‎”For the truly humanist educator and the authentic revolutionary, the object of action is the reality to be transformed by them together with other people — not other men and women themselves. The oppressors are the ones who act upon the people to indoctrinate them and adjust them to a reality which must remain untouched .”  — Paulo Freire

Fighting back against corporate charter schools like the Camino Nuevo Charter Schools chain

Fighting back against corporate charter schools like the Camino Nuevo Charter Schools chain

As the battle rages over one of the new schools in the Los Angeles community of Echo Park slated to open as either a public school or a privatized corporate charter, there have been some interesting debates online.

Briefly, the school in question is Central Region Elementary School 14 (CRES 14). As for the competing plans: there is the public school plan — which is the Local District 4 and Echo Park Community Partners Design Team plan; and the other plan, which was submitted by the private corporation Camino Nuevo Charter Academy (CNCA). Regrettably, the new school is up for grabs under the cover of notorious Gates Foundation employee, and outgoing LAUSD board member, Yolie Flores’ corporate charter industry handout resolution — PSC.

Given the amount of marketing and advertising funds corporate charters have, I decided to counter their public relations onslaught by starting to write about CNCA and the battle to keep CRES 14 a public school earlier this month.

Crafty Camino Nuevo Charter Charlatans

Get out the Public School Vote for CRES 14 during this week’s PSC 2.0 Advisory!

I’ve also been countering CNCA’s disinformation campaign on the comments sections of the following two blog posts on The Eastsider LA

Echo Park’s newest school will soon be finished but who is going to run it?

Campaign heats up for control of new Echo Park school

We can understand why CNCA employees and executives are so keen to take over CRES 14. After all, CMOs like CNCA pay their executives and administrators amazingly high salaries using our tax dollars, so disinformation campaigns are necessary to dupe the public in order to increase corporate charter school market share. Ultimately the more public schools charter-voucher schools take over, the more money they can pay themselves.

Astonishingly, in the midst of one spirited discussion over the second article, a CNCA administrator evokes social justice.

“[P]assionate about social justice. There is no social justice topic more important than education.” [1]

I found this statement incredulous. How is it that CNCA employees could have the unmitigated gall (or more likely, astonishing naïveté) to speak of social justice when CNCA’s UNELECTED board of directors is comprised of individuals with titles and experience like the following?

…senior vice president of Capital Research Company and a fixed income portfolio manager for The Capital Group Companies…

…economic consultant with clients that included federal and state agencies, Fortune 500 companies, and small businesses. As a corporate economist he formulated national and international economic models and made forecasts of worldwide supply and demand performance…

…film and commercial production and acquisitions for the Japanese market…

…director and editor of multimedia entertainment content…sits on the board of The Eisner Foundation…

…as a commercial lender for a large bank in Georgia…and worked in securities sales in Citicorp’s investment bank.  She also worked for three years in corporate finance at PaineWebber…

…president of Mockingbird Communications and…a member of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce…

…senior vice president at Wells Fargo…spent several years as a practice manager and consultant to a variety of industries, specializing in business strategy, process effectiveness and organizational change…

…principal and chief legal officer of AquaNano, LLC, a start-up company employing newly developed nanotechnology…previously served as…as Teledyne’s chief international lawyer…

…senior vice-president of Capital Guardian Trust Company….

…former chairman and chief executive officer of First Interstate Bancorp, a $60 billion banking company…

…executive in charge of business affairs at Warner Brothers in London…

Social justice investment bankers? Social justice finance capitalists? Social justice business executives? Social justice corporate lawyers?

My favorite board member bio comes from CNCA’s sister organization, Pueblo Nuevo Development:

…principal portfolio manager for Camden Asset Management L.P… a hedge fund company, he was responsible for investing $0.5 Billion as a portfolio manager for Westridge Capital…

Eureka! A social justice hedge fund manager! An oxymoron if there ever was one.

Like I wrote recently on Dissident Voice

While several of these well-to-do CNCA Board Members have found crafty ways to make money off of education, not one of them is an actual educator, and none of them have been teachers or principals in a K-12 setting. Furthermore, for an organization that claims community roots, there sure doesn’t seem to be anyone representative of the community on that board. If they are to wrest CRES 14 from the public, we will have no input over how the school is run.

CNCA has nothing like School Site Councils or Governing School Councils found at public schools. Parents, students, teachers, and community members will have to be content with the decision making of the wealthy elitists discussed above.

Charter supporters often try to dismiss the role of the wealthy power-brokers on their boards, so there’s an important concept real social justice activists must keep in the forefront of our minds, namely:

‎”Washing one’s hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless means to side with the powerful, not to be neutral. ” — Paulo Freire

In other words, not questioning the composition of CNCA’s wealthy and powerful board is tantamount to collaborating with the oppressing class. It’s siding with the the powerful.

The selfsame person that evoked “social justice” despite their corporate charter-voucher schools’ board being stacked with those that are currently waging all out class war on the rest of us, also accused us (or me) of “twist[ing] facts in order to spin your politics.” I think it’s pretty clear who is really twisting the facts here.

While we know that the Broad/Gates/Walton Triumvirate and their proxies including Arne Duncan, Mayor Villaraigosa, Rev. Al Sharpton, Jed Wallace, and Ben Austin love the top down patriarchal corporate model of management more than anything else, and that charter-voucher schools follow that model invariably, there is a different vision held by those of us that really can claim the mantle of social justice.

That model is based in self determination. That model is community based. That model doesn’t pit teacher against parent, union against community, student against society. That model includes a liberatory pedagogy and problem posing education. That model is not under the heavy handed edicts of corporate overlords and plutocrats. It is a model that is antithesis and anathema to Camino Nuevo. When democratically elected community members, parents, and teachers comprise the board of directors for a school, then we can begin to speak of social justice. How does CNCA feel about bottom up decision making?

At the end of [CNCA Executive Director Ana Ponce’s] presentation, during the question and answer session, noted public school teacher and social justice activist Jessica Kochick asked Ponce directly “how much decision making power do parents have at CNCA schools?” Ponce’s agonizingly patronizing answer was, “we just love input from parents.” Input, not decision making.

Like all corporate charters Camino Nuevo humors parents by listening to their input, but all decisions are made by their unelected boards… [2]

Remember, like Camino Nuevo Charter Academy, Green Dot Public Schools also used to claim that they took faculty, parental, student, and community “input” very seriously, but in practice does nothing of the sort. We have not forgotten Ánimo Justice!

While I can accept that individual teachers at a corporate charter-voucher school like CNCA might have aspirations of social justice, it’s downright disingenuous to associate CNCA as an organization with social justice by any measure. Corporations [3], by their very nature, perpetuate oppression and social injustice.

Just like when specious claims of corporate education reformers to civil rights are rightly debunked in important essays like Brian Jones Charter Schools and Civil Rights: What Kind of ‘Movement’ is This?, so too must any claims that charters make about supporting “social justice.” I hope this brief essay will remind others to call these organizations out on such claims. So long as corporations and plutocrats running charter schools are calling the shots, there will be no social justice.

[1] http://www.theeastsiderla.com/2011/01/campaign-heats-up-for-control-of-new-echo-park-school/#comment-22894
[2] Crafty Camino Nuevo Charter Charlatans
[3] Camino Nuevo is a private corporation — that’s what the “C” in 501C3 stands for. Non-profits indeed.