Friday, October 28, 2011

Follow The Buck

The big news in the world of LA education this month was the much-discussed early walk-out of U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan on parents invited to a meeting at the town hall in Pico Rivera - an event designed to engage community leaders from across the Los Angeles region in meeting President Barack Obama's challenge to lead the world in college completion by 2020.

Media and bloggers were quick to pick up on the words of heckler George Buzzetti, who followed up on Duncan's exit by shouting: "He has no respect for students, parents or teachers, he is now on his way to get money." Much applause from a frustrated audience of parents and teachers.

Having initially declared his outburst to be impromptu, Buzzetti later confessed that he had actually been instrumental in securing invites for much of the audience and setting the agenda for protest through the organisations he chose to engage: "I am the one who originated opening up a closed meeting to all comers through Lydia Grant, Board Member of the Parent Revolution, and Yolande Beckles with the LAUSD Parent District Advisory Council (DAC) and new Parent Union. I am with the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) of California... Monday I called Lydia and Yolande to send in requests on their letterhead, they did. Within several hours both received phone calls, from officials representing Duncan, asking them to bring every student, parent, teacher and community member they can so they can be listened to by the Secretary of Education... From San Diego to the edge of L.A. County they came including a bus load paid for by The California Teachers Association (CTA) who helped parents go to this supposedly important event for the public to be heard."

Eagle-eyed readers will have picked up on Buzzetti's description of Ms. Beckles as being with "the LAUSD Parent District Advisory Council (DAC)" (of which I've written at some length on this blog) and the "new Parent Union". Aha. So that's what Yo has been doing during these past months of relative silence.

Yes - Ms. Beckles has been busy setting up yet another organisation, the California Title I Parent Union. The new venture has no office of its own, but shares premises, phone and fax with the CTA (California Teachers Association - the state's largest professional employee organization, representing more than 340,000 public school teachers, counselors, psychologists, librarians and ESPs) at the Wilshire Blvd headquarters of its state affiliate UTLA (United Teachers Los Angeles - the union of professionals representing 45,000 public school teachers and health and human services professionals in LA).

Things must be getting tight financially, because not only does CTIPU not have its own office, nor does it yet have its own website. Even the proposed domain name has yet to be purchased, leaving an opportunity for someone more mischievous than Beckles Watch.

Still, lack of financial resources didn't prevent Yo organising and funding a bus to Pico Rivera with refreshments on board, as her letter to members confirms. Presumably not the same bus that was hired and paid for by CTA according to George Buzzetti.

So the next question is inevitably about the relationship between CTIPU and Parent Revolution. After all, when noisy George Buzzetti goes looking for troops, he calls both organisations to the barricades. Well, at first glance Parent Revolution looks just the sort of outfit that Yolande would associate herself with. Its mission is "to transform public education rooted in what's good for kids — not grown-ups — by empowering parents to transform their own children’s low-performing schools through community organizing." It organized a massive and successful grassroots campaign to have a law called the Parent Trigger pass through the California State Legislature, empowering parents at any failing school in California to transform their school through community organizing. Just the sort of words that will ring bells with anyone familiar with the preachings of Ms. Beckles.

Chair and CEO of Parent Revolution Reverend K.W. Tulloss describes himself as "a leading advocate for children and communities of color throughout Los Angeles". His CV reveals that he was born and raised in South Los Angeles, has taken on countless leadership roles to fight for the members of his community and is the leader of National Action Network Los Angeles, the CEO of the Making a Difference Foundation, a founding member of the Latino/African American Leadership Alliance, Pastor of the Historical Weller Street Missionary Baptist Church in Boyle Heights, a youth mentor, gang mediator and a board member of the Watts Learning Center. Pretty impressive stuff! You'd wonder why any frustrated parent in Los Angeles wouldn't support the parent-power organisation. A clear case of David and Goliath, as previously unrepresented but radicalised parents take on the twin conservative mammoths of the state and the unions.

The contrast between privilege and despair couldn't have been put into sharper relief than last January, when Uprising Radio's Sonali Kolhatkar hosted Gabe Rose, Deputy Director of Parent Revolution in a debate with A J Duffy of UTLA over the Parent Trigger law and the state of public education in LA. Just look at Duffy's crisp Italian suit and tie and compare with Rose's crumpled, open-neck shirt. One of these men is backed by some serious financial interests with hidden agendas.

Yeah - I expect you got it. The Chair and CEO of Parent Revolution back then was one Steve Barr, founder of Green Dot Public Schools, operators of several charter schools in the city of Los Angeles and with virtually inexhaustible funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Wasserman Foundation, the Eli and Edyth Broad Foundation, the Hewlett Foundation and the Walton Family Foundation. But don't feel sorry for the low-paid former President of United Teachers Los Angeles. He stepped down in June to become Executive Director of Apple Academy Charter Public Schools. Poor Yolande. She made a fortune in her early business ventures, but nowadays she never quite seems to get onto the wonga bandwagon in time.

No comments:

Post a Comment