We’ve already seen that LAUSD officials, both elected and appointed, have a sickening penchant for sharing confidential materials with Charter lobbyists, giving them advance input into official policy proposals, and so on. I’ve recently reported, e.g., on an episode from September 2018 where Austin Beutner allowed Cassy Horton and Jed Wallace of the California Charter School Association to vet an upcoming speech and also to talk in advance with his speechwriter to explain what they thought ought to be included. Convicted felon slash former schoolboard member Ref Rodriguez did the same thing in March 2018 with respect to a board proposal.
And it turns out that, beginning in January 2018, LAUSD Board member and charter school bootlicker Icky Sticky Nicky Melvoin1 was involved in a very similar scheme having to do with LAUSD policies on school facilities, a subject which sounds tedious but is actually bureaucratic code for real estate, a subject which is at the very center of the zillionaire plan to loot the public treasure-stores for their own gain.2
Basically the proposal, which seems never to have made it out of the secret meetings, would have called for LAUSD to list all its facilities so that the privatizers could choose which ones to target, to allocate facilities between charter schools and public schools based on excellence and student success rather than on need, to authorize a putatively neutral third party to settle disputes over co-location offers, to study how to sell or lease LAUSD property to charters, and to do something complicated with bonds used to fund facilities. It all seems incredibly shady, shady beyond belief.
Icky Sticky Nicky was elected to the LAUSD Board in May 2017 after having been endorsed by the Los Angeles Times, which delusionally called him an “independent thinker” and also claimed that “Melvoin, who has worked for reform-oriented groups, is decidedly aligned with that movement but in a more balanced way than, say, Monica Garcia.” The LA Times reported on his July 2017 swearing in, and was, by then, after the election was over and the information could no longer sway a single voter, willing to state the relevant facts more explicitly, noting that Melvoin was “elected with the help of millions of dollars from charter school supporters.” The Times also quoted from Melvoin’s speech at the ceremony:
Today is not about the results of an election but about the emergence of a new paradigm. [I am a product of] the coalition that arose to implore us to lead with a simple yet radical maxim: Put kids first.
And today’s story concerns some ugly truth about Melvoin’s putative more-balanced-than-Monica-Garcia alignment with Charter school zillionaires and about what they bought from him in exchange for their zillions of dollars.3 About how these matters actually played out during his first year in office and, by extension, exactly how he interprets his “simple yet radical maxim: Put kids first.”
The shenanigans that are at the heart of today’s story are somewhat worse than either of the other episodes, though, in that, at Nick Melvoin’s explicit invitation, the CCSA actually wrote the resolution for him, then met with him repeatedly to modify it to even better serve their needs. The story as I know it begins with a January 17, 2018 email from CCSA lobbyist Cassy Horton to high-powered charter school thought leaders Emilio Pack of STEM Preparatory Schools, Mark Kleger-Heine of Citizens of the World, and Cristina de Jesus of Green Dot.
Date: Wed, 17 Jan 2018 17:40:58 +0000
Subject: CONFIDENTIAL DRAFT FOR REVIEW- Facilities Proposal
From: Cassy Horton <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To: Emilio Pack <email@example.com>, “firstname.lastname@example.org” <email@example.com>, C DeJesus <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Cc: Jason Rudolph <email@example.com>, Ebony Wheaton <firstname.lastname@example.org>, Nicolas Watson <email@example.com>
Cristina, Emilio, and Mark,
Please see the attached confidential draft of a facilities proposal, framed as a draft resolution for Nick’s consideration. We ask that you please do not forward or otherwise share this document.
We have work to do on the whereas clauses, and imagine Nick would, too—we also recognize that this may take shape as multiple resolutions or be implement in a different fashion. Nick asked us explicitly for a list of things we want to get done, which is reflected in the resolve section.
Our goal for the call tonight is to solicit your feedback and discuss strategy for our call with the LAAC tomorrow so we can work towards a final version by the end of this week or early next week. Our process will be to collect feedback from LAAC members and the policy working group, synthesize that feedback on the back end, and then engage the three of you for final approval and assurance that we have navigated different feedback appropriately.
Please let me know if you have any questions in advance of tonight’s call.
And here’s a copy of the confidential draft attached to that email, both in the original MS Word format and also a PDF I made for easier reading. This document, according to the metadata created by CCSA flack Nicholas Watson and subsequently edited by Cassy Horton, is fairly complex in terms of deciphering its intentions. But fortunately the indefatigable Horton has provided detailed marginal comments explaining exactly what the privatizers are trying to accomplish, and it’s not pretty.
The overarching problem they claim to be solving is found in the preamble:4 …securing access to high-quality, affordable, long-term school facilities arrangements is the most commonly cited challenge faced by charter public schools operating within the District The proposed solutions, though, suggest an entirely different goal, which includes the transfer of public property over into private hands:
★ Principle: Access to facilities based on performance and student demand. — This is Horton’s summary of a proposal to allocate space in LAUSD facilities based on “whether high levels of student learning are occurring and whether high levels of demand for services from parents are present.” In other words they want to turn the annual contest for physical space into some kind of blood tournament, with student test scores the weapons.
In other words, say the privatizers, ” For those schools that are not excelling with students and do not have sufficient demand from parents, facilities allocations will be reduced to allow for the development and establishment of other programs better able to excel with students are receive high levels of demand from parents.” It’s not hard to see where this kind of thing would lead, and not to a good place.
★ Principle: Access to district facilities information. — It’s well-understood by privatizers, imperialists, and pirates everywhere that you can’t run a highly efficient campaign of plunder without an accurate list of plunderables. In other words, they’re seeking “The development of a complete inventory of all LAUSD school facilities, which includes current site enrollment, site plans, and verifiable classroom utilization information.” Or, as humans would call it, a shopping list.
★ Principle: Improved Prop. 39 oversight. — It’s my impression after reading hundreds of megabytes of these people’s emails that they are obsessively paranoid about the prospect of LAUSD secretly opposing their interests by cheating them on Prop 39 colocation offers. And maybe they’re right, I don’t know. Here they’re pushing for putatively neutral third party review of disputed offers.
★ Principle: Transparent RFP process that prioritizes public school student access to public school facilities. — This is a big one. Here they’re planning to call on LAUSD to basically sell or give public school facilities and real property to charter schools. It’s worth quoting in full, it’s that bad:
The development of a program, consistent with those California Education Code provisions which govern the joint use, joint occupancy, and sale or lease of school district owned property, whereby the District could:
• Identify, after seeking input from the district, charter school community and other city stakeholders, District school facilities and other real property which could provide long-term or permanent school sites to charter schools or other non-profit groups interested in providing tuition free K-12 public school instruction; and
• Consider different collaborative models that would allow proposals that envision the renovation of existing District facilities, and/or the development of new public school facilities on District owned real property where appropriate; and
• Analyze, and incorporate where feasible, project models that would be eligible for existing public school facilities funding and finance programs, to make facilities arrangements more affordable for interested charter schools, and to increase potential revenues for the District; and
• Develop a request for proposals for the use of identified sites and criteria for the review and consideration of proposals.
★ Principle: Flexible bond funding. — Finally, CCSA wants access to publicly-backed bonds to allow charters to fund facility development and acquisition. They already are able to do this to some extent, so I assume the point here is to expand the ways they can use the money. It’s too technical for me to decode, but I’m sure it’s not good. Here’s the actual language:
Evaluate how best to increase funding and additional resources to assist in the implementation of proposals for District schools and charter schools, and conduct a legal analysis to allow for both district and charter schools to have maximum flexibility to use any bond funding to leverage and integrate all assets – district, state and private – to maximize the amount of new facilities development and facilities improvement that could be achieved in a future bond
CCSA’s involvement in this proposal didn’t end with drafting the resolution itself. On February 20, 2018 a bunch of CCSA flacks along with Cristina de Jesus, Emilio Pack, and former LAUSD board member Caprice Young, the latter at that time with Magnolia Charter Schools, met with Melvoin and his utterly satanic senior advisor Allison Holdorff Polhill to discuss not only the content of the proposals but also the advocacy strategies to be employed.
Thus we find Melvoin not only deeply and inappropriately involving charter school lobbyists in his policy-making, but also deeply and inappropriately colluding with them to create effective political support for them. Here’s the agenda for the meeting. And we have more than just the agenda from that meeting. We also have CCSA flack Jason Rudolph’s super top-secret notes on the meeting, distributed via this email to the super top-secret privatizer plotters. Here’s the original MS Word file and here’s a PDF I made for ease of reading.
This is an immensely complex document, and I will be writing a post very soon discussing it in great detail as well as providing a transcription. I’m signing off for now, but will just note, perhaps spoiling the ending of the story, that Nick Melvoin publishes a list of all Board resolutions he’s been involved with, and there’s nothing like this on there anywhere. So, and this makes a lot of sense in the current political climate, the privatizers seem to have backed off from these exceedingly ambitious goals. But there’s no reason whatsoever to suspect that they’ve abandoned them.
Image of Icky Sticky Nicky Melvoin oozing the sticky stuff is ©2019 MichaelKohlhaas.Org and this’ll stick with you too!
- Don’t even ask why he’s called this. Someone might tell you and then, take my word for it, you’ll be sorry you know, and you can’t unknow.
- Zillionaires push charter schools for a number of different reasons. Making money from them is important, even necessary, but is not the only purpose, and I’m not claiming that it is. It is, though, the only purpose relevant to today’s story, so I’m not talking about the others.
- I’m well aware that the LA Times only reported on millions, rather than the more accurate figure of zillions, of dollars in charter payola funneled to the Icky Sticky one. That’s only because they can’t handle the truth, got it? You, dear reader, of course can handle the truth.
- Known in the technical jargon as the “whereases”.