Archives for category: Charter Schools

Jersey Jazzman warns of a very serious malady found in the charter industry: Charter cheerleading.

 

He says it is perfectly normal to be proud of your school and its accomplishments. It is normal to want the world to know that your teachers and kids are terrific.

 

But charter cheerleaders go beyond the bounds of normal pride. Their schools are far, far better than yours. They quote statistics that ignore the reality of skimming and cherry-picking. They even boast when their school has not been open long enough to have produced any statistics. The simple fact of being a “charter” makes them say that they are better than any public school.

 

These people need help.

 

 

Tony Lux, recently retired as superintendent of the Merrillville Community public schools, has written a blistering opinion article in the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette.

 

He says that it is time for all supporters of public education to unite and vote for legislators who support public education.

 

Despite the fact that the voters of the state of Indiana overwhelmingly ousted State Superintendent Tony Bennett, an advocate of privatization, his policies continue.

 

Glenda Ritz, running against Bennett, received more votes than Governor Mike Pence, yet Pence has used the powers of his office to cut down the power of Ritz and to push ever more profit-making into the schools.

 

The only way to stop the total destruction of public education in the great state of Indiana is to vote for legislators who will support public schools against the entrepreneurs, privatizers, and profiteers.

 

Lux writes:

 

All public schools continue to be harmed financially [by Pence's policies of privatization]. Tax caps and expanded tax reductions have reduced state income. Along with the continuing obsession for maintaining the golden grail of a $2 billion state surplus, these factors have resulted in declarations by the governor that there just isn’t any state money to appropriately increase school funding. Nevertheless, diversion of education tax dollars toward the proliferation of unproven charter schools and private school vouchers have reduced funding for all public schools.

The governor makes grand claims that Indiana lives within its means (despite tax income that is diminishing due to an array of continuing and expanding tax deductions), and that Indiana maintains strong reserves (through “reversions” that take money back from state programs that serve the public), while still making “investments in education.” These claims ring incredibly hollow and are transparently hypocritical to anyone close to public education (and other public services as well).

Supposedly, business tax breaks will bring new jobs. But those new jobs require better-skilled graduates. Only thriving public schools in our cities, towns, suburbs and farm communities will achieve those results. Charter schools have little evidence of success, and tax dollars for vouchers are being expanded to pay for already-successful students rather than to fund programs for underachieving students.

The state’s return on investment in these strategies is practically negligible in increasing the percentage of students at grade level and in increasing the college and career skills of our high school graduates.

 

Mel Hawkins of Indiana says the election of 2014 may be the most important ever for the future of public education in Indiana. Now is the time to step up and support those who will fund our public schools and oust those vandals who would destroy them and turn our children into profit centers.

A mysterious group called “Families for Excellent Schools” has been f.ooding the airwaves in New York with multimillion dollar ad buys on television, touting the wonders of charter schools and the horror of the “143,000” children trapped in failing schools. The ads show minority children and families, giving the impression that these are the “families for excellent schools.”

In a tour de force of investigative reporting, Mercedes Schneider followed the money. There she is, in Louisiana, stripping away the mask of the millionaires and billionaires pretending to be “families for excellent schools” in New York City. Guess who they are? Not the families in the ads.

Some are named Broad; some are named Walton; some are named Moskowitz.

What a surprise.

Perdido Street blogger asks why it is impossible to find out who contributed to the lobbying group Families for Excellent Schools, which spent $6 million this year to prevent Mayor Bill de Blasio from regulating the charter school sector and won a law that forces the city to pay the rent of charters not located on public school grounds.

 

The blogger quotes extensively from the business magazine Crain’s New York, which described how this lobbying group exploited loopholes to avoid complying with state laws that require disclosure of donors to political action committees. “Group is visible,” the article’s title says, “but not its donors.”

 

Why do they hide their names and faces? We know why Perdido Street blogger has no name: he or she would be fired for speaking candidly, although tenure might be an obstacle.

 

But why do Wall Street hedge fund managers hide their identity? Why are they ashamed to let the world know that they are the “Families for Excellent Schools,” that they—whose children attend elite schools—are pretending to be parents in New York City’s poorest communities? Why pretend that impoverished families raised $6 million to attack Bill de Blasio, even as he was fighting to raise the minimum wage, expand universal pre-kindergarten, and preserve public education? Why pretend that the poor families who have been hoodwinked into supporting the privatization of public education are paying for the destruction of public education and the enrichment of investors and charter entrepreneurs?

 

Perdido Street blogger writes:

 

Just as Campbell Brown refuses to reveal who the donors for her anti-tenure group are even as she spends the money she gets from them on her anti-tenure campaign, Families For Excellent Schools spends millions lobbying politicians and millions more on pro-charter ads without revealing where that money is coming from.

 

This is life in Andrew Cuomo’s New York, where he raised millions through his Committee To Save New York PAC, then had that PAC spend that money on ads touting his political agenda, all without having to reveal who was donating to the Committee To Save New York PAC.

 

When the law changed and he would have been forced to reveal that donor base, he shut down the Committee To Save New York instead.

 

The criminals are running the state, folks – they own it, they’re throwing their dirty money around and buying whatever they want and whomever they want whenever they want and there’s NOTHING you can do it about it.

 

Andrew Cuomo’s New York – a cesspool of corruption.

 

 

 

 

Own a charter school! Own four! The road to riches!

 

ProPublica reporters here tell the story of Baker Mitchell in North Carolina, who has discovered that the free market works very well indeed for those who know how to use it.

 

Mitchell has four charter schools in North Carolina. He is also closely allied with Art Pope, the multimillionaire libertarian. He is connected politically. What could possibly go wrong?

 

He boasts that students schooled at his sprawling, rural campuses produce better test scores at a lower cost than those in traditional public schools.

 

The schools, however, do more than just teach children. They are also at the center of Mitchell’s business interests. Every year, millions of public education dollars flow through his chain of four nonprofit charter schools to for-profit companies he controls.

 

Unlike with traditional school districts, at Mitchell’s charter schools there’s no competitive bidding. No evidence of haggling over rent or contracts. The schools buy or lease nearly everything from companies owned by Mitchell. Their desks. Their computers. The training they provide to teachers. Most of the land and buildings.

 

The schools have all hired the same for-profit management company to run their day-to-day operations. The company, Roger Bacon Academy, is owned by Mitchell, 74.

 

It functions as the schools’ administrative arm, taking the lead in hiring and firing school staff. It handles most of the bookkeeping. The treasurer of the nonprofit that controls the four schools is also the chief financial officer of Mitchell’s management company. The two organizations even share a bank account.

 

Mitchell’s management company was chosen by the schools’ nonprofit board, which Mitchell was on at the time – an arrangement that would be illegal in many other states.

 

As the article points out, his schools get higher scores than the local public schools, but they enroll half as many needy children as the public schools whose money they poach.

 

Two of Mitchell’s former employees told ProPublica they have been interviewed by federal investigators. Mitchell says he does not know whether the schools are being investigated and that he has not been contacted by any investigators.

 

To Mitchell, his schools are simply an example of the triumph of the free market. “People here think it’s unholy if you make a profit” from schools, he said in July while attending a country-club luncheon to celebrate the legacy of free-market sage Milton Friedman.

 

It’s impossible to know how much Mitchell is profiting from his companies. He has fought to keep most of the financial details secret. Still, audited financial statements show that over six years, companies owned by Mitchell took in close to $20 million in revenue from his first two schools. Those records go through the middle of 2013. Mitchell since has opened two more schools.

 

Some people look at Mitchell’s political activities and his financial rewards, and they see conflicts of interest. Mitchell is making a lot of money. Mitchell says that it is his business how much money he makes. And that is that.

 

My view: all for-profit schools and colleges should be made illegal. They are a ripoff for students and they take money that taxpayers intended for public education, not for investors.

 

Read more here: http://www.newsobserver.com/2014/10/15/4233621_new-charter-rules-benefit-owner.html?sp=/99/102/110/&rh=1#storylink=cpy

 

 

Frank Breslin, a retired high school teacher of history and world languages, has written an eloquent article about the corporate assault on public education and explains why this assault endangers democracy and the American dream of equal opportunity.

 

He begins in this way:

 

A specter is haunting America – the privatization of its public schools, and Big Money has entered into an unholy alliance to aid and abet it. Multi-billionaire philanthropists, newspaper moguls, governors, legislators, private investors, hedge fund managers, testing and computer companies are making common cause to hasten the destruction of public schools.

 

This assault also targets the moral and social vision that inspired the creation of public schools – the belief in a free and inclusive democratic society that unites all of us in a common destiny as we struggle together toward a just society and a better life for ourselves and our children.

 

Public schools were the welcoming gateway to equal opportunity for our nation’s children. The fate of Old Europe with its assigned stations in life, its divinely-appointed places in the order of things, was not to be ours as Americans. Inspired by the stories of Horatio Alger, we would seek our fortune because this was America, the country where dreams came true; the land of promise, where pluck, hard work, and a bit of luck would carry the day.

 

This was the manifest destiny of the poor and marginalized who came to these shores, and public-school children were ushered into this grand tradition of exalted ideals. The poor and the homeless, the sick and the hungry could lay claim to our help because that is what a great nation did – took care of its own, especially those who through no fault of their own couldn’t care for themselves. This was a radiantly humane vision in a dark and indifferent world, a belief that would insure our survival in mutual concern as a compassionate people.

 

Public schools were the flame-keepers of this national creed enshrined in FDR’s New Deal, now under radical assault by corporate America and their neoliberal acolytes who would drag the 99 percent back into the Dark Ages of Social Darwinism, the law of the jungle where might makes right, and the poor and weak go to the wall.

 

The Gates, Broad, Walton, and Koch Foundations deserve special mention in unleashing Armageddon upon our public schools, all the while preening themselves hypocritically as angels of light. So intent are these Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse in their class warfare against their own country that the sacrifice of millions of public-school children as collateral damage means nothing to them.

Mike Deshotels, veteran educator and blogger in Louisiana, reviews the accumulating evidence and concludes: the claims of success in the Recovery School District are a complete fraud.

Most recently, the charter cheerleaders at the Cowen Institute at Tulane University withdrew in its entirety a report making claims of vast academic improvement. Someone there had too much integrity to let the report remain out front, in public. It was not true.

Then, as Deshotels shows, students in the Recovery School District posted “dismal results” on the ACT, even though they boast of college prep as their goal. It. Is a goal they have not reached.

And there is more:

“The accurate comparison of RSD charters with other public schools in Louisiana showing that RSD charters consistently perform in the bottom third of all schools. So why has the Louisiana Recovery District been touted across the nation as the miracle model for school reform and for the turnaround of low performing schools? That has happened because supposedly prestigious groups like the Cowen Institute in the past had issued glowing reports of progress by the RSD using carefully selected data, much of which was bogus and covered up the truly poor performance of the RSD.

“The sad part of this education reform hoax, is that thousands of students and teachers have been harmed in the process. Dedicated teachers were unfairly fired; thousands of students have been pushed out into the streets while the new charter managers cooked the books, and the charter operators made off with huge profits from our tax dollars. This is what the Cowen Institute and charter advocacy groups like Educate Now have promoted to the public, our state legislature, and even to the “do gooder” national news shows like Morning Joe, where both conservative and liberal opinion makers touted the New Orleans RSD school “miracle”.

“So several other states have created their own Recovery Districts and Achievement Zones patterned after the New Orleans model, only to produce disastrous results, because they were fooled by the corporate reformers and privatizers of public education. Politicians in some states are including in their platforms privatization plans based on the New Orleans Recovery District model. Never before have I seen both a local and national news media more complicit in the proliferation of false propaganda that benefits con-artists like the privatizers and charter promoters portrayed in the RSD model. Yet the retractions of these bogus reports are rare and the hoax goes on.”

Don’t be fooled by the hoax and the lies. There is no New Orleans miracle. There is a district where public education was almost completely eliminated and replaced by privately managed charters; a district where the teachers’ union was ousted; a district where 7,500 teachers (3/4 of them African American and OF the community) were summarily and unjustly fired; and a district that continues to be low-performing, ranked 65th of the state’s 68 districts.

Eventually even the mainstream media will discover that they have been hoaxed by the reformers.

Thanks to readers for sending this YouTube video of the Philadelphia Student Union at “School Reform Commission” headquarters.

 

The students chanted “Philly is a union town! The SRC has got to go! Save our schools!”

 

Watch it and feel good about the future.

 

The students disrupted the showing of the anti-union, pro-charter, anti-public school film “Won’t Back Down,” which was produced by Walden Media. Walden Media also produced “Waiting for Superman.” It is owned by Philip Anschutz, a rightwing billionaire who has many corporate interests, including the nation’s largest film chain and a fracking business. Odd that the School Reform Commission was showing that particular film, which was a total bomb when it was released commercially. The union is evil in this film, and a teacher and parent combine to use the parent trigger to convert their public school into a charter school.

The charter industry is stunned by the possibility that Massachusetts may not authorize any new charters this year. This would be the first time in 15 years that no new charters were opened.

“Proponents say the move represents another blow in their quest to open more charter schools across the state. It comes just three months after the state Senate overwhelmingly rejected an increase in the number of charter schools that can operate in low-performing districts.”

Charters were stopped in Brockton and Fitchburg because the law says that they should open only in districts that are in the bottom 10% on state tests. Neither district is in the bottom 10%.

“Created under the 1993 Education Reform Act, charter schools are intended to be laboratories of educational innovation. They operate under looser state regulations than traditional schools and are rarely unionized.

“Seventy operate independently of local school systems, while 10 others operate in partnership with a school district.

“Many charter schools have among the highest MCAS scores, but some struggle academically and more than a dozen have closed, typically because of low test scores or financial problems.

“The move last week delighted charter school opponents, who argue that such institutions drain funding from traditional school systems and cherry pick students, assertions that proponents dispute.”

“While the effort to add more independent charter school proposals appears stymied, the state continues to review three other proposals for charter schools that would operate in partnership with the Boston, Salem, and Springfield school systems.

“Many charter school proponents, however, consider these “in-district charters “ to be less ideal than independent schools because they employ unionized teachers and are often subject to districtwide policies, restricting their autonomy.”

In other words, the charters were offered the chance to open but refused because they would have to have a union staff and some regulation, perhaps limiting their ability to exclude students they don’t want.

The Milwaukee Common Council passed an ordnance prohibiting the use of bribes to induce students to enroll in charter or voucher schools.

Despite the frequent boasting about “long waiting lists,” it turns out that many of these non-public schools have trouble filling their seats. Public schools are not allowed to offer cash prizes or gifts for enrolling, but privately managed schools were offering cash and other inducements to boost their numbers and get state money.

The ordinance that “the Common Council approved Tuesday also recommends the city’s lobbyists push for a statewide ban on the practice, which independent charter schools, private voucher schools and even day care centers have quietly used — in some cases for years — to boost enrollment numbers.

“Enrollment is the lifeblood for schools that rely on public funding because it guarantees a certain amount of per-pupil dollars from the state.”

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