Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Today Is Another Election Day In Los Angeles


I can only imagine how low the turnout has been so far. It's the runoff between progressive former teacher Jackie Goldberg and the slick downtown establishment candidate, Heather Repenning. The primary was an overwhelming success for Goldberg who bested 9 other candidates with 48.45%, almost enough to avoid a run-off. The big-money candidate, Repenning, had 13.17%. It should be an easy win for Jackie Goldberg but... is anyone voting today? A charter school-backed superPAC spent $750,000 on advertising for Repenning. People were so annoyed that the unbearable barrage of ads did more damage than good. Polls close at 8pm.

The district, whose 81,000 students in 177 schools are almost 90% Latino, includes Los Feliz, Silverlake, Highland Park, Echo Park, Eagle Rock, Huntington Park, Maywood, South Gate, Vernon and Bell. Goldberg, 74, served on the school board in the 1980s and then went on to serve on both the City Council and in the State Assembly. She is strongly allied with the teachers unions and opposes the further spread of charter schools which, she says, need to be seriously reformed. I don't know if Elizabeth Warren, a former public school teacher herself, is aware of this race or not, but yesterday she sent an e-mail entitled: "In my administration, the Secretary of Education will be a former public school teacher who is committed to public education."

She made the point that "we need to make sure the Department of Education actually works for our students and our educators. I’ll just be blunt: Betsy DeVos is the worst Secretary of Education we’ve seen. She and her team are up to their eyeballs in conflicts of interest. Instead of championing our students, they protect for-profit colleges that break the law and cheat them."

So I’m making this pledge to you: In my administration, the Secretary of Education will be a former public school teacher who is committed to public education.

Let’s get a person with real teaching experience. A person who understands how low pay, tattered textbooks, and crumbling classrooms hurt students and educators. A person who understands the crushing burden of student debt on students and young professionals and who is committed to actually doing something about it.

And our teachers are being crushed right now. Too many have to work another job to make ends meet, are weighed down by student debt, and struggle to teach on shoestring budgets and insulting salaries.

When we fail our teachers, we fail our students-- and we fail our future.

Now, this problem is bigger than Betsy DeVos-- she’s the symptom of a badly broken system. We’re up against powerful forces, and to win, we need big, structural change.

I’ve got a plan for exactly that.

Let’s pass my Ultra-Millionaire Tax and use the money to invest in Universal Child Care and pre-K for all kids.

Let’s use some of that new revenue to raise salaries for all our pre-school teachers to professional level wages-- make them a part of the K-12 teaching corp.

Let’s use more of it to cancel student loan debt for 95 percent of people who have it.

Let’s make it easier to join a union. Unions give teachers-- and firefighters, sheet-metal workers, steelworkers, working people across this country-- more power over the long run. That's good for teachers, good for students, and good for making sure we put the resources we need directly into our schools.

It’s that straightforward: Get the right leadership, invest in our kids, and invest in our teachers.

Oh, and one last thing: Wouldn’t it be amazing to have a former public school teacher in the White House?

We get what we fight for.

Jeff Bryant is also fighting, though not for political office. Yesterday he wrote a piece for Our School, "Why Charter School Proponents Have Lost Many of the Democrats Who Once Supported Them," that is important reading for people interested in the public schools and the attack on them from the right. "The politics of charter schools have changed, and bipartisan support for these publicly funded, privately controlled schools has reached a turning point," he wrote. "A sure sign of the change came from Democrats in the House Appropriations Committee who have proposed a deep cut in federal charter school grants that would lower funding to $400 million, $40 million below current levels and $100 million less than what the Trump administration has proposed. Democrats are also calling for better oversight of charter schools that got federal funding and then closed. This is a startling turn of events, as for years, Democrats have enthusiastically joined Republicans in providing federal grants to create new charter schools and expand existing ones. In explaining this change in the politics of charter schools, pundits and reporters will likely point to two factors: the unpopularity of Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, an ardent charter school proponent, and teachers’ unions that can exert influence in the Democratic Party. But if the tide is truly turning on bipartisan support for charter schools, it is the charter industry itself that is most to blame."
Dems Divide on Charters

For years, support for charter schools has been the norm in the Democratic Party. The Obama administration dramatically expanded federal support for charter schools with the avid support of Democrats in Congress. A slew of Democratic governors, from Andrew Cuomo in New York to former Governor of California Jerry Brown, have been charter champions.

Candidates in the Democratic Party presidential primary who’ve been highly supportive of charter schools include Senators Cory Booker of New Jersey and Michael Bennet of Colorado and former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper. Other Democratic presidential contenders who are newer on the scene such as Julian Castro and Beto O’Rourke have connections to charter schools or their supporters. [And then there's Biden's brother, Frank Biden, the top lobbyist for the Charter School alliance. Photo of the two on the right.]

Even in the first year of the Trump administration, as Democrats rejected the education budget put forth by U.S. Secretary Betsy DeVos, they voted with Republicans for the Trump administration’s increase in funding for the charter school grant program.

But the divergence in charter school politics was certainly visible in 2018 elections when Democrats flipped seven governor seats and brought into office new leaders who expressed strong skepticism of these schools. In races for seats in the U.S. House and in state legislatures, the largely uncontested playing field charter school proponents have enjoyed in nearly two decades of elections was thick with formidable opponents who campaigned against an open-wallet policy for charters.

The growing divide over charter schools in the Democratic Party is a reflection of what’s happening among voters. A recent Gallup survey showed support for charters among Democrats eroding from 61 percent in 2012 to 48 percent, while Republican support remained steady at 62 percent over the same five years.

Now candidates in the Democratic presidential primary are taking cautious approaches to talking about charters. When CNN correspondent Jake Tapper recently asked Booker whether he was “part of the charter school movement,” Booker declined to answer the question directly, responding instead that he is for “solutions.” Tapper replied, “It seems you’re reluctant to say you’re part of the public charter school movement.”

What Happened?

Serious analysts of charter school politics can point to multiple factors that are changing alignments.

The drumbeat of reports revealing corruption, fraud, and blatant profiteering in the charter school industry has certainly penetrated the conversation.

News outlets report the legislation proposed by House Democrats was influenced by a recent analysis which found that as much as $1 billion in federal money was wasted on charter schools that never opened or that closed because of fraud, mismanagement, other issues. That analysis, which I coauthored with Carol Burris of the Network for Public Education, urged the department of education to follow through with recommendations from a 2018 federal audit of charters, a recommendation House Democrats have also taken up.

Concerns over widespread charter school corruption have mushroomed as news of scandals have become near-daily occurrences across the country, including from Arizona, Florida, California, Georgia, Nevada, and New Mexico.

Also, teachers who recently walked off the job to protest unchecked charter expansion in Los Angeles, Oakland, West Virginia, and Jefferson County, Kentucky, have helped to shift the politics of charter schools by pointing out that charters, as they are currently conceived and operated in most places, now pose an existential threat to public school systems.

The politics of charter schools have also changed in the African American community. Urban communities of color that were supposed to be the intended beneficiaries of charter schools have now become intense battlegrounds where expansions of these schools are increasingly strongly contested. When prominent civil rights groups including the national NAACP, the Movement for Black Lives, the Journey for Justice Alliance, and the Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools called for a moratorium on the expansion of charter schools and for stronger oversight of these schools, it signaled to Democrats that two of the party’s strongest factions, labor and civil rights groups, have come together on resistance to school privatization.

Charter Schools’ Pogo Moment

But the charter school industry’s worst enemy is undoubtedly itself.

When the whole idea of creating a charter school to serve as a laboratory of innovation for educating special needs students transformed into a movement, and then an industry, the goal changed from a collective effort of local citizens to educate children to become a scourge of low-quality institutions devouring the common good for the sake of its own growth.

While stories of corrupt and low-quality charter schools have become routine in local and national news, the charter industry has continued to argue that government regulation and the ineptness of charter authorizers are the only problems and that there could not possibly be anything wrong with charters themselves.

As numerous research reports continue to reveal charter schools increase segregationof students on the basis of race, income, and ability, the charter industry responded by denying and then ignoring the problem.

“What was once billed as a model for the improvement of traditionally governed public schools,” writes the Washington Post’s Valerie Strauss, “has become a troubled parallel system of privately managed schools with, in many places, patterns of waste, fraud, and segregation.”

In that piece, Strauss includes a lengthy analysis by Burris asking whether charter schools can be rehabilitated and reconnected to their original mission. Her conclusion-- after weighing the frequency and seriousness of scandals, the persistent evidence of discrimination and segregation, and the depletion of public school funding-- is “a resounding no.”

The fact there are numerous charter schools that do wonderful work will continue to provide fodder for charter fans to refute Burris’ argument. But charter schools will be an increasingly contentious political issue-- and deservedly so. In her piece, Strauss points to an observation I made in 2013, that charter school enthusiasts who had concerns about creating good schools had come to a Pogo moment when their search for an enemy had led “to a mirror.” Clearly, six years ago they liked what they saw. Now they’re paying the political consequences for that.

UPDATE: Huge Win For Berniecrats, For The Unions, The Public Schools And For Jackie Goldberg

It wasn't even close. The downtown establishment and charter school shills had their asses handed to them last night when Jackie Goldberg swept to a massive 72-28% win over Heather Repenning.

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At 5:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why the surprise over democraps dividing over charter schools? Those who benefit from corporate profits will be totally in favor of charters while those who value real education will strongly oppose.

Just like the report of Trump diverting Pell Grant funds to a NASA moonwalk delusion, public education funding will go to the Pentagon to replace the draw taken to build the wall so that when Pompeo and Bolton succeed in convincing a confused and ignorant Congress to authorize finding for the Iran War there will be money fo buy more bombs. Those kids in the schools will be sent out to clear minefields so that "real" soldiers won't have to get hurt. Why educate them when they are only going to die young anyway?

At 1:19 AM, Anonymous ap215 said...

Way to go Jackie.


At 1:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is why Mayor Garcetti had better forget about his presidential plans. The people are on to his scams.

At 4:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

All special elections are low turnout elections. It's possible 50% of the votes were VBM. Also, *some* reporters' headline of "low turnout" rather than *landslide* is meant to discredit or diminish Jackie's win. SEIU's negative attacks on Jackie were meant to depress turnout. And what's up with SEIU supporting charter candidates over the years?



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