A lawsuit challenging teacher tenure, seniority and dismissal laws is underway in Los Angeles. Credit: EdSource file photo

The potentially game-changing Vergara v. California lawsuit, which attacks key aspects of California law on how teachers are evaluated and fired, opened in Los Angeles last week and has been accompanied by an aggressive public relations campaign unmatched by the opposing side – the State of California and  its teachers unions.

The campaign seems designed to make sure that the explosive issues being raised regarding teachers’ job security in California ripple far beyond a cramped courtroom in Los Angeles and help shape public opinion across the state and nation.

Remarkably, this one-sided communications war has been initiated by a single person – Silicon Valley entrepreneur David Welch, the founder of the nonprofit organization Students Matter, which brought the suit – and provides a case study of what impact a single individual can have if he has the resources, or access to them, to take action based on his beliefs.

California Teachers Association President Dean Vogel says his organization, representing more than 300,000 teachers, has no intention of trying to counteract what he described as a campaign funded by the bottomless pockets of the “billionaires boys club.”

“The media blitz is no surprise to us,” he said. “We expected this kind of barrage. We believe that what people want is not flashy PR but real substantive conversations with teachers that they deal with every day. Our focus is not on the media show, but getting out into the community and engaging with parents and community stakeholders. When we tell them the truth they will stand with us.”

However, the sophisticated campaign mounted by the communications firm Griffin|Schein is vastly amplifying the voice of Students Matter, founded in 2010 by Welch, who describes himself as having “30 years of entrepreneurial leadership in fiber optic communications.”

The organization is a relative newcomer to the California education policy landscape. The organization has no staff on its payroll, or even its own office. Instead it is run out of its communications firm’s office in Los Angeles. Its sole purpose, as described on its website, is “sponsoring impact litigation to promote access to quality public education.  Welch’s net worth is unknown, although public reports assert that he receives more than $2 million in annual compensation from the Infinera Corporation, which he founded.

For weeks leading to the opening of the trial on Jan. 27, media outlets have received a stream of emails and announcements about the pending proceedings.

An email sent out on the weekend before the trial opened provided possible tweets – complete with scripts, hashtags and Twitter handles – with a half dozen to draw from. Here’s one: Let’s get back to basics, starting with a great teacher in every classroom! I support @Students_Matter #VergaraTrial

Students Matter called a news conference a few days before the trial opened, and on opening day yet another news conference was held during the lunch break with all nine students who are listed in the suit as plaintiffs in the case, along with Los Angeles Unified Superintendent John Deasy who has testified on their behalf.

Students Matter founder David Welch. Credit: Students Matter

Students Matter founder David Welch. Credit: Students Matter

On the morning the trial opened, Students Matter emails sent at 5 a.m. by the communications firms landed in media outlets’ inboxes.  Before 8 a.m. that day a news release appeared on Yahoo News with the headline “California Students Get Their Day in Court: Groundbreaking Education Equality Trial Begins Today.”

Within minutes of the trial’s opening at 10 a.m., reporters received an email “live from the courtroom” with a 54-slide PowerPoint outlining the plaintiffs’ case, as well as a “Trial Tracker” that promised daily highlights and quotes, as well as footage from the trial. Before 6 p.m., at the end of the day, another email blast declared that “California Students Get Their Day in Court,” with a detailed description of the day’s proceedings – from the plaintiffs’ perspective – opening with quotes from lead co-counsel Ted Boutros’ opening statements.

Welch has also expressed his views in several op-ed pieces – all part of the media campaign – including one that appeared on the trial’s opening day in the Orange County Register.  The communications firm now sends out daily wrap-ups to the news media at the conclusion of each day’s proceedings.

There has been no significant communications counter-attack from the State of California, the defendants in the suit, nor from the California Teachers Association and the California Federation of Teachers who would be most directly affected if the plaintiffs were to prevail in the case.   The Los Angeles Times has run reports on each day of the trial during its opening week of what is now expected to be a six-week trial.  But most media outlets have not cover the trial beyond the first day. So for those in the media and elsewhere  interested in getting summaries of the proceedings,  their main source of information may well be the daily bulletins put out by the plaintiffs.

“It doesn’t surprise us at all they are pumping hundreds of thousands of dollars, maybe millions, into these kinds of campaigns,” the CTA’s Vogel said. “They are trying to turn this into a court of public opinion rather than a court of law.”

The Griffin|Schein firm has represented a wide range of clients of differing political persuasions, including the opponents of Proposition 8; Sandy Hook Promise, the organization founded by parents and other survivors of the Sandy Hook Elementary School Massacre; and the Walmart Foundation. The firm is headed by Felix Schein, a former journalist and producer for NBC’s Today show who has an MBA from UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business.

In fact, the organization’s “team,” as described on its website, consists of only three players – Welch, the Griffin|Shein communications firm and the law firm of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, including the lead co-counsel on the case, Ted Olson. Olson was solicitor general in the administration of President George W. Bush, but most recently confounded perceptions of where he stands politically with his successful challenge in the U.S. Supreme Court of Prop. 8, the initiative banning gay marriage in

Welch founded Students Matter in 2010, apparently with the sole purpose of filing this lawsuit. The organization’s initial name was The Students First Foundation, but then former D.C. schools chancellor Michelle Rhee took that name for her Sacramento-based organization, StudentsFirst. So the group is now known as Students Matter.

According to the organization’s tax forms, called Form 990s, in 2011 it paid $515,919 to its original law firm of Quinn Emanuel and another $451,058 to Griffin|Schein through a donation and an interest-free loan.

In 2012, its expenses jumped considerably. Two law firms – Quinn Emanuel along with its current law firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher – were paid $1,472,270 and Griffin|Schein, $491,758. Those two payments alone amounted to 97 percent of the organization’s total budget. Figures for 2013 are not yet available, but presumably will be  much higher given the preparation for the lawsuit and the escalating public relations campaign being mounted on its behalf last year. 

The Form 990s indicate that Welch made nearly $1.5 million in interest free loans to Students Matter in 2011 and 2012, but it is not clear the extent to which other high net worth individuals have also contributed.

The forms also show show that the three founding board members were Welch and Silicon Valley venture capitalist luminaries Ajit Shah and Ted Schlein of the firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.

A Griffin|Schein staffer provided a list of of the group’s advisory board, which he said is now its legal board as well, but that could not be confirmed with the board itself.  The board is headed by Russlynn Ali, the former head of Education Trust-West in Oakland and until last year assistant secretary for civil rights in the U.S. Department of Education.  She is currently chair of the Emerson Education Fund, part of the Emerson Collective established by Laurene Powell Jobs, who was married to the late Steve Jobs.

Also on the board is Ted Mitchell, the president and CEO of the NewSchools Venture Fund, who was nominated by President Barack Obama last fall to be undersecretary of education in the U.S. Department of Education.

Another board member is Ben Austin, executive director of Parent Revolution, the organization promoting the “parent trigger” laws allowing parents to effect radical changes in their children’s schools, including converting them to charter schools. Maria Casillas, currently the chief of School, Family and Parent/Community Services for the Los Angeles Unified School District, is also on the board, along with Schlein and Arthur Rock, described in a New York Times article as “one of the founding fathers of venture capital.”  Rock made it onto the cover of Time as one of the instigators of the Silicon Valley boom two decades ago. 

A spokesperson for Students Matter said that although Welch consulted with her, Rhee has never been on the advisory board, contrary to a 2012 article in the Los Angeles Times.

The CTA’s Vogel said he was not surprised that two members of the board – Ali and Mitchell – were or are about to be high-level figures in the U.S. Department of Education.   “We are on a different team,” he said.  “Our major concern is not that they (Students Matter) will win the public over, our concern is all the money and time and energy that is going to this nonsense instead of to what we know is really works in our schools,” he said.”It is a shame that we have to go through this charade rather than stand together and tackle the issues together.”

Welch did not respond to requests for an interview, but on the KQED Radio program on Forum last Friday, Ted Boutros, the plaintiffs’ co-counsel who has been a prominent figure in the lawsuit’s media campaign,  said Welch “should be commended” for bringing the suit along with “some of the innovations from Silicon Valley” to the state’s public school system.

“People like David Welch and others who are trying to change the system, and go up against the powerful forces like the unions, are just trying to help students here,” he said “That is  what this is about …This is not an attempt to take over the public schools and privatize them.”

Filed under: Equity issues, Evaluations, Featured, K-12 Reform, Reporting & Analysis, Teacher Tenure, Teacher Unions, Teachers and Admin

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  1. Floyd Thursby says:

    Yes, the intervenors. CTA/CFT stands in the way of all change, does studies to prove how ineffective anything is but the status quo of telling kids and parents they can’t do much if in poverty and not expecting much of them even though Asians and other immigrants prosper when poor (read the new Amy Chua and husband book coming out this month), and stop anything that changes what we have, a State near the bottom in a nation near the bottom. They even fought to spend hundreds of thousands to stop a measure that would advise San Francisco to let kids have a school close to their home, and won by 153 votes out of 180,000 in stopping it based on telling everyone children would switch schools mid year. And the management at Ed Source does not encourage free speech and has been known to ban critics of the status quo from their events and not return calls for weeks, months, or ever, if you don’t agree with them. They’ll have forums where only those who follow their party line are allowed. So much for free speech and open debate where all sources can be heard from. The Symposium in San Jose, they didn’t allow some people to attend, were dishonest about selling out, and wouldn’t return calls, they do play favorites and encourage some speech over other speech. Gary Ravani, for instance, hasn’t even replied to many facts and clings to maintaining the status quo. This is the reason this lawsuit is needed. The status quo is failing us, and free speech is very limited. Those who put children first do not have equal rights to be heard with the union and their $189 million a year for ads, donations, and lobbyists to call organizations like EdSource and say, don’t allow this opinion to be heard, only let people we rubber stamp write articles on your site, etc. Ed Source is not above the influence of the unions and is not fair. We all know Fox is biased to the far right, but Ed Source is biased for the teacher’s unions. Eventually, critics will even be censored from these debates, then you will read a chorus of people saying how wonderful seniority and tenure are and how if we only spent more money, all our problems would be solved.

    1. el says:

      You apparently read a different EdSource than I do. :-)

  2. CarolineSF says:

    Seems like in various forums, people are responding, basically, “Yeah, well, how much are the teachers’ unions spending on PR?” But the lead of this article says the plaintiffs’ “aggressive public relations campaign (is) UNMATCHED BY THE OPPOSING SIDE…” (caps mine.)

    1. Ann says:

      And yet, the writer has no evidence to support his claims since he reports none of the unions spending on this suit. Sending out tweets, sending emails with links doesn’t seem like a very expensive endeavor, in fact I see on twitter that the unions are VERY active. I also see most of the mainstream media outlets have published or given air time to the defendantsrepresented by the unions.

      1. Manuel says:

        Hey, Ann, the writer is the executive director of EdSource. By virtue of his position, Mr. Freedberg is the one who sets the “standards of this publication.”

        Mr. Freedberg chose to point out an important fact: the suit was brought out by one individual with a particular agenda and many resources at his disposal. Why should he include the response of those the lawsuit attacks? EdSource is not Fox News, where everything has to be grotesquely “fair and balanced.”

        Also, if you are going to spread disinformation, please get it right: CTA/CFT are not the defendants. They are intervenors. The defendants are the State of California, the Governor, the Superintendent of Public Instruction, the California Department of Education, the State Board of Education, and Oakland USD.

        My mainstream media outlet (the LA Times) published an editorial where they wanted to have it both ways: attack the lawsuit as “a stretch” and attack the teachers and legislators telling that “the change” will be done for them at the ballot box. So much for your accusation that the mainstream media is monolithic on its support of teachers.

        1. Ann says:

          notice I said “defendants represented by unions” which is what I meant and is true.

    2. Paul Muench says:

      So two news conferences and an op-ed piece in the Orange County Register. Other than that the “aggressive” campaign seems to consistent of sending e-mails. Did I miss anything? That just doesn’t seem like an aggressive campaign. Just off hand it seems to me that the battle over Proposition 8 created a lot more media attention that this trial.

      I would guess it is very easy to get e-mail addresses for media outlets. I think that media outlets would actively try to make that easy. So one could easily collect 100′s of e-mail addresses in a day. Post the job to the Amazon Mechanical Turk service and you could probably get every relevant e-mail address for cheap. Quickly eliminate all the duplicates in MS Excel. Put all these e-mail addresses in a single distribution list of your favorite e-mail program and then send as many e-mails as you want almost cost free. So I just can’t consider the e-mail part of this program as aggressive, it just seems too simple. If this is an aggressive approach due to its novelty, I’m really surprised that more people are not utilizing it.

  3. Floyd Thursby says:

    Ann is right these comments are ridiculous. I’ve seen the union defend teachers I saw hanging out in cafes on days they called in sick, called in sick on multiple occasions, and the union gets them a job the next year as a long-term sub, which means that a class needs a sub and then gets someone missing time, so a sub of a sub. And they hide the information so if the parents at the other school complain, it’s “a private personnel matter” and they get nowhere, and the union causes this with their rules. They defend teachers every parent doesn’t like as a liberal cause and lied about Prop H in SF which caused it to lose by 0.08%, so parents had to commute 10 hours a week and some left. Every time you defend a teacher who hurts our children, we remember, and we will organize, donate, and vote against you. You think you get away with it, and in the short run you do, but in the long run, you will not. This is why Michelle Rhee is so popular. If these bad teachers weren’t defended by you, you could have seniority for the good or even decent teachers, but when you defend bad ones, you make a terrible mistake. I’ve seen some of the teachers you’ve defended like it was some noble, liberal cause and everyone who opposes the teacher is either violating some obscure rule that is more important than the education of our children, or is part of some right wing conspiracy, and I’m a very liberal Democrat who would raise minimum wage significantly, tax the rich much more than now, slash defense, legalize drugs/gambling/prostitution/all victimless crimes, slash our prison population especially the nonviolent drug offenders, abolish the death penalty, keep abortion legal, and pay for government tutoring of poor kids and scholarships for college, and abolish corporate loopholes. I’m basically a far left Democrat, and I get sick every time a horrible teacher is defended by the union like they’re some wonderful, noble victim. It is really disgusting. Gary Ravani has said nothing about this, because he probably knows he has defended such teachers and acted like it was some great cause.

    Once you’ve seen it happen, you will never be fooled again. Seniority is not a better way to motivate hard work than principal discretion or test score measurement, or attendence. Seniority lets everyone relax, not push. What we need is what is good for our children. We have low class mobility and a huge reason is we care more about teacher’s rights to perform poorly and maintain a guaranteed job than we do about the education of children.

    Imagine if the CTA spent that $189 million paying for one-on-one tutoring and parent education to guarantee the poor Latino and black students in California are up to grade level or spend Saturday catching up, and study 15-25 hours a week Summers and in middle and high school. It would do a lot more good at closing the achievement gap, and income gap.

  4. ann says:

    Oh those poor, poor unions…up against a guy who personally makes a couple million a year? CTA took in $189 million in 2006 alone, tax exempt by the way. From 2003 to 2012 CTA spent $155 million on political campaigns, the majority on initiatives, the rest on Democrats. This conspiratorial screed is beneath the standards of this publication.

  5. Gary Ravani says:


    For those interested.

    “The U.S is the only major industrialized nation without a national paid sick-leave policy. Some 145 countries provide paid sick days for short- or long-term illnesses. Japan, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Singapore require employers to provide at least 10 paid sick days.

    The U.S. government guarantees federal employees 13 paid sick days a year.”

    “Going to work ill can be expensive in other ways. The Center for American Progress estimates that unhealthy workers cost employers some $160 billion a year in lost productivity. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the annual flu season alone constitutes a $10.5 billion hit to companies in direct costs for hospitalizations and outpatient visits for adults.

    “If workers go in sick, they have the chance of getting others sick and reduce productivity,” said Alice Kassens, an economics professor at Roanoke College. “But many people don’t feel they have the option of staying home to get well.”

    1. navigio says:

      Same for vacation.

  6. Gary Ravani says:

    CFT and CTA are working together to provide for a legal firm to confront the high priced, corporate lawyers carrying water for the tech tycoon, the other billionaires, and the self-styled “reformers.” As far as I am aware there has been no hiring of a PR firm by the unions or the state to specifically deal with Vergara. They have a significant spin advantage as the article points out. And, if you pay attention to what’s really going on in court, once you penetrate the spin, there’s not a whole lot there.

    But, the unions cannot compete with the endlessly deep pockets of those folks. There are other things to do like support teachers’ working conditions, which is another way to say: students’ learning conditions.

    Just to provide some context, in the last election, to deal with the anti-union Prop 32 and the pro-education Prop 30, total union expenditures went to around $60 million. The Mungers, just between the two of them spent around $80 million. Then then was about $12 million more for Prop 32 and against Prop 30 in “dark money.” Very difficult for the “all powerful” unions to compete with mega billionaires and their whims. I will say Molly Munger’s heart was in the right place. Once you look at who was behind the “dark money,” and the other forces against Prop 30 and for Prop 32, you can understand that the unions’ money and intent was for the public interest and pro-child.

    1. Paul Muench says:

      Good to know those numbers. So in comparison to the propositions the money spent on publicity/lawyers for Vergara is small.

      1. Gary Ravani says:

        Like most things, like whether the money being spent on a misguided lawsuit is a “large” or “small” amount, it depends on whose money you’re talking about. For multi-gazillionaire, throwing money at ballot propositions or lawsuits the dollars are, apparently, of negligible importance. For teacher unions, trying to protect their members, their profession, and the public schools from relentless attacks from those whose, whims, ideology, or political agenda are hostile it is of vital importance; however, for teachers’ unions resources are limited but for the multi-gazillionaires they are not.

        Get it?

        1. Paul Muench says:

          I know this topic is emotionally charged, but ultimately I’ll need some facts to actually gain perspective. So if you want to inform me on what CFT/CTA can do with $100,000 or $1,000,000, then the money spent on Vergara may then appear large.

          1. navigio says:

            Personally I don’t think it’s really possible to understand the extent of the impact money has. There is a good website with information about money donated directly to political campaigns, and obviously the teachers union is the largest or among the largest single donor in CA. However affluent interests when combined are actually much larger. May or may not be relevant.

            I think there is a much larger impact from teacher union behavior that does not show up in contribution values. And that is that they are in the community and at the schools on a daily basis. They give presentations at board meetings and at school meetings and this is particularly the case during election cycles. That kind of effort doesn’t show up in the count of political donations or contributions.

            When it comes to political contributions a lot of that stuff goes directly to making sure certain people are elected into office. That money primarily is used for ad campaigns though some of it’s probably also logistics.

            In Molly Munger’s case, for example, she funded essentially the entire initiative including signature raising advertising etc.

            To me it doesn’t really matter how much people spend, because generally I think the more they spend the more they’re probably lying. I also don’t believe that people with more money should have more say.

            In the end it matters more to me whether what people say is true. One person speaking the truth is more powerful than a hundred million dollars of television commercials. And for the record, pretty much everyone lies in politics.

        2. el says:

          Not to mention that the teachers have actual skin in the game.

          I appreciate that people with deep pockets are interested in education and making it better. I wish more of them would start in at the bottom and spend some time listening before they decide how to go about that. Start out by volunteering in a classroom, reading to kids, observing how everyone interacts, getting an awareness of what school is like today (not when we were kids) and getting to know the situation. Volunteer in the afterschool program. Mentor a foster child. Go to the PTA meetings, run for school board, puzzle through the financials and deal with the behind the scenes.

          Anyone doing all that would learn a lot about schools and probably have quite different ideas about what was needed at the end than they started with.

          None of these guys would take in a CEO from say a beverage company and put him in charge of planning the next wave of innovation at their tech company on the first day. Education is its own thing too, and having attended as a student does not make you an expert (just as doing web searches does not make you ready to run a search engine).

    2. Floyd Thursby says:

      Gary what are you talking about? The union has way more money than the other side. Then when someone with money does the moral thing and stands up to the abuse, you complain that they aren’t all poor or middle class. Of course someone with money has to stand up for it to happen, and you know that and are being disingenuous.

      The union just knee-jerk opposes anyone else having any say. In San Francisco in 2011, parents had a grass roots operation, went out and got signatures so kids could go to school close to home, as families were getting assigned 5-6 miles away, in heavy traffic, 30 minute drives away, back and forth, twice a day, 2 hours. This was causing some to go private or move as they just couldn’t get to work and get their kids to school, some lived a block from a good school and couldn’t get in. We had to get over 10,000 signatures to put it on the ballot. The union spend hundreds of thousands of dollars, over half a million, putting out the lie that it would cause children to be switched in January, and we lost by 0.08%. We got 49.96. Clearly the majority favored neighborhood assignment guarantees for new admissions, but they killed it and maintained the status quo and it still happens, and we lose families with options. Also, poor people can’t afford to drive across town, so the families who use it are generally well off families with a parent who doesn’t work, which has made our schools in the East side even more segregated as parents of means avoid schools close to home they would make more integrated.

      The union destroyed the lives of many families, drove them away, all because someone proposed something outside of their control. This issue had nothing to do with teacher rights or salary, they just were threatened because it was outside their control. They told blatant lies about the measure and tricked people who were for neighborhood schools into voting against it. They also have defended many bad teachers. They act like a mafia, and you complain because someone with money is doing the right thing? You don’t even acknowledge many points that are inconvenient. You just try to nitpick. I’m not falling for it, and neither will the voters in November.

  7. Susan Auerbach says:

    Kudos and thanks to Louis Freedberg for his detailed account of Students Matter’s well-funded attempts at media manipulation re: the Vergara lawsuit. I agree that, in fairness, it would be useful to also know the level of CFT/CTA spending on their side of the case. Meanwhile, this situation begs the question of the extent of behind-the-scenes aggressive PR by education advocacy organizations surrounding any number of currently popular reform initiatives. Mainstream media are not investigating this; maybe more attention to this issue by EdSource will spur more coverage.

    1. Floyd Thursby says:

      Coming up with little things to pick at, that they’re rich, as if poor people have the resources to fight for this, won’t change the fact you’ve had 30 or more years people knew bad teachers were staying on, and calling in sick 7.5% of the time vs. 2.5% in business hurting kids and raising substitute costs, and seniority was lowering the work ethic, and have done nothing about it. Whenever someone does, you say we should do it but differently, more funding will solve it.

      I should have known Gary was representing the union. He was so biased. he wouldn’t acknowledge any points contrary to seniority/tenure/due process/LIFO, which is deepling hurting children.

      As a state, we simply have to ask ourselves what is more important, adult job security to blow off reform, call in sick 7.5% of the time, and not give their best and still keep a job, or the education of children and corresponding class mobility and economic productivity.

      Remember, teachers are role models. If they call in sick 7.5% of the time, kids will grow up to think that’s OK if they can get away with it too.

      1. Manuel says:

        As you like to say, “Floyd,” I call bull on your statistic on absenteeism of the white collar work force.

        Since you don’t give sources, I went a-googling. I found that Gallup, hardly a bastion of teacher apologists, conducted a poll of 109,875 full-time workers and asked them how many days they had missed from work due to health issues.

        It turns out that the number of days absent from the job correlates on the chronic health conditions of the respondent (surprise!) as well as her/his body weight. Gallup gives the number of unhealthy days per month for six different groups with varying combinations of factors. Lumping all results into a single one gives an average of 1.4 day/month, for a total of 16.86 days/year. Since the year has 260 working days (and even less if holidays are included), this yields at least a 6.5% absenteeism rate for working Americans.

        Your claim that teachers call in sick 7.5% of the time, a mere one extra percentage point than the national average for working Americans, is not surprising since they are exposed to much more disease than the rest of us. (Yes, those kids they teach are extremely efficient vectors of the flu, both nasal and stomach)

        BTW, who exactly are you referring to when you say “you’ve had 30 or more years … and done nothing about it.” Are you implying, for the nth time, that unions should get rid of bad teachers? You’ve been a parent for at least 10 years (or so you say). Where have you been, “Floyd?”

        As for Mr. Ravani’s affiliations, well, all I can say is that you are not reading for comprehension as the mini-bio at the end of the comment you carpet-bomb is as plain as day: “Gary Ravani taught middle school for more than 30 years in Petaluma. He served for 19 years as president of the Petaluma Federation of Teachers and is currently president of the California Federation of Teachers’ Early Childhood/K-12 Council.”

        1. Floyd Thursby says:

          Right, surely he’s seen bad teachers protected and hurt children, but he stays silent on it and nitpicks at how much wealth somebody has who opposes his point of view or on some clause, rather than the bigger issue of whether seniority best serves children or an adult interest group. Yes, the complaints about bad teachers are over 30 years old, and the union always says it has something in place, but very few are ever fired. It’s just a talking point to try to make us go away. I’ve done what I can, donated to and volunteered for Students First and Students Matter, etc. I’m on the right side at least. Gary is closing his mind to the other side, he just ignored may points I made on his other post.

          1. Manuel says:

            “Floyd,” no, that won’t work. Quit complaining about Mr. Ravani. He identifies himself well and has no need to satisfy your particular hobby. That you are not paying attention is on you.

            Speaking about you, let’s get back to you: you already know that unions, any union, is there to protect its members. In the case of teacher unions, that is their role by law. If the state (i.e., administration, teacher credentialing commission, state board of ed, etc.) doesn’t do its job, it is not the union’s job to do it for them. You are barking at the wrong tree and it is getting really old.

            If you want to talk about closed minds, maybe you should start by opening your own. I have yet to see you address any valid point made to you. All you got is “well, those teachers take too much time off!” or “bad teachers hurt children!” (so do bad parents, but who is going to talk about that?). Is that dialogue? Not in my book.

            As for what you’ve done, those orgs just came down the pike and are creatures of the Billionaire Boys Club. So far you claim to be not one of them but have now joined their bandwagon. Where were you the previous 8 years?

            As for your ability to defend your arguments, I see that you can’t. You have totally ignored the obvious conclusion drawn from the Gallup poll, namely, that your argument about excessive absenteeism among teachers is not relevant at best and bogus at worst. That poll shows that chronic health conditions, which affect over 63% of the sample, are reall killers for productivity, accounting for more than three days off per month. That’s the real problem: poor health in the general population. Not working as a teacher. You gotta quit using (ad nauseum!) talking points you’ve been fed and start thinking for yourself.

            (To all, sorry that the link to the Gallup poll did not show up. Here it is in full:

            Please cut-and-paste it into your browser.)

  8. Charlotte Vrooman says:

    I wonder where Casillas and Deasy will go when they “retire” from LAUSD. So many interesting possibilities! May it be sooner rather than later.

    1. Manuel says:

      Casillas actually retired from LAUSD in 1993, with one of her last assignments as the local district superintendent in the San Fernando Valley.

      Incidentally, she has always been a “company woman” as shown in an LA Times article dated May 20, 1989:

      When fourth-grade students at Lankershim Elementary School in North Hollywood were told they were going to watch a movie while their teachers walked the picket line, they probably were unprepared for a horror film about a razor-wielding monkey.


      District officials plan to meet next week with school principal Anna McLinn to pursue their investigation, Casillas said. She is not sure how an R-rated movie ended up on an approved list that apparently was put together in advance of the strike.

      “Maybe it was a plant by someone out on strike,” she suggested.

      She left to work in San Diego for some time but came back to run non-profits, some of them with interesting numbers in their 990s. Then gets picked by Deasy to run the Parent and Community Services branch. The first thing she did was disband the Parent Collaborative and District Advisory Councils. She got LAUSD sued over that and I have no idea what the lawsuit status is. She retired again last year and has been replaced by Rowena Lagrosa, formerly also a local district superintendent.

      1. Manuel says:

        Opps. I meant to write “El Paso” and wrote “San Diego” instead.


  9. Paul Muench says:

    I’m all for peeling back the curtains. I can live with only one curtain peeled back, but I will always try to get more. And I am not looking for a slavish dedication to even handedness that leaves me wondering what is really significant. But if I had numbers on what CFT/CTA are spending on this lawsuit then I would have some basis for comparison for which group is mounting the larger overall campaign. I understand this is not a straight forward question as the CFT/CTA also spend additional money on political lobbying. And how to allocate a portion of those dollars to compare against what Student Matters is spending on its media campaign? Not an easy question to answer. And how to compare the effect and intentions of a media campaign vs. the effect and intentions of political lobbying? Not an easy question to answer. But I’m happy to get whatever information that is available.

    1. As a former parent, now grandparent of a student attending school in California, I am very interested in the updates regarding this trial. What caught my eye today was Mr. Vogel’s comment “They are trying to turn this into a court of public opinion rather than a court of law”. Seems that is what has been misssing for years -consideration of the public’s opnion. I don’t know Mr. Welch or his intention for bringing this lawsuit. However, I do know California is churning out uneducated, ill-prepared students who one day will decide the public’s quality of life. Whatever the outcome of Vergara vs California, the Genie is out of the bottle.

      1. navigio says:

        Re court of public opinion: not surprising. The courts must make decisions based on logic and the law. On the other hand, voters can simply change the law based on emotion. The latter seems like a much better bet in this case.

      2. Gary Ravani says:

        How true. Those “Ill-prepared” students are infiltrating even our highest levels of education! For example, the UC Policy Committee to Assist Unprepared Students reported that : “we are convinced, by test score trends, basic skills course enrollment trends, and anecdotal evidence, that a decline in the skill level of UC’s entering freshmen has occurred.”

        Kinda makes you want to hide under your scholastic bed doesn’t it? Of, course that statement comes from a report done on 1981, over three decades ago during the “golden age” of education.

        And then there is the report of entering freshman at UC Berkeley, one of the world’s top public universities, who failed to score at the “proficient” level” on a writing skills test. We all know about the terrible rate at which entering college freshmen have to take “remedial” courses today, don’t we? Whoops, that was from a report done in 1898 (yes that’s eighteen).

        Meanwhile, today’s high-schoolers score above the national average on the ACT and SAT. Can I come out from under the bed now?

        (Thanks to Richard Rothstein for the above information.)

        1. navigio says:

          it is apparently time for my periodic suggestion to google ‘nostesia’. except this time maybe i’ll just provide the direct link..


          1. Gary Ravani says:


            What a great site! I have closely followed the late Jerry Bracey and, of course, Richard Rothstein, but Vollmer is new to me. I’ve been missing something.

            After 31 years teaching at middle school this Vollmer quote had me laughing out loud:

            “No one has the right to criticize public education unless he or she has spent a warm, Friday afternoon in May locked in a room with eighth graders. I will go to my grave with that smell in my nostrils.”

            1. navigio says:

              you should buy his book, it is filled with writing like that.

              i want to make clear, i dont necessarily agree with everything that he concludes in his book (in fact, one of my many goals is to write a book in response, at least from the perspective of my own community) but he brings up a lot of great issues, and has a particularly interesting evolution (perspective) into the education sphere.

              but i’ve always found it curious that i never hear about this guy. i’ve yet to understand why.

  10. Paul Muench says:

    I read the San Jose Mercury News and the San Francisco Chronicle on a daily basis and the news of the case does not seem impacted by any media blitz. I recall a single story from each paper, which seems a typical level of news coverage for education. I did listen to the KQED forum show about the case and both CTA/CFT and Student Matters lawyers were guests on the show. I’m confident in saying that both lawyers were arguing their cases on KQED. The other news venue I follow is EdSource Today. And Gary Ravani a representative of the CFT has presented arguments against the plaintiffs case in this forum. Whatever is happening behind the scenes does not seem to generate any skew in what the public sees. And as reported in this forum the CTA/CFT requested to join this case as defendents so we know that both organizations are putting their financial resources behind this case. Clearly there are many people that are very interested in the outcome of this case. And in typical American style a lot of money is being spent on important political outcomes. Well, at least outcomes that are perceived to be important.

    1. Manuel says:

      Mr. Muench, as you know, Mr. Marcellus McRae, one of the plaintiffs’ lawyers, wrote an earlier commentary for EdSource Today. It is dated November 15, 2013. The comments by readers were the usual measured conversation that normally takes place in these pages.

      I believe that Mr. Ravani’s commentary was a direct response to Mr. McRae’s opinion. The comments there, alas, indicate to me that certain tools of new media manipulation are being deployed. I’ve seen it before elsewhere so it is not too surprising.

      I must commend Mr. Freedberg for parting the curtain and letting us get a glimpse of the Wizard. We have always suspected (known?) that media manipulation plays a role in the shaping of public policy, but what we see in this campaign takes it to a new level. Are we ready to run our public institutions on the whims of a few people?

      OTOH, it could be claimed that this is not new. There is this widely cited statement from John D. Rockefeller:

      In our dreams, we have limitless resources and the people yield themselves with perfect docility to our molding hands. The present education conventions fade from their minds, and unhampered by tradition, we work our own good will upon a grateful and responsive rural folk. We shall not try to make these people or any of their children into philosophers or men of learning, or men of science. We have not to raise up from among them authors, editors, poets or men of letters. We shall not search for embryo great artists, painters, musicians nor lawyers, doctors, preachers, politicians, statesmen, of whom we have an ample supply…The task we set before ourselves is very simple as well as a very beautiful one, to train these people as we find them to a perfectly ideal life just where they are. So we will organize our children and teach them to do in a perfect way the things their fathers and mothers are doing in an imperfect way, in the homes, in the shops and on the farm.

      Not much different in spirit than what the Billionaire Boys Club want to do nowadays under a drastically different economy.

      Nothing new under the sun, no?

      Or as Yogi Berra is claimed to have said, it’s deja vu all over again.