Archives for category: Charter Schools

In large part because of Jeb Bush, Florida is a national leader in privatization. It now has more than 100,000 students using vouchers for private schools, including religious schools, despite the fact that Florida voters rejected a Constitutional amendment to allow vouchers in 2012 by 58-42. The will of the voters is an inconvenient distraction to the privatization industry, nothing more.

 

Even more are enrolled in a burgeoning charter industry, despite the fact that charters regularly open and close, stranding students, and charters dominate the list of the state’s lowest-performing schools. Of course, Florida is a haven for for-profit entrepreneurs, who are encouraged by the state to open and compete with public schools, while sucking taxpayer dollars out of those public schools and funneling it to their investors.

 

With so much unrestrained school choice, Florida should be the state with the highest test scores and the highest graduation rate. It is not.

 

On the NAEP, Florida is smack dab at the national average in 4th grade math; significantly below the national average in 8th grade math; significantly above the national average in 4th grade reading; at the national average in 8th grade reading.

 

 

The only bright spot is 4th grade reading, and the performance there might be attributable to the state Constitutional amendment to reduce class size in the early grades, which voters approved despite Jeb’s opposition.

 

Florida’s high school graduation rate is 76% (over four years), as compared to a national average of 81%. Florida’s graduation rate is below that of Alabama, Arkansas, and tied with Mississippi.

 

What exactly has school choice done for students in Florida except to undermine public education? How does that help students? How does that improve education? Do taxpayers know how many millions of dollars have been wasted due to fraud, incompetence, and mismanagement? And how many millions have been siphoned off to pay investors instead of going to the classroom?

Bill Phillis is a watchdog for Ohio public schools. He is a man of great integrity who cares passionately about fair and equitable funding of the schools. He was Deputy State Superintendent many years ago and is now a fighting septugenarian, with no goal but the public interest. He created and leads the Ohio Coalition for Equity and Adequacy.

Here is his reaction to the collapse of charter school reform a few days ago:

“An initiative petition for a law or a constitutional amendment will be necessary to hold the charter industry accountable or phase it out

“High hopes were dashed by the refusal of House leadership to schedule HB 2 for a vote on June 30th. Democrats and Republicans, charter proponents and charter opponents were in support of HB 2 as amended by the Senate. Had the bill been scheduled it would most likely have passed; hence House leadership kept it off the House floor.

“This lack of House action on HB 2 demonstrates the absolute legislative control the for-profit sector of the charter school industry has on charter policy in Ohio. It matters not that the industry is laced with fraud, corruption and education malpractice. It matters not that Ohio is the butt of jokes regarding its deregulated, injudicious charter policy. Maybe Senate leadership permitted the Senate amendments with a nod from the House that the bill as amended would not pass in House. Who knows?

“When will Ohio taxpayers rise up to demand accountability of their legislators and the Governor? Until state officials are held accountable, charters will extract a billion dollars annually from school districts. Much of this money flows to for-profit management companies which is used for campaign contributions, cozy business arrangements, marketing and of course, PROFITS. When one thinks Statehouse turpitude can’t get worse, it does. Citizens must rectify this matter by by-passing the legislature and Governor with an initiative petition.”

William Phillis
Ohio E & A

ohioeanda@sbcglobal.net |

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

This past year, there were numerous reports of scandals, arrests, and convictions of charter operators in Ohio. There seemed to be real hope to enact legislation that would hold charter schools accountable and make their finances transparent. But that died in the closing hours of the legislative session.

Why?

Charter operators wrote the charter law. They give millions of dollars in campaign contributions to key legislators. The Speaker of the House took a free trip to Turkey, thanks to the Turkish Gulen charter chain.

Charters don’t want to be regulated. They don’t want to be accountable or transparent. The leading charter operators receive hundreds of millions from taxpayers each year, even though most of their schools are rated as low-performing by the state.

In this post, Denis Smith explains the inner workings of the charter industry, which he calls “the dark side.” Smith worked in the State Department of Education, in the office intended to oversee charter schools.

He writes:

“At a national charter school conference in Indianapolis several years ago, two attendees saw my registration badge at a reception and approached me. “Ohio, huh? So you’re from the Wild, Wild West!”

“They, of course, were talking about a state that allows two charter school operators to direct several million dollars in GOP campaign donations during the last decade in return for favorable treatment (read: weak oversight) and the receipt of hundreds of millions of dollars from state funds. Finance types and Wharton School profs would marvel about such a robust return on investment.

“They were also talking about a state that does not require charter school board members to be American citizens and doesn’t have a problem with non-citizens serving on charter boards, and where one of the members of the House Education Committee advocates burdensome Voter ID requirements for citizens trying to vote.”

Ohio has an excellent website called “KnowYourCharter.” It was not created by the State Education Department, but by independent groups using official data. The charter sector has some of the state’s lowest performing schools and is far behind the state’s public schools. But don’t expect Givernor Kasich and the current legislature to hold them accountable.

Accountability is only for public schools.

Just when you thought it couldn’t get worse for Detroit, here come the stars of the corporate reform movement with advice to do more of what Detroit has been doing without success.

 

More than half the students are in charter schools, but Detroit doesn’t have enough, it seems. The lowest-performing schools were dumped into the woebegone “Education Achievement Authority,” under an emergency manager with dictatorial powers, but that didn’t go anywhere.

 

If Detroit can’t get its school problems solved, it won’t be for lack of quality advice from national education experts.

 

As city and state leaders seek to figure out how best to salvage Detroit Public Schools and improve performance across a complex network of school choices, top school reformers from around the country want a piece of the action, too.

 

Last week, Michael Petrilli, CEO of the D.C.-based Fordham Institute, and Eric Chan, a partner at the Charter School Growth Fund, were a few of the latest to drop in on Detroit. Excellent Schools Detroit, which is helping lead the conversation locally about improving all city schools, invited them to town to discuss how best to create the right environment for quality charter school growth.

 

The more insights, the merrier. Other cities have undergone major school turnarounds, and there are consistent guidelines for success. When asked what Detroit needs to do to start showing results for kids, Petrilli and Chan echoed similar ideas.

 

“Deal with low-performing schools, and encourage high-performers,” says Petrilli, whose organization works to raise the quality of U.S. schools. “There are concrete things we can do.”

 

The examples of success offered by Petrilli and Chan: New Orleans, the District of Columbia, and Memphis. Privatization is the answer. Neither Petrilli nor Chan has an idea about how to improve public education. Just privatize it. Get rid of it. Bring in high-quality “seats.”

 

Readers of this blog have read again and again that most charter schools in New Orleans are rated D or F schools by the state of Louisiana; D.C. continues to be one of the lowest performing districts in the nation, as judged by the NAEP; and Memphis is home to the all-charter Achievement School District, whose founder Chris Barbic promised would produce a dramatic turnaround in only five years. That turnaround has not happened. Not in  New Orleans, D.C., or Memphis.

 

Surely there must be better examples of success for corporate reform. Or are there?

 

 

 

 

Milwaukee Democratic legislators wrote a letter to their colleagues urging them to oppose the state takeover of low-performing Milwaukee public schools. Any students of a school taken over would be transferred to the control of a charter operator or a voucher school. This is not “reform,” it is privatization.

 

Ironically, the public schools of Milwaukee perform as well as, or in many cases, better than the local charter schools and voucher schools.

 

What would be fair, if the Legislature passes the takeover bill, would be a mandatory transfer of students in low-performing charter schools and voucher schools back to the public schools.

 

It would create chaos, but “reformers” love disruption. Fair?

I usually devote days like July 4 to appropriate pieces, such as poems and songs celebrating our nation and its freedoms.

 

But I am not feeling especially celebratory today. In many respects, it appears that our politics is rushing headlong back to the 1920s or even the 1890s, when polite society diverted its eyes from unpleasant facts like hunger, homelessness, and other signs of human distress. Our politicians must worry constantly about raising enough money for the next election, so they listen more attentively to those who have the most to contribute to their campaign, rather than to voters. Voters can always be hoodwinked by a slick media buy.

 

We must not despair because despair is a certain path to defeat. We must rededicate ourselves on this day to saving our democracy, to restoring the belief that America is meant to be “of the people, by the people, and for the people.” We can’t compete with the billionaires’ cash for votes, but we can build organizations to inform and mobilize public opinion to take our government away from the plutocrats. I, for one, do not want to sit idly by as income inequality and wealth inequality grows. I commend to you the book The Spirit Level: Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger, by Kate Pickett and Richard Wilkinson. A short description on amazon.com, “Almost every modern social problem-poor health, violence, lack of community life, teen pregnancy, mental illness-is more likely to occur in a less-equal society.”

 

If you look back over American history, you will see swings of the pendulum, from eras where there was a strong sense of social responsibility to eras of selfish individualism. We are now at the far end of the pendulum swing, with our elites pushing hard to persuade the public that selfish individualism and consumerism is true Americanism: every person for him- or herself! Let the hungry fend for themselves, it is their own fault that they are hungry.

 

We can sit back and watch as the social safety net is shredded, or we can resist. We can sit back and allow our public schools to be taken over by entrepreneurs, religious groups, and privateers, or we can resist.

 

I say resist.

 

Here is a wonderful post by Edward F. Berger, a blogger in Arizona who is leading the charge against corporate reform in that benighted state, where the profit-making entrepreneurs have grown fat by taking over public schools and draining their funds for their own profit.

 

He asks the following questions and urges his fellow Arizonans to organize and resist the destruction of the public square and the corporate takeover of public education:

 

 

Edward R. Murrow once said: “I am in a financial morass from which I am unable to extricate myself.” Many States are in a political morass as a result of a planned assault on America. The question is, how do we extricate ourselves? In Arizona, one of the most corrupt states, leaders are emerging who know how. They use facts and data, and social media to bypass the in-pocket Press.

 

Is there anyone who believes that the misuse of hundreds of millions of dollars of public taxpayer money in Arizona is an unexpected consequence of so-called education reform?

 

If so, they most likely profit at the expense of the children and families from whom this money is stolen.

 

If so, they are part of a radical and nation-killing movement based on feudal ideology and pure greed.

 

If so, they are part of a State Legislature that intentionally forbids charter school accountability and protects those who are given our tax dollars and use them for their own profits, kids-be-damned.

 

If so, they have written laws that allow pirates to create closed and unaccountable “schools” that rake in millions of public tax dollars via side-deals and Real Estate deals. They eliminate students that they can’t benefit from. They kick out children that don’t serve their needs and send them back into the public schools humiliated, damaged, and often broken.

 

If so, they are Legislators who do not believe in the separation of Church and State.

 

If so, they are part of political organizations that supports the privatizers and radical right-wing, and ignore the damages to their community and to children and families.

 

If so, they support privatization and profiteering from dollars citizens pay to educate children. They privatize any-and-all functions of government where there is profit to be gleaned. Prisons and schools for example.

 

Is there anyone in Arizona who believes that the extreme right-wing, working for ALEC-Koch-Goldwater Institute-John Birch Society bosses has not intentionally, decade after decade, placed totally unqualified non-educators in the position of Superintendent of Public Instruction, thus undermining public education from inside?

 

Those who wield these powers have used every opportunity to destroy the teaching profession, our community schools, and now our Universities.

 

Is there anyone in Arizona who doesn’t know that a Right To Work State is a trick to extract more profit from battered workers and to curtail information the public needs by not letting workers organize and speak out?

 

Is there an educated citizen of Arizona who is not convinced that the Democratic process of Representative Government has been defeated through the control of primary elections and the selection of those who will get massive financial support: Those candidates they allow to run and win? That those who wield power have effectively discouraged people from voting?

 

Be sure to read his conclusion.

 

And when you are done, join The Network for Public Education, which is supporting resistance across the nation.

Martin Levine reports in “Nonprofit Quarterly” that charter frauds are multiplying, yet the U.S. Department of Education fecklessly plans to increase charter school funding by 48%.

The frauds are facilitated because of inadequate supervision by state or local agencies. Unscrupulous charter operators take advantage of deregulation to steal taxpayers’ dollars or make lucrative contracts with friends, relatives, or their own corporations.

Levine reports:

“Six distinct categories were needed for this report to capture the practices of the charter school operators that were studied:

*Charter operators using funds illegally for personal gain

*School revenue used to illegally support other charter operator businesses

*Mismanagement that puts children in actual or potential danger

*Charters illegally requesting public dollars for services not provided

*Charter operators illegally inflating enrollment to boost revenues; and

*Charter operators mismanaging public funds and schools

“At the federal level, despite the apparent misuse of such large sums of scarce funds and the lack of adequate oversight mechanisms, the 2016 budget that is working its way through Congress includes a significant increase in funding with little if any increase of management. According to Jonas Persson of PR Watch, “Despite drawing repeated criticism from the Office of the Inspector General for suspected waste and inadequate financial controls within the federal Charter Schools Program—designed to create, expand, and replicate charter schools—the U.S. Department of Education (ED) is poised to increase its funding by 48 percent in FY 2016.”

Most people have no idea about the privatization movement. They don’t know that the narrative of crisis (“our schools are failing, failing, failing”)–repeated again and again–is intended to clear the way for privatization.

Peter Greene explains the insidious plan here.

Step one, create a crisis.

Step two, take power away from the community, dissolve the local school board, give it to the mayor, the governor.

Step three: cash in.

Arthur Camins, director of the Center for Innovation in Engineering and Science Education at the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, N.J., has a warning for Democrats that school choice is a bad choice.

He omits Republicans because they have become the party of school choice and privatization.

School choice is an alluring term, but the reality is far different from the rhetoric.

He writes:

“In our culture the “the right to choose” suggests an almost inalienable individual right, making for powerfully resonant political rhetoric. However, behind the easy-to-swallow positive connotation of choice, there is underlying message in its use in the context of education. If stated explicitly, the message might cause a little indigestion: Be out for yourself and don’t worry so much about your neighbors or community…

“However, what is moral or sensible for an individual does not make for sound or just education policy for a society. The moral burden falls not on parents, but on those who knowingly advance the wellbeing of the few at the expense of the many….

“Supporters of equity and democracy must depend upon and develop agency and hope for community solutions because when there is only despair, the only rational course of action is individual survival. Ideological supporters of privatization understand this and actively undermine democratic participation and the promise of collective solutions. That is why since the 1980’s they have followed an explicit starve-the-beast strategy to defund public institutions in order to undermine quality, public trust, and confidence. That is why they favor private charter boards over elected school boards.
I have come to believe that the struggle for equity must include a tandem strategy of opposition and advocacy.
Friends of equity need to oppose funding charter school, not because choice is inherently a bad idea but because the spread of charter schools is morally corrosive and drains money from other local schools. Since funds are always limited, the opportunities for the few come with the sacrifice of others. “They are stealing your child’s future,” might be an appropriate opposition slogan. …

“Progress requires an opt-in campaign for local public schools based on community rather than individualist values. Advocacy should highlight the fundamental characteristics of effective public schools both in the U.S. and abroad and contrast these with prevalent market-based solutions….

“Candidates need to hear from the public: There are better choices than school choice to improve education.”

Here is a forecast of education policy under Jeb Bush.

 

It is actually worse that what is portrayed. Bush is an evangelist for vouchers, charter schools, for-profit charter schools, virtual charter schools, and anything other than public schools.

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