Studies Weekly found hundreds of instances of racial bias and inaccuracies within its teaching materials, which are used in several states.
We look back on 10 Capital & Main stories that reported on the changing conflicts within public education.
As the June 15th deadline for a California budget approaches, Kevin McCarty finds himself a power broker in a fight over billions of dollars of funding for the University of California.
California’s embattled public school teachers received good news Thursday in the form of a state appellate court reversal of the controversial Vergara v. California decision.
If there were still any doubt about Eli Broad’s desire to gut traditional public education, it has been erased by his much-discussed “Great Public Schools Now” initiative, a draft of which LA Times reporter Howard Blume obtained last month.
Broad’s 44-page proposal outlines plans to replace half of LAUSD’s existing public schools with charter schools. “Such an effort will gather resources, help high-quality charters access facilities, develop a reliable pipeline of leadership and teaching talent, and replicate their success,” states the document. “If executed with fidelity, this plan will ensure that no Los Angeles student remains trapped in a low-performing school.”
According to the proposal, Broad wants to create 260 new “high-quality charter schools, generate 130,000 high-quality charter seats and reach 50 percent charter market share.”
(Actually, LAUSD has 151,000 kids in charters now: 281,000 out of 633,000 LAUSD students is 43 percent. This isn’t the only imprecision in the proposal.)
The estimated cost of this LAUSD transformation would be nearly half-a-billion dollars.
The symbolism of last Friday’s press conference by the recently embattled and newly ex-superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District, John Deasy, couldn’t have been more explicit. Speaking for the first time as a private citizen, Deasy spoke to reporters on a conference call hosted by Students Matter.
The Silicon Valley-backed, Menlo Park nonprofit has paid the legal bills for the Vergara lawsuit, which challenged teacher job protections in the state earlier this year by successfully suing the California Department of Education and LAUSD. Deasy became a star witness — for the plaintiffs — when he testified against the state and his own district’s teachers.
For a man who had been brought by L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa from the Gates Foundation in 2010 to LAUSD as the top deputy to then-superintendent Ramon C.
Take the state law on fair competition. Add the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges‘ actions to shut down City College of San Francisco (CCSF). What will these ingredients amount to in a court of law?
That will be determined by San Francisco Superior Court Judge Curtis E.A. Karnow following a non-jury trial that begins October 27. Last year San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera filed a lawsuit on behalf of the people of the state of California (not CCSF) alleging the ACCJC’s evaluation of CCSF was unfair and unlawful under the state law for business competition.
“We have alleged that the ACCJC’s actions, specifically with respect to the evaluation of CCSF, were both unlawful and unfair,” Sara Eisenberg, a San Francisco Deputy City Attorney, told Capital & Main by phone. The ACCJC is subject to California’s Unfair Competition Law which prohibits any business from engaging in unfair,
Throughout 2011 and 2012, the eyes of the education world were focused on Adelanto, a small, working class town in California’s High Desert. A war had broken out there over the future of the K-6 Desert Trails Elementary School and its 660 low-income Latino and African-American students. When the dust settled, Desert Trails Elementary was gone. In its place was a bitterly divided community and the Desert Trails Preparatory Academy, the first (and so far, only) school in California and the U.S. to be fully chartered under a Parent Trigger law, which allows a simple majority of a school’s parents to wrest control of a low-performing school from a public school district, and transform it into a charter school.
Tiny Adelanto’s turmoil reflects a much larger battle now being fought across America between defenders of traditional public education and a self-described reform movement whose partisans often favor the privatization and deregulation of education.
Whether or not Parent Trigger represents a bold frontier in the movement to privatize the nation’s public education system, its implementation in California’s High Desert does bear some of the freewheeling aspects of the old Wild West.
Particularly when it comes to accountability and due process. Where do parents or teachers blow the whistle if they suspect a charter school is violating education code or the promises made to students in its own chartering language?
In California, the chartering school district has the statutory authority, and arguably the responsibility, to investigate violations of the law and of the school’s charter. Under Education Code §47607, it may revoke a school’s charter if the school violates the law or violates the conditions set forth in its charter.
Eight former Desert Trails teachers have emphasized to Capital & Main that it was only after frustrated parents told them that Parent Revolution said they were on their own in working out any grievances directly with Desert Trails that the teachers stepped in and took their own allegations of code and charter violations to the school’s chartering authority,
Among the pile of bills that the legislature passed at the end of their session and delivered to Governor Jerry Brown’s desk were some significant ones for workers, health, education and the environment. The deadline for Brown to sign the bills was midnight Tuesday.
California became the first state to ban single use plastic bags, the formerly ubiquitous grocery bags that have a special talent for working themselves into waterways, beaches, and sensitive environmental areas.
The statewide ban follows – and replaces – dozens of local bans, including Los Angeles and San Francisco. Senate Bill 270, which the Sacramento Bee called “one of the most contentious bills of 2014,” was authored by state Senators Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima), Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) and Ricardo Lara (D-Long Beach). The latter two joined as authors and helped solidify a majority in the legislature after ensuring that economic incentives would be available to help companies and workers impacted by the change.
Throughout the two-year debate over a plan by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) to shut down San Francisco’s nine-campus City College, the school’s supporters held their tongues on one key belief. Namely, that the commission had long ago made up its mind to shut down the college and no amount of restructuring could change the ACCJC’s mind. A recently filed court document, however, has confirmed this widespread suspicion.
The San Francisco Superior Court filing, first revealed in a Los Angeles Times story, disclosed that not one of the ACCJC’s own 15-member evaluation team ever suggested that CCSF’s accreditation be revoked; instead, the commission admitted, its panel merely recommended a form of academic probation that would allow the school to fix some administrative and accounting bugs in its system. Despite that, the ACCJC’s executive committee voted in 2012 to ignore the evaluators’ recommendations and threatened the school with the loss of its accreditation.
America’s education system is unequal and unfair. Students who live in wealthy communities have huge advantages that rig the system in their favor. They have more experienced teachers and a much lower student-teacher ratio. They have more modern facilities, more up-to-date computer and science equipment and more up-to-date textbooks. They have more elective courses, more music and art offerings and more extracurricular programs. They have better libraries, more guidance counselors and superior athletic facilities.
Not surprisingly, affluent students in well-off school districts have higher rates of high school graduation, college attendance and entry to the more selective colleges. This has little to do with intelligence or ability. For example, 82 percent of affluent students who had SAT scores over 1200 graduate from college. In contrast, only 44 percent of low-income students with the same high SAT scores graduate from college. This wide gap can’t be explained by differences in motivation or smarts.
When Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Rolf Treu struck down the tenure rights of the state’s public school teachers last month in Vergara v. California, his decision was hailed by Theodore J. Boutrous Jr., lead attorney for the plaintiffs, as “a terrific, wonderful day for California students and for the California education system.”
The lawsuit, which had been brought on behalf of nine California schoolchildren, argued that the retention of “grossly ineffective” teachers through five due-process statutes violated the students’ civil rights.
The suit and its accompanying public relations blitz had been bought and paid for by Silicon Valley entrepreneur David Welch under the umbrella of Students Matter, Welch’s personal Menlo Park education reform nonprofit. Welch made his fortune designing large-capacity fiber optic transmission systems for the global service-provider market.
Reagan Duncan has taught a combined kindergarten-first grade class in Vista for 10 years. When she heard about Tuesday’s ruling in the Vergara v. California trial, she feared the worst. The case’s plaintiffs sought to throw out the state’s job protections for its teachers on the grounds that the safeguards make it impossible to dismiss “grossly ineffective” teachers.
“My first thought,” Duncan told Capital & Main, “was that it’s going to make it harder for well-run school districts to operate classes for our students – and worse for poorly run districts. The laws in place for dealing with teachers who struggle in the classroom have been working. I’ve seen teachers let go – it’s just not true that they never are.”
The bench trial, which began January 27 and unfolded over 10 weeks, was funded by Students Matter on behalf of nine public school students who claim that California’s policies violate the civil rights of students – particularly those of low-income and minority students – by denying them a quality education.
“Truthfully, I’m burned out,” Wendy Kaufmyn sighs over the phone. “And frankly we’re all just really tired. We’re having a meeting next week to try and revitalize ourselves.”
Kaufmyn, a tenured engineering instructor at the embattled City College of San Francisco (CCSF) and a cofounder of the Save CCSF Coalition, is speaking about the 21-month fight for survival of California’s largest community college. The strain and weariness are evident in her quivering voice.
“I’ve been here 31 years,” she tells Capital & Main. “I love City College and I’m just heartsick at what’s going on. I don’t know what’s going to happen.”
Kaufmyn is not alone. Since January, when San Francisco Superior Court Judge Curtis Karnow issued a preliminary injunction that temporarily barred the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) from pulling CCSF’s academic accreditation, a cloud of uncertainty has hung over the 79-year-old institution and the future of its 80,000 students.
You’d think that that public television would support public education, but you’d be wrong. The Public Broadcasting System (PBS) has gotten in bed with the billionaires and conservatives who want to privatize our public schools. PBS has nary a word to say about the big money — from folks like the Walton family (Walmart), Microsoft founder Bill Gates, Eli Broad, business titan and former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, media mogul Rupert Murdoch, Joel Klein (former NYC schools chancellor and now a Murdoch employee), and their ilk — that has been funding the attack on public schools and teachers unions. They’ve donated big bucks to advocacy groups, think tanks, and candidates for school boards who echo their party line.
PBS and its local stations have fallen all over themselves to promote Waiting for Superman, a documentary film that could easily been mistaken for a commercial on behalf of charter schools.
An election campaign now being fought almost completely out of public view could radically alter the way California’s school children are taught. If Marshall Tuck unseats incumbent Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, the state’s public education system could become a laboratory for a movement that prizes privatization and places a high value on student test scores over traditional instruction. The contrasts between the two top contenders in the nonpartisan race could not be more dramatic – nor could the stakes for the country’s largest education system.
The 40-year-old Tuck is a Harvard Business School graduate who has worked as an investment banker for Salomon Brothers and as an executive at Model N, a revenue-management software company. He is a former president of Green Dot Public Schools, a charter school operation in Los Angeles, and later served as the first head of the Partnership for Los Angeles Schools — former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s controversial education nonprofit that tried to improve 17 low-performing public schools,
The following additional conversations have been lightly edited for clarity. For full article, see A Great Divide: The Election Fight for California’s Schools.
Doesn’t the academic performance of California students have a lot to do with being near the bottom of the state on money spent per pupils?
Definitely funding has to play a role . . . but it doesn’t play the only role. I can share this from pure experience because I’ve worked in schools where we had limited funding and had better results. Also, at some schools where we actually got more funding the results didn’t necessarily translate into great success.
How do you counter arguments that Mr Torlakson has more classroom experience than you?
I’ve spent the last 12 years working directly in education, working with kids and parents, working with teachers, hiring principals, developing principals,
As the Vergara v. California trial ends its fourth week, the most conspicuous absence from the plaintiffs list may be that of the man most responsible for bringing the education lawsuit — David Welch, the 52-year-old Silicon Valley entrepreneur and founder of Students Matter. His Menlo Park-based nonprofit initiated Vergara and is picking up all of the plaintiffs’ attorneys and PR fees — a bill that was running nearly $3 million even before Welch’s high-powered legal team first set foot in Los Angeles Superior Court for the trial.
Vergara was filed on behalf of nine students and seeks to erase nearly a hundred years of teacher protections from the state education code that were adopted to prevent discriminatory and capricious terminations. The suit claims that five statutes addressing teacher dismissal, seniority and tenure disproportionately harm minority students in high-poverty schools by making it too difficult to fire incompetent teachers.
Are job protections for teachers to blame for educational underachievement among low-income students of color in California? That’s the provocative question ostensibly at the heart of Vergara vs. California, which seeks to invalidate the tenure, due process and seniority rights of hundreds of thousands of educators.
Astute observers of the nation’s escalating education wars, however, may be asking another question: When did it become permissible to use the welfare of children as a fig leaf for an all-out legal attack on teachers?
Or, as historian and teacher John Thompson wrote recently in Scholastic, “Are corporate reformers unabashedly using the courts as a battleground for battering employees’ rights, as opposed to helping children?”
Sadly, the answer to Thompson’s question appears to be an unequivocal yes. For while the outcome of Vergara will have far-reaching national implications, it is hardly unique in its attempt to scapegoat teachers for sub-par educational performance.