LA Schools to Outside Operators: Come on Down!

In a jaw-dropping (some might say defeatist) move, the LA Unified School district Board of Education voted to turn over 250 campuses to charter school and other kinds of private operators. This is about a fourth of the district's schools. The vote was 6-1. Here's an article from the LA Times. Those 250 campuses include 50 new multi-million dollar campuses.

Why did this happen?

"The premise of the resolution is first and foremost to create choice and competition," said board member Yolie Flores Aguilar, who brought the resolution, "and to really force and pressure the district to put forth a better educational plan."

There you go - competition. A business model because we know that business does everything well and hence our great economy. The Gates Foundation and their Transformation plan initiative as well as their small schools within high schools are now national models, right? Education is a lot harder than it looks.

"The vote occurred after a tense, nearly four-hour debate during which supporters characterized the resolution as a moral imperative. Foes called it illegal, illogical and improper.

The action signals a historic turning point for the Los Angeles Unified School District, which has struggled for decades to boost student achievement. District officials and others have said their ability to achieve more than incremental progress is hindered by the powerful teachers union, whose contract makes it nearly impossible to fire ineffective tenured teachers. Union leaders blame a district bureaucracy that they say fails to include teachers in "top-down reforms."

Oh come on! The teachers are the entire reason that they can't move forward? How smart of the district to place the blame solely on teachers when they know how many people view the teachers' union with suspicion. As we are learning from KIPP schools, as reported earlier this summer in the NY Times, many teachers without unions eventually want them back.

"Among those who could take advantage of the board action is Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who could use it to enlarge the 11-school effort run by a nonprofit that he controls. Villaraigosa, who helped elect a majority of the seven-member board, was an active participant Tuesday, speaking before more than 2,000 parents, teachers and others before the vote."

Controls a non-profit that runs 11 schools? Helped elect a majority of the Board? Wow, that's a lot of power not to mention a seeming conflict of interest.


"Other critics have joined Duffy [Union President A.J. Duffy] in questioning whether schools built with bond funds to relieve crowding, can be turned over to entities not under direct district control.

For their part, charter schools may have to operate differently in district-owned sites. They could be required to enroll more disabled students and higher numbers of lower-income students than at some current charter schools."

You'd think the charters would have to be responsible for more special ed students, heck, the general population of all the LA schools they take over for the deal they are getting.

Boy, this must look like a gift from the gods to the charter school movement. Well, like New Orleans, who went to a largely charter model after Katrina, here's a big bold experiment on charters. I think we'll see what we already know; overall, charters do no better than other public schools.


zb said…
"I think we'll see what we already know; overall, charters do no better than other public schools. "

I agree, and I'm glad the experiment is being done somewhere other than here. I do fear for the children in LA, but we can keep our fingers crossed that we're wrong, and that educational opportunities will actually improve. It's possible that their system is so broken that it will (Katrina and the distruction of New Orleans, and the school system in Chicago might be similar examples).

I really do not believe that SPS is such -- I think that many schools in SPS deliver a high quality education. The trick is to figure out how to deal with the outliers, and make sure that all the children have access to a solid public education.
adhoc said…
How did they determine which schools would be turned into charter schools? Were they the lowest performing public schools? or do they have some other criteria?
owlhouse said…
On a related note, it looks like the last day to offer public comments on the "Race to the Top" is this Friday, 8/28. Not that I expect a fundamental shift in the criteria used to determine the allocation of funds, but there should be a public record of concerns re: the bribes, inequity and push for privatization inherent in this plan.
owlhouse said…
Opps- link too long?

Copy paste-
Robert said…
How is this even going to make it through the courts? Seems like they have over stepped their mandate to direct the public education of the city's schools. The system is just too big... It should be divided not given to the biggest briber.
It is odd; the article refers to "bids" not applications almost as if it were an auction.
seattle citizen said…
In today's Seattle Times, there is a short squib on this in the "Nation" section of briefs.

It is titled:
"L.A. outsourcing schools"
and goes on to say that this action "could turn a third of the schools in the nation's second-largest school district over to private operators."

The mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa, "controls" eleven "non-profit" charters while he helps elect the board?

Teaching is dead. "Educational Product" lives. Be shocked and uncomprehending how this could actually be, cry inconsolably, then pick up your pen, your megaphone and your address book and take it to the streets.
seattle citizen said…
Required reading:
Dehumanized - When math and science rule the school
Mark Slouka, Harper's, Sept. 09

about "a quiet retooling of American education into an adjunct of business, an instrument of production."

"You have to admire the skill with which we have been outmaneuvered....the way the other side [a pure "business-jobs" view of the purpose of education] has narrowed the field, neutralized lines of attack [by those who still value teaching things besides job-prep]..."

"In our time, orthodoxy is economic. Popular culture fetishizes it, our entertainments salaam to it, our artists are ranked and revered by it...Everything submits...ust pay fealty to the market."

"By downsizing what is most dangerous (and most esssential0 about our education, namely the deep civic function of the arts and the humanities, we're well on the way to producing a nation of employees, not citizens. Thus is the world made safe for commerce, but not safe."

" 'This is exactly what life is about. You get a paycheck every two weeks. We're preparing children for life.' Michelle Rhee, District of Columbbia schools chancellor."

If anyone can read this article and tell me how we counter this movement, how we rescue education from the maw of Almighty Dollar (we're already between its teeth), please please tell me.
seattle citizen said…
Lynne Varner has an opinion piece in today's Seattle Times that is relevant to this thread. She proposed that Washington "compete" for "race to the top" funding, somehow demonstrating that we are behind the tenets put forth in the parameters to join that state-against-state combat.

She proposes that we should "compete," there's a "game day" coming, we need a "team coach" (Dorn)...

She then rebuts Dorn's concern that maybe we don't "want or need the federal government telling us what to do."
"Yes, we do need federal guidance to ensure every state and district is using the same playbook."

So I guess we should give up local autonomy, change our system to reflect Arne Duncan's (that masterful king of educational theory of better business, uh, better education:
Charters and merit pay.

Because everyone knows outsourcing is the way to go! Halliburton did such a good job for us in Iraq, we should rest assured that businesses can run our schools more profitable, uh, efficiently, and defeat that pesky teacher's union with it's unrealistic idea of fair pay in a competitive world.

We NEED businesses churning out more employees! THIS is the true calling of the educator, and the educator should act in a way consistent with the business models of our economic captains. They've done such a good job lately.

Though I have to give Ms. Varner props for acknowledging that our alts are "models of creativity" that could meet the charter requirement (pass as charters, or as models of "choice" in schools....speaking of which, isn't it weird that on side of the mouth seems to be saying we should have lots of choices for our children, lots of inovative models, etc, while the other side of the mouth tells us that standards are good, that all the "product" should be the same, that curriculum across schools should be similar etc? Weird.)
wseadawg said…
Two absolutely must read articles for anyone who cares about education and their child's future.

The Charter School Hype and How It's Managed

Obama and Duncan's Education Policy: Like Bush's, Only Worse

Nuff said for now.
wseadawg said…
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wseadawg said…
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wseadawg said…
Part three of the trilogy of must read articles by Danny Weil.

The Future of Charter Schools
wseadawg said…
And another article from Chicago's experience with Education "Deform" under Arne Duncan.

So besides being Obama's b-ball buddy, exactly what qualifies Arne Duncan to be the Sec'y of Ed?

8/26/09 4:25 PM
gavroche said…
Melissa said: Why did this happen?

It is probably no coincidence that this happened in L.A., home base for Eli Broad and his pro-charter, pro-privatizing, "venture philanthropy" corporate "Foundation."

Here is another disturbing must-read, a cautionary tale of what happend to Oakland, California's school district when the privatizers moved in.

It offers strong evidence for why we should not let the pro-privatizing forces like the Broad Foundation take over and ravage our school district (beyond what they may already have done, that is):


A Reader's Comments

Hi Sue and Dora,

I just discovered your blog this morning when my hit counter showed that someone was directed to my blog via yours.

I am so sad to learn that Seattle has been infected by the public education and school-killing pathogen known as Eli Broad.

Local control was just returned to my public school district (Oakland) in late June, after being subjected to six years of Broad-trained leadership, courtesy of our state superintendent. The experience left a sour taste in everyone's mouth and permanent damage was definitely done during their stay. The top level (state administrator) is gone now and I think our new superintendent is clean, but a few Broad Residents who worked in the district during that time still lurk around the corners.

The thing that is freaking me out this week is the revelation about a $4 million donation given to Learn NY that covered propaganda costs for preserving mayoral control in NYC. Limits need to be put on this man (Bill Gates); his near-infinite wealth gives him a frightening amount of power. NO single human, no matter how rich or smart they are, or well-intentioned they think they might be, should have that much power.

Gates is only one person, with one set of ideas, but he is so vastly wealthy that he can purchase whatever type of local and national educational policy he prefers. This country is still supposed to be a democracy, right? And what if the way to go that Gates imagines is right, is completely wrong? Putting it in perspective, consider that for Gates (with a net worth last listed by Forbes at $40 billion) a $4 million donation is the equivalent of a $5 donation given by a person who is making $50,000. In the world that dictates public policy, Gates has become omnipotent. We’re in dangerous territory when single individuals are unrestrained with buying public policy because they have unimaginable wealth.

Take care,


(continued on next post)
gavroche said…
(continued from previous post)

PS: Even lesser billionaires have an amount of power that we, as average people, can’t imagine... If Eli Broad ($5.2 billion) paid $4 million to buy propaganda that pushed a public policy he preferred, it would be the equivalent of an average person (net worth of $50,000) donating $38.46 to a cause they preferred.

Where is the transparency? Where are the restrictions? Even political campaigns have those rules.

A Reader's Comment Continued
I asked Sharon for a further explanation of what damage had been done in the Oakland School District. To follow is her response:

Hi Dora,

In 2003 a budget deficit required us to take a state loan, the conditions of which required the management of OUSD to be placed under state control. Our State Superintendent assigned state administrators to the district. We had three of them consecutively in six years, and all were Broad Superintendent Academy graduates. Once they took charge, they brought in a number of Broad Residents and appointed them to important positions, too. Just a couple of years before this happened, Eli Broad, along with his pro-charter friends, had been very generous to the State Superintendent's campaign. In return, he gave them OUSD to be their plaything. See "Eli's Experiment" by Robert Gammon.The first thing these people did was to block public input. The elected school board had no power, the voice from the community was not solicited or listened to. OUSD was basically under the Broad Superintendents' authoritarian rule, and they consulted with people at the Broad Foundation regularly.

As the Center for Education Reform report says, this group wanted a "politics free zone." That means a situation with no public participation. This is exactly why this cabal likes mayoral control so much; it's much easier for them to be able to influence one person who is already ambitious, power-hungry and somewhat removed from the people, than it would be to convince 7, 8, 9, or 10 more-intimately-connected-with-the-average-person school board people to climb on their train.

You can read the report “National Model or Temporary Opportunity: The Oakland Education Reform Story.” It can be found at I've written about it here: Broad leadership independently decided about, and rapidly implemented, school closures and other major permanent changes to our district. Their program of attack was called "Expect Success." Schools became portfolios and were assigned different colors (green to red) depending on their test scores. This clearly outlined and justified school elimination. Charter schools were permitted to spring up rapidly during this time. In a district that already had a problem with declining enrollment (people moving to the suburbs to buy houses with cheap mortgage deals), this exacerbated things.

(continued on next post)
gavroche said…
(final post in this series):

In the meantime, veteran site administrators were driven out because they weren't willing to embrace what was being done. Hiring preference for principalships was given to people who were involved with New Leaders for New Schools, an organization originally launched by Broad which offered lots of extra perks to entice people to apply (like no tuition, guaranteed placement, salary while learning, etc). For instance, people who were involved with the principal training program at UC Berkeley couldn't equally compete for positions. Other than to produce an unraveling of what had been before, this strategy was, I'm sure, to make sure the desired mentality was planted broadly across the district.The central office structure was completely revised. You would talk to someone in a downtown office and the next month they would be gone, and a month after that, the new person would be gone. It was that type of ongoing distruption. Institutional memory was wiped out. Hardly anyone knew anything; it was all being created from scratch.Even though the district has struggled for a long time, and could always have definitely been run much better, what happened during those six years heightened the turmoil. The top leaders kept themselves away from having to listen to the community and it's views or needs. In the end, it's pretty much concluded that the focus of this group was to upset the scene and to implement a district of their own dreams. As education reporter Katy Murphy wrote: “Although financial problems triggered the Oakland school district's takeover, the state administration appeared to be more focused on redesigning schools and overhauling central office services than on stabilizing the district's finances.” Here's her article w/more details (Don Shalvey just took a position w/the Gates Foundation)

The siege that public education is under is extremely progressed at this point, and it’s been (and still is) very, very, very well-funded. Most people are unaware of what’s happening. The spirit of the teachers has been suppressed with the constantly repeated propaganda which nationally broadcasts their enormous “failings” over and over again. This is an intentional strategy to make them question their own worth and to break down the solidarity of the profession. Have you read The Shock Doctrine? I'm about half way through and highly recommend it. It talks about the movement of the corporatists, and how it was designed by Milton Friedman (the "intellectual architect") in Chicago several decades ago.

Also, you may be interested in this piece about Gates' domineering influence over world health programs. There are near exact parallels to the affect he is having on public education:

And how are things playing out up there?

gavroche said…
Here is a cleaner version of the links blogger Sharon (from http://perimeterprimate.blogspot.
com) provides in her post:

You can read the report “National Model or Temporary Opportunity: The Oakland Education Reform Story.” It can be found at

I've written about it here: http://perimeterprimate.blogspot.

Here's her article w/more details



(Don Shalvey just took a position w/the Gates Foundation)



(Piece about Gates' domineering influence over world health programs. There are near exact parallels to the affect he is having on public education):
gavroche said…
One last point to note about the Oakland privatization debacle:

Broad et al FAILED.

They failed in their efforts to run Oakland's schools.

Broad himself has NO background in education.

Like Arne Duncan, whose reign over Chicago's school is now falling apart under scrutiny; like privately run charters themselves that were recently analyzed in Stanford Unversity's CREDO Report which found that the majority of privately run charters are NO BETTER or are WORSE than public schools, these are FALSE "solutions" to what may well be an exaggerated problem.

Based on this evidence and the history, I predict that the private takeover of public schools in L.A. will also FAIL.

Some people will make money on the venture along the way and pad their resumes with false claims of "success" and of "excellence for all," but in the end, they will not improve the education or lot of the majority of the kids in L.A. who would fare better in decent public schools.
Sahila said…
Deconstructing the Business Model of Education:

this is a blog post on what was happening in Portland, Oregon in 2006...

Interesting attitude from some of the commentators on what public education is and who it is intended for....

See the comment on Detroit...

Look to see all of what's happened in LA in the past couple of months begin to happen here...

I've talked about a parents' union with other people, but none of us has been discussing that in relation to charters - we were wanting a more effective say in SPS...

But I can see how groups such as Stand For Children/Alliance for Education will soon be talking about parents unions and pushing for legislation to allow charters into the state...

And can you see Chris Gregoire risking her governorship by not at some point backing charters? The sums of money being offered in this carrot-and-stick "Race for the Top" handout are enormous... If she held out, then she'd be accused of squandering our kids chances at a better education...

And Rany Dorn's atttempt to hold up alternative schools as comparable to innovative charters is a good try, but I think he will have a hard time if standardised testing is the only measure being used to quantify effectiveness, because few alternative schools top the test results table.
Michael Rice said…

I find this news about Los Angeles very interesting. It is an experiment being conducted on the children of Los Angeles. I think what will happen is that there will be some smashing success, some miserable failures and a lot of mediorce performane in the middle. Education is hard because we are dealing with humans, that are all different, with different backgrounds and different experiences as they enter the classroom. America is changing and the students who we are educating are changing.

Sahila wrote: And can you see Chris Gregoire risking her governorship by not at some point backing charters? The sums of money being offered in this carrot-and-stick "Race for the Top" handout are enormous... If she held out, then she'd be accused of squandering our kids chances at a better education...

This is not going to happen. The people of this state have voted down charters by wide margins 3 times in the last 15 years or so. It is Illeagal to have charter schools in this state. Even if Gov. Gregoire backed charter schools, this would end up in the voters lap, where once again the voters would defeat it. Gov. Gregoire is too savvy a person to do such a thing. And I am saying this as someone who vowed to never vote for her after when she was AG, her office missed a filing deadline on some important case and she threw her staff under the bus instead of taking the public heat herself and dealing with her staff in private. This is not the sort of person I want in charge of my state.
dan dempsey said…
When looking at demographics of our 50 states plus WA DC for 51, I found this.

In terms of educationally disadvantaged population Texas is at #50 with a really difficult situation but California is an outlier way, way, way below Texas.

LAUSD is a horrendous mess. There are a few LA charters that have accomplished a lot (very few). To believe this can be translated successfully to a large segment of LAUSD -- well we need to wait and see.

Charters spring from public frustration with how current school district administration runs the show. In that regard TEAM MG-J and the school board are definitely agents for charters whether by intention or not.
Sahila said…
Michael - I respect your opinion, but I dont have the confidence you do that voters will continue to reject charters...

Look at how the teachers in Kent are being portrayed in the news, and all the comments about the failure of education being all their fault...

That's the underlying thread in the LA move also: teachers are to blame, districts are being badly run and we need someone else to come in and change this...

We have the Seattle media beginning to sing the same tune.... and for those people who are not involved directly in education but who get to vote on these issues, I predict they will be swayed by the spin....

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