Tuesday, December 22, 2015

"Education Inc" at Occidental College November 11, 2015

"Education Inc"  is a "documentary about how money and politics are changing our schools."  Produced, Directed, and Edited by Brian Malone. Cindy Malone is Producer and Writer.  Diana Holtzberg is Executive Producer.  Larry Lawrence and Dave Alpert of Alumni of Occidental in Education (ALOED) sponsored a showing of the film and a panel discussion with Steve Zimmer, President of Los Angeles Unified Board of Education, Karen Wolfe, parent and head of PSConnect, and Dr. Suzie Abajian, an Occidental professor as well as graduate, who was recently elected to the Board of Education of South Pasadena schools.
   Education Inc takes place in Douglas County, Colorado, a middle or upper middle class suburb.  Bloomberg, Jeb Bush, et al poured much money into an election there.  A half billion dollar budget was available to
the 1%.  Conservatives won the election because people didn't vote.
The Board picked Dr. Elizabeth Fagen from the Milton Friedman Foundation.
Dr. Diane Ravitch.  Talk about the Manufactured Crisis - David Berliner.
Chris Tienken.   1981 - A Nation At Risk - this is the context of the takeover.  The Board of Education had to market itself.  Fagen advertised the schools.  Thirty plus teachers were interviewed by Brian Malone and all but one were intimidated.  Brian White -- who even speaks up at Board meetings.   Parents are upset too.  They don't like the Voucher program or NCLB.
   A volunteer researcher found out that the Board set up a dummy charter as a way to take the tax money from the public schools, supposedly to give to parents, but went to a private school instead. Ed McVaney and Vogel funded the Ads for the Board - both had interests in vouchers and private schools -- until the court stopped them.  The Board got the Waltons, Daniels Fund, Alex Cranberg to fund their case.  Cindy Barnes was the volunteer researcher who caught the illegality and proved the case.   A student defended Cindy Barnes after she was bullied by the Board, which only allowed their supporters to speak.  None of the Board agreed to be interviewed for the film  Fagen has a BODY GUARD!  The School Board meets behind closed doors.  Reporters can't hear them - banned from meetings much of the time.  Nancy Spence was the only right-winger who would speak -- she believes in competition among schools.  "Parents Choice" as it is called.  Dr. Barry Schwartz of Swarthmore spoke up for the people.
   Jefferson County Schools had the same experience -- low turnout allowed the conservatives to win.  Pushed out the Superintendent and hired a buddy from Douglas County.  Jefferson County parents aren't afraid -- citizens shut the meeting down -- Recall Recall".    All over the country -- New York, Portland, San Diego, etc.    Out filmmaker went to Chicago where there were "bad" schools.  Phillip Cantor speaks -- tells the story of Rahm closing 50 schools and opening charters -- all for the real estate industry.
   Charters are quasi-private (quoting the film here) originally started by parents. [I think this isn't correct -- charters were started by the AFT as a way to innovate - I disagree with the film here.]  [From Wikipedia:  "The charter school idea in the United States was originated in 1974 by Ray Budde,[10] a professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.Albert Shanker, President of the American Federation of Teachers, embraced the concept in 1988, when he called for the reform of the public schools by establishing "charter schools" or "schools of choice."[11] Gloria Ladson-Billings called him "the first person to publicly propose charter schools".[12] At the time, a few schools already existed that were not called charter schools but embodied some of their principles, such as H-B Woodlawn."  Now charters are run by private organizations that cherry pick their students. Don't provide free or reduced lunches.  No special education.  In Illinois hedge funders run these schools.  There have been FBI raids on some of them -- example is UNO in Chicago - under Federal investigation. 
   Board of Education meetings are contentious in Chicago.  Parents are thrown out. [Rousemary Vega and family.]  
   Our filmmaker goes on to talk about NCLB since 2002 and the growth of McGraw-Hill and Pearson and their enormous profits based on Common Core.  He feels CC is good but not the way it is being implemented.  [Again I disagree with the filmmaker.]  
   Brian Malone goes to meet Duncan and asks him about for-profit companies in education. Duncan tells him this has always been so. [Really?]
   ALEC is writing the laws in this country.  Corporations co-write laws and always have. The corporation that writes the bill gets the contract!!
   Cindy Barnard is the volunteer fact finder.  Chris Holbert and Cinnamon Watson are ALEC employees.   There are places where public education is working.  Frank Gargiulo, Superintendent of Hudson County Schools, is an award-winning and innovative Super.  He is against standardization. No grades. Get students excited about a subject -- how to learn and not what to learn. Education is NOT A BUSINESS MODEL.
   Finland has the best education in the world.  Public schools here in the United States are blamed for poverty -- a distraction, Diane Ravitch says.  OPT OUT says Diane Ravitch.  In Douglas County parents take over the streets while deformers take over the airwaves.
   Parents and teachers lost the battle by very small percentage.  48 to 52% of the vote.  But they did so well given the enormous amount of money poured into the election by the deformers.
   Jefferson County is also fighting.  Students walked out.  Civil disobedience is part of our tradition.  In the end, Brian White, the only teacher who spoke in the movie, was asked to leave his job.

Larry Lawrence introduces the panel and describes a demonstration in DC in 2013 - Save Our Schools.

Panel:  Dr. Suzie Abajian:  the film captures the struggle of 20 years of defunding all of our public schools.  Corporatization of the schools.  Health care, housing, schools, living wage.  Public education is not perfect -- we marginalized people of color and poor communities.  The Deformers have used this to promote their agenda. How can we better our schools?  with all students feeling they belong? Ethnic studies is an example.  [Steve Zimmer sponsored the resolution for Ethnic Studies at LAUSD.]

Karen Wolfe:  Colorado is not very diverse [as the film shows].  They succeeded in Jefferson County in recalling their board [but not in Douglas County].  WE ARE DOCUMENTING THE END OF PUBLIC EDUCATION. These films are important to the public record.  In Venice we had a two year fight to prevent the sale of the Post Office -- we lost.  We are watching it happen everywhere.  Eli Broad is running this city - LAUSD - some are on Broad's payroll.  Transfer the public realm into private hands.  Initially Karen believed in Charters.  She would call and complain but got the same response from LAUSD - "Charters are their own district."  She had to force them to publish public records and agendas for their meetings.  Her charter complied -- but most do not.   What's wrong with a billionaire putting money into it - people ask her.  It's a work in progress.
Steve Zimmer:  Met the filmmaker.  We should support this.  He self-funded his own film  What happened in Colorado can happen anywhere.  Universal film can help build the counter-narrative that this is happening everywhere.  The fight in Los Angeles -- we have to be honest and have a painful conversation about our schools and the savage inequities.  Our credibility is otherwise limited.  Root of the defunding -- causes the collapse of the social infrastructure.  This [LAUSD] is now the epicenter - stakes are extraordinarily high.  We have to engage parents and community leaders about our vision in transforming education for people of color.  If we aren't honest, people won't listen -- won't care who is funding their child's school.  We haven't broken systemic racism or the motives of the privatization move -- "a some kids - not all kids motivation."  $10 million is going to defeat Zimmer in the next election.  Probably go to over $25 million.  Truth and Democracy are our argument.  Broad has no concern about schools.  We have the most democratically elected board -- Broad wants to destroy the Board and UTLA.

Larry:   Jeanette Deutermann organized in New York -- ultimately 200,000 students opted out of testing.  But not in New York City.  How to motivate the inner city to OPT OUT?

Steve:  there is agreement in this room around testing.  Talk about what these tests do to kids and teachers.  But we have to establish trust that we care about kids.  Relationships -- building trust -- take time.  Talk to families about hopes and dreams.  Families feel public schools are where their dreams die.  Every child has the right to the best of education.

Suzie:  scapegoats in history -- parents, teachers, students all have been -- deficit notion of education. We must DEAL WITH HISTORY - and RACISM -- teachers have to build relationships with communities. We are in this together.

Karen: not an education professor - but parents aren't talking about equity or racism.  Parents do feel teachers discriminate against them based on their zip code.  Parents talk to each other and reinforce each other to speak up for their students.  Schools on the Westside are diverse - in every way.  More charters there -- middle class have fled the traditional schools.  These bigger issues aren't going to do it.  Tired of having to prove that she has spoken to 15 people to represent other parents.  Our schools are emptying out.  Middle class is gone, or going.  We have to speak to all the families -- maintain our diversity -- not just talk about poor families (that makes schools scary to parents).

Steve:  December 8th tried to pass a charter accountability resolution.  It passed now - will it be enforced.  

Karen:  our independent school board is the largest in the United States.  New York, Chicago, Indianapolis are all appointed school boards.

Steve:  Periodic assessments-- benchmarks.  Testing is state mandated.  Testing budget could go to things we need!!!

Suzie:  put the money into Ethnic Studies -- arts -- libraries [Stephen Krashen].

Karen:  testing equipment was 20% of budget for testing when Deasy was there.  We should find out what happened. The FBI is still investigating -- not over yet.  New York rolled out Common Core two years before California - a huge resistance there to testing. New York has the highest per student funding in the U.S.  [$16,000 per student - Calif is about $9,000].   Common Core tests said kids were failures and parents went ballistic.  Karen's son is a junior -- she is opting him out.  Principal said just to eat it.  January 8th, 1964 - ESEA passed. The purpose was equity!  Now all we care about is outcomes.  Get over it!!!! Kids are being told their scores are too low so they have to take a remedial class.  Still tracking kids.

Steve:  Data disease -- he doesn't care about test scores.  Outcomes he means are graduation rates.  83% at El Camino Senior High.  38% at Fremont.

Larry compares Morningside High in Inglewood with La Costa Canyon in Carlsbad.

Suzie:  Kids are tracked even in South Pasadena. Latino kids tracked lower. Special education is pushed out.  Still inequity in best schools.  Putting money into communities -- housing, universal health care, etc.  is what we need.

Karen:  Compton case about kids who face trauma there and need to be served.

Karen:  TEACHER JAIL IS THE SHAME OF LAUSD.  Truth is coming out.  Teachers have saved LAUSD tons of money by leaving.  A WITCH HUNT!  Used Miramonte case to justify their teacher jail.  
See above for Karen Wolfe's group - PSConnect.
Dave Alpert's blog:  ALOED  and TigersTeach.  

CONCLUSIONS - for Los Angeles:  We must fight to keep our democratically elected school board.  We must unite to prevent Eli Broad from turning 50% of Los Angeles Unified schools into privately owned charters.  WE MUST INVEST IN OUR PUBLIC SCHOOLS SO THAT PARENTS WILL HAVE CONFIDENCE THAT WE CAN GIVE OUR STUDENTS THE EDUCATION THEY DESERVE.    [JGK]