Parental Engagement

By Carl J. Petersen

Education issues as seen from a father's eyes.

If Money Continues to Talk, We're Screwed

In the congressional races in 2008, the candidate who had more money won more than 93% of the time. Our representatives don’t serve us; they serve the people who pay them — their corporate funders.

- Cenk Uygur

The Republicans passed a tax bill despite the opposition of 55% of Americans. Now in an ass-backward move, they will now rely on conservative groups to plan “a multimillion-dollar effort to sell the GOP’s tax cut law”. These efforts include the Koch brothers launching “a multimillion-dollar push next year”, a GOP super PAC spending “$10 million to protect House members” and the Committee to Unleash Prosperity spending “the majority of its $1 million annual budget selling the tax plan”. The success of this plan relies on the American people forgetting that the law could add “$2.0 trillion to $2.2 trillion (before interest)” to the deficit, purposely punishes the citizens of Blue States, and is crafted in a way that “nearly two-thirds of the benefit [go] to the richest fifth of Americans in 2018.” The key to enabling this amnesia is the (perhaps inflated) reductions to withholding rates that will take effect in February, distracting the middle class from the fact that by 2027, 53% of Americans will pay more taxes under the new tax scheme.

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A Very Different Definition of Choice

Further, as the CSD is aware, iGranada is a well-designed independent study option, wherein most students are on campus daily, actively engaged in 1-on-1 and group learning.

- Brian Bauer, GHCHS

The inclusion of a statement in each independent study agreement that independent study is an optional educational alternative in which no pupil may be required to participate. In the case of a pupil who is referred or assigned to any school, class, or program pursuant to Section 48915 or 48917, the agreement also shall include the statement that instruction may be provided to the pupil through independent study only if the pupil is offered the alternative of classroom instruction.

- California Education Code

In the most basic of ways, Granada Hills High School has always been a school of choice. As noted by one researcher, “the choice among public schools has been linked to the family's decision about where to live, a decision that gives wealthy families more choice than poor families.” Unlike in economically disadvantaged portions of Los Angeles, many families in the surrounding neighborhoods of Granada Hills had the ability, and, therefore choice, to move within the boundaries of Granada Hills High School, “one of the highest-achieving schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District”, even before its conversion to a charter in 2003. While the charter industry promotes itself as a way for parents to have more choice, Granada’s conversion had more to do with the school’s ability to choose its students.

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Depriving the LAUSD Board of Ignorance

At the Los Angeles Unified School District, our goals are...5. School safety

- LAUSD

Given the vastness of the LAUSD bureaucracy, there is no guarantee that the members of the School Board knew that Granada Hills Charter High School (GHCHS) had been cited for making unauthorized modifications to their District owned campus that threatened student and staff safety. Therefore, I used my three minutes of public comment at the LAUSD  November 14, meeting to make the board members aware of this situation:

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Senate Education Committee Informational Hearing: Charter School Authorization in CA

My testimony at the Senate Education Committee Informational Hearing: Charter School Authorization in CA on October 23, 2017:


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The LAUSD Continues to Reward Failure

The California Charter School Association (CCSA) paid millions to purchase the LAUSD School Board, but their narrow majority is in danger. Not only is Ref Rodriguez, one of their hand-selected Board members, facing criminal charges related to his campaign, but the charter school chain he founded has accused him of having a conflict of interest while he was their Treasurer. This, in turn, exposed the charter organization’s lax financial controls. All of this has caused a rare sense of unity across the education divide; both the Los Angeles Times and United Teachers Los Angeles have both called for Rodriguez’ resignation.

Meeting_Materials_171007.jpgHaving reintroduced the chaos back into the District that has been missing since the departure of Deasy, the charter industry played their next hand by blackmailing the District in an attempt to remove language that the LAUSD requires in each charter. If they did not get their way, 13 charters would move to the county or state where even less oversight is provided. Judging by the line of news trucks lined outside the Boardroom on Beaudry, the media was prepared for the November 7, special Board meeting to be full of drama.

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Parents Against Accountability

As a school of CHOICE, you CHOOSE to be here and are expected to productively and respectfully resolve problems. You have options. Clearly, you are either a very satisfied customer who appreciates the roles you have as an employee, union steward, parent, and committee member, or….

- Johnathan Williams, The Accelerated Schools


IMG-2150.JPGLike the “America, love it or leave it” crowd in national politics, charter supporters will venomously attack anyone who dares to criticize the operations of these schools. This was exemplified by Los Angeles County School Board President Alex Johnson who defended the academic failures of one of the Magnolia Charter Schools by accusing me of being “against high-quality education for black and brown students”. The same false claims of racism were also used against former LAUSD Board Member Bennett Kayser, along with attacks based on his medical condition. A parent who is a frequent critic of the Accelerated Charter Schools was told that she should start “looking at the glass, the kids, the School as half full, and appreciating the asset and building on it”. Instead of complaining, she should “see the light and begin to operate with in [sic] it.” Life is much easier if you join the cult.

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The LAUSD's Failure to Follow Through

Lunch Shelter Area that is structurally unstable. It is an immediate safety hazard and must be fenced off until removed or constructed to the District’s standards and applicable laws.

- LAUSD Facilities Services Division

GHCHS Lunch Area open to the public on October 27, 2017Within a period of one year, Granada Hills Charter High School (GHCHS) was issued two Notices to Cure (NTC) and one Notice of Violation by  LAUSD. These directed the charter’s administration to correct financial improprieties, enrollment policies that did not conform with the education code and construction projects that endangered the safety of students. Each specified deadlines that had to be met. While these deadlines have all passed, it does not appear that the corrective actions in any of these cases have been made.

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Broad's Latest Attack on Democracy

Statement.jpg

 While the LAUSD School Board was evaluating the performance of the District’s Superintendent, Michelle King, District 5’s Board Member was absent. Instead, Refugio (Ref) Rodriguez was in court answering to charges that included felony conspiracy and perjury. This left his constituents, the victims of Rodriguez’ alleged crimes, unrepresented in the Board’s discussion and any possible action. Clearly, the charges against Rodriguez are more than a distraction, they are an obstacle to his performing the duties required by the full-time job for which he receives $125,000 a year.

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Did GHCHS Endanger "the Health and Safety of Students, Staff and other individuals"?

The following alterations are considered to be unsafe and use must stop immediately until corrections are made

- LAUSD Facilities Services Division

The information within the unsigned letter sent to the “Granada Hills Charter Community” seemed innocuous. Framing the situation as a tenant/landlord dispute, Granada Hills Charter High School (GHCHS) said that during a routine inspection of the campus, the LAUSD’s Facilities Services Division had found “several violations concerning modifications to the campus” that “were not performed in compliance with [their] Sole Occupant Agreement (SOA)” with the District. The school had been given an “April 3, 2017, deadline to remedy or develop an action plan to address [these] concerns” [emphasis mine]. The only mention of the welfare of the students attending the charter was a seemingly random statement that they “always keep the health and safety of our students and staff as [their] primary focus.”

Use_Must_Stop_Immediately.jpgNotably missing from the letter was any indication that it was meant to fulfill a requirement that GHCHS notify parents that a formal Notice of Violation has had been issued by the LAUSD and that this could have resulted in a revocation of their charter. Nor was it mentioned that Executive Director Brian Bauer had been informed that the alterations in question “were a risk to the health and safety of your students, staff, and other individuals.” While it is true that GHCHS had been given 30 days “to deliver to District evidence of [their] compliance with the SOA or a plan to cure and timeline acceptable to District”, they had also been ordered to “immediately stop all use of the facilities identified in Exhibit A...for the health and safety of students staff and other individuals” [emphasis mine]. Finally, GHCHS neglected to inform the community that they were also accused of violating the law by “failing to obtain necessary review and approval of the plans for the identified alterations from the Division of State Architect.

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What About the Los Angeles Times' Conflict of Interest?

The following Letter to the Editor was sent yesterday in response to the Los Angeles Times’ article “L.A. school board member Ref Rodriguez faces conflict-of-interest complaint over $285,000 in payments”. Unsurprisingly, it was not published:

As the accusations against LAUSD Board member Ref Rodriguez mount, it is important to note that the charges are not new. In fact, they were meticulously researched by activists including Robert D. Skeels during the 2015 election and delivered to the Los Angeles Times. Failing their responsibility to the voters, the Times not only refused to cover these allegations, their editorial board endorsed Rodriguez. One can only wonder if this lack of coverage has anything to do with the Time’s own conflict of interest - the $800,000 it received from privatizers like Eli Broad to sponsor its education coverage.

According to your article, “PUC’s senior managers said they uncovered the transfers...while responding to questions and requests from The Times”. If the Times had done their job when the actual events were taking place the voters would have had this information when they made their choices at the voting booth.

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