Archives for category: Budget Cuts

Mike Klonsky wrote about the resistance to charters in the suburbs of Chicago. But not every suburb repelled charters, according to this reader:

“There is a charter in the south suburbs; specifically Rich Township H.S. District 227. It was ok’d by the state as part of Race to the Top. The effects have been devastating to our district. More than $8 million (actual figure–I’m one of our union negotiators) dollars of our already diminished general state aid goes straight to the charter because it is a public institution serving students from our district. We have had our school day shortened from 7 periods to 6, This, of course resulted in fewer choices for our students, particularly in the areas of electives, and massive lay-offs in both our certified and classified staff groups.

“As for their results: they graduated their first class last May. Of the original 125 in the class, only 71 remained by graduation. They of course claimed huge success because all 71 were accepted into some kind of post secondary education. Not many people thought to ask about the other 54 students who came back to us.”

There is much talk in Ohio about accountability for charters, but here is the real deal: the governor’s budget has more funding for charters, while half the state’s public school districts get budget cuts. Here is the latest from the Ohio Coalition for Equity and Adequacy:

“All charter schools get a funding increase while half of the school districts are cut

The Legislative Service Commission, a non-partisan office controlled by the legislature, has determined that all charter schools will receive an increase under the Governor’s budget proposal, while half of the school districts will be cut.

An article in the February 18 Columbus Dispatch indicates that Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT) will receive 11% of all charter school funds by FY 2017. Of course, the ECOT operator contributes extremely large sums to the political campaigns of those in control of the Statehouse.

Kasich budget plan increases funding to all charter schools
Gov. John Kasich

THE DAILY BRIEFING

By Jim Siegel The Columbus Dispatch Wednesday February 18, 2015 5:52 AM

Charter-school funding in Ohio could exceed $1 billion by 2017 under Gov. John Kasich’s proposed two-year budget, which provides increases to every school.

Most of the attention thus far has focused on the charter-school accountability and transparency provisions included in Kasich’s budget. Lawmakers more recently got a look at the breakdown in charter-school funding.

About half of traditional public schools would see funding cuts over the next two years under Kasich’s education funding plan, though it spends $459 million more. The non-partisan Legislative Service Commission calculated that charter-school funding will rise 5.4 percent over two years, with no schools facing a cut.

The commission estimates total charter-school funding of $990 million by 2017, though that figure does not assume any growth in enrollment over the next two years. It also does not include the additional $25 million in facilities money that Kasich would allow top-performing charter sponsors to use.

In 2017, about 11 percent of all charter-school funding would go to the online Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow, better known as ECOT. With more than 15,000 students who take classes from home, it is by far the largest in the state. Nearly one-third of all charter-school students in Ohio take classes at an online school.

Innovation Ohio, a liberal research group and frequent charter-school critic, questions the fairness of the charter-school funding while so many traditional districts face cuts.

“With school funding levels not keeping pace with inflation, Gov. Kasich’s plan makes matters worse by funding charter schools at the expense of local school districts,” said Keary McCarthy, president of Innovation Ohio.

Very little of the increased charter-school funding, McCarthy said, is going to districts with a performance index score above the state average.

Greg Harris, state director of StudentsFirst Ohio, a supporter of school choice, disagrees that charter-school funding is hurting traditional schools.

“We want to move more towards a system of school funding where parents are empowered over the state to determine what’s best for their children,” he said. “We don’t think public charter schools ‘rob’ traditional public schools.”

But StudentsFirst Ohio and Innovation Ohio largely agree on the charter-school oversight provisions in Kasich’s budget, including requirements that fiscal officers be independent of sponsors and operators, and that every sponsor be approved by the state Department of Education. Sponsors would be prohibited from selling services to their schools.

“We support quality school choice, not crappy school choice,” Harris said. Under the budget and a priority House bill that includes other charter-oversight provisions, “sponsors with bad track records will increasingly find Ohio a hostile state to conduct business,” he said.

Innovation Ohio and the Ohio Education Association also argued for some additional concepts, such as a process for closing failing charter schools faster, a requirement on following state public-records laws, and funding that ensures that traditional schools are not financially penalized.

“If parents want to send their kids elsewhere, there should be a viable choice,” said spokesman David Williams of the OEA, the state’s largest teachers union. “Unfortunately, there are too many charter schools that are underperforming the local public schools, so there is no real choice in a situation like that.”

William Phillis
Ohio E & A

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

Every so often, I run into someone who says that he or she cannot take seriously the claim that there is such a thing as a “privatization” movement. They think that charter schools are public schools (I do not) and they scoff at any concern about for-profit schools. They say things like, “There have always been for-profit businesses in education, selling tests, textbooks, supplies, etc., why does it matter if some corporations run schools for profit?” In their eyes, corporate reform is innovative and risky, and no one—not even the for-profit corporations—is trying to privatize public education.

 

To anyone who questions the existence of the privatization movement, I recommend Doug Martin’s “Hoosier School Heist.” Martin is a blogger who holds a Ph.D. in nineteenth century American literature. He is a native of Indiana who is deeply versed in that state’s school politics and its major (and minor) players. His book is eye-opening; actually, his book is eye-popping. It is a no-holds-barred critique of Indiana’s politically and financially powerful privatization movement.

 

Martin’s critique shows the linkages among the free-marketeers, the Religious Right, and the greedy.

 

A few examples of his snappy style:

 

“Academic progress is irrelevant to voucher supporters, for the goal is not to improve schools through competition, as they claim, but to completely dismantle traditional public schools altogether. In fact, those calling for school privatization don’t want to hold anyone with profit motives accountable, as Florida has proven.”

 

He recognizes that vouchers and charters drain funding from public schools, leaving the latter with fewer teachers, fewer aides, fewer programs—“so for-profit education management companies can take them over with temporary teachers or justify starting charter schools by deeming the neighborhood schools as ‘failing.’”

 

He sees why Wall Street is involved in the charter industry. “Making money from disasters is a Wall Street specialty, and investors have jumped on the opportunity for school privatization. Besides generating tax-exempt bonds, stocks, and other shady financial gimmicks, school privatization allows big bank CEOs, private equity firm honchos, and hedge fund managers to collect interest on loans to non-unionized charter schools which employ a temporary teacher workforce….Unlike traditional public school boards, charter school boards are unelected, undemocratic, and cloaked in mystery. Their conflicts of interest enable schemes like high rent to waste public education money.”

 

Martin challenges the corporate-sponsored claims that the public schools are failing to produce a good workforce. He says that Indiana’s newspapers and TV stations “advertise corporate school talking points, portray front group spokespeople as ‘experts,’ and seldom, if ever, question that profit motives and rigged research behind the corporate-sponsored statements that our schools are failing.”

 

The Republican-dominated legislature has taken steps to cripple the funding of public schools. “To sneak more politically connected for-profit charter schools into Indiana, in 2010 legislators cut $300 million annually from the public school budget and mandated tax caps to purposely ensure the destruction of public schools….Since the state controls the purse strings, Republican lawmakers have purposely bolted in place everything needed to start closing down Indiana schools and expanding for-profit charter schools.”

 

Martin shows how the overuse of standardized testing has benefited corporate politicians like Mitch Daniels. Not only do they stifle the critical thinking skills needed in a democratic society, not only do they send millions to testing corporations, but they demoralize and drive out good teachers. This too sets public schools up for failure.

 

One of the valuable aspects of Doug Martin’s book is his careful dissection of the sponsors of corporate reform in Indiana. A key player is called the Mind Trust, which Martin cites as an exemplar of “crony capitalism.” Martin writes:

 

“The Mind Trust typifies America’s counterfeit political Left. Mouthing the rhetoric of class warfare, civil rights, and female empowerment, the mock liberals at Education Sector, the Center for American Progress, and the New America Foundation, all supportive of the Mind Trust specifically or school privatization in general (and most bringing home six-figure salaries), attack teachers unions and public schools and connive to mount in place a school system based on corporate profit, one which disenfranchises the female teachers and minority and poor students they claim to be helping.”

 

Martin calls out the enablers of the school privatization movement, such as Eli Lilly and the Lilly Endowment, reliable funders of privatization activities, and of Teach for America and the New Teacher Project, which will recruit the temporary teachers needed for the charters. He cites the power of ALEC in the Indiana legislature, whose members pushed to evaluate teachers by their students’ test scores and to judge colleges of education by the test scores of students taught by their graduates. He provides overviews of the anti-teacher, anti-union, privatization agenda of Stand for Children, DFER (Democrats for Education Reform), the Christian right, the Bradley Foundation, the DeVos family of Michigan, and the Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO), which promotes charters and vouchers.

 

Martin doesn’t offer any suggestions about how to combat the well-funded, interconnected organizations that are advancing the privatization agenda. His book contains valuable information about the privatization movement, its goals, its major players, and its strategies. He leaves it to voters to figure out how to save public education in Indiana.

 

Whether or not you live in Indiana, you should read this book. The major players like DFER and BAEO operate nationally. The activities in Indiana follow a script that is being enacted in many states, probably including yours.

 

Hoosier School Heist is listed on amazon.com, or you can obtain a copy by going to the website http://www.hoosierschoolheist.com.

Newly elected Governor Bruce Rauner unveiled his budget proposal, which includes $6 billion in cuts to universities, health care, and public sector pensions (except police and firefighters).

Rauner, a private equity investor until he ran for governor, proposed no new taxes on the wealthy.

““This budget is honest with the people of Illinois, and it presents an honest path forward,” Mr. Rauner said as he laid out what he deemed a “turnaround budget” before lawmakers in Springfield, the state capital. “Like a family, we must come together to address the reality we face. Families know that every member can’t get everything they want.”

“The fate of Mr. Rauner’s $31.5 billion spending plan, however, is uncertain, particularly given that Democrats hold veto-proof majorities in both chambers of the legislature. Democrats said it would harm middle-class families and the poor, while asking little more from wealthy residents. The proposed budget calls for no tax increases or new taxes.

“Governor Rauner’s plan includes proposals that will undermine access to health services, child care, affordable college and retirement security for working- and middle-class families,” said John J. Cullerton, the Democratic president of the State Senate, adding that the contents of the plan raised “significant questions about its viability” in the legislature.”

There has been much discussion on the blog about the “Coffee Cup” ad sponsored by the political action arm of the California Charter Schools Association. (See here and here.)

 

Here is the ad. 

 

Kayser is accused of being anti-public school, when in fact he has been a strong supporter of public schools and public school teachers. He is a strong critic of charters. That is why the CCSAA is spending big bucks to defeat him. He has voted to reduce class size, increase teacher pay, and restore programs lost to budget cuts.

 

The broken coffee cup, Kayser and his allies believe, is a subtle reference to his hands shaking because of Parkinson’s. Why else would he drop his coffee cup? If that was the intention of the ad, it is reprehensible. If it was not, CCSA has some explaining to do.

 

 

Peter Greene has done an amazing investigative review of the Boston Consulting Group. What is BCG? Why do reformers in so many cities hire this management consulting firm? What is its connection to the Gates Foundation and Arne Duncan?

Greene writes:

“Word went out today that immediately after Arkansas decided to make Little Rock Schools non-public, the Walton family called a “focus group” meeting “in conjunction with the Boston Consulting Group. This is worse than finding the slender man in the back of your family portrait. For a public school system, this is finding the grim reaper at your front door. And he’s not selling cookies.”

Greene reveals BCG’s business strategies, which are totally inappropriate for education but beloved by reformers.

“Bottom line? Say a little prayer for the formerly public schools of Little Rock, because BCG is in town and they’re sharpening their axe.”

Thanks to reader GST for bringing this important story to our attention: a court in Pennsylvania ruled that the School Reform Commission may not cancel the contract of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers. This is a battle that has gone on for two years, as the unelected School Reform Commission looks for ways to cut the budget. Meanwhile, the Philadelphia schools are suffering from former Governor Tom Corbett’s deep budget cuts, and the Legislature has refused to fulfill its responsibility to the children of Philadelphia.

 

Commonwealth Court judges have handed a win to the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, ruling that the School Reform Commission cannot throw out the teachers’ union’s contract and impose new terms.

 

The decision was confirmed by Jerry Jordan, PFT president, on Thursday morning.

 

“This is a very big victory,” Jordan said.

 

After nearly two years of negotiations, the district had moved on Oct. 6 to cancel the teachers’ contract and impose health-benefits changes that would save the cash-strapped system $54 million annually, officials said.
In the decision, judges said that neither the state Public School Code nor the Legislature have expressly given the SRC the power to cancel its teachers’ contract.

 

“This Court is cognizant of the dire financial situation which the Districtcurrently faces and the SRC’s extensive efforts to achieve the overall goal of properlyand adequately meeting the educational needs of the students,” Judge Patricia A. McCullough wrote for the court. “There have been numerous difficult decisions that the SRC has been forced to make in an effort to overcome these economic hurdles, including a one-third reduction in staff and theclosing of 31 schools in recent years.”

 

But the law does not give the SRC the power to cancel a collective bargaining agreement.
Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/school_files/District-cant-impose-contract-court-rules.html#GVqP31QcrCMOdFmZ.99

Since 2011, the number of school nurses in the Philadelphia public schools has declined by 40%. At a meeting of the School Reform Commission, the appointed board that runs the district, nurses and principals testified about the dangers to children posed by the lack of nurses.

In 2013, a 12-year-old child died of an asthma attack at school; there was no nurse available that day.

In 2014, a 7-year-old child collapsed and died in school; there was no nurse available that day.

How many more children must die before the state supplies the funding to staff every school with a nurse every day?

Governor Jerry Brown’s Inaugural address includes the following remarks about education. Governor Brown understands that schools need adequate funding to succeed. One of his biggest challenges when he took office was to begin to restore the billions that had been cut from public schools by his predecessor, Arnold Schwarzenegger. I think he is wrong about Common Core, which caused California to ditch some of the best state standards in the nation and will draw hundreds of millions, if not billions, out of strained school budgets (Los Angeles was about to spend over &1 billion on iPads for Common Core testing until the deal fell apart a few months ago). But, reasonable people differ, and time will tell whether the investment in Common Core is worth it.

Governor Brown said:

“Educating the next generation is fundamental to our collective well-being. An issue that has plagued our schools for decades is the enormous barrier facing children from low-income families. When my father was governor, he sought to remedy the wide inequities among different school districts by calling for equalization of funding. His efforts were not successful.

“Now – decades later – we have finally created a much fairer system of school funding, called the Local Control Funding Formula. Under the provisions of this law, state funds are directed to school districts based on the needs of their students. Districts will get significantly more funds based on the number of students from foster care, low-income families and non-English-speaking parents. This program also breaks with decades of increasing centralization by reducing state control in favor of local flexibility. Clear goals are set, and their enforcement is entrusted to parents and local officials. This puts California in the forefront of educational reform.

“After years of underfunding and even borrowing from our local schools, the state now has significantly increased its financial support for education. Next year schools will receive $65.7 billion, a 39 percent increase in four years.

“The tasks ahead are daunting: making sure that the new system of local control works; recruiting and training tens of thousands of teachers; mastering the Common Core Curriculum; and fostering the creativity needed to inspire students. Teachers need to be held accountable but never forget: they have a tough job to do. They need our encouragement, not endless regulations and micro-management from afar.

“With respect to education beyond high school, California is blessed with a rich and diverse system. Its many elements serve a vast diversity of talents and interests. While excellence is their business, affordability and timely completion is their imperative. As I’ve said before, I will not make the students of California the default financiers of our colleges and universities. To meet our goals, everyone has to do their part: the state, the students and the professors. Each separate institution cannot be all things to all people, but the system in its breadth and diversity, through real cooperation among its segments, can well provide what Californians need and desire…..”

State Senator Phil Berger (and president pro tem of the North Carolina State Senate has championed budget cuts that hurt the public schools in his district. He has also championed charter schools, which have minimal accountability. Stuart Egan, a North Carolina teacher, explains what appears to be inexplicable:

“It’s getting deeper here in North Carolina. Literally.

“A recent news story in the Winston-Salem Journal highlighted once again that North Carolina’s General Assembly is bent on starving our public schools into submission with lack of funds and shortage of resources – even the most basic of necessities like toilet paper.

“Danielle Battaglia reports that the Rockingham County school system is literally having to rob “Peter to pay Paul” just to keep schools open and functioning. Classes lack textbooks; copy paper is unaffordable; basic janitorial supplies cannot be bought. You can read about that here: http://www.journalnow.com/news/state_region/rockingham-county-schools-short-on-the-basics/article_61b15a34-bcfd-5407-83a4-86a2830c5ab2.html.

“One really big irony here is that Rockingham County is the home of our current and newly reelected NCGA Senate President Pro Tem, Phil Berger, Sr. He was one of the champions of the current state budget that is crippling the very schools he serves, especially the ones in his hometown of Eden, NC. That current budget also is supporting the exponential growth of charter schools which are able to take public funds, surreptitiously hide how the money is spent while escaping oversight and eluding state standards that are in constant flux.

“One of those charter schools, Providence Charter, gained final approval from the state board this year to open in Rockingham County and will possibly enroll 500 students. Rockingham County Public high schools only have around 4200 students total. That amounts to well over 10% of available students being siphoned off to a school that can claim to be a public institution in order to get state funds, but then assert itself as a private entity so that it cannot be audited with the same transparency as public schools are. The fact that many who start and operate charter schools are financially motivated is not a secret. What makes this one charter school especially suspicious is that it is co-founded by Phil Berger, Jr., the state senator’s son. You can read about that here: http://www.newsadvance.com/rockingham_now/news/providence-charter-officially-approved-to-open/article_06f3390c-7976-11e3-904c-0019bb30f31a.html?mode=jqm.

“When small school districts lose numbers like Rockingham County, they also lose the ability to petition for adequate funds. Imagine what happens to a school system when it loses over ten percent of its students; the financial impact can be staggering. Textbooks cannot be bought; facilities cannot be maintained. Bathrooms lack toilet paper. Students suffer. Communities stagnate.

“Providence Charter in Eden, NC will be the first charter high school in Rockingham County, but there already exists a charter middle school, Bethany Community Middle School. Who is on the board of that school? Yes, Phil Berger, Jr. In essence, Sen. Berger is allowing and enabling his own son to weaken the very public schools in his home district.

“This is not only a conflict of interest, but a growing trend to “reform” public education here in North Carolina. It would make more sense to take all of the resources, energy, and funds that would be siphoned off to the charter schools and work to improve the public schools that already exist. It seems to me that an elected official would make sure that as many people in his district as possible benefit from tax-payer money, maybe even enough to get some toilet paper and even new textbooks in schools that actually reflect the curriculum (which is about to change again).

“What hurts the most is that we as citizens keep electing these people to office and allow them to do detrimental things to our public schools under the guise of civic service and school choice. And it’s not just a school level problem; it’s an overall education problem.

“We as North Carolinians are not educating ourselves well enough to sift through political doublespeak and partisan propaganda. We are voting on perceptions and not truths. But it is hard to know the truth when facts are covered and avenues to learn are blocked and tampered with. What occurs is an environment where personalities are placed before principles. That causes people to suffer, especially our students.

“For example, last August a legislative assistant for Rep. Tim Moore named Nancy Garriss had an exchange with a veteran teacher on the phone and referred to the teacher as an “idiot” for even questioning the treatment of public education in the new state budget. This did not go unnoticed (http://dianeravitch.net/2014/08/09/what-north-carolina-teachers-say-about-that-historic-pay-raise/). Yet once again, North Carolinians in Cleveland County, NC selected Rep .Tim Moore to go back to Raleigh and in another example of cruel irony, he was just elected by his GOP peers as the new House Speaker of the NC General Assembly to replace Thom Tillis, who defeated the incumbent Kay Hagan for the US Senate. Less than half of registered voters in North Carolina came to the polls for these past midterm elections and the results were not favorable to public schools. But that could change.

“The operative word here is “midterm.” As soon as one election cycle ends, another ramps up and begins to take shape, and this next one can be a great time to take back our public schools. Historically, more registered voters go to the polls during presidential and gubernatorial election years. And all NCGA members will again be campaigning (or not) to be sent back to Raleigh. Imagine if just over half of the registered voters in North Carolina went to the polls, then people who champion public education could be put into positions to help our students.

“Look at this metaphorically. As a teacher, I look at midterm grades as a marker of sorts. It is not the final course grade, but an indication of what work needs to be done and a way to reflect on how teaching and learning can be improved. Our midterm grades in North Carolina are not stellar by any means. Declining support of public schools, lack of medical insurance coverage for those who need it most, voting restrictions, and lost revenue only begin to explain what North Carolina faces. Yet, it can change. The “final” grade can be much better. I just hope no more damage occurs in our state before we learn the lesson.

“By then we may need more than toilet paper to clean it up.”

Stuart Egan, NBCT

West Forsyth High School

Clemmons, NC

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