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Jon Pelto speculates that the charter industry has lost its magic in Connecticut with the downfall of Michael Sharpe of Jumoke Academy and FUSE. Investigations multiply, and there’s the pesky fact that test scores tanked at one of the FUSE schools.

And Pelto reports that the “reformer” selected to head the schools of New London is in more trouble. The vote by the board on whether to appoint him has been delayed.

Federal law enforcement agencies, armed with search warrants, raided the offices of Concept Schools in Illinois.

The Chicago Sun-Times reports:
“The recent FBI raid at the Des Plaines headquarters of Concept Schools focused on many of the politically connected charter-school operator’s top administrators and companies with close ties to Concept, according to federal documents obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times.

 

“Authorities last month said FBI agents carried out raids at 19 Concept locations in Illinois, Indiana and Ohio as part of an “ongoing white-collar crime matter” but declined to provide further details of their investigation.

 

“Copies of the search warrants that FBI agents served in Des Plaines and a subpoena seeking records show investigators went hunting for a wide range of documents pertaining to Concept president Sedat Duman, founder Taner Ertekin and other current and former executives of the fast-growing charter network.

 

“The investigators also sought documents about companies that were hired by Concept to perform work under the federal “E-Rate” program, which pays for schools to expand telecommunications and Internet access.

 

“Concept is linked to the Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen, who lives in Pennsylvania, and has developed strong relationships with many local politicians, including state House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago).

 

“Four of Concept’s 30 publicly financed schools are in Illinois, including the 600-student Chicago Math and Science Academy in Rogers Park and two campuses that opened a year ago in the Austin and McKinley Park neighborhoods. Chicago Public Schools officials approved another two Concept schools on the South Side for the 2014-15 school year.

 

“For one of the two newest Concept sites, in Chatham, more than $528,000 in public funding was earmarked to pay rent for the coming school year to an arm of Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church. The church’s pastor, the Rev. Charles Jenkins, gave the invocation at Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s 2011 swearing-in and served on Emanuel’s transition team….

 

“The federal documents obtained by the Sun-Times, however, reveal that the FBI is taking a close look at the operations of Concept.

 

“Federal law enforcement authorities in Cleveland, who are leading the probe, sent a grand-jury subpoena to Concept on May 30. The subpoena gave the charter chain’s administrators until June 17 to provide a long list of records…

 

“The warrant gave agents the right to take any documents relating to Concept’s involvement in the E-Rate program as well as “all bank records,” “all general ledgers,” “all calendars,” “all documents related to employee travel” and “all telephone records, telephone lists and contact lists.”

 

“Concept officials have said they were cooperating with the investigation and would not make any further comment.

 

Sarah Reckhow and Jeffrey W. Snyder explain the new educational philanthropy–and how it intersects with federal priorities–in this valuable article.

They spot three significant trends:

“Our analysis proceeds in three parts. First, we examine phil- anthropic grant-making for political activities and demonstrate that funding for national policy advocacy grew from 2000 to 2010. Second, we analyze the shifting policy orientation among top education philanthropies. We find that most major education foundations increasingly support jurisdictional challengers— organizations that compete with or offer alternatives to public sector institutions. Meanwhile, funding for traditional public education institutions has declined. Third, we examine the range of actors and perspectives supported by philanthropic grants, applying social network analysis to identify overlapping patterns of grant-making. We find that top donors are increasingly supporting a shared set of organizations—predominantly jurisdictional challengers. We argue that the combination of these trends has played a role in strengthening the voice and influence of philanthropists in education policy.”

What are jurisdictional challengers? These are organizations that challenge the traditional governance of education, such as charter schools. More philanthropic money goes to these challengers, less money goes to traditional public schools, and more money goes to networks of jurisdictional challengers, like the NewSchools Venture Fund and Stand for Children.

This is a fine scholarly work that confirms what many of us saw with our own eyes. The philanthropic sector–led by Gates, Walton, and Broad and their allies like Dell–prefer disruptive organizations of charters to public schools. Indeed, they are using their vast fortunes to undercut public education and impose a free market competition among competing schools. As they go merrily about the task of disrupting an important democratic institution, they work in tandem with the U.S. Department of Education, which has assumed the task of destabilizing public education.

Big money–accountable to no one—and big government have embarked on an experiment in mass privatization. Do they ever ask themselves whether they might be wrong?

Angie Sullivan is a teacher-warrior who never gives up the fight for quality education in Nevada. She wants qualified teachers and adequate funding. She won’t back down. She wrote this letter to Senator Harry Reid:

“@TeachForAmerica: “You’ve done so much to help our country.” – @SenatorReid via video to our alumni at #ECVegas14

I have a HUGE HUGE problem with this! BIG Gigantic!

Senator Reid thanks scab labor by video at their big rally?

Teach for America that routinely union busts and funds campaigns against democrats with its war chests?

Their primary purpose is to fundraise and control the education privatizing conversation – developing reforming educational leadership with a few years of classroom experience. How do they do this? Install new graduates without teaching skill in at-risk schools and replace real teachers as fast as possible with “stars” who never intended to make the classroom a career.

Nevada has a Majority Leader but we are last in the nation in public education on too many levels to outline here. No money, no support, no help.

Me and my co-workers with actual teaching licenses worked for decades for my state in under funded conditions and get what? These frauds and Teach for America scabs?

Our conditions deteriorate, our tenure is demolished, our pensions are attacked, our supplies dwindle, our class size explodes, we aren’t allowed to teach anymore with all the crazy mandates installed, the crazy Department of Education Secretary applauds the attack, we are attached to scores for kids that can learn but will never score well due to disenfranchisement, and we are blamed by crazytown media for every social ill under the sun.

And that is what the Democratic Party has done to public education.

I haven’t even begun to list what the extremist left has done — but I’m sure those terrorists will shoot me down to exercise their 2nd amendment rights soon since they are allowed to access me as a government employee.

Enough is enough.

The answer isn’t to oppress women who teach kids to read with the same standards they have in Maine. The answer isn’t to abuse kids by making them do more and more testing – they fail before they ever set foot in public school because our community is suffering. The answer isn’t to allow Teach for America with 5 weeks of training to replace a teacher who is actually trained. And the answer definitely isn’t to fire us because democrats are on a witch hunt for “bad teachers”.

Here is the reality. Nevada has a poverty problem and importing a bunch of Harvard graduates who want to beef up their resumes as TFA teacher for a couple of years – is a drain on resources and doesn’t help at-risk kids.

CCSD is looking for 3,000 teachers at the same time it fires 300? Something is wrong. We are going to fill these jobs with “saviors” from elite colleges who become tourist teachers?

This video is a slap in the face to every fully licensed teacher in our nation.

You may celebrate this watering down and privatization of Nevada’s education – but me and my house will stand against you and them — because this secret combination is evil and subversive to the American Dream.

O God hear the words of my voice and help your Nevada teachers who love their students – let this and every other reforming and resource drain scam – stop – so that authentic learning can fill our communities.

All I can do is weep.

Angie

Ira Shor is a professor at the City University of New York, where he teaches composition and rhetoric. Shor understands that standardized testing is the foundation on which the entire “reform” project rests. Take away the test scores, and the data-driven teacher evaluation collapses, along with the ambitious plans for privatization.

Shor writes:

“Opt-Out: The REAL Parent Revolution”

We parents can stop the destruction of our public schools. We can stop the looting of school budgets by private charters and testing vendors. We can stop the abuse of our children by the relentless hours of testing. We can stop the closings, the co-locations, the mass firings, the replacement of veteran teachers with short-term Teach for America newbies, the shameful indignity of public schools told they have 24 hours to clear out so a charter can seize their classrooms. To do this, we have to opt-out our kids from the new testing regimes—refuse to let the schools test our kids with PARCC or Smarter Balanced, boycott the pointless and punitive tests which make the best years of our kids’ lives into a digital hell.

I opted-out my 10-year-old son from all state tests this year and will continue to do so when the useless and costly PARCC tests arrive next year. I will encourage other parents to join me in boycotting such standardized tests, which Diane Ravitch has rightly called “junk science” because they cannot accurately report a student’s achievement, learning process, or academic needs, or a teacher’s competence. For commercial and political reasons, it pleases Duncan, Gates and Co. to spread such tools from coast to coast, but they offer no evidence that such tools can do the job they claim, despite the constant promotion financed by Gates’s millions to the two teacher unions, to the national PTA, to “Education Week” magazine, and other key players working on his side.

Neither CCSS nor PARCC can make our kids “college and career ready.” This is impossible from the rigidly-defined, narrow Common Core State Standards(CCSS) skill-sets or from the hours of standardized testing, which over-produce metrics that don’t amount to teaching or learning. First, of course, I ask, Who can predict what the job market will be like when my 10-year-old enters it? Also, school curricula which narrowly focus on skills under-develop the critical habits of mind and communication which children need to make sense of the world as they find it. Employers, in fact, report that narrow subject matter is not what they look for in candidates, preferring instead future employees who have learned how to learn, how to ask questions and to make sense of situations, how to ask for help, how to work in groups, how to learn from others by example, and how to communicate. Hours of standardized testing cannot lead to these outcomes.

The national CCSS-machine also ignores the most important factor in a child’s test scores: family income(widely-discussed since 1966 and the famous Coleman Report, reiterated again and again by social research.) SAT/ACT/high-school and college graduation rates have always correlated closely with family income. Because our society has the highest rate of child poverty of any developed nation(about 35% of Black and Hispanic kids, about 11% of white kids), our national averages on standardized tests are pulled down. The strongest policy, then for raising average scores would be an anti-poverty program, what Christopher Jencks 40 years ago called “an incomes policy,” that is, equalizing family incomes. When he proposed equal izing incomes, policy in the U.S. tilted towards the bottom 80%, especially the bottom 20% of families, as research by Saez and Piketty and by Robert Reich have shown; in that era, Black kids closed about 20% of the “achievement gap” with their white peers(see Jencks’s “The Black-White Achievement Gap.”) CCSS and its PARCC testing will fail just like NCLB and RTTT failed before them, fail to close the achievement gap, fail to produce deep learning for the vast majority of children, fail to close the huge income gap.

Because our children are in this together, so are we. Because our kids cannot defend themselves, we have to defend them. We parents must step in to stop it. We should put our foot down and say, “Do it to your own kids first before you experiment on ours!” Tell that to Bill Gates, to Arne Duncan, to Eli Broad, to Daniel Coleman, to Michelle Rhee, to Wendy Kopp, to Eva Moskowitz, to Govs. Cuomo and Christie, to the hedge-funders in Democrats for Education Reform, who send their own kids to test-exempt private schools with small classes, well-paid veteran teachers, handsome campuses, and field trips so that their kids “feel at home in the world,” as the elite prep of certain kids is sometimes called.

If we parents opt-out, we remove our kids from the commercial machine invading and destroying public schools. We refuse to let our kids become mass subjects tested to distraction. We insist that inspired teaching and complex learning and rich arts should be at the center of every school.

Authorities count on our quiet compliance to cement their plans into place. We need defiance instead, for the sake of the kids and for the sake of the public sector without which democracy cannot survive. When we opt-out we rescue our kids, our public schools, and our society at the same time. Our opposition will force authorities to retreat, if we stick together, get tough on behalf of our kids, and insist that public schools belong to us for the public good, not to the private sector or to the commercial parasites stealing our children’s futures.

Go to United Opt Out and learn more about how to join the cause.

I am happy to report that the Network for Public Education is growing and thriving. This is due in no small part to the excellent work of Rob Perry, who organized our website and wrote our newsletter. Rob did a superb job in building our Facebook presence, and after two years of dedicated service, has decided to move on to another opportunity. We found Rob by putting out an appeal on this blog and are hoping to be lucky again.

We are now looking for a new communications director.

Here is the official job description:

Communications Manager

ORGANIZATIONAL OVERVIEW: Network for Public Education is a nonprofit organization. NPE works to protect, preserve and improve public education. an essential building block of our democracy. NPE engages in policy initiatives, an annual national conference, legislative advocacy, state ranking report and public awareness campaigns across the United States.

POSITION OVERVIEW: Provides organization-wide management on communications delivery, press relations, and social media administration.

The communications manager will manage the digital media programs of NPE Fund and all related projects, initiatives and campaigns with the goal of communicating NPE’s story through the use of social media, website, digital ads and other digital platforms. This position is best suited for someone with a strong communications background, who is a proficient graphic designer and web manager. The successful applicant will be an adaptable team player with willingness to serve as well as lead in a variety of tasks, short- and long-term projects within and sometimes outside of the primary job description. This position is ideal for a confident, independent, self-starter who works well with others. This is a part-time (possible future full-time position) critical in achieving NPE’s long-term objectives to save the institution of public education by fighting against the privatization and corporate take-over of public education.

ROLES AND RESPONSIBILITIES:

• Contribute to and implement digital media and website strategy and development
• Deliver quality designs and translate visual concepts into functional web pages, memes, forms, emails and interactive ads
• Create bi-weekly distinct newsletters for NPE Fund and our 501C4 sister organization, NPE (one newsletter per week)
• General website maintenance including static page and interactive form creation, content updating and editing,
• Maintain quality of site: review for content accuracy and functioning links; update web design, navigation, and technology; and test/debug on multiple browsers/platforms
• Analyze effectiveness of NPE Fund’s paid media (Facebook ads, Twitter ads)
• Social media community management, create content and fundraising campaigns (Facebook, Twitter, Survey Monkey, Paypal, Constant Contact)
• Develop, evaluate, and increase NPE and NPEFund’s online presence
• Create promotional strategies and press releases for events and campaigns
• Support and perform certain administrative functions for smooth office/organization operations

RELEVANT SKILLS AND EXPERIENCE:

• Bachelor degree or demonstrable expertise in public relations, marketing, advocacy or communications
• Prefer 2+ years of experience
• Strong writing and copy editing skills
• Demonstrated experience in multi-tasking, prioritizing, and meeting expectations and goals
• Excellent administrative, organizational and time management skills, planning abilities, and attention to detail
• Committed to and knowledgeable about the issues of promoting and protecting public education, fighting high-stakes standardized testing and privatization of US education systems, charter schools, and publicly funding privately owned and operated schools.
• Development experience
• Ability to work as part of a team
• Reports to Executive Director

Please send resume and cover letter indicating availability date and two references to robin@networkforpubliceducation.org. Interviews will be scheduled as applications are received and position will be open until filled.

NPE is an EOE agency committed to diversity and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, disability, sexual orientation, or veteran status.

Paul Horton, who teaches history at the University of Chicago Lab School, here analyzes the origins of neoliberalism and its attack on the public sector.

The “rhetoric of economic freedom” has put a price tag everything. Self-interest and me-first have become the ideology of the day, and anyone who dares to think of what is in the best interest of society or how to raise up the poor is scorned as a Marxist or collectivist.

Horton writes:

“In effect, “the invisible hand” behind the push to create new education markets is coming from Wall Street investors who are flush with capital for investment. Wall Street bundlers and investment firms are buying up stock in charter school companies and big education vendors. These bundlers not only fund both party’s campaigns, they also sell stock, betting on the futures of big education vendors, start-ups, charter schools, and vouchers. They “encourage” political leaders to pursue policies that will hedge their bets on education products and to view all schools as portfolios that will increase in value as long as the Feds and the states pursue policies that encourage privatization.

“But Wall Street bundlers are far from the only group that embraces a radical version of libertarianism as a way to legitimate opening new markets in education. “Hardcore libertarianism has been making inroads among a younger set of tech entrepreneurs, who see its goals of limited government as being compatible with their general hatred of innovation-stifling regulation. And as more and more tech founders become phenomenally wealthy, many are naturally drawn to the right-wing political ideologies that help them preserve more of that wealth,” according to Kevin Roose in an article for New York magazine.

“Not surprisingly, this same set of Silicon Valley and Seattle billionaires has teamed up with Wall Street bundlers to push neoliberal attacks on public education by pushing an agenda that supports charter schools, computer driven learning, and assessment schemes that are designed measure success of students and teachers in “real time.” Value added measures (VAM) for teachers based on student test scores are designed to reduce the power of unions by making it easier to get rid of ineffective teachers. Charter schools are created both as competition for public schools to give parents “choice” and as a way to hire nonunion teachers at cut rate salaries–teachers who can be hired and fired with no job protections or due process.

“This neoliberal-libertarian agenda for education violates the values of the American Revolution that affirmed that promise of public education in the Northwest Ordinance that reserved the proceeds from the sales of public lands to build public schools and the later Morrill Land Grant Act (1862) that used the proceeds of public land sales to create public universities that would serve the interests of the public.

“Neoliberal corporate education reform is nothing short of an attack on the political DNA of the United States. This agenda makes a mockery of Jefferson’s idea about a school as an “academical village” designed to create leaders to serve the commonwealth. Corporate education reform also disgraces the legacy of the fight for integration and equal funding during the Civil Rights movement by encouraging the resegregation and the resource starving of public schools to create more “choice” in the form of charter schools.

“The Tea Party might rant on and on about liberty and taxes these days, but Republicanism, or the idea that we have to “rise above faction” to serve the commonwealth was the glue that held the American revolutionaries together…..”

“Nothing is sacred: public servants, those who promote the humanities and the arts, and those focused on caring for others are viewed by neoliberals as naïve at best. Public servants deserve little or no respect because only the market can truly establish value. They are contemptuously seen as the new “welfare queens,” or the “forty-seven percent” because the very idea of the public is emasculated, shorn of value, a heavy drag on a fine tuned and lean market system. Neoliberals believe that almost everything public should be strangled and flushed, to use Grover Norquist’s intentionally crude image.

“Toward this end, public schools and public teachers have been subjected to a relentless barrage of negative propaganda for almost thirty years. Many corporations want to force open education markets, Microsoft and Pearson Education to name two of the largest, demand “free markets,” “choice,” and “free enterprise.” Public schools are defunded and closed, so that parents can choose among competing charter schools supported by city, state, and Federal policies. Politicians of both parties at every level are funneled campaign contributions from charter school investors for their support of “school choice.”…….

“The privatizers want us to forget all of this history; they want us to forget the idea that public anything is a good idea. Parents who demand quality public neighborhood schools are as American as apple pie. The corporate education reformers are motivated by ideas that have no respect for tradition or for common human decency. They devalue the aspirations represented in the Declaration of Independence. We need to push back and demand a limit to privatization and a defense of the Commons.”

A report from the Hartford Courant:

“HARTFORD — City and state educators said Monday that they had been served with subpoenas by a federal grand jury examining the expenditure of millions of dollars in public money by the troubled charter school management company FUSE.

“The subpoenas were issued Friday to the Hartford Public Schools and the state Department of Education, both of which have had extensive dealings with the state-subsidized FUSE, short for the Family Urban Schools of Excellence.

“FUSE was created in 2012 as a management company that used public and private money to take over failing, inner-city public schools and operate them as public charter schools. FUSE’s management agreements with public school systems gave it wide discretion over spending on salaries, rents, curriculum, equipment and other items.

“A series of embarrassing disclosures in the past month appears to have crippled FUSE, costing the organization all its management business, worth more than $1 million a year. The closely affiliated Jumoke Academy fired FUSE as manager of its three Hartford charter schools. Schools in Bridgeport and New Haven severed ties with FUSE, and educators in Louisiana, concerned about events in Connecticut, pulled FUSE from a charter school set to open in Baton Rouge next month.

“The subpoena to Hartford Public Schools demands all city records since 2012 related to FUSE founder and former CEO Michael M. Sharpe, FUSE, Jumoke Academy and Milner Elementary School. Hartford hired FUSE in 2012 to turn around Milner, but the relationship soured and ultimately ended when a fall 2013 assessment showed that, in spite of $1 million in additional spending by FUSE at Milner, students continued to read at rock-bottom levels.”

The State Department of Education did not release a copy of its subpoena.

Jumoke Academy charter schools had received $53 million in state funds since its founding in 1997.

I kept hearing the same phrase used over and over again about the Common Core standards: don’t complain, the train is leaving the station, and you don’t want to be left behind. It is inevitable. Then one of the readers of the blog, noting this cliche, wrote, “I didn’t know the train was IN the station, how could it be leaving?”

At some point, as the volume of complaints got louder, and as states announced they were dropping the standards or the tests or both, the narrative began to shift. That sense of inevitability disappeared, and the nation seemed to go into a period of watching to see which state would pull out next.

Fortunately, Mercedes Schneider has been keeping count. Here is her latest summary of the slow dissolution of the Common Core.

In case you didn’t know it, Schneider just spent this summer (which is barely half over) writing a book about the Common Core. We will wait to hear more about publisher and publication date. Let’s just say she may be the fastest, most prolific writer in our field.

This story by Annie Gilbertson of the Los Angeles NPR station KPCC reported a serious problem for the Gulen-related Magnolia charter chain.

“The Los Angeles Unified school district is investigating a network of eight charter schools for misuse of public school funds.

“An audit showed Magnolia Public Schools used classroom cash to help six non-employees with immigration costs. The schools had trouble justifying another $3 million expense.

“These are taxpayer dollars, and we want to make sure they are spent correctly,” said José Cole-Gutiérrez, director of L.A. Unified’s charter school division.”

“For years, the Magnolia’s books and bank account didn’t match.

An audit in 2012 based on a sampling of transactions found $43,600 missing from accounts: school records showed double payments made to vendors with duplicate invoices attached.

“There was an increased risk of inappropriate or unauthorized expenditures to remain undetected and a potential risk of fraud, abuse and misuse of public funds,” read the 2012 report.

“L.A. Unified officials have refused to release the follow-up audit concluded in June 2014….

“The letter, published by local education blog L.A. School Report, said Magnolia spent $3 million over four years to outsource governance tasks such as curriculum development, professional training and human resources – duplicate services that Magnolia had reported doing itself.

“Cole-Gutiérrez, the director of L.A. Unified’s charter school division, said the inspector general is reviewing whether to refer the case for criminal prosecution.

“You need to know where the public dollars are going – and they are supposed to be going to students,” he said.

“Magnolia administration is planning to fight the closures with the help of the California Charter School Association, which said in a statement the schools did not receive due process.

“It is troubling that more than 400 families, the majority of whom live in poverty, have very little information about why they have lost their high-performing schools,” California Charter School Association spokesman Jason Mandell wrote in a statement. He complained that L.A. Unified has not released the 2014 audit.

“State law also does not allow the district to conditionally renew a charter, let alone rescind that renewal without presenting its findings or providing the school with the opportunity to correct any issues,” he added.

“Last fall, the group stood behind San Fernando Valley charter school administers facing trial for embezzlement and money laundering. Yevgency “Eugene” Selivanov, founder of Ivy Academia Charter School, was then convicted and sentenced to almost five years in prison.”

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