Archives for category: Charter Schools

Ever wonder who is the supplying the money behind the privatization of public schools?

It is a long list, and it starts with the U.S. Department of Education. Every year since 1994, your taxpayer dollars have been used to open schools that drain resources from your public schools while selecting the students they want. If your state has charters, you can expect that they will lobby the legislature for more charters. They will close their schools, hire buses, and send students, teachers, and parents to the State Capitol, all dressed in matching T-shirts, to demand more charters. Since the children are already enrolled in a charter and can’t attend more than one, they are being used to advance the financial interests of charter chains, which want to expand.

The big foundations support the growth of the charter industry: the Walton Family Foundation has put more than $1 billion into charters and vouchers; the Gates Foundation and the Eli Broad Foundation also put millions into charters, often partnering with the Far-right Walton Foundation.

There is a long list of other foundations that fund the assault on public education, including the John Arnold Foundation (ex-Enron trader), the Dell Foundation, the Helmsley Foundation, the Fisher Family Foundation (Gap and Old Navy), the Michael Bloomberg Foundation, and many more.

Here is a list of the funders of 50CAN, which started in Connecticut as ConnCAN, created by billionaires, corporate executives, and hedge fund managers, led by Jonathan Sackler, uber-rich Big Pharma.

Here is an example of a foundation that is very active in support of privatization. Check out where their money goes.

ALEC uses its clout with far-right legislators to promote charters and vouchers, as well as to negate local control over charters.

To see where the Walton Family Foundation spread over $202 million to advance privatization, look here.

The money trail is so large, that it is hard to know where to begin. Certain recipients do collect large sums with frequency, including KIPP, Teach for America, Education Trust, to name just a few.

As we say at the Network for Public Education, we are many, they are few. They have money, we have votes. Out ideas for children and education are sound, their ideas fail every time, everywhere.

I am not sure why one of the largest charter chains in the U.S. is run by foreign nationals. But the Gulen chain has over 100 schools, which operate in many states under different names. One way to tell a Gulen school is that every member of the board is a Turkish man.


How did they proliferate? The old-fashioned way: By making friends in key places.


USA Today reports that Turkish men with modest incomes working for the Gulen chain made donations to members of Congress and Presidential candidates. If USA Today digs deeper, it will find contributions to state legislators as well as free trips to Turkey, all expenses paid.


USA TODAY has identified dozens of large campaign donations attributed to people with modest incomes, or from people who had little knowledge of to whom they had given, or from people who could not be located at all. All the donors appear to have ties to a Turkish religious movement named for its founder, Fethullah Gülen. USA TODAY reported last month that the movement has secretly funded more than 200 foreign trips for members of Congress and their staff.


In response to USA TODAY’s queries about suspicious donations she received on April 30, 2014, Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H. refunded $43,100 to the donors. “Out of an abundance of caution, the campaign has refunded the contributions in question,” said Ayotte campaign manager Jon Kohan. Ayotte also called on others who have received money from the same donors — including President Obama and Hillary Clinton — to return that money as well.


Some of the 19 Turkish Americans donating to Ayotte that day, who all lived outside New Hampshire, seemed to know little about the first-term senator, who is a woman. “He’s a good guy. He’s doing good so far. … I know him,” said Iman Cesari, a 30-year-old Nassau County employee on New York’s Long Island, who gave Ayotte $1,200.


“I just liked what he said at that time and wanted to make a donation,” said Hayati Camlica, who owns a Long Island auto repair shop and donated $2,400 to Ayotte on the same day.


Five of the Turkish Americans who donated to Ayotte that day could not be located at all, and in some cases, neither could the employer listed in Federal Election Commission records. Others did not return calls and emails seeking comment.


USA Today also reported that more than 200 members of Congress have accepted free trips to Turkey from the Gulenists.


Another article reports that Hillary Clinton has received large donations from Gulenists, as well as major contributions to the Clinton Foundation.


Maybe all this cash is meant to protect the Gulen charters, which have been a major revenue source for the Gulenists. The FBI has raided Gulen charter offices in Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and in Louisiana.


Is it even legal for elected officials to accept contributions from foreign nationals?

Jamaal Bowman wrote a powerful and important letter to Governor Andrew Cuomo. Bowman is a Néw York City middle school principal.

Please read and share. Help it go viral. It is an incisive critique of corporate reform. When did it become “liberal” to attack unions, career teachers, and public education? This used to be the agenda of the far rightwing of the Republican Party.

He writes:

“I hope this letter finds you and your family in good health and good spirits. I write not only to you, but also to those who share your view of public education….

“I also want to personally thank you for allowing me to provide testimony to the common core commission at the College of New Rochelle…..The work of the commission, along with your hiring of Jere Hochman as Deputy Secretary of Education, has me very excited about the direction in which we are moving.

“My excitement turned to devastation however as I watched your November 17th interview with David Gergen at the Harvard Kennedy School of Public Leadership [link to video is in Bowman’s post]. As an education practitioner for sixteen years, it was both frustrating and disheartening to watch the two of you pontificate about public education in what I consider to be a dangerous and irresponsible manner.

“Your discussion was wide ranging; covering topics from police reform to the new construction at LaGuardia Airport. As the conversation shifted to education, you told the audience that you are in constant conflict with the teacher union. You shared that your “unabashed” support for charter schools, to which you refer to as “laboratories of invention,” as well as your teacher evaluation mandate, are two of the causes of this conflict. You also went on to share your excitement around the possibilities of technology as a means to help circumvent the “machine” of the teacher union bureaucracy.

“Mr. Gergen, to whom you refer to as one of the experts and craftsman of his generation, recklessly framed the conversation in a way that greatly mis-categorizes the public education narrative. Mr. Gergen stated that teacher unions don’t want “young smart” people from Teach for America entering the profession. He then went on to praise charter schools as places that provide “24/7 support to children and families,” and “really work with the children themselves.” While Mr. Gergen made these comments, you nodded your head enthusiastically in agreement.

“There are two things that are incredibly careless about this conversation. First, it lacks a valid and reliable research base. Second, the two of you have a platform to really shape public discourse. As such, you must take extra special care to avoid facilitating misinformation regarding public education or any other topic. If you don’t, the perpetuation of child suffering will continue in schools throughout the state — as it does in schools all over the country.

“What does the data tell us about these widely discussed topics? First, public schools as a whole “outperform” charter schools. I place the word outperform in quotes because of our narrow view of what it means to perform in public schools today. The few charter schools that are celebrated for closing the alleged “achievement gap” have faced extreme criticism and scrutiny for their draconian test prep and recruitment practices, and boast incredibly high student and staff attrition rates. Some may argue these practices are the price to pay for achievement, but consider these questions:

“Are we ready to accept the instability and emotional trauma that comes with schools designed around draconian test prep practices?

“Does high performance on standardized assessments truly equate to what we all mean by achievement?
Research shows otherwise: In 2003, the “gold standard” of charter schools, KIPP, had a graduating class that ranked fifth in New York City on the math standardized tests. Six years after entering college, only 21% of that cohort had earned a college degree.

“In the landmark book, ‘Crossing The Finish Line: Completing College at America’s Public Universities,’ former college presidents William G. Bowen and Michael S. McPherson found that student high school G.P.A. was more predictive of college success than S.A.T. scores.

“As you can see Mr. Governor, high performance on standardized tests alone do not equate to a quality education. What research identifies as a determinate of quality schools, lies in a well rounded curriculum inclusive of both academic and adaptive skills, where students get to solve problems creatively, work with their peers, and experience both teacher and student centered pedagogy.

“As to your comments regarding charter schools serving as “labs of invention,” allow me to remind you that some of the most innovative schools in the country are public schools right here in your state. From the NYC iSchool, to Westside Collaborative, to Brooklyn New School, to Quest to Learn, there is amazing work happening in unionized public schools that we all can learn from. Charter schools that promote silent breakfast, silent lunch, silent hallway transitions, and have teachers walking around with clipboards to give demerits to students who misbehave, do not sound like labs of invention to me — they sound like labs of oppression.

“Your statement related to wanting teacher evaluations because “right now we have none” is categorically false. Teachers have been evaluated throughout my entire career. With regard to the new evaluation system, the issue isn’t that teachers are averse to evaluations, they just want evaluations that are fair and just. An evaluation that is 50% aligned to invalid and unreliable tests, created by a 3rd party for-profit company, aligned to new standards and curriculum with minimal teacher input, is both unfair and unjust. What makes matters worse is by continuing to turn a deaf ear to the research on child and brain development, we continue to have an achievement gap that will never be closed by an evaluation system tied to test scores.

“Furthermore, why are charter schools exempt from your teacher evaluation plan? That also doesn’t seem fair or just.

“Regarding Mr. Gergen’s comments, teacher unions aren’t afraid of “young smart” teachers entering the profession. On the contrary, that is what they want! Teacher unions oppose Teach for America (TFA) because the majority of TFA recruits leave the classroom within three years, with most leaving the profession entirely. This obviously creates a continued vacuum in our most vulnerable communities and has indirectly undermined the recruitment and stability of teachers via traditional pathways. Further, Teach for America has been around for 25 years and our so called “achievement gap” has grown. Their impact has been a net zero at best for the profession.

“Mr. Gergen also seems to think only charter schools support students and families 24/7. To this I say check my phone records, and the phone records of educators throughout the country. We all love our students as our own children and we are constantly in touch with families into the evenings and on weekends to support them with whatever they need. Mr. Gergen disrespects and undermines the profession with these nonsensical statements.

“Lastly, regarding your excitement for technology, technology is simply a tool to help us get things done more efficiently and effectively. It will not in and of itself “revolutionize public education” as you say. The education revolution begins with a paradigm shift driven by the needs and brilliance of the children we serve.

“If we really want to transform public education, Mr. Governor, we have to stop investing in purchasing, administering, and scoring annual assessments from grades 3-8. We know 3rd grade reading scores predict future outcomes, so let’s invest heavily in early childhood education, teacher training, and school support. Lets focus on birth to age eight programs, implement a strong literacy and Montessori curriculum, and institute portfolio based assessments and apprenticeships in grades 6-12. If we do this, you will have a model education system for the world to aspire to.

“Mr. Governor, you, like many of your elected colleagues, are lawyers, not educators. I am an educator. I have been throughout my professional life. I do not know the law, and would never try to speak with any conviction about what should happen in a courtroom. What’s most dangerous about the public education discourse is the fact that finance, tech, government, and the “elite” are all driving the conversation without educators included. They have the audacity, to make life-altering decisions for other people’s children, while sending their children to independent schools.

“The masses of people, which are our most vulnerable, continue to be handled without empathy or care. Empathy requires that we walk in the shoes of others; something that charter reformers, common core advocates, and Teach for America has never done.

“In closing, I want to turn your attention back to your announcement of the Common Core commission. Do you realize that in that speech you mentioned the word “standards” ten times, and the word “tests” fifteen times, while only mentioning the word “learning” one time? Standards and tests are meaningless if they aren’t grounded in learning. Learning is innate, natural, and driven by the needs of children. This is why we must change the conversation from standards and testing to teaching and learning. This fundamental flaw in ideology continues to lead our education system down a destructive path.

“Further, although you and Mr. Gergen discussed innovation as essential to moving the education agenda forward, during your Common Core commission announcement the words creativity, collaboration, and communication, which many experts believe are pillars of innovation, received a total of zero mentions. Innovation is not just about using a computer, tablet, or smartphone; innovation is a way of thinking, doing, and being.

“Thank you Mr. Governor for all that you do for our state. In the future please be mindful to handle the topic of public education with extreme care. Be weary of your pro charter school advisors. The charter school money train and gentrification plans are well documented. Our work isn’t about teacher unions, charters, or technology; our work is about children — and the future of our democracy.”

“I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final say in reality.”
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr

This comment was posted today. I don’t usually disclose the names of writers unless they disclose it themselves. I googled the author and she is real.


Having worked for Eva from 2006 to 2012* I got to know Paul Fucalaro and saw him in action. I saw him belittle and undercut teachers, and browbeat students with merciless drill. Since Harlem Success was not open in 2002, his methods preceded Eva’s adoption of them. If the Queens School you mention was PS 65, its principal was also brought on board for HSA”s start. Mr. Fucalaro is a large man, not subtle or gentle in his methods, probably significantly scary to young children. Avuncular maybe, but a little sinister too. Early on, ( 2008, 9?) he and I were asked to evaluate a young teacher who was up for re hire. She was one of those young people who genuinely love children and interacted with them intuitively and effectively. She was also knowledgeable in science, the subject she was being hired to teach. We both walked out of our observation agreeing how impressed we were. The next thing I knew, she had been fired. The word in those days when people were let go was that they ” didn’t get the school culture.” We now know that means they wanted to treat children as human beings rather than “test taking machines,” or robots who cannot question, talk, play, laugh, or, God forbid, enjoy learning.
If tests were NOT used as a measure of success, or Success, it is doubtful Eva would have gotten this far. Not until schools, charter or otherwise, are judged by their success as places of learning, creativity and joy, and the scourge of test prep and drill is gone, will real teachers, not taskmasters like Mr. Fucalaro, feel welcome in them.

Annette Marcus


* I worked on setting up an inquiry based science curriculum for Success Academies. It was fairly free of test prep until 4th grade. When Eva extended HSA into MIddle school and wanted students to take high school regents exams in 6th and 8th grade, I quit.

A reader sent this link to a speech about Eva Moskowitz’s charter schools, delivered at the Manhattan Institute, which is New York’s premier conservative think tank. The speaker is named Charles Upton Sahm. I googled him and could not find any information about him, other than a piece in the Daily Beast defending the Common Core.


Sahm here defends the Success Academy schools against their critics. He describes them as idyllic. The children are happy and highly motivated. The teachers are well-trained, enthusiastic, and cheerful about their work. The curriculum is rich with literature, history, constructivist math, and projects. The attrition rate is no different from city public schools. Despite published reports, the teacher turnover is very low because they are so happy. The charters not only take a fair share of students with disabilities and ELLs, but many of them leave that status because SA remedies their needs. He admits that the schools don’t take the most disabled children.


He makes it seem as though Eva should be chancellor of the public schools, so every school could be equally rich in learning and joy, and of course, the millions that the hedge fund managers give to her.


One new fact that I had been searching for: He acknowledges that in the first two eighth grade graduating classes not a single student was able to pass the admissions test for entry to one of the city’s highly selective high schools. Now, this is puzzling. If these students are so well educated in math and science and literature, starting in the earliest grades, if they knock the socks off the state tests, why are they not acing the test for schools like Stuyvesant, Bronx Science, Townsend Harris, Brooklyn Tech, Bard, and a few others? These schools have small numbers of black and Hispanic students, and the general assumption is they were ill-prepared. But why are Eva’s graduates unable to pass this test? If you are well educated, if you have mastered the tested subjects, you should be prepared for any test, not just the one you prepared for.



It is a puzzlement.

Since Eva Moskowitz explained in the Wall Street Journal that the iron discipline at her school was devised by a veteran teacher named Paul Fucaloro, I decided to google him.


The first thing that popped up was this reference to him in an article about the high test scores of Success Academy charter schools:


Because the state’s exams are predictable, they’re deemed easy to game with test prep. But in contrast to their drill-and-kill competition, Moskowitz says her teachers prepped their third-graders a mere ten minutes per day … plus some added time over winter break, she confides upon reflection, when the children had but two days off: Christmas and New Year’s. But the holiday push wasn’t the only extra step that Success took to succeed last year. After some red-flag internal assessments, Paul Fucaloro kept “the bottom 25 percent” an hour past their normal 4:30 p.m. dismissal—four days a week, six weeks before each test. “The real slow ones,” he says, stayed an additional 30 minutes, till six o’clock: a ten-hour-plus day for 8- and 9-year-olds. Meanwhile, much of the class convened on Saturday mornings from September on. Fourth-grader Ashley Wilder thought this “terrible” at first: “I missed Flapjack on the Cartoon Network. But education is more important than sitting back and eating junk food all day.” By working the children off-hours, Moskowitz could boost her numbers without impinging on curricular “specials” like Ashley’s beloved art class.


The day before the scheduled math test, the city got socked with eight inches of snow. Of 1,499 schools in the city, 1,498 were closed. But at Harlem Success Academy 1, 50-odd third-graders trudged through 35-mile-per-hour gusts for a four-hour session over Subway sandwiches. As Moskowitz told the Times, “I was ready to come in this morning and crank the heating boilers myself if I had to.”


“We have a gap to close, so I want the kids on edge, constantly,” Fucaloro adds. “By the time test day came, they were like little test-taking machines.”



Then came Juan Gonzalez’s article in 2014 describing Eva’s move from Central Harlem to Wall Street offices, where the rent will be $31 million over a 15-year period. We learn too that Paul’s salary as director of pedagogy jumped from $100,000 to $246,000.


Then I read an article about the “miraculous” transformation of an elementary school in Queens, financed by Wall Street hedge fund manager Joel Greenblatt, working with the same Paul Fucaloro; the key to the dramatic rise in test scores was adoption of the scripted Success for All curriculum. That was in 2002. I searched some more and found that on the latest state tests, the same school did not do very well. Despite the hype, it was ranked 20th among 36 schools in the same district in New York City. Virtually 100% of the children are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch. The school is struggling. Greenblatt and Fucaloro have moved on to Success Academy charters.


(The original name of the chain, which is a category on the blog, was Harlem Success Academies; the word “Harlem” was dropped as the chain moved into other neighborhoods across the city, like Cobble Hill in Brooklyn, a solid middle-class community.)

Eva Moskowitz, founder of the Success Academy charter schools, the uber-“No Excuses” chain, explained in the Wall Street Journal why her schools do not tolerate daydreaming in class.


Even five-year-olds must learn to sit quietly, “track” the teacher, pay strict attention to the teacher at all times, and follow every rule. We learned from John Merrow’s recent report on PBS that children of five or six may be suspended from school repeatedly for breaking the rules of strict order and obedience.


She also makes the claim, off-handedly, that the attrition rates in her schools are lower than those of district schools, but this is doubtful.

The New York Times published an article today about the “success” of charter schools, especially for low-income black students. The article was written by Susan Dynarski of the University of Michigan.


It seems odd that anyone living in the state of Michigan could express enthusiasm for private management of public schools in light of the disastrous experience of that state. About 80% of the charters in Michigan operate for profit, a scandal in itself. The Detroit Free Press ran a weeklong series of articles last year

about the failure of charters to be transparent, accountable, or better than public schools. The year-long investigation concluded that charters got worse results than traditional public schools, received $1 billion a year taken from public schools, and were not held accountable for waste, fraud, abuse, and poor outcomes.


Professor Dynarski looks not at her own state, but at Boston, where there is a heated debate about expanding charters. She says they are successful for poor black kids, but not so much in the suburbs, where parents mobilize to keep them from destroying their public schools.


In her research, she pulls the reform trick of looking at data only from charters with lotteries. These are the successful charters. Bad charters don’t have lotteries; charters with lotteries have more applicants than places. The students who lose the lottery usually go to a public school that has larger class size and fewer resources than the charter.


Bruce Baker has explained this phenomenon.  Comparing charter winners and losers is not a randomized study; it is a lottery-based study. The lottery losers are likely to go to a public school with the kids the charter doesn’t want: the children who don’t speak English, the ones who have behavior problems, the ones with disabilities–physical, cognitive, and emotional. There is something called “peer effects,” meaning that students are influenced by those in their group. If they attend school only with well-behaved, motivated students, they tend to act like their classmates.


So, what is the innovation that public schools should adopt? Excluding the “losers”? Excluding those who might lower scores? That works for elite private and public schools. But public education must educate all, not just the winners.


We are hurtling towards the re-establishment of a dual school system–one for schools allowed to choose their students, the other for those that the charter industry rejects. We are resurrecting the “separate and unequal” system that the Supreme Court held unconstitutional in 1954. This new system allegedly helps black kids, except that it leaves most behind.



PS: I know that baloney is spelled Bologna. I am using a colloquialism.

The Washington State Supreme Court turned down an appeal from its September ruling that charter schools are not public schools and cannot receive public funding. The vote was 5-4.

Only one charter existed before August 2015, when another 8 opened. Advocates for charters said these new schools were already getting “tremendous results,” even though they opened only three months ago.

As is now customary, charters bussed their students to the state Capitol, in hopes of swaying the decision, but they produced only hundreds of students, not the thousands that appear to pressure legislators where charters are well established. No one asked about the legality or propriety of closing the school for a political rally, a practice that public schools are it permitted to do.

Some background: Washington State has conducted four referenda on whether to permit charters. The first three failed. In 2012, Bill Gates and a handful of other billionaires put $10-15 million behind a new charter law, a sum that overwhelmed the law’s opponents. It passed by a margin of less than 1%.

Charter critics hoped the county’s decision would return the legislature’s attention to another Court decision: adequate funding.

“The court’s announcement Thursday should help refocus the Legislature’s attention on boosting funding for K-12 public schools, said Rich Wood, a spokesman for the statewide teacher’s union that challenged the charter law.

In the case known as McCleary, the Supreme Court has held the Legislature in contempt for its failure to come up with a plan to fully fund basic education by 2018.

“Now it’s time for the Legislature to focus on its paramount duty … and fully fund K-12 schools for all of our state’s kids,” said Wood, of the Washington Education Association. “That’s what we expect lawmakers to do when they return in January.”

EduShyster asks whether charter schools are “progressive.” Would you call the Walton Family Foundation, which hates unions, their biggest financial backer, progressive? Isn’t ALEC, with its model charter legislation, progressive? Would you call charter boosters Governor Scott Walker, Governor Bobby Jindal, Governor Rick Scott, Governor Rick Snyder,and Governor John Kasich, “progressive”?

Charter cheerleaders say they are “saving poor kids from failing schools.” In blue states, they portray themselves as progressive. They don’t bother to explain their strange right-wing bedfellows. They expect us to believe that it is progressive to transfer funding from public schools to privately managed schools.

It is not progressive. It is a classic case of wolf in sheep’s clothing.

EduShyster interviews a venerable civil rights leader in Boston, Mel King, who opposes charters. He says: “If the solution is only meant for a few kids, and all the rest of the kids are left out, where is the liberty and justice for all?”

The reformers’ shining example of charter success is the Edward Brooke school, which posts high test scores.

EduShyster writes:

“Writer Farah Stockman tells the story of the Edward Brooke charter in Mattapan where an all-minority student body posts some of the highest test scores in the city. Stockman skims over the fact that Brooke’s teachers are overwhelmingly white in a city where demands for a more representative teaching force date back decades. She doesn’t mention that minority boys with special needs, who are punished disproportionately in the Boston Public Schools, seem to fare even worse here. Instead, she dwells briefly on the question of whether it matters that a mere 5% of the students at Brooke are still learning English compared to nearly 30% in the Boston Public schools. Stockman concludes that it doesn’t because after all, there are other schools that serve small numbers of English Language Learners. As for what will happen to the rest of those students, she doesn’t bother to say.”


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