That bastion of reaction otherwise known as the Los Angeles Times announced last week that former United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) president A.J. Duffy was jumping on the privatization bandwagon. At his charter school, ex-UTLA head would target tenure was followed up by a nasty mean spirited editorial by the plutocrats' lapdogs at the Times entitled A.J. Duffy, education reformer? Before the former article was published, I was contacted by Howard Blume (one of the only somewhat honest writers at the Times, the other being Teresa Watanabe). He wrote me a note explaining the thrust of his story and asked for a quote on his forthcoming Duffy story, which unfortunately didn't get used. Here I reproduce my response:
Good to hear from you Mr. Blume.
It's funny that you bring this up, because I was at an education conference recently where Mr. Duffy was with two teachers from the defunct Crescendo chain and the rumor was that he was going to start a charter. I'm not a teacher (I did teach CCD at Holy Family and St. Teresa of Avila for 14 years). My affiliations include: Public Education and Social Justice Advocacy (PESJA), and Coalition for Educational Justice (CEJ). [Those last two sentences were answers to questions Blume asked me]
Here's something for your piece, I'd really rather it not be edited, or at the very least, I get final approval over what you glean from it:
The community at large would have been better served if Mr. Duffy would have tried some of these ideas at public schools rather than having waited to implement them at a privately run charter. Many social justice advocates do believe that in conjunction with substantially better funding and smaller class sizes, that specific contract changes like earning due process protections at three years instead of the current two could help in efforts to assure we are cultivating the best possible educators. Moreover, other things Mr. Duffy discusses, like an expedited dismissal process, aren't disputed by anyone as long as the process is completely fair and transparent.
Indeed, by bringing in anti-public education executive Caprice Young and blackmailing the district into providing him space under the privatization provisions of Proposition 39, Duffy has made himself seem somewhat insincere in that his actions in practice differ from his rhetoric while President of UTLA. At first blush, his plans seem opportunistic. In effect, he is providing cover for the privatization minded charter camp, and effectively legitimizing neoliberalism. We already have progressive reform models, like Expanded School Based Management Model (ESBMM) where local control over budget and more independent school operations are coupled with accountability, oversight, and publicly elected boards.
A local teacher activist rightly criticized me for using the phrase "somewhat insincere."
I hope to have time to write a longer analysis of Duffy's self-serving decision soon, but in the mean time Michael Dunn over at Modern School has picked the most appropriate logo for Duffy's foray into the waters of privatization. Also, there's been reaction to the news all over the country, even as far as the South Bronx.