Monday, May 3, 2010

Getting to know the Schwarzenegger-appointed, Broad-connected, pro-charter-dominated State Board of Education

Arnold Schwarzenegger has been working overtime to expand charter schools in California. Since 2004 on their behalf, he has secured federal funding, removed school district approval obstacles, supported state bond funding, signed legislation to provide charters with tax exempt and low cost facility financing for school facilities, and removed roadblocks so charters can access millions in construction project funds (12/07/2009 press release). In addition, Schwarzenegger has insured that the California State Board of Education (SBE) is continually loaded with pro-charter members.

I suggest you take a moment to contrast Schwarzenegger’s intense, and near single-minded focus on fostering the expansion of charter schools (which serve less than 4.6% of the children or 285,617 kids) with his extreme neglect of the schools attended by the remaining 95.4% (5,966,394 kids) of California’s children. EdData figures here.

The SBE sets K-12 education policy in the areas of standards, curriculum, instructional materials, assessment, and accountability. It also authorizes charter schools and has been involved with developing charter school legislation. There are 11 members on the SBE, ten of whom are appointed by the Governor, one of which is a student. The eleventh member is the State Superintendent of Public Instruction who serves as the SBE's executive officer and secretary. SBE members are unpaid. Appointments are subject to confirmation by the state Senate.

Ending their State Board of Education terms just recently are Rae Belisle and Jorge Lopez.

RAE BELISLE, the recently-stepped-down CEO of EdVoice, had been appointed by Schwarzenegger in February 2009. She was a full SBE participant for one year until March 2010 when the Senate refused to give her a confirmation hearing. They had received staunch opposition to Belisle. For instance, this was the first time in its 39-year history that the Association of California School Administrators had taken an active stance against a state board appointee, according to Corey Johnson, K-12 Education Reporter of California Watch (a reporting initiative of the Center for Investigative Reporting). Belisle is a strong charter school advocate, who had previously given controversial legal advice to the SBE.

JORGE LOPEZ, the executive director of the Oakland Charter Academy, had been appointed in March 2009 and fully participated on the SBE until February 2010 when he abruptly withdrew his name. His withdrawal coincided with the point in the senate confirmation process when his financial documents and business arrangements were being reviewed and concerns were arising about complicated business and real estate arrangements with his partner Ben Chavis (of American Indian Public Charter School fame).

Three new Swarzenegger appointments are awaiting confirmation.

ALAN ARKATOV who, among other activities, sits on the board for Alliance for College-Ready Public Schools, a charter management organization which has opened 16 charter schools in the Los Angeles area. Source here. Alliance received a total of $2,525,000 from the Broad Foundation between 2006 and 2008. Alliance has received $4,635,100 from the NewSchools Venture Fund since 2003.

BEN AUSTIN is an assistant city attorney for Los Angeles and the executive director of the Los Angeles Parents Union (formerly the Small Schools Alliance, aka the Parent Revolution). He used to work for Green Dot Public Schools and also served as a Deputy Mayor under Richard Riordan. Austin was involved with the “Parent Trigger,” an initiative where if enough parents can be convinced, pressured, and tricked to sign a petition, a school will be closed down and replaced with a charter. Eli Broad contributed nearly 50% of the funding for the launch of the LAPU and gave a total of $4,469,040 to Green Dot from 2005-2008. Read my 2/21/2010 entry The "Parent Trigger" and its connections to the phony LA Parents Union, Green Dot, Steve Barr, and Eli Broad

(Update: Caroline Grannan writes, "At one school where Ben Austin's Parent Revolution has succeeded in getting enough signatures to take action against the school, the community member who's the lead spokesperson for the successful effort is an alumni parent, not a current parent at the school." Also, follow Robert Skeels' valuable research about Ben Austin by starting here.)

JEANNIE OROPEZA, program budget manager for the California Department of Finance, was also nominated, but on April 28 the Senate Rules Committee recommended rejecting her nomination because her job at the Department of Finance presented a conflict of interest.

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The confirmed members sitting on the SBE with strong ties to charter schools and/or Eli Broad are:

TED MITCHELL (SBE President) is the President and CEO of NewSchools Venture Fund, an organization which supplies charter management organizations with extra funding. He has been a member of the CSE since 2007 and was reappointed in February 2010. Mitchell has multiple strong connections to billionaire Eli Broad.

Mitchell's NSVF salary was $480,000 in 2007 (Form 990). NSVF received a total of $9,115,000 from the Broad Foundation (EIN 954686318) from 2002 to 2008.

Also, 2002 news reports revealed that Eli Broad had offered to donate $10 million to Occidental College in an attempt to persuade Mitchell (then O.C. President) to run against a L.A. school board trustee. Furthermore, Mitchell revealed to his trustees that that former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan had also offered to donate money to cover a top-level executive position at the college if Mitchell ran for the seat. Mitchell did not run. Read here to learn about the close relationship between Broad and Riordan as longtime friends and allies in ed deform.

YVONNE CHAN is the principal of a conversion charter school in LA, the Vaughn Next Century Learning Center. Chan was appointed in 2005 and reappointed in 2008. Her term ends in 2012. Vaughn International Studies Academy, the high school at Chan’s “learning center,” is in the International Studies Schools Network (ISSN or Global Studies Schools), a charter management organization started by the Asia Society in 2003. Both Chan and Eli Broad have been speakers for the Asia Society. Broad donated $12,500 to the Asia Society in 2007 and $2,500 in 2008.

Schwarzenegger has been generous to Chan. From a May 2008 press release:

Today at one of the nation’s leading charter schools, the Vaughn Next Century Learning Center, Governor Schwarzenegger announced the allocation of $463 million in Proposition 1D funds for new construction and modernization projects for 29 charter schools statewide. The Vaughn Next Century Learning Center will receive $6 million of the $463 million to build seven new classrooms for 189 students at the center’s high school, Vaughn International Studies Academy…

…“This funding is exactly what our kids need to continuing excelling at Vaughn,” said Vaughn Next Century Learning Center Principal Dr. Yvonne Chan. “I will now be able to move forward with the new classrooms my students need and make improvements to our campus so we can continue to make a difference in this community.”

JOHNATHAN XAVIER WILLIAMS is a charter management organization founder and co-director (The Accelerated School network in South Central Los Angeles). He was appointed in 2004, and reappointed in March 2007. His term ends in January 2011. Williams is a member of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools (NAPCS), the California Charter Schools Association (CCSA) and the Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO). (Update: See article from 1/2007 "Charter School [The Accelerated School] is in default on $9.9 million LAUSD Loan", h/t Caroline Grannan)

DAVID P. LOPEZ, President of The National Hispanic University in East San Jose, was appointed to the SBE in July 2006, and reappointed in March 2010. He is awaiting reconfirmation. The National Hispanic University is a small, private non-profit institution which also runs the Latino College Preparatory Academy, a charter high school, adjacent to its campus.

RUTH BLOOM (SBE Vice President) was appointed in 2004 and reappointed in February 2007. Her term ends in January 2011. Bloom is a partner in a jewelry company (AR Designs), and is heavily involved with collecting art, art education, and art museums, both in Southern California and Sun Valley, Idaho.

From the 1990s until February 2009, Bloom served with Eli Broad on the board of trustees for the LA The Museum of Contemporary Art. Broad is LACMA’s Founding Chairman and Life Trustee.

And here's something interesting. In September 2007, Ruth Bloom (listed as Arts Educator from Marina Del Rey), a stated Democrat, gave $20,000 to Schwarzenegger, according to ElectionTrack.

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Only two SBE members appear to not have allegiances to the promotion of charter schools or direct connections to Eli Broad or the Broad Foundation.

JIM ASCHWANDEN was appointed in October 2006, and reappointed in February 2008. Aschwanden is executive director of the California Agricultural Teachers’ Association, and serves on advisory councils for Cal Poly State University, San Luis Obispo and Chico State University. In addition, he has served as Vice-Chair of the Vocational Alliance, a consortium of educational organizations supporting Career and Technical Education, for the past several years.

GREGORY W. JONES was appointed in March 2008. His term ends January 2012. Jones is a State Farm insurance executive. In addition, he is chair of the California Business Roundtable and chair of California Business for Education Excellence.


caroline said...

The "parent trigger" rules are actually nebulous about who is qualified to vote. Apparently parents in the school's zone whose children might potentially attend the school are able to vote; in the case of Mount Gleason Middle School, as noted, an alumni parent is leading the campaign. Also, by the way, rumors have flown that Parent Revolution is handing out little bribes -- fast food gift cards -- in exchange for signatures on these petitions. Ben Austin takes it very personally when this is mentioned, which is really amusing since he's entirely doing it as a paid lobbyist -- a professional hit man, not an actual advocate. If public school advocates had the money and inclination to fund him, he's be on our side instead.

The Perimeter Primate said...

The usual stuff.

Direct Hit
May 4, 2010 9:52 AM IP: ( Windows XP Windows XP
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Direct Hit
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The Perimeter Primate said...

Asia Society, an unlikely name for a CMO, was given $7.75 million over five years by the Gates Foundation as part of their funding of the destruction of the U.S. public school system.

"The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is awarding $18.5 million in new education grants to improve teaching, measure student achievement better, and start new schools in Texas.

"Each of the five grant recipients has received previous awards from the Seattle-based foundation and has shown “progress in increasing student achievement and preparing students for college and career success,” according to a Gates Foundation statement."

The recipients are:

Asia Society of New York City, $7.75 million over five years;

Read more: Gates Foundation awards $18M in education grants - Puget Sound Business Journal (Seattle):

Anonymous said...

Wow. Schwarzenegger has time to make a new movie while doing all of that? He must be utilizing My