Archives for category: Education Industry

Bertis Downs, a member of the board of directors of the Network for Public Education, lives in Georgia. He sent the following comment, which gives hope that the citizens of Georgia will support their local public schools and vote for a Governor who wants to improve them. An earlier post described Governor Nathan Deal’s desire to create a statewide district modeled on the failed RSD in New Orleans (failed because most of the charters are rated D or F by the state and the district as a whole is one of the lowest performing in the state).

 

Bertis writes:

 

 

Some narrative-shifting appears to be going on here in GA I am happy to report (but not resting on any laurels as we are up against the Big Money snake oil nonsense like everywhere else of course)

But some examples:

–from Savannah Morning News, this is good to see, a clear and direct report on the effects of budget cuts over time–

http://bit.ly/1ux1Sjs

–from middle Georgia, Macon’s Telegraph had a recent editorial on education and poverty with a key paragraph:

“During this political season, there is no better question to ask the candidates, particularly those running for state school superintendent and governor, what they plan to do to support the state’s K-12 education system. Then, whoever is elected, will have to be held accountable if they don’t keep their word.”

http://bit.ly/1wt1LaA

–and in Athens news, check out this editorial on our school board and superintendent pushing back about the absurdities of the new testing heavy statewide teacher evaluation system– the Athens Banner-Herald supporting the position of our local educators is a good thing:

http://bit.ly/1q2NpFo
http://bit.ly/1tB14Hp

–finally, here is an interesting piece on the GO PUBLIC film recently screened in Athens:

http://bit.ly/1tQU1dN

Jason Carter has built his campaign on public education issues and slowly but surely the word is getting out that if we want to truly support public schools and teachers in Georgia, Jason Carter is the right candidate for governor. And with the incumbent faltering by the day, his talking points now featuring unabashed support for Jindal-style reform gimmicks like RSD, it’s no wonder the polls are tied and Jason has a serious chance of winning by attracting moderate Republican and independent education voters. Nobody, Republican, Democrat or Independent, nobody likes to see their local schools diminished and weakened, good teachers leaving teaching, and their children’s love of learning sapped away by the high-stakes overtesting being done these days in the name of “reform.” People are realizing the fact that under the current state leadership, that’s what Georgia will continue to get– if Deal gets another term.

Peter Greene has been following the conversation at EducationPost, the blog funded by Broad, Walton, Bloomberg et al for $12 million, he says that the new spin from reformsters is that education is too politicized. He agrees but asks how it got that way. Who took the decision making power away from educators and gave it to legislatures, governors, the President, and Comgress? Not educators.

Peter Greene knows who did it:

“As it turns out, I think I have an answer for this one. Asking why the Common Core are wrapped up in politics is like asking why human beings are so involved with blood.

“The Common Core were birthed in politics. They were weaned on politics. And every time they have looked tired and in trouble, they have been revived with a fresh transfusion of politics.

“When David Coleman and Gene Wilhoit decided they wanted to standardize American education, they did not come up with a plan to sell such a program on its education merits. They called on Bill Gates to use his money and power to convince state governments to legislate systemic changes to education.

“The states signed on to a Memo of Understanding (a political tool for out-politicking politics) and many of them did it before there were even any standards to look at. This was a political move, using the political power of legislatures and governors’ offices to impose rules on educational systems– in many cases, before educators in particular states even knew that such a systemic overhaul was being considered.

“Common Core’s Pappy, No Child Left Behind, was a creature of politics, right down to its spin-ready title. It was created to put a glossy shine on bipartisan action for the kids. Educators (and other people with rudimentary math skills) pointed out early on that the NCLB end game of 100% above average was ridiculously improbable, but the political shininess plus the political notion that future politicians would find a political solution drowned out good sense. Because, politics.”

He concludes:

“At no point in all this reformy baloney have we seen the spectacle of bottom-up reform, a reform movement driven by teachers and other educators saying, “Hey, we have some ideas that are so revolutionary and so great that they are spreading like wildfire strictly on their educational merits!”

“No– Common Core and its attendant test-driven high stakes data-glomming VAMboozling baloney have come from the top down, by politicians using political power to impose educational solutions through the political tools applied to the political structure of government. Why do people get the idea that all these reformy ideas are linked? Because they all come from the same place– the linkage is the political power that imposed them all on the American public education system.

“Look. We live in the real world and politics play a part in many things. But for some reformsters to offer wide eyes and shocked dismay and clutched pearls as they cry, “Oh, but why does it have to be so political!” is the height of hypocrisy. It’s political because you folks made it political, every step of the way, and it’s not humanly possible for you to be too dumb to know that (particularly at a site like Education Post that is larded with career political operatives). So if you want to have a serious conversation about any of this, Step One is top stop lying, badly, directly to our faces. I can’t hear you when my bullshit detector alarm is screaming in my ear.”

The Palm Beach County Commission allocated $20 million to enable a new charter school to borrow money for school construction. Some members of the commission opposed it, but the majority thought it was just another business that needed public funding.

 

The County Commission voted in favor of allowing Renaissance Charter School at Cypress on Okeechobee Boulevard in West Palm Beach to borrow money by accessing tax-exempt bonds. Those bonds can help the charter school pay for the cost of buying land, constructing the new building, adding equipment and other educational expenses.

While the money comes from private investors, those bonds are supposed to get paid back by school revenues. Those revenues include the portion of school tax dollars that go toward charter schools.

Palm Beach County shouldn’t be enabling charter school companies to profit from the bond deals, said County Commissioner Paulette Burdick.

“It’s not about educating children. It’s about making money,” said Burdick, a former school board member….

 

Charter schools are billed as a way to provide parents more educational alternatives for their children. Private companies, nonprofit groups and other organizations can use public funds to start charter schools, which can operate without many of the regulations of traditional schools.

But a proliferation of charter schools has sparked concerns that they are poorly regulated and too often fail to deliver on promised educational improvements. Critics say charter schools are taking too many tax dollars away from educational efforts at existing public schools.

The Palm Beach County League of Women Voters on Tuesday opposed approving a bond deal for the Renaissance Charter School.

Charter school companies are using public financing help to profit off land deals and the county shouldn’t help, according to Elaine Goodman, of the League of Women Voters.

“What is happening to our traditional public schools?” Goodman asked. “Where are our priorities?”

 

Despite the critics, the commission approved the deal by a vote of 5-2.

 

 

This is a must-see. Peter Greene here presents and discusses comedian John Oliver on student debt.

Most students will leave college with heavy debts; some will spend years trying to pay it off. The arrangement was created by the federal government and state governments, which have steadily decreased their responsibility for subsidizing the cost of higher education, transferring the burden to students. There once was a time when community colleges were tuition-free. No longer. For-profit institutions and online “universities” have moved in to fill their place. These institutions have terrible completion rates. Despite repeated calls to regulate the for-profits, Congress and the U.S. Department of Education have failed to do so. The for-profit industry hires top lobbyists from both parties to protect their interests. Who protects the students?

When one of the worst for-profit institutions (Corinthian) teetered near bankruptcy, the US DOE extended a bail-out instead of closing it down.

Which is the most powerful player behind the scenes in corporate reform?

This article says, without doubt, McKinsey.

Where did David Coleman, architect of the Common Core standards, get his start: McKinsey.

Which firm pushes the narrative of a “crisis in education”: McKinsey.

Which firm believes that Big Data will solve all problems? McKinsey.

Look behind the screen, behind the curtain: McKinsey.

Feeling down about corporate ownership of almost everything? So is David Greene. Gates, Walton, Bloomberg, Bezos, Murdoch, Koch. What don’t they own? Our votes.

David thinks back a century. Other oligarchs owned almost everything then. Of course, it didn’t occur to them to monetize the schools.

But we beat them back. We elected people to regulate the oligarchs. We can do it again.

Paul Tractenberg, a distinguished law professor at Rutgers University, challenges the idea that all-charter districts based on the New Orleans model are a magic bullet for Newark, Camden, and other low-performing districts in New Jersey. He notes that for the past four years, we have been bombarded with propaganda films like “Waiting for Superman” and “Won’t Back Down,” intended to convince us of the superiority of privatized charter schools over traditional public schools.

But, Tractenberg notes, the evidence is missing. Contrary to media hype, the Recovery School District in New Orleans is one of the lowest-performing districts in the state. No miracle there.

He asks questions that the propagandists for an all-charter district can’t answer:

“Do we really believe that the education of our most vulnerable students will be enhanced by constant churning of their schools and teachers? Do we really believe that we will improve education by replacing experienced and credentialed teachers with bright young college graduates — B.A. generalists as we used to call them in the early days of the Peace Corps — who are trained for six weeks before they are placed in the nation’s most difficult classrooms for their two-year commitments? Do we really believe that, despite growing evidence to the contrary, charter schools will begin to fully serve the needs of special education and LEP students? Do we really believe that balkanizing our already undersized New Jersey school districts to the charter-school level, where each charter school is technically an independent school district, will satisfy our state constitutional mandate of an “efficient system of free public schools”?

I have just finished reading Kristen Buras’ book about New Orleans. I will review it soon on the blog. It is the counter narrative to the reformer boosterism about New Orleans, “Charter Schools, Race, and Urban Space.” It tells the story of the past decade from the perspective of black students, parents, teachers, and communities. It is a story of dispossession, of white supremacy, of community destruction. The publisher put a crazy price on the book, but I hear there will soon be a reasonably priced softcover. Buras shows that the destruction of public education in New Orleans is no model for other cities.

This came in my email from a teacher who gave me her/his name, email, school name, and phone number. I asked for permission to post the letter and received it. Do you have any suggestions for this teacher?

Ms. Ravitch,

I am writing to you because you are the first person I have seen take such a great interest into researching the integrity of charter school systems. I am a teacher at a charter school in Cleveland. I hate it. I hate the whole idea of it. This company I work for is making BILLIONS of dollars by putting schools in impoverished areas… and pocketing it. So basically, they are making billions of dollars off poor people. I have funded nearly my entire classroom. We are a for-profit school and we don’t see any of that profit. In fact, we can’t even accept gifts or donations from charitable causes because they are not allowed to give things to for-profit schools. So when our students come to school in the same outfit every day for two weeks, we don’t have clothes that were so graciously donated to our school to let the students borrow. We have nothing. Their greed for money has gotten so extreme that as a way to push for more enrollment, they had the teachers go canvassing… in east Cleveland. Not sure how familiar you are with the area, but let’s just say I walked up to a neighborhood gang. This made me feel so invaluable- more than I could ever have imagined feeling with what I’m being paid and for the resources I have been given. It has come to a point to where they have actually begun to put our lives in jeopardy; risking our safety and threatening us with job loss due to unsubstantial funding. It’s a load of bullshit. They just want more money and it sickens me.

Why am I still working for them… because I feel like the students need me. Who will have a voice for the people with no voice if someone who knows what needs to be done isn’t there to do it?

I have thought of the problem and brainstormed multiple stepping stones to a solution, however, it is hard these days to accomplish anything meaningful when it is one person vs. a billion dollar corporation. I have met with a union rep and have tossed around the idea of starting a union. I continue to send her any information I can. However, starting a union not only seems unlikely, but I’m not sure if it would accomplish the real goal. I have little doubt that a company like mine would shut down all of their Ohio schools before turning over to the requests of a union. And quite frankly, they are excellent at covering their tracks. Our students’ IEPs are never met because we lack the staffing to carry out those duties– so illegal right? So they fired our entire intervention staff and made them interview with an outsourced company they hired, probably to take the fall if they get caught for not meeting IEPs…. Let’s just say they think ahead.

The other solution I looked into was turning to ODE or the political members that are supposed to be making sure these sort of things aren’t happening. Yet those people are turning their cheek the other way, calling people like me whistle-blowers. Apparently anyone who wants justice in this world is a tattletale… and will lose their job.

I could go on and on naming indecencies of the company I work for, but the point is, what am I accomplishing by complaining? Who can I turn to to help me make this company own up to their malpractices? How can one person make a positive difference in a system that is infiltrated with all sorts of corruption?

Any advice would be welcomed with open arms.

Sincerely,

Frustrated Teacher

Jeff Bryant notices an interesting new phenomenon: Corporate reformers have dropped their triumphalist tone, and now they want to have a “conversation.” But the curious aspect to their concept is that the conversation they want begins with their assumptions about the value of charters, vouchers, collective bargaining, and tenure. As he shows, their “conversation” doesn’t involve actual classroom teachers or parent activists working to improve their public school. It typically means a “bipartisan” agreement between people who work in DC think tanks or veterans of the Bush and Obama administrations or grantees of the billionaire foundations promoting privatization.

In short, the “new” conversation isn’t new at all. It is a shiny new echo chamber where the voices of working teachers (not counting TFA and AstroTurf groups like Educators4Excellence and TeachPlus and others created and funded by Gates, Broad, and Walton) will not be heard.

A real conversation includes the voices of those who know the most about schools and teaching and learning: real working classroom teachers, as well as those who know the most about children, their parents. If the reformers listened to these voices, they would quickly learn that those who are most closely involved in education are not part of the Beltway consensus.

The Ohio blogger Plunderbund here lays out the astonishing record of William Lager and the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow.(ECOT). This online charter school is the largest charter in the state. It receives almost $100 million a year from the state.

“On the latest report cards released by the Ohio Department of Education, ECOT continues to rank below all of the 8 large urban schools that are often-criticized by legislators and in the media for their “sub-par” performance.

“That hasn’t stopped ECOT’s founder, William Lager, from continuing to get paid. And getting paid he is.”

“Lager is also the owner of two privately-held companies that provide both the management services (Altair Learning Management) and curriculum (IQ Innovations) to the online school.” Those two companies will collect another $22 million for their services.

Plunderbund shows that Lager is a major campaign contributor. He has donated $2 million to political campaigns since he went into the charter business in 2000.

“Let’s just say that Lager is living pretty well thanks to Ohio’s Republican legislators who keep the money flowing. While Ohio’s public schools are are pinching pennies due to funding cuts and most public school employees are seeing modest (if any) raises, Lager’s companies take is increasing at a rate of nearly 15% per year.

“Lager is living large off of public education funding.”

Plunderbund wonders why the Columbus Dispatch says nothing about Lager’s lavish compensation and his school’s poor performance.

He concludes:

“THAT is the story of William Lager and ECOT. THAT is at least how much Lager is making [$2 million a year] on a salary funded by Ohio’s taxpayers and approved by Ohio’s Republican majority.

“But, since Ohio’s Republican legislators, including Lager’s close friend, John Kasich, aren’t truly interested in transparency as far as charter schools are concerned, we’ll never actually know the true extent of William Lager’s fleecing of Ohio’s taxpayers or why “Ohio’s Greatest Home Newspaper”, the Columbus Dispatch, continues to ignore Lager’s gross abuse of taxpayer-funded, public education dollars. Let’s just say Lager’s making and donating enough to keep it a secret.”

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