Archives for category: Charter Schools

Denis Smith worked in the charter school office of the Ohio Department of Education. He knows the problems of oversight of these deregulated schools.

In this post, he proposes 10 reforms to rein in corruption and malfeasance in Ohio’s charter sector.

The major reform that is needed is financial transparency. All schools–public and charter–should be subject to public audit.

Most of his recommendations focus on the misuse of public funds, for example, to pay for celebrity endorsements and advertising.

Here are his top three recommendations:

“#3: Administrative qualifications. Incredibly, there are no minimum educational or professional licensure requirements for charter school administrators. This situation needs to be addressed immediately if all charter reform efforts are to be viewed as substantive. After all, school is about education.

“#2: Citizenship requirement. In traditional school districts, board members have to be qualified voters – citizens – in order to serve as overseers of public funds. News reports in the last year have focused on one charter school chain where some of the board members and administrators may not be American citizens. If charter proponents want to emphasize the word public in the term public charter school, they should also agree that requiring American citizenship for board members is a no-brainer for the charter industry.

“And the Number One Needed Charter School Reform –

“Get the money out!

“The influence of charter moguls David Brennan and William Lager on the Ohio Republican party is well-known. Money talks, and in charter world, money speaks loudly. Public funds – the profits gained from running privately operated schools with public money – should not be allowed to unduly influence legislators. The fact that HB 2 stalled at the very time that another $91,726 arrived to replenish state Republican campaign coffers is no coincidence.”

Andrea Gabor wrote an op-ed piece for the New York Times questioning the “New Orleans Miracle,” and she was immediately pummeled and vilified by defenders of charters. She responded to the critics in a piece on this blog. She has now posted a longer response on her own blog, which appears here.

Be sure to read the long and moving statement by Howard Fuller, one of the most prominent African American voices in favor of corporate reforms (charters and vouchers). Here is part of it:


“I do believe things are better for a large number of kids than before Katrina. But I don’t want to be put in the position of saying: pre-Katrina was all bad, post-Katrina is all good. When we set it up that way, we’re negating anything that was positive before Katrina. What that tends to negate is the capacity of black people to do anything of excellence.

“The firing of those teachers is a wound that will never be closed, never be righted. I understand the issue of urgency. But a part of this quite frankly has to do with the fact that I do not believe that black people are respected. I don’t believe that our institutions are respected. And I don’t believe that our capacity to help our own people is respected…

“Its hard for me, because I do support the reforms and think there are some great things that have happened. I do have to ask the same question as Randi (Weingarten)—at what cost?

“Even if you talk to black people who drank the Kool-aide: The issue still is– this was done to us not with us. That feeling is deep. It can’t be ignored. It speaks to any type of long-term sustainability of what’s happening in New Orleans.

“When black people came out of slavery, we came out with a clear understanding of the connection between education and liberation. Two groups of white people descended upon us—the missionaries and the industrialists. They both had their view of what type of education we needed to make our new-born freedom realized. During this period there’s an analogy—I’ve said this to all my friends in Kipp And TFA. During this period two groups of white people descended on us the industrialists and the missionaries. And each one of them have their own view of what kind of education we need.

For the past few years, the impoverished Chester County public schools in Pennsylvania have been in deep deficit because of competition with charter schools and cyber charters that suck funding away from the public schools.

The biggest charter school is the Chester Community Charter School, founded and operated by multimillionaire Vehan Gureghian, a lawyer and businessman who was a major contributor to former Republican Governor Tom Corbett and a member of his education transition team.

Governor Tom Wolf tried to save the public schools of Delaware County by reducing the exorbitant amount of special education funding that is transferred from the public schools to charter schools and reducing the equally egregious funding of cyber schools. But his plan was rejected by a judge yesterday.

The Keystone State Education Coalition posted these articles this morning, which explain the situation:

“The district pays local charter schools about $64 million in tuition payments – more than it gets in state aid – to educate about half of its 7,000 students.”

Judge rejects Wolf challenge to charter funding

MARI A. SCHAEFER AND CAITLIN MCCABE, INQUIRER STAFF WRITERS POSTED: Tuesday, August 25, 2015, 9:41 PM

A Delaware County judge ruled Tuesday that the Chester Upland School District must abide by the state’s charter school funding formula and keep paying the charter schools that now educate about half of the struggling district’s students. After a hearing that stretched two days, Common Pleas Judge Chad Kenney said the commonwealth’s plan was “wholly inadequate” to restore the district to financial stability. He also faulted the state and district’s lawyers for failing to provide “meaningful specifics or details” as to how they arrived at the plan. Kenney did approve two smaller requests: He said the district can hire a turnaround specialist and a forensic auditor.

The ruling was a setback for the Wolf administration and the district’s state appointed receiver, Frances Barnes, who had contended Chester Upland schools might not be able to open next week without a change to the formula. It was not clear if they would seek to appeal Kenney’s ruling.

http://www.philly.com/philly/news/local/20150826_Judge_rejects_Wolf_challenge_to_charter_funding.html#FaBkHDktlZRAO83z.99

Judge derails Pa. plan for Chester Upland recovery

By Vince Sullivan, Delaware County Daily Times POSTED: 08/25/15, 10:33 PM EDT

CHESTER >> Just minutes after a public meeting with the receiver of the Chester Upland School District ended with an impassioned plea for support of the public school system, a Delaware County judge denied proposals to alter charter school funding which would have eliminated a $22 million structural deficit. President Judge Chad F. Kenney denied portions of a plan proposed by Receiver Francis V. Barnes, with the support of Gov. Tom Wolf and the state Department of Education, that sought to reduce payments to charter and cyber charter schools that educate Chester Upland School District. Barnes was seeking to cap the regular education tuition reimbursement for cyber charter students at $5,950, and to reduce the tuition reimbursement for special education students in brick-and-mortar charter schools from $40,000 to $16,000. Both changes would have been consistent with the recommendations of two bipartisan school funding commissions. Other portion of the plan calling for a forensic audit, a financial turnaround specialist and the delay of a loan repayment were approved.

http://www.delcotimes.com/general-news/20150825/judge-derails-pa-plan-for-chester-upland-recovery

Chester Upland charters struggle to account for $40,000 price tag for special education

WHYY Newsworks BY LAURA BENSHOFF AUGUST 25, 2015

In court Tuesday, charter schools in the Chester Upland district defended their claim to $40,000 in tuition for each special-education student they enroll. According to Pennsylvania’s calculations, the charters need — and, in fact, currently spend — well below that on those students.

The debate about how much money charters need to fulfill federal requirements for a “free appropriate public education” for special-education students is at the heart of reforms proposed by Gov. Tom Wolf and the district’s receiver, Francis Barnes, last week. And it’s at the center of a battle in Delaware County court this week between state and charter school officials.

Witnesses for the state Department of Education said Tuesday that none of the schools claimed spending more than $25,000 per special-education student in annual self-reports.

http://www.newsworks.org/index.php/local/item/85551-chester-upland-charters-struggle-to-account-for-40000-price-tag-for-special-education

So what exactly is in that Chester Upland Charter Special Sauce?

Here’s the bottom line on Chester Upland charter school special education funding. Would this have been allowed to go on for years if charter schools were “public” in more than name only and were subject to taxpayer scrutiny on a regular basis?

Right-to-know requests for financial information regarding the operations of Charter School Management Company have been blatantly ignored for years.

“Let’s look at Chester Upland’s special education enrollment, while considering that, in general, special education students diagnosed with autism, emotional disturbance and intellectual disability require the highest expenditures, while those with speech and language impairments require the lowest expenditures.

Special education students on the autism spectrum – generally requiring high expenditures – make up 8.4 percent of the entire special education population at the school district, compared to 2.1 percent at Chester Community Charter School and zero percent at Widener Partnership and Chester Community Schoolof the Arts.

In the emotional disturbance category, another often requiring high expenditures, 13.6 percent of all special education students are categorized as emotionally disturbed in the school district, compared to 5.3 percent at Chester Community Charter, none at Widener or Chester Community School of the Arts.

For the intellectual disability category, the final category generally requiring high expenditures, the school district again serves a much larger percentage of this category: 11.6 percent for the school district, 2.8 for Chester Community Charter School and none for the others.

Conversely, for special education students requiring the lowest expenditures, the speech and language impaired, only 2.4 percent of the school district’s special education population falls into this category, compared to 27.4, 20.3 and 29.8 percent, respectively, at the charters.

Clearly the lion’s share of the need requiring the highest expenditures remains with the school district, but an exorbitant amount of funding goes to charters, where most special education needs can be addressed for comparatively low cost.”

Guest Column: The case for the Wolf recovery plan
Delco Times Letter by Frances Barnes POSTED: 08/24/15, 10:24 PM EDT

To the Times:

This is an open letter from Chester Upland School District Receiver Francis V. Barnes.

This afternoon (Aug. 24), Chester Upland School District and the Pennsylvania Department of Education will appear before President Judge Chad Kenney seeking approval of an amended Financial Recovery Plan to restore financial integrity and balance the books, which is vital for the district and the charter schools it funds. The plan treats charters fairly by not reducing payments made for about 70 percent of charter students, but it does reduce unreasonable special education and cyber payments to charter schools. Reducing unreasonable payments will make the allocation of funds more equitable for all students in the Chester, Chester Township, and theUpland geographical area, regardless of which school they attend. Under the current formula, funds for special education students are not allocated equitably. The district is required to pay charter schools more than $40,000 per special education student, regardless of the actual cost to educate that student, while the district receives less than needed to educate its own special education students.

http://www.delcotimes.com/opinion/20150824/guest-column-the-case-for-the-wolf-recovery-plan

Here’s Dan Hardy’s coverage of the same issue from 2012:

Chester Upland: State special ed formula drains millions from district

By Dan Hardy, Inquirer Staff Writer
POSTED: FEBRUARY 06, 2012
As Delaware County’s financially troubled Chester Upland School District struggles to stay afloat, officials there say they are paying millions more than they should on special-education students who attend charter schools.
School districts pay charters to teach their children, using a complicated formula set by state law. About 45 percent of Chester Upland’s students attend charters.

Chester Upland’s payments are based on the previous year’s expense of educating students in its own schools, minus some costs charters do not incur.

For regular-education Chester Upland students this year, that figure is $9,858 per child.

But flaws in the state charter-school law, district officials say, make payments to charter schools for special-education students much higher, costing Chester Upland about $8 million more than is reasonable.
Chester Upland’s per-student special-education charter-school payment this year is $24,528, more than twice as much as for regular students and thousands per student more than the state average.
http://articles.philly.com/2012-02-06/news/31030424_1_charter-schools-special-education-cost-special-education

The director of a charter school in Lee County, South Carolina, was sentenced to jail for 3 1/2 years after she was convicted of diverting $1.56 million to sham accounts.

“A federal judge on Tuesday sentenced a former charter public school director to 31/2 years in prison for stealing $1.56 million in federal money that should have gone to help educate low-income children in poverty-stricken areas of Lee County.

“She was supposed to help children who were needy children, who had a lot to gain from a good education,” U.S. Judge Terry Wooten said just before pronouncing sentence on Benita Dinkins-Robinson shortly after 6 p.m., near the end of a nine-hour hearing at the federal courthouse in Columbia….

“During her investigation, Dinkins-Robinson had refused repeated FBI requests to produce invoices to show how she spent money, telling the FBI that her companies were private businesses and she didn’t have to tell federal investigators what she did with the money, Bitzel told Wooten.”

Read more here: http://www.thestate.com/news/local/crime/article32398251.html#storylink=cpy

Andrea Gabor published an op-Ed article in the New York Times about “the myth” of the Néw Orleans reforms. Critics immediately attacked her research, her facts, her integrity. (See here and here.)

Gabor is the Michael R. Bloomberg Professor of Business Jounalism at Baruch College in the City University of New York. She has written several books and many articles.

She responds to the critics here.

Andrea Gabor writes:

“Here is a preliminary response to some who have attacked the research behind my NYT OpEd. First a little background: I’ve spent months in New Orleans over the past several years researching New Orleans charter schools and published a lengthy piece in Newsweek in 2013. (I’m also working on a book.) However, much of the impetus for this piece came from what I heard and saw at a conference, The Urban Education Future?, held by the Educational Research Alliance at Tulane University this June.

First, the data that ERA just published, and that many education-reformers point to for their positive results, is based on numbers leading up to 2012, i.e. the period during which the worst excesses, including creaming, special-education abuses, high suspension and expulsion rates took place. More than one of the participants an ERA panel in June noted that it’s questionable whether the numbers would look as good as they do if it hadn’t been for those practices.

This was also the period before the Common Core, so the elementary and middle-school test results presented by ERA, as several experts at the conference noted, were based on Louisiana’s very low-level standards.

For years, the ed-reform establishment claimed there were no abuses—no creaming, no special-education abuses—in New Orleans. Now, they are saying: In 2012 we fixed all that, so it’s not fair to reference the problems. Except that we don’t yet have evidence of if/how the new safeguards are working.

What we do know is that there’s a major governance/oversight problem in New Orleans. In 2013, a report by the Louisiana Legislative Auditor found that the “LDOE no longer conducts on-site audits or reviews that help ensure the electronic data in its systems is accurate.” The audit also found significant discrepancies in the data on attendance, dropout-rates and graduation rates reported by the charters. http://www.lla.state.la.us/PublicReports.nsf/0B6B9CAE61DC9C2786257B6C006DB81E/$FILE/00032CA4.pdf

Also last spring, a Louisiana appeals court ruled that the State of Louisiana, which had given a trove of student data to CREDO, but withheld it from other researchers, had violated public-records laws. So much for transparency.
https://deutsch29.files.wordpress.com/2014/12/student_data_case_c_court_of_appeal_notice_judgment_and_disposition_2014.pdf

I had the opportunity to ask several experts at the ERA conference questions about governance/oversight problems in New Orleans and the kids who “slip between the cracks”. Among others, I asked these questions of Dana Peterson of the RSD as well as members of the panel on the “Role of Communities in Schools.” The exchanges were captured on the webcasts below.

To see the startling discussion about governance/oversight problems during the panel discussion of the “Role of Communities in Schools” go to the 1-hour-and-12-minute mark of the following webcast and listen for three or four minutes: http://educationresearchalliancenola.org/sessions/2015/6/19/role-of-communities-in-schools

Some highlights:

Deirdre Burel, executive director of the Orleans of Public Education Network: “There’s common agreement, we know for a fact that kids have slipped through the cracks because of the closures.”

When an audience member asks: “The RSD doesn’t know who’s in the system?”

And again later: “Who’s responsible for the whole?”

Burel answers: “There is no whole. That’s a governance conversation. There is no single entity responsible for all children.”

I asked a similar question during a panel on “Test-Based Accountability Effects of School Closure” on school closings, their impacts on high school students, and received the response below from Dana Peterson of the RSD and Whitney Ruble, the ERA researcher who was presenting her findings on school closures. Two points of note: First, Ruble’s/ERA results on the effects of school closures said nothing about the impacts on high school kids who are most at risk of dropping out. You had to look and listen very carefully to realize that all the data was about elementary and middle-school effects. However, Ruble acknowledged that “A lot of students disappear from the data.”

This at about the 1-hour-two-minute mark of the following webcast:

http://educationresearchalliancenola.org/sessions/2015/6/20/test-based-accountabilty-effects-of-school-closuremost.

Dana Peterson of the RSD, a few minutes later: “We’re more worried at the high school level than the elementary level. Its true some kids do leave and fall out of the system.” That’s why, he said, the RSD started hiring couselors specifically for high school kids two years ago to try to make sure they didn’t disappear from the system.

When I asked whether he knew how many kids fall between the cracks, Peterson acknowledged: “I don’t know the total number. I don’t.”

After the panel, I asked whether there was anyone at the RSD who could get me that data. He said there was and he promised to get me the information. He never responded to subsequent emails and phone calls.

Finally, some, including John White, have taken issue with my assertion that the mostly black teaching force was replaced by young idealistic (mostly white) educators. According to another ERA report, the number of black teachers in New Orleans dropped from 71 percent before the storm to 49 percent in 2013/2014. White teachers, by contrast, made up just a little over 20 percent of the teachers in NOLA before the storm and were close to 50 percent in 2013/14. See p. 3 of the following report: http://educationresearchalliancenola.org/files/publications/ERA-Policy-Brief-Changes-in-the-New-Orleans-Teacher-Workforce.pdf

I should note that I’ve visited over half-a-dozen charter schools in New Orleans. With two exceptions, I barely saw a single African-American face among any of the educators.

Columnist Marilou Johanek of the Toledo Blade writes that Governor John Kasich let the cat out of the bag, unintentionally, of course. Or, as she put it, he let his mask slip.

It was probably an accident. Ohio Gov. John Kasich let his public education mask slip. He ranted when he should have relaxed.

What Mr. Kasich blurted out to a roomful of incoming legislators, assembled in Columbus for an orientation session last November, was enormously revealing. It was prophetic about a secret effort, already begun, to erode local control of Youngstown Schools and any Ohio district like it.

Representative-elect Michele Lepore-Hagan, a newly elected Youngstown Democrat, wanted to talk to the governor about the troubled school district she represented. “And he threw a tablet into the air and said those Youngstown City Schools are in such a mess I want to shut them down and put one great big charter school in there.”

Later a committee, quietly spearheaded by the Kasich administration, would sign off on a plan to change the Youngstown district and others like it in the state. The plan, crafted behind closed doors by the Youngstown City Schools Business Cabinet, could put traditional public schools out of business.

Do Republican voters really want to eliminate traditional public schooling? Do they really want public money to go to unregulated, for-profit charter schools? Do they really want the state’s children to be sent to religious schools with taxpayer funds?

Let’s hope that Governor Kasich lets the cat out of the bag more frequently and does it in public. Let’s hope that when the Republicans debate again, one of the moderators ask him about his views on privatization of public education. And when they do, let’s hope that the moderator is fully informed about the long list of charter school scandals in Ohio, where charter schools underperform traditional public schools across the state.
Read more at http://www.toledoblade.com/MarilouJohanek/2015/08/22/Governor-Kasich-s-education-agenda-unmasked.html#MxmBbUqjxq2k2F5M.99

Andrea Gabor, experienced journalist and scholar, pulls apart the myth of the Néw Orleans “miracle.” What is remarkable is that her article appears in the New York Times, which has never investigated the exaggerated claims made by corporate reformers on behalf of eliminating public education.

The number of students in the schools of that city has dropped dramatically since Hurricane Katrina, making pre- and post- comparisons unreliable. Large numbers of students are not in school at all.

The “success” story is a myth but a very powerful one. Urban districts across the nation yearn to copy the New Orleans model: wipe out public schools; replace them with privately managed charters; fire all the teachers; hire inexperienced teachers and a few of the veterans; fund generously.

Gabor shows that other states and districts must inform themselves before proceeding.

Bill Raden writes in Capital & Main about the status of the Adelanto elementary school that was converted to a charter school via the “parent trigger.” The article is almost a year old; I didn’t see it sooner. Thanks to reader Jack Covey for bringing it to my attention.

Raden writes:

Throughout 2011 and 2012, the eyes of the education world were focused on Adelanto, a small, working class town in California’s High Desert. A war had broken out there over the future of the K-6 Desert Trails Elementary School and its 660 low-income Latino and African-American students. When the dust settled, Desert Trails Elementary was gone. In its place was a bitterly divided community and the Desert Trails Preparatory Academy, the first (and so far, only) school in California and the U.S. to be fully chartered under a Parent Trigger law, which allows a simple majority of a school’s parents to wrest control of a low-performing school from a public school district, and transform it into a charter school.

Tiny Adelanto’s turmoil reflects a much larger battle now being fought across America between defenders of traditional public education and a self-described reform movement whose partisans often favor the privatization and deregulation of education. At least 25 states have considered parent trigger legislation and seven of them have enacted some version of the law, including Connecticut, Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, Ohio and Texas. Though funded by tax dollars, the trigger charter is private, meaning it is not bound by many of the rules and much of the governing oversight or transparency of a traditional public school.

At the end of Desert Trail’s inaugural, 2013-14 school year, a group of eight former Desert Trails teachers hand-delivered a 15-page complaint to the Adelanto Elementary School District (AESD), charging Desert Trails with an array of improprieties and its executive director, Debra Tarver, with unprofessional and sometimes unethical conduct.

Among the most serious accusations are charges that administrative chaos at Desert Trails has resulted in both a stampede of exiting teachers and staff; that uncredentialed instructors have taught in its classrooms; and that Desert Trails had an unwritten policy of dissuading parents of students with special learning needs from seeking special education. The teachers also allege that they had to endure a bullying regime in which, they say, they were continually screamed at, spied on, lied to and humiliated in front of parents and their peers by Tarver and her deputies. Capital & Main spoke with the teachers, four of whom agreed to go on the record for this story. (“The High Desert is a small place and Debbie Tarver has a long reach,” said one teacher who requested anonymity.)

Teachers complained that they had to buy supplies out of their meager salaries.

The teachers interviewed for this story, who were paid about $3,300 a month, claim the school’s extreme miserliness shortchanged teachers and students on basic classroom tools. Over the first year, they said they each spent up to a full month’s salary, and in some cases more, on unreimbursed, out-of-pocket expenses.

“At the start of the year,” recalled kindergarten teacher Bertha Miramontes, “I ended up spending $1,000 because the décor in my classroom, [Tarver] said, was not good enough. I would spend anywhere between $200 to $300 per month to get supplies — writing paper, pencils, construction paper, tissues for my kids’ noses, hand sanitizer, crayons.”

These teachers also say that Tarver, who as executive director of a charter school is paid a salary commensurate to that of a San Bernardino county school district superintendent by both Desert Trails and LaVerne Elementary Preparatory Academy — a combined annual salary of around $200,000 — ordered the student water fountains shut off for the duration of the bitterly cold High Desert winter, rather than pay for overnight heat to prevent the pipes from freezing.

The biggest problem was teacher attrition, which was unusually high, even for a charter school.

But the scores went up.

One thing on which the two sides do agree is that Desert Trails did post test-score gains.

“We had 47 percent of our scholars who [rated] proficient and advanced,” Tarver said of the California Standards Test results for 5th grade science, “and we only had a 15 percent rate of those that were below and far below [state standards], which is a huge difference from the 30 to 40 percent that school had for the past 10 years.”

More comprehensive, schoolwide scores, she said, wouldn’t be released by the school for another month.

For the ex-teachers, it is a tarnished achievement that came at the terrible price of shattered morale and the stability and consistency that underpin a quality education.

“It wasn’t the holistic, well-rounded education that they were promised,” Salazar asserted. And [teachers leaving] is difficult. It’s hard on the scholars and it’s hard on their families.”

The parent trigger was enacted in 2010. Five years later, this is the result. Some will say it was worth the struggle because the test scores are higher, although the students are not the same as in the Desert Trails school. Others will say the destruction of the school and its community was not worth it. The charter company must surely be happy to have achieved ownership of a multi-million dollar property and the state funding that goes with it.

What bothers me, I must admit, is the promiscuous use of the term “scholars” to describe little children. They are students; they are children. They are not scholars. A scholar is someone who devotes his or her time to the deep study of an academic pursuit to advance the frontiers of knowledge and publishes his or her findings. I truly don’t understand what is gained by distorting language. But then, reformers do this so often that I should not be surprised. When they eliminate bonuses for advanced degrees by teachers, it is “reform.” When they eliminate certification as a requirement for all teachers, it is “reform.” When they close a community’s school and hand its assets over to a private corporation, it is “reform.” Sigh.

This article is an outstanding and heart-breaking account of the harsh treatment meted out to the public school teachers of New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. It appears in Education Week.

About 7,000 veteran teachers were summarily fired. Most were African-American and most were women. They fought their firing in the courts because they did not receive due process, but a few months ago, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear their appeal. Their legal battle was defeated, like them.

Many of their schools were physically destroyed. Most were turned into charter schools. Public schools that were once the heart of their communities, are gone. Now everything is choice, as though a goal of reform was to destabilize black communities.

Defenders of the wholesale privatization, like Leslie Hacobs, defend it on grounds that test scores are up. We all know that the data about this experiment are hotly contested. Since so many children never returned after the storm, it is hard to make fair comparisons.

Read this article and ask whether it was a good trade off: ruining the lives of thousands of dedicated teachers and uprooting historic communities as the price of a few more points on standardized tests?

“Liberty produces wealth, and wealth destroys liberty”
Henry Demarest Lloyd

News that teacher shortages exist in many states is not surprising to the nation’s educators.

Many, if not most, teachers in the United States today do not feel as though they are respected. Public school teachers feel as though their profession is under assault in a country that seems to be abandoning the idea of public education.

Those who seek to defund public education and replace it with a corporate model that makes use of market mechanisms to serve “strivers” and their families sound very well intended.

Education “reformers” typically target takeovers of inner city schools by managers who see charter school networks as assets in stock portfolios. Much as investment firms have bought up distressed mortgages, investors in charter schools envision long-term investment and risk leading to long-term dividends. These fledgling education capitalists sing a confident song of win-win: their schools will close the “achievement gap” between inner city and suburban youth and display the data proving it in “real-time.” They proof will be displayed in the “data,” lighting the path for the disruption of public schools and relieving tax-payers of school pension debt as the corporate school model displaces public control of schooling. The key source of profit for this privatization scheme, the real target of education capitalists, is the destruction of teacher unions. Investors will benefit by profit margins derived at the expense of teachers and their families. With the institution of work to order regimes that pay charter schoolteachers lower salaries, fewer benefits, and that offer virtually no workplace protections; investors will be able to realize more value in their portfolios.

That the Obama administration made a Faustian bargain with Republicans on public education is blindingly obvious. Long before Obama considered a run for the presidency, his best friend, Marty Nesbitt, along with Rahm Emanuel and the major Chicago developer clans: the Rauners, the Crowns, and the Pritzkers guided the creation of public-private partnerships to build housing to replace the city’s decaying and crime-ridden behemoth public housing projects under the Clinton era Hope Acts.

These same individuals, not surprisingly, turned to public-private initiatives in education, by founding and funding the Noble Charter chain. These schools cater to the city’s inner-city “strivers.” While the resources provided by the Pritzkers, Crowns, and Rauners to these schools and their students represent a sterling display of civic investment, what they give they hope will be multiplied by more investment in similar charter enterprises. Mr. Nesbitt predictably has started an investment firm, the Vistria Group, that seeks to attract investors into the charter school education business. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, has expressed great confidence in Mr. Nesbitt and the Vistria Group.

The direction of Obama education policy was thus built on two factors: the focus on building public-private partnerships in education modeled on the dismantling of the Chicago Housing authority and the need to attract Silicon Valley and tech sector billionaires, most prominently, Bill Gates. The tech billionaires also wanted more access to school markets and the privatization of public schools could free up money that would otherwise go to teacher salaries and benefits. When the Obama transition team chose Arne Duncan as Education secretary over arguably the most knowledgeable and able education researcher in the country, Linda Darling-Hammond, the die was cast.

Mr. Duncan was never a teacher and thus has little empathy for teachers or teaching. His favorite teacher, a University of Chicago Laboratory High School English teacher, has expressed “concern for the future of her profession” in the wake of attacks on teachers coming from Bill Gates and his foundation, Michael Bloomberg, Republican governors, representatives of the Bush and Obama administrations, and most prominently, her former student.

Many teachers view Mr. Duncan’s Race to the Top Initiative as a failure and the recent revision of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act as a necessary corrective to out of control Federal, state, and local testing mandates that turn teaching into a nightmare.

We have reached an Education tipping point in the United States. We can either reverse course and end our romance with the privatization of Education and our obsession with standardized testing regimes, or our resourced starved public schools will simply collapse, trapped as they are in a zero-sum game of diminishing resources.

The editorial pages and publishers of the New York Times and the Tribune Company have served as the praetorian guard of education reform movement sponsored by well-intentioned plutocrats who have little or no first hand knowledge about the everyday challenges that face most public school teachers, students, and parents.

Our political leaders need to begin to listen to parents who opt their kids out of invalid and ridiculous tests, teachers who are quitting or fleeing teacher hostile states like Kansas, Indiana, North Carolina, and Arizona, and potentially excellent candidates for teaching who decide that teaching is not a rewarding profession.

Disruption is leading us down the wrong road.

Paul Horton teaches history at the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools. His views in no way reflect the views of the board or the administration of the Laboratory Schools (several former members of this board are mentioned in this article)

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