Archives for category: Charter Schools

The Néw York Times says Hillary Clinton will be forced to choose between the Wall Street big donors and the teachers’ unions.

The real choice is between Wall Street money on one hand and millions of parents and teachers who are fed up with high-stakes testing and privatization of public schools, on the other.

Then it refers to the Democrats for Education Reform as a “left of center group,” even though its program is indistinguishable from that of Republican governors and it was denounced by the California Democratic Party as a front for corporate interests.

If you live in or near Milwaukee, try to meet and hear these veterans of the Great Néw Orleans Con Job:

On March 26th and 27th you will have a chance to interact with three activist immersed in the fight for public education in New Orleans.

On Thursday, March 26, 2015 at 4:30 p.m. at Milwaukee High School of the Arts (2300 W. Highland Ave.) they will conduct workshops. All are invited.

Friday, March 27, 2015 • 6:00 p.m. at Parklawn Assembly of God (3725 N. Sherman Blvd.) they will participate in a community meeting and panel.

Karran Harper Royal is a New Orleans
public school parent who
cares about real education
reform. She is an advocate
for disabled and challenged
children and an educational
policy consultant.

Dr. Raynard Sanders
has more than 30 years of
experience in teaching,
educational administration,
and economic/community
development. He is a former
New Orleans high school principal.

Dr. Kristen Buras is an
associate professor in
Educational Policy Studies
at Georgia State University
in Atlanta. Buras has spent
the past decade researching
school reform in New Orleans.

See below for leaflets for both events:

Education Conversation 2015

Expert Panel Flyer 2015

The D.C. Charter board turned down a request by BASIS charter school to expand. The board was concerned about attrition. BASIS said it needed more revenue.

The interesting parts of this story:

1. Charters were supposed to meet the needs of at-risk students. BASIS requires students to pass AP courses.

2. The school keeps the tuition if the students return to public schools. “The city’s funding rules allowed BASIS to keep hundreds of thousands of dollars in per-pupil allotments for the students it lost after Oct. 5, while the schools that received those students got no additional money.”

3. The school’s rent is going to nearly double next year. Somebody is cleaning up with public money. “The BASIS lease was structured so that this year’s rent, about $1.1 million, will nearly double next year to $2 million.”

A group called the “Hedge Clippers” organized a protest in front of the building where hedge fund manager Dan Loeb lives, to protest his funding of Republican control of the state senate, as well as charter schools. This is the kind of political activism that was common in the late 1960s to protest the war in Vietnam, but has seldom been seen in this country since then.

 

A story on WBAI reported the protest rally:

 

Shame the hedge fund billionaires, go where they live and demonstrate. This is a technique used in Latin America called escrache, but it’s also being used in New York City.
“Hedge Clippers, I guess you can kind of consider everything we do as part of Occupy Wall Street.” Activist Nick McMurray says Hedge Clippers keep the movement going.

 

“You can call us radicals, but at the end of the day we’re just people putting our foot down and we’re trying to stand up for what’s right and for what we really need in the world and in New York State.”

 

Zachary Lerner with NY Communities for Change ‪@nychange led Hedge Clippers in a mic check: “Dan Loeb’s politics demonize the immigrants. Dan Loeb’s politics are hostile. Dan Loeb’s politics are powerful. Dan Loeb’s money is massive, so We the People are fighting back.”

 

Over the weekend, the Hedge Clippers chose the Central Park West residence of hedge fund billionaire Dan Loeb as their target. The hedge fund mogul gave over a million dollars to a super pac, New Yorkers for a Balanced Albany. According to a Nation Magazine expose, it poured $4.3 million into six senate races. This helped tip the balance in favor of Senate Republicans here in New York State, where we have six times as many registered Democrats as Republicans. And Dan Loeb sits on the board of Success Academy, Eva Moskowitz’s charter schools

 

“There’s a paper trail for everything.” says Nilsa Toledo, a hedge clipper with New York Communities for Change. “He has given mega money to Success Academy and all these pacs for charter schools, on top of giving mega millions to our Senate and our Governor who is supposed to be representing the people, not just the people with a lot of zeros in their bank accounts. That’s really unfair. That’s why we’re standing together against it.”

 

Toledo has children in public schools in Flatbush, Brooklyn. She says billionaire hedge funders like Dan Loeb, behind charter school funding and lobbying efforts, hurt public schools forced to co-locate, to share their space. “I think that they should pay their own way. They shouldn’t co-locate in public schools. It happened to my son’s school and the quality is so different. In the charter side they have flat screen tvs. Every kid has a laptop and meanwhile I’m paying for that, but in my son’s school, they are lacking. Textbooks are still from 1998. lt’s really disgusting. The teacher’s have to pay out of their own pocket, just to make sure the kid’s have basic education and it’s not right. Our public schools are already owed billions of dollars. Public schools in the city have been underfunded and our government is ignoring that, but meanwhile they are passing policies that benefit the few. All these tax breaks and all these loopholes that are being exploited by these guys are not being closed, but meanwhile our kids are suffering, our communities are suffering and we need to stand up together to make a change.

 

Mindy Rosier teaches Special Education at a Special Needs School in Harlem. She came out to protest the hedge fund billionaire: “For Daniel Loeb to pay his fair share, to pay his taxes. He’s a contributor to Eva Moskowitz’s Success Academy which has been stealing from my school for eight years and tried to kick us out, so I’m here to stand up for my community, for my students, for public schools. If you’re not helping the public schools out, you’re not a friend to the City as far as I’m concerned.”

 

Protesters chant, “Pay your taxes, Dan Loeb. Pay your taxes, Dan Loeb.”

New Jersey State Commissioner of Education David Hespe was appointed by Governor Chris Christie, which suggests that one should have low expectations for starters. But Jersey Jazzman decided to give him the benefit of the doubt, because at least he wasn’t Chris Cerf, who resigned to work for Joel Klein at Rupert Murdoch’s company.

 

But when Hespe approved the expansion of a charter school in Hoboken, claiming that it would have no segregative effect on the public schools, JJ couldn’t believe that Hespe could say this with a straight claim. JJ shows that the charter schools in Hoboken do not serve the same population as those in the public schools: they are whiter and more advantaged. Of course, the expansion of the Hoboken Dual Language School would have a segregative effect! JJ lays out the facts and figures.

 

JJ warns:

 

The charter school community’s claims to the moral high ground are null and void when Hoboken’s charter school expansion is based on the distortions found in Hespe’s letter. He and his department have turned a blind eye to the real and serious effects of the charters on the city’s school district.

 

In doing so, Hespe and his top brass at the NJDOE show they are ideologues, uninterested in a rational assessment of the consequences of their policies. And, again, it’s not just charter schools: PARCC, One Newark, the state superintendents, and all the other issues before this department are not being evaluated with rigorous, evidence-based methods.

 

I had high hopes for David Hespe; they have now been dashed. Hunker down, New Jersey: when it comes to the NJDOE, things won’t get better before they get worse.

 

 

Alabama became the 43rd state to endorse the creation of privately managed, publicly funded charter schools.

In average, charter schools do not get better academic results than public schools and are usually more segregated than public schools.

The co-founders of the Family Foundation Academy were fired, after allegations that they had racked up some $94,000 in credit card charges to the school for personal expenses.

 

Amid accusations its co-leaders used school credit cards for more than $94,000 in personal purchases, the Family Foundations Academy charter school has fired the pair, re-shuffled its board, and handed the reins to the leaders of Eastside Charter School in hopes of convincing the state that it should stay open.

 

The new leaders say the school’s academics and finances are fundamentally sound, and argue that 825 students shouldn’t have to see their school closed because of two leaders’ bad decisions.

 

“Our motivation is the good of the kids here,” said Charlie McDowell, who is now chair of both schools’ boards. “They have a successful school and it’s just not right for the school not continue because of this.”

 

Family Foundations was supposed to have its charter renewed at last month’s State Board of Education meeting, but Department of Education officials abruptly postponed the vote, saying they had been made aware of an audit alleging serious financial mismanagement.

 

Deregulation and lack of oversight lead to predictable problems.

 

George Joseph in The Nation has written a sharply researched article about the nine billionaires who have been planning to impose their ideas on New York state since at least 2010.

 

They are, as you might expect, hedge fund billionaires. They have given millions of dollars to Andrew Cuomo in both his election campaigns. They have also given millions to a group called New Yorkers for a Balanced Albany that campaigned to maintain Republican control of the State Senate. Their handiwork can be seen in organizations such as Families for Excellent Schools (no, these are not families of children in the public schools, they are the families of hedge-fund billionaires), StudentsFirst, Education Reform Now, and Democrats for Education Reform. Their goal: More privately-managed charter schools.

 

Joseph has done a stunning job of connecting the dots, showing the collaboration among the billionaires, Joel Klein (then chancellor of the New York City public schools), and John White (then an employee of New York City public schools, now state superintendent of Louisiana).

 

Why do they want more charter schools? Well, you could say, as some do, that they care deeply about the poor children of New York City and want each and every one of them to be in an excellent charter school (although most charters are not willing to take certain children, like those with severe disabilities, those who don’t read and speak English, and those with behavioral problems).

 

But Joseph thinks there is another reason for Wall Street’s passion for charter schools. They claim that charter schools are the best way to end poverty. It is certainly cheaper to open more charter schools with state money than to pay the billions that the state owes to New York City as a result of a court decision in a case called the Campaign for Fiscal Equity.

 

Cuomo has said that he is tired of spending more money on the schools. We tried that, he says, and it didn’t work. But a parent advocate does not agree: “Zakiyah Ansari, a parent and public schools advocate with the labor-backed Alliance for Quality Education, called such reasoning shameful, “Why do Cuomo and these hedge funders say money doesn’t matter? I’m sure it matters in Scarsdale. I’m sure it matters where the Waltons send their kids. They don’t send their kids to schools with overcrowded classrooms, over-testing, no art, no music, no sports programs, etc. Does money only ‘not matter’ when it comes to black and brown kids?”

 

Joseph explores the question of why the New York hedge fund leaders are passionate about charter schools, test-based teacher evaluation, and ending teacher tenure.

 

He writes:

 

Their policy prescriptions—basing 50 percent of teacher evaluations on student test scores, for instance—are not in any way grounded in mainstream education research.

 

“The problem is that Cuomo’s backers aren’t paying much attention to the people who actually understand how Value-Added Modeling works,” explains Professor Julian Vasquez Heilig, an education policy researcher at California State University. “Education statisticians have come out many times saying these models are being used inappropriately and are unstable because other things happen in students’ lives outside of the teachers they encounter. When a kids’ parents in a high needs district are deported, and their achievement plummets, this actually has nothing to do with the teacher.”

 

Vasquez Heilig added that the reform proposals seem founded on a desire to destroy the development of long-term professional educators, rather than any empirical analysis: “We know 70 percent of teachers will bounce between high performing and low performing from year to year. So this is creating an impossible high stakes testing gauntlet between a young excited teacher and their path to quality, veteran expertise. If you’re looking for a cheap churn-and-burn teaching force, this is your policy, but if you want experienced, qualified teachers, committed to a schools’ long-term success, this is a disaster.”

 

From a purely business standpoint, however, such cost-effective education reform proposals do make sense for the hedge-fund community, especially given the alternative education reform option: the legally required equitable funding of New York public schools, as mandated by the state’s highest court in 2007. Low-income New York school districts haven’t received their legally mandated funding since 2009 and the state owes its schools a whopping $5.9 billion, according to a recent study by the labor-backed group Alliance for Quality Education. Yet somehow in this prolonged period of economic necessity, billionaire hedge-fund managers continue to enjoy lower tax rates than the bottom 20 percent of taxpayers.

 

As a recent Hedge Clippers report pointed out, the hedge-fund community has achieved these gains over the last decade and a half by buying political influence and carving out absurd breaks and loopholes in the New York state tax code. Since 2000, 570 hedge fund managers and top executives have poured $39.6 million into the campaign coffers of New York state politicians. Thus, despite New York’s progressive reputation, its school-district funding-distribution system is actually one of the most regressive nationwide, similar to that of states like Texas, North Carolina and Missouri.

 

According to Michael Kink, an advocate of fair share taxes with the labor-backed Strong Economy For All Coalition, “We could fund the court order completely with fair share taxes.” This would include closing the carried interest loophole that allows hedge funds to pay a smaller share of their income in taxes than, according to Hedge Clippers, “their limousine drivers, dry cleaners, servants, helicopter pilots, and doormen.” Taxing hedge fund fees and profits fairly would bring New York hundreds of millions of dollars that could go straight to local schools. A recent Hedge Clippers analysis found that fair-share taxes and fees targeting hedge funds, billionaires, high-income LLCs and major corporations could raise between $3.1 and $4.2 billion dollars per year—well over the annual minimum required by state law’s school funding formula. But Cuomo’s hedge fund–backed proposals fail to even approach these standards, instead parroting the convenient logic of corporate education reformers that the problem is not the lack of school funding, but the way in which it is spent.

 

“It was outrageous when the governor said the lack of school funding was not an issue,” explains New York State Senator Liz Krueger (D). “And it’s consistent with his attempts to fail to make good on the CFE lawsuit commitment, somehow ignoring the fact that the poorest-achieving schools are also the most underfunded.” Commenting on the hedge fund forces backing such proposals, Krueger continued, “I can never know what people’s actual intentions are. But it does seem that there is a pattern of spending enormous lobbying money in lobbying and attempting to influence campaigns…. Hedge funds seem in particular to have made a fine art of not paying their taxes, allowing fundamental public services to be inadequately funded.”

 

Putting it more explicitly, Jonathan Westin of the labor-backed New York Communities for Change, argues the main point of the hedge fund–backed education reform push is thus “about shaping and controlling the public school system so that they will continue to get away with not paying hundreds of millions in taxes.”

 

In this light, the hedge-fund community’s fervent advocacy of the charter-school movement reflects its neoliberal social vision for the state and society. Charter schools are imagined as institutions where students can be reshaped to prevail against structural barriers like racism and poverty. As hedge-fund billionaire Paul Tudor Jones II claimed, contrary to decades of empirical evidence, “We proved with the charter school that the achievement gap was a myth, that with the right schools, kids from the poorest neighborhoods could do every bit as well as kids from the richest ones.”

 

To “make up for” pervasive inequality, in lieu of correcting it, hedge-fund billionaires like Daniel Loeb of Success Academy and Larry Robbins of KIPP have promoted charter schools that envelop students in hyper-disciplined and surveilled school environments in which their every decision, down to their most minute physical movement, can be measured, assessed and addressed. This “no excuses” pedagogical approach signals to students that the only barrier to their success is their character. In other words, as Cuomo put in his the State of the State address, students under the charter school paradigm should understand their educational opportunity as “the great equalizer.”

 

Read the article to see the links. Everything is carefully researched and sourced. It confirms what many of us have long known about the role of Wall Street in financing privatization and other policies that hurt teachers and public schools. And it is still scary. And anti-democratic.

 

I spoke last night to educators, parents, and some school board members in Milwaukee. I was sponsored by the Milwaukee Teachers Education Association. I am in awe of their courage. They keep on going despite the attacks by Governor Scott Walker, who boasted recently that if he could beat the unions, he could beat ISIS. I looked around for kindergarten teachers with Uzis or librarians with bazookas, but I didn’t see any.

This week Governor Walker plans to sign right-to-work legislation, the Golden Fleece of the far right. Can’t allow workers to have a voice in working conditions or collectively bargaining for higher wages, can we?

His budget is also a subject of heated discussion. He wants to cut $300 million from the University of Wisconsin system, one of the narion’s finest higher education systems. He wants to cut public education by $127 million, of which $12 million will come from Milwaukee’s beleaguered public schools.

According to this article, some campuses are planning to lay off 1/4 of their staff, and others will close entire departments, if the cuts are enacted.

Walker wants more vouchers, even though the last independent evaluation showed that voucher schools do not get better results than public schools, and many are abysmal failures. Walker wants more charters, even though the charters do not surpass public schools in test scores, and many are failing.

The reformers promised that choice and competition would save Milwaukee’s children, especially its African American children, from “failing public schools.” They said that competition would improve the public schools, because they would be compelled to compete for students.

After 25 years as the Petri dish of school choice, we now know that those promises were hollow. Milwaukee started participating in the urban district portion of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP)–the federal testing program–in 2009. It is one of the lowest performing of the 21 districts tested, slightly ahead of Cleveland and Detroit. (Cleveland also has vouchers and charters, and Detroit has been the setting for an endless parade of failed reforms.) today, the black children of Milwaukee perform on the federal tests about the same as black children in the poorest states of the Deep South. Choice and competition splintered community support and divided the schools into three sectors, none of which succeeded.

So who will save the children now trapped in failing voucher schools and failing charter schools?

Walker wants to adopt Jeb Bush’s A-F school grading program, which sets schools up for closure. He wants to make it easier for the state to takeover public schools and privatize them.

He wants alternate licensure to allow anyone with a bachelor’s degree and “life experience” who can pass a test to be eligible to teach grades 6-12.

Teachers, parents, and the community are organizing to push back against Walker’s assault on public education and the teaching profession. There is a silver lining: his budget cuts will affect all parents and families in Wisconsin, including those who voted for him. He may discover that families–Republicans, Democrats, and independents–would rather have a good neighborhood school and a great and affordable university system than property tax relief.

We now know that “reform” is empty and deceptive rhetoric, an excuse for ignoring poverty and segregation, a distraction from the growing income inequality and wealth inequality in our society.

There must be many legislators on both sides of the aisle who graduated from Wisconsin’s public schools and its renowned state university. Will they let Walker cripple the state’s education system?

Great  news! Max Brantley reports that the bill to privatize the Little Rock School District was withdrawn and will not be introduced again in this session of the Arkansas legislature.  The lobbyists pushing the bill were all connected to the powerful multi-billionaire Walton family, and many people thought their victory was a foregone conclusion. (See this post and this post for details.)

 

Brantley writes:

 

The rally in opposition to the bill at the Capitol tonight turned into a victory party.

 

Here’s Ross’ take on the decision:”We hear there was pressure from the Walton family who are tired of the bad press.”

 

Indeed. And it will be complicated when plaintiffs in the lawsuit over the state’s takeover of the district — which would provided a speedway to privatization under the proposed law — begin questioning subpoenaed witnesses about their ties to the Waltons and others that have invested big money in wanting to see the district heavily charterized.

 

The public outcry was vital in this defeat, if Cozart can be trusted. I suspect even more vital was the entry of the PTA, the School Boards Association and, particularly, the school superintendents, in the fight. What was about to happen to Little Rock could happen to anyone — a loss of school boards, an expropriation of local property tax millage, the required surrender of facilities for no charge.

 

There are important lessons to be learned here. The Waltons apparently got “tired of the bad press.” Public outcry was vital. The supporters of public education rallied. The public interest beat the Waltons. Don’t forget those lessons!

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 127,339 other followers