Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Michelle Rhee Joins L.A. School Board Funding Free For All

Huck/Konopacki Labor Cartoons

Michelle Rhee’s organization, StudentsFirst, has contributed $250,000 to support the campaigns of incumbent Los Angeles school board president Monica Garcia, as well as those of Kate Anderson and Antonio Sanchez. The donation comes on the heels of a $1 million donation to the same candidates by New York Mayor Bloomberg, and several $100,000 donations by L.A. billionaires Eli Broad and A. Jerrold Perenchio.

According to the Los Angeles Times, Rhee believes her involvement in Los Angeles could advance her school reform agenda statewide. This agenda includes the conversion of public schools into charter schools, increasing reliance on high stakes tests, and tying teachers’ evaluations to student test scores.

Rhee is not unique in this belief. All the big outside money is intended to influence the free market school reform agenda statewide and even nationwide. One of their goals is to weaken teachers unions, both as a voting bloc and as an impediment to their money-making scams. Garcia and Anderson, for example, are outright union busters and the United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA) has indicated it would spend millions of dollars to defeat them. (Garcia said that if she were president of UTLA she would go on a rampage and fire all “ineffective” teachers and eliminate seniority). Sanchez has been more subtle. Consequently, he was won the support of UTLA, despite having made comments that suggest he intends to bully the union into submitting to the will of the free market reformers. For example, he said he wants to “break” the divide between unions and school choice and accountability advocates, which is just a politically strategic way of saying he wants the union to accept harmful concessions.

All three of the candidates supported by Rhee, Bloomberg and the Coalition for School Reform are backers of privatization and charter school conversions. LAUSD already has one of the largest numbers of charter schools of any district in the nation, as well as its own sordid history of charter school scandals (see here and here).

Considering LAUSD’s history of budget shortfalls, low student achievement and administrator scandals, it would seem politically irresponsible to give away even more oversight and revenue to private education management organizations which can run charter schools with only minimal district oversight and which have a track record that is no better (and often worse than traditional public schools. Then again, it should be obvious by now that promoters of charter schools, vouchers and parental “choice” have no interest in improving educational outcomes. Rather, their motivations are purely financial: increase profit-making opportunities for themselves and for the funders of their political careers.  

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