Reliable but unnamed sources at the California state capital insist that AB 46, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon's bill to disincorporate the nearly bankrupt industrial city of Vernon, contains a secret clause. According to a highly placed aide in the Speaker's office, interviewed under an assurance of anonymity, the final version of the bill will turn Vernon over to Green Dot, the charter school octopus. Vernon will truly be a "charter city."
Rather than disincorporate Vernon, the city will maintain its legal identity but will technically be managed by Green Dot. Applying to cities the Green Dot principle that any one can run a school, a short list of candidates for Green Dot's city manager include former Los Angeles school superintendent Ray Cortines and soon-to-be former superintendent Sandra Rhee.
But former Green Dot executive Steve Barr is favored to be tapped for city manager. He disappeared from public view following what was mistakenly thought to be his ouster from Green Dot. In fact, he secretly entered Eli Broad's Institute for City Government, a newly organized training facility to mold municipal administrators with the proper outlook on city management. The Institute is an offshoot of Broad's successful counterpart that indoctrinates "school choice" superintendents.
Green Dot spokesman Marco Petruzzi would not confirm or deny the rumor. Instead he read a statement suggesting that Green Dot's past performance made it a logical choice for such a takeover. Long-time charter school critic Robert D. Skeels agreed: "Good idea. Green Dot already runs its schools like factories."
Following the usual rules involved in reconstituting a Green Dot school, all Vernon officials and employees will be fired. Some, at the discretion of Green Dot, may be rehired. Under Green Dot, employee compensation will not include any pension benefits, health insurance or sick leave. As at some charter schools, the work week will include Saturday and a full ten hour day on weekdays. Green Dot, as a rule, does not welcome labor contracts.
Several local unions, which had vigorously opposed Vernon's disincorporation and had devoted both manpower and money to defeat the Rendon bill, were stunned by the sudden turn of events. Said a dejected representative from the electrical union: "Capital and labor had united in opposition to AB 46. We gave our all for Vernon. Now this."
Maria Durazo, county labor federation leader, says organized labor has an even greater problem in store. The Walton Foundation reportedly has given Green Dot several million dollars to erect worker re-education camps. There, union members will be disindoctrinated through a lengthy process designed to imbue them with a politically correct position on the rights of capital and the subordinate position of workers.
How will a Green Dot Vernon differ from the current city? In keeping with its practice of cherry picking students, Green Dot will decide which businesses can stay and which will be forced to relocate in traditional cities. Using its power as a truly "charter" city, Green Dot will keep only the best performing businesses, sending the rest elsewhere. "For all I care, they can go to Bell," Barr said, referring to a neighboring town. Those business owners who resist expulsion will face special assessments, parcel taxes and other irritating fees that will encourage them to leave. Eminent domain looms as a last resort.
Many business and property owners, advocates of "city choice," expressed outrage and vowed to fight. On the other hand, Green Dot has created "Owners Revolution," which supports the Green Dot takeover. It is patterned after a highly vocal and abrasive Green Dot subsidiary and pro-charter school organization, "Parent Revolution." Expect the purple prose newsletters to be penned by charter advocate and Emmy winning comedy writer Bill Gunderfest. Already Owners Revolution has reportedly harassed owners opposed to the Green Dot takeover.
If the legislature balks, refusing to pass AB 46, Green Dot has Plan B. Those same reliable sources suggest that already Green Dot and the present cabal running Vernon have had extensive talks. Under consideration is a proposal in which the Vernon city council would use its power as a charter city to contract with Green Dot. That would allow the school company to run the city, leaving the current council in office at full salary and with their current pension benefits.
Either way, the term "charter city" will have an new definition.