Neoliberal Forces Dominate Public Education in Sacramento

29 Jun

By Thomas Ultican 6/29/2021

Two pieces of legislation are racing through California’s state legislature both advancing the school privatization agenda. A third piece designed to protect taxpayers from the ravenous charter industry has been squashed. Public schools and sound pedagogy are being harmed by a radical market based ideology. Democrats continue their complicity in this conservative agenda.

Governor Newsom’s Charter School Give Away

A few weeks ago, Oakland school board Trustee Mike Hutchinson raised alarm bells about Governor Newsom’s education budget trailer bill. Hutchinson wrote on Facebook, “Buried on page 95 is a clause that would extend the length of every charter school’s charter, so that every charter school in California will get two extra years before they would be required to go through a renewal process.” California’s Department of Finance definition states, “The Trailer Bill Language is the implementing language of the California State Budget Bill.” It is where California governors execute their agenda.

Oakland School Board Trustee Mike Hutchinson

For his first chief of staff, Gavin Newsom selected Ann O’Leary. That was a very clear signal that he would not be a reliable friend for public schools. O’Leary was on Hillary Clinton’s senate staff in 2001 where she was deeply involved in writing the No Child Left Behind education bill. She was latter a senior policy advisor on Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign and is a well known neoliberal who has been a long time cheerleader for the charter industry. Although O’Leary resigned as Chief of Staff this past December, her neoliberal ideology seems to permeate Newsom’s education policy.

From Page 7 of 22 – 2021-22 Governor’s Budget / May Revision Trailer Bills

The picture above was clipped from page 7 of the list of trailer bills promulgated by the governor’s office. The “K-12 Omnibus Trailer Bill (MR)” with tracking number RN 21 12772 states on page 95,

“Section 47607.4 is added to the Education Code, to read: 47607.4. Notwithstanding the renewal process and criteria established in Sections 47605.9, 47607, and 47607.2 or any other law, effective July 1, 2021, all charter schools whose term expires on or between January 1, 2022, and June 30, 2025, inclusive, shall have their term extended by two years.  (Emphasis added)

Monetizing Dyslexia

Early this year, California Democratic State Senator Anthony Portantino proposed SB237 mandating dyslexia testing and intervention. It appears to be speeding through the state legislature with little opposition. On June 1st it passed on the senate floor with 39 yeses, zero no’s and one did not vote. The legislation awaits a final vote on the assembly floor.

The bill stipulates a specific set of dyslexia testing for all students kindergarten through third grade and requires the “State Board of Education to establish an approved list of culturally, linguistically, and developmentally appropriate screening instruments” to meet the mandate. The legislation also calls on local school districts to use “structured literacy instruction.”

Jan Malvin is a retired University of California researcher with a PhD in Educational Psychology from Northwestern University. She states,

“Formal diagnostic assessment is the only way to identify dyslexia or decoding challenges. The drive for universal screening and other dyslexia-specific policy is ‘a privatization agenda in which public schools become mandated consumers for a growing dyslexia industry, and in which the nature of instruction for students with reading difficulties is narrowly prescribed.”’

While the idea of dyslexia is not a new concept, many current papers make the point that “across more than a century, researchers have failed to consistently identify characteristics or patterns that distinguish dyslexia from other decoding challenges.” In a December 2020 report for the Literacy Research Association, Peter Johnston and Donna Scanlon of the University at Albany stated, “Current efforts at dyslexia screening are misleading about 50 percent of the time.”

While many children do have trouble learning to read and there is reason to believe dyslexia is real, a simple industry provided screening test for K-3 students is likely to misidentify significant numbers of students; labeling some as dyslexic who are not and missing an equal number who are.

Many researchers like Rachael E. Gabriel of the University of Connecticut point out that while the called for “structured literacy” approach has not been disproven even the US Department of Education’s What Works Clearinghouse states it is “not supported by evidence.”

The list of supporters for SB237 is long and the only California organization that was formally opposed to SB237 in time to be listed in the state’s bill analysis is Californians Together. They were a group formed in 1988 to fight against that year’s proposition 227 which prohibited bilingual education. Tax records show that they are a modest in size non-profit headquartered in Long Beach, California.

Other organizations that have since announced their opposition to SB237 include the California Association for Bilingual Education (CABE), California School Boards Association (CSBA), Association of California School Administrators (ACSA), and California Teachers Association (CTA).

No Charter School Reform or Taxpayer Protection

When San Diego District Attorney Summer Stephan brought down the $50 million A-3 charter scam, she noted, “People v. McManus revealed many weaknesses in the State’s education system in the areas of fraud enforcement, student data tracking, auditing, school finance, and oversight of charter schools.”

To address these weaknesses Assembly Members Daniel O’Donnell, Cristina Garcia, and Kevin McCarty introduced AB1316. The California Charter Schools Association (CCSA) expressed strong opposition to the bill.  As education writer Carl Peterson observed, “Unfortunately, AB1316 was placed in the inactive file by a political system unwilling to risk the wrath of the California Charter School Association.”

This year is turning into a very bad year for public education in California. Neoliberal Democrats and the CCSA are having their way.

5 Responses to “Neoliberal Forces Dominate Public Education in Sacramento”

  1. judiburle June 29, 2021 at 7:28 pm #

    There’s still time to lobby your legislators to remove the charter renewal extension clause (section 43) from the education trailer bill, since as of 6/29/21 it hasn’t been released yet in final form. Needs action today!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Carl J. Petersen (@ChangeTheLAUSD) July 16, 2021 at 8:44 pm #

    Please note that the date on the article is listed as 2017.


  3. jim2812 July 17, 2021 at 6:12 pm #

    Why are California taxpayers chump-Turkeys?

    They are the chump-Turkeys because they are paying for duplicate, wasteful, privately managed charter school competitor embedded within the
    state’s system of free common schools.

    Early advocates for privately managed charter school reform claimed the reform would lift all boats and both public schools and privately managed charter schools would benefit from putting choice of two publicly funded educations systems in competition.

    But 30-years of choice has not lifted all boats. It has instead increased with deregulation by choice segregation of publicly funded schools and rip-offs of chump-Turkey California taxpayers.

    Why should taxpayers of California continue to be chump-Turkeys and paying for charter schools to compete with public schools? What is the cost/benefits of 30-year privately managed charter school reform for California taxpayers?

    Does the California taxpayer really feel their State common school system now works better 30-years later with a duplicate education systems that meant Sacramento lobbyist were doubled with continuing public education lobbyist camp and a new lobbyist camp, California Charter School Association. California Sacramento lobbyist backroom deals became more complex but has not over 30-years cost, I bet, the chump-Turkey taxpayers less by doubling Sacramento lobbyists.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. jim2812 July 17, 2021 at 10:13 pm #

    Tracking neo-liberal privately managed charter school attacks on public education is important work. But more is needed in defense of public education that for 30-years has been under attack by those favoring policies for the growth of privately managed charter schools.

    In my opinion, privately managed charter schools need attention brought to them when they DO NOT inform parents/ they have a right to opt out of buying anything the privately managed charter school claims is required because K-12 education is “free”.

    Privately managed charter schools and public schools both are guilty of fund raising without being clearly informed that parents/students can opt out of buying anything for school.

    My belief is while, both privately managed charters and public schools violate the state constitutional right right of students to a free education under state constitutions, in practice privately managed charter schools more often violate students enrolled right to a “free” education.

    Privately managed charter schools are worse offenders than public schools in NOT informing parents and students that they have a “choice” in buying anything at school because students of all states in K-12 grades are entitled, according to the language of 50 state constitutions, to a “free” public education,.

    While it is true in many states “choice” has resulted in de-regulation of state’s education code and much of a state’s education code does NOT apply to charter schools. Yet, all states. I believe, are required at lease to to provide a free public school system for grades K-12.

    If it is true, that all states under their state constitutions are required to provide K-12 system of “free” public education, privately managed charter schools should be identified when they charge students/parents for what is a students’ entitlement under a student’s state constitution.


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