Sunday, November 13, 2011

Holding Onto Eachother On The Astroturf

"The best thing to hold onto in life is eachother", declared Linda Serrato, Deputy Communications Director of Parent Revolution at her Oak Creek Palo Alto engagement party in May last year. A tender and loving thought addressed to her fiancé Matt, with whom she is pictured here frolicking in the hotel fountains. Not, however, a sentiment that the community activist is aiming at Yolande Beckles these days.

In an angry message to this blog a few days ago Ms. Serrato declared: "I wanted to clarify that Parent Revolution has absolutely no affiliation (formal or otherwise) with Ms. Beckles or any of her work in Southern California... We have never had any affiliation with her. We do not currently have any affiliation. We will never want any affiliation with her." So, sounds like the engagement between Parent Revolution and CTIPU arranged by George Buzzetti isn't progressing quite as lovingly.

"We are about empowering and educating parents and developing real grassroots organizations", the irate PR manager continued. "She isn't about these things... She doesn't disclose to parents how she is funded or how she has misled parents in the past."
Quite right. And quite unlike Parent Revolution of course. There's nothing secret or misleading about the funding or commercial motives of Linda Serrato's employers. Parent Revolution is a $1m-funded front organisation for a set of privately-owned charter school operators backed by an unashamedly open bunch of billionaires including Bill & Melinda Gates, Casey Wasserman, Eli & Edyth Broad, William and Flora Hewlett and Sam & Helen Walton.

Behind all of this we find the hand of Democrats For Education Reform, the political action committee run by investment bankers and hedge-fund managers that was responsible for the parent trigger legislation in the first place and an organisation which Linda Serrato came to know through her previous campaign work for Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. DFER presents its interests as the interests of children, specifically America's mainly urban, non-white public school children. DFER pits the interests of these children against the interests of unionized teachers who, according to DFER, are ultimately responsible for high student dropout rates and abysmal performance on school tests.

DFER refuses to admit that lack of school funding or poverty is an important determinant of academic performance, citing academic outcomes at KIPP and Harlem Children's Zone as evidence of what great instruction can do. DFER's critics point out that the PAC has a stake in undermining the pull of teachers' unions, the largest single source of funding for the Democratic Party, in order to wrest power and political influence in its favour. There is nothing left-wing about this agenda - it was effectively authored by George W. Bush. Such organisations are known in political circles as "astroturf" bodies – groups that adopt the populist guise of a grassroots organization in the interests of parties that are neither populist nor grassroots. Independent bloggers at Solidaridad have been calling Parent Revolution "astroturf" for years.

So, where does this leave us? Well, for ordinary parents with kids in public schools in deprived neighbourhoods and for rank-and-file teachers struggling to educate under-privileged students in the face of inadequate and shrinking budgets, there's little choice. American astroturf billionaires or British swindlers on the run. You pays yer money...

Here is Linda's email in full:

My name is Linda Serrato and I work communications for Parent Revolution. I wanted to reach out personally regarding your most recent post about Yolanda Beckles. I wanted to clarify that Parent Revolution has absolutely no affiliation (formal or otherwise) with Ms. Beckles or any of her work in Southern California.

Our organization helps parents organize and form Parent Unions at their local school around various initiatives. Some of our chapters focus on parental initiatives such as improving attendance at their school while others demand changes to their children's schools when the status quo has failed their children. Additionally, we train parents to develop steering committees and help to educate parents about ways that they can take a real role to change their child's educational destiny.

I want to make it clear that we do not take any money whatsoever from our parents.

While Ms. Beckles stole the Parent Union name, she does not reflect any of this grassroots organizing or knowledge spreading.

This year, our organization has been fighting to protect the Parent Trigger that empowers parents to have a real voice in their children's education. Every State Board meeting, Parent Revolution organized parents to take a 6 hour overnight bus up to Sacramento to get parent-friendly regulations passed surrounding the law, in which the parents gave their own time to do.

At the July meeting, after seeing how eloquent and successfully Parent Revolution parents were about defending Parent Trigger, Yolanda Beckles organized a bus of parents (funded by CTA) to go up to Sacramento under the Title I Parent Union flag and try to tear down the Parent Trigger law and take power away from parents. The results were disastrous. The Title I parents were unaware of the Parent Trigger law and boarded a bus to talk about school funding. A number of parents were quite confused when they spoke and even at one point the President of the Board had to ask the speaker to address the Parent Trigger law and NOT talk about school funding.

In another case, a parent we were working with, got over 300 parent signatures in support of the Parent Trigger law. She gave the petition to Yolanda (without knowing where Ms. Beckles received funding) when Ms. Beckles promised to submit the 300 signatures. At no point did Ms. Beckles submit the signatures. Instead, she betrayed the parents trust and effectively threw away the petition.

After the trip, she returned to Los Angeles and lied out right to parents. As a parent recounted to us, Ms. Beckles claimed that our organization offered her hundreds of thousands of dollars to get her to work for us but that she denied our offer.

I cannot emphasize enough how false that is. We have never had any affiliation with her. We do not currently have any affiliation. We will never want any affiliation with her.

We are about empowering and educating parents and developing real grassroots organizations. She isn't about these things. In fact, we have been following your website and have been trying to make parents aware of her background. She doesn't disclose to parents how she is funded or how she has misled parents in the past.

I wanted to email you to clarify the situation and to prevent any instance of her using this as evidence that she works with us. You can learn more about our organizing from this video when we were featured on “Nightly News with Brian Williams.”

If you have any other questions, please feel free to reach out to me directly.



  1. olivia Shields November 13, 2011 at 4:10 pm
    Your comment is awaiting moderation.
    it is a crime Miss Beckles to be around youth when you were convicted of fraud for programs you organized for kids’. Your foundations and youth organized programs were all bogus. Just a way for you to take money from the disadvantaged. You steal when and wherever you can. The reporter asked you to comment prior to the posting and you declined, Miss Beckles. How can parents trust you for ten minutes with their children and God forbid, their money? You have never paid ONE single person back for the money you defrauded them out of, NOT ONE! You have no morals nor do you have ethics! How can you be involved with Children – Educational Programs – Fundraisers or any avenue that has to do with MONEY? I stepped back for awhile because you ruined my life and my families lives… I wanted nothing but the worst for you…I became dark and morose because of my hatred for you but now… I have regained my strength and you will have to change cities woman because you’ll never accomplish what you set out to do with me in your face!

  2. Just received a message from Violet Elizabeth Lopez, daughter of local nouveau riche billionaires: "If you don't take my photograph down immediately I'll thcream and thcream 'till I'm thick."

  3. You are remarkably well-informed. Please keep it up. Los Angeles needs you.

  4. The image you are using is a copyright violation- immediate removal is requested.


  5. The name "Anonymous" is a copyright violation. Immediate identification is requested. Thank you.