The People's School Board?

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

- The First Amendment

Blocked.pngApparently, the Bill of Rights is not something that LAUSD General Counsel David Holmquist or his staff was taught in law school. After I wrote an email to Board Member Ref Rodriguez in December 2015, Holmquist responded that there was “no legal support” for the assertion that Rodriguez’ use of the block feature on a Twitter account linked to his LAUSD sponsored web page was a “government supported abridgment of free speech.” Instead, he maintained that “under the law, communication, even communication with a government entity, is not unfettered.” He did, however, state that he was “open to reviewing” any “legal authority (e.g., statutes [sic], regulations, case law, etc.) supporting” my position. The message was clear - if you want to avail yourself of your rights in the LAUSD, you had better be prepared to pay for legal counsel.

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Sold to the Highest Bidder - The Charters Assume Control of the LAUSD

Although comparison of GHCHS’ current demographic data to the data of other schools in the surrounding community does show differences in the numbers and percentages of students in various subgroups, historical demographics data shows that GHCHS has generally increased its diversity over time. For example, in its current approved charter, the school reported that, since its prior renewal in 2008, it had experienced...a 5.0 percent drop (32.3 to 27.3 percent) in its White student population.

- LAUSD Charter School Division

As the school year begins it is clear that the students of LAUSD’s public schools are on their own. The charter industry and their allies spent $11,459,786.26 in the last election cycles purchasing a majority of the LAUSD School Board seats and they are now cleared to operate without even the minimal oversight that was previously provided. Under this new regime, the LAUSD’s Charter School Division (CSD) refuses to take action against charters, even when presented with evidence of wrongdoing.

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Team Red vs. Team Blue - The Further Fragmentation of America

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Politicon.jpgAccording to right-wing mythology, conservatives have been stripped of their free-speech rights. However, while attending this year’s Politicon in Pasadena, California, it was the conservative attendees that seemed determined to drown out speakers who did not conform to their world-view. While he is usually busy interrupting city-council meetings of cities he does not live in, anti-immigrant agitator Arthur Schaper took the time to yell out over questioners who had been called on and to disrupt panel members. Cenk Uygur was heckled throughout his debate with conservative commentator Ben Shapiro, with the shouting often starting as soon as he opened his mouth. In comparison, Uygar consistently motioned for his base to quiet down whenever they interrupted his opponent.

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Separate and Unequal

We urge you to make this a living NAACP action plan with a mandate and roadmap for saving America’s public schools by advocating for public quality education in every sector.

- NAACP Task Force on Quality Education

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When confronting the newly anointed Los Angeles County Board of Education President about his support for a charter that was failing its students, Alex Johnson accused me of being “against high-quality education for black and brown students”. Anti-immigrant agitator Arthur Schaper pulled from the same counterfeit deck of race cards to claim that I “believe Black/Hispanic Americans are too stupid to choose the school for their kids”. When presenting at the NAACP Task Force on Quality Education at their hearing in Los Angeles, I was heckled by charter supporters for targeting a “black school” when showing how View Park Middle School was allowed to continue operating despite the fact that it had “presented an unsound educational program”. Apparently, none of these critics realized that my most vociferous criticisms have been of Granada Hills Charter High School and El Camino Charter High School, both of which are located in the San Fernando Valley and serve high populations of white students.

Alex_Johnson.pngPerhaps the reason that charter proponents are forced to rely on desperate personal attacks is that the facts do not back up their assertion that charters help to improve opportunities for minority students. The NAACP report quotes a study that found 37% of charter schools “performed worse than their traditional public school counterparts serving similar students.” Another study “found that charter school enrollment explained less than one hundredth of 1% of the variation in students’ test  performance.” In comparison, Dr. Julian Vasquez Heilig, a Professor of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at California State University, Sacramento, testified that “class size reduction [has] 400% more impact. Pre-K? 1000% more impact than charters.” This seems to suggest that those pushing for privatization of our schools over more proven methods of improving education outcomes have interests other than reducing the achievement gap.

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It Is Not Enough to Claim Inclusion

2017-summer-edition-of-living-education-emagazine.jpgMainstreaming of students with special education needs requires training, effort and a focus on student need.

My wife sat heartbroken as she watched my daughter’s classmates shunned her as she tried to interact with them. Despite the fact that most children on the autism spectrum have difficulties establishing social interactions, the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) had decided that the chaos of lunch period was an appropriate time to provide a “mainstreaming” opportunity. Without any professional assistance, she would leave the confines of her self-contained classroom to eat with children without disabilities in an effort to improve “academic achievement, self-esteem, and social skills.” She was making a valiant effort, but the other students also lacked training and could not get past her quirks. It was hard to see how this was doing anything but damaging her self-esteem.

The results did not get any better as my wife entered into a general education classroom to observe another effort at mainstreaming.  While in the special day classroom, my daughter had received focused attention to keep her on task in the curriculum. However,  in this general education classroom the teacher was responsible for teaching an entire class and did not have time for students who could not keep up. Therefore, the students with special needs were placed in the back of the room and given games to play with on their computers. Was just being in the same classroom as students without disabilities supposed to provide academic achievement? Segregated from the rest of the class, she certainly was not improving her social skills.

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Indivisible?

I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

- Francis Bellamy, 1892

In these times of hyper-partisanship, the reciting of the pledge has become a competitive sport. I have long noticed that Tea Party types like to emphasize “under God”, perhaps to compensate their imagined attacks on their Christianity. In the Trump era, progressives have taken to putting an emphasis on “justice for all” in a display of resistance. Still said out of habit but ignored in deed is poor “indivisible”. There is little room for such a quaint notion as the opposing sides prepare to engage in verbal, and sometimes physical, battles.

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Arthur Schaper: A Law and Order Republican?

Arthur Schaper disrupts another Huntington Park City Council meeting. Is this what Republicans mean by "a nation of laws"?

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The Content of Their Character

Arthur Schaper and his band of merry racists display the content of their character after disrupting a Huntington Park City Council meeting...

Make America Great Again, #Resist the hatred.

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New LA Unified school board is marked by its diversity, but can they get along?

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The Blackwhite World of LAUSD's Charter Schools

BLACKWHITE...a loyal willingness to say that black is white when Party discipline demands this. But it means also the ability to BELIEVE that black is white, and more, to KNOW that black is white, and to forget that one has ever believed the contrary.

- George Orwell, 1984


Catherine Suitor, the Chief Development Officer of Alliance College-Ready Public [SIC] Schools is correct when she states that “encouraging parents to be involved should not be seen as a negative thing.” However, her response ignores the real issue raised by my testimony before the LAUSD School Board which is how far can a charter go before “encouragement” is actually “intimidation”? If volunteering “is not mandated,” then why does her organization keep track of the number of hours for each student? If publishing this data on the school’s website was truly meant to be “completely [the] opposite of shaming”, why are the number of hours included on the list? If the publication of this information “is a way to recognize and congratulate those who are involved”, why are the hours listed under the students’ names and not according to the people who actually “volunteered”? If the school’s “parents are eager and welcomed to be involved”, why are they not allowed to vote for their representation on the Governing Board? Instead, this Board, itself appointed by an outside organization, appoints two parents ensuring that dissension is not given a voice.

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