Tonight on Gadfly Radio w/ Martha Montelongo and CalWatchDog’s John Seiler, CA City Journal’s Ben Boychuk, with special guest Ben Austin of Parent Revolution

Gadfly Radio Tonight, at 8 PM PT

Live Call in number: 1-818-602-4929 
August 23, 2011 Tonight live at 8PM PT:  Tonight on Gadfly Radio, Ben Boychuk of CA City Journal and also policy adviser for education at The Heartland Institute and a former managing editor of School Reform News, joins me as we talk with John Seiler of, and  special guest, Ben Austin, Executive Director of The Parent Revolution  and co-author of The Parent Trigger Law.   

 “While it has changed over time and changes somewhat from year-to-year, about 52 to 55 percent of the State General Fund Budget is spent on K–12 and Higher Education.” (CA.Gov)   
Ben Austin is a proven effective education reformer.  He is also a self described Progressive who vehemently defends unions, collective bargaining and even card check.   Ben Austin, together with co-author for The Parent Trigger Law, Senator Gloria Romero and supporters,  developed and helped bring into being, a powerful and effective tool for The Movement which Diane Ravitch claims in an op-ed posted below, is “already failing.” 
The coalition of reformers includes Progressives,  Democrats for Education Reform, conservatives and libertarians, business leaders, and of course parents.  
What is the strength of this coalition?  How threatening is the divide around unions and card check, and partisan politics? 
  Do all Democratic Reformers defend Teacher’s Unions?  Both Steve Brill and Joel Klein are also formidable leaders with Democrats for Education Reform.  Brill prescribes turning around public schools  “not by abolishing the unions but by persuading or forcing them to engage in real reforms so that they can help move those 3.2 million teachers in the right direction…”
Tonight’s show will be a spirited discussion among allies who want to see parents engaged and empowered, and all children have a shot at being well schooled–no excuses.  If a child can read, write and is numerate, he or she is capable of forming his or her own opinions and venturing outside of dogma to seek truth.  That is why everyone who believes in individual liberty and possibility should be engaged in this very real movement. 

Some related links:

When Adults Need to Act Like Grown Ups by Ben Austin, published today, Aug 23, 2011

…The vast majority of the public discourse around education reform ends with name-calling and finger pointing — depending on which ideological extreme has the microphone, either charter schools or teachers unions are single-handedly dismantling American public education.

So it was no surprise that all sides retreated to comfortable ideological corners last week when the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) accidentally released their secret plan to “kill” the Parent Trigger.

The Parent Trigger is an historic law in California, Texas, and Mississippi that gives parents unprecedented power to transform their children’s failing schools through community organizing. The Parent Trigger allows half the parents at any failing school to transform their school based on what’s good for children, not adults.

Four Opinions are posted in an excellent series, published this week online at Reuters Blog and I’ve posted them below: 
The Great Debate

First Two are by Education Reformers (Two Education Reform deniers follow below): 

The school reform deniers by Steve Brill–A label is coined.  The whole piece is fascinating, but scroll down to the facts section… for a super charged reminder for why reformers are so committed. 

Whitney Tilson, Director of Democrats for Education Reform noted the following excerpts from Steve Brill’s, and Joel Klein’s op-eds posted below, in his e-newsletter yesterday:   

That said, the issue of whether we need to throw out a system in which we allow unaccountable, unmeasured civil servants to produce failure when our nation’s economy, security, and core values depend on success is not complicated at all. It doesn’t take Woodward and Bernstein to see that the deniers are running on empty. It reminds me of the old debates over whether cigarette smoking is bad for your health. Curing lung cancer is complicated. Identifying a leading cause wasn’t. It only seemed complicated for as long as it did because those with an interest in denying the obvious spent so much for so long to keep the debate going.

The parents: the force that can’t be beat By Joel Klein

…But relying on strong leaders alone is folly. Their survival, as Fenty’s experience suggests, depends on building political constituencies that will support them, and push them to be even more aggressive. If that is to happen, we have to start with parents, who must stop tolerating a system that is failing their kids, and start insisting on great schools and teachers.

The unions know that parents are the only force they can’t beat and, as a result, they’ve done an incredible job over the past couple of decades cultivating them as allies. But, increasingly, parents — especially those in high-poverty communities — are coming to understand that it’s their kids who are bearing the brunt of the current union-driven, adults-first focus of public education…

Whitney Tilson goes on about Klein–“[He] also gives a nice and well-deserved shout-out for an important new book by Terry Moe, Special Interest: Teachers Unions and America’s Public Schools:

When it comes to persuading the unions, there’s another recent book, “Special Interests”, by Stanford professor Terry Moe, that’s well worth reading. Moe spends considerable time discussing what he views as the misguided notion of “reform unionism,” which is similar to Brill’s idea of persuading the unions to get on board for real reform. The simple truth, according to Moe, is that “beneath all the talk, important fundamentals are at work — and the fundamentals drive most of the action. Teachers fully expect that their leaders will protect their jobs, promote their economic well being, and win work rules that give them valuable rights and prerogatives.” Union leaders who fail to do those things, Moe adds, “do so at their own peril.” In fact, more than once, union leaders have told me that, even though a proposed reform made sense, they couldn’t support it and survive — and, they would always add, for good measure, that whoever replaced them would be worse for reform.

Let me be clear, reformers should always seek “to persuade” the unions to join them, and there are several encouraging examples to support this approach — some that I personally achieved together with NYC’s union president Randi Weingarten, and others that Brill recounts in “Class Warfare”. But so long as persuasion is the reformers’ only weapon, Moe concludes, “the reform movement will never get where it aims to go. It will never be able to build a school system that is organized for effective performance. It will never be able to simply do what’s best for children.”

Brill’s second theory of change — ” forcing [the unions] to engage in real reform” — appears to be more realistic.  But how is that going to happen?

I take the liberty to add to the preceding excerpt, what follows in Klein’s op-ed:

…The next political force for reform that needs to be unleashed, as Brill notes in “Class Warfare”, is teachers, especially those who are new to the field and haven’t yet bought into the union-driven long-term seniority- and pension-based system that has long served the veterans. Teachers need to be convinced that the model Brill advances — where salaries can increase significantly if we build a system based on performance, rather than longevity — is better for them financially, while also likely to enhance public respect and support for their profession. This is not so much a variation of reform unionism but, rather, the creation of a second — and different — teacher voice in the discussion. 

Klein mentions Educators 4 Excellence as an example.   Would California Teacher’s Empowerment Network CTEN be another example?
And two Deniers:

If only the unions were the problem By Deborah Meier  (below, this denier’s answer to Steve Brill’s comments on the Rubber Rooms… She loses me at ‘Hello.’

1.  Rubber Rooms. I happen to know some terrific teachers and principals who were sent to the Rubber Room.  They left 30-40 years of extraordinary work in despair and dishonor.  It wasn’t the union that created the Rubber Room—but former schools chancellor Joel Klein.The fact that many never get charged with any crime, much less given the opportunity for a hearing, is not the union’s fault either.   Brill might acknowledge that the contract was created by two groups, and that both the original decision to remove the teacher and the subsequent investigation and final appeal are part of management’s responsibility.  I don’t blame my lawyer if the prosecutor delays an investigation or hearing.
But should they be “sleeping, playing board games, chatting” for their $85,000 a year? Would Brill have been happier if they were reading Crime and Punishment?  One friend of mine tried to get excused from the Rubber Room to volunteer in New Orleans after Katrina.  She was not allowed.

The reform movement is already failing by Diane Ravitch

We are in the midst of the latest wave of reforms, and Steven Brill has positioned himself as the voice of the new reformers. These reforms are not just flawed, but actually dangerous to the future of American education. They would, if implemented, lead to the privatization of a large number of public schools and to the de-professionalization of education.

More Related Links: 

The Parent Trigger: A Positive Step or a Distraction for Improving Our Public Schools? an online debate featuring Ben Boychuk and Julie Cavanagh.

I want to ask our panel, Why the media black out of Ron Paul’s 2nd place victory at the Iowa Ames Straw Poll on Saturday?
I said I’d do it last week… Now a week later, hope to squeeze it in.  Um, will try; Would love to get John Seiler’s take on it.   

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Saturday night on 870AM KRLA, Two Titan Developers Battle The Labyrinth of Insider Politics Over Land Use & Subsidies to Build An NFL Stadium In L.A. Also, What About the Parent Trigger as Empowerment for Parents over Failing Schools?

Saturday Night February 5 at 11PM

You can listen live on line at
To call us during the show: 1-866-870-5752

Podcast Part 1 Ben Austin, Larry Sand, Norberto Santana & Part 2 Ron Kaye, John Seiler

Ben Austin, Executive Director of The Parent Revolution joins me to talk about the Parent Trigger, What is it? What does it do? How does it work? Why do opponents say among other things that it is a scheme to destroy public education and is supported by far right wing factions who want to privatize education? Larry Sand of the CA Teacher’s Empowerment Network also joins us.
And on Billionaires’ Playgrounds and their visions, using taxpayer subsidies and land give-aways to bring NFL Stadiums to the City of Angels, Ron Kaye of Ron Kaye L.A. Blog, and John Seiler of

Antonio Gonzalez, host of Strategy Session at KPFK said he’d join us. And we should hear from Blogger Reporter Norberto Santana of Voice of OC, on a story he broke here, regarding a story previously covered on Friends for Fullerton’s Future Blog here, alleging Former State Senator Dick Ackerman had lobbied his former Orange County colleagues in the CA State Legislature in violation of State law, concerning the sale of the OC Fair Grounds, but which was lacking records or a smoking gun, until now. Santana uncovers both records that are certainly compromising to Ackerman and to O.C. DA Tony Rackauckas, who looks like he covered for Dick.

Related Posts in the News & on the L.A. Bloggosphere:
Signs of Hope: Can L.A. Come Together for Everybody’s Benefit?
By Ron Kaye on February 4, 2011 6:40 AM
EDITOR’S NOTE: The CRA action Thursday in locking up $930 million included attaching a supplemental agenda that wasn’t previously included, one that was not made available online, leading to complaints of lack of transparency. Here’s the list you can  download in PDF.
A series of events on Thursday offered hope for the future of Los Angeles.
Coverage in the media of AEG’s “greed is good” NFL stadium extravaganza caught the wretched excess of it with the mayor and other city officials lying down on the artificial carpet and kowtowing to Tim Leiweke.  Click here to read the post

Here Are the Rules for an NFL Stadium in the City of Greatness:

Note: (Stephen Box is a grassroots advocate and writes for CityWatch.  Disclosure: Box is also a candidate for 4th District Councilman.)
Essence of Stephen’s post is that he’s for it, with certain conditions which he enumerates here…Click here to read more.

L.A. City Council takes cooler view of football stadium plans

By Patrick J. McDonnell and David Zahniser, Los Angeles Times
February 3, 2011
Click here to read more

Examiner’s owner wants stadium, has spread $$$

By Josh Richman Wednesday, February 2nd, 2011 at 6:07 pm
Reacting to today’s Los Angeles Times story about how “developer Philip Anschutz’s plan to build an NFL stadium in Los Angeles may now hinge on whether state lawmakers will allow him to bypass some environmental rules so the 64,000-seat project can quickly get underway,” Berkeley-based bloodhounds quickly uncorked a long list of lawmakers to whom the Denver-based billionaire businessman has made contributions.
[You’ve got to check out this list of who’s who in elected legislative office.] Click here to read the story.

Roski: Only room for one stadium

Posted: 02/02/2011 07:37:40 PM PST
INDUSTRY – Billionaire real estate developer Ed Roski Jr. said Wednesday there can only be one National Football League stadium in the Los Angeles area.

Roski’s plan to build a 75,000-seat stadium in Industry is in competition with Anschutz Entertainment Group President and CEO Tim Leiweke’s idea to build a 64,000-seat stadium in downtown Los Angeles….
AEG spokesman Mike Roth declined to comment for this story.  Click here to read the article.

Will Farmers Field Feed LA’s Hunger?

By Ron Kaye on February 2, 2011 5:49 AM
In announcing his full and undivided support for AEG’s takeover of the LA Convention Center and erection of an NFL stadium, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa appointed a Blue-Ribbon Commission (BlueRibbon.rtf) headed by Austin Beutner to thoroughly examine what is already a done deal…

What could be more natural than to call it Farmers Field in a city where so many fortunes were made bulldozing farmland and paving paradise, where even a vital community asset like the South Central Farm was bulldozed for no reason at all. Click here to read more.

City borrowing for NFL stadium may cost taxpayers millions
Bill Boyarsky  January 26 2011 4:52 PM

Why should Los Angeles borrow $350 million to tear down a perfectly good convention center building and rebuild it on another expensive downtown location? Click here to read more.

Grannan: Powerful “Parent” Trigger operators target vulnerable school; attack misfires Guest post by Caroline Grannan — P.P.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011
The current hot story in education reform is California’s Parent Trigger law and its deployment against high-poverty McKinley Elementary school in disadvantaged Compton, near Los Angeles. Click here to read more.

Head to Head: Should state support its ‘parent trigger’ law? A resounding ‘Yes!’
Published: Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2011 – 12:00 am 
Last Modified: Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2011 – 8:33 am

On Tuesday, in the SacBee, Pia Lopez, a Sec Bee Columnist and Ben Boychuk of the Heartland Institute wrote this very instructive op-ed on California’s Parent Trigger Law, what it is, what does, and why it should be supported.
Posted on this blog here.

Have Trigger Law – Will Organize

By Larry Sand 12/14/10 3:01 PM EST

Shoot out in Compton is the beginning of a gun fight that promises to rival anything the Wild West has ever seen.

Back in the 50s, like many kids, I was a huge fan of TV Westerns. I could not let a Gunsmoke, Have Gun-Will Travel or The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp go by unwatched. Good guys and bad guys in white hats and black hats filled my TV landscape on a daily basis. Click here to read more


Doug Lasken February 4, 2011 on
[I post this as related only because Ben Austin was on the State Board until Jerry promptly booted him and supporters, upon taking office last month, and replaced them with what many would describe as very friendly and sympathetic to the CA Teacher’s Union.]
In spite of California’s $25 billion deficit, we are about to pour $1.6 billion down the drain.

That’s the estimated cost of replacing the California education standards with President Obama’s Common Core Standards (CCS). The Schwarzenegger appointed State Board of Education voted last summer to make the switch in pursuit of Obama’s Race to the Top (RTTT) education grant. Our RTTT application was rejected and we will not receive a dime of the grant, but as all eyes are focused on California’s dire budget options, we are still blithely planning to spend $1.6 billion of state money on testing companies, publishers, and school staff training, for no apparent reason. Click here to read the post

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Head to Head: Should state support its ‘parent trigger’ law? A resounding ‘Yes!’

On Tuesday, in the SacBee, Pia Lopez, a Sec Bee Columnist and Ben Boychuk of the Heartland Institute wrote this very instructive op-ed on California’s Parent Trigger Law, what it is, what does, and why it should be supported.

Ben Austin, Executive Director of The Parent Revolution joins me on Saturday night on KRLA, 870AM at 11PM Pacific Time for a conversation on this issue!

THE ISSUE: California enacted the nation’s first “parent trigger” law last year, giving parents the right to petition their school board to transform schools that are underperforming. Pia Lopez and Ben Boychuk share uncommon agreement: This law should be preserved.

The assault on California’s year-old parent empowerment law – better known as the “parent trigger” – offers liberals and conservatives a rare opportunity to defend a unique reform that advances the common good, promotes freedom of choice, and uses a time-honored democratic process to force the public education system to adopt changes it would otherwise reject.

The parent trigger is a modest law – fewer than 600 words – but it has the potential to upend the public education status quo. Simply, if at least half of eligible parents at a persistently underperforming school sign a petition, school district officials must undertake one of four options prescribed by state and federal law.

The first test will come in the Compton Unified School District, in southern Los Angeles County. On Dec. 7, 62 percent of parents at McKinley Elementary submitted a petition requesting that the school board convert the school to a charter school.

Meanwhile, a group of parents at Mount Gleason Middle School in the Los Angeles suburb of Sunland are circulating a petition to replace the school’s principal.

Click here to read more.

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