Archives for category: Education Industry

According to the first filing of spending in the Newark race for Mayor, the hedge fund managers’ group Education Reform Now has given $850,000 to Shavar Jeffries, a charter school supporter.

Jeffries’ spending is about triple the spending of his chief opponent Ras Baraka, and the gap is expected to grow given the deep pockets of Jeffries’ supporters on Wall Street.

The Network for Public Education has endorsed Ras Baraka for mayor, in light of his opposition to closing public schools. He is a high school principal and a member of the City Council of Newark.





The Miami Herald reports that the U.S. Department of Education’s Inspector General is reviewing the business practices of the Academica charter chain, a for-profit and highly profitable charter chain.


Ironically, at the same time, the charter-friendly Florida legislature is considering legislation that would weaken district oversight of charter school corporations. The charter industry makes substantial campaign contributions to political candidates, and Academica has family members elected to important positions in the legislature. Academic controls a real estate portfolio estimated to be worth more than $100 million. The rapper Pitbull’s new charter is part of the Academica chain.


The Education Department’s Inspector General Office is auditing the South Miami-based Academica Corp. as part of a broader examination of school management companies nationwide. The audit will be complete this summer, department spokeswoman Catherine Grant said.


A preliminary audit report obtained by the Herald/Times identified potential conflicts of interest between the for-profit company Academica and the Mater Academy charter schools it manages. One example the auditors cited was the transfer of money from Mater Academy to its private support organization, which shares the same board of directors.


Asked about the potential conflicts of interest raised in the report, Academica attorney Marcos Daniel Jiménez, in an email to the Herald/Times, touted the charter-school network’s academic record and commitment to its students….


Under current law, school districts have the authority to negotiate contracts with new charter schools. HB 7083 would mandate the use of a standardized contract, meaning school districts would give up most of their leverage…..


Academica oversees almost 100 charter and virtual charter schools in Florida, according to its website. It also manages schools in Texas, Nevada, Utah, California and Washington, D.C.


The preliminary audit report homes in on the Mater Academy family of schools in Miami-Dade County.


Academica President Fernando Zulueta founded the original Mater Academy in 1998, and was a member of its governing board until September 2004, auditors wrote.


The auditors found that three of the schools in the Mater network — Mater Academy, Mater High and Mater East — entered into leases with development companies tied to the Zulueta family. Two of the leases were executed while Zulueta sat on the Mater board.


In addition, Mater Academy hired an architectural firm from 2007 through 2012 that employs Fernando Zulueta’s brother-in-law, state Rep. Erik Fresen, the report said.


“We identified four related-party transactions, two of which indicated, at a minimum, the appearance of conflicts of interest between Mater Academy and its CMO [charter-management company],” the Mater Academy in Hialeah Gardens and its nonprofit support organization, Mater Academy Foundation.

“Mater Academy shares the same board of directors with the foundation and based on our review of the board of directors meeting minutes at Mater Academy, there is evidence of Mater Academy’s board of directors transferring public funds to the foundation,” the auditors noted….


Charter-school critics said the inspector general’s findings were a reason to push back on HB 7083, the bill that could weaken the power of school districts over new charter schools….


Jeff Wright, of the Florida Education Association, the statewide teachers’ union, agreed. “If an audit like this is going on, the Legislature should not give charter schools more opportunities to game the system,” he said.


But Rep. Manny Diaz, the Hialeah Republican sponsoring the bill, said his proposal would not open the door to questionable business practices.


“This is not about opening up the Wild Wild West,” said Diaz, who left his job with the Miami-Dade school district last year to become dean of an Academica-managed private college. “We want there to be controls [over charter schools]. We just want to make sure the controls are uniform and transparent.”


The bill, which also would require school systems to share underutilized facilities with charter schools, is scheduled to be heard on the House floor Monday. The Senate version (SB 1512) has been watered down, and now does little more than clarify that military commanders can help establish charter schools on their bases.




Florida had widespread problems with its FCAT, delivered–or not–by Pearson. Pam Stewart promised to seek damages from Pearson. Remember the bad old days when teachers tested students, graded the tests, and students got immediate feedback. Now state officials trust Pearson more than teachers. Who peddled the idea that all testing should be done online?

Here is a report from FairTest:

National Center for Fair & Open Testing
for further information:
Bob Schaeffer (239) 395-6773
cell (239) 699-0468
for immediate release, Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Today’s technical problems, which disrupted computerized testing in many Florida districts, are far from unusual. Many other states have experienced similar failures, according to the National Center for Fair & Open Testing (FairTest), which monitors standardized exams across the country.
Earlier this month, the statewide testing systems in Kansas and Oklahoma both crashed. Last year, technical problems disrupted computerized exams in Indiana, Kentucky, Minnesota, Ohio and Oklahoma. In the recent past, new, automated testing programs collapsed in Oregon and Wyoming, requiring administration of replacement, pencil-and-paper versions.
After root cause investigations, both Wyoming and Oklahoma levied multi-million dollar fines against Pearson, the same testing vendor Florida uses. Wyoming labeled the company in “complete default of the contract” and replaced it. Oklahoma let its contract with Pearson expire.
American Institutes of Research, the company that takes over testing in Florida next year was responsible for computer exam problems in Minnesota in 2013. The firm’s contract was not renewed.
“The reason for so many screw-ups is simple,” explained FairTest Public Education Director Bob Schaeffer. “The technology supporting statewide computerized testing is not ready for prime time.”
Schaeffer continued, “Like many other testing policies, politicians imposed new requirements before systems had been thoroughly developed and beta-tested. There are at least three separate problems. Many schools lack the up-to-date computer equipment and other infrastructure needed to mass administer tests. Large numbers of districts do not have the internet bandwidth to handle the volume. Some testing company servers do not have the capacity the meet the surge of demand from multiple locations logging on simultaneously.”
FairTest supports Florida school superintendents and communities seeking a multi-year moratorium on attaching consequences to the state’s new tests. Schaeffer has lived full-time in southwest Florida for almost 15 years.
- – 3 0 – -

- links to clips documenting computer-testing problems in other states and a detailed chronology of Pearson’s history of testing errors are available on request.

Reader Laura Chapman has done some research on the education entrepreneurs  now meeting in Scottsdale to learn more about how to profit from the public education industry. Note that tickets for the event ranged from $1,000-2,000. In addition, there were many sponsors. Whatever comes from this conference, it is a gold mine for its organizers:


I was also doing research on this. My direct quotes come from press releases and one extended interview with Michael Moe.


The sell-out crowd of about 2000 ed tech promoters meeting in Scottsdale, AZ have been promised this event is their “Davos” for understanding how big profits be made in the education business— K-12 and higher education—where investors put $650 million last year. This market is expected to grow rapidly around the CCSS, and with spillover effects from the federal “college and career” mantra. The pace of innovation in tech tools for some profitable “educational use” is said to be breathtaking.


Over 230 “disruptive education companies” will present their wares to “industry leaders and visionaries – educators, investors, philanthropists… with “some of the world’s most passionate and energetic players in the education innovation space…” The purpose is “to stimulate opinions, debate, fundraising, strategic alliances and overall community activism toward global enrichment.” (We know what counts as “enrichment” and who wants to gets rich).


The summit theme is the “American Dream” — “a global aspiration rooted in the conviction that opportunity is limitless and that education makes possible social mobility and prosperity.” For the participants, limitless prosperity means scaling ”education innovation globally” thereby driving “a higher return on education.”


The annual Summit is the brainchild of two people: Michael Moe, serial investor in ed-tech startups and Michael M. Crow, president of Arizona State University since 2002. Moe is a champion of charter and for-profit schools and CEO of a big pot of money for tech industry projects. Michael M. Crow is known as a ”transformational” leader in higher education eager to have the university be a model of savvy (and cash-producing) liaisons with business.


President Crow’s view of the Summit is clear: “Universities must become effective partners for global development. Only through the proliferation of networks —such as those the Summit helps to build—can transformation occur at the scale that is immediately needed in order to advance our global knowledge economy.”


Both Michaels, Moe and Crow, think that “immediate scaling up” means disrupting public education. According to one press release, the most “disruptive organizations” in education will be presenting at the Summit, including DonorsChoose, edX,, Minerva, Inkling along with five of Moe’s investments: Coursera,, DreamBox Learning, General Assembly, and Knewton


The event is part of Arizona State University’s Education Innovation Network described as an “open innovation platform where entrepreneurs can find the resources to validate concepts, accelerate growth, and reach transformative scale” working with “the intellectual assets of ASU, the greater Phoenix public and private educational K-20 systems and investors of all types….”


In a 2011 interview, Moe (who seems to be connected at the hip to ASU’s president Crow) said that he hopes ASU will serve as a model for other universities, and as a hub of innovative activity. Moe heaps praise on Crow’s “bold leadership” of ASU and its “unique initiatives such as its partnership with Teach For America, which aspires to have a scale impact.” Not mentioned by Moe, and apparently ignored by ASU’s president, are the frauds perpetuated by Teach for America. See


Moe praises ASU’s president as a skilled and visionary manager of intellectual talent working in and on behalf of education. Crow’s bio shows that he lauded by free-marketers who want to see many more public universities function as service-providers for full-spectrum entrepreneurial activity and economic development. This agenda is not entirely new, but the trend is clearly against a tradition of academic freedom in scholarship, with the university nurturing a mental environment for basic research and many studies not tied to economic values.


Moe was also impressed with Crow’s recent success in recruiting faculty in education, specifically “a highly regarded head of research from Vanderbilt.” I have not been able to determine who that person is, but since 2006 Vanderbilt’s research in education has been devoted to teacher pay-for-performance, aided by a $10 million USDE grant in addition to a relationship with Mathematica on a five-year, $7.9 million study on the same topic. Well-designed experimental studies, including some by Vanderbilt researchers, have shown that such schemes have no significant and uniform influence on student test scores, even if the bonus is up to $15,000 !! USDE poured $600 million into similar grants to market this idea through “research.”
see also
The study with the $15,000 bonus is at


In addition, Moe sees the state of Arizona leading the way, not only as an early adopter of charter schools but as home state of the University of Phoenix, the world’s largest for-profit, along with Grand Canyon University, and Universal Technical Institute. All three are widely known centers of fraud in recruiting and “educating” students. Moe ignores that inconvenient truth. See:


Finally, in praising ASU, Arizona, and the Phoenix area as the milieu for the Summit, Moe notes the presence of corporate giants such as INTEL and Honeywell and innovators such as First Solar. Again, no mention of the multi-year class action lawsuit filed by investors in First Solar. See


Here are some hints from Moe on where education innovations will go in the near term. 1. Investors will be drawn to the iphone, apps, and related networks as a learning platform for K-12 with adaptive technology for individualized learning similar to recommendation systems of Amazon and Netflix. 2. Teacher training and tools for the CCSS are “a sweet spot.” 3. In higher education, more “partnerships” of universities with online corporations offering courseware and social learning. More at


A reader from the Netherlands noticed  the recent post by Mario Waissbluth in Chile. Waissbuth said that Chileans were looking to the Netherlands as a possible model as Chile tries to extricate itself from decades of privatization. The privatization was launched by the dictator Pinochet, whose advisors admired the libertarian ideas of Milton Friedman.


Our reader from the Netherlands commented:


In The Netherlands, the situation has changed in the past 15 years. It used to be the case that about 60% of all schools were privately owned. The umbrella term for these schools was, and is, ‘Bijzonder Onderwijs” and this includes all schools on a religious basis (either Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Muslim or any other denomination) as well as schools with a special educational denomination (such as Montessori, Jenaplan, Dalton, Democratic etc.). The remaining 40% of schools used to be governmental, i.e. really ‘public’.

All of these schools were (and still are) paid for by public money. Parents are asked a small yearly fee (about 25 to 100 dollars) in order for a number of extracurricular activities.

Then came the neolib overhaul. All school boards were privatized, which is merely a legal construction by which private non-profit foundations took over the former public schools. Now all Dutch primary, secondary or tertiary schools are part of some private Foundation of Union. They are not marketed, and don’t have shareholders. They receive about 8000 dollar of public money for each subscribed student. School boards can do with that money what they like, within very, very wide limitations. The ‘freedom of education’ has turned into an increased freedom for school boards, and a decreased freedom for teachers (who have to obey the boards’ working orders) and limited freedom for parents (who can send their children to a limited number of schools).

The neolib privatization overhaul was sold to the Dutch public by the usual pretexts: ‘more quality for a lower price’. As the sceptics expected, the result turned out exactly the other way. The public expenses have more than doubled in 13 years time (the cumulative inflation being less than 30%), salaries for non-teaching staff have increased hugely, as have their number. Teaching staff, however, receive lower pay, and both teaching hours and class size have increased. PISA comparisons show that results have steadily decreased, compared to similar countries, as have the qualifications of newly arrived teachers.

I find it a bit ironic that Chile would consider The Netherlands an example in order to fight segregation. The neolib overhaul and the government-forced ‘concurrency’ between schools has resulted in dramatic segregation in urban areas. The percentage of either ‘black schools’ and ‘white schools’ has increased from 25% to 75% in only two decades, and is still growing.

I used to be proud of Dutch education. That was when I started my career as a teacher, and researcher. At present, I see very little in my country’s education system or policy that can make me proud. And I certainly would not recommend it as an example to other nations.

Starting today, the nation’s leading entrepreneurs will gather for their annual conference at the Phoenician Resort in Scottsdale, Arizona, to exchange ideas about the ongoing monetization, privatization, innovation, and profits in the education “industry.” This summit was originally organized by Michael Moe, who has for years predicted that the education sector could be monetized. He was right. His company—GSV stands for Global Silicon Valley–says on its website: “Our founders have spent the past two decades focused on the Megatrends that are disrupting the $4 trillion global education market along with the innovators who are transforming the industry.”

Some of the sponsors: Pearson, the Gates Foundation, Microsoft, McGraw-Hill, Cengage, amazon, Scholastic, etc.

The speakers’ list reads like a who’s who of the privatization movement, which it is.

Penny Pritzker, U.S. Secretary of Commerce, billionaire heiress to the Hyatt fortune, former member of the board of Chicago public schools; Jeb Bush, Chris Cerf, Cami Anderson, Reed Hastings, Margaret Spellings, Tom Vander Ark, Kaya Henderson, James Shelton, Jonathan Hage, and many more in the business of education reform.

Stephanie Simon wrote about this GSV annual conference here for

“ED TECH’S ‘DAVOS’ STARTS TODAY: Hundreds of ed tech investors and entrepreneurs will rendezvous in Scottsdale, Ariz., this week for the Education Innovation Summit. The massive meet-and-greet will surely be lively, as business is booming. The ed tech market has been on a sustained boom the past several years, with no signs of a slowdown: Capital flows into companies serving the K-12 and higher education markets jumped to $650 million last year – nearly double the $331 million invested in those spheres in 2009.

–”You’re seeing people who can invest money anywhere” turn to ed tech, said Michael Moe, co-founder of GSV Capital, a sister company to GSV Advisors. The rapid growth of companies such as Coursera, Edmodo and Knewton “attracts the big players,” Moe said, who see an opportunity for big profit. And the Common Core is helping the cause: The standards are making ed tech more attractive because entrepreneurs can now tailor their product to a single set of academic guidelines. Several notable investment deals have closed in the past month alone.

More for Pros, from Stephanie Simon:

Julie Vassilatos, a Chicago parent, blogs about school issues.


In one of her latest posts, she realized she could  no longer use the term “education reform” because it was a complete phony and misrepresentation of reality.


She writes:


Something in me snapped today and I realized that I am finished using the phrase “education reform.”


That’s how folks refer to the constellation of ideas firmly entrenched in the White House right now, upheld by almost every governor of every state, red and blue, and most mayors, notably our own. It includes the tenets that privatizing our schools will improve them, that the Common Core State Standards are the fix for all that ails our failing schools, and that testing our students more and more will raise test scores.


But this, truly, is not “reform.” Some of these are ideas that have been implemented for 25 years all over the country to little effect.


This is the status quo.


So I’m not going to call it reform anymore.


I’m going to call it what it is. Corporate control of education.



I want you to read her whole post so I hate to print too much of it. But it is so on-target, so clear-headed, so obvious that I am going to have to give you even more to think about, then go open the link and read how this Chicago mom went straight to the heart of the beast:


In every instance, every plank in the platform, every element of this effort can be traced back to cash–flowing into the coffers of very rich corporate entities and individuals.


Like Pearson, one of the testing companies that is creating the tests and the test prep materials, all new and improved and Common Core aligned, and who lobbies Congress to mandate more tests.


Like Reed Hastings, Netflix CEO, a huge proponent of charters and innovative uses of technology in schools. What kind of technology does he advocate as the best fix for students today? In Learning Lab modules at his Rocketship Charters kids sit at a computer monitor, streaming video content for 100 minutes per day.


Or Rupert Murdoch. He is a cheerleader for what he calls a $500 billion industry of education technology including content and assessment.


Or Bill Gates. His push for the Common Core, the inBloom initiative to harness students’ big data, and his vision for the classrooms of the future, which will be heavily dependent on his own technologies.


The proponents of this snake oil have managed to control the rhetoric for so long that we don’t even blink when they say that their education plan is “the civil rights issue of our time.” They say this a lot.


So if we wish to stand up against the corporate control model we are not only anti-reform but anti-civil rights.


They say they want “excellent teachers,” and by this they mean they want to get rid of union teachers and replace them with uncertified, pensionless staff handling up to 50 kids at once who receive their education from handheld devices or monitors.


They say they want “school choice,” which usually means less choice: families can’t choose their neighborhood schools that the city has underfunded to the point of death throes, pouring its available money instead into privately supported charters.



I don’t know Julie, but I know this: She has seen through the sham rhetoric and the phony claims. She has seen through the facade to the internal workings of a machine that hurts children, closes community schools, and will ultimately do grievous harm to our democracy.


She writes:


Enough little bits of reality have popped out that folks are starting to notice. The stranglehold grip on the narrative held by the corporate education controllers is beginning to weaken. Because we can all see with our own eyes that it isn’t actually civil rights for kids to have their school closed or subjected to a turnaround. It isn’t actually higher order critical thinking to bubble in bubbles. And it isn’t education and it isn’t reform to work toward the dismantling of public schools in our city and our country.


It’s stale old rhetoric that is losing its power. And it can no longer conceal the naked emperor, nor the naked greed of the corporate power grabbers.


Thanks, Julie, for seeing through the PR baloney.


I am so tired of the media accepting the corporate bosses’ claim that they are “reformers.” Listen up, reporters. They are NOT reformers. Their program is the corporate control of education.

This teacher read the post about Gulen charter schools and wrote the following comment:


This is so eerily similar to my job-it is a shame that there is poor oversight in these types of schools. I work in a Ohio-based charter school. I’m under great stress due to this under performing school. Misleading marketing leads unsuspecting parents to the school with inaccurate curriculum/academic expectations. Unfortunately, student turn-over is high, attendance/enrollment records are altered and no one ever questions-if you do, you just may lose your job. The principal is a bully and the superintendent is a pushover. Taxpayers don’t deserve for their hard-earned monies to be utilized in such a irresponsible fashion. There is no HR or outlet for employee grievances, no unions, the Department of Education really needs to stop winking at these degrading practices and shut underperforming schools down ASAP.

Under the dictator Pinochet, Chile became devoted to the free-market theories of libertarian economist Milton Friedman. It adopted a voucher system and embrace choice.

Over the years, the schools experienced growing social segregation and little or no improvement.

A vigorous and outraged student movement in Chile demanded changes.

Just today, a news story appeared saying that Chile intends to end public subsidies for private schools. (Oddly enough, the story is from Shanghai!)

We will keep watch on this breaking story.

The story says:

Chilean Education Minister Nicolas Eyzaguirre Thursday reaffirmed the government’s commitment to ending private education.”The pursuit of profit is not a good objective for educational institutions. It is not a good ally of a good education,” Eyzaguirre told a press conference.

The administration of President Michelle Bachelet, who took office in March, has proposed an ambitious overhaul of the education system to provide affordable, quality education, as demanded by a national student movement launched in 2011.

The government’s proposed reforms basically call for greater public spending on education, free primary education, and an end to state-subsidies of private schools and to profit-oriented universities.

“The state needs to withdraw from many productive activities, but not those that are considered a social right,” said Eyzaguirre.

The current educational system, which was increasingly privatized by the previous pro-business administration, creates more tension between the nation’s privileged and working classes, the minister said.

State support for universities will have to be phased in slowly, the minister indicated, as many of the centers of higher education have not been certified.

“We can’t be throwing around public money without ensuring quality,” he said.

To finance the education reform, Bachelet has proposed increasing the corporate tax rate from 20 percent to 25 percent, an initiative opposed by the business and conservative political sector, but expected to be adopted by the country’s legislature.



Advocates for school choice like to say they believe in a free market in education. They say, let the consumer choose, let the market decide. And with this ideology, they merrily seek to undermine public education.

But is there a free market?

I received this comment from a reader:

“There is absolutely nothing “free market competitive” about the charter school movement. The only thing they are competing for is to strip away federal tax subsidies from public schools. I say, terminate all federal tax subsidies. Why should federal taxes subsidize Michael Milken? Public school funding should just stay funded by local taxes.

“The hedge funds are all good businessmen of course, because they smell the free government money. That’s what businessmen always do. Particularly Wall St. They love taxpayer guarantees.

“Free market competition means you are able to sell your product because it is better than the competition with NO government subsidy.”


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