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Deasy, Austin join Vergara suit sponsor, Students Matter

Vanessa Romo | January 15, 2015

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LA Unified Supt. John Deasy testifying at the Vergara trial

Former LA Unified Supt. John Deasy testifying at the Vergara trial

The non-profit behind the Vergara lawsuit, Students Matter, is adding two former LA Unified lightning rods to their ranks. Ex-Superintendent John Deasy and founder of Parent Revolution, Ben Austin, are joining the advocacy group.

Students Matter successfully sued the state of California and its public school teachers unions, overturning five laws governing tenure, seniority and dismissal that the student plaintiffs argued kept ineffective teachers in their classrooms. The state and the unions have appealed, vowing to defend the statutes challenged in the case.

It’s the second job-related announcement this month for Deasy, who will be serving on the Students Matter advisory board. He was recently named a consultant for The Broad Center for the Management of School Systems as a “superintendent-in-residence.” Austin will serve as head of policy development and advocacy for Students Matter, leading the organization’s “Courtroom to Classroom” campaign.

“By hiring Ben Austin and adding Dr. John E. Deasy ’s expertise to our board, Students Matter is expanding its commitment to fighting for political change that focuses on the needs of our kids,” David Welch, the group’s founder and a Silicon Valley entrepreneur said in a press release today.

Austin stepped down last month as executive director of Parent Revolution, a group he founded six years ago to aid parents pushing for change in their children’s poorly-performing schools.  Under his leadership, the organization played a role in creating California’s parent trigger law and, later, helping three area schools use it. Three other schools used the threat of it to force changes.

Prior to that he served as a Deputy Mayor of Los Angeles under Mayor Richard Riordan and worked as a senior advisor to Rob Reiner and First 5 California. In 2010, he was appointed to the California State Board of Education.

Deasy resigned from LA Unified in October under pressure due to mounting criticism of his managerial style and several bungled technology initiatives. Since resigning, criticism of his three-and-a-half year tenure has continued, fueled by a federal grand jury investigation into his $1.3 billion iPad program.

It’s unclear whether he would be held accountable by the grand jury for any aspect of the iPad program, which sought to put an iPad in the hands of every LA Unified student and teacher.

During his years as superintendent, graduation rates rose along with student test scores, and dropout rates fell.

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