
Leadership for Educational Equity
Michigan Education Excellence Foundation
Michigan State University – College of Education
National Alliance for Public Charter Schools
National Center on Education and the Economy
National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ)
Noble Network of Charter Schools
Orange County Public Schools
Partnership for Los Angeles Schools
Policy Innovators in Education Network
Progressive Policy Institute
Results in Education (RIE) Foundation
Scholarship Management Services
School of Visual and Performing Arts
Silicon Schools Fund, Inc.
Success Academy Charter Schools
Teach For America

“Note that Broad is currently funding ExED, and that Great Public Schools Now has two ExED reps on its board/team: William Siart and Anita Landecker. What this illustrates is the all-too-common corporate reform funding incest. (According to the Walton 2013 tax form, Walton has also given ExED $50,000, and the Waltons loaned ExED $5 million for Los Angeles charter school facility financing.)”

Karen Wolfe reports here on the surprising dilemma facing the Los Angeles school board: Whodunnit?

As has been reported, the principal of the El Camino Real Charter High School used the school’s credit card for his personal expenses. Apparently, there were other school officials who racked up heavy bills at the taxpayer’s expense. The principal billed the school credit card for first-class air travel, expensive meals, hotels, wine, and other luxuries. Now the school has been given a month to straighten out its financial mess.

Some commenters on this blog have said that if this were a public school principal, he would have been fired, not given a month to make things right.

At the recent school board meeting, defenders of the school said the school should not be blamed. They said that the school’s problem were the fault of the district for its failure to supervise the charter school!


This is like the old story of the man who murders his parents and then begs for the court’s mercy because he is an orphan.

Joshua Leibner wrote an open letter to celebrated author Ta-Nahisi Coates, with the expectation that Mr. Coates would never see the letter.

Leibner, an NBCT teacher in Los Angeles for 20 years, wrote this letter to counter an “open letter” that John Deasy had written to Ta-Nahisi Coates.

Leibner acknowledged that both of them were using the format to make a statement directed at the public, not the author.

He used his letter to excoriate Deasy and his fealty to the agenda of the Billionaire Boys Club.

If Deasy would like to respond to Joshua Leibner, I welcome his letter.

Carl Petersen, an education activist in Los Angeles, attended the school board meeting in Los Angeles where the plight of El Camino Real Charter High School and its ethics-challenged leaders was discussed. Peterson is running to defeat Monica Garcia, a charter cheerleader, in the next school board elections.

It is astonishing. Several defenders of the charter school spoke, and they said the board was picking on the school. No defense of the extravagant charges to the school’s credit car. Just attack the board for daring to investigate this school.

The El Camino Real Charter High School was a successful public high school; in 2011, it converted to charter status, and it is now a successful charter school.

But it has a big problem. Its principal and other top employees charged many thousands of dollars to the school’s credit card for expensive dinners, luxury hotels, and first-class air travel while moonlighting as a scout for a professional basketball team.

The school has been warned repeatedly, and now the school board is giving it one month to clean up the mess.

The case is one more example of tensions between the nation’s second-largest school system and its charter schools, which manage their own public funding and are free from some rules that govern traditional campuses. El Camino Real Charter High School was run by the district until 2011.

At last week’s meeting, board member Scott Schmerelson said El Camino as a charter remains “an excellent school.”

But it “is not a private school,” said Schmerelson, who represents the west San Fernando Valley area where the school is located. “It is a public school. They have to go by the same rules we do.”

The El Camino case could test the limits of that assertion. El Camino, for example, has declined to tell the district whether it has taken disciplinary action against Executive Director Dave Fehte, who has come under internal and external scrutiny. Such action could be considered a confidential personnel matter, to be kept even from L.A. Unified.

A report from the district’s charter school division accuses El Camino of demonstrating “an inability to determine how public funds are being used,” adding that “fatal flaws in judgment … call into serious question the organization’s ability to successfully implement the charter in accordance with applicable law and district requirements.”

According to L.A. Unified, a sampling of 425 credit card expenses from five El Camino employees, including Fehte, revealed that “countless expenses were incurred without adherence to any uniform procedure, and without verification of the necessary details.”

Apparently the charter school board thought that the school’s autonomy extended to its financial affairs. We will watch what happens.

Is it a public school or a publicly funded private school?

A 20-year veteran of the Los Angeles public school district, who is also NBCT, explains the Rafe Esquith situation here. The writer has the nom de plume of Geronimo. I know who he is; I have met him. But I am not telling.


Education has been on trial for a long time in Los Angeles.

We have seen it in many forms, most notably in how business interests in education trump pedagogical interests on many fronts…corporate technology, standardized testing, Charter Schools and billionaire influence on public policy.

The Los Angeles Unified School District is misnamed. It is not a “unified” entity. It can be divided in two using hoary Edu-Marxism (apologies, but I beg your indulgence!). There is the 1% at the top of the District apparatus (or apparatchiks) who control and set policy and then there are the actual educators who are supposed to be the reason for the season–but have been demonized by the structure that ostensibly is supposed to support their efforts.

On Wednesday, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge Wednesday denied LAUSD request to dismiss a defamation lawsuit brought by the internationally renowned fifth-grade teacher Rafe Esquith, whom they fired last October.

A veteran of the district for over 30 years, Esquith filed the defamation lawsuit against the district in August after he was placed on paid leave and assigned to “teacher jail” pending an internal investigation after a fellow teacher complained that Esquith made a joke about nudity in front of his students in regards to the production of “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” the students were performing.

Huck Finn began the entire sorry process that led to Esquith’s dismissal and the current class action suit against LAUSD; it is a top level farce that Twain would have ridiculed in his day but would not have been the least surprised about.

It is most helpful to think about the people who actually run LAUSD as proprietors of a brand that should be called LAUSD, Inc.

LAUSD, Inc. is not interested in good teaching. It is not interested in good pedagogy. It is not interested in what inspires students to want to learn.

LAUSD, Inc. is interested only in LAUSD, Inc. itself.

LAUSD Inc’s greatest concern is for its brand. The apparatus set up in LAUSD headquarters functions only to propagate a self-serving system. In Ken Kesey’s famous “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”, Chief, the deaf-mute Indian narrator, calls this system “The Combine.” Not that many of the people who run LAUSD have actually read that novel, but their day-to-day priorities are very different from what Education SHOULD and COULD be; it is much more mundane–the business of Education is the Business of education.

Alas, I also can not say with any confidence that many of the District’s top brass have actually read America’s most famous novel, Mark Twain’s “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”–the literature that got him into trouble in the first place. They would insist that it wasn’t part of their job description and irrelevant to their duties.

Without going down the rabbit hole of all the anti-education, anti-teacher, anti-student policies that LAUSD, Inc. has championed over the years, let us examine this one emblematic case that sort of sums up all that is wrong with how education is viewed by the LAUSD Corporation.

Rafe Esquith’s case should give people who are interested AND vested in true, meaningful education great pause.

Depressing as this telling fact is, I will not go into how completely unsurprising that not any single District Big Shot ever could make it down to Hobart Elementary School to watch Esquith’s magic in action. The author of many acclaimed bestselling books on teaching and an instructor responsible for changing hundred of young lives, his Room 56 had international guests and world class educators parade through marveling at his unconventional teaching methods–but nobody of any authority–not an LAUSD Superintendent nor even one solitary School Board member could be bothered to visit.

They were not interested in anything Hobart Shakespearean related.

Beaudry HQ gave it a big yawn.

The reality for LAUSD, Inc is, they couldn’t really care less what happens in a classroom–just don’t cause it any grief.

The LAUSD, Inc. brain trust in Beaudry is not made up of a bunch of smartypants.

This is not a group known for its inspired, intellectual curiosity.

This group who runs LAUSD, Inc. adhere to the same dynamic, corporate thinking that you would find populating the board rooms of Mobil Oil or Ralston-Purina.

Education–how you and I might think of it–does not disturb their machinations.

So much about Esquith’s case is troubling and indicative of a school district that has zero concern for the intellectual well-being of the students. If it did, LAUSD, Inc. would be championing a pedagogy VERY DIFFERENT from the one that they foist on LAUSD’s children. The leaderships view of what good education is in Rafe Esquith’s individual case is a personal tragedy for him; the leadership’s view of what “good education” is for the 600,000 students in their charge is a tragedy of grand proportions.

The investigators asked Esquith who he dated in college and who at the school disliked him. They asked for all his financial records since 2000. The “incriminating” evidence they used as the backbone from their case, the district searched his personal emails to obtain. According to the LA TIMES article, Esquith’s attorney, Ben Meiselas claimed that the emails were taken out of context. Elsa Cruz, one of Esquith’s former student whose email had been singled has denied that he ever sent her anything inappropriate as alleged in LAUSD’s charges. “The communications described in the statement of charges between Mr. Esquith and myself are small pieces of much larger conversations that are taken wholly out of context.” She claims that the district.”cherry-picked points “to depict our conversations as having an inappropriate or sexual nature that is completely inaccurate.”

This is the modus operendi of LAUSD. A little history lesson is in order before going back to Esquith:

In the dark days of Supt. John Deasy, the entire elected School Board was mum on his pedagogy and methodology. The Board gave him tacit cover to do whatever he wanted. It is not an exaggeration to say that Deasy went after teachers with a Dick Cheney zeal using David Holmquist, the District’s General Counsel, as his John Yoo to give him the legal cover.

This is a school system that offers cover to those at the very top. David Holmquist, whose base salary is $260,552, has fought vigorously to protect the District from any bad publicity and loyally served John Deasy’s call to purge hundreds–maybe thousands–of teachers from the ranks and vigorously prosecuted LAUSD’s Teacher Jail program. A different set of priorities and standards were devised by Holmquist for the those who screwed up and abused their positions if they were in District power offices.

Some in Los Angeles Unified were definitely more equal than others.

“I will never apologize for putting students’ interests ahead of teachers,” was Deasy’s righteous mantra during his tenure where this man arrogantly placed business and corporate interests ahead of both students and teachers time and time again. His moral courage was how much he could bully teachers such as Patrena Shankling and never to any person of power above him who was politically connected with money and influence.

If you are not sickened by what happened in Shankling’s classroom and believe that John Deasy should ever be allowed to be near educators OR children again, then you and I have very different standards of classroom behavior and decorum.

Like all of his patrons, Deasy was a man who never apologized and took great pride in his use of executive and autonomous power and privilege. This was encouraged by many of the management team whom he worked with at District Headquarters and rewarded.

Deasy enjoyed and served a life of patronage from powerful men who paid for his entire, hopscotch career through the moneyed power corridors of education. Even when he left LAUSD in abject disgrace where the toady LA TIMES editorial board could only manage to bluster about the tragedy of his downfall, he could count on the largess of the corporate benefactors who puffed up his churlish bravado. Currently, Deasy remains obscenely well-paid in the Fortress of Solitude of Eli Broad’s empire, an opulent private world where he answers to no one except the rich and powerful, re-emerging only as a paper phantom, issuing friend of the court briefs to Vergara and offering his insights to Edu Reform Managers-to-be.

One day there will be a full accounting for what happened to all those teachers and their “rights” and “due process” that LAUSD assured the public they received.

Sadly, if Rafe Esquith’s and the other hundreds of teachers in similar situations were just the work of John Deasy and David Holmquist, that would be bad enough.

The current LAUSD President Steve Zimmer, with chest thumping vigor, thundered in a campaign speech that he has proudly voted to fire EVERY SINGLE teacher who came before him for justice. Zimmer put on his most concerned, self-righteous face channeling some Texas Governor on steroids, stating that in his eyes, those hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of teachers were guilty and should not be teaching in his system.

There was zero doubt in his blankly, incurious mind.

Were the students of LA protected from a thousand dreadful teachers?


LAUSD, Inc was protected.

LAUSD claims Esquith’s emails weren’t hacked, so one supposes they got them off his school computer when they sealed his classroom and his personal account was open on it. Under the pretense of an investigation, LAUSD went through thousands upon thousands of personal emails to find evidence against him. It is a chilling abuse of employee privilege that claims that right. Obviously if they were a law enforcement agency, they couldn’t do that, but LAUSD doesn’t believe it is bound by the same rules of engagement.

It begs the question if any employee is safe from their employer going through every personal detail of their lives to render judgment on that individual.

Could anybody withstand someone going through twenty years worth of emails to figure their moral worth? Would something invariably crop up?

The emails of John Deasy and David Holmquist are scrupulously under lock and key.

Reading the entire 32 page document of LAUSD’s “case” against Esquith–and please do!– it clearly shows that they threw in EVERYTHING they had into their “findings”.


They didn’t leave anything out. What is also indicative of LAUSD’s mindset is the fact they STILL used the initial Huck Finn joke as part of their indictment against Esquith despite the ludicrous nature of that comment.

This is not the work of intelligent scholars in an academic institution.

This is the work of lawyers who want to get rid of an employee that has proven troublesome to the corporation.

David Holmquist is planning to appeal this latest ruling hoping to stem Esquith’s suit. Hopefully he will fail and the dark files will be open on what LAUSD, Inc has perpetrated over the years. The East German Stassi nature of those cases highlight the brute force and cruelty that LAUSD, Inc. perpetrated on so many teachers who thought they were working for an organization called Los Angeles “Unified” because it worked for the betterment of all–not just those on the corporate end.

I have no special insight to Esquith’s particular case, although the fairness and justice LAUSD, Inc. administers to its employees is eerily similar to the justice cops administer to poor neighborhoods compared to the inhabitants of rich ones.

You may be predisposed to place your faith in the justice and righteousness of LAUSD Inc.’s wisdom and sense of proper pedagogy.

So much of the intellectual evidence is contrary to granting that good will, however. In the cases of many teachers in the system, Deasy, Holmquist and the School Board have a finger on the scale that instinctively forces teachers to prove themselves worthy of their bankrupt leadership.

I’m as anxious as you are to see this Shakespearean play’s ending. Misuse of power, according to Shakespeare, never ends well.

Rafe Esquith has many admirers around the country. Rafe was a fifth grade teachers at the Hobart Elementary School in Los Angeles. He was fired by the district based on allegations of sexual misconduct. Rafe has demanded a trial. This week, a judge heard his request for a trial and LAUSD’s request to dismiss Rafe’s request. The judge ruled that the trial may move forward.

One of Rafe’s strongest supporters is Jay Mathews of the Washington Post. This is Jay’s account of Rafe’s current situation.

Rafe Esquith, the celebrated Los Angeles public school teacher and founder of the Hobart Shakespeareans, won an important legal victory. He is suing LAUSD, which fired him, as a class action on behalf of all teachers in the district who have been removed from their jobs and placed in limbo awaiting due process. LAUSD moved to dismiss his lawsuit, but the judge denied the district’s request. This brings the fifth-grade teacher to a trial of his claims.

JUST IN: Judge denies LA Unified request to dismiss lawsuit filed by fired teacher Rafe Esquith