"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Mutual Parasitism: Coronavirus and Charter Virus

When Kevin Huffman left Tennessee after four years of running down the State's public schools the way his ex-wife, Michelle Rhee, did prior to being run out of Washington, DC, Tennessee's teachers and superintendents were overjoyed.  Under Huffman's toxic reign as Commissioner of Education,
[m]ore than 50 superintendents . . . publicly questioned his leadership, several teachers unions expressed "no confidence" . . .; and . . . a group of 15 Republicans . . . called for his resignation.
Many believed that Huffman's poisonous reputation among schoolmen and schoolwomen in Tennessee would guarantee him a leading role in the ongoing efforts by billionaires to monetize and privatize public education.  And sure enough, just like the vastly unpopular Chris Barbic, who mismanaged Tennessee's charter school hothouse, the Achievement School District, before he left under a cloud, Huffman landed a leading role as Partner with City Fund.  

City Fund is generously supported by the same group of oligarchic high rollers who have been working to destroy public schools for the past twenty years:
. . . the [Reed] Hastings Fund, Laura and John Arnold Foundation, the Dell Foundation, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation were funding the effort. The Walton Family Foundation and the Ballmer Group are also funders . . .
No doubt Huffman is now hoping for a big shipment of federal coronavirus relief dollars to his portfolio of corporate charter schools.  He hints as much in a recent Washington Post op-ed, where he touts Achievement First charter resources as a partial solution to state takeover of Providence, RI schools, just as he celebrates the good work by the Chiefs for Change, who are offering advice to school districts on how to "collaborate" with charter schools during the crisis. Um.

But the real focus of Huffman's op-ed is to remind readers that homeschooling or virtual schooling are dangerously deficient and could do lasting damage.  Underneath this veneer of concern for children is the real fear of damage to the real estate empires and corporate welfare agencies that charter schools represent and enable. 

In fact, Huffman has some advice for what Congress should do in the next round of relief legislation: 
For the next round of stimulus, appropriators could send significant funding to districts and schools with the most low-income students to make up lost instructional time. 
You know, those communities where City Fund is most intent to spread the charter virus, where resistance is minimal and the opportunity is maximal for running roughshod over parents, children, and teachers.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Open Letter to LAUSD Board regarding Citizens of the World Charter School Corporation

A copy of this letter was sent to each individual member via email

March 11, 2020

Dear Members of the Board of Education:

I am an educational rights attorney and law professor here in Los Angeles. I am writing you regarding the Citizens of the World Charter School Corporation (“CWC Corp.”), an alleged non-profit benefit corporation that operates a number of privately managed charter schools authorized by the Los Angeles Unified School District (“LAUSD”).

CWC Corp. is currently trying to occupy a portion of a public school, Shirley Avenue Elementary School, under the provisions of Proposition 39. I will not discuss the myriad flaws, inequities, and attendant problems associated with Proposition 39 in this communication. I do, however, want to ask you to put off any consideration of allowing CWC Corp. to move forward with its hostile occupation of a public school while they have seemingly repeatedly refused to pay their legally obligated bills to LAUSD.

As you know, charter school corporations utilizing Proposition 39 to force their hostile occupations of public schools are obligated to pay over-allocation fees in certain circumstances. CWC Corp. currently owes LAUSD hundreds of thousands of dollars in over-allocation fees. Before allowing them any further opportunities to continue operating in bad faith, LAUSD should collect all payments past due and obtain written assurances from CWC Corp. that they will pay their obligations in the future.

Children in Los Angeles public schools are starved for resources. Our students go without school librarians, full-time health-care professionals, adequate access to services, etc. Meanwhile, just three years ago, CWC Corp.’s Executive Director Mark Kleger-Heine received a staggering salary of over $231,000.00 USD (see CWC Corp.’s 2017 Form 990 Part VII). This disparity of resources is by design, and underlies the purpose of the charter school industry. Public school students go without, while charter school executives collect fat checks.

As a member of the LAUSD Board of Education, I hope you will turn your attention to resolving this matter not only with CWC Corp., but with all of the charter school corporations that are in arrears in their over-allocation fee payments with LAUSD.


Wednesday, March 04, 2020

Mr. Krugman, Stick to Economics

Paul Krugman won a Nobel Prize in Economics, but he is as dumb as the rest of us about politics--even though his status would never allow him to admit as much. 

The morning after Super Tuesday, he offers this analysis on Twitter:

Of course, it's Bernie's fault that he lost. We know it has nothing to do with the former and current DNC kingpins pulling every lever of power and influence to scare the scared people into voting for Biden. If Bernie were just a little more "magnanimous," rather than uppity and honest--he would have had a chance on Super Tuesday. 

And yet--if there was ever a time that honesty, brutal as it might sound, was required to address the imminence of climate catastrophe and mass extinctions, it is now. That is why the Biden victory yesterday is so utterly sad. Not because he won't beat Trump if nominated--any of the candidates would beat Trump--but because he will beat Trump and have nothing to offer to activate a solution to environmental calamity. 

Biden's mirroring of Wall Street's necrophilous environmental policy will be catastrophic because it will ignore any remaining opening for action that we have during this decade.

If elected, Biden will leave us, then, with no option but to turn the movement that Bernie spawned in the U.S into the most massive guerilla operation of environmental death resistance that has not yet been imagined. 

One outcome is certain; those who persist in the killing will not fare well, regardless of political label.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Mike Feinberg's Lawyers Go After Abused Hispanic Family

In what has to be one of the greatest power disparities in the history of charter school sexual abuse, Mike Feinberg and his high-rolling legal team faced off against a girl and her mother last week at a hearing to determine if the predator KIPP founder will be able to keep his teacher's license after being fired for sexually abusing a middle school child.

Reading the excerpt from the Texas Tribune article below, it's not a tough call.  We will still have to wonder, however, if Feinberg will be able to buy his way clear.
. . . . In a petition calling for the hearing, a TEA lawyer said Feinberg allegedly performed a “yearly check up” on the former student, then a fifth grader attending KIPP in Houston in the late 1990s. While the two were in his office, the petition alleges, he placed his hand inside her shirt and rubbed up and down between her breasts and belly button. He had her “touch her toes while he ran his finger from her neck to her waist,” it says. 
A week or two later, Feinberg is alleged to have told the student he lost the file and had to redo the exam. He “took her back to his office,” closed the door and had her partially disrobe, the TEA petition claims. He inserted a Q-tip into her vagina for a few seconds and then instructed her to return to class, it says. He was a teacher and the principal of the school at the time. 
In testimony at the certification hearing Wednesday, the former student said she “felt confused” after the incidents. She put on her clothes, went back to class, and told her mother about it after returning home. Although her mother was upset, the student asked her not to share the information with her father. “I thought my dad was going to blame me for it and hit me,” she testified. 
Asked why she didn’t tell the school or police, the student responded, “They wouldn’t believe me because of my race.” She said she wanted to leave the school right away, but her mother didn’t know how to explain it to her father. She left a year later. “I wasn’t comfortable” anymore, she said. 
The student’s mother largely confirmed her daughter’s account. 
“I was in very bad shape. I started crying with her,” the mother testified through a Spanish translator. “I wanted to say something, but my daughter didn’t let me. We needed to talk to my husband, but we were scared of him because he was very strict and tough with her and with me.” 
Feinberg’s lawyers [called more than a dozen witnesses and] worked to dismantle the student’s testimony. Feinberg sat pensively observing, sometimes taking notes on a yellow legal pad, during much of the testimony. He winked at his wife as he sat down to testify; they clutched hands after he finished speaking and rejoined his lawyers at their table. 
“That did not happen … absolutely not,” Feinberg responded to detailed questions about the student’s allegations. Asked if he contended she was lying, he gave a long pause: “I contend that what she is saying are not the facts.” Asked why she would lodge the allegations, he said, “That would just be speculation.” . . . .

Bloomberg's Corporate Higher Ed Plan

Quotes from The Intercept:

Who would be tougher on student loan repayment than Betsy Devos? 
The plan also goes backward in some places and would also slash the benefits borrowers receive under an income-driven student loan repayment program, capping the amount that can be forgiven after 20 years for people in income-driven repayment plans. Currently, there is no cap. 
Whose plan would likely devastate enrollment at HBCUs and tens of billions less in financial assistance than Sanders or Biden or Warren?
Another plank of the oligarch’s higher education plan commits to tripling direct federal Title III funding to historically black colleges and universities, Hispanic-serving institutions, and other minority-serving institutions. But that increase amounts to just $7.5 billion over 10 years, while former Vice President Joe Biden, for instance, has proposed $70 billion in that sort of funding, and Sanders has pushed for $50 billion.

Despite the promise of additional funds, Bloomberg’s plan may rankle HBCUs. When the Obama administration made a similar proposal around free community college, HBCU leaders warned that the alternative would likely be taken by a substantial number of students who’d otherwise have gone to an HBCU, devastating enrollment. Biden’s plan covers community college or provides full grants for two years at an HBCU or equivalent HSI.
Who would use higher ed as a jobs training program to save corporations money?
The plan also includes an apprenticeship proposal that is geared to the private industry, which is likely to anger union leaders. . . .
. . . . Corporations over the previous decades have essentially ended their efforts at workforce development, pawning that off on workers. Instead of offering higher wages to encourage an increase in the supply of labor in particular fields, companies have instead complained about a “skills gap” and pushed for the federal government to subsidize training programs and even the wages of workers. Bloomberg’s plan sympathizes with those companies. 

Monday, February 17, 2020

Wednesday, February 05, 2020

Cheryl Ortega for UTLA Director of Bilingual Education

Maestros Unidos Los Angeles con Oaxaca

Cheryl Ortega’s tireless advocacy and effective activism for students and bilingual education stems from her years of dedication to the same. There is no better choice for United Teachers of Los Angeles’ (UTLA) Director of Bilingual Education. Her vast experience, institutional knowledge, and devotion to providing students bilingual programs is peerless. Let all persons know that I endorse and strongly support her candidacy for reelection.

— Robert D. Skeels, Education Rights Attorney and Law Professor

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Parnas and Fruman Brief Trump on Need to Remove Ambassador

This could be any two-bit Manhattan gangster being briefed by his hit men, but in this case, it happens to be the President of the United States taking advice from his henchmen, whose job it is to get a foreign government to stage a phony investigation designed to help Trump win the 2020 election.