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More on LAUSD: Bond Money, Aquino, Broad, and (Again with) Pearson

October 2, 2013

Yesterday, I wrote a post on some of the conflicts of interest and obvious profiteering posed by the involvement of Deasy, Apple, Pearson, and Gates in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) iPad fiasco.

In this post, I examine more of the situation as I reflect upon issues raised by the June 2013 Los Angeles Daily News article cited in my previous post.

LAUSD Votes 6-0?

Let me begin with the LAUSD vote. According to the Daily News article, the LAUSD board voted 6-0 (one abstention) to approve a $30 million contract considered to be only “the first phase” in these iPad purchases. Furthermore, the plan on which the board voted 6-0 included a shady (mis?)appropriating of two school construction bonds.

Here is what baffles me: Steve Zimmer and Monica Ratliff are going along with this terrible plan.

Ratliff says to judge her by her votes.

I invite her to respond.

I offer the same invitation to Zimmer, who is quoted in the June 2013 Los Angeles Daily News as assuring the public that LAUSD operated using “highest integrity and above-boardness” in awarding the Apple contract.

Monica, Steve: What have you done?

Measures R and Y: Combing for Loopholes

My first post elicited some informative comments, including the estimated cost at $35 million of purchasing the keyboards for only the first round of 30,000 iPads (this source quotes $28 million); the question of insurance on the devices; the understanding that the iPads were not to be removed from the school site, and the understanding that students would pay replacement costs for the iPads if damaged.

There is also the LAUSD agreement to wire students’ homes where needed– which could result in an additional annual cost of $100 million.

Now it seems that LAUSD is saying No to students’ taking the hackable iPads home.

In true reformer fashion, LAUSD has leaped before it looked. In the end, how many millions (billions?) will be squandered, only to make fat the Apple and Pearson coffers?

I did learn how LAUSD could argue legally (not necessarily ethically) that it might be justified in earmarking construction funding in order to purchase iPads. Consider this excerpt from this 2005 Measure R audit report:

The proceeds from the Measure R School Bonds are to be used for projects such as: continue repair/upgrade of aging classrooms, restrooms; build neighborhood schools, early education centers; improve security systems, fire/earthquake safety; purchase library books; upgrade computer technology; eliminate asbestos and lead paint hazards; create small learning communities; and construct/upgrade science laboratories and other buildings.  [Emphasis added.]

Shady interpretation of this document, to be sure. However, let me mention something I have learned regarding Eli Broad’s presence in education reform: Broadies comb a district’s legal documents in pursuit of linguistic loopholes that allow footholds for their reformer agendas. It seems that Measure R offers as much, as does Measure Y.

Document Combing for Loopholes must be a Broad Superintendents Academy course. This I do not know firsthand since all of my formal education has been at accredited institutions.

Back to the bond issue.

It isn’t as though LAUSD buildings are in top shape and all other, arguably higher priority, needs met, making millions (billions?) in bond money expendable. As biostatistician and mother of LAUSD students Sara Roos notes:

…As it is, our public school children in large numbers attend schools with insufficient funds to keep their bathrooms clean. Their schools are sweltering hot as air conditioning units remain broken for months. Musical instruments in disrepair are contracted to private repairers at enormous, inefficient expense while music programs are shuttered one by one for lack of funds (and instruments that remain broken). Troubled students attend schools with inadequate psychiatric and counseling assistance; school nurses are a rare luxury on campus. 

The list goes on and on and on and on with an utter insufficiency of funds to redress a fraction of the desperate conditions. Providing our students with state-of-the-art electronics is a wonderful goal. But prioritizing this ahead of basic human necessities is just a feel-good measure for insulated bureaucrats.  [Emphasis added.]

Behind LAUSD are billionaires bent on their versions of reform–and their vision for LAUSD appears to be following a stay-at-home, electronic public education. Let the buildings fall apart. We don’t need them, Give a kid an iPad with Pearson software and let him learn at home. It’s cost effective. Freeloading unionized teachers don’t teach, anyway.

Philanthrocracy.

Broad, Aquino, Pearson

Of course, Eli Broad’s presence in LAUSD is no secret. And he is not alone:

Since 2009, the (LAUSD) district has accepted millions in grant funding from philanthropic organizations to pay for executive positions.

Grants have included at least $4.4 million from The Wasserman Foundation, founded by entertainment mogul Lew Wasserman, and at least $1.2 million from the Walton Foundation, started by Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton and his wife, Helen.

Billionaire philanthropist Eli Broad has also paid for the salaries of key district staff and he contributed $775,000 for Deasy’s transition work, including $500,000 for an audit to find budget efficiencies at LAUSD. [Emphasis added.]

Eli Broad seeks “budget efficiencies.” Does that translate into locating Measures R and Y loopholes for financing multi-million-dollar iPad purchases?

Broad-trained Deputy Superintendent Jaime Aquino is all for this iPad nonsense. Says Aquino in June:

“I’m in awe of how we have done this process,” Aquino responded. “My conscience is clear that we’ve done the right thing for our kids.”

Yet Aquino resigned from LAUSD only months later in September 2013 amid exposure of his Pearson connection:

In the face of accusations that superintendent Aquino came to LAUSD on the heels of employment with the sole software vendor to profit from this $1 billion dollar deal, there is an appearance that far from constructing this contract “in the best interest of our kids”, this contract, at least in its software component, is suspiciously structured in the best interest of the multinational publisher Pearson [Emphasis added.]

Looks like Aquino’s exit is perfect for him: LAUSD is mired in what is expected to be a $1 billion iPad Money Drain, with a major siphoning hose leading into Pearson’s wallet.  How grateful Pearson must be to Aquino.

So, as was true in my first post on Deasy, Apple, Pearson, and Gates, this second post only highlights the fact that the real winners in LAUSD corporate reform are the corporations.

13 Comments
  1. Mercedes – you are amazing! Thank you for this analysis. I personally thought that with Zimmer and Ratliff elected, there would be a vote against this nonsense. Ultimately, that Deasy would be voted out of office. I personally witnessed countless lies on his part. He woos certain community groups and unions to prop up his positions which have no truth behind them. I am amazed that La Motte, Zimmer, Ratliff, Kayser and Vladovich wouldn’t be able to break the Broad/Gates stranglehold on the children of Los Angeles.
    Thank you again!

  2. Ellen LUbic permalink

    Mercedes…suggest you check sources other than the Daily News since ii is a minimal source in LA. The only major paper is the LA Times. Some of the info is correct, and some is not. We who live here and follow the issues carefully, particularly those of us who have lived here all our lives and are local educators, are good sources to validate facts.

    I spent this evening hearing and meeting Diane Ravitch at CSUN and had the opportunity of introducing Monica Ratliff to her. I have faith that Monica will grow to be the major voice on the LAUSD Board of Ed. She is very smart, strong, and humble. She gets darts thrown at her by some, but then those who are gadfly dart-tossers, rarely are credible.

    Joan Kramer (how is your knee doing?)..do not give up hope that Deasy will be fired. But do join us in urging the Board that this is what their constituencies want to have happen. We must all keep demanding of them to be sure to give us a voice in the next selection process, and that there must be NO MORE Broad Academy administrators. It will only happen if we are in unity and are consistent.

    Most of us in LA also feel that the Board and the Governor should not throw good money after bad, and should put a clamp on the ordering process of the Midas-gold iPads and other accouterements. Mercedes shows us how it came about, but only we, the California taxpayers who pay this gigantic bill can put a stop to it.

    • Ellen, if the vote is 6-0 and Measures R and Y are footing the bill, I would like to know why Ratliff and Zimmer went along. As for Daily News, bias is obvious– but these two facts are what they are.

      Sent from my iPhone

      >

      • We are still looking at this 8 months later, and wondering how the BOE can extend the contract of this mercenary . It has become very obvious that all members of the board are under Deasy’s influence because of the formidable individuals behind him, mist notably Eli Broad. In LA , Broad is essentially an emperor and his control,of LAUSD is so pervasive he openly issues top down threats about certain schools he believes he owns. The most obvious are RFK and 9 ( as kids call it) which was Cortines Arts HS until recently . It may be called Grand Arts HS as its opulent Archetecture and unrealized themes are part of an elaborate cultural center Broad has been building down town. Note that there was an earlier bond scam Broad orchestrated atLAUSD involving these Taj Majal HS , RFK, #9 and the famous toxic fiasco Belmont LC, which never opened because the site is not only a methane soaked death trap , it was built on an earthquake fault . The school never opened and was torn down in secrecy because the construction was so poor. Another school was built on that site . Roybals LCand Vista Hermosa have been open about a year or so. There is an impressive set up that includes a park, some shopping and suites for the school police ( who just got a 9% raise and continue to recruit while teachers are being purged by the 1000s and got an insulting offer for a 2% raise after 7 years without one and years with furloughs ) . There is also an education museum, an art collection and other costly extras Deasy boldly brags about while cuttin arts, adult educatiion and summer school without apology . So while class size exceeds lawful limits and room capacity; there are no full time nurses, no custodians and LAUSD just dumped a low cost family literacy rogram that had stellar results , the district is indulging its whims . Did I mention that these schools were built by KB ? That is Broad’s company . There were no bids, and the cost was 3-4 times higher than the going rate. Broad has been building a crazy shrine to himself using LOS Angeles limited resources after bilking the city for that bond money besides.
        He owns the art museums , the mayor, the schools, the city and still it is not enough. The whole system, courts cops, city politics, news papers , all of it is warped by this horrible little despot.
        If you wish to learn the whole sorted story visit Full Disclosure Network .
        It’s all on line and right up your ally.
        I am writing a book about all this but my approach is much different than yours . You have the kind of objectivity needed to convince people this is unacceptable and give them the tools to fight back. I am going gonzo on these swine.
        Back to the BOE

        On top of the intimidation the BOE was subjected to in Octoboe 2013 as high end attorneys, bullies from the billionaire boys clubs and unnamed editorialists made unbelievable noises about how wonderful Deasy was and what low lives the BOE is; while their own lack of adequate inquiry and investigation concerning the Apple deal and other matters came back to bite them on the ass, it was cllear only Ms. LaMotte had the eggs to do the right thing even if she snoozed through Aquino’s sub par power points. Deasy made the Apple deal out to be a mere $30 million at first. Hell, LAUSD just paid $17 million for an air conditioner at one school. The iPads can pay for themselves in a term at $35 M. Of course that is only enough to cover the cost of keyboards and LAUSD is not going to cut all the vendors iPad makes obsolete either.
        To confront this would be admitting they failed in their fiduary duty and incompetence is a form off corruption when the organization has a mafia flavored philosphy about confessions and snitching. With Dr Death ( Vladovic) squirming under the threats of sanction for those embarrassing allegations made by his former assistant ( presently Deasy’s assistant) , none of the BoE was eager to cross the great and powerful Deasy. I am sure the charges against Dr. D. Are true and that there is far worse lurking in his long long history at the district. Tales of his antics were well known in the LD where I was working and even sought his assistance when these Broadies came in and started churning .
        He never contacted anyone of us. Indeed, I saw him many times in BOE meetings turn away those he is supposed to help. Zimmer and Kayser are well liked in their districts but parents are well aware of their weaknesses. While Ratliff was supported enthusiastically in her district, I do not work with parents there yet and only know educators have soured on her. They are pretty sick of the abstaining she tends to defer to when the vote is controversial. But there is much more to it.
        I meant to tell you one thing but this is such a mess it’s impossible to not discuss the weirdness.
        Ratliff was more of an independent than Zimmer as our union backed her opponent, a Dufus bankrolled by Bloomberg and others . She raised her own money and beat the pavement. It is common knowledge that she was very empathetic to teachers and parents who are the reason the big money floundered. Then. UTLA was at her opponent’s victory party when news of her win reached the public. President Fletcher promptly contended UTLA had endorsed Ratliff and has ever since. To her credit,she went to a leadership conference and noted that the public has not been happy with the union in a long time then physically distanced herself from Fletcher when he attempted to comandeer some credit for her shake up of the status quo by standing near her on stage. .
        She has asked many good questions and cannot really be faulted for initial approval of the iPads. But watching her performance in the meetings , I am struck by how little interest she has in anything besides her long well cared for mane. And .her failure to defend Stuart Magruder was just one more slight in recent weeks .
        Now she did abstain from the vote aboutDeasy’s contract in October. I assumed she had a reasonable excuse since her interaction with him had been minimal , but she has enough info to know what he is about and is rumored to be under his spell. Deasy has a magnetic personality , I am told. I have seen him in person though I had no dea who he was at that moment. He made a big impression on district suits and media that day. He was with Corines, a fastidious fop in Hermes ties and it was clear Deasy had this whole Clark Kent look going on . I saw that Cortines was jealous because this upstart in a stunning overcoat and pricey suit was out shining him. I am sure Deasy has a stylist and enjoys an elegant lifestyle, but his bio seems like total bullshit and I know a grifter when I see one, This was just before he took over. Deasy is enigmatic maybe …but he and Cortnes are not likely to influence or intimidate me because I value my integrity . That may be why I am no longer gainfully employed.
        With that said , it is obvious integriity is under valued these days as we have learned that UTLA area chairs, including the new president Caputo Pearl had been meeting with Deasy late last year There may be reasons for that but it is not something that is done and Fletcher was angry enough to file a PERB. While I believe unions should have productiive and open discourse with the district; given the abuse of teachers and Deasy’s disapproval extreme in a survey a few moths before , it was difficult to believe he wanted to deal with those Broadie principals laying schools and lives to waste, as the area chairs lamely explained when we confronted them about this. That was in reference to meetings at HQ. Several had discussed another meeting on Facebook and elsewhere that become a major issue in the election and our already fractured relationship with UTLA.
        Shortly before the ASTRO Turf scene unfolded at the end of that tulmultuous month , Deasy took most of these area chairs and several union officers to dinner at a very swank bistro called Dragos downtown. We have learned that he struck a deal with them . If they told the BOE it was in the best interests of schools to keep Deasy, he would allow them to campaign at schools — forbidden — during school hours,
        Fetcher had little hope of winning with RIFs replaced in mass by TFA , thousands of veterans teacher jailed and displaced and no contract yet in place . Teacher evaluations are 30% tests and the ambushes are brutal. Suddenly stellar 30 year careers are shot down with accusations of unfitness, incompetence and lack of positions , which are not optional nor well served by rookies who now fill them. His neglect was an affront to us , but Caputo Peatl will be far worse as a misleader who is already directing members of the rank and file to their doom.
        So, as pro union as the late Lamotte was she knew Pearl and co.were up to no good when they showed up with the bussed in protestors who chanted outside and handed out flowers they thought were Daisies. She saw through that scam.
        Pearl had won LaMottes scorn by endorsing her opposition in the last election . This individual was pro reform and notably, Pearl is a TFA alumni and a long time union thug. I don’t think Zimmer wanted to cross Deasy and he and Ratliff were the wild cards , the reason the bullies bombarded the Boe with warnings and threats. Even the mayor was in them. Actually everyone forgets about Kayser who may be the most intelligent one present and I wonder why he voted as he did . Unfortunately , I can only soecilate that he is passive and has some things in his past that could be used to harm him even though there is not much substance in them beyond him being overwhelmed at a hood MS…WHO wouldn’t be?
        I cannot imagine anyplace as strange as LAUSD is right now. It is a sick sad world and as Deasy says LA is ground zero for what is ahead fir al of us.
        If you deconstruct what he and Broad say , it is very easy to determine the insidious implications of reform as a free market bonanza for the imperialist faction. And horror for the masses.
        I am reading your book on Kindle . Very fine. Keep getting the word out, sister soldier.

  3. Bridget permalink

    Technology typically has a short shelf life, becoming outdated within a few short years. How long will the public be paying for these IPads ? I suspect they will be paying for this long after these IPads are no longer useful???

  4. Ellen LUbic permalink

    Yes, Bridget…they were purchased with a long term construction bond funding. So we taxpayers will be paying this $1 Billion off for the next 25 years…plus interest.

  5. LAUSD mole..... permalink

    Listening to the board meeting where the project was approved had the same old feel to it, the fix was in. Somebody up high was getting it down below.

    What came out in the questions
    * Staff had virtually locked the District into a $1 bil contract
    * Staff had not completed the negotiations for even the first $30 mil program
    * The iPads do not include keyboards which are essential for their use in an academic program
    * The District is at risk if more than 5% of the iPads are damaged
    * The staff available to support the effort has been reduced
    * Not discussed was the multiple conflicts of interest
    * Staff has locked the District into their text provider while the beauty of the iPad is that it has spawned a huge industry in high quality software offerings at a tiny cost .
    * The entire meeting was theater, well rehearsed.
    * There was no discussion of the foundational issue, if this was a breach of trust with the voters who will be paying for the cost of the iPads for 30 years while their life will be only a few years at best.
    * The contract locks the district into a price and model iPad. The costs of technology are falling rapidly while the performance is increasing. Even an 8 year old could figure out this is not a good deal.

    What does come through is that someone or group has in interest (probably compensation based on total $) for the sale of iPads and software to the District under this contract . By writing in the other $970 million that person or group will receive payment . There’s simply no other reason to structure a deal like this.

    Not only will the children suffer from the diversion of money to this ill conceived program, but taxpayers by the tens of thousands are going to react to the breach of trust regarding the bond funds and vote NO the next time a bond issue comes up.

    • I think a lot of this as easily detectable for anyone looking at what went on and appreciate this blow by blow account of how they work these deals and why they do what they do.it .. It is refreshing. Good mole. I also am happy to have Mercedes weigh in because as Ellen astutely points out our local sources are often unreliable . With Judge Treu siting the LA Times as evidence often as justification for his ruling against tenure , it is frightening to consider how wanton the media is with their malice and mendacity. I know these blogs are why the Nation, AlJeezera and Salon have become part of our saga because our news sources are pro Deasy to a fault . Teacher Jail was ignored far too long. Neither the media nor the Union were willing to address that until we saw this story breaking in other venues whichm of course, includes credible blogs .
      Few are as credible as this one and I have to tell you Echoes has helped me articulate a great deal more than I could before . Despite claims to the contrary Deasy is not a bold innovator in any sense. Not even as a grifter . It was done before and since, only better because JoelStein isnt so sloppy.

  6. George Buzzetti permalink

    How is it that no one, including the author, seems to care, no matter how many times I have told you all for years that this purchase of electronic devices which replace textbooks, which are a general fund item and the salaries, is illegal. This is according to the Bill Lockyear, former A.G. of California, Opinion of 2004 on the allowable purchases with school construction bond funds in California. It is on page 2, Item A, in italics, for the non believers and those who like corruption, or hate it, how about legal reality?

    This is the first time I have seen her make a big one. Is this an accident or on purpose is my qu

    estion. Not like it is a question of who knows what on these items. When none of you knew the revenues and how the money disappeared across the U.S. I told you in less than one hour and I got hell. Why. Hardly anyone in education, being paid that is, knows a documented real fact or how to make it work. Why, once again. Accident, or on purpose.

    Who do you think knocked out first Alex Johnson, responded to the child abuse accusers against McKenna. I am the only one people. Go to the Daily News and the Breeze and go look. Not one of you did a thing including his own backers even when I went to them last Saturday. Not till this day. And where are all the rest of you. We know you all are watching close. Corruption all the way through is what it is. I am still here and see what just happened to Deasy? How about for the first time ever L.A. City Council cancelled a Friday meeting and all future Friday meetings as they knew we were coming down on corruption there also as we are tired of it everywhere. So just watch the pros who deal with facts and their documents. We do the grunt work to do this, obviously Mercedes fell down on the big one.

    After one year of searching by a well placed friend for a lawyer to take this case on legally in California which is a 1/3 of all illegally spent money worth about $1 billion to the attorneys is not being taken by the top guys because they are AFRAID. DID YOU GET THAT, AFRAID!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    So, Mercedes, because you did not come to information central you helped them get their way. Are you proud of yourself. You let Ravich, Lubic and those corrupt people steer you away from the real information and it is not with any of them. I prove it over and over again, so you all kick me off of the blogs on my birthday while at dinner on a political matter not for my birthday and I come home and aqll of you cut me off. Proud of yourselves. Seen what I have done with no money none of you are caqpable of doing. Just watch what happens next from the pros in L.A. and it is not just me. We are now organizing the entire county and have contacts nationwide.

    • George, if you want to throw your rocks at me, have your way.

      Enjoy.

      Not sure of the whole birthday reference.

      As to what is “illegal”: Districts around the country are battling well-positioned individuals blatantly carrying out illegal acts. And do you know what? I am mortal and cannot possibly fight all battles, nor can I satisfy all who hold a certain expectation of what my role should be in those battles.

      As to whether I am “proud of myself”: Absolutely.

      On my last birthday, I was dissecting Campbell Brown and her anti-tenure lawsuit in New York.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

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