Archives for category: Charter Schools

This article was written by an independent education researcher who requests anonymity. It is unfortunate that the politics of education have become so intermingled with powerful forces that researchers remain silent or hide their identities to escape retribution. In this case, everything in this article is carefully documented.

Lessons Learned:

How the Nation’s Most Powerful Mayor Lost His First Battle Against Corporate Interests and How He Can Win the War

Mayor Bill de Blasio has lost his first battle against the status quo corporate education reform policy machine. In attempting to lessen the influence of charter schools, which often comes at the expense of public schools, he made a number of key tactical errors. This led to the passage of a new law in New York State that now forces New York City to either co-locate every new charter school or pay for its rent in private space. De Blasio was also forced to overturn his decision not to co-locate three Success Academy schools. A review of the tactical errors made can serve as a roadmap for future policy changes that will benefit all of New York City’s children.

Be transparent, and engage communities. Prior to leaving office Mayor Bloomberg had the Panel for Educational Policy vote and approve of over 40 co-locations including 17 charter co-locations. Historically these votes were held in March, but they were moved up to October in order to force de Blasio’s hand. Upon entering office de Blasio should have immediately begun a transparent process of re-evaluating these decisions. Instead he delayed addressing the situation and when he did a single employee at the NYC Department of Education (and former de Blasio deputy at the public advocate’s office) seems to have been primarily responsible for the reviews. Future policy changes should follow a clear process with open avenues of community and stakeholder input.

Be bold. Universal Pre-K is a bold move. But policy changes must not stop there. Instead of deciding to overturn only three co-locations, which left him vulnerable to accusations of a personal vendetta, de Blasio should have stopped every single one that did not meet community needs. Instead of stacking a new space-sharing committee with charter supporters de Blasio should assign them seats based on number of students served (6%) rather than number of dollars in the bank accounts of their backers. A lack of boldness and a reluctance to make waves has also interfered with attempts to re-organize Tweed (the NYC DOE’s headquarters). Besides the departure of a sole deputy Chancellor all the officials in Bloomberg’s DOE are holding onto their positions. This may explain why, as of yet, there have been no changes to the test-centered promotion policy, no changes to test-centered school accountability metrics, and no changes to the test-centered teacher evaluation system. Without significant changes to the ranks of central office managers, progressive educational reforms will have no chance of success.

Communicate the values, figures, and facts used in making policy decisions. Bloomberg was a master at this. He used numbers to bludgeon opponents into submission. Although careful analysis and review of the data showed that many of the numbers were false, the charts in the powerpoints at every press conference lulled the media. In the empty space created by the lack of communication on the part of de Blasio’s City Hall, others stepped in to address some of the falsehoods that de Blasio’s political adversaries were spreading. Eva Moskowitz, the $475,000 CEO of Success Academy, was the loudest and boldest of the de Blasio attackers. Her claims, made on national television, were debunked, but not by City Hall.

We know that countering lies with the truth works because Success Academy has recently changed its multi-million dollar political advertising campaign. They no longer claim to have the highest 5th grade math test scores in New York State. They now claim to have a school with the highest 5th grade math test scores in Harlem. Even this claim does not pass the smell test. There are 32 school districts in New York City. Out of those 32 districts Harlem is but one neighborhood (not even a full district). There are four Success Academy schools in Harlem. Out of those four schools we are asked to focus on a single one. There are three elementary grade levels where students are tested. Of those three grade levels we are asked to pay attention to only one. There are two main subjects in which students are tested, English and Math. Again we are asked to consider only one. The data in fact show that even on this narrow view there are four schools in Queens and four schools in Manhattan that have higher average 5th grade math state test scores than this Success Academy school. And they got these scores without kicking out 50% of their students as Success Academy does.

As de Blasio comes to terms with the constraints that the New York State Legislature recently imposed on his decision-making around charters, he must not accept defeat. He must initiate a conversation about the practices of the charter sector in New York City. He must use his bully pulpit and ask the legislature to address the questions that charter school advocates refuse to confront.

*How will charter schools be held accountable for suspending large numbers of students leading to those students leaving the school?
* How will charter schools be mandated to stop their selective attrition approach whereby they keep the high-performing students and kick out the low-performing students (making comparisons to schools with natural patterns of attrition unfair)?
*How will charter schools be forced to address their unwillingness to accept the neediest students?
*How will charter schools be subject to basic oversight regulations going forward (such as the grading of their state exams by a 3rd party)?

Now is not the time to run and hide. Let’s take advantage of this opportunity to have an honest discussion about the charter sector.

The research cited below can get us started.

http://www.edwize.org/middle-school-charters-suspending-their-way-to-the-top charter schools have high suspension rates and shrinking cohorts of students suggesting that charters suspend and expel challenging students and as a result their test scores increase.

http://www.edwize.org/new-charter-report-improves-transparency-but-leaves-many-questions-unanswered reviews data from “state of the sector” report on NYC charter schools. Charter schools in NYC serve a less needy student population (fewer ELL students, fewer students with disabilities, fewer students in poverty), have higher teacher and principal turnover, and have declining middle school enrollments.

http://www.edwize.org/asking-hard-questions-about-what-works Harlem Success and Harlem Village charter schools serve more privileged student body than the district in which they are located and have very high (up to 68%) attrition rates

http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/15582159.2011.548242?journalCode=wjsc20 “Using 3 recent years of data from the New York State School Report Cards and analyzing the charter population at the school level, the authors found that English language learners are consistently underrepresented in charter school populations across 3 academic years.”

http://www.edwize.org/new-study-confirms-uft-report%E2%80%99s-findings-on-ells-in-charters reviews above study. Points to some issues (such as including less than reliable high school data) with their finding that charters serve a proportionate number of free-lunch students

http://schoolfinance101.wordpress.com/2012/08/15/still-searching-for-miracle-schools-and-superguy-updates-on-houston-and-new-york-city/ finds that charter schools in NYC serve a more privileged student population, spend more money per student, and have smaller class sizes.

http://www.uft.org/files/attachments/uft-report-2010-01-separate-and-unequal.pdf UFT study finding that NYC Charters ”serve significantly fewer than the average of the City’s poorest children, and 10 to 25 percent fewer of such children in the charters’ own neighborhoods. Charters serve on average less than four percent of English Language Learners (“ELL”), rather than 14 percent of such children in the City’s district public schools (the “district schools”). Less than 10 percent of charter pupils are categorized as special education students versus a citywide average of more than 16 percent in the district public schools. In addition, despite their concentrations in highly diverse neighborhoods, charters as a group admit substantially fewer Hispanic and/or immigrant students. As a result, charters contain a heavier concentration of African-American students than is true in the City as a whole or even in the neighborhoods charters are supposed to serve.” Also raises questions about the financial practices and “outsize “management fees”” and the transparency of charter schools.

http://www.uft.org/files/attachments/uft-report-2010-04-special-ed-in-charters.pdf UFT study finding that NYC charter schools do not serve the same percent of students with disabilities as non-charter schools and serve significantly fewer of the higher need students with disabilities.

https://dianeravitch.net/2012/12/03/reader-calls-out-ny-daily-news-for-charter-spin-2/ Daily News story claiming that charter schools serve same students as public schools in districts 7 and 23 is false. There are in fact 500% fewer high needs special education students, 50% fewer ELLs in charter schools.

https://dianeravitch.net/2012/12/20/inflated-claims-of-charter-success-in-nyc/ KIPP has fewer of the highest need special education students although the media claims otherwise

http://www.edwize.org/rhode-island-charter-board-to-seth-andrew-you%e2%80%99re-fired compares Democracy Prep Charter School to co-located district schools and finds that the charter schools serves over 30% fewer students with disabilities with self-contained special education students and fewer students eligible for free lunch.

http://www.edwize.org/at-charters-struggling-students-vanish-as-scores-rise#more-7161 it seems likely based on the data that charter schools are removing students from testing cohorts and that might account for some of their test outcomes

http://www.edwize.org/the-anatomy-of-a-cover-up-the-nyc-department-of-education-and-special-education-in-charter-schools#more-6932 claims that the New York City Department of Education attempted to conceal information that should be available to the public regarding the numbers of students with disabilities served by charter schools. And “is failing to provide the most minimal oversight of the education of students with special needs in NYC charter schools.”

http://www.edwize.org/charter-schools-and-special-ed-eva-moskowitz-gets-defensive#more-6890 links to data on characteristics of students served by NYC charter schools. Notes that “virtually none of the information available for district schools is also available for charter schools” on schools’ public web pages.”

http://garyrubinstein.teachforus.org/2012/06/12/it-takes-a-village/ looks at the performance of the Harlem Village Academy Charter School. Finds that “In 2010-2011, HVA had 55% free lunch and 13% reduced lunch. The district, that year, had 74% free with 5% reduced. In 2010-2011, HVA had 3% LEP vs. 11% for the whole district. In 2010-2011 38% of the students at HVA were suspended for at least one day while 7% were suspended for the whole district. Student attrition at HVA is huge. For example, the 66 5th graders in 2007-2008 have shrunk to just 16 9th graders in the 2010-2011 school year. This is a 75% attrition. In that same time, the district that the school is in went from 904 5th graders in 2007-2008 to 1313 9th graders in 2010-2011. That is a 45% growth.” Also notes “staff turnover was 2007-2008 53%, for 2008-2009, 38%, and for 2009-2010, a whopping 61%. By comparison, the teacher attrition for the entire district in 2009-2010 was just 19%.” Not a single student took the New York Sate Trigonometry exam.

http://miracleschools.wikispaces.com/Harlem+Village+Academy%2C+NY%2C+NY more on Harlem Village Academy Charter School.
http://www.edwize.org/charter-vs-district-student-demographics-beyond-the-lotteries cites research showing that charter schools do not educate the same type of students as district schools. For example, KIPP charter schools in NYC serve fewer poor students than the district middle schools.

http://miracleschools.wikispaces.com/KIPP+Academy+New+York tracks high attrition rate in NYC KIPP school.
http://www.edwize.org/joel-klein-turns-a-blind-eye-to-his-own-data-on-charters-and-test-scores “58% of district schools got an A or a B in 2010, compared to only 34% of charters. In Districts 4 and 5 in Harlem, more than half of district schools got either an A or B (27 out of 53), compared to only 8 out of the 21 charters in those neighborhoods.” “Based on the data charters reported to the state last year, the city-wide difference in poverty between charters and district schools almost doubled — from 2.5 percentage points in 2008-09 to 4.3 percentage points in 2009-10. In addition, poverty at public schools rose 2 percentage points from 2008-09 to 2009-10, while at charters the increase was only a tenth of one percent. Across the city, 15 percent of district students were English Language Learners, while in charters, English Language Learners made up only 5 percent of students.”

http://gothamschools.org/2009/02/17/toward-a-new-definition-of-creaming/#more-9646 discusses evidence of creaming at Democracy Prep charter school at both the initial application stage and later on as students are dropped from the school’s roster.
http://school-stories.org/2012/05/pushed-out-charter-schools-contribute-to-the-citys-growing-suspension-rates/ “no excuses” charter schools have very high suspension rates which, in some cases, violates legal regulations.

http://www.edwize.org/democracy-prep-and-the-same-kids-myth the populations of Democracy Prep Charter School and its co-located public show that their populations are dramatically different with the charter school having fewer poor, limited English proficient and special education students

http://www.edwize.org/middle-school-charters-show-alarming-student-attrition average attrition rate for charter middle schools examined is 23% between 5th and 8th grades. Students appear to be removed from the school rather than being left back a grade. As students are removed from cohort proficiency on state exams goes up.

http://schoolfinance101.wordpress.com/2012/08/28/what-do-the-available-data-tell-us-about-nyc-charter-school-teachers-their-jobs/ an examination of charter school data shows that they “have smaller classes… spend much more than surrounding district schools … serve much less needy student populations than surrounding district schools… have 4th grade students with relatively “average” to below average scale score outcomes compared to schools serving similar population… in some cases, have 8th grade students with high average scale score outcomes compared to schools serving similar populations… where data were available, have value-added scores which vary from the citywide average in both directions, with KIPP being the lowest and Uncommon schools the highest (in the aggregate). Notably, Uncommon Schools also have consistently smaller class sizes and the fewest low income students.”

http://nepc.colorado.edu/newsletter/2010/06/new-kipp-study-underestimates-attrition-effects-0 study of KIPP doesn’t fully account for high attrition rates at KIPP middle schools and other external factors that influence student outcomes.

http://schoolfinance101.wordpress.com/2011/07/06/zip-it-charters-and-economic-status-by-zip-code-in-ny-and-nj/ demographic comparison showing that KIPP middle schools in NYC have fewer poor students than other district middle schools.

http://schoolfinance101.wordpress.com/2010/08/05/upperhalf/ charters in NYC have fewer poor students and fewer English Language Learners than district schools.

Ravi Gupta is an ambitious young man who has boldly entered the booming world of charter entrepreneurship.

He may even be planning his own charter chain.

He opened one in Nashville, one of those “no excuses” charters designed especially for kids of color, with long school days and tough discipline.

And now he plans to open another in Jackson, Mississippi. In this interview, he compares the education reform debate to the “Game of Thrones.”

Apparently some folks from Mississippi think it is funny that he talks about defining “who WE are as a state and where WE want to go.”

Ravi is from Staten Island, New York.

In Nashville, Gupta has gotten into heated exchanges with two elected school board members. He blasted one on Facebook, where he claimed the school board member was in a “drunk rage” when he wrote a sharp exchange with Gupta.

In another instance, he rudely criticized board member Amy Frogge for raising the issue of attrition at charter schools; Gupta said she was out of bounds criticizing his school because she had not visited it. Gupta accused her of acting like a “birther,” making completely unsubstantiated charges.

Gupta’s angry blasts at the school board members occurred shortly after the board unanimously granted him permission to open a second charter school in Nashville.

Gupta is only 29, and has known great success in his adult life. He seems to have a short fuse.

His school should offer courses in anger management.

One of the most absurd conceits of the “reformers” is that they are leaders of the civil rights movement of our time. They bust unions. They strip teachers of hard-won due process rights. They include in their ranks the titans of Wall Street. How long can they pretend that they have any common ground with Martin Luther King Jr., who died while helping the sanitation workers of Memphis who wanted a union ?

In this post, Julian Vasquez Heilig conducts a mock interview with labor leader and civil rights leader Cesar Chavez. Heilig seeks to show how Chavez would see today’s Status Quo billionaires and their apologists.

A sample:

“Q: How about charter and voucher approaches that help the few at the expense of the many?

A: We cannot seek achievement for ourselves and forget about progress and prosperity for our community… Our ambitions must be broad enough to include the aspirations and needs of others, for their sakes and for our own.”

Rocketship Charters are planning to open in Nashville and Memphis, but there have been a few problems along the way.

Lisa Fingeroot of the Nashville Ledger writes that the for-profit corporation,which relies on computers to cut costs, has experienced a dramatic decline in its test scores in the past few years. Once hailed as the “next big thing” because of its high scores, that reputation has melted away, as this article shows.

 

Fingeroot writes:

 

Rocketship opened its first elementary school in California in 2008 and earned a national reputation for success with a “blended” learning model in which students spend a part of the day learning online while supervised by an aide instead of a certified teacher. The rest of the students’ day takes place in a traditional classroom.
The online learning program allows a 50-to-one student-teacher ratio, has come under fire from educators and has contributed to a drop in test scores for Rocketship students, documents show.
Even though California-based Rocketship will abandon the online program, Kristoffer Haines, senior vice president of growth and development, is accusing critics of distorting company goals by wrongly claiming the online program was designed simply to cut costs so more money could be syphoned from each individual school and used to fuel company expansion into more states.
Rocketship’s learning model has found support among many of the nation’s education reform spokesmen, including former Florida Gov. and potential Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush, who promote the use of computers as a method to individualize student instruction.
But Rocketship took a public relations hit earlier this year when the California Department of Education released test scores showing a steady decline in student test scores between the 2008-09 and 2012-13 school years. During that period, the company grew from one to seven schools and also implemented the higher student-teacher ratio pilot.
The test scores, calculated at the request of Education Week, a national trade magazine for educators, show a correlation between growth of the company and incremental drops in test scores.
But Rocketship officials downplay the scores and blame the drop on the online pilot program, which they say will be nixed before the Nashville school opens for the 2014-15 school year.

 

The company spokesmen boast of “phenomenal results,” but “the results calculated by California officials for Education Week show the percentage of Rocketship students who scored proficient or better in English/language arts dropped by 30 percentage points in five years, and the number scoring that well in math dropped by more than 14 percentage points.”

 

In another article, Fingeroot disclosed that Rocketship had been siphoning funds from charters in one state to finance the opening of new charters in other states.

 

She writes:

 

A national charter school group tapped to open schools in both Nashville and Memphis is dumping plans to syphon money from its schools here and in California to finance expansion into other states, a company official says.

The plan by Rocketship Education to use tax dollars collected in one state to finance the opening of schools in another state has elected officials and charter school observers questioning whether the move is legal.

But that plan has been scrapped and will be replaced in May with a similar business model that shows money will not be moved from state to state, says Kristoffer Haines, senior vice president of growth and development.

Revenues generated at a Nashville school, however, could be used to help jumpstart another Rocketship school in Nashville, he adds.

Even that kind of money movement isn’t winning points from Metro Nashville school board member Will Pinkston, a vocal opponent of unrestricted charter school growth.

“Any charter operator needs to be keeping those dollars in the school and not using them to fund growth inside or outside the community,” Pinkston says.

The Metro school board has approved one Rocketship charter school, but the company has plans to ask for at least one more in Nashville.

Rocketship does not need local approval, though, because it has state approval to take over failing schools in both Nashville and Memphis through the Achievement School District established to improve Tennessee schools performing in the bottom five percent of all schools.

The Rocketship plan to fuel growth through local schools called for cutting staff to save money, and taking an additional $200,000 per year from each of the company’s existing schools to use as seed money.

“It’s called ‘cross subsidization,’ and whether it is legal or not is very questionable,” says Gary Miron, an education professor at Western Michigan University whose research includes the monitoring of more than 300 charter schools around the United States.

“Why would taxpayers in Tennessee want to pay for schools in another state,” he asks.

The plan was first found on the company’s website, but was removed when it became ammunition in a California neighborhood fight over whether Rocketship would be allowed to open a second school in the community.

Haines accuses critics of distorting the information and called the plan “outdated” because much of it was based on an old 2010 plan that was meant only for California schools and only to fund additional California schools, he explains.

In yet a third article, Fingeroot shows how “nonprofit” charter chains are very profitable through real estate transactions and high salaries.

She writes:

 

 

Even though a plan to allow for-profit charter school management companies in Tennessee is dead for the current legislative session, the “Educational Industrial Complex” is still cranking out profits, says the professor who coined the phrase.

 

“There’s not much difference in profit and nonprofits,” says Gary Miron, an education professor at Western Michigan University and a member of the National Education Policy Center in Colorado who studies and monitors charter schools.
“At the end of the year they can clear profits by putting it into salaries and bonuses for executives,’’ he explains.

 

Funds also can be moved or paid into a web of for-profit sister companies that have contracts with the nonprofit charter school.
“It’s really a scam,” Miron says of the many different scenarios that can be used. “To really follow the money, you would have to really understand the facilities companies.”
Miron is particularly wary of the real estate deals like those currently being seen in Nashville and Memphis.

 

In Nashville, the new Rocketship Education school building on Dickerson Pike is being built by a hedge fund company owned by tennis star Andre Agassi. Investors in the company provide financing for construction, and the company acts as a mortgage holder.

 

Each Rocketship school pays between 12 and 20 percent of its budget to the main Rocketship company for a facilities fee. The money is then used for the mortgage payment, says Kristoffer Haines, senior vice president of growth and development.

 

For the company’s California schools, the fee is about 18 percent. He anticipates a facilities fee in the high teens for the new Nashville school.

 

In the end, Rocketship will own the building and “the taxpayer’s interest is not protected,” Miron says. If the charter school closes, the building is still owned by the company, even though it was paid for with tax dollars via facilities fees.

 

“We’re seeing more and more of this,” Miron adds.

 

Nationally, the charter school failure rate is estimated to be about 15 percent.

 

For investing in a school project, investors are given tax credits as high as 39 percent, which allows them to double their money within seven years, says Metro Nashville school board member Amy Frogge, an active opponent of for-profit charter schools.

 

It’s an attractive enticement for hedge fund managers, who have begun flocking to Memphis charter schools to get their share, she adds.

 

The question is whether taxpayers expect their tax money to reduce class size and pay for art teachers, social workers, school nurses, and other kinds of direct school enrichment, or whether they know they are enriching hedge fund managers, investors, and executives of charter chains.

 

 

 

 

 

This thoughtful article by Emma Brown in the Washington Post shows the debates in the District of Columbia about the future or the demise of neighborhood schools. Some see the neighborhood school as a relic of the past, with school choice being the wave of the future. Others think of the neighborhood school as the heart of the community, where children and parents walk to school together, plan together, build community together.

It is clear that the corporate reformers would like to kill the very concept of neighborhood schools and communities. They prefer a free market that mirrors a shopping experience, with schools run by corporate entities and parents choosing schools as they might choose one kind of milk or another in the grocery store (the metaphor used by Jeb Bush in his speech to the 2012 Republican convention).

Some of us recall that in the 1950s and 1960s, school choice was the battle cry of the most ardent segregationists. Scholars today have found that the most segregated schools are charter schools, which are typically more segregated than the district in which they are sited. When journalist John Hechinger wrote about the charter schools of Minneapolis, he wrote that it was as though the Brown decision of 1954 had never happened.

Hechinger wrote:

“Six decades after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down “separate but equal” schools for blacks and whites, segregation is growing because of charter schools, privately run public schools that educate 1.8 million U.S. children. While charter-school leaders say programs targeting ethnic groups enrich education, they are isolating low-achievers and damaging diversity, said Myron Orfield, a lawyer and demographer.

“It feels like the Deep South in the days of Jim Crow segregation,” said Orfield, who directs the University of Minnesota Law School’s Institute on Race & Poverty. “When you see an all-white school and an all-black school in the same neighborhood in this day and age, it’s shocking.”

“Charter schools are more segregated than traditional public schools, according to a 2010 report by the Civil Rights Project at the University of California, Los Angeles. Researchers studied 40 states, the District of Columbia, and 39 metropolitan areas. In particular, higher percentages of charter-school students attend what the report called “racially isolated” schools, where 90 percent or more students are from disadvantaged minority groups.”

Is this the future of American education? Are we doomed to repeat the past? Ironic that we reach this moment in which the elites embrace George Wallace’s cause, luring black families to all-black charter schools, with promises that are seldom fulfilled, as we near the 60th anniversary of the Brown decision.

Valerie Strauss clearly explains who were the losers in the bruising battle between the billionaires and de Blasio: students with disabilities.

In Dallas, billionaire John Arnold is supporting an initiative to turn the whole district into a “home rule district” or a “charter district.”

 

The organization that is collecting signatures has a typical reformer name: “Support Our Public Schools.” When today’s reformers say they want to “support our public schools,” it usually means the opposite. Buyer beware.

 

But what is a home rule district?

 

Wade Crowder, a veteran Dallas teacher, explains that the goal is to remove the elected school board and replace it with an unaccountable appointed board. As is usual with today’s corporate reforms, the prelude to a sweeping plan for deregulation is claims of failure, failure, failure.

 

Actually, the supporters of the home rule district have been vague about their goals.

 

But Julian Vasquez Heilig says that what is happening is a “hostile corporate takeover.”

 

If you open the link in Julian’s blog, you will see the names of the extremely wealthy people who are behind “Support Our Public Schools.”

 

None of them has a record for having supported public schools in the past.

 

They have contributed to school board races, but not to Carla Ranger, who is the most outspoken supporter of public schools on the Dallas school board.

 

Early indications are that voters are suspicious of the motives of the monied clan that wants to control the public schools their children attend.

 

Julian writes:

 

“Home Rule is an emerging story currently flying under the radar in the national and statewide Texas media. Millionaires and billionaire(s) are quietly funding a “Home Rule” hostile takeover attempt of all public schools in Dallas, Texas. Yes, that’s right… ALL OF THEM.”

 

And he adds:

 

Who is Support our Public Schools?
Who are the behind-the-scenes players in the Home Rule takeover proposal?
Who is John Arnold?
What are the steps to the Home Rule takeover in state code?
What “rules” will Dallas not be “free” from as a Home Rule Charter District?
What “rules” will Dallas be “free” from after a Home Rule takeover?
Is the Home Rule takeover really necessary?
Is a charter district takeover more democracy and local control or less?
Have a politically appointed school board and mayoral control been a successful approach?
Have charters outperformed traditional public schools across Texas?
How does the Texas and Dallas investment in education compared to peers?
If not Home Rule, what reforms should DISD and SOPS commit to?
Some of the questions addressed in the brief are more specific to the Dallas community. However, several have import for the state of Texas and public education nationally such as: Who is John Arnold? and… Have a politically appointed school board and mayoral control been a successful approach?

 

Keeping up with the billionaires and millionaires’ education privatization hobby is a lot of work. Maybe we could suggest to them that they get a regular hobby like N-scale model trains or do more snow skiing?”

 

 

I am late posting this article because it appeared about the time I started dealing with health issues (a bad fall that took out the ACL in my left knee).

It deserves wide reading because it is an accurate portrait of the money and power behind the charter school movement. I commend the writers, Javier C. Hernandez and Susanne Craig for getting the story that took place behind closed doors in Albany and executive suites in Manhattan. It is the best investigative report that I have seen in the “New York Times” on the money fueling the charter movement.

it answers a few basic questions? Why did Governor Cuomo take the lead in fighting to “save” charter schools after Mayor Bill de Blasio approved 14 out of 17 new charters? How did it happen that Eva Moskowitz bused thousands of students and parents to Albany on the very same day that Mayor de Blasio had scheduled a rally to support pre-kindergarten funding? Which billionaires and millionaires put up more than $5 million to create and air attack ads on television against de Blasio? Who masterminded the deal that gave charter schools preferred status over public schools in New York City? Who arranged that they could not be charged rent, that they could expand and push public school kids out of their buildings, and that the city had to pay their rent if they opened in private space?

Spoiler alert:

The deal in the legislature “gave New York City charter schools some of the most sweeping protections in the nation, including a right to space inside public buildings. And interviews with state and city officials as well as education leaders make it clear that far from being a mere cheerleader, the governor was a potent force at every turn, seizing on missteps by the mayor, a fellow Democrat, and driving legislation from start to finish.”

Money was always a potent factor in the backroom dealings:

“A lot was riding on the debate for Mr. Cuomo. A number of his largest financial backers, some of the biggest names on Wall Street, also happened to be staunch supporters of charter schools. According to campaign finance records, Mr. Cuomo’s re-election campaign has received hundreds of thousands of dollars from charter school supporters, including William A. Ackman, Carl C. Icahn, Bruce Kovner and Daniel Nir.

Kenneth G. Langone, a founder of Home Depot who sits on a prominent charter school board, gave $50,000 to Mr. Cuomo’s campaign last year. He said that when the governor asked him to lead a group of Republicans supporting his re-election, he agreed because of Mr. Cuomo’s support for charter schools.

“Every time I am with the governor, I talk to him about charter schools,” Mr. Langone said in an interview. “He gets it.”

And more is on the way, not only for Cuomo, who not only delivered for the billionaires who love charters, but for Eva Moskowitz, who will not only get a 8 new charters–not just the 5 that de Blasio originally approved–but lots of extra money, which will not be used to pay rent:

“Daniel S. Loeb, the founder of the hedge fund Third Point and the chairman of Success Academy’s board, began leaning on Wall Street executives for donations. Later this month, he will host a fund-raiser for Success Academy at Cipriani in Midtown Manhattan; tickets run as high as $100,000 a table.”

Moskowitz claims that her schools don’t spend any more than real public schools, so it remains to be seen how she pans to spend the millions that Dan Loeb will raise for her schools in a single night.

And the sweetest part of the deal for Moskowitz’s Success Academy 4 in Harlem is that her elementary school can now expand to a middle school and take more space away from PS 149, which was once considered the host school. First, she can evict the kids with severe disabilities (her own charter has none), then, thanks to Governor Cuomo, she can evict all the other students and take the entire school away, if she wishes. Sort of like a parasite that grows and grows.

In response to an earlier post, reader Michael Fiorillo offers his definition of an ethical charter school. Bear in mind as you read this, that the original charter concept was that it would be a school that took on the most difficult and challenging students, like dropouts, and had the freedom to try innovative ideas, then shared those ideas with the public schools. It was not supposed to have the same population or to compete with the public school or to take the best students, but to solve problems on behalf of the public schools, employing teachers who belonged to the same union.

Fiorillo writes:

An ethical charter school is one that

- doesn’t invade and take over public school facilities.

- doesn’t cherry-pick students for admission.

- doesn’t “counsel out” students facing behavioral or academics challenges.

- replaces students who leave the school, rather than using high student attrition to manipulate their test, graduation and college-admittance statistics.

- Enrolls local children who have special needs, are English language Learners, or are homeless, at similar percentages to those found in the local community.

- negotiates wages, benefits and working conditions that reflect the prevailing standards in the public schools.

- makes efforts to retain faculty and staff, rather than churn and burn through them.

- Pays management salaries comparable to those in the public schools.

Yes, an ethical charter school does all these things.

That’s why, based on the above criteria, virtually none exist.

Paul Rosenberg writes on Salon about the well-honed Fox-News style tactic of “crying wolf,” “the sky is falling,” we are in an “unprecedented crisis” to achieve political ends, in the present case, the privatization and monetization of public education. In urban districts, the privatization is gobbling up public schools and turning them over to private corporations–both for-profit and non-profit. In suburban districts, which are not prepared to relinquish their community public schools to charter chains, the gold rush is on to panic these districts into buying edu-schlock and paying consultants to train teachers to meet the federal government’s latest mandate.

What Rosenberg describes is what I earlier called the deliberate use of FUD–fear, uncertainty, and doubt–by the well-paid PR machine of the Status Quo privatizers.

Here is a small sample of Rosenberg’s comprehensive review of scare tactics and whom they benefit:

“In September 2012, for example, economist Jeff Faux, principal founder of the Economic Policy Institute, wrote an article, “Education Profiteering; Wall Street’s Next Big Thing?” which first noted, “It is well known, although rarely acknowledged in the press, that the [education] reform movement has been financed and led by the corporate class,” but then went on to note a crucial change:

In recent years, hedge fund operators, leverage-buy-out artists and investment bankers have joined the crusade. They finance schools, sit on the boards of their associations and the management companies that run them, and — most important — have made support of charter schools one of the criteria for campaign giving in the post-Citizens United era. Since most Republicans are already on board for privatization, the political pressure has been mostly directed at Democrats….

“What’s more, Faux noted, there was less money for Wall Street to play with from the sources they had burned, but the money-making opportunities in education were proliferating like never before:

“You start to see entire ecosystems of investment opportunity lining up,” Rob Lytle, a business consultant, earlier this year told a meeting of private equity investors interested in for-profit education companies….

“This is the context in which Andrew Cuomo hooked up with Wall Street, as the New York Times reported in May 2010. Cuomo’s ticket to Wall Street came courtesy of Joe Williams, executive director of Democrats for Education Reform, a PAC that “advances what has become a favorite cause of many of the wealthy founders of New York hedge funds: charter schools.” Members who met with Cuomo included “the founders of funds like Anchorage Capital Partners, with $8 billion under management; Greenlight Capital, with $6.8 billion; and Pershing Square Capital Management, with $5.5 billion.” But in retrospect, 2010 was nothing. As already noted, Cuomo has raised $800,000 from Wall Street charter school supporters — roughly half that total from Moskowitz supporters alone.

“The Philanthropic Dimension

“Money may be all the motivation Wall Street needs, but there’s more. Philanthropy has always been a means for the wealthy to extend their influence over society beyond the marketplace, to serve a multitude of functions. Northern philanthropists spent an enormous amount of money bringing education to Southern blacks after the Civil War, for example. This brought them into prolonged and complex conflicts with both Southern elites, who resisted virtually all education efforts, and with blacks who resisted the Northern philanthropists’ focus on industrial education (epitomized by the Tuskegee model), as well as their broader pattern of trying to appease Southern white racism. (See, for example,”The Education of Blacks in the South, 1860-1935.”) Although highly conflicted and complicated, these efforts eventually synergized with blacks’ own broader civil rights struggles to bring about the integration of public education in the South — at which time, Southerners’ first response was the policy of massive resistance, including the creation of private academies, and the closing of public schools.

“Amazingly, three decades later, the education panic reform movement began the process of recycling the racist Southern resistance strategies as general solutions for the purported failure of public education. Another three decades further on, those very same anti-civil rights strategies are now being touted as the key to civil rights. The reasons are at least partly psychological. After the financial crises decimated the economy, Wall Street elites and their 1 percenter allies were profoundly defensive, as seen most shockingly in remarks comparing their critics to Nazi Germany. But the “productive” manifestation of this same acute status anxiety was arguably much more destructive — that is, the intense desire to re-create themselves as moral leaders, not lepers, by recasting public education as a locus of evil, and portraying its destruction as “the civil rights struggle of our time” — which they, of course, would be only too happy to lead.”

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