In-studio guest, CTU Political Organizer, Brandon Johnson.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

GREEN DOT'S PROMISE TURNED INTO A LIE


Green Dot founder Steve Barr originally offered some hope to a struggling L.A. community. He promised a viable alternative to the large, under-resourced, often violent, traditional neighborhood high schools, run by an incompetent, demoralized, stultifying bureaucracy. He also promised that Green Dot, unlike the dozens of other market-driven, privately-managed charter school chains, currently favored under Duncan's Race To The Top reform strategy, would empower teachers and respect their rights, codified in a new, model, union contract.

But this morning, it is clear to hundreds of students, teachers and parents who bought into Barr's promise, that Green Dot is no different and in many ways worse, than any of the other of the new breed of privateer charter school operators who trade in the hopes and dreams of children and their parents for a better future.

Green Dot's money man Marco Petruzzi announced yesterday that the company's Amino "Justice" School is closing and that its students and teachers will be dispersed around the city. To Petruzzi & Co., it was strictly a bottom-line decision. The school wasn't making its enrollment quotas and despite tens of millions in corporate donations as well as huge Broad and Gates Foundation grants, it was running at a deficit. Rather than carry it as a loss-leader, Green Dot's unelected, unaccountable corporate board decided not to throw good money after bad.

The announcement sparked a sit-in by some 400 Amino students and outrage from parents and teachers.
"We had no idea that closing was even a possibility, and then we received the information on Friday morning," said Judy Riemenschneider, who teaches chemistry and environmental science. The ultimatum is at odds with Green Dot's principles, which call for teacher input into critical decisions, she said.

Animo Justice senior class president Eduardo Campos, 17, credits the school for his ambition to graduate and go to college and also for developing student leadership skills. "We built the school from scratch," Campos said. "We chose the name of the school and the colors. And now all of that is being taken away." (L.A. Times)

24 comments:

  1. Funny that the L.A. Times has told us about 50,000 times that all Green Dot schools have long waiting lists, with the desperate hordes beating down the door. You mean we've been lied to by the charter folks and their BFFs in the mainstream media? I'm shocked -- shocked!

    It's a shame for those students, though. But of course the charter operators are answerable to nobody, except Broad and Gates.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Don't forget, Green Dot is also a victim of the massive budget cuts which has led to thousands of school closures and 26,000 teachers and staff being pink-slipped. The reason I agree that Green Dot is, in many ways worse than the other charter chains, is that they promised an alternative and seemed to have the resources to back it up. Once that trust is broken, you can never get it back.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Caroline,

    Green Dot does have long waiting lists at many of their schools. But not at Amino "Justice" which is in a community hard hit by the economic crisis and one that has lost lots of jobs and population.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Yeah, right, "Cynthia." Fool us twice, shame on us!

    Now you're seeing a true "Parent Revolution" at Animo Justice, aren't you?

    ReplyDelete
  5. Caroline,

    Your arrogance and cliche mongering have no place in any serious discussion. Thousands of public schools, charter and public, are being closed. Tens of thousands of teachers losing their jobs. Animo Justice is only one and no teachers are losing jobs so far as I have heard. I am also upset and angry about the closing of Amino Justice. But this is a systemic problem. Nothing to act haughty or "I told you so" about. Where was your sarcasm about the old Jefferson High School?

    ReplyDelete
  6. I am a huge supporter of teachers, but frankly, the fact that they aren't losing their jobs is a secondary concern. The students of Animo Justice are losing their school and their stability. And I doubt if this will be a picnic for the teachers either.

    There are a few differences between the Green Dot fiasco and struggling Jefferson High School: Nobody told us Jefferson High School was a miracle. Jefferson High School was not touted far and wide as vastly superior to public schools, while public schools and their teachers were showered with contempt by comparison. The New Yorker did no puff pieces on Jefferson High School, nor did Jefferson High School get gushed over in editorial after fawning editorial in the L.A. Times. Gates, Broad, Walton and the rest of the Billionaire Boys Club did not pour money on Jefferson High School. The operators of Jefferson High School did not sell the entire state of California on the "parent trigger" as a way to dismantle public schools and allow them and their predatory buddies to take over struggling schools. (And all of these apply to other non-charter schools that are closing as well.)

    ReplyDelete
  7. Ah, much better, Caroline. Of course, Jefferson wasn't touted as "miracle." It was a miracle any parents would still send their kids there. And you are correct that Green Dot had (has) no business selling themselves as a miracle alternative either. They are driven by the same market forces as everyone else. If anything, the current crisis proves once again, that there are no miracle solutions to problems of public education. Let the buyer beware.

    ReplyDelete
  8. We're in agreement that there are no miracle solutions and that Green Dot had no business selling itself that way. The immediate impulse to bash a struggling public school as a line of defense for Green Dot (perhaps the only line of defense it can muster) demonstrates just what I'm talking about, though.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I'm tired of hearing from all these so-called "supporters of teachers." Where is the teacher voice in all this? Where's Green Dot's teachers' union?

    ReplyDelete
  10. Caroline says teachers losing their jobs "is of secondary concern" to her. Obviously, Caroline isn't a teacher.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Actually, Chad, my husband is an urban public-school teacher, and my concern for the teachers is secondary only to my concern for the welfare of the students, as I made clear. And most of the teachers I know would agree with that priority.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Caroline,

    20,000 California teachers losing their jobs can't be good for children. Why are children's and teachers' interests always being posed in opposition? I would ask the same about charter and non-charter schools.

    ReplyDelete
  13. A REAL Parent and Student Revolution brewing at Corporate Green Dot CMO Charter Schools

    We in the social justice community fully support the students, parents, teachers, activists, and community members trying to prevent school closures! Doesn't matter if it's Fremont, Nightingale, or Animo Justice! We say no to layoffs, reconstitution, and closures!

    Note to charters: children are not a commodity! Tell the greedy executives at this corporate CMO charter to keep Animo Justice open. On top of sucking up our tax dollars, Green Dot Public [sic] Schools get millions of extra dollars from the Waltons, Broads, and Gates. They are only closing to raise profitability and target other schools. Our communities should always come before Petruzzi's profits!

    ReplyDelete
  14. There are so many charters in that neighborhood, they're competing for the same kids. Cortines was smart not to give them any more schools. This is just the beginning of the shakeout.

    ReplyDelete
  15. I'm not pitting the teachers against the students at all. Here's a recap of the context: A Green Dot defender basically said it's no big deal that the supposedly wildly successful miracle charter school is suddenly slated to close, because the teachers won't lose their jobs (though I'm not sure if that's true either). And I responded, basically, yes, but the students will be harmed, so it IS a big deal.

    ReplyDelete
  16. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Thanks for presenting this information, Mike. As someone interested in following education issues up and down the state, it's helpful to have some insight into the events in different settings.

    ReplyDelete
  18. All these anti-charter axe-grinders are missing the point. Green Dot is not even a good example of a charter chain. For one thing they were started, at least at Locke, by a teacher revolt against the LAUSD bureaucracy and union do-nothing leaders. This isn't an example of a "neo-liberal" conspiracy. It is an example of a sadly failed response to a crisis that all public schools are facing. No use gloating over it, all you lefties who have never offered any alternatives to crappy urban high schools.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Is that how you corporate charter-voucher advocates are spinning this @ED-in-L.A. ? Funny everyone is suddenly distancing themselves from the former CMO darling. Don't we remember just months ago: '"You seem to have cracked the code," U. S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan told Steve Barr, in offering several billions of our taxpayer dollars in a Barr-style school stimulus package.' Or do you consider Duncan's Milton Freidman methodologies "lefty" as well?

    ReplyDelete
  20. Thanks for jumping in David. I hope the water's not too cold and rough over here in the comments section.

    ReplyDelete
  21. l I feel compelled to reply by saying that jobs are not definite for teachers. If there is a position at a school, they have priority over outside applicants only. Teachers are left to compete for jobs within the district with the coworkers they have been teaching with for the past 4 years.

    ReplyDelete
  22. I feel compelled to reply by saying that jobs are not definite for all teachers. If there is a position at a school teachers are given priority over outside applicants. This means that teachers must compete for jobs against coworkers they have taught with for the past 4 years. Hopefully there will be enough positions within green dot so that all teachers will have a secure position.

    ReplyDelete
  23. Green Dot has said no teachers will lose their jobs, but that actual fact remains to be seen. Teachers must apply for open positions at other schools and compete against each other, so it is a very real possibility that some of the displaced Animo Justice teachers will be unemployed come September if there are not enough open positions at existing Green Dot schools. Even a number of the parent and student comments speak to the concern for the teachers at this school who found out mere minutes before the students what was happening. The students, families and teachers are in this together. Green Dot has decided they all were a losing investment.

    ReplyDelete
  24. Green Dot set Animo Justice up for failure! The school moved locations three times in the past four years. The school has had new administration three times, the most damaging did not have proper credentials to be in the position (however Charters can get around this). Last year the school was in violation of the Williams Act because administration refused to purchase books and teaching supplies, and would restrict access to the restroom facilities on an inhumane/sanitary level. The violation was reported to the Main Green Dot office on numerous occasions through students, teachers and parents and it was ignored! The union has no power at Green Dot and the Students, Parents and Teachers suffer because of it. The ideal behind Green Dot is honorable, but it is run like a corporation! It needs to be exposed.

    ReplyDelete

Agree? Disagree? Let me hear from you.