Friday, March 15, 2019

Gavin Newsom, Tony Thurmond and a Pro Charter School task Force.

Oakland teachers and other education workers on strike in February 2019
By Jack Gerson
Retired Oakland teacher and former executive board and bargaining team member of the Oakland Education Association.

Facts For Working People pointed out in earlier posts the recent formation of a “Task Force” to discuss issues about Charter Schools, many of which have been raised by California teachers and their unions.  Also, in a previous contribution to Facts For Working People I tried to give a sober assessment of the Oakland Teachers strike here.

In another earlier post I commented on the task force that California governor Gavin Newsome has set up in the wake of the two teachers/educators strike in Los Angeles and Oakland. I said that this task force is: “A case study on why not to base one's strategy on appealing to "Democratic friends" like Thurmond and Newsom. Here's the problem with Gavin Newsom tying the moratorium on charter schools with a task force to study the issues raised by charter schools. All along, the question was whether Newsom would be influenced by the billionaires who fund the California Democratic Party and also push charter schools. Looks like the answer to that question is "YES".

After some research, we can see how Tony Thurmond and Gavin Newsom are linking this so-called moratorium on charter schools to his task force. The panel includes four top executives from the charter school industry PLUS three more charter school supporters:

 Edgar Zazueta, who is the senior director of policy and government for Association of California School Administrators. They endorsed former Green Dot Public Schools head Marshall Tuck, the billionaires’ candidate, for state Superintendent of Public Instruction last fall, with Zazueta leading the campaign to endorse Tuck. Here’s the ACSA’s press release announcing the endorsement:

Lester Garcia, the political director of SEIU 99, who’s on Newsom’s charter school panel is another interesting character. Local 99 received $25, 000 from the California Charter School Association. They earned it: they supported Monica Garcia in her most recent campaign for the Los Angeles school board. Monica Garcia, president of that school board, is a very prominent advocate for charter schools. By the way, the California Charter School Association donated $150,000 to the California Democratic Party.

And Ed Manansala,  the El Dorado County Superintendent of Schools and is also on the charter school study panel appointed by Tony Thurmond. The El Dorado County Board established and runs three charter school programs:

Charter Alternative Programs
Charter Extended Day Program
Rite of Passage Charter High Schools (Sierra Ridge Academy; Sage Academy; Qualifying House)

According to the el dorado county office of education website (, “The El Dorado County Board of Education serves as the Authorizer and Governing Board for the Rite of Passage Charter High Schools. The Rite of Passage Charter received charter number 55 from the California State Board of Education in 1994. The El Dorado County Office of Education provides all administrative, instructional, and financial support for the educational and vocational training programs. The charter focuses on core academic and career/college pathways ...”

I think that the fix is in. Thurmond is promising that there will be charter reform. I expect that there will be — but it will be very mild. California has arguably the laxest oversight of charter schools of any state. There’s loads of room to make cosmetic reforms while causing at most minor difficulties for the charter school industry. I think that’s what will happen. And I think that we’ll hear loud proclamations of total and historic victory from the mighty, mighty union types.

So there’s Zazueta, Manansala, Garcia, an executive from Aspire Charter Schools, the head of Green Dot Charter Schools (which Marshall Tuck used to run) and two executives from the California Charter Schools Association. That’s seven out of eleven. I haven’t checked into the background of the other four. Wow. Tony Thurmond, Gavin Newsom and the Democratic Party are truly friends of teachers and public education!

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