California Educator

May / June 2017

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Page 24 of 59

charter seats. Oakland, like other districts in the country targeted for takeover, has a high percentage of poor and bilingual students with parents desperate for any kind of resources." T h e O a k l a n d - b a s e d R o g e r s Fa m - i l y Fo u n d a t i o n , f o u n d e d b y f o r m e r D re y e r 's G ra n d Ic e C re a m c h a i r m a n and CEO T. Gar y Rogers and his wife, creat ed a nonprof it ironically nam ed G O (G re a t O a kl a n d ) P u b l i c S c h o o l s . G O u n l e a s h e d a n a v a l a n c h e o f o u t - o f - t o w n m o n e y t o e l e c t p r o - c h a r t e r s c h o o l b o a r d c a n d i d a t e s a n d i n f l u - e n c e e l e c t i o n s , s a y s Gorham . OEA, with some financial help from CTA, contributed $40,000 toward elect- ing public education advocates to the school board during the 2016 election, but charter school proponents poured $700,000 into th e campaign , winning three of the four seats. " We cannot compete with that kind of mon ey," say s Gorham. "And it's hap- pening up and down the state with school boards, counties and city council seats. ey are purchasing seats to get results. It's pay to play." Gorham insists she's not a conspiracy theorist, but says she has no doubt a con- spiracy is afoot. "A l l y o u h av e t o d o i s l o o k a t t h e appointment of Betsy DeVos and see that, yes, there really is a plan funded by billion- aires to destroy our public school system as we know it, which takes away the guar- antee of a free and public education that is the foundation of our democracy. We all need to wake up and fight against some- thing that was predicted 20 years ago, which is now at our doorstep." Who controls public education? Public education is a $600 billion indus- try — and the last bastion of government in which private enterprise does not yet have a major stake. So-called reformers may say they advocate for school choice, but contribute money to PACs with an eye toward privatizing public schools and r unnin g th em as a busin ess (see sidebar, page 24). Bu t pr iv a t i z a t i o n of o th e r i n st itu - tions has not gone so well , points out edu cation e xp er t D i an e R av it ch . For example, the Federal Bureau of Prisons concluded that privatized prisons were not as safe and were less likely to pro- vide ef fective programs for education and job training to reduce recidivism. Privately run fire departments some- tim es charge hom eown ers to put out fires. And doctors in privatized hospi- tals may perform unnecessary surgeries to increase revenues, or avoid treating patients whose care is too costly. A key goal of privatization is elimi- nating unions, cutting worker benefits, expanding work hours, and lay- ing off veteran employees who earn the most, adds Ravitch , noting that privatization elimi- nates protections against many rights workers take for granted. The question, then, is what Oakland Education Association President Trish Gorham at a rally for charter school accountability. Photo by Mike Myslinski Stone. "For example, when our union sits down to do our negotiations with the front office, the CEO shows us the books and where the money is going. A totally open budget committee of certificat ed employees, classified employees, administrators and community members oversees the budget, and if anyone wants to see it, they can." The school is funded by grants and receives state funding, he adds. "We are not funded by billionaires; we are funded by 'thousandaires' and public money," says Stone. "So we are beholden to nobody. The only people we are beholden to are your typical stakeholders: parents, students and the state Education Code." Political science teacher and bar gaining chair John Geary, who has been at the school since the conversion, lauds the environment of mutual respect. He says that during negotiations, union members and administrators treat each other politely, and he's never seen a shouting match. "We're on the up and up," he says proudly. English teacher Alicia Gibson taught at a nonunion charter before Helix. She says there's no comparison. "We all have input here on how we run the school. We are all working together so our students can be successful." English teacher Alicia Gibson previously worked at a non-unionized charter school and says there's no comparison with Helix. "We all have input here." 23 May / June 2017

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