It was surprising to learn that the Néw York Board of Regents awarded a charter to a 22-year-old prodigy with no educational experience. Peter Greene did some research and found that the young man and his supporters first applied for a charter when he was only 18 and had just won his bachelor’s degree online. He went on to receive a master’s and a doctorate in the next four years, subject not specified, possibly online but not clear. Peter thinkshe may also be an ordained cyber minister.

The question is, why did the Regents refuse to grant him a charter when he was 18? Andre Agassi has lots of charters, and he is a high school dropout. Like, what’s the standard here? Age, money, charisma, experience, or what?

Bill Phillis of the Ohio Coalition for Equity and Adequacy fears that Governor John Kasich plans to privatize the public schools of Youngstown:

Bill Phillis writes:

According to a November 20 Youngstown Vindicator article, the state representative-elect from Youngstown said the Governor told her he would like to shut down Youngstown City Schools and replace the district with a great charter school. Could this happen? That scheme already exists in New Orleans. Look for it in the state budget bill to be unveiled by the Governor in February 2015.

Ohio law provides that charters are privately-operated entities with near zero accountability and transparency. A charterized Youngstown School system would signal that a private, non-transparent, unaccountable system is superior to a publicly-controlled, accountable, transparent system. It would signal that privatization is superior to democracy. It would tell the world that democracy has failed in Youngstown Ohio. What is next? A privatized city council for Youngstown?

Ohioans better wake up to the erosion of democracy via the charter school scheme. If the complete privatization of pubic K-12 education happens, democracy will be history.

William Phillis
Ohio E & A

Ohio E & A | 100 S. 3rd Street | Columbus | OH | 43215

Jonathan Prlto blows the whistle on Steve Perry’s expansion plans, which Pelto says are illegal under Connecticut law.

Perry is principal of Capital Prep Magey School in Hartford. He has received permission from the state Board of Education to open a charter in Bridgeport and from Néw York’s Board of Regents to open a charter in Harlem. He will remain principal of the public magnet school in Hartford and will use materials and personnel from the public school for the charters.

Pelto writes:

“The proposals for both schools openly admitted that the plans were based on Capital Prep Magnet School in Hartford, that the materials used will be the same as those used at Capital Prep Magnet School and the management team that will run the Bridgeport and Harlem charter schools will be the same group of senior administrators and teachers that are presently running Capital Prep Magnet School in Hartford.

“The proposals even included many of the written materials that can be found on Capital Prep Magnet School’s present website.

“But of course, Steve Perry and his team know perfectly well that such a move is blatantly illegal.

“The law is very clear, materials and concepts developed by public employees during the course of their work belong to their employer – the government that pays them and its citizens.”

Pelto says:

“Perry will collect $2.5 million per year for the first five years as a charter operator.”

We know that states have granted charters to rappers (Pitbull in Florida) and to Andre Agassi, a high-school dropout), but this is the first instance where a state approved a charter led by a 22-year-old man. Given his resume, it appears that he has never taught or run a school. Perhaps he will prove that no experience is necessary to run a charter school.

 

It was only six years ago that he graduated from School Without Walls at age 16. Now, at 22, he’s armed with a freshly minted doctorate degree in education and permission from the state Board of Regents to open a charter high school in Rochester in 2015.

 

“I remember being in school and feeling I was a bit more advanced and (not having enough options),” he said. “I wanted to grow up and open a school that’s predicated on each student’s needs and interests. … I did it sooner than I expected.”

 

It will be called Greater Works Charter School, accepting about 100 ninth-graders in its first year and eventually expanding to about 400 students in grades 9-12.

 

One of the key tenets will be extensive use of online learning. Each class will have two certified teachers, or one teacher and one teacher’s assistant; at any given time, each of them will be working with a third of the students and the remaining third — in particular, the more advanced students — will be working on computers….

 

After graduating from School Without Walls in 2008, Morris got a bachelor’s degree at age 18 from Western Governors University, an online college based in Salt Lake City. He then received master’s and doctoral degrees from Concordia University near Chicago.

 

Morris has an educational consulting firm and said he has worked with the Rochester Prep schools, among others. He also helped start three non-profit organizations, he said: Sparq Rochester, a youth arts outfit; Greater Works Education Network, a fledgling statewide charter advocacy group; and Victory Living Christian Faith Center.

I spoke last week to the annual convention of the Association for Career and Technical Education in Nashville. It was a great audience, and I loved meeting so many educators who are devoting their lives to preparing young people for life after school.

 

The night before the CTE convention, I spoke to local activists for public education in Nashville. It was an exciting time. The state commissioner Kevin Huffman had resigned only days before. Memphis parents are in an uproar over the steady expansion of the charter sector and the loss of their public schools. Meanwhile, Nashville’s superintendent has a plan to introduce more charters, whether parents want them or not.

 

Here is an account of the evening and the situation by Lucianna Sanson, a BAT in Tennessee:

 

Lucianna writes:

 

This week, Nashville was honored when Diane Ravitch spoke at an event hosted by a group of local grassroots education activists: TREE (Tennesseans Reclaiming Education Excellence), Momma Bears (a blog run by some fierce parent activists), and the TnBATs (BadAss Teachers Association) at Vanderbilt University at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, November 19, 2014. Diane was in town to speak at a CTE conference, but she graciously spent her night speaking with, and to, a room full of approximately 400 teachers, parents, administrators, students, reporters, and concerned citizens.

 

Diane spoke at length about education reform and the venture capitalist agenda that is behind the movement. In the interest of selling this agenda, which includes privatizing public education, education reformers are fond of calling education “the civil rights issue of our time.” Ironically, they cast themselves in the mold of great civil rights leaders like Martin Luther King and the Freedom Riders. Diane Ravitch pointed out the hypocrisy of this by stating that rather than uplifting African Americans and other People of Color through community schools with wrap-around services, the Reformers promote Charters and Vouchers, which re-segregates schools rather than bringing, or keeping, diverse communities together.

 

Dr. Ravitch spoke about Charter schools, an issue that is particularly troubling for Tennessee because Memphis City/Shelby County has been taken over by the Achievement School District, or ASD, which is modeled after the Recovery School District, or RSD, in New Orleans. This is very troubling because New Orleans only has five public schools remaining in the city. The communities of New Orleans no longer have any ownership or say-so about their own schools. Memphis residents are aware that their schools are being taken over, not to help their students and communities, but to make corporations richer. Residents are fighting back and speaking out against Charter school takeovers.

 

Teachers, parents, and other invested stakeholders are attending neighborhood meetings, holding signs, and speaking to the ASD, local boards, and local leaders. They are asking for their schools to be funded, not sold to the highest bidder. While Memphis is in the eye of the storm, the ASD has reached out to Nashville and is now attempting to take over schools there. The citizens of Nashville are resisting as well, and part of that resistance has taken the form of grassroots organizations holding ed reform awareness workshops, talking with lawmakers, speaking out at BOE meetings, blogging about the truth of ed reform, and working with the local state teacher’s association to raise awareness regarding these issues.

 

Diane encouraged Tennesseans to continue to work together in solidarity to fight ed reform. She encouraged us, as teachers, parents, students, community leaders, and citizens, to be pro-active in speaking up and speaking out. As a teacher, and a parent, a citizen, and a local education activist, I am encouraged by her words, emboldened by them, and inspired by them. I, as well as many others in Tennessee, have become an outspoken advocate for our public schools. In that spirit, I have included the short speech I gave from the TREE, BEARs, and BATs event. It is a call to action, a call to work in solidarity, and a call for all local activists to stay strong, stay focused, and continue to work together. As Diane reminded us, “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” – Mahatma Gandhi

 

Lucianna’s Call to Action Speech

 

Hello Everyone and Good Evening. My name is Lucianna Sanson and I am a public high school teacher in Franklin County TN. As many of you may recall, two years ago, Kevin Huffman and the State Board of Education began talking about tying our teaching license to test scores. When I heard that- it was thestraw that broke the Came’l back for me.

 

I decided that I had had enough. Ironically, that same week, or perhaps even that same day, I found a grassroots association of fellow teachers on FB called the BadAss Teachers Association. Well, I knew that I was a BadAss and I realized that I had found a group of people as dedicated and fed up with ed reform as I was. Soon after finding the National group, I connected with the local TN state group and became an active participant and volunteer for the group. I added my teacher voice to the others that were speaking up for public education in my state. The following words are a call to action to you, fellow teachers, parents, and citizens. Join with me and speak up about ed reform. Together we can make a difference and be heard.

 

Tennessee,

We must stand up and be strong-

We must stand up and speak truth-

We must stand up,

and use our teacher voices to protect our children and our profession.

We must stand tall and proud, like the TREE,

We must be fierce and protective of our children, like the Momma Bear,

We must be brave and bold like the Bat, swooping down on those that threaten our public schools, our profession, and our students.

 

We must protect our children and our right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness- a happiness that can not be found in Tennessee- unless we are free to learn, free to prosper, and free to work together without the yoke of national or corporate education reform inflicted upon us. If we can’t work together to educate our children, how can we work together to make a great nation?

 

We must protect our freedom.

We must protect our children.

We must protect them at all costs.

 

Our public schools are the last strongholds of our democracy.

Endless bubble tests do not train our students to be citizens in a democracy.

Endless bubble tests do not promote critical thinking and creativity!

 

Tennesseans,

We must be fearless warriors for truth.

We must speak truth to power.

We must be, in the infamous words of Dr. Mark Naison, the founder of the National BadAss teachers Association,

We must be BadAss!

 

Tennesseans, please join TREE, Momma BEARs, and TNBATs in the fight to save our schools. Our students deserve our support. Our children deserve our support. If we don’t stand up for our children no one else will.

 

If you would like more information on Momma Bears, TREE, and TNBATs, please follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

 

https://www.facebook.com/TNBATs   @Lucianna_Sanson

https://www.facebook.com/mommabears4edu   @MommaBears4edu

https://www.facebook.com/TNExcellence   @TNExcellence

The Badass Teachers Association issued a strong statement registering their conscientious objection to high-stakes testing.

They write, in part,

“We know that we are in the middle of a war, fighting for our schools and our students. One of the tolls in this war is the implementation of high stakes testing. These tests are like weapons, based upon the knowledge that these tests do not accurately measure educational achievement, but are more truly a measurement of the economic characteristics of the student. Today, decisions are being made to divert funds from numerous programs and appropriate staffing levels as districts are rushing to meet technology requirements and implement test practice programs. This money could be better used to increase staffing levels to allow for better student to teacher ratios, implement new programs that increase cultural and global awareness, create services that support the needs of the whole child, and renovate existing school structures that are in desperate need of repair.
The amount of stress that our students are under has become overwhelming and our schools are becoming less able to help that. As educators it is our moral responsibility to become a shield for our children and protect them from the people that seek to manipulate their education to personally profit at their expense. We have the moral obligation to become conscientious objectors as we remember our responsibility to our students.”

A report by the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice finds that charter schools in Boston suspend students at much higher rates than public schools.

“Of the 10 school systems in Massachusetts with the highest out-of-school suspension rates, all but one were charter schools and nearly all of them were in Boston, according to the report, which examined the rates for the 2012-2013 school year. The report was released by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice, a nonpartisan legal organization in Boston.”

“Roxbury Preparatory Charter School in Boston was by far the most apt to suspend, subjecting nearly 60 percent of its students to out-of-school suspensions during the 2012-2013 school year. City on a Hill Charter School in Boston came in second with a rate of 41percent; followed by the now-closed Spirit of Knowledge Charter School in Worcester with 27 percent, and UP Academy Boston with 26 percent.”

The charter schools said their suspensions kept their schools safe and orderly.

“The report found that 72 percent of the time charter and traditional schools were punishing students with suspensions for nonviolent, noncriminal, or non-drug-related incidents. Those acts can include violating dress codes, being tardy frequently, or cursing.

“The report also raised concerns about disparities in disciplining students of different demographics. Disabled students were more likely to be disciplined than non-disabled peers, while black and Latino students were at least three times more likely to be disciplined than white and Asian peers.

“About 5 percent of the state’s schools accounted for half of the disciplinary actions in the 2012-2013 school year.”

This video was made by NYC public-school parent and film-maker Michael Elliot. It is a powerful video that expresses the views of parents and students.

 

It is available on Youtube and vimeo.

 

 

Edward Johnson, a follower of the collaborative philosophy of W. Edwards Deming, has been an outspoken critic of the top-down, authoritarian methods that ruled the schools of Atlanta under former Superintendent Beverly Hall, whose demands for higher scores produced a massive cheating scandal.

 

Now he is equally critical of the school board’s decision to transition to a charter-like system. Johnson said:

 

“This is Beverly Hall 2.0,” long-time education advocate Ed Johnson told APN, referring to the former Superintendent associated with the APS CRCT cheating scandal.”

 

Johnson was especially critical of the new superintendent, Meria Carstarphen, for promoting charter schools; she was superintendent in Austin before she came to Atlanta. And he expressed regret for encouraging his followers to vote for Cynthia Briscoe Brown, who supported the charter proposal.

 

“My voting and encouraging others to vote to put Cynthia Briscoe Brown on the Atlanta school board has turned out to be a great mistake. So I offer my apology to all I had encouraged to vote for her,” Johnson wrote in an email sent to APS Board Members and stakeholders.
“I had hoped, actually believed, Cynthia would bring a greater measure of intellectual, moral, and ethical maturity to the board than would especially the four Teach for America youngsters on the board. Never was there the thought that Cynthia would go along with the stupidity of turning APS into a Charter System or go along with any effort to undermine APS as a public institution, as a public good,” Johnson wrote.
“APS as a Charter System will do nothing but keep the district stuck in a Beverly Hall kind of status quo, but with a difference. Beverly Hall obviously held scant empathy for the adults in APS. Now, even at this early stage, we see a new superintendent who is pushing that lack of empathy down upon the children, and implicitly blaming the children for the superintendency’s failure to learn to improve the district,” Johnson wrote.
“Now it has become inarguably clear that all the rigmarole APS put into deciding to turn APS into a Charter System amounts to nothing more than Cynthia Briscoe Brown and fellow board members (save perhaps Steven Lee) and the superintendent showing they bring nothing beyond the capacity to maintain the status quo, the real status quo, under a different name. The rigmarole has been a colossal waste of time and money that could have gone into engaging all stakeholders in learning how to improve the current state of APS. But that would have required leadership,” Johnson said in his email.

 

Probably the board is not aware that the New Orleans district is rated #65 of 68 districts in Louisiana.

Alan Singer says it is time to protest the inequitable conditions in East Ramapo, NewYork, where Orthodox Jews control the school board. The school board starves the public schools of resources, but is very generous to the private religious schools their own children attend.

He writes:

“Nine thousand Black and Latino children attending East Ramapo, New York public schools are warehoused in over-crowded, under-funded failing schools because a school board controlled by a White religious group is using public school dollars to subsidize their own children who attend religious schools. District school budgets have been defeated four of the last five years and eight of the last eleven, the highest rate of budget rejection in New York State. Meanwhile Andrew Cuomo, the Governor of New York State, Merryl Tisch, the Chancellor of the State Board of Regents, the governing body for education in New York, and John King, the Education Commissioner, have all remained silent. That is why it is time to march against racism in East Ramapo…..

“The district is now bankrupt because of all the money channeled to private religious schools despite major cuts in public education spending…..”

The state-appointed monitor, Hank Greenberg, “Prior to delivering his report to State Education, Greenberg told reporters he did not believe the East Ramapo school board acted “out of base or venal motives.” Rather, their concern about the children from their own religious group had “blinded them to the needs of the entire community.” This is surprising language from a lawyer given that Greenberg’s job was to investigate legal and financial impropriety, not determine whether the school board was moral but blinded by good intentions. However, I am not a lawyer. Greenberg found the district’s funding pattern to be “unique” in New York State and charged the faction in control of the East Ramapo school board of “abysmal” fiscal management and noted the district was teetering “on the precipice of fiscal disaster.” This is an example of institutional racism, whether school board members think they are acting in good faith to meet the needs of children from their own religious community. That is why it is time to march against racism in East Ramapo.

“Since 2009, the non-venal majority in control of the East Ramapo school board has eliminated 245 public school positions, including special education teachers, guidance counselors, social workers, and elementary school assistant principals. It replaced full-day kindergarten with half-day, eliminated instrumental music for younger children, ended transportation for field trips, reduced athletic and extra-curricular activities by fifty percent, closed the summer school, and depleted the district’s emergency reserves, money it is legally required to maintain for insurance, liability and unanticipated costs. That is why it is time to march against racism in East Ramapo.

“Meanwhile, district spending on programs benefiting private religious school students have increased substantially. From 2006-7 to 2013-14, district spending on transporting private school students specifically increased nearly 77 percent. From 2010-11 to 2013-14, the cost of providing special education for students enrolled in private religious schools increased by 33 percent. More than 23,500 students are transported daily to private religious schools in East Ramapo, 18,000 by private companies that are essentially subsidized by the school district. Special education students receive services in forty different religious schools, which are also essentially subsidized by the school district. These subsidies to families that send their children to private religious schools make up over one-third of the district budget.”

The state may be reluctant to intervene because it has poor record of taking over entire districts (e.g., Roosevelt in Long Island), but the state should take over to protect the children from a school board that doesn’t care about them.

Meanwhile, unbeknownst to Alan Singer when he wrote about the district, the East Ramapo board sold a closed school for use as a religious school at what appears to be less than its fair market value. The state did not object.

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