Archives for category: Los Angeles

Michael Kohlhaas, the blogger who has used the California Public Records Act to obtain emails among charter leaders, the California Charter Schools Association, and their enablers, reveals here what happened when protestors shut down a charter board meeting last March, accusing the charter school of taking money from the nefarious Eli Broad and the Waltons. Broad and Walton have a shell takeover corporation deceptively titled “Great Public Schools Now,” whose goal is to turn public schools into privately managed charter schools. The leader of the Extera Charter School did not directly answer the question, but Kohlhaas answers it now. Yes, the charter did take money from the Waltons and Broad.

The public is getting wise to the deceptive tactics of the charter lobby. Public schools are accountable and transparent. Charter schools are not. Public schools are audited and overseen by public officials. Charter schools answer to no one but their self-selected private boards.

Kohlhaas writes:

So you probably heard about how activists from Centro CSO and the United Teachers of Los Angeles and Eastside Padres Unidos Contra la Privatizacion protested vigorously and shut down the March 19, 2019 meeting of the Extera Charter Conspiracy Board of Directors to express their opposition to Extera’s colonial co-location at Eastman Avenue Elementary School in Boyle Heights.

And one of the key exchanges was between a protester, whose name I don’t know, and self-proclaimed doctor and supreme Extera commander Jim Kennedy, and you can watch it here.1 The backstory is that Corri Ravare had been talking previously about how Extera was getting some money from famous Walton/Broad privatizing front organization Great Public Schools Now, which, as the protester notes, is extraordinarily revealing with respect to which team Extera plays for.2

The protester called Dr. Jim Kennedy out on this and he denied that they had taken any money from GPSN: “At this point we have not …” But the truth, as the protester said, is that Corri Ravare had already “said we pretty much have the money.” And the problem with this? Well, clearly, it is that “Great Public Schools Now have declared themselves an enemy of public education. Those are the people we have to work against because they are selling out our public schools to Eli Broad and the Walton Foundation.”

She’s absolutely right about that, of course, and Doctor Jim Kennedy seems to understand that, or at least to realize that Extera’s association with GPSN doesn’t look so good. No doubt this is why he went on to tell her straight out that “[Extera has] not yet accepted that money.” But, as you may already have guessed, Doctor JK is being extraordinarily deceptive here with his mumbled half-denials. In fact Extera had been actively pursuing money from GPSN since December 2018, four months before the date of this meeting.

And the money they were pursuing was not innocuous. Not meant for important things like supplies, textbooks, instructional materials, anything at all to be used to actually educate actual children. They were seeking money from GPSN’s charter school expansion funding program for a planning grant to support their continued colonial charter conspiracy expansion, this time into the majority-Latino Montebello Unified School District. In other words, the protester’s criticism was right on target.

Things are going badly for the charter industry when their mask of beneficence is stripped away and behind it are the same voracious billionaires, eager to strip democratic control away and privatize public schools.

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.

Courtney Everts Mykytyn was a force of nature in Los Angeles, where she led the fight for racially integrated schools. She founded an organization called “Integrated Schools,” which posted on its Facebook page the news of her tragic death in an automobile accident on Monday. She was struck and killed in front of her home.

Go to the website to read more about Integrated Schools and its mission. 

To learn more about this remarkable woman, read this recent interview.

 

There are many ways in which nonprofit charters make a profit. Most involve complex real estate transactions and such things as “triple net leases” which are hard for the public to understand. Such deals often involve a charter operator owning or leasing the real estate and renting it to the charter school at exorbitant rates, with the public footing the bill.

Michael Kohlhaas has discovered another ingenious way that allegedly nonprofit charter operators extract money from their operations. 

He describes the case of a charter operator in Los Angeles who sold his “receivables” soon after getting his charter.

Kohlhaas writes:

The idea is very simple. A charter school has guaranteed future income in the form of payments from the state. They sell those payments to a finance company at a discount.

The finance company also charges a transaction fee. So for instance, if a charter has enrollment worth $1,000,000 they might sell those future payments for $980,000 now, which is less 2%. That means that $20,000 of public money, meant to educate children, has just evaporated into some zillionaire’s pocket for no reason, with no social benefit, nothing.2

This is usury. Payday loans for putatively public institutions. It’s textbook predatory lending with the unique distinction that both the borrower and the lender are teaming up to prey on a third party, which is the public. And, as I said, none of this is theoretical. Excelencia Charter Academy actually did this last year, which was their first year in operation.

It was obviously part of the plan all along, because founder Ruben Alonzo began arranging the sale within six weeks of receiving his approval from LAUSD. Read the details in this email chain. And keep this story in mind next time some charter minion starts burbling on about putting kids first and the putative efficiency of the private sector. Their financial model includes skimming a percentage of public money for no reason other than to enrich their cronies. This, friends, is not what efficiency looks like.

The company that handled the transaction for Excelencia is called Charter Asset Management, and this is only one of the incredibly shady sounding services that they offer to charter schools. They’re also not alone in this business. Another such company, which also buys receivables, is Charter School Capital. This one is even shadier than the other, founded as it was by an actual charter school operator who then used it to buy the receivables from his own school, thus pocketing the transaction fees himself.

Kohlhaas used the state’s public records act to obtain a huge trove of emails sent by charter operators, and he has mined them for posts like this one.

This is a big difference between a public school and a charter school. Would it be legal for a public school principal to sell the “receivables” for his or her school? Of course not. She would be charged with a crime and sent to jail.

 

Michael Kohlhaas, blogger in Los Angeles, writes here about a charter leader who harassed a teacher who protested his staff’s lack of qualifications.

Excelencia Charter Academy is yet another creepy little charter school run by yet another shockingly unqualified creepy little galaxy-brained grifter, this one known as Ruben Alonzo, going about the place making creepy little announcements of delusionally impending disruptive excellence while lining his creepy little pockets with public money1 at the expense of the actual human children that the state legislature, for reasons they’re going to have to answer for eventually, has seen fit to place into his care.

In this regard Alonzo is much like Sakshi Jain, shockingly unqualified founder of the ill-fated GANAS Academy, whose plan to co-locate on the campus of Catskill Elementary School conjured up such a monumental hurricane of activist opposition and scorn that, it appears, she has had to put her school’s opening on hold while she slinks back to her lair to soothe her metaphorical wounds with a salve made of equal parts boorish self-pity and Walton family megabucks.

Unlike Jain, though, Alonzo did actually manage to open his school. In the Fall of 2018 as it happens and, like Jain’s fiasco, co-located, in this case on the campus of Sunrise Elementary School in Boyle Heights. And like Jain’s folly Alonzo’s weirdo little project conjured up some opposition, most publicly from Sunrise Elementary teacher Mimi Guzman-Duncanson.

Duncanson famously parked her SUV out in front of the school covered in flyers advertising the appalling lack of qualifications of Excelencia’s teachers, let alone Ruben Alonzo, the self-proclaimed founder. Duncanson’s protest was covered in the Los Angeles Timesand by Jason McGahan, writing in The Baffler.

You can see a picture of Maestra Duncanson2 with her minivan somewhere near this sentence.That picture and another like it came from a huge set of emails released to me recently by Alonzo pursuant to the California Public Records Act.3 And if it looks like hostile photography, like surveillance, well, that’s because that’s precisely what it is. It turns out that aggressively callow hellbaby Ruben Alonzo just could not deal with the fact that anyone at all dared to question his galaxy-brained 29 year old self.

 

Many school districts have had unfortunate experiences with “Broadies,” the graduates of Eli Broad’s management program for future school leaders. The Broad Leadership Academy has sent forth hundreds of would-be superintendents to impose Broad’s top-down management style, his faith in data, and his belief that the best way to reform a public school is to close it and replace it with a privately managed charter school. Broad is one of the major funders of charter schools in the nation. Although he graduated from the public schools of Detroit, he has zero interest in public schools other than as objects for privatization. In my 2010 book, The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education, I referred to the Broad Foundation, the Gates Foundation, and the Walton Foundation as the Billionaire Boys Club. Since then, I have discovered that the club has dozens of billionaire members, and a few (think Alice Walton) are Girls, not Boys. All, however, share an animus toward public schools and a passion for privatization of what belongs to the public.

The big news is that Eli Broad has given $100 million to Yale University to administer his efforts to train future leaders of schools. It is not clear where the faculty will come from, since the Broad training program is unaccredited and is led by Broad allies, not academicians or scholars.

Now the graduates will be accredited, but their degree won’t mean much unless the philosophy of the program  changes from its current emphasis on DPE (“Destroy Public Education”) to SPE (“Support Public Education”). That change is hard to imagine. If you want to see the fruits of Broad’s distorted thinking, look no farther than Detroit and Oakland, where Broad-trained leaders encouraged (or imposed in the case of Oakland) massive charter expansion, a goal shared with Betsy DeVos. Michigan’s Education Achievement Authority, whose leadership he selected, collapsed in failure.  Oakland continues to suffer from the disruptive actions of Broadie leaders. His efforts to hand half of the students in Los Angeles over to charter schools have thus far been foiled.

Read Mercedes Schneider’s account of the multiple failures associated with Eli Broad’s agenda. 

Eli Broad is aggressive in using his money and policy agenda to destabilize and disrupt public education.

Here is the press release from the Broad Foundation/Broad Center, with the usual puffery and zero admission of the failed policies (privatization, school closings, high-stakes testing, VAM) that Broad and the graduates of his program have inflicted on American schools over most of the past two decades.

 

The Broad Center Will Become Part of Yale University to Train Future Generations of Public School Leaders

$100 Million Donation from The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation will Fund The Broad Center at the Yale School of Management to Offer Tuition-Free Master’s Degree to Emerging Education Leaders and Advanced Management Training to Superintendents and Senior Leaders in Public School Systems

 

Los Angeles, CA – With a gift of $100 million to Yale University, The Broad Foundation today reaffirms its commitment to public K-12 education and makes possible the launch of a major new initiative of the Yale School of Management focused on strengthening leadership in public education. Building on transformative work by The Broad Center in Los Angeles, the initiative will ensure in perpetuity high-impact programs to advance excellence and equity in education.

 

The Broad Center at Yale SOM will develop research, teaching, and policy initiatives devoted to improving the effectiveness of top leaders in America’s public school systems. The ambitious initiative will leverage Yale SOM’s expertise in delivering rigorous management education to talented professionals in fields that have broad societal impact, while furthering and amplifying the previously independent Broad Center’s mission of ensuring high-quality leadership in public education.

 

“I’m very proud of what we’ve accomplished in the last 20 years and I can think of no better future for The Broad Center than Yale University,” said Eli Broad.

 

The gift is the largest ever received by the Yale School of Management and will enable the creation of a master’s degree program for emerging public education leaders and advanced leadership training for top school system executives—successors to The Broad Residency in Urban Education and The Broad Academy, respectively. The Broad Center at Yale SOM will also develop extensive research endeavors aimed at assembling the premier collection of data on public education leadership.

 

“With its mission to educate leaders for business and society, Yale SOM is a natural home for The Broad Center,” said Yale SOM Dean Kerwin Charles. “We have long recognized public education as critical to the health of our communities, and we believe that our distinctive approach to management education and research can have tremendous impact. Our efforts will build on the extraordinary work of The Broad Center team over the past two decades. Indeed, we are impressed by and grateful for what they have done to advance excellence and equity in public education.”

 

The Broad Foundation has learned through its 20 years of investing in public education that schools alone can’t solve for the inequities, indignities, and challenges facing students from underserved communities: Having The Broad Center housed at Yale SOM means all of its programs can be enhanced with input from Yale University’s leading thinkers in management, public health, law, child development, policy, criminal justice and economic development. The center will draw on the experiences and insights of practitioners, including Broad Center alumni and Yale SOM graduates, to help guide and inform its efforts in both teaching and research.

 

“I am honored that The Broad Foundation is entrusting Yale to carry out this important part of Eli and Edye’s philanthropic legacy. Educating leaders who will serve all sectors of society is part of Yale’s mission, so it is fitting that the Yale School of Management is creating a master’s degree program tailored to delivering management and leadership training that meets the unique needs of public education,” said Yale President Peter Salovey. “The school’s dedication to leadership education and cultivation is unmatched. Its track record of producing transformational leaders across a range of fields speaks to the tremendous promise of the new Broad Center at Yale SOM.”

 

The two programs of The Broad Center, The Broad Academy (founded in 2002) and The Broad Residency in Urban Education (founded in 2003), have trained more than 850 education leaders working in over 150 urban school districts, public charter school networks and state education agencies nationwide. More than 150 Broad Center leaders have served as superintendents or chief executives of local and state systems, and over 70 are currently in these roles. Each program has made great strides in building a diverse network of leaders that better represent the students and families they serve.

 

“The Broad Center has been committed to evaluating and evolving its work since it was founded – continuous improvement is in our DNA,” said Becca Bracy Knight, Executive Director of The Broad Center. “Organizational leadership has a direct effect on school quality, which is why The Broad Center has worked for two decades to elevate the field of public education management. We look forward to new opportunities to increase our impact by combining each organization’s unique and complementary strengths in service of our shared mission to improve public education.”

 

The current cohorts of fellows and residents will finish their programs through The Broad Center as currently structured; successor programs run by SOM will begin in 2020.

 

In its 20 years of investing in public education, The Broad Foundation has made grants to transform school governance, improve district operations, grow high-quality charter management organizations, engage in education policy and advocacy, and develop talented leaders, managers and teachers for public school systems.

 

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Tonight, the United Teachers of Los Angeles endorsed Senator Bernie Sanders for the Democratic nomination for president.

LOS ANGELES — United Teachers Los Angeles, the second-largest teachers’ local in the country, is proud to endorse Senator Bernie Sanders for US President in the 2020 Primary Election, making UTLA the first teachers’ union in the country to endorse a presidential candidate.

Tonight, the UTLA House of Representatives – the elected leadership body of the 34,000-member union — voted 80% in favor of endorsing Sen. Sanders, capping the most comprehensive member engagement process that UTLA has ever conducted for a political candidate.

vote

Thursday’s House vote followed a six-week discussion at school sites. Following that member engagement, on Wednesday at nine regional meetings, more than 500 elected site representatives voted 72.5% yes to the presidential endorsement of Sen. Bernie Sanders. Wednesday’s vote was opened up to allow any member who attended to vote alongside elected chapter leaders.

UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl said: “Why now, and why Bernie? Because we want him to win in the primary election and because we need an unapologetic, longstanding ally of progressive policies to make public education a priority in the White House. Sanders is the first viable major candidate in 25 years in the Democratic Party to stand up against privatization, the charter billionaires, and high-stakes testing and to stand up for a massive redistribution of wealth to schools and social services. Critically, like UTLA, Sen. Sanders believes in building a national movement for real, lasting change.”

Bernie Endorse

Teachers are the number one profession among his donors for a reason: Sanders has the most comprehensive, progressive plan for public education among the candidates. His platform calls for a salary floor for public school teachers, tripling Title I federal education funding, boosting funding for special education (IDEA), and placing a moratorium on charter school growth. For the last several decades the unregulated growth of corporate charter schools has siphoned money from public schools, with little protection against fraud and little attention paid to equity or quality when it comes to educating students.

In addition to education issues, Sanders’ platform aligns with our values on a range of issues, including rebuilding the US labor movement and winning Medicare for All.

Bernie spoke at UTLA’s Leadership Conference in July, and he brought down the house with his defiant message about leading a movement for fundamental political and social change, including a strong, fully funded public education system. Sen. Sanders also signed a pledge to support Schools and Communities First and Our New Deal for Public Schools. He was the first major US politician to publicly support our 2019 strike, and he pushed for donations to our strike fund, leading to a cascade of influential support and an increase in the fund of more than $100,000.

BSUTLA

LA educators are standing behind a candidate who has the electability to beat Trump. Sanders is leading in Democratic fundraising, is strong in swing states and among independent voters, beats Trump in head-to-head polls, and has major support in demographics that will vote heavily in 2020, including Latinx voters, Black women, and millennials. As the electorate becomes more diverse, defeating Trump will require a candidate who can motivate a diverse coalition of voters.

Sanders’ platform is not just a corrective to the destructive presidency of Donald Trump but also to failed policies of the past few decades that have starved public schools and left behind working-class and middle-class families while giving massive tax breaks to corporations and billionaires. Long-standing Democratic Party leaders have been a part of these problems.

“We must take the most anti-Trump stance that we can take,” said UTLA Vice President Gloria Martinez. “That includes endorsing Sen. Sanders. We see in Bernie the same fighting spirit that drove 60,000 people — teachers, students and parents — to the streets of LA in January during UTLA’s strike to invest in our students.”

The following is a timeline of UTLA’s endorsement.

  • Sept. 11 – UTLA Board of Directors votes 35-1 to begin exploring an endorsement process for Sen. Bernie Sanders.
  • Sept. 18 – UTLA House of Representatives votes 135-46 to confirm the process to explore endorsing Sanders.
  • Oct. 2 – School site leaders discuss and review endorsement materials.
  • Oct. 2-Nov. 12 — School site leaders engage members on consideration of a UTLA endorsement of Sen. Bernie Sanders.
  • Nov. 13— Membership advisory up or down vote at 9 regional area meetings. 72.5% of voters, representing more than 500 LAUSD schools, say yes to endorsing Sanders.
  • Nov. 14 — House of Representatives votes 80% to endorse Sen. Bernie Sanders.

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The Resistance won a big victory in Los Angeles.

Thanks to newly elected LAUSD board member Jackie Goldberg, a key committee of the school board rejected a plan to assign a single grade to every school. 

The idea of grading schools with a single letter was first hatched by Jeb Bush, in his relentless push to impose test-based accountability on every public school in Florida and to set up those with the worst grades to be privatized.

Several states have adopted the Jeb Bush plan, and in every case, the letter grade was a reliable proxy for students’ family income. The schools where poor students predominated received the lowest grades and were fair game for the charter industry.

Jackie Goldberg has a long history as a teacher, school board member, and state legislator, and she strongly opposed the plan.

Nick Melvoin, who was elected with the help of millions of dollars contributed by Eli Broad and other friends of the charter lobby, proposed the plan.

The Los Angeles Unified school board’s Curriculum and Instruction Committee approved a resolution introduced by board member Jackie Goldberg that calls for the district to suspend implementation of “any use of stars, scores, or any other rating system” for its schools. 

The committee’s action includes a shift in support by Kelly Gonez, who says she now opposes assigning single ratings to schools. Gonez last yearco-sponsored a resolution with board member Nick Melvoin that called for creating a school performance framework that would include a “single, summative rating for each school.”  The board approved that resolution in April 2018. 

Goldberg’s resolution, which is expected to pass when it goes before the full board Nov. 5, would effectively kill the idea to give all schools in the district a single rating, which Melvoin says would allow the district to better identify and help struggling schools…

The three board members on the committee — McKenna, Scott Schmerelson and Gonez — voted unanimously to send Goldberg’s resolution to the full board, where it needs four votes to pass. Board member Richard Vladovic also indicated to EdSource that he supports the new resolution. Goldberg’s expected vote would give the resolution a five-vote majority on the seven-member board…

Goldberg’s resolution says that summative rankings “promote unhealthy competition between schools” and “penalize schools that serve socioeconomically disadvantaged student populations.” 

Jackie Goldberg proves that one person can make a difference. She does so by dint of superior experience, knowledge, and intellect.

The billionaires once owned the LAUSD. They bought it, fair and square.

No longer.

Be on alert for the next school board election. The sharks will gather round again.

 

 

Working with his treasure trove of emails among charter operators, which he obtained via a public records request, blogger Michael Kohlhaas explains how the Charter Lobby managed to reduce the powers of the Office of Inspector General, whose investigations into corrupt charters had been a thorn in their side.

This is an important post. Read it in full. The charter lobby dedicates a lot of time and money to avoiding accountability and transparency.

He begins:

The Los Angeles Unified School District has a particularly powerful oversight office, the Office of the Inspector General, known in the trade jargon as OIG. And in 2018 the School Board failed to renew then-IG Ken Bramlett’s contract. According to LA Times education reporter Howard Blume, pro-charter board members Monica Garcia, Kelly Gonez, and Nick Melvoin voted against renewal, which was enough to deadlock the board and prevent Bramlett’s return. Blume also noted that Bramlett had aggressively investigated some charter schools, in some cases leading to criminal charges being filed, and that charter schools had been clamoring for limits on OIG’s ability to investigate them but he stopped short of saying that Bramlett’s fall from grace was due to charter school influence.

And later a bunch of overwhelmingly salacious details of a number of really appalling and quite serious hostile work environment complaints against some of Bramlett’s senior subordinates came out along with credible accusations that Bramlett had at best failed to take these complaints seriously. Regardless of the validity of the uproar, and it seems quite valid indeed to me, this had the effect of directing most of the media attention away from charter school involvement in Bramlett’s downfall. Not entirely, though. For instance, Kyle Stokes, education reporter with KPCC, did mention that charter schools had been seeking to limit OIG’s role in overseeing them, although in that same article noted that “sources who spoke to KPCC said that concern over charter oversight was not a factor in the board’s thinking”

But newly published internal documents from the Los Angeles Advocacy Council, a shadowy organization run by the California Charter School Association and about 20 local charter school leaders, paint a very different picture. In fact LAAC and the CCSA give themselves credit for taking advantage of the chaos at OIG in order to effectively remove oversight of charter schools from OIG’s purview.

Not only that but they claim to have kept quiet about the issue in order to protect their public image. In the same document they also claim that they were asked to do so by unnamed people in the District who promised CCSA and LAAC that “they would handle it, and they followed through” Given some statements in another document it’s not impossible that convicted felon and then Board member Ref Rodriguez was one of these unnamed people. The charterites were thrilled by the outcome of their work against OIG oversight, announcing that it “should be seen as a major win by and for the charter community.” Perhaps this media strategy underlay Stokes’s sources’ comment about charter involvement in Bramlett’s non-renewal.

The charter Industry faction on the Los Angeles School Board wants to introduce a Jeb Bush-style evaluation system to rank and rate schools. It hasn’t worked anywhere else in the nation, so why not introduce it in Los Angeles.

Every other state has demonstrated that the school grading system ranks schools by the income of parents. Schools that enroll the poorest children get the lowest grades. Schools that enroll affluent children get the highest grades.

The purpose of school grades is to set schools up to be privatized.

Sara Roos, who blogs as Red Queen in L.A., writes that the school district does not need a Yelp system. She is right.

She points out that board member Jackie Goldberg wants the school system to help schools that are in need of support, not devise a system to call them “failures.”

The charter advocates are pushing the Jeb Bush Plan because it will help build the charter industry. It will do nothing for children.