What’s in a name? Maybe deception.

These people calling themselves “LASD Parents for Great Schools” donated more than $21,000 in one week to support pro-BCS candidates Martha McClatchie and John Swan.

I haven’t done a deep-dive on the list, but at a glance I see there’s a lot of overlap between this donor list and current and former BCS Foundation board and BCS School board members.

Recall that Martha McClatchie is a former LASD parent whose children now attend BCS. Martha volunteered for the BCS Foundation in 2012, completing and signing its 2012 IRS Form 990 as Principal Officer and Treasurer.

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Why not Martha? Her actions. (Part 1)

I’ve previously written about my experience with Martha McClatchie, and why I find her an ideologically inappropriate candidate for LASD Trustee. Ideology aside, there are a number of actions she has taken as a pro-BCS, anti-LASD activist that more then give me pause:

  1. Political flip-flop on BCS facilities litigation
  2. Obscuring BCS legal and PR expenditures
  3. Organizing a media stunt to shame LASD (coming soon)
  4. Close ties to charter movement leadership (coming soon)

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Meet the new Boss

Same as the old Boss

The Santa Clara County Board of Education has a new President: Leon Beauchman. Beauchman has been a member of SCCBOE for 13 years and previously served as SCCBOE President in 2002 and 2005. He was re-elected in Nov. 2012 in an uncontested race for the Area 3 seat—unfortunately, resembling a single-party election.*

Beauchman has been on SCCBOE continuously since it forged the BCS-LASD conflict in 2003. Prior to the county board’s approval of the Bullis charter, only one charter school operated in Santa Clara County. As of now, SCCBOE has approved 38 charters. Beauchman has been a driver of this aggressive pursuit of charters, an approach the county board calls “bold” and “courageous.” Others call it “reckless” and “privatization.”

beauchmanI had an opportunity in May 2013 to speak in person with now-President Leon Beauchman and then-President Grace Mah after a public meeting on charter school issues in my community. The dialogue was intimate, including just Beauchman, Mah, one or two other people and myself.

mahOur conversation naturally, eventually turned to the BCS-LASD situation, and I mentioned the LASD community’s perception that SCCBOE didn’t perform proper oversight of BCS. I said the LASD community had, over time, communicated to SCCBOE some troubling BCS policies and practices, but rarely (if ever) did the community receive any response or action.

I mentioned specifically that a citizen had inquired about a $250K personal loan made by Bullis Charter School to Principal Wanny Hersey. (It’s illegal for a public school funded with public tax dollars to make a personal loan to an administrator, yet…) In BCS’ annual Form 990 filings across multiple years, a $250K loan was reported as a “personal loan.”

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Much moore on Mann

Strange bedfellows indeed. Downright weird at times. How do these odd couplings come together in the first place? What does that dating game even look like? Beats me. One thing seems clear though: Craig Mann played hard in the small-time money, influence and county politics game. Here’s more of what I’ve learned, and it’s a little unsavory:

mannCraig Mann served on the Santa Clara County Board of Education from 2006 until his resignation in Aug. 2012. Prior to his tenure on SCCBOE, Mann was an East Side Union High School District trustee 1998-2006.

During May-June, 2010 Craig Mann repeatedly attacked SCCOE Superintendent Charles Weis over hiring a Chief Business Officer.

chuck_weisA search committee had been appointed and SCCBOE members were invited to participate in the process. Mann chose not to participate but later sent a series of angry emails to Superintendent Weis, Cc:-ing the rest of SCCBOE, other non-SCCOE people and even members of the press saying (quote):

  • The “No Coloreds” sign needs to come down from the COE drinking fountain.
  • “Jim Crow” employment practices must end at the Santa Clara County Office of Education and it must end now.

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County Board: “Voters are lame”

disalvoRelax. Take a seat.

In today’s episode of “You Gotta be @#$%^& Kidding Me” we hear Member Joe Di Salvo discussing consolidating the 31 Santa Clara County public school districts and expressing his desire to work on a subcommittee organized for this purpose led by Member Leon Beauchman. Here’s a short audio clip from the February 20, 2013 meeting of the Santa Clara County Board of Education. Please listen.

Whether the source is national (Broad Foundation), state (Cal Charters) or local (Reed Hastings), there’s a lot of big time pro-charter money being poured into Santa Clara county to create a crucible for “education reform.” (More hereSometimes the influence of political funding can be shocking, like when elected SCCBOE Members say that democratic local control over public education is broken and voters are powerless to do anything about it.

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Half fast analysis

cost-cutterIn the midst of The Great Recession, when the economy was foundering and tax revenues scarce, the Santa Clara County Civil Grand Jury analyzed the county’s 31 school districts looking for cost savings in the system.

“The 2009-2010 Santa Clara County Civil Grand Jury reviewed school district administrative expenses and costs in an attempt to find efficiencies that could minimize the impact of an ailing economy on education.”

This was definitely a worthwhile project and I commend them for taking it on.

What did the Civil Grand Jury find?

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In their own words

Most of us vote on election day to put people into public office but then unplug from politics and government until the next election cycle. I know people who spend a lot more personal time than I do attending school board or city council meetings.

scrutinyGovernment meetings are open to the public but few ordinary folk attend. Monitoring “the people’s business” is important and somebody needs to do it. 

The next best thing to attending a meeting of a public agency may be listening to audio recordings of meetings, and in some ways, may even be preferable.

If I attend a government meeting as a citizen observer, I might not be able to track all the details of a back-and-forth discussion, especially if I’m taking notes. With a good audio recording, I can listen at my leisure, reflect on points made, and as necessary, rewind and replay as often as I wish.

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Student needs not applied

greenAt the October 2013 Charter Schools Study Workshop convened by the Santa Clara County Board of Education, new member Darcie Green asks a clarifying question about official Board Policy on Charter Schools.

“On page number one of the Policy, in Purpose and Scope: ‘In granting charter petitions the County Board shall give preference to schools best able to provide comprehensive learning experiences for academically low-achieving students.’ What does that mean to us? What does ‘preference’ mean? This is just my ignorance. I would say we give preference to charter schools, but how does that play out in our values as a Board?”

“Do we want to focus more on truly serving the academically needy student? Or does that word preference really not… I don’t know why it’s in there… it doesn’t seem to be what we do, so I don’t know way it’s in there. But I like that it’s in there.”

Uh oh, now you’ve done it. You asked a serious question, in public no less, about the County Board’s values and intent vis-a-vis serving unmet student needs, with a particular focus on under-served or academically low-achieving students.

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You’re not getting paid to think

songAnna Song has been a member of the Santa Clara County Board of Education for thirteen years. First elected in 2000, she has been an active proponent of charters as the statewide and national movement has grown. She’s no fan of the ‘status quo’ and believes charter law is intended to make waves and shake things up in public education.

Nonetheless, in the 2012 election, she faced stiff opposition backed by big time pro-charter money via “Santa Clara County Schools PAC, Supporting Grace Mah and David Neighbors for County Board of Education and Opposing Anna Song 2012”

SCCS PAC LA-LAH Donors 2012 Continue reading

Moving the goal posts

magic-trickIt’s an old rhetorical trick, but in skilled hands it still works like new.

Like magic.

Here’s an argument for “education reform” and charters from the Broad Foundations that few people would take major issue with (assuming it’s factually correct):

“With one-third of students dropping out and many of those who graduate from high school unable to succeed in college, our public schools are failing our nation.”

Now here’s a clever pivot by the Pacific Legal Foundation (PLF) that skirts a requirement of unmet student need. In its November 13, 2013 amicus brief filed in support of the California Charter Schools Association in a lawsuit against LA Unified School District, the table of contents reads:

“The Charter Schools Act of 1992 was adopted in response to a growing crisis in public education.”

But their Summary of Argument reads:

“All too often, traditional public schools provide a dissatisfying one-size-fits-all model resistant to improvement.”

Poof! The justification for breaking our constitutional “common” public school model just morphed from crisis “We must do it for the children” to preference “We must do it because… well, because people like choice.” It’s just more satisfying, even if it’s not right.

shopaholicQ:  “I’m accustomed to choosing ordinary things like my car, a restaurant or my smartphone. Why don’t I get to choose something as important as which public schools my children attend?”

A:  Because public education operates by different principles than a private market for goods and services. In the public domain, we prohibit the discrimination and inequality inherent in a market system because all citizens are entitled to an equal measure of benefit from our laws and public institutions. In public life, we’re responsible to and for one another under a social contract. This is why when some students are shortchanged or under-served by their public schools, we create supplementary or remedial programs to ensure they get a fair share—and a fair shot at life.

But I digress.

At least the Broad Foundation was unambiguous by defining the dropout problem as “one-third of students.” You have to marvel at all the ambiguity from PLF:

  • All too often
  • Dissatisfying
  • Resistent to improvement

There’s something for just about everyone inclined to be even a little bit critical of traditional public schools. Any school parent who’s honest about their experience will say they’ve been “dissatisfied” at one time or another with their teacher or their school, and “all too often” can mean as little as “once.” Given typical parental focus on their children’s achievement, who among us would say they’ve never felt a program, teacher or administrator was “resistant to improvement”?

This is the tap root of privatization of public education, a vital civic institution, obviously related to The Great Misdirection. It’s also known as the “consumerization” of public education. The underlying justification for “education reform” and charter schools has become less about leveling the playing field for under-served and struggling students and more about giving parents free market, consumer choice for the sake of… choice itself.

But “choice for choice’s sake” can—and is—being deployed by parents to create separate, unequal quasi-private “public schools of choice” that segregate students by ethnicity, socio-economic status, educational achievement or other “consumer” preferences. Choice unrestrained by demonstrable educational need breaks the back of our equity-based constitutional system of common schools.

Here’s basically how it works: I grab your attention by railing against the moral injustice of under-achieving public schools and high school dropout rates, then I get you nodding your head “Yes” as I prescribe a “choice and charter” remedy for these urgent social ills, then with a pandering appeal to your self-interest, it’s a trivial challenge to convince you that every parent and child is entitled to public education on their own terms.

Voila! Magically, everyone is entitled to public “school choice” even if they’re not struggling in school or at risk of dropping out. Even if they’re on the ‘winning’ side of the achievement gap. Isn’t it just fair that we all have equal right to choose?

Did you see what I did there? I moved the goal posts on the “reform” argument, and you ate it up. Yum.

Almost nothing sells like vanity and self-interest, especially when it’s “for the children,” swaddled in moral indignation, victimhood and entitlement.

Tastes great. Less integrated.