Archives for category: Education Industry

The new superintendent in Palm Beach County was hired from the Fulton County School District in Georgia; Georgia has a law permitting “charter districts.” Superintendent Robert Avossa now wants to try it in Palm Beach County, where parents have been fighting for years to keep the hands of the charter industry out of their county. In his application for the job of Superintendent in PBC (which he assumed in June), he spoke of his passion for public education; there was no indication that he would immediately bring in the privateers, entrepreneurs, and fly-by-night operators whose charters overpopulate the lowest-performing schools in the state.

The Palm Beach Post reported:


Palm Beach County’s schools chief wants permission from state lawmakers to convert the county’s public school system into a “charter school district,” a designation that could let him end-run state rules and drastically reorganize schools’ schedules, class sizes and instruction time.

Superintendent Robert Avossa’s proposal would require approval from state lawmakers and the support of the county’s school board. If granted, he said the extra freedom would allow the county’s traditional public schools to better compete with charter schools, which have more flexibility under state law and are attracting thousands of new students each year.

In light of the fact that the charter industry has already bought control of the state legislature, he is not likely to have much opposition there. The question is whether the local school board is as happy to privatize public schools as Superintendent Avossa is.

The New York Times has a fascinating article today about how a handful of very wealthy people invested in Andrew Cuomo and the Republican majority in the State Senate to gain control of public schools in Néw York City and state. The article says they want to continue former Mayor Bloomberg’s policies of closing public schools and replacing them with charter schools and tying teacher evaluations to test scores.

The leader of this effort, the story says, is former chancellor Joel Klein, who now works for rightwing media mogul Rupert Murdoch.

Unmentioned is the undemocratic nature of this purchase of public policy. There was a mayoral election. Bill de Blasio won handily, after making clear his opposition to Bloomberg’s education policies. So, the reformers lost at the polls but used their money to nullify the voters’ choice.

Carole Marshall is a retired teacher who taught in the schools of Providence, Rhode Island. She was invited to participate in shaping Rhode Island “strategic plan” for 2015-2020, but soon became disillusioned when she realized that the designers of the strategic plan were going through the motions, pretending to listen to the public. Before they even started the process, they knew exactly what they wanted. They surveyed parents but ignored their strong wishes for schools that emphasized student creativity and self-motivation. The ultimate plan proclaimed what the planners wanted all along: blended learning, where students spend hours on a computer and fewer teachers are needed.

The strategic plan was produced by a California organization called “the Learning Accelerator.” The leaders wrote recently that the state’s plan for 2015-2020 was created by thousands of Rhode Islanders “through a process that is built upon the principles of transparency, engagement, empowerment and respect.” But in reality the public has been kept in the dark about what is really happening and why. The process was not at all transparent, and what looked like engagement was really a dog and pony show with a completely different agenda.

The “sole method” of this organization, Marshall writes, is to sell blended learning through disruptive innovation.

Marshall warns that the plan sounds good but it is not. Who will benefit? Not teachers or students, but venture capitalists and vendors of technology products.

Peter Greene reports that Bill Bennett went to Campbell Brown’s new site “The 74″ to defend the Common Core standards and to chastise Republican governors who are withdrawing their support, especially Chris Christie. Of course, Christie pulled a fast one by dropping the standards but keeping PARCC, which is aligned with CCSS.

 

Fortunately, Jeb Bush is still aggressively standing up for CCSS.

 

But Greene shows that Bennett really doesn’t understand how the standards were developed or the conditions of their adoption. He doesn’t know that most states adopted them before they were finished. He just thinks they are awesome.

 

He doesn’t know that the standards were not internationally benchmarked, he just knows that they are supposed to be “hard,” and that is a very good thing. He says that the public wants “high standards,” but the polls he cites never mention the term “Common Core.”

 

He thinks that states can improve upon the standards but does not know that they were copyrighted and cannot be changed one bit, other than to add more to them. The CCSS came down from some mountain like stones with writing on them. And no one can revise them. But Bill Bennett doesn’t know that.

Brian Malone, documentary film-maker, has self-funded a film about the corporate assault on public education.

 

His film is a MUST-SEE. It is titled EDUCATION, INC.

 

Malone is a parent of two children in the public schools of Douglas County, Colorado. He documents the well-funded effort to take control of the local school board. Grassroots activists running for school board raised $40,000. Corporate reform privatizers received over $1 million in funding, which they used for a slick propaganda campaign. They won control of the school board and immediately began implementing their plans for vouchers, charters, union-busting, and salary caps for teachers. The exodus of teachers from the district more than doubled. The district paid hired guns (including former Secretary of Education Bill Bennett) to praise its “reforms.” A commissioned study by Rick Hess of the American Enterprise Institute hailed DougCo as “the most interesting district” in the nation.

 

Malone crisscrosses the nation, interviewing teachers, parents, and trying to interview leaders of the privatization movement (who usually refuse to be interviewed).

 

What he shows dramatically is the huge pot of money coming from organizations connected to the Koch brothers, Jeb Bush, Michael Bloomberg, and other advocates for dismantling the public school system and replacing it with a free market of unregulated private schools and charters. He takes a close look at ALEC and its national network of rightwing extremists dedicated to privatization. Extremists and billionaires are pouring large sums into state and local school board races and into state legislative races. The only way to stop them is to go to the polls and vote for candidates who support public schools. The only way to make that happen is to education the public.

 

This is an important film about the future of American education. It is a call for citizens to get involved and take back their public schools from those seeking to privatize them.

 

Malone plans a national “house party” to show the film on August 14. Please contact him and get a copy and invite your friends and neighbors. EDUCATION INC. is a great place to start informing the public about the monied elite that wants to steal their schools and divert the funds to corporations, entrepreneurs, consultants, charter schools, and vouchers.

 

Go to the website for the film to learn how to get a copy: http://www.edincmovie.com or google Education, Inc.

Denis Smith worked in the Office of Charter Schools in the Ohio Department of Education. In this article, he points out the paradox of tasking a state agency with both promoting charter schools while supposedly regulating them. This is a conflict of interest.

 

This explains, he writes, why it was predictable that David Hansen, who was supposed to regulate charter schools, got in trouble for cooking the books to make the charters owned by Republican campaign contributors look good, even though their schools perform poorly.

 

Hansen, the husband of Beth Hansen, Governor John Kasich’s chief-of-staff, was put in place by the governor’s team to head the Office of Quality School Choice. His background, as head of the right-wing Buckeye Institute, famous for maintaining a database detailing the salaries for thousands of public school teachers and devoid of salary information for CEOs of national for-profit charter school chains and other privatizers, is now being examined by charter watchdogs as they discover a series of conflicts-of-interest that raise basic questions about his actions.

 

Here are a few morsels:

 

“Hansen and ODE were ignoring the big fish,” Stephen Dyer observed. “And that was, unfortunately, Hansen’s undoing. None of these crackdowns were against schools run by big Republican donors — David Brennan of White Hat Management or Bill Lager of the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow — whose schools rate among the worst in the state and who educate about 20% of all Ohio charter school students.”

 

Plunderbund readers, in fact, were informed several days ago that Hansen is a serial data offender.

 

“This isn’t the first time Hansen has been caught altering charter school data to improve the image of these charter school operators. Hansen was President of the Buckeye Institute in 2009 when they put out a report on Ohio’s dropout recover schools. Similar to the current incident, Hansen’s group altered data to improve the apparent performance of the charter schools. The shady data changes resulted in “a dramatic overstatement of the graduation rates at the charters.” Many of the schools in the 2009 report were owned and operated by White Hat Management. Meanwhile, White Hat owner David Brennan was quietly contributing tens of thousands of dollars to the Buckeye Institute through his Brennan Family Foundation.”

 

Hansen was a cheerleader for charters who was supposed to regulate them. Never happened, never will happen,

This is an open letter to Senator Bernie Sanders written by teachers who support him but oppose high-stakes testing and the Common Core standards. They wanted to let him know that they were disappointed that he voted for the Murphy Amendment to the Senate’s “Every Child Achieves Act.” The Murphy Amendment would have continued, in fact intensified, the punishments attached to No Child Left Behind. These teachers want Senator Sanders to know that they oppose punishments and sanctions based on test scores.

They write:

We are disappointed with your recent votes in the senate that contain provisions which perpetuate quantitatively based measures of education. Your Tennessee senatorial colleague Lamar Alexander correctly stated that what you just recently voted for, “Instead of fixing No Child Left Behind, it keeps the worst parts of it.”

Quantitative measures are invalid. They are masks for social inequalities. They merely highlight and then reflect economic and racial inequalities. Mel Riddile, “PISA: It’s Still ‘Poverty Not Stupid'” at the blog, “The Principal’s Corner”, found that numerical performance of districts mirrors the scale of economic inequalities of those districts. Statisticians have proven over and over again that the use of value added modeling is logically flawed. NCLB drove the use of value-added modeling (VAM) which negatively transformed the teaching and learning processes in the nation’s schools.

Furthermore, as union members we believe that the current education “reform” agenda is a relentless and insidious attack on unionism itself. This agenda’s usurpation of the language and iconography of the Civil Rights struggle and the limitlessness financial resources of the billionaires, hedge funders, and corporations who are championing and bank rolling it are reprehensible. It is therefore, sir, not merely an attack on children, teachers, and public education, but an undermining of the noblest and most progressive movements in American history: union rights and civil rights. We implore you to rethink your recent vote, which is wholly and utterly incongruous to your noble and progressive defense of the American working class.

That is only part of their letter. It appeared on the Huffington Post.

Fund Education Now, a public school advocacy group in Florida, says that the Jeb Bush-ALEC machine gives out grades to legislators. Those who get an A are the ones who want to privatize public education and create profits for their buddies.

 

Florida voters need to understand that in the topsy-turvy world of Florida school politics, an A from the Bush-ALEC machine is actually an F.

 

Fund Education Now writes:

 

 

This is the season when the Foundation for Florida’s Future, the Florida Chamber and Associated Industries of Florida release their 2015 Legislative Report Cards. In particular, the Foundation assigns grades to legislators’ based on their willingness to pass the Jeb Bush/ALEC-driveneducation reform/privatization policy agenda.

 

These grades are a road map for voters. When your favorite Senator repeatedly gets an A grade from these folks, that’s a sign. It’s a big part of why legislators are willing to look foolish as they defy all logic to pass policies that hurt children and harm public schools.

 

Since 2009, parents, teachers, grandparents, districts and students have raised a mighty voice against the mind-numbing, narrowed curriculum, disrespect to teaching and the insane numbers of unfair high stakes tests. Every major newspaper has repeatedly demanded better from legislators. Despite all objections, politicians follow the plan and spend millions of public dollars on vendors, often in support of schemes promoted by wealthy ROI philanthropists eyeing a piece of what Joel Klein and others see as a $600 billion dollar education industry.

 

Sadly, it’s not enough to drive get out the vote numbers. Voters must know who they are voting for. Take Florida’s Orange County Delegation: There are 13 members and 8 of them got As from Jeb’s Foundation. These legislators carry the water for a particular, extreme policy group, not for voters. Parents seeking relief from Florida’s cruel education reform policies will get zero help from these lawmakers.

 

Orange County Delegation 13 members/8 A grades from FFF:

 

Sen. Hays, R, Dist. 11

Sen. Gardner, R, Dist. 13

Sen. Soto, D, Dist. 14

Sen. Stargel, R, Dist, 15

Rep Cortes, R, Dist 30

Rep. Sullivan, R, Dist. 31

Rep. Eisnaugle, R, Dist. 44

Rep. Miller, R, Dist. 47

 

The remaining 5 members of the Orange delegation who voted or advocated against high stakes testing, tying teacher pay to test scores, corporate tax voucher expansion, handing over voter approved public school tax millage to for profit charters and other measures received considerably lower grades, including an F for Orange’s Rep Bracy, D, Dist. 45.

 

Voters must understand that politicians who push policy agendas such as School reform are rewarded in many ways. Money pours into races from PACs such as the American Federation for Children and the Florida Federation for Children. And the education reform/privatization agenda seeks to redefine “local control” to reference state legislatures. As a result, duly-elected Florida school board members are under attack for disagreeing with reformers.

 

It’s interesting to look at a smaller Florida district whose entire delegation is under the sway of education reform. Superintendent Walt Griffin recently wrote a letter to Commissioner Pam Stewart asking to allow Seminole to return to paper and pencil abandon the state’s troubled FSA and switch to a nationally norm referenced test such as the ACT. How much support will Griffin get from his public servants?

 

Seminole County Delegation: All 5 members received an A grade from FFF:

 

Sen. Simmons, R, Dist. 10

Rep. Brodeur, R, Dist. 28

Rep. Plakon, R, Dist. 29

Rep. Cortes, R. Dist. 30

 

Those who work to advance high stakes education reform policies cross all political stripes. If a candidate is not willing to turn down education reform campaign funding, that’s a problem. If a candidate refuses to oppose using tax dollars to create multiple uneven, unfair school systems, that’s a deal-breaker.

 

We have reached a point where a candidate’s dedication to investing in and improving public education must be a litmus test for service. Legislators often give constituents less than 2 minutes to talk in Tallahassee while policy lobbyists such as Jeb’s Foundation for Florida’s Future are afforded unparalleled access across the board.

 

Using power and money to drive policy and elections is not restricted to Florida. The Foundation for Florida’s Future is part of an establishednational agenda. In fact, its affiliated with the Foundation for Excellence in Education National, whose motto is: Turning Reform into Reality.

 

It’s a cruel irony that politicians are so eager to earn grades for passing policies that hurt children. Now voters must use these education reform “loyalty grades” as a tool to weed out politicians who don’t deserve reelection.

 

 

 

This is a comment by Billl Phillis of the Ohio Equity and Adequacy Coalition:

Follow the money-yes, tax money

Tax funds have likely made White Hat Charter school operator David Brennan and ECOT operator Bill Lager very, very rich. (Some out-of-state charter operators are also cashing in on Ohio’s Wild, Wild West charter industry.)

The charters, that these fine, civic-minded gentlemen operate, generally speaking, perform at a pathetically low level.

Brennan’s total take on tax funds for charters since the beginning is in the range of $1 billion. Lager has not been in the business as long but is within reach of $1 billion total. This is money extracted from school districts thus, harming school district students. This enormous financial drain from school districts would be more tolerable if their schools were outperforming school districts.

With their respective stables of lobbyists and their multimillions in campaign contributions, they leverage legislation which expands their charter school empires and profits.
Although they contribute a lot to political campaigns, these donations constitute a small percentage of their cost of doing business.

Plunderbund, in a July 7, 2015 issue, posted the donations that Brennan and Lager made to certain House and Senate leaders.

Speaker of the House Cliff Rosenberger:

$12,155.52 from David Brennan in 2014
$24,311.04 from Bill Lager in 2013-14

Speaker Pro Tempore Ron Amstutz:
$67,500 from David Brennan (and his wife, Ann) between 1998-2012
$30,000 from Bill Lager in 2010-12

Majority Floor Leader Barbara Sears:
$10,000 from David Brennan in 2012
$40,000 from Bill Lager in 2010-13

Assistant Majority Floor Leader Jim Buchy:
$31,543.70 from Bill Lager in 2012-13
Senate President Keith Faber
$32,156 from the Brennan’s in 2012-14
$25,500 from Bill Lager in 2010-13

This pay-to-play scenario probably explains why House leadership derailed HB 2 with Senate amendments. This derailed legislation has a modicum of charter reform, some of which would likely affect the bottom line of Brennan and Lager.

Why are Ohioans not outraged about these shenanigans? Probably because they don’t know about them. Inform your fellow Ohioans.

William Phillis
Ohio E & A

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

Minutes ago, a bipartisan majority of the Senate approved the Every Child Achieves Act, which is the bill forged by Senators Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn) and Patty Murray (D-WA). This is the long-overdue reauthorization of No Child Left Behind, the legislation passed by Congress in 2001 and signed into law on January 8, 2002. The underlying legislation is the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, whose purpose was to authorize federal aid to education targeted to schools that enrolled significant numbers of children living in poverty. The original bill was about equity, not testing and accountability.

 

The Senate bill retains annual testing, but removes federal sanctions attached to test results. Any rewards or sanctions attached to test scores will be left to states. The Senate rejected private school vouchers; nine Republican Senators joined with Democrats to defeat the voucher proposal. The bill also strengthens current prohibitions against the Secretary of Education dictating specific curriculum, standards, and tests to states, as well as barring the Secretary from tying test scores to teacher evaluations. The bill repudiates the punitive measures of of NCLB and RTTT.

 

The House of Representatives has already passed its own bill, called the Student Success Act. A conference committee representing both houses will meet to iron out their differences and craft a bill that will then be presented for a vote in both houses.

 

As I get additional details, I will post them.

 

Speaking for the Network for Public Education, I will say that we are pleased to see a decisive rejection of federal micromanagement of curriculum, standards, and assessments, as well as the prohibition of federal imposition of particular modes of evaluating teachers. We oppose annual student testing; no high-performing nation in the world administers annual tests, and there is no good reason for us to do so. We reject the claim that children who are not subjected to annual standardized tests suffer harm or will be neglected. We believe that the standardized tests are shallow and have a disparate impact on children who are Black and Brown, children with disabilities, and children who are English language learners. We believe such tests degrade the quality of education and unfairly stigmatize children as “failures.” We also regret this bill’s financial support for charter schools, which on average do not perform as well as public schools, and in many jurisdictions, perform far worse than public schools. We would have preferred a bill that outlawed the allocation of federal funds to for-profit K-12 schools and that abandoned time-wasting annual testing.

 

Nonetheless, we support the Senate bill because it draws a close to the punitive methods of NCLB and RTTT. It is an important step forward for children, teachers, and public education. The battle over “reform” now shifts to the states, but we welcome an era in which the voices of parents, educators, and students can mobilize to influence policies in their communities and states. We believe that grassroots groups have a better chance of being heard locally than in Washington, D.C., where Beltway insiders think they speak for the public. We will continue to organize and carry our fight for better education to every state.

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