Archives for category: Education Industry

For years, for-profit “colleges” have been criticized for false promises and preying on veterans, low-income students, and students of color. Congressional efforts to rein them in have been stymied by their high-priced lobbyists from both parties. They pay protection money and continue to fleece their students, many of whom Re saddled with debt and no education or job prospects.

Corinthian Colleges was one of the biggest and worst. It recently collapsed in bankruptcy, despite the US Department of Education’s bailout.

Thousands of students were left holding the bag, and they are threatening not to repay their student loans for a worthless education.

Bottom line: For-profit colleges should be prohibited or closely regulated. Instead they ate left free to rip off unausoecting students and to continue their predatory practices.

Don’t expect any change during the remaining days of this administration. Undersecretary of Education Ted Mitchell is in charge if this issue, and he is a supporter of for-profit education. When he was chosen, he was CEO of NewSchools Venture Fund, which helps build charter chains and advocates for for-profit education.

Thanks to politico.com for highlighting this shameful story.

Politicians in the Florida legislature love to regulate public schools, demanding accountability. They live to launch charters and vouchers that are deregulated, to prove that deregulation is a very good thing, except for public schools.

But now we learn that the politicians have been busy deregulating for-profit colleges while sweeping in campaign contributions from these institutions and their sponsors.

“The rules are different for for-profit colleges. Despite fraud lawsuits and government investigations involving for-profit colleges all over the country, Florida’s Legislature continues to encourage the industry’s growth while reducing quality standards and oversight. Florida’s attorney general has been less aggressive than some counterparts in pursuing the schools when they skirt laws involving the hundreds of millions they receive in state and federal money.

In one city, Homestead, a school owner gained enormous influence with the local government, working through the mayor, whose wife the owner secretly hired as a $5,000-a-month consultant. The Miami-Dade state attorney’s office looked into the connection but decided it was no crime.”

The groups with the biggest checkbook tend to set the agenda, said one critic.

Is this helping American education? Of course not. Is it helping students? Nope.

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/education/article19191054.html#storylink=cpy

While public schools suffer budget cuts and unfunded mandates, billionaires are funding a start-up chain of private schools. It is not clear whether it will operate for profit or not.

“With its vision of transforming the elementary- and middle-school experience through personalized learning and smart operating systems, AltSchool, a start-up in San Francisco, has attracted top-tier technology investors.

“Last year, it raised $33 million from Founders Fund and Andreessen Horowitz, as well as from First Round Capital, John Doerr, Harrison Metal, Jonathan Sackler, Learn Capital and Omidyar Network.

“On Monday morning, AltSchool announced that it had raised an additional $100 million from Founders Fund, Andreessen Horowitz, Learn Capital and First Round Capital, along with a couple of major philanthropists: a donor-advised fund financed by Mark Zuckerberg, the chief executive of Facebook, and his wife, Priscilla Chan, at the Silicon Valley Community Foundation. Emerson Collective, an organization founded by Laurene Powell Jobs that makes investments and grants in education and other endeavors, is also an investor.”

The Néw York Times reports that the top 25 hedge fund managers took home $11 + billion in 2014, even though it was not a good year.

Readers of this blog know that certain hedge fund managers have used their wealth to advance the privatization of public education , not only in Néw York, but in other states as well.

If only we could find one hedge fund manager who understood the value of educating all children.

Ah, the Brave New World of free-market schooling! The for-profit corporation Imagine Schools just sold its campus in east Manatee, Florida, for $6.6 million. The school will continue to operate there; it has a capacity of 650, and an enrollment of 500 students.

 

The school, which has about 500 students and a capacity for 650, has roughly nine years left on a lease commitment for the two buildings involved in the sale.

 

Completed in 2009, the school at 10535 Portal Crossing occupies about three acres. The sale equated to a 10% capitalization rate based on the school’s rent, says Ian Black, whose commercial real estate brokerage firm represented both sides in the transaction.

 

“What made this transaction somewhat unusual was that Hemisphere didn’t know where Lakewood Ranch was at first, but as they conducted their due diligence and discovered that the ranch had just turned 20 years old, they began to recognize the area’s value and the value of the school, which is a beautiful facility that’s well located,” says Black, founder and president of Ian Black Real Estate.

 

The Imagine School in Lakewood Ranch is one of 17 such charter schools in Florida, and among 71 Imagine campuses nationwide. In 2013, Imagine’s parent company generated revenue of $250 million, according to marketing materials compiled for the sales effort.

 

Meanwhile, in Ohio, Imagine Schools was fined nearly $1 million by a federal judge for forcing a lucrative lease agreement on a school it operated.

 

Under the complex deal, Imagine Schools negotiated the pricey lease with SchoolHouse Finance and presented it to the school board of the Renaissance Academy for Math and Science for approval. Imagine Schools owns SchoolHouse Finance and directly benefited by the agreement.

 

“This clearly constituted self-dealing,” U.S. District Judge Judge Nanette K. Laughrey wrote in a blistering 29-page ruling.

 

The Columbus Dispatch added:

 

Sound familiar? The Dispatch in October reported about a North Side charter school spending more than half of the tax dollars it receives on rent in a very similar lease deal with Imagine Schools and SchoolHouse Finance. The board of the Imagine Columbus Primary Academy asked Imagine to renegotiate the lease but that has not happened.

 

Other Ohio charter-school operators use similar lease deals, and while apparently legal, supporters and opponents complained that they wasted tax dollars and lawmakers pledged to take a look.

 

In the earlier story, the Columbus Dispatch learned that an Imagine Schools charter school was paying more in rent than to staff and other costs.

 

A North Side charter school expects to spend more of the tax dollars it receives this school year on rent than on teachers and staff.

 

Imagine Columbus Primary Academy projects building-lease payments of $700,000, making rent the school’s top expense, eating up more than half its annual state revenue, according to a school financial report. The school expects to pay $614,000 on salaries and benefits this year.

 

Similar arrangements are in place for the other five Imagine Schools in Franklin County.

 

Who is charging the charter schools such high rent? A company called SchoolHouse Finance — which is a subsidiary of Imagine.

 

It gets even more complicated: SchoolHouse buys the buildings, resells them typically for two or three times the purchase price, and then leases the facility from the new owner so it can rent the space back to Imagine.

 

Five of the schools in Franklin County received a combined $20.2 million in the 2012-13 school year, according to their most recent state audits. A quarter of that money — more than $5.1 million — was spent on rent, all under long-term leases with SchoolHouse Finance.

 

A sixth school, Imagine Integrity Academy, spent 81 percent of its $440,009 in state aid on rent, according to an audit for the 2011-12 school year, the most recent available.

 

And on top of the leases, Imagine is being paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for “indirect costs” as operator of the schools, records show.
The upshot is that the complex deals are diverting hundreds of thousands of public dollars to one of the nation’s largest charter-school operators, Imagine Schools Inc., and its affiliates. Imagine operates 67 charter schools in 11 states and the District of Columbia. At least three states and Washington, D.C., are investigating Imagine for real-estate maneuvers like those in Ohio, and a fourth state, Missouri, already has shut down several Imagine schools.

 

Why aren’t these for-profit schemes illegal? Why should tax dollars enrich profiteers?

The Center for Popular Democracy released a bombshell report on the financial consequences of charter deregulation and lack of public oversight. It is called “The Tip of the Iceberg: Charter School Vulnerabilities to Waste, Fraud, and Abuse.”

 

When public money is handed over to private corporations or individuals to operate schools, there must be regular monitoring of  and audits. Absent financial monitoring, the result is predictable: waste, fraud, mismanagement, and financial abuse. Does this help education? No, it enriches people who are either in the education business for the money or incompetent to manage the finances of a school.

 

Here is the executive summary released with the report:

 

A year ago, the Center for Popular Democracy (CPD) issued a report demonstrating that charter schools in 15 states—about one-third of the states with charter schools—had experienced over $100 million in reported fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement. This report offers further evidence that the money we know has been misused is just the tip of the iceberg. Over the past 12 months, millions of dollars of new alleged and confirmed financial fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement in charter schools have come to light, bringing the new total to over $200 million.

 

Despite the tremendous ongoing investment of public dollars to charter schools, government at all levels has failed to implement systems that proactively monitor charter schools for fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement. While charter schools are subject to significant reporting requirements by various public offices (including federal monitors, chartering entities, county superintendents, and state controllers and auditors), very few public offices regularly monitor for fraud.

 

The number of instances of serious fraud uncovered by whistleblowers, reporters, and investigations suggests that the fraud problem extends well beyond the cases we know about. According to standard forensic auditing methodologies, the deficiencies in charter oversight throughout the country suggest that federal, state, and local governments stand to lose more than $1.4 billion in 2015.b 1 The vast majority of the fraud perpetrated by charter officials will go undetected because the federal government, the states, and local charter authorizers lack the oversight necessary to detect the fraud.

 

Setting up systems that detect and deter charter school fraud is critical. Investments in strong oversight systems will almost certainly offset the necessary costs. We recommend the following reforms:

 

Mandate audits that are specifically designed to detect and prevent fraud, and increase the transparency and accountability of charter school operators and managers.
Clear planning-based public investments to ensure that any expansions of charter school investments ensure equity, transparency, and accountability.
Increased transparency and accountability to ensure that charter schools provide the information necessary for state agencies to detect and prevent fraud.
State and federal lawmakers should act now to put systems in place to prevent fraud, waste, abuse and mismanagement. While the majority of state legislative sessions are coming to an end, there is an opportunity to address the charter school fraud problem on a federal level by including strong oversight requirements in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), which is currently being debated in Congress. Unfortunately, some ESEA proposals do very little reduce the vulnerabilities that exist in the current law. If the Act is passed without the inclusion of the reforms outlined in this report, taxpayers stand to lose millions more dollars to charter school fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement.

 

 

To read the full post: http://populardemocracy.org/sites/default/files/Charter-Schools-National-Report_rev2.pdf

 

It contains a long list of examples of charter fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement. And it is only the tip of the iceberg.

 

 

 

 

 

A comment on the blog:

 

I attended a forum at Scarsdale HS last night (4/30) w panelists Regent Judith Johnson, Assemblywoman Amy Paulin, and Scarsdale Schools Superintendent Hagerman.

 

Chancellor Merryl Tisch and Regent Rosa attended but did not participate.

 

All panelists spoke to the problems with the state tests and there was general consensus that the tests have no value as a measure of students’ abilities or teacher competencies, that they are a burden to students because test prep takes time away from project-based and other learning and are unnecessarily stressful for children, and are a financial burden to districts.

 

One of the most interesting comments from Judith Johnson was in response to questions from members of the audience who expressed frustration at not being heard by Albany.

 

Ms Johnson firmly insisted that parents and opponents to current testing and CC ARE being heard.

 

HOWEVER, she said that what hasn’t been put forward – what hasn’t be heard – are clear, unified demands and requests for specific changes.

 

Can you lead us forward in that?

 

What specific requests should individuals and groups demand of the the Regents, state DOE, Cuomo, and federal government?

 

Ms Johnson also expressed serious concerns that the State Regents do not having sufficient support staff-experiencing this already and only thirty days into the position. One can certainly see how that could limit her activities and scope of influence. Any thoughts?

 

There’s much more that I’m leaving out. The event will air on Scarsdale public access TV in next few days.

 

I’m curious to hear your thoughts.

 

Sincerely,

 

Mira Karabin
Hartsdale, NY

 

Dear Mira,

 

Thanks for writing. Your first question is whether the people in Albany are aware of your concerns. The answer is yes and no. They definitely notice when the parents of nearly 200,000 children refused to take the state test.

 

Governor Cuomo heard you. He pronounced that you shouldn’t be worried because the tests are “meaningless” and won’t count against your children; they will be meaningful only for teachers, who will be punished if the scores don’t go up by whatever metric the state chooses.

 

Merryl Tisch heard you. She offered to delay the stakes attached to the testing for a year for some districts, on a case-by-case basis, or to exempt high-performing districts like yours.

 

But they didn’t actually hear you because they didn’t hear what parents were saying when they opted out. They are not offering to disconnect the scores from teacher evaluations. They are not agreeing to reduce the stakes attached to the tests. They are not offering to review the validity or reliability of the tests. They are not offering any substantive change at all, at best just a delay.

 

They don’t understand that pressuring teachers to get higher scores–or else–changes what happens in the classroom. It shifts the emphasis from inquiry to drill. It makes test-taking skills more important than thinking skills. It narrows the curriculum only to what is tested. It is contrary to good education, which is why private schools don’t follow the state’s lead. I think it is accurate to say that the leaders and decision-makers in Albany, including the Governor, his staff, most of the Regents, and those at the top of the State Education Department are wedded to an agenda that confuses test scores with education. Tests are a measure not the goal of education. There is also, at the highest level, an inexplicable contempt for the work of teachers and principals. And your children suffer for their ill-conceived policies.

 

Yes, there are specific, clear demands, voiced by New York State Allies for Public Education. Among other things, they demand “a dramatic reduction of testing in grades 3rd – 8th,” and a call to Congress to shift from annual testing to grade span testing. They also demand an independent review of the state’s standards and a “public and transparent process” for selecting the new state commissioner of education. They say, do not release any personally identifiable data about any student to any third party without parental consent. Check out their list of demands.

 

I would add a few more.

 

Reduce the time required for state testing (currently 7-10 hours) to not more than 2 hours, one for reading, one for math.

 

Convene a task force of independent and qualified testing experts to review the validity and reliability of the state tests.

 

Release the state tests after they are administered so that parents, teachers, and researchers can learn from them.

 

Provide teachers with information specific to each child so they will know how to help them do better in the future.

 

These are clear and specific demands. I think they fairly represent the views of those who refused the tests. If the Governor, the Legislature, and the Regents refuses to change their agenda, more parents will opt out next time. Ideally, there will come a day when no one takes these tests, which have not been reviewed for their validity and reliability and which are kept secret from teachers and parents. How many pineapples might be hidden in the questions? Why shouldn’t teachers learn what students got right or wrong?

 

I hope this is helpful.

 

Diane

 

 

Peter Greene read Marc Tucker’s critique of America’s academic standards and found some things to like, others to sharply disagree with.

Tucker’s essay is titled “Why American Education Standards Collapsed.” He speculates that standards have fallen over the past 40-45 years. Greene reviews Tucker’s economic analysis of the same period, with economic pressure on the middle class and pressure to push everyone to go to college.

It is a good read, and I highly recommend it.

Greene concludes:

Tucker has some points. Accountability has pretty much been a disaster for everybody (except disaster profiteers), and the economic shift in our country has been very, very hard on many of our citizens, making it harder for our children to get the best advantages in life, including education.

And we could certainly use leaders who were better, particularly when we consider that much of disruption of the last forty-five years, from the industrial crash of the seventies to the economic disasters of the 2000s, has been human-created. Here’s the thing– I don’t think the leaders of the car and steel industries, nor the banksters of the Great Recession, would have avoided all that mess if they had had better SAT scores or a better GPA in college.

Tucker reminds me of a person who sits fearfully in his house, hears a gurgle from the kitchen sink drain, and worries that it means that a burglar is coming in the second floor window. Or a chicken who gets hit with an acorn and fears the sky is falling. It’s not that there aren’t real and serious issues, problems that need to be addressed. But he is seeing connections between these issues and other factors that have nothing to do with them. The danger with Tucker is that his core belief, stated through much of his work, is that we need to control everything so that we can make all come out as it should. Any time you find somebody who thinks that kind of control is a good thing and that he totally knows how to manage it, you have found somebody who is dangerous. When you find somebody who believes he can control the entire machine but doesn’t really know how the parts fit together, you have found somebody who could make a serious mess. I’m really glad that Marc Tucker is in the world, but I’m even more glad that he’s not in charge.

Valerie Strauss posted an article about the lobbying activities of the giant testing corporations. They spend many millions of dollars to ensure that Congress and the states understand the importance of buying their services. It would be awful for them if any state decided to let teachers write their own tests and test what they taught.

 

The four corporations that dominate the U.S. standardized testing market spend millions of dollars lobbying state and federal officials — as well as sometimes hiring them — to persuade them to favor policies that include mandated student assessments, helping to fuel a nearly $2 billion annual testing business, a new analysis shows.

 

The analysis, done by the Center for Media and Democracy, a nonprofit liberal watchdog and advocacy agency based in Wisconsin that tracks corporate influence on public policy, says that four companies — Pearson Education, ETS (Educational Testing Service), Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and McGraw-Hill— collectively spent more than $20 million lobbying in states and on Capitol Hill from 2009 to 2014.

 

When I visited Texas a few years ago, I wondered why Texas paid nearly $500 million to Pearson for five years of testing, but New York paid only $32 million to Pearson for the same five years. I assumed it must be a testament to the high quality lobbyists that Pearson hired in Texas, starting with Sandy Kress, who was one of the architects of No Child Left Behind and very well connected to the state’s power structure.

This is quite a remarkable admission. Nicholas Kristof writes today in the New York Times that the “reform” efforts have “peaked.” I read that and the rest of the column to mean that they have failed to make a difference. Think of it: Bill Gates, the Walton family, Eli Broad, Wendy Kopp, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, Florida Governor Rick Scott, Ohio Governor John Kasich, Indiana Governor Mike Pence, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, President George W. Bush, President Barack Obama, Michelle Rhee, Campbell Brown, and a host of other luminaries have been singing the same song for the past 15 years: Our schools are broken, and we can fix them with charters, vouchers, high-stakes testing, merit pay, elimination of unions, elimination of tenure, and rigorous efforts to remove teachers who can’t produce ever-rising test scores.

Despite the billions of dollars that the federal government, the states, and philanthropies have poured into this formula, it hasn’t worked, says Kristof. It is time to admit it and to focus instead on the early years from birth to kindergarten.

He writes:

For the last dozen years, waves of idealistic Americans have campaigned to reform and improve K-12 education.

Armies of college graduates joined Teach for America. Zillionaires invested in charter schools. Liberals and conservatives, holding their noses and agreeing on nothing else, cooperated to proclaim education the civil rights issue of our time.

Yet I wonder if the education reform movement hasn’t peaked.

The zillionaires are bruised. The idealists are dispirited. The number of young people applying for Teach for America, after 15 years of growth, has droppedfor the last two years. The Common Core curriculum is now an orphan, with politicians vigorously denying paternity.

K-12 education is an exhausted, bloodsoaked battlefield. It’s Agincourt, the day after. So a suggestion: Refocus some reformist passions on early childhood.

Wow! That is exactly what I wrote in “Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools,” along with recommendations for reduced class sizes, a full curriculum, a de-emphasis on high-stakes testing, a revival of public policies to reduce poverty and segregation, and a recommitment to the importance of public education.

When I look at the Tea Party legislature in North Carolina or the hard-right politicians in the Midwest or the new for-profit education industry, I don’t think of them as idealistic but as ideologues. Aside from that, I think that Kristof gives hope to all those parents and teachers who have been working for years to stop these ideologues from destroying public education. Yes, it should be improved, it must be improved. There should be a good public school in every neighborhood, regardless of zip code. But that won’t happen unless our leaders dedicate themselves to changing the conditions in which families and children live so that all may have equal opportunity in education and in life.

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