On September 13, 2018 Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent Austin Beutner Gave A Major Policy Speech — The Week Before That Beutner Staffers Rebecca Kockler And Elmer Roldan Met Separately With Lobbyist Cassy Horton Of The California Charter Schools Association To Vet His Proposals With Her — I Have A Copy Of Horton’s Extensive Notes On These Two Meetings! — On September 7 Beutner Met With Christina De Jesus Of Green Dot And Emilio Pack Of STEM Prep For The Same Purpose — And On September 12 Cassy Horton Had An Advance Copy Of Beutner’s Speech And Shared It With Those Two For Feedback — Ironically In The Speech Beutner Touted The Importance Of Transparency — But Didn’t Mention Word One About All This Back Channel Commo With Elite Privatizers About The Very Speech In Which He Was Touting Transparency!

A little history and a list of the dramatis personae are in order before we begin. In May 2018 noted zillionaire Austin Beutner was appointed superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District via a shady, probably illegal, backroom process pushed through by noted charter-lovers Monica Rodriguez and later-indicted-and-convicted criminal Ref Rodriguez.1 Subsequently Beutner hired Broad Foundation alumna Rebecca Kockler away from the already-pretty-wrecked state of Louisiana where she was famous for privatizing everything in her reach and thereby wrecking everything even more as his chief of staff2 and some dude named Elmer Roldan as his director of civic engagement.

Then there’s the shady charter school lobbying conspiracy known as the California Charter Schools Association, sitting like a fat green spider at the center of the various ickety-stickety webs of privatization spritzed all over our fair city by behind-the-scenes zillionaires. These privatizing peddlers of metaphorical poisoned apples are not just lobbyists, but also actively gather what passes for intelligence in privatizerlandia and spread it around among their members. They’re probably reading this very blog post. Their local capo is Cassy Horton.

And one of the CCSA’s creepiest little Southern California projects is something called the Los Angeles Advocacy Council, a shadowy website-lacking group of twenty-ish super-elite local charter leaders who convene regularly to discuss how to privatize everything they can lay their greedy paws on, to meet with politicians, propose policy, and so on.3 And among these elite privatizers there is an even eliter bunch, the so-called LAAC Leadership. This hyper-exclusive crew consists of Green Dot Charter Schools CEO Christina De Jesus and STEM Preparatory School boss Emilio Pack, facilitated by Cassy Horton.

And it came to pass that after Beutner had been on the job for a few months, in September 2018, he decided that he wanted to give a major policy speech, explaining just what the hell he planned to get up to way high up on the zillionth floor of the Bastille on Beaudry.4 And how does a galaxy-brain like Beutner prepare for such an event? Well, perhaps he thinks about things, reads up on things, talks about things with his senior staff, goes out in the field and looks at things.

And maybe Beutner did all of that and more. But he also had two of his senior staff, the aforementioned Kockler and Roldan, meet with Cassy Horton to run all his proposals by her. And the next day he met with LAAC elites Christina De Jesus and Emilio Pack. We know about this first meeting from an email which Horton sent to De Jesus and Pack, ensubjected “<Confidential/For Review> Preview of Austin Convo for Tomorrow” describing in astounding detail both the content and her thoughts on these two meetings with Beutner’s staffies.

Her purpose in writing was to prep them for their own meeting with Beutner. Here’s how she sums up what she’s writing about. Note that she herself is such a galaxy-brain that she doesn’t know how to count. At her level one has one’s subordinates do the damn counting:

Below, I have provided four things:

1. What I heard from Rebecca
2. What I heard from Elmer
3. Things to ask/listen for
4. Recommended talking points for tomorrow
5. Additional resources
6. Who else Austin should talk to

This email, of which there is a complete transcription below, is a more honest, more explicit, more detailed expose of how the privatizers lobby politicians than anything I’ve seen on the subject. It’s really astounding. For instance, according to Horton, Kockler told her:

* Next week Austin is coming out with new messaging regarding the union dynamics.
* Austin will talk about holding all schools accountable, including charters to take the wind out of the union’s sails.
* All schools should be held to the same definition of success.
* This might sound like Austin wants to hold charters accountable in an aggressive way and she wants to make sure that feels right to us.

See how solicitous Kockler is of the easily-wounded feelings of the privatizers! She wants to be sure Austin’s not going to make them cry when he’s really trying to help them by taking the wind out of the union’s sails! And this was by no means a one way conversation, as Horton told us it was not. On the issue of accountability here is just a fraction of what Horton had to say to Kockler:

* The union generally doesn’t touch conversations about academic accountability because they are completely opposed to their own schools being held accountable for academic outcomes.
* UTLA’s “charter accountability” and “transparency” allegations are a dog whistle that shouldn’t be taken seriously by an authorizer like LAUSD.
* Where our members will get nervous is if these conversations around charter accountability are tied to policy change. We support academic accountability, which is why we want update renewal criteria. But, additional oversight would be out of line.

Got it? According to charter lobbyist Horton, the UTLA hates accountability whereas charters love accountability but they don’t want any oversight because that might lead to…accountability? And how does Kockler tie this all together? With a plaintive claim that “We don’t want to look like the privatizers. But this is why we want to stay super tight and work with you all on this. Austin and I don’t have this context and it is
really helpful.”

And there is much, much more in there. Please read the whole thing. The main theme, which I have not touched on at all yet, is that the CCSA was terrified in September 2018 that LAUSD was going to end up using charter policy as a bargaining chip with UTLA. One of the main points Horton hit over and over and over again in her meeting was that this must not happen. But of course, as we all found out in January 2019, this is exactly what did end up happening. Perhaps this email shows that that development was an even greater loss for the privatizers than was hitherto understood.

Also, you must be sure to read the three attachments. Here are Horton’s descriptions of these essential documents, which I do not have time to discuss although I may do so in a later post:
* The LAAC’s approved charter declaration (crafted by a committee that included KIPP, Endeavor, Ednovate, Magnolia, Alliance, and Camino Nuevo, approved by LAAC in February)
* The District’s 2014 response to union “public school accountability” demands.
* Our messaging for schools on negotiations.

And the other fascinating thing I learned about the lead-up to Beutner’s speech is that on September 12, 2018, the day before the speech was delivered, Cassy Horton had a copy of it. You can get the advance copy here, and here’s a copy of the email attached to which Horton sent it to DeJesus, Pack, and a few other elite charterites, with the stern admonition that “We ask that you do not forward or otherwise share.”

The draft speech is not particularly interesting, but the email is. Far, far more interesting even than the email is the fact that Beutner was sharing advance copies of this major policy speech with Cassy Horton, a charter school lobbyist. Did he share it with UTLA? I don’t have evidence either way, but I really do doubt it. Here’s the entire text of the email, followed by the monumental revelation that is Cassy Horton’s email to Christina DeJesus and Emilio Pack:5




Date: 12 Sep 2018
Subject: <Confidential> draft speech
From: Cassy Horton <chorton@ccsa.org> To: Emilio Pack <epack@stem-prep.org>, C DeJesus <cdejesus@greendot.org>, Myrna Castrejon <mcastrejon@greatpublicschoolsnow.org>, Brian Bauer 2 <senorbbauer@aol.com>, Ana Ponce <aponce@caminonuevo.org>, Marcia Aaron <maaron@kippla.org>
Cc: Jed Wallace <jed@ccsa.org>

Hi all,

Please see a draft of tomorrow’s speech attached. We ask that you do
not forward or otherwise share. Nothing to be concerned about based on
our assessment. I am working to get ahold of Rebecca for feedback
regarding the content and timing of our collective strike declaration
and will let the group know when I hear back.

Thanks for all of your efforts on this,

Cassy



Subject: <Confidential/For Review> Preview of Austin Convo for Tomorrow
From: Cassy Horton <chorton@ccsa.org>
To: Emilio Pack <epack@stem-prep.org>, C DeJesus <cdejesus@greendot.org>

Hi Emilio and Cristina,

This email is a little long, but I hope it’s all helpful.

Emilio let me know that Austin asked for time to meet with the two of you and Marcia tomorrow. I had previously scheduled a conversation with both Rebecca Kockler, and Elmer Roldan who was just hired on to work for Austin Beutner as his Director of Community engagement. During those two conversations, I got slightly different versions of what I believe to be a preview of the conversation you will have tomorrow with Austin.

The short version is that I think Austin plans to come out with a counter proposal that includes charters as a bargaining chip, which is completely unacceptable and would be unprecedented. If you read the attached PDF from 2014, you’ll understand how off-base it would be for charter policy to be in the District counter proposal, and how strongly we would need to respond if it comes to that. I do believe that we have the opportunity to cut this off at the head: both Elmer and Rebecca made it clear that their team has a steep learning curve and want our feedback.

Below, I have provided four things:

1. What I heard from Rebecca
2. What I heard from Elmer
3. Things to ask/listen for
4. Recommended talking points for tomorrow
5. Additional resources
6. Who else Austin should talk to

What I heard from Rebecca and my response

* Rebecca:

* Next week Austin is coming out with new messaging regarding the union dynamics.
* Austin will talk about holding all schools accountable, including charters to take the wind out of the union’s sails.
* All schools should be held to the same definition of success.
* This might sound like Austin wants to hold charters accountable in an aggressive way and she wants to make sure that feels right to us.

* Cassy:

* Accountability is a polarized word in LA.
* Ed reformers use it to mean academic accountability: closing schools where students aren’t learning.
* Charters fully support that, certainly for our own schools. That’s why we advocate for the closure of low-performing charters.
* The union generally doesn’t touch conversations about academic accountability because they are completely opposed to their own schools being held accountable for academic outcomes.
* When UTLA and CTA talk about “charter accountability” they mean finance, governance and operations. They mean more bureaucracy to make it less possible to operate a school.
* Our members our sensitive to UTLA’s allegations that they aren’t accountable: under the law and rigorous oversight of LAUSD, our members spend hundreds of hours on oversight, reports, and compliance from forensic audits of their own audits, to binders at oversight. Our schools would argue that school by school, they are already far more transparent than the District on even finance, governance and operations.
* UTLA’s “charter accountability” and “transparency” allegations are a dog whistle that shouldn’t be taken seriously by an authorizer like LAUSD.
* Are you thinking about messaging on academic accountability or operational accountability of charters?

* Rebecca

* Academic, not more bureaucracy.

* Cassy

* Where our members will get nervous is if these conversations around charter accountability are tied to policy change. We support academic accountability, which is why we want update renewal criteria. But, additional oversight would be out of line.
* Further, charters cannot and should not be used as bargaining chips in negotiations. There are legal parameters in terms of what the district can negotiate within the scope of a labor negotiations: it is the things related to employment, not policy. Although, we have seen districts make charter concessions on policy to get the union to pull back at the bargaining table. That would be concerning to our members.

* Rebecca

* It’s about messaging.
* We don’t want to look like the privatizers.
* Nothing we are going to give that would diminish their access to great schools, we won’t negotiate things differently.
* But this is why we want to stay super tight and work with you all on this. Austin and I don’t have this context and it is really helpful.

What I heard from Elmer

* Elmer

* Similar to above plus:
* Austin has a 4 point counter bargaining proposal he plans to roll out next week. (My thought: This is very different than the impression Rebecca gave me. A counter proposal that includes us, not just messaging, is deeply problematic and would be way off base from what the District has done in the past. Elmer just shared with me without hearing my thinking first, so I think he was way more forthcoming whereas Rebecca likely realized that what they have in the works is an issue and didn’t want to share or already wants to walk it back.)
* One of the points is around charter accountability.
* The union won’t take the deal anyway, it includes things like teacher evaluations. (My thought: Not the point because we shouldn’t be a bargaining chip no matter what!)
* Austin and his team, Elmer included, have a huge learning curve on what is legal and what policy would be problematic for us. We should communicate our concerns. He still may do it. They are trying to figure things out as they go.

Things to ask/listen for

* Are these talking points on charters or a counter proposal?
* What kind of “accountability” are they talking about: academic or operations/compliance?
* Has legal counsel reviewed this counter proposal?
* Has Austin reviewed the responses to UTLA’s attempts to bargain charters in the past?
* How would this be messages to charter parents and families?

Recommended Talking Points

* The charter community has been closely monitoring and preparing for the threat of a strike for more than a year and a half.
* The Los Angeles Advocacy Council, staffed by CCSA, have developed an ad-hoc strike preparedness committee to ensure that:

* Adult issues do not distract from providing our students with the high quality education they need and deserve, in an environment that is safe.
* Charter schools are not inappropriately or illegally involved in bargaining.

* Charter students, educators and families should not be used as a bargaining chips.
* Negotiating charter policy goes outside the scope of legal bargaining, and the District itself has offered strong, sound legal rationale against UTLA’s proposals on charter accountability in the past.
* Negotiating charter policy would set a dangerous statewide precedent that would be replicated by other labor organizations across the state.
* The charter community is aligned in voice and action: we will stay united in strong opposition to District or labor actions that bring us into the bargaining process.

Additional Resources Attached

* The LAAC’s approved charter declaration (crafted by a committee that included KIPP, Endeavor, Ednovate, Magnolia, Alliance, and Camino Nuevo, approved by LAAC in February)
* The District’s 2014 response to union “public school accountability” demands.
* Our messaging for schools on negotiations.

Who else should Austin talk to before doing this?

* Jed
* Eli
* Myrna
* Gregory

Cassy Horton
Managing Director, Regional Advocacy, Greater Los Angeles
California Charter Schools Association
Cell: 213-926-7763
Email: chorton@ccsa.org
Website: www.ccsa.org




Image of Cassy Horton of the C-freaking-CSA is ©2019 MichaelKohlhaas.Org and you can revisit that Hortonian nightmare dreamscape over here if you have the heart for it.

  1. Oh boy, do I have more goodies on Ref Rodriguez for you, but not today. Sadly, these days, time is limited while freaking bombshell emails are not. But look out for it, friends, it’s coming!
  2. Kockler departed in January 2019 under a cloud. I don’t have any information regarding specific details of the cloud under which she departed but clearly at that level of elite zillionairity no one leaves a job after six months without the metaphorical weather being cloudy.
  3. I have a ton of good hard evidence about the activities of these creepers, which I will be publishing as soon as possible. Stay tuned!
  4. I actually have no idea whatsoever what floor Beutner’s office is on. But metaphorically it’s the zillionth.
  5. By the way, these two items are part of a massive release of emails produced to me by Green Dot. I have not had time to process this material; there’s more than two gigabytes of it. But I have uploaded an MBOX to Archive.Org. If you’re interested you really ought to get this and import it into a client. If you’d rather use bittorrent than http to download such a hefty file, here’s a link to the torrent. There is so much amazing stuff in here it’s not possible to describe. Aladdin’s cave pales, really!
Share

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


The maximum upload file size: 50 MB.
You can upload: image, audio, video, document, spreadsheet, interactive, text, archive, code, other.