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

. . .a pupil attitude factor, which appears to have a stronger relationship to achievement than do all the “school” factors together, is the extent to which an individual feels that he has some control over his own destiny. James Coleman, 1966

Friday, May 22, 2015

2015 Week 21 Education Odds and Ends

“We believe that this recognition has come about because of the “blatant” move by corporations to take over public education and the creation of these charter schools who are limiting the rights of teachers and the type of education that our children are receiving.” — Juan Orozco

Professor Antonia Darder this weekend in Los Angeles

Dr. John Fernandez writes:

Roosevelt High School and the Boyle Heights community have a long and proud history of fighting for social justice, from the election of Ed Roybal to the Los Angeles City Council in 1949, to the fight against Prop.187, and to the current struggle against the scheduled layoffs of 23 RHS teachers and the struggle to dump PLAS. This video was taken when the Great Recession began and when PLAS came in. In June of 2008, when this video was produced, there were about 240 RHS teachers, now there are only 110 and dozens of classes have been cut. This Saturday, May 23, 2015 at 8:30 a.m., RHS will be having a youth conference. Dr. Antonia Darder will be presenting. Antonia is a world renowned writer on critical education theory, Latino education, and Paulo Freire. I am sure that Antonia will connect theory and practice to the situation at RHS. Please attend this important event. La Lucha Sigue

The right-wing billionaires who financed charter profiteer Refugio Ref Rodriguez!

Charter billionaires buy L.A. school board election

Professor Mike Klonsky's post Charter billionaires buy L.A. school board election is worth the read. I left the following comments:

Thank you for this Professor Klonsky. Poverty pimp Refugio "Ref" Rodriguez has spent his entire career viewing and utilizing school children as ATM cards. Now that the billionaires have installed him at #LAUSD, he has the combination to the entire bank vault.

Karen Wolfe on LAUSD election fallout

Public school parent and member of the Venice Neighborhood Council Education Committee Karen Wolfe wrote an excellent piece looking at the May 19, 2015 Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) Board elections entitled LA Election Lessons: Anatomy of a Shakeup … in the LAUSD Board Races. I made the following comments:

Thank you for this excellent analysis Ms. Wolfe. Charter profiteer and poverty pimp Refugio "Ref" Rodriguez has spent his entire career viewing and utilizing school children as ATM cards. California Charter Schools Association (CCSA) boasted that they "generated 30% profit margins in subsequent years–with 20-30% lead generation and 20-50% close ratios" when Rodriguez was a CCSA board member. Meanwhile he ran Lakeview Charter in the red for the better part of decade, and oversaw Jacqueline Duvivier Castillo's self-dealing with the now breaking Better 4 You Meals scandal. Now that these right-wing billionaires have installed him at #LAUSD, he has the combination to the entire bank vault. We can only hope that the LAUSD OIG and LA District Attorney's office will indict Rodriguez, but a cover-up is more than likely since José Cole Gutiérrez was one of Rodriguez's employees when Rodriguez sat on the CCSA board.

Professor Julian Vasquez Heilig testifies on Parent Trigger

Professor Julian Vasquez Heilig traveled to Texas to speak truth to Walton Family Foundation funded Parent Revolution's attempts to place a loaded "Parent Trigger" gun in corporate charter hands. Best quote from his testimony: "SB14 is parent empowerment without the empowerment. Parental involvement without the involvement."

Keeping up with Ref Rodriguez's possible crimes

Charter industry mogul Refugio "Ref" Rodriguez is under investigation by a number of authorities including the LAUSD Office of Inspector General and the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office. Keeping up with all of the financial scandals and possible felonies by this Rodriguez charter is difficult, the following articles should help.

Whitney Tilson does rape culture!

Right-wing hedge fund manager and school privatization pusher Whitney Tilson was quick to jump on the blame-the-victim bandwagon. An email to his cult of fellow neoliberals said "I question her story" of Emma Sulkowicz.

Scott M. Folsom on student mental healthcare

Suing a school district for failing to provide mental healthcare may seem, at first blush, to be a stretch. What part of the 3Rs is mental healthcare? But this is a stretch that is needed – like those stretches people who exercise do before they exercise.

Education is about stretching our little grey cells. It’s about being safe and well and healthy. Maslows’s Hierarchy of Needs: Food, Comfort, Safety.

  • You can’t learn if you are hungry.
  • You don’t learn if you don’t have a place to live.
  • You won’t learn if you don’t feel safe.

Then and only then can we get down to the Rs.

In Compton and in most of the brink o’ th’ apocalypse they inhabit the school nurse is most students’ primary-and maybe-only healthcare professional and medical provider. The school nurses’ office has become the Health Office has become the School Wellness Center – even as the School Nurse has become a vanishing species, repurposed to paperwork shuffling and IEP Compliance Officer – often traveling from school-to-school on a one-day-a-week rotation.

This has all worked out because school health crises: The flu outbreak, the second grader who falls out of a tree, the incident of diabetic or anaphylactic shock – these only occur on the days the nurse is at the school and is otherwise available. I have spent some of the last month reading essays by middle-schoolers about the impact of violence and trauma on their lives. Most need additional instruction on narrative storytelling  (and grammar+punctuation) …but the far more pressing need is for mental health professionals to begin to have the conversation with them about their lives.

LAUSD in planning to eliminate some psychiatric social workers in next year’s budget. The bad-news masquerading otherwise is that the District is not going to eliminate as many as first proposed. Nobody in their right mind is proposing to rehire mental health workers previously laid off.  But I am.

Post Traumatic Shock Disorder is not just for returning warriors anymore. This is not John Boy’s America. This is not the Bobsey Twins’ America. Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm graduated decades ago and doesn’t come back for the alumni meetings ‘cause she’s scared of the neighborhood. Today’s narrative was written back in 1969: “Oh, a storm is threat'ning / My very life today / If I don't get some shelter / Oh yeah, I'm gonna fade away.”

By ‘75 Bob was feeling better about it than Mick+Keith in ‘69:

“Come in,” she said, “I’ll give you shelter from the storm”

It’s an apt metaphor to duck in under.

Alliance Charter's Judy Burton still union busting

Right-wing extremists Antony Ressler, Richard "Dick" Riordan, and Judy Ivie Burton are still turning children into profit centers, and union busting at the Alliance Corporate Charter Chain. The ongoing struggle for their beleaguered educators to organize themselves continues. Community activists are taking the struggle to the streets, and posted this and other photos on facebook with the following caption:

Attending the Lincoln Heights Neighborhood council asking them to adopt our resolution calling on Alliance to let teachers form their union without harassment ([i]t passed unanimously!)

Alliance Charter Corporation still union busting

I left the following thoughts on the photo:

I document Judy Burton's mind-boggling salary in this piece about her fellow charter school profiteer Refugio "Ref" Rodriguez. https://www.laprogressive.com/charter-school-profits/ That obscene $330,400.00 doesn't include the additional six-figure income she gets from CalSTRS+CalPERS. She will go to any length to prevent educators from exercising their lawful right to organize. Any movement to put students and educators ahead of executive salaries and board member sweetheart deals at Alliance Charter Corporation will be resisted with extreme prejudice, as you are already experiencing.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Common Sense in Philadelphia

This sacrifice of common sense is the certain badge which distinguishes slavery from freedom; for when men yield up the privilege of thinking, the last shadow of liberty quits the horizon.

              Thomas Paine

On Tuesday, May 19th voters in Philadelphia sent a message to billionaire venture philanthropists who were trying to buy the office of mayor of Philadelphia to promote their privatization of public schools agenda. By the day of the primary election for mayor and other offices  they had invested $7 million in advertising for the candidate they thought would carry out their agenda, State Senator Anthony Williams.
Former Councilman Jim Kenney defeated Williams by a 2-to-1 margin winning a plurality in all wards in the city. Kenney ran on a progressive platform, including the ending ‘stop and frisk’ by police, raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, and establishing universal pre-Kindergarten. Even before he decided to run for mayor, Kenney was praised for championing the erecting of a statue in City Hall for forgotten civil rights pioneer Octavius Catto. Kenney has also been a supporter of immigrant rights.
At the beginning of the campaign, Anthony Williams was considered the frontrunner. As the campaign progressed, despite flooding the airwaves with campaign commercials beyond what any other candidate could do, Williams began to drop in the polls. Williams attempted to give the appearance of distancing himself from what had been his signature role in the Pennsylvania state legislature for ten years, the promotion of charters and vouchers. As it was clear his campaign was in trouble, Philadelphia Inquirer editorial page editor (the Inquirer endorsed Williams) Harold Jackson appealed to Williams to “run on his beliefs”. Williams duplicity only made voters question what he was hiding about his plans for public education.
In the days before the end of the campaign Williams appealed to ethnic solidarity to get votes in the African-American community. This too backfired as Kenney won a plurality of the votes in the 30 predominantly black wards. In the days before the primary, the fractured Democratic Party coalesced around Kenney with endorsements from Mayor Nutter, City Council President Darrell Clark, and some Black clergy switching from supporting Williams to Kenney. 
There was speculation in the press that School Reform Commission member Bill Green will run as an independent in the November election to promote his privatization of education agenda. Green had been outspoken in his support of Williams despite being a member of the School Reform Commission since his appointment by Governor Corbett. He contributed the legal limit of $2900 to his campaign. Green said the election of Kenney “was no coronation” as evidenced by the low voter turnout.
Also elected as a Democratic nominee to a City Council-at-Large seat was Helen Gym. Gym is a founder of Parents United for Public Education and has been one of the leaders of those campaigning for defense of Philadelphia’s public schools. On the day of the election, the head of Boys’ Latin charter sent out an email urging people not to vote for Helen Gym because “she hates us.”
A non-binding resolution was passed by voters calling for the abolition of the School Reform Commission, the administrators of the Philadelphia School District since the state takeover in 2001, and a return to local control of Philadelphia schools.
While the election is a victory for democracy over the attempt of wealthy hedge fund managers to buy an election, we can have no illusions that public education in Philadelphia is now safe. Far from it!
The Philadelphia public schools have been under relentless attack by corporate education reformers for many years. The starved schools have been taken off of life support. In the last few years, teachers have been forced to buy basic supplies just to teach their students even as their salaries, including step increases, are frozen.
Most libraries in public schools have been closed. Counselors have been cut so most schools have part time or no counselor. School nursing is now provided part time in most schools. This can now be seen as the beginning of the attempted dismantling of the Philadelphia public schools.
On May 13th, the SRC announced that they want to outsource public school nurses to private companies. Listen to this interview with school nurse Eileen Duffey talking about what this will mean for medical services in Philadelphia public schools.
On May 17th, the School District announced a contract had been reached with the union of the lowest paid employees in the District, noontime aides and cafeteria workers. While these low paid workers received a modest wage increase, it came at the cost of the District stopping payments into the union’s health and welfare fund and the lose of seniority protections for layoffs and rehires. Superintendent William Hite, a graduate of the Broad Superintendent's Academy, took the opportunity to lecture the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers to follow this example of “shared sacrifice” to make up for the underfunding of the public schools.
The SRC has announced their first “turnaround of a turnaround”, (a term invented so they didn't have to have community meetings) the turning over of a “failed” independent charter school to charter management company Mastery.
Can Kenney be counted on to fight this onslaught on public education? Jim Kenney is a centrist when it comes to privatization of public schools. In other words he has said different things at different times regarding the expansion of charters depending on the audience and his ratings in the polls.
Early in the campaign he was for expansion of charters as long as the state reimburses their cost. Late in the campaign he ended his commercials with “I support all public schools in Philadelphia”. The qualifier “all” indicates he thinks, despite their classification by the U. S. Census Bureau, that charter schools are public schools. This raises concerns of how much resistance he will make to ALEC legislators in Harrisburg who want to expand charters. The Pennsylvania School Boards Association has recently questioned why the Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools is advising its members not to follow Pennsylvania Right-to-Know which traditional public schools must follow by law. 
In the past Kenney has supported vouchers.  One of Kenney’s early backers, Senator Dwight Evans, not only is a strong proponent of charters, but for more than ten years he has been a proponent of vouchers, which are presently in the form of Educational Improvement Tax Credits, a back-door voucher program. The EITC diverts business tax money for public schools to student scholarships for private and religious schools of the business’s choosing. The EITC and the Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit program pose a grave, and largely unrecognized, danger to public education. In addition, this legislation is a clear violation of separation of church and state.
Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York is promoting similar legislation. Jeb Bush, as Governor of Florida, pioneered this method of getting around the massive opposition to vouchers that existed a decade ago.
On Friday, May 15th, four days before the election, a rally for Helen Gym was held at the School District headquarters. It is apparent that there was not much interest in getting parents and teachers out to the rally since it was held at 10:30 a.m. Joining this photo op of politicians and labor leaders who had endorsed Helen Gym was American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten. Reporters were told she had flown in from Los Angeles, after international travel, just to be at the rally.
Weingarten gave her usual stump speech with much fist pumping and effusive praise for Helen Gym as the Superwoman we have been waiting for. As usual, it was much “sound and fury signifying nothing.” There is no way that one Councilwoman, no matter how gifted, can stop the privatization onslaught. While a seat in City Council will give Helen Gym a powerful platform to fight for public schools, it will be within a Democratic Party which places priority on the interests of real estate developers, corporate interests such as Comcast, the Chamber of Commerce , and the banking community, not the common good.
Philadelphia Federation of Teachers President Jerry Jordan has not proposed any trade union fight against the attacks. His response to both the privatization of substitute teaching and nursing is that the PFT would be "pursuing every option available to stop the privatization of our public schools." This is his weak-kneed response to the balkanization of the Philadelphia School District despite his acknowledgement that privatization has been prepared by the Boston Consulting Group for several years. For details see “Who is killing Philly schools?” 5/2/12 and “Who’s Still Killing Philly Schools?” 5/22/2013 by Daniel Denvir in the Philadelphia City Paper.
For all her bluster, Weingarten does not want a mobilization of the Philadelphia labor movement as those seen in 1973 and again in 1981 when teacher strikes were ended after the threat of a general strike by the city labor movement.
Glaringly missing from her bombast was any mention of the Opt Out movement against standardized testing being led by parents across the country. Weingarten is a supporter of the Gates Foundation promotion of annual standardized testing and the Common Core.
Immediately after the rally, Ms. Weingarten rushed off to New York City where she joined Wendy Kopp, founder of Teach for America, officials from the Gates Foundation and other educational technology enthusiasts at the Oppi Learning Festival 2015. The program says “Oppi Festival is a unique learning event which allows all education key stakeholder groups from around the world to come together, share ideas and experiences, tackle challenges and form new partnerships.
Ms. Weingarten was part of the welcoming ceremony where she had a conversation about Global Kids. Missing from the speakers were American K-12 teachers or educators from the academic world of higher education who have decades of experience with American education. NYC teachers were invited to be in the audience to learn how they to could collaborate with corporate education.
Weingarten returned to Philadelphia Tuesday to campaign for Kenney and Gym and to join the victory celebration at Helen Gym’s campaign headquarters.
On May 9th, Ms. Weingarten appeared on HuffPost Live. Using the standardized testing crisis as a smoke screen, she attempted to rescue the Common Core, heavily funded by the Gates Foundation, from parent and teacher opposition to it.
To bolster her credentials for promoting the Common Core, she made much of her teaching experience as the basis for supporting Common Core. This has been her practice of late: to deflect questions about why she continues to promote Common Core and take attention from her alliance with the Gates Foundation. At an appearance at a forum of the right-wing American Enterprise Institute on June 28, 2014, Ms. Weingarten went on for several minutes about her teaching experience.

Norm Scott of Ed Notes Online, who was in the NYC United Federation of Teachers when Weingarten became its President, said of her credentials recently: 
Randi has distorted the reality of her teaching experience, often by parsing the language to give an impression that she taught for 6 years when in fact she taught full time for only 6 months at Clara Barton HS in Brooklyn. The rest of the time she taught a few classes a day before going off to her other job at the union - a unique arrangement not exactly available to the average teacher. (My guess is that once Shanker came down with life-threatening cancer around 1989 or 90, he and Sandra Feldman, then UFT president, had to decide on succession and Randi, a fairly recent arrival at the UFT, was chosen over people who had worked for the UFT since its inception, leading to some resentment.) Since Randi was a lawyer - she was the UFT counsel - with no teaching credentials, they had to scramble to get her certified and find her a "teaching" part-time gig before she could claim the mantle of UFT president. They found her a "safe" school near her home. Clara Barton, across the street from Brooklyn Botanic Gardens, was a vocational school focused on nurse and health care worker training, a school that attracted a number of girls. Unity Caucus member Leo Casey was the chapter leader and would cover Randi's back when needed. Everyone in the school knew they were getting a "celebrity" staff member who would one day be the president of the union. By never having taught in real conditions like her constituents, Randi never had a sense of what it was really like.

As is the case many times in history, young people who have their whole lives in front of them and want a say in what kind of world they will live in, are unencumbered by past practices and political connections. On May 12th, hundreds of Philadelphia High School did not report to school and Opted Out at the beginning of the Pennsylvania Keystone standardized tests. Some administrators threatened the students with being denied the right to participate in the Prom or walk in their graduation.

A Philadelphia teacher was suspended for four days without pay for informing parents about Opting Out when asked.
On May 19th, Election Day, the Caucus of Working Educators in the PFT held workshops at Central High School about various issues in education today. This video has excerpts from the Opt Out session which shows the testing crisis that is deepening in Pennsylvania.
The young people Opting Out are showing what must be done to stop the privatization onslaught. Only such acts of civil disobedience, combined with a mass mobilization against corporate education reform, can change the trajectory of events. Out of this mass mobilization a political movement must be developed which declares independence from the two-party system and develops a program for the needs of the 99%.

More on questions about Randi Weingarten’s teaching experience:

Divide and Conquer: The Philadelphia Story | Defend Public Education

Thousands of Newark students march against state control of schools
Bob Braun's Ledger - May 23, 2015


Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Mass Student Walkout Newark NJ-Friday, May 22nd at 12pm

The Most Important Subject Ever

Order here.

Five years in the making, A People’s Curriculum for the Earth is a collection of articles, role plays, simulations, stories, poems, and graphics to help breathe life into teaching about the environmental crisis. The book features some of the best articles from Rethinking Schools magazine alongside classroom-friendly readings on climate change, energy, water, food, and pollution—as well as on people who are working to make things better. A People’s Curriculum for the Earth has the breadth and depth of Rethinking Globalization: Teaching for Justice in an Unjust World, one of the most popular books we’ve published.
At a time when it’s becoming increasingly obvious that life on Earth is at risk, here is a resource that helps students see what’s wrong and imagine solutions.

Praise for A People's Curriculum for the Earth

"To really confront the climate crisis, we need to think differently, build differently, and teach differently. A People’s Curriculum for the Earth is an educator’s toolkit for our times."
— Naomi Klein, author of The Shock Doctrine and This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate
"This volume is a marvelous example of justice in ALL facets of our lives—civil, social, educational, economic, and yes, environmental. Bravo to the Rethinking Schools team for pulling this collection together and making us think more holistically about what we mean when we talk about justice."
— Gloria Ladson-Billings, Kellner Family Chair in Urban Education, University of Wisconsin-Madison
"Bigelow and Swinehart have created a critical resource for today’s young people about humanity’s responsibility for the Earth. This book can engender the shift in perspective so needed at this point on the clock of the universe."
— Gregory Smith, Professor of Education, Lewis & Clark College, co-author with David Sobel of Place- and Community-based Education in Schools

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Peg with Pen: A response to Derek Briggs and the Denver Post re:...

Peg with Pen: A response to Derek Briggs and the Denver Post re:...: My comment in response to the Denver Post piece titled: PARCC adviser: opt-out 'propaganda' mischaracterizes comments I heard abo...

Ref Rodriguez's school scandals unreported by LA School Report?

“Of course, the network of power and privilege that eases access to the Ivy League isn’t severed at matriculation—it supports the scions of the superrich throughout. Further emails from the Sony hack show the Lynton nepotism machine gearing up for his elder daughter, Eloise, an undergraduate at Harvard who found herself unable to get into a very popular class with Dr. Jerome Groopman, a New Yorker writer and professor of biology.” — Sam Biddle

Jamie Alter-Lynton's Deasy (LA) School Report
Jamie Alter-Lynton's blog byline should read "what Deasy wants you to think is really going on in LAUSD"

Professor Diane Ravitch discussed a recent Daily News piece in her Los Angeles School Board Race: Attack Ads and Lies Aplenty. The Thomas Hines article in question rightly points out that all of Ref Rodriguez's and his California Charter Schools Association's attacks on the Honorable Bennett Kayser have been patently false, but the issues brought up about Rodriguez—like the PUC Lakeview Charter Academy Audit—are true. Of course, not every Los Angeles media outlet has covered the myriad scandals surrounding the billionaire's candidate. I addressed this issue in the following commentary.

I keep wondering when Jamie Alter-Lynton, sibling of the dubious Jonathan Alter, will have her “news” blog — LA School Report — cover either the Lakeview Audit, or the Jacqueline Duvivier Castillo (Better 4 You Meals) self-dealing scandal, or both? Alter-Lynton’s site claims that it practices “journalism in the public interest”, yet somehow misses two of the biggest Los Angeles education scandals of the year, both centering around their candidate: charter industry profiteer Ref Rodriguez.

This quote says it all: “audits… indicated charter officials [i.e. Ref Rodriguez] knew of the alleged conflict of interest” http://4lakidsnews.blogspot.com/2015/05/lausd-charter-group-gave-food-contract.html

The well heeled Rodriguez was PUC Corporation’s CEO, and then their Board Treasurer during both the Lakeview financial malfeasance and Duvivier Castillo incidents. He claims to have known absolutely nothing about either situation, the former occurring for over a decade, the latter for several years now. Giving him the benefit of the doubt, that means Rodriguez is either grossly incompetent, or criminally complicit (there are some that would posit he manages to be both). Neither of those are desirable qualities for a trustee of the nation’s second largest school district.

Maybe the LA School Report can run this piece on education and privilege?

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Guest Post: Citizen Jack responds to LA Weekly's fluffing Ref Rodriguez

“That’s not exactly investigative reporting or a critique of the powerful. But it represents the kind of contrarian, screw-you mentality that fits the New Times worldview now evident at the LA Weekly.” — Professor Jon Wiener

Citizen Jack responds to LA Weekly's fluffing Ref Rodriguez

"Jack," a frequent commenter on Professor Diane Ravitch's site, sent me the following critique of Joshua Emerson Smith fluff-job of charter school profiteer Refugio "Ref" Rodriguez. The fact-free ham-fisted Smith piece appeared in that trashy porn and masseuse ad pennysaver known as the LA Weekly (aka Weakly)—a bastion of Jill Stewart's brand of Ayn Rand Libertarianism.


To Joshua Emerson Smith, (the author of the above L.A. WEEKLY article):
As with someone else who just posted, I'm also utterly shocked that you didn't mention the troubling and shocking revelations about Ref Rodriguez that emerged from a recent state audit---the same audit that Ref's ally Monica Garcia pulled out all the stops to keep sealed, but ultimately failed to do so.  (See the video of Monica and Ref standing side-by-side at last year's California Charter School Association shindig---this video is posted elsewhere in the COMMENTS section.)
Seriously, dude, writing an article about the Kayser / Rodriguez 2015 election, and not mentioning "Food-gate" even once is akin to... oh, I dunno... 
... writing about the 2004 Presidential election and not mentioning Bush's ill-advised invasion of Iraq, and most importantly, the fact that no WMD's were found... therefore the entire justification for taking us into that war was all a  manufactured hoax...

... writing about the 2010 Brown / Whitman gubernatorial election, and not mentioning "Maid-gate"...

What's up with that?  

To get you (and others) up to speed, here's a recap:

In a May 2nd Los Angeles Times' article, reporters Zahira Torres and Howard Blume detailed the troubling corruption and outrageous malfeasance that a state audit uncovered operating within Ref Rodriguez' charter school organization, "Partnership to Uplift Communities"(PUC).  Mr. Rodriguez founded this charter chain, and currently serves as its PUC's CEO and Treasurer.
Check it out here: 
or here, ( if, like me, you're too cheap to subscribe to the Times on-line site;-) ) : 

Employing a wealth of documentation, the state auditors cite systemic wrongdoing and illegal misuse of taxpayer funds on the part of PUC’s Director of Business and Development, Ms. Jacqueline Duvivier Castillo, and by extension, on the part of Founder / CEO, Mr. Rodriguez, and Jacqueline Elliot, PUC's other Chief Executive.  

After all, Ms. Castillo---it should be noted---was hired by Mr. Rodriguez and Ms. Elliott, and works under their direction.  As such, Mr. Rodriguez and Ms. Elliot bear ultimate responsibility, and gave ultimate approval to the problematic purchases and decisions that that both the state audit condemned, and that the May 2 Times' article exposed to the public.
And exactly what did Ref & Co. at PUC perpetrate? 

Ms. Castillo willfully chose to misuse her position to award PUC's multi-year, multi-million-dollar food contract to "Better 4 You Meals", a company that, to quote the audit, is "one hundred percent owned" by Ms. Castillo (!!!).  In the process, she enriched both herself and her husband Fernando---a top executive in that company, "Better 4 You Meals."  

While the charter school laws technically require Ref to run PUC as a "non-profit", so as to prevent such profiteering by charter officials, Ms. Castillo (and perhaps Ref?) evaded this by contracting out their food service to a for-profit company that she and her husband own.   (This is a common shabby practice within the charter industry... by the time such shenanigans are uncovered, that taxpayer money that these crooks pocket is gone, baby, gone... never to be recovered... as is the case with Ref's / PUC's "Foodgate" imbroglio.)

Again, this is all detailed to the state audit report, quoted and reported on by the reporters in the Times' article.

The Times' article further states:

"The state Department of Education, which released emails and documents about its investigation to the Los Angeles Times under the California Public Records Act, also found:

" --- Duvivier Castillo failed to properly report her financial interests in the company

" --- The company was ineligible for the food contracts because it lacked a health permit and relied on a subcontractor to prepare meals.

" --- PUC Schools did not select the lowest-priced bidder as required."

So, in addition to the gross impropriety of the process itself, and to the heinous misuse of the taxpayer money that funds charter schools like the PUC chain, Ms. Castillo's company, "Better 4 You Meals", operates in a substandard fashion, and thus delivered a demonstrably substandard product, as the food preparation, delivery, storage, etc. "lacked the required health permit."

Since Mr. Rodriguez hired Ms. Castillo to work at PUC, he almost certainly knew of her business holdings and interests---i.e. her and her husband's ownership of "Better 4 You Meals." 
Might Mr. Rodriguez have profited from any secret kickback from Ms. Castillo in exchange for approving the "Better 4 You Meals" contract?  Perhaps.  We do not know.  If the answer is "No" and he knew that Ms. Castillo owned "Better 4 You Meals", then why did he approve a multi-year, multi-million dollar contract for this same company ?  To quote "THE SOPRANOS", do you really think that Ref (or Ms. Elliot) didn't "get a taste" of this?  If not, what was in it for him to do so?

Furthermore, even if you assume that Mr. Rodriguez is criminally "innocent", and really did NOT know of Ms. Castillo's conflict of interest, then, at the very least, Mr. Rodriguez most certainly SHOULD have.   That's a key part of his freakin' job, for God's sake!!!  His failure to know this, and his failure to do the due diligence necessary to discover it, and to remain aware of this when making relevant decisions reflects poorly on his abilities as an administrator.  He also should have asked and required that Ms. Castillo produced the required health permit.  At the very least, Ref is most certainly "guilty" of gross administrative incompetence and negligence.   All of this renders Ref unfit to manage LAUSD's $7-billion-dollar budget. 

To date, Mr. Rodriguez himself has refused to comment on this scandal---hoping to just lay low until the election is over, as he squeaks through to an ill-gotten victory.  Such silence on his part speaks volumes.

To paraphrase Harry Truman, "the buck should stop" with Mr. Rodriguez, as he is PUC's Founder, CEO, and Treasurer.  
Bennett Kayser's constituents (like me) can tell you that "the buck" most certainly DOES stop with Bennett, as evidenced by his diligent responsiveness to their concerns (i.e. his opposition to the I-pad purchase and resulting debacle.)  
The students, parents, and citizens of LAUSD District 5 can ill afford to have someone like Mr. Rodriguez to be one of only seven individuals (the seven Board Members) in charge of LAUSD finances, a solemn responsibility that Board Member Kayser---a 30-year teacher and school administrator, by the way---has approached with the utmost care and seriousness.  

In the last four years---and in contrast to Ref's record---neither Kayser nor anyone on his staff, nor anyone connected to him in any way has benefited financially from any action that Board Member Kayser has taken.  Nor has anyone been involved in any corruption of any kind while he has been fulfilling the oath that he took in July 2011.  Profiting or enriching himself is most certainly NOT why Bennett is serving on the board.  Just as in his teaching and school administrator career, it's not about him;  it's about the well-being of 670,000 students, their parents and the community as a whole for which he is responsible.  
Unlike Rodriguez and others, it's not a fear of being caught that drives Board Member Kayser to avoid financial impropriety, eschew personal enrichment, and remain on the "straight and narrow";  it's Bennett's own conscience and moral code.  I can vouch for this, as I've known him personally for years.  That's all part of the solemn vow that an LAUSD Board Member takes when he is sworn into office.  If re-elected, Bennett's track record on this score, of course, will continue for the next four years, and for as long as Bennett serves as a public servant. 
Mr. Rodriguez' actions, as detailed in the May 2 Los Angeles Times' article, call into serious question his own ability to do likewise.

Indeed, a key part of Bennett's job as the incumbent District 5 Board Member these last four years on LAUSD's board has been to manage LAUSD's budget, and know in as great detail as possible where every penny of that $7 billion goes.  This truly is a task on a par with memorizing the phonebook, but it is a job that a School Board member must be willing and able to take on. Bennett has overseen and balanced three consecutive budgets of $7 billion each, and one that services 670,000 students and the adult staff that serve them!!! Top that, will you?
How does Ref's track record compare to this?
Well, according to writer and activist Robert Skeels, "Ref Rodriguez couldn’t keep one school, with only 100 students, balanced for nine years (9) straight! This 'insolvent' bad apple is Lakeview Charter, part of the Rodriguez/PUC charter chain. Ham-handed attempts by Rodriguez’s supporter to hide the Office of the Inspector General’s (OIG) audit of the Rodriguez-run PUC Lakeview Charter School, and affiliated enterprises, have been exposed."  

Read more of Robert Skeels' article at:

Again, the state audit's report clearly calls into question Mr. Rodriguez' capabilities in this area.  

Once the audit hit the news, Ms. Castillo quickly left PUC, with PUC executive Ms. Elliot making the only public comment on the matter... stating that they didn't know about the conflict of interest, and that there was no wrongdoing on anyone's part.

What about Ref's response? So far, incredibly, there's been RADIO SILENCE FROM REF RODRIGUEZ HIMSELF.  I am sorry, but the Mr. Rodriguez and the folks at PUC cannot have it both ways.  They cannot, on the one hand, fire Ms. Duvivier Castillo (or pressure her to resign), and then, on the other hand, claim---as Ms. Elliot has---that there was no wrong-doing on her or anyone else's part.  
If Ms. Castillo--and by extension, Ref and Ms. Elliot--- truly did nothing wrong, as PUC officials claim, there is no reason for Ms. Castillo to leave PUC, and no reason for Ref to clam up about the whole sordid affair.
Innocent people do not run away (like Ms. Castillo has);  guilty people do.
Innocent people don't clam up (like Ref has); they speak out and clear their name.

If you've got nothing to hide, you hide nothing.


Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Didn't dullard Duncan say Katrina was the best thing to happen to New Orleans?

“…let me be really honest. I think the best thing that happened to the education system in New Orleans was Hurricane Katrina.” — Arne Duncan

The absolute worst education President, and Secretary of Education in U.S. history: Barack Obama and Arne Duncan
The absolute worst education President, and Secretary of Education in U.S. history.

For Immediate Release: May 13, 2015
Contact: Madison Donzis, madison@fitzgibbonmedia.com, 210.488.6220

New Report Exposes Holes in Louisiana’s Charter School Program and Millions in Taxpayer Dollars Wasted on a Broken System

Coalition for Community School New Orleans and the Center for Popular Democracy (CPD) Highlight Consequences of Louisiana’s Failed Academic and Financial Oversight of Charter Schools
**See the report here: http://bit.ly/1Fc50qR** 

new report released this week finds that the drastic growth of overinvestment in charter schools and underinvestment in oversight has left Louisiana’s students, parents, teachers and taxpayers at risk of academic failures and financial fraud. The report, “System Failure: Louisiana’s Broken Charter School Law” cites billions of taxpayer dollars plunged into charter schools since Hurricane Katrina hit, including over $831 million in the 2014-15 school year alone. 

Since 2005, charter school enrollment in the state has grown 1,188 percent. The Louisiana Department of Education’s Recovery School District, originally created to facilitate state takeover of struggling schools, is now the first charter-only school district in the country. 
The report identifies five fundamental flaws with the financial and academic oversight of Louisiana’s charter schools: 

1.    Oversight depends too heavily on self-reporting by charter schools or the reports of whistleblowers. Louisiana’s oversight agencies rely almost entirely on audits paid for by the charters themselves and whistleblowers. While important to uncover fraud, neither method systematically detects or effectively prevents fraud. 

2.    The general auditing techniques used in charter school reports do not uncover fraud on their own. The audits commissioned by the charter schools use general auditing techniques designed to expose inaccuracies or inefficiencies. Without audits specifically designed to detect and uncover fraud, however, state and local agencies will rarely detect deliberate fraud without a whistleblower.

3.    Inadequate staffing prevents the thorough detection and elimination fraud. Louisiana inadequately staffs its charter-school oversight agencies. In order to carry out high-quality audits of any type, auditors need enough time. With too few qualified people on staff—and too little training for existing staff—agencies are unable to uncover clues that might lead to fuller investigations and the discovery of fraud.

4.    Underinvestment in systems that help struggling schools succeed. Lawmakers and regulators have invested in systems that set high standards and then close schools that fail to meet them, rather than helping them improve to meet the standards. This investment in a severe accountability system does not support schools achieve academic success.

5.    Heavy reliance on data that is vulnerable to manipulation. The state’s academic oversight system relies largely on sets of data that can be manipulated by regulators, authorizers, or the charters themselves. Without reliable data, schools, parents and the public have no way to accurately gauge academic quality at their schools.

Since 2005, approximately $700 million in public tax dollars has been spent on charter schools that currently have not achieved a C or better on the state’s grading system. As the state has insufficiently resourced financial oversight, it has failed to create a structure that provides struggling schools and their students with a pathway to academic success. Coupled with an unwillingness to help failing schools succeed, the rapid growth of charters has failed Louisiana children, families and taxpayers. 

The report calls for a set of core reforms to end the hemorrhaging of public funds to fraudulent charter schools and also calls on state and federal lawmakers to put systems in place to prevent fraud, waste, abuse and mismanagement. To address the serious deficiencies in Louisiana school districts, the Center for Popular Democracy and CCS suggest mandating new measures designed to detect and prevent fraud, increasing financial transparency and accountability, redesigning the data collection process, and redesigning the system to support struggling schools.


The Center for Popular Democracy is a nonprofit organization that promotes equity, opportunity, and a dynamic democracy in partnership with innovative base- building organizations, organizing networks and alliances, and progressive unions across the country.

Coalition for Community Schools New Orleans (CCS) is a New Orleans alliance of parent, youth and community organizations and labor groups fighting for educational justice and equity in access to school resources and opportunities.

New Report Exposes Holes in Louisiana’s Charter School Program and Millions in Taxpayer Dollars Wasted on a... by Robert D. Skeels