The More History is Brought to Light, the More We See It’s On Our Side

Good day, CharterFolk.

I start with some very encouraging polling data. Thanks to Yes Every Kid for running the poll. I remain convinced that going on offense regarding educational redlines represents an area of great opportunity for us.

In fact, it runs the risk of becoming one of our greatest missed opportunities.

Here we are doing decades of work to create schools that do not make use of redlining attendance boundaries or selective admissions criteria, but because we’re too timid to articulate a criticism of the supposedly public system that redlines as a matter of course, we go silent, which registers as indifference on this issue in the public realm. So rather than being seen as the vanguard of public education pushing for fundamentally fairer allocation of educational opportunity in our country, we let ourselves get presented by our adversaries as somehow worse than the appalling status quo.

It’s allowing ourselves to be identified as cherry pickers when the broader system is engaged in orchard-harvesting.

And then we wonder why young social justice warriors have a wrong understanding of what charter schools are all about.

Come on, CharterFolk!

The polling is with you.


Let’s get on to today’s post.

The More History Is Brought to Light, The More We See It’s On Our Side

Per my post last week about the Denver school board shifting from being 7-0 in support of charter schools to 0-7 opposed over the past couple election cycles, this story …

… buries the lede.

Yes, the DPS Board voted to close a charter school, but there was no controversy there. The school itself said it hadn’t met its own goals and thus wasn’t planning to appeal, even though it was within its rights to do so.

The noteworthy development here is the fact that the board voted to renew 19 charter schools, with only one board member voting no.

Last year, the board renewed 16.

It’s germane to our consideration of the news in Los Angeles.

Last week we began to see the supposition surfaced in this article …

… confirmed.

It does not, I’m afraid, bode well.

Because really CharterFolk, from a public record standpoint, it’s simply not possible to find a more prominent policy maker who has a more virulently anti-charter school orientation than Jackie Goldberg.

Her comments during this interview from the 2019 campaign with a fawning supporter from the Westside are representative.

The problem is that districts like LA Unified have too many charter schools to administer, to hold accountable.  And so they are often only visited once a year, and they’re told in advance when they’re coming …. That’s a big problem because some of these schools are doing some pretty disgusting things. I’ve visited a charter school in a church that used the balcony where the choir sang, without partitions, for four classrooms.  And my student teacher was supposed to be teaching in one of those classrooms. I had to take him out of that placement because there was no way you could hear. I wouldn’t have left a child in that school for a day. I think that charter school is probably still open today.  I mean that’s an unbelievable situation. So basically, the system is set up not to be monitored right and … so actually they get away with just about anything they want to unless on that one day they happen to get caught.

The statement comes from the 43rd minute of the video, and it’s no more extreme than many other things she says throughout the entire interview, which is essentially an hour and a half of nonstop anti-charter school vitriol along the lines one would find on the Diane Ravitch website.

It explains why Ravitch on her site …

… literally professes her love for Goldberg.

The interview, and Goldberg’s entire campaign, and indeed the vast majority of her public positioning over the past decade, aside from regularly saying that public education needs a lot more money, has consisted almost exclusively of charter school attack. It’s one of the most transparent examples of charter school adversaries’ updated strategy for destroying our movement …

… which is to divert attention away from the failings in traditional public schools and to cast whatever negative attention they can on the supposed shortcomings of charter schools. And when the problems in district schools are so apparent that they can’t deny their existence, they blame charter schools for having somehow created those problems in the first place.

Look at Goldberg’s actions on the literal first day of her return to the LAUSD board …

… when she objected to the district spending $16M in bond funding to accommodate charter school co-locations.

Goldberg noticed that some of the money would pay for computers and wanted to know if the host school would have comparable technology.

“I have a school that lost its computer lab and the charter school went in there and put in a computer lab,” which it used to recruit students, Goldberg said during the meeting. “That’s crazy.”

Of course, when asked to provide specifics about her anecdote, she couldn’t.

Goldberg declined to name the school.

But it was an effective attack. The other board members, even charter school friends, not knowing the history, went along. And staff were so intimidated, they pulled other charter school matters off the agenda, thrilling defenders of the Establishment.

Even before Goldberg could get to it, staff withdrew a third charter school grant from consideration — at least for Tuesday.

Her supporters were thrilled.

“OMG,” texted parent activist Sara Roos. “It’s electric in here.”

Now, of course, anyone who has a modicum of understanding about how power dynamics work within LAUSD knows that there is no way in hell that charter schools would have gotten some inequitably large share of facilities or facilities funding.

The dollars in question came from a 2008 bond …

… where the district committed to provide a relative pittance of the funding to charter schools, but then raided those funds …

… and refused to allocate them to charter schools for more than a decade, such that they became the only remaining funds left from the tens of billions of dollars of bond funding that the district had spent in the prior two decades. So when district staff finally decided to throw a small morsel to charter schools, Goldberg attacked knowing full well that the reason that district students might not have the same technology on their side of the campus had nothing to do with unfair advantage being given to charter schools in the moment, but from, in fact, a decades-long program the district engaged in to spend absolutely gargantuan amounts of money on other things, including the most expensive school construction projects in U.S. history …

… some replete with talking benches.

The reason that the district didn’t have the few thousand dollars that it would have needed to provide district students comparable computers on Goldberg’s first day back was because it had squandered several hundreds million dollars in the decades before.

Where was the better technology the district students needed?

In the talking bench!!

But because no one knows the history, and because no one brings that history to light, she was able to advance a narrative that carried a meaning directly opposite of the truth.

It’s why, in terms of the ironies that I talked about last week coming from young and old, the ones coming from the old are at whole other levels of offensiveness.

Because Jackie Goldberg knows the history. She was on the board going back to the 1980s. She was elected to be board president twice.

Having made the history herself, she’s in a unique place to distort it.

Just a couple months after her return, she was at it again …

… this time targeting for massive financial penalty charter schools that had over-estimated how many classrooms they needed.

Again, the irony, just couldn’t be more plain.

If there is any entity in the country that should have absolutely no credibility holding other entities accountable for over-estimating the amount of facilities they need, it is Los Angeles Unified. In 2002 when Measure K was taken to the voters, the ballot argument in favor of the measure stated that district enrollment would grow by an additional 200,000 students.

At the time of Measure K’s passage, Los Angeles Unified was serving 735,000 students, meaning that the voters had been led to believe that the district was on a trajectory for serving over 900,000 students.

Instead, of course, today Los Angeles serves about 420,000 students, less than half that number …

… and by decade’s end, the district is projected to serve less than one-third as many students as voters were told when Measure K passed.

And yet, she thinks the district’s track record on facilities utilization is credible enough to advance policies that would essentially bankrupt charter schools for having requested a few more classrooms than they ended up using.

The truth is that, whatever cherries there are in charterland that Goldberg might want to try to pick, the district’s history is replete with generations of orchard-wide misdeed which have compromised its ability to provide the high quality education that the people of Los Angeles have needed, especially students and families who have been historically underserved.

Whether it was the United States Commission on Civil Rights …

… excoriating the school district in the late 70s, particularly the LAUSD Board of Education, for essentially doing nothing for more than a decade in response to the damning Crawford Case …

… which was supposed to finally force the school district to begin providing improved educational opportunity to historically underserved students after decades of having operated schools that reinforced, rather than leaned against, the wanton discrimination happening across the city.

Or whether it was the Chanda Smith Case of the early 90s …

…that documented the school district’s abject failure to adequately serve special education students …

… ultimately resulting in an Independent Monitor being imposed who oversaw the district’s special education efforts until just a few years ago.

Or whether it was UTLA flexing its muscles on school board elections in the 1980s …

… where in addition to increased pay for teachers the top priority was getting the school board to agree to allow the union to begin collecting “agency fees.”

‘Agency Fee’ Issue

In addition to its dissatisfaction with salary negotiations, UTLA is at odds with the school board over the issue of whether teachers who do not belong to the union should pay an “agency fee” to UTLA because the union is their bargaining agent in negotiations with the board. (About 6,000 of the school system’s 26,000 teachers do not belong to the union.)

Several on the board, including Goldberg, resisted at first, but ultimately after a strike in 1989 …

… and another round of elections in ’91 …

…UTLA prevailed.

Goldberg rationalized the board’s capitulation thusly.

Jackie Goldberg, a Los Angeles teacher and a U.T.L.A. member who served on the school board for eight years, was first elected to the board with the U.T.L.A.’s support. But she did not receive its endorsement for her second term.

Union support, she says, provides “credibility,’’ money for mailings, and, in districts where many teachers live, can translate into votes.

As for the decision to give the union the right to charge agency fees, she says, “If you elect pro-labor people, you’re going to get pro-labor votes.’’

And, thus was created the political money juggernaut allowing UTLA to achieve de facto control over the LAUSD board that we all have been contending with ever since. It creates perhaps one of the bitterest ironies that we advocates for improved public education have to confront, which is the fact that Goldberg rails against charter school funders’ political contributions as being in someway undemocratic …

…when she herself helped create a political money-machine in support of the status quo that dwarfs anything else on the landscape by orders of magnitude, and which has now been instrumental in her own re-ascendency to the board presidency of LA Unified.

This, CharterFolk, is the orchard-scale experience of inequity and poor performance in public education in Los Angeles over the past half century that Establishment interests know to be the truth but which they hope the public spends as little time focusing on as possible.

So they shift as much attention as possible to charter school cherries.

We will see how the board ultimately decides to vote on charter school matters.

My own sense is that on renewal matters, we’re likely to see decisions like the ones we’re seeing in Denver. There are just too many reasons why in-your-face non-renewal votes to close schools that parents love just aren’t viable.

But on other issues… special education, facilities, budgeting, political funding … I will be surprised if we don’t see a UTLA-aligned board attempt to use charter school business to keep focus off its own.

It’s why it’s so important we keep educating ourselves as deeply as we can about the true history of the school district.

It reflects a general condition I believe to be true in many other places as well.

The more we know the true history of public education in our country, and the more we bring it out, the less a distorted version of that history can be used against us.

Or perhaps better said:

The more history is brought to light, the more we see it’s on our side.