Schools of LAst Resort

Could the only teacher in LA’s school board race pull off a surprise win?

Los Angeles teacher Lisa Alva

In this season of election surprises, could an upstart candidate win a spot on the Los Angeles school board, powered by little more than enthusiasm and word-of-mouth? *I think we might be surprised on March 7,* says teacher Lisa Alva, the upstart candidate herself. The school board election has attracted close to $5 million in outside spending, a not insignificant chunk of which has gone to Alva’s opponent, charter advocate Monica Garcia. Alva may not have glossy mailers or an army of paid canvassers going door to door, but she has something that all those independent expenditures can’t buy. She’s a voice of genuine resistance—to reform experiments gone wrong, to *choice* for the sake of choice, and for the kids, the parents and the teachers who are being left behind. Can you tell I have a bit of a crush?

I met Alva two years ago when I was in Los Angeles to talk to people about Eli Broad’s *bold* plan to move half of the city’s students into charter schools within six years. I did what I always do on one of these edu-reporting adventures: I asked anyone I knew with an LA connection to hook me up. Which is how I ended up spending an afternoon with Alva in her English classroom at Roosevelt High School in LA’s Boyle Heights neighborhood. A virtual edu-pal had introduced me to Alva; another contact, a documentary filmmaker, introduced me to Boyle Heights. Once the *Ellis Island* of LA, Boyle Heights was sliced apart in the 1960’s by the East LA Interchange. That would be the intersection of six freeways built to transport Los Angelenos to the new suburbs and the tract houses that were blooming across California, thanks to a young home builder named Eli Broad. But I digress… Continue reading →

Signing Their Rights Away

A series of court rulings suggests that students who attend charter schools do not have the same rights as public school students…

scalesQuick reader: if you dramatically scale up schools in which students have fewer rights than students who attend traditional public schools, with what do you end up? If you answered *more students with fewer rights,* congratulations! You have won the opportunity to learn more on this important, yet little discussed topic. Our expert witness today: one Dr. Preston Green, a professor of law and educational leadership, who has been monitoring a series of court rulings regarding the rights of students in charter schools. Or make that the lack of rights. Dr. Green warns that both state and federal courts have issued rulings stating that students in charters do not have the same due process rights as public-school students. So what does this mean for cities like Los Angeles where a dramatic expansion of charter schools is on the table? *Half of the publicly-funded schools in Los Angeles might be legally permitted to ‘dismiss’ students without due process.* says Dr. Green. *We have to ask ourselves if such a scenario is acceptable.* Continue reading →

Have Elevator, Will Elevate (the Teaching Profession)

How making teaching a career no one wants will finally make our kids college and career ready…

elevatorThe year was 2014 and, alas, all was not right with the world. Income inequality in these United States had both soared and skyrocketed to levels not seen since the 1920’s, and the middle class was living just a little less large. Some pointed to the collapse of labor unions as part of the problem, but that explanation seemed too obvious. Then another, far more intriguing explanation began to gain currency, particularly among those who possessed a great deal of currency. The blame for the country’s slide lay with teachers who, coincidentally, happened to belong to one of the country’s few remaining unions. Could there be a connection? Continue reading →

Money Matters

Teach for America alumnus Ben Spielberg talks Vergara vs. California, teachers unions and why education reform without social justice isn’t possible.

TFA alum is now a leader of the San Jose Teachers Association.

TFA alum Ben Spielberg is now a leader of the San Jose Teachers Association.

EduShysterVergara vs. California, the landmark case that seeks to eliminate tenure for teachers, wrapped up this week. Do you think the plaintiffs made their case? 

SpielbergI’ve got to believe that they won’t win because their case was really bad. Even the experts they brought in to testify have found that there’s not that much disparity in terms of teaching quality between lower income and higher income schools, and because the statutes in question apply equivalently to low income and high income schools, it would be really hard to prove that they affect lower income and minority students differently than they do higher income students. I think that large part of the plaintiffs’ intention had less to do with winning than with waging a PR campaign against organized labor. The people who are driving this are generally wealthy interests that really dislike the concept that there are due process protections for any workers, not just teachers. They want all employment to be at will and they don’t want a collective voice.  Continue reading →

The Philanthro-Baron Has No Clothes

How mega-foundations are undermining our public schools and eating away at our democracy

Philanthro-barons like Bill Gates have more power and influence than ever before.

Reader: it is well established that the richest Americans have billions of ideas for how to improve our failed and failing public schools. In fact, by the time you finish reading this sentence, Bill Gates, Eli Broad, Mark Zuckerberg and the Walton family will have generated one new school improvement idea each, not to mention a substantial amount of interest on their substantial fortunes. But not everyone is convinced that the growing influence of these “philanthro-barons” over our schools and our democracy is such a great development. In a new article entitled “Plutocrats at Work” writer Joanne Barkan paints a disturbing picture of mega-philanthropy gone wild. EduShyster recently interviewed Barkan to find out why she’s so concerned about the new breed of philanthro-baron. Continue reading →