UWGLA executives Ryan Smith and Jason Mandell. Photo credit LA Times, converted into a fair use meme by this article's author.

United Way’s Corporate NPIC Astroturf was thick in front of LAUSD last Tuesday

“By what logic does United Way engage in an activity that is shunned by all the other charities?” — Professor Ralph E. Shaffer

UWGLA executives Ryan Smith and Jason Mandell. Photo credit LA Times, converted into a fair use meme by this article's author.

Amid all the misleading and mendacious reports in the corporate media about Tuesday’s desk charade, there is one revealing Los Angeles Times photo of so-called “students” setting up desks on Beaudry Boulevard in front of Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD). A photo featuring United Way Greater Los Angeles’ (UWGLA) executive staff members Ryan Smith and Jason Mandell, two poverty pimps pulling down six figure salaries, who are running the whole show. Astroturf like no other. For people needing a background on how the UWGLA operates as an both an extension of its plutocrat donors’ agenda, and as a propaganda megaphone for right-wing think-tanks, see this essay.

UWGLA’s “CLASS” coalition of reactionary Nonprofit Industrial Complex (NPIC) staged this event in support of their Broad Foundation informed priorities for Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) dollars. As one prominent Silver Lake activist, Ken Sitz, astutely pointed out: “you know it’s not a grassroots protest when there’s not a cohort of Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) present to menace the demonstrators.” This publicity stunt was pulled off by these well paid professionals with the full knowledge and complicity of John Deasy, whose LCFF priorities are identical to that of the NPIC. After all, Deasy works for the same people. One of the more astute observations of the fund-to-advocate paradigm comes from K12NN’s founder, Dr. Cynthia Liu:

The United Way of LA is chief enforcer of Eli Broad’s corporate takeover of public Ed agenda. He’s the reason why I created the term “weaponized philanthropy” to describe how lefty-liberal groups in this city are under his sway. There’s NO good reason on earth the ACLU or LGBT Youth groups would support John Deasy except for the fact that they get money from UWGLA and much of that money comes from Broad.

It is somewhat ironic that the well funded NPIC staffers claim they set up all the desks to represent “all the students that drop out each month”, without discussing their own complicity in policies that push students out of school. Namely, a narrowing of curricula because of the costly drains of the testing-industrial-complex like DIBBELS and Common Core State Standards. Additionally, Deasy and his allies’ systematic closure of ethnic studies, and other programs that appeal to student interests. At the end of the day the United Way advocates for neoliberal policies and privatization actions that exacerbate poverty, segregation, and inequity in Los Angeles—things that all contribute to the push-out of LAUSD students. If that’s what UWGLA considers—according to their tag-line—”creating pathways out of poverty”, then it’s even more evidence of the old adage that: “Philanthropy is not progressive and never has been.”

The Occupy United Way! group was created in 2011 to oppose UWGLA functioning as the tax deductible public relations and lobbying arm of the 1%.

Robert D. Skeels is a social justice writer, public education advocate, and immigrant rights activist. He lives, works, writes, and organizes in Los Angeles with his wife and cats. Robert holds a BA in Classical Civilization from the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), and is currently a law student at Peoples College of Law (PCL). A US Navy Veteran, he is a proud member of Veterans for Peace. A student of Liberation Theology and Paulo Freire's work, Robert devotes much time towards volunteer work for 12 step, church, homeless advocacy, and grassroots groups. Robert's articles and essays appear in publications including Truthout, CounterPunch, Dissident Voice, Schools Matter, Daily Censored, Regeneración, Patch, K12NN, LA Progressive, and The Los Angeles Daily News. In 2013 Robert ran for the LAUSD School Board against a billionaire funded corporate reform candidate, finishing second in a field of five, with over 5,200 votes.

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3 Comments

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