Sunday, January 16, 2011

PARENT TRIGGER HAPPY/UNHAPPY: Grannan on the myth; Austin on the fight; Fensterwald on the reality + There's despicable, then there's despicable, and then there's Ben Austin

from California’s Children |

UPDATE, January 10, 2011: this week's agenda of the California State School Board -- which includes 6 new members (less the withdrawn-appointee, Bill Honig) -- has decided to delay adoption of "Parent Trigger" regulations. The trigger-petition law, giving parents an action to boot -- or reboot-- a failing school, is "all about charters," explains John Fensterwald in his blog, Educated Guess. 

Ben Austin, video above, CEO of Parent Revolution, interviewed in mid-December at the State School Board meeting by John Fensterwald of Educated Guess. At the time, Austin was a Schwarzenegger-appointed member of the board; he was not confirmed, and was not reappointed by Gov. Brown.

Caroline grannan<<Caroline Grannan is a parent, an educational advocate, and journalist who blogs at Solidaridad. She submitted the following post to California's Children for publication.

1/12/11 --Sooner or later the mainstream press and politicos will have to own up to the fact that the Parent Trigger they were hailing so admiringly has ripped the McKinley community apart.

The move to hand challenged, high-need McKinley Elementary School in Compton over to a charter operator under California's “Parent Trigger” law was widely reported a resounding triumph for low-income parents demanding a decent school for their children. To those following the issue closely, that version has rapidly fallen apart, as critics (including this poster) have retorted that an organization founded by charter operators and funded by billionaires ran the show and exploited the parents...[is not]... a “revolution of the little people.”

Meanwhile, the school community has predictably dissolved into chaos and conflict...

On Dec. 7, in a polished media event, McKinley parents delivered their signatures (apparently of McKinley parents and not the vague “others” the Parent Trigger law also allows to vote) to officials of the Compton Unified School District. The move would put the school into the hands of a specific charter operator, Celerity Educational Group. The entire Parent Trigger move actually came not from within the McKinley community,but from the organization Parent Revolution, which was founded not by parents but by a group of charter school operators led by the high-profile Green Dot.

As the L.A. Weekly puts it, Parent Revolution “has 10 full-time staff members and a $1 million annual operating budget, is funded by blue-chip philanthropic endeavors, such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Wasserman Foundation, the Broad Foundation, the Hewlett Foundation and the Walton Family Foundation [of Wal-Mart]." ...

After the signatures were delivered and the national and international press, politicians, commentators et al. leaped on the event to proclaim a victory for the people, the L.A. Times followed up with a Dec. 11 story announcing that some McKinley parents claimed to have been misled and wanted to withdraw their signatures. And in a detailed blog report posted late last night (Dec. 14), the L.A. Weekly describes an angry and chaotic Compton Unified School District meeting, “packed with press and hundreds of angry parents, many of whom say they were tricked into signing the Parent Trigger petition without knowing its gravity.”

  “Above all,” the Weekly post declares, “the air is buzzing with confusion. “It seems everyone here has a contradicting understanding of what, exactly, the new Celerity Educational Group charter school would mean for their children.” Further chaos ensues: Admin, teachers, parents and students from another Los Angeles charter school — the Wisdom Academy for Young Scientists — have showed up in mass (sic) to sing the praises of charter schools. 'The teachers there are great — everybody's great,' says one mother. WAYS grandmother Ethel Nathaniel says, 'The school is really beautiful; it's wonderful.' 'We don't want charter school! We don't want charter school!' some mothers chant. … More and more, the crowd reveals itself as anti-Parent Trigger.

The only speakers that are cheered are the ones defending CUSD. The conclusion of the current version of the L.A. Weekly blog tells the story. … There's a new civil war working against the betterment [the wording expresses the Weekly's open view that the move would promote the school's “betterment”] of McKinley Elementary: The Celerity parents versus the CUSD parents...

. ... [Parent Revolution Executive Director Ben] Austin and his staff surveyed parents at several schools in Compton, asking if they were interested in a transformation. ... field organizers have canvassed a large chunk of the 10-square-mile city of Compton, knocking on hundreds of doors, walking its sidewalks and driving its streets, asking people if their children attend McKinley, making contacts."


There's one more little twist to the national press coverage describing McKinley Elementary as a disastrous academic failure: In reality, McKinley outperforms the average Green Dot charter school.....


THERE'S DESPICABLE, THEN THERE'S DESPICABLE, THEN THERE'S BEN AUSTIN: Austin channels Sarah Palin substituting his Triggers for her Targets

by Dr. Robert D. Skeels in Solidaridad |
Defend Public Schools from Corporate Charter-Voucher Charlatans

Tuesday, January 11, 2011 -- Highly paid school privatization advocate Ben Austin has been lashing out publicly with ever more vitriol since he ignominiously lost his seat on the California State Board of Education and his supposed moment of triumph in Compton, chronicled in Jill Stewart's trashy masseuse and porn ad pennysaver became mired in controversy and very real accusations of his organization's malfeasance.

The foppish millionaire from Benedict Canyon, Austin, and his minions like Gloria Romero, Gate Rose, and the ultra-reactionary troll Anthony Krinsky have been attacking community members, teachers, administrators, reporters, and anyone else willing to speak truth to their power with an hereto unknown degree of hate speech. Using language that precisely mirrors that of Sarah Palin's tirades, these corporate charter-voucher sector employees have reached an all new degree of hyperbole and bombast. Like the teabaggers and Palin, their vicious attacks and language are a sure path to violence and community strife. Of course there isn't a dime's worth of difference between the DFER, CCSA, Parent Revolution and the teabaggers to begin with.

One of the best essays I've seen so far addressing this trend is Martha Infante's Words Matter on the InterACT blog. She takes on the importance of our word choices and the focuses on how the dominant narrative about teachers has taken on the same character. Of note is her closing paragraph:

As we left our board meeting, with heavy hearts, the significance of the mass shooting began sinking in. I thought about the power of words and imagery that so many throw around carelessly. I thought about words and phrases such as "trigger," "dropout factories." I think about former Senator Gloria Romero comparing Compton educators to "batterers" and wondered whether the writers of those words ever stop to think about the consequences of their prose. Has the moment arrived where enough is enough? Because it is impossible to believe that continuing down the road of uncivil, polemic rhetoric can in any way enhance or improve our educational system, on which our democracy is built.

In all fairness I am somewhat of a polemicist myself, and can be quite vicious attacking wealthy school privatization pushers and poverty pimps. The difference of course is that they hold all the cards, where we community activists have little more than our polemics. After all, in their corner they have the wealthiest people in the world, The POTUS and Secretary of Education, Oprah, the entire corporate media, high profile filmmakers, a host of astro-turf 501C3 proxies, and so on.
Back to Austin and his corporate entourage's verbal war on the community. In a recent Huffington Post op-ed entitled McKinley Elementary Parents Continuing Their Fight for Change, Austin, a man with NO SCHOOL AGED CHILDREN of his own and who lives in the exclusive Benedict Canyon region of Beverly Hills makes outrageous and inflammatory accusations towards the parents of McKinley. Namely he smears Pastor Lee Finnie, a parent of three children enrolled in McKinley ES and a member of the Parent Teacher Association. Finnie, father to a special needs child who he had to withdraw his child from a local charter-voucher school that wouldn't educate his child, found refuge at McKinley — a real public school obligated to educate every child. Not fooled by false promises that Celerity and Austin hold out about special education [1], Finnie and many other parents have resisted the hostile take over of their school by the wealthy charter interests. Austin goes so far as to accuse Pastor Finnie and the PTA of "underground, secretive, unethical, unregulated, and possibly even illegal" activities. Such unconscionable accusations are reprehensible, repugnant, and revolting.
Here are my comments that appear after Austin's unbelievably insensitive and hostile attacks on the McKinley ES community:
Not a peep about how Parent Revolution's deputy director, Gabe Rose, created a fraudulent group called McKinley Parents for Change posing as a Compton parent? Your staffer, Yuritzy Anaya admitted that to the community.
Update on the veracity of McKinley Parents for Change
Nothing on the trigger law's proposed regulations barely mentioning admitting all students within an attendance boundary, having no language discussing charters being REQUIRED to fully accommodate special education, SWD, or ELL? The closest thing appears in §4806 under "Permissible activities. LEA may also implement comprehensive instructional reform strategies, such as: ... (C) Providing additional supports and professional development to teachers and principals in order to implement effective strategies to support students with disabilities in the least restrictive environment and to ensure that limited-English-proficient students acquire language skills to master academic content;"
In other words, programs for children with special needs are entirely optional — not required. The charter-voucher industry has found yet another way out of the obligation to educate every child!
Astroturf Spawns Ever More Astroturf, Plus Parent Revolution Lies about Celerity Special Education Again!
Amidst vicious and unfounded accusations of deception and dishonesty towards McKinley parents like Pastor Finnie, there's no mention that your staff may have destroyed important documents pertinent to the Attorney General's investigation of your organization?
Seems the above mentioned incidents are "underground, secretive, unethical, unregulated, and possibly even illegal" activities being omitted from your narrative. Must be the $15,000 a month the Walton and Gates Foundations pay you Mr. Austin.

Austin and Krinsky are both close friends and fellow Ayn Rand and Milton Friedman acolytes. Krinsky noticed his BFF Austin wasn't receiving any love on Huffington Post and had to chime in. In his accustomed third grade screed he accuses the PTA of being "accessories" to the teacher unions' "nefarious agendas." He calls hard working dedicated teachers "crooks who simply won't let our [sic] children go." Since Krinksy has NO children of his own, the "our" is way beyond disingenuous, it's an outright lie.
My follow up comments to Krinsky:
So by Mr. Krinsky's "logic" the PTA, a grassroots organization where parents have actual organizing power is nefarious, while the the entirely astro-turf Parent Revolution funded by the Walton Foundation, The Gates Foundation, and in the past by the Broad Foundation, Annenberg Foundation, Reed Hastings and other plutocrats, somehow cares about the same victims that their funders' relentless pursuit of wealth and avoidance of paying taxes made poor? Hate to break this to you Mr. Krinsky, but Atlas Shrugged and the Fountainhead are fictional accounts, as is your 'logic' supporting your well heeled friends at LAPU/Parent Revolution.
For a refresher on Parent Revolution's (neé LAPU) founding, see the infamous Annenberg Document:
Green Dot Public [sic] Schools & Los Angeles Parents Union

[1] See Astroturf Spawns Ever More Astroturf, Plus Parent Revolution Lies about Celerity Special Education Again! for more on this. Also know that Celerity Educational Group farms out, or outsources, the special education and students with disabilities in order to cut costs and pay their executive's bloated salaries. This separates children from both their siblings and peers, further marginalizing them.

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