Sunday, February 21, 2010

The "Parent Trigger" and its connections to the phony LA Parents Union, Green Dot, Steve Barr, and Eli Broad

NOTE: This entry was updated on 2/24/2010 with an explanation of the relationship between the entities above and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). h/t to rdsathene.

Originally conceived in Los Angeles by Steve Barr’s (of Green Dot) Los Angeles Parents Union, and largely funded by the Broad Foundation, the "Parent Trigger" has spread east, and here and here. This is 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. On each Form 990 from 2005 to 2008, Steve Barr is listed as the CEO/President of the LAPU board.

Eli Broad contributed nearly 50% of the funding for the launch of the LAPU (formerly the Small Schools Alliance, aka the Parent Revolution). The money he supplied helped pay for the propaganda to make it seem like the movement is being generated by "the people," when in fact it is a carefully planned, targeted marketing campaign designed to wipe out the public schools.

It is most important to know is that this organization is not grassroots; it's astroturf!

An absolute lie is being spread that it was "developed by the grass-roots group Parent Revolution in the Los Angeles Unified School District.’ The lie is that group was not a grassroots group by any means. Danny Weil explains its true astroturf nature. Community members in LA have even stated that they were offered monetary compensation [by Green Dot] in exchange for their signature on a petition. But when a potential buyer for the LA Times is Eli Broad, who would there be to investigate?

Broad-supported State Senator Gloria Romero, in the running as State Superintendent of Public Instruction, has been the main pusher at the California state government level.


Source: Broad Foundation Form 990s (EIN = 954686318) obtained at the National Center for Charitable Statistics


To Green Dot Public Schools/Green Dot Educational Project

EIN = 95679811

To the Small Schools Alliance, dba as the Los Angeles Parents Union since 2007

(This organization became the “Los Angeles Parents Union” in 2007 and uses the same EIN = 202207418. The LAPU is the same organization as the “Parent Revolution” and has the web site, making a total of four names for the same organization.)

To the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Education and Support Fund


$700,000: “To support high-quality public charter schools in Los Angeles”

(Total 2005 support in contributions, gifts, grants, etc. to this organization was $5,315,065)

$100,000: General fund

(Total 2005 revenue for the Small Schools Alliance was $980,608. Broad supplied 10% of its direct funding)



$700,000: “To support more high-quality public charter schools in Los Angeles

(Total 2006 Direct Public Support in contributions, gifts, grants, etc. to this organization was $9,524,116)


(Total 2006 revenue for the Small Schools Alliance was $383,500)

$64,750: “To engage SEIU members in Los Angeles around an education reform package to change the Los Angeles Unified School District”


$1,210,040 total: $9,040 to the Green Dot Educational Project, plus $1,201,000 to Green Dot Public Schools, “To support the scale up of more high-quality charter schools in Los Angeles”

(Total 2007 Direct Public Support in contributions, gifts, grants, etc. to this organization was $10,015,000)

$150,000 total: $75,000 “To match SEIU funds to support the Small Schools Alliance launch of the Los Angeles Parent Union” plus $75,000 “To match SEIU funds to support the Small Schools Alliance business plan of the Los Angeles Parent Union”

(Total 2007 revenue for the Small Schools Alliance/LAPU was $323,343. Broad supplied 46% of its direct funding)



$1,859,000 total: $9,000 to the Green Dot Educational Project, plus $1,850,000 to Green Dot Public Schools, “To support the scale up of more high-quality charter schools in Los Angeles”

(Total 2008 Direct Public Support in contributions, gifts, grants, etc. to this organization is not available at this time on 2/21/10)

$25,000: “To match SEIU funds to support the Small Schools Alliance business plan of the Los Angeles Parent Union”

(Total 2008 revenue for the Small Schools Alliance/LAPU was $324,628. Broad supplied nearly 8% of its direct funding)


QUESTION: What is the relationship between SEIU, Broad, and the Parent Revolution?

A presentation delivered at the Annenberg Institute for School Reform sponsored 2008 Emerging Knowledge Forum was called “Green Dot Public Schools & LA Parents Union.” The presentation team consisted of Steve Barr (Founder & CEO, Green Dot Public Schools), Sandy Blazer (Chief Academic Officer, Green Dot Public Schools), Christine Boardman, (President, Service Employees International Union, Local 73), and Ryan Smith (Executive Director, LA Parents Union). This is from their accompanying report.

“Steve Barr noticed that at one of Green Dots’ high schools, a large proportion of students has parents who were members of Local 1877 of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). From this observation, a partnership evolved between Green Dot and SEIU’s national organization, as well as its Los Angeles affiliate. While most professional unions have opposed charter schools, SEIU has embraced LAPU’s reform agenda because their members’ children are the main victims of failing urban schools. For almost a year, SEIU has formally worked with Green Dot and LAPU, providing LAPU with both funding and technical assistance from experienced organizers. In turn, SEIU is interested in exploring how Green Dot’s model and LAPU’s organizing efforts can drive school reform in other urban districts across the country.”

Mike Garcia, President, Service Employees International Union Local 1877, is currently listed as a member of Green Dot’s board of directors. Teacher union members beware: the SEIU is not your friend.

Interesting facts from Green Dot’s 2007 Form 990

Also, this is the document which contains the following:

“The Corpoation's [sic] review, which was completed on August 15, 2008, concluded that during the period from January 2004 through September 2007, the Corporation reimbursed Mr. Barr in error a total of $50,866 for charges that were either not reimbursable in nature, or were insufficiently substantiated or documented to qualify for reimbursement.” More information here.

About Ben Austin, the Executive Director of the Parents Union

The section “Compensation of the Five Highest Paid Independent Contractors for Professional Services” shows that Ben Austin, with an address listed in Beverly Hills' Benedict Canyon, was paid $94,475 that year. In April 2008 he became the Executive Director of the Parents Union (aka LAPU/aka Parents Revolution). In his bio, Austin proudly states that he will be sending his two daughters to Warner Avenue Elementary. To demonstrate how exceptional and affluent the families of this school are, in 2007 the Warner Avenue Foundation (EIN 95-4072053) provided the school with an extra $449,022 (or an extra $747/kid).

Parents like Ben Austin provided supplementary funds to pay for "teaching assistants for each classroom, as well as providing all students with access to a physical education, art, computer, science and music specialist" ($330,979), capital improvements and facilities maintenance ($7,223), educational, computer, copy, emergency and cleaning supplies ($49,639), and teacher and principal grants and student scholarships ($27,583). The biggest money making events were the spring auction ($94,844), a Halloween event ($61,470), a walk-a-thon ($40,238), and a holiday boutique ($14,064). Oh, the poor public school attending children of Ben Austin, their LAUSD experience will be just like that of everyone else. By the way, Austin's day job is an assistant city attorney for Los Angeles. He was previously a Deputy Mayor under Mayor Richard Riordan, who is a longtime friend of Eli Broad and another Gloria Romero supporter and have hosted big fundraisers for her.

Read here to find out how Austin/Parent Revolution is trying to distance itself from Green Dot. Good luck with that, folks, especially since Mr. Green Dot is your board CEO/President.

More eye-popping differences between Ben Austin's LA public school and that of everyone else

Warner Avenue Elementary

Los Angeles Unified

African American












Socioeconomically disadvantaged (



Gifted and Talented Education



English Learners



Students with Disabilities



Average Parent Education Level: "1" represents "Not a high school graduate" and "5" represents "Graduate school."



Academic Performance Index



So now we have the Executive Director of the Los Angeles Parent Union and one of the originators/pushers of the “Parent Trigger” meeting with poor, limited English-speaking parents to convince them to sign school closure petitions and representing himself to them as just another typical LA Unified parent with children heading off to struggling schools, when in fact he resides in one of the most affluent areas of the city and will be sending his kids to one of the public schools which has absolutely no demographic relation to the schools used by his uninformed-about-the-dynamics and easily manipulated parent targets.

As a longtime public school parent who has used schools in my community with demographics much more aligned to my district as a whole, I am wise to the con Ben Austin is pulling off. ¡Qué cojones!

Addendum: Steve and Ben's project is certainly making the rounds. Arranging events and attending meetings must be what Barr has been busy with since he stepped down from his position as CEO of Green Dot last November.

From an email sent to me:

Get Smart Schools is part of a group of non-profits hosting an exciting new speaker series. Please join us at the event described below!

Want to help ensure that all kids in your community receive the very best education? Save the Date to join us for the next speaker in our series.

Speaker: Ben Austin, Los Angeles Parents Union (LAPU) and a Parent Revolution representative.

Thursday March 4, 2010

This is in Denver, Colorado.

GetSmartSchools is a program sponsored by the Piton Foundation. Christopher Scott, a parent and past Denver Public Schools school board candidate warns about Piton in the following statement submitted to the Denver Post last fall. For those of us who have been studying this intense neo-liberal attack on public education which is referred to as "education reform," it's Denver's version of more of the same:

"Secondarily, DPS senior executives have allowed the District to become the domain of special interests. Organizations such as Piton Foundation have unfettered access to District leadership, sitting important District committees like the Application Review Team evaluating charter applications for charters funded by the foundations themselves, providing recommendations to the District for more charter schools, while profiting by these recommendations. Moreover, under Michael Bennet, political action committees were brought to town to shape the school board election. This PAC, Stand for Children, poses as a pro-parent organization, but, in reality, its Chief Executive, Jonah Edelman, is a long time friend of Mr. Bennet, grew up next door to Tom Boasberg, whose sister served on Stand's Board of Directors until this month. According to Mr. Boasberg, he had no idea Stand was coming to Denver, as the decision was made while Bennet was Superintendent."

It is important to know that "The Piton Foundation is a private, operating foundation established in 1976 by Denver oil man Sam Gary. It is funded by the Gary-Williams Energy Corporation to develop and implement programs to improve education, expand economic opportunities for families, and strengthen lower-income communities." On the advisory board of GetSmartSchools are the usual ed deform/school privatization malanthropic foundations, big business interests, and charter-linked suspects:

  • Amy Anderson, Donnell-Kay Foundation
  • Jill Barkin, JP Morgan Chase & Co.
  • Becca Bracey-Knight, Broad Foundation
  • Phil Caplan, Urban West Group
  • Heather Carroll, Edmonson Foundation
  • Yee-Ann Cho, Envision Schools Colorado
  • Ami Desai, Denver Venture School
  • Wayne Eckerling, Former Assistant Superintendent, Denver Public Schools
  • Sandra Elliott, Gnow-How
  • Nora Flood, Colorado League of Charter Schools
  • Lisa Flores, Gates Family Foundation
  • Marcia Fulton, The Odyssey School
  • Chris Gibbons, West Denver Prep
  • Merlin Holmes, National Heritage Academies
  • Rebecca Holmes, KIPP Colorado Schools
  • Brooke Johnson, Carson Family Foundation
  • Michael Johnston, Mapleton School District
  • Rachel Kelley, Teach for America
  • Ed Kennedy, Edison Schools
  • Kim Knous-Dolan, Donnell-Kay Foundation
  • Bill Kurtz, Denver School of Science and Technology
  • Cathy Lund, Walton Foundation
  • Zach McComsey, Atlas Prep School
  • Alex Medler, Colorado Children's Campaign
  • Gretchen Morgan, Envision Schools Colorado
  • Alex Ooms, West Denver Prep
  • Reyna Perez-Oquendo, Donnell-Kay Foundation
  • Audra Philippon, AXL Academy
  • Jane Shirley, William-Smith High School
  • Tim Taylor, Colorado Succeeds
  • Sean VanBerschot, Teach for America
  • Brian Weber, Stapleton Foundation

To see what I've written previously about Green Dot and Steve Barr, read here and here.

It is most important to know is that this organization is not grassroots; it's astroturf!


NYC Educator said...

Good old Green Dot. My union is proud partners with them. I've repeatedly asked about their "just cause" provision, which UFT bigshots assure me is better than tenure, since it doesn't take three years to kick in.

How many times has it been utilized, and how many teacher jobs has it protected? Neither the UFT nor any of several journalists I've asked can come up with a direct response.

The Perimeter Primate said...

Broad Foundation monitoring:

Direct Hit
February 22, 2010 11:00 AM
IP: (
Windows XP
Internet Explorer 7.0
Los Angeles, CA, United States

Michael Fiorillo said...

Before working with Green Dot, Marco Petruzzi was a partner in Bain Capital - Mitt Romney's old firm - one of the major private equity firms that acquire public companies, strip them of their wealth, while paying themselves exhorbitatnt fees, and them sell them back to the public.

Green Dot in NYC is overseen by Jeffrey Leeds, whose private equity firm owns temporary labor companies and proprietary, for-profit schools.

How's that for synergy, as they like to say in B-school?

caroline said...

Ben Austin clearly didn't get the implications of praising Warner Avenue as his idea of a model school -- which is rather a problem in someone who's paid to be a supposed parent leader. (Or rather, he's not a parent leader -- he just plays one on TV.)

There's nothing wrong, most people would say, with being a paid lobbyist or spokesperson. But shilling -- pretending to be a regular member of the public, or in this case an ordinary concerned parent -- while actually being a paid lobbyist or spokesperson is just dishonest and unethical. That says it all about the whole Parent Revolution scam.

The Perimeter Primate said...

Jay Mathews on the Parent Trigger and and comments here:

The Perimeter Primate said...

They're back again today.

Referring URL:
February 23, 2010 11:54 AM IP: ( Windows XP Windows XP
Los Angeles, CA, United States Internet Explorer 7.0 Internet Explorer 7.0

The Perimeter Primate said...

The second visit for today:

Direct Hit
February 23, 2010 4:44 PM IP: ( Windows XP Windows XP
Los Angeles, CA, United States Internet Explorer 7.0 Internet Explorer 7.0

Robert D. Skeels * rdsathene said...

Awesome work Sharon! Your article goes a long way towards demonstrating how all of the so-called "education reform" initiatives in Los Angeles are the machinations of everyone's favorite AIG bailout recipient. For more on the Green Dot, LAPU, Parent Revolution connections, see my piece:

On Parent Revolution (née LAPU) Pretending to Distance Themselves from Green Dot

Another thing to bear in mind is that LAPU/PR sits directly under Green Dot's second floor suite in the World Trade Center -- 350 South Figueroa Street. It's my understanding that employees still circulate between the two organizations constantly, and share resources.

The infamous "Annenberg Document" mentioned in my article also addresses the SIEU question you posed, as well as making the outright admission of everything you exposed above:

In return for serving Eli's interests, SEIU 1877 was given a spot on Green Dot's secretive board. Mike Garcia – President, Service Employees International Union Local 1877

nikto said...


Here's some GOOD NEWS on the Public School front.

Eli Broad and Steve Barr must
be steaming!!

For-profit charters just took a blow to-the-chin in Los Angeles:

"In an unlikely victory, groups of teachers, rather than outside operators, will run the vast majority of 30 campuses under a controversial school reform effort, the Los Angeles Board of Education decided Tuesday.

It was an ironic twist to a strategy that was designed to allow outsiders to manage new or troubled campuses in the Los Angeles Unified School District. When the board approved the concept in August, it was a stunning acknowledgment that the nation's second-largest school system needed help to improve its schools.

But the result was far different. Acting mostly on recommendations from Supt. Ramon C. Cortines, the board agreed Tuesday to turn over 22 of the schools to teacher-led efforts. Board members also supported Cortines' proposal to have different groups share some campuses. Teachers, for example, were given a role at two other schools along with outside groups.

The teachers competed against Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's nonprofit school organization and charter schools, independently run public campuses that are mostly nonunion.

In the end, charter schools were given the chance to run four schools and the mayor's Partnership for Los Angeles Schools was given three."

Here's the whole story:,0,5021988.story

So Mr. Cortines is not the goat he was shaping up to be.

This is not a good day to be Eli Broad's dog "Fifi", that's for sure. (I just assume he's got one)

In fact, better call the ASPCA, 'cause Fifi is probably getting abused as badly as students in a for-profit charter school!

(And that is BAD)

nikto said...

More on the big Los Angeles setback for profit-based charters:

"We find this to be an appalling decision," said Jed Wallace, chief executive of the California Charters Schools Assn. "Merit was not at the heart of the matter today. The three organizations taken out of the process today . . . are understood at the national level to be the gold standard as far as charter operators go."

Translation: WAAAAAHHHHHH!!!

When your "Gold Standard" is the equivalent of dog-poo, you have problems.

I apologize for slandering dog-poo by comparing it to for-profit Charter schools.

That wasn't nice.

The Perimeter Primate said...

More about Ben Austin:

Benjamin Austin, 40, of Los Angeles, has been appointed to the State Board of Education. He has served as executive director of the Los Angeles Parents Union and Parents Revolution since 2008 and as an assistant city attorney for Los Angeles since 2006. Previously, he was a consultant for Green Dot Public Schools from 2006 to 2008. Austin was
consultant for First 5 California and Rob Reiner from 2002 to 2006 and assistant city attorney for Los Angeles from 2001 to 2002. He served as deputy mayor for Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan from 2000 to 2001 and was communication director of the Host Committee for the 2000 Democratic National Convention from 1999 to 2000. Austin was a litigation
associate for Irell and Manella from 1998 to 1999. Prior to that, he served the White House in the Office of Presidential
Advance from 1993 to 1999 and as a deputy in the Office of Political Affairs from 1994 to 1995. Austin was a media
relations deputy for the U.S. General Services Administration from 1993 to 1994, press advance for the Presidential
Inaugural Committee from 1992 to 1993 and advance for Clinton/Gore ’92. This position requires Senate confirmation and compensation is $100 per diem. Austin is a Democrat.