Archives for category: Education Reform

I have written before about the controversial program called “Pay for Success.” This is also known as “social impact bonds.” Recently, two officials at the US Department of Education and the White House wrote an opinion piece in the Salt Lake Tribune applauding the use of “pay for success” to expand pre-kindergarten programs.


What is “pay for success” and what are “social impact bonds?” As blogger Fred Klonsky explains:


Pay for Success is a social impact bond (SIB) that pays Wall Street investors like Goldman Sachs a bounty for every child that does not receive special education support.


Pay for Success is nothing less than a push-out program that then pays the bond investor a bonus for every child that is pushed out of special ed services.


Special education advocate Beverley Holden Johns sent me this comment on the administration’s endorsement of “pay for success”:

In my opinion this is a new low for USDOE. Uncritically mentioning that
only one student in the PFS group was identified for special education,
justifying these absurd results by stating it will be a bumpy road, completely
failing to stress that only very high quality pre-school produces results –
failing to point to the very substantial questions about the quality of PFS in Utah,
not stating that Goldman Sachs has ALREADY BEEN PAID over $260,000 as its
first payment, and by saying USDOE is excited by Pay for Success in ESSA is irresponsible.

Bev Johns



Mark Hall is a gifted documentarian who has produced an important film titled “Killing Ed.” He tells the story that most of us know but the general public does not, about the slow strangulation of public education by special interests. He focuses on a battle for control of the schools in Austin, then generalizes the story to explain the march of privatization, facilitated by  big money. 
Mark Hall does something that other film-makers have avoided: he explores the secretive network of Gulen charter schools, possibly the largest charter chain in the nation, associated with a reclusive Turkish imam.
The trailer for KILLING ED is here:


The film contains interviews with me, Noel Hammatt in Louisiana, Sharon Higgins in Oakland, and many others. The story starts out with public school supporters in Austin who are working to win two school board seats in order to fight off a non-Gulen connected charter. The perils of school privatization are introduced, with a deep dive into the Gulen situation as the most egregious abuse. The arc then returns to the local people in Austin who end up victorious, the film delivering the message that the public needs to get involved.


Mark has held several preview screenings (private and semi-private) in recent months, but now that the film is 100% complete he is beginning to schedule formal screenings at theaters and for interested groups. Publicists are providing assistance.
If you live in the New York City area, Mark will have a one-week run at Cinema Village in Greenwich Village, with the premier on Friday, March 25th. 

More about Mark Hall’s other work:

Conservative Republicans have been eager to bring vouchers to Tennessee but they have gotten significant pushback from rural legislators, who don’t want vouchers to destroy their local public schools.


So the sponsor of the voucher legislation has scaled back his bill to make it vouchers for Shelby County only, that is, Memphis.


As usual, the most extreme of the Republicans, who never cared a fig about poor children before, are eager to help poor kids “escape” from failing public schools and go to religious schools where they can study creationism.

The BATS and the Momma Bears are fighting this bad legislation.


Do you think they know or care that vouchers haven’t provided better education anywhere? The first evaluation of the new Louisiana voucher program came out recently and reported that children in the voucher program lost ground during their first year. They were not saved.

David Gergen said on CNN tonight that young people voted for Bernie Sanders because Hillary criticized charter schools. Yes, he actually said that, on the Erin Burnett show. He said that young people like charter schools, and they were angry that Hillary opposes charter schools.


To begin with, there is no evidence whatever that young people want charter schools. If they are old enough to vote, they aren’t in school, and very few went to a charter school.


But it makes no sense to say that young people voted for Bernie because Hillary doesn’t support charter schools. Bernie has come out in opposition to charter schools. Is that why young people voted for him? Hillary made a 30-word statement that accurately stated that some charter schools don’t serve all kinds of children; her top aide for education “walked back” the statement and insisted that Hillary does support charter schools.


Will we have to endure this kind of nonsense from now until November?

This afternoon, I went to the local stationery store to get a document notarized and faxed. My local stationery store happens to be run by Hasidism, members of an orthodox Jewish sect. I asked Moishe, “How do you feel knowing that a Brooklyn Jew is running for president?” He responded that Bernie can’t win because of the super-delegates. He informed me that Hillary won more delegates in New Hampshire than Bernie, even though Bernie won the popular vote by a wide margin.


How could this be? I went home, and googled the “super delegates Democratic party.” I came across this article which explains why the Democratic party has super delegates, who the super delegates are (members of Congress and bigwigs in the party), and how they tilt the field towards the establishment candidate. Moishe was right that Hillary won more delegates in New Hampshire than Bernie.  She won 15 delegates in New Hampshire and Bernie won 13. 


The author, Shane Ryan, writes that there will be 4,763 delegates in total at the Democratic convention. Of that number, 712 are “super delegates,” about 15 percent of the total. To win the nomination, a candidate needs 2,382 delegates.


Right now, Hillary has 394 delegates, and Bernie has 42.


Who are the super delegates?


Every Democratic member of Congress, House and Senate, is a Superdelegate (240 total). Every Democratic governor is a Superdelegate (20 total). Certain “distinguished party leaders,” 20 in all, are given Superdelegate status. And finally, the Democratic National Committee names an additional 432 Superdelegates—an honor that typically goes to mayors, chairs and vice-chairs of the state party, and other dignitaries.


Shane says that a candidate–be it Hillary or anyone else–could theoretically lose the  popular vote yet have the most delegates. Yet, he believes—and this is what I told Moishe, that no candidate can win the general election unless they are clearly the choice of the party.


Which is why the super delegates will not determine the party’s candidate for the general election. The voters will decide.


In case you are wondering, I do not favor either candidate. I believe that either Democrat would be far preferable to those running for the GOP nomination. Sitting at home is not an option. This election is far too important to sit home.


Vote in the primary, vote in the general.

Many readers were upset to learn that Randi Weingarten was speaking at the Teach for America 25th reunion at the Convention Center in Washington, D.C., last weekend.


Randi appeared on a panel with Howard Fuller, who advocates for charters and vouchers. Fuller founded the BAEO, the Black Alliance for Educational Options. He goes around the country promoting school choice to black leaders and communities. Many years ago, he was the superintendent in Milwaukee. When he became a choice advocate, he was funded by the rightwing Bradley Foundation, the Walton Family Foundation, and others.


Randi points out in her article that vouchers have been a failure in Milwaukee, but she wasn’t there to debate Fuller. She explains here why she decided to appear at the TFA event.


My purpose was not to debate Fuller; it was to have a conversation about a path forward, to end the ridiculous debate in reform circles that poverty and greater economic issues don’t matter, and to debunk the notion that individual teachers can do it all.


I caught some flack on Twitter and Facebook for even attending a TFA event. The AFT and TFA disagree on a number of fundamental issues regarding education. I believe that teacher preparation should reflect the complexity and importance of this work, and that a crash course simply doesn’t cut it — it’s not fair to corps members or their students. Further, I think that TFA’s model of inadequately prepared teachers and high turnover deprofessionalizes teaching by design. And it’s dead wrong when districts use austerity as the excuse to hire TFA recruits as replacements for experienced teachers.


Read on.

In Indiana, Republican legislators want to expand the voucher program so more students can attend religious schools paid for by taxpayers. Glenda Ritz opposes the expansion.


“Ritz is referring, in part, to an idea in Senate Bill 334, authored by Sen. Carlin Yoder, R-Middlebury, that would allow schools to accept voucher students for the spring semester as late as Jan. 15 — four months after the current Sept. 1 deadline.
“The bill would eliminate provisions in state law that limit students to just one voucher per school year and would do away with current rules requiring students who leave a private school before the year ends to pay back the rest of that year’s tuition. House Education Committee Chairman Rep. Bob Behning, R-Indianapolis, said he plans to hear the bill, a signal it could have support among House lawmakers.
“At a Senate Education Committee hearing on the bill last month, Yoder said he proposed the bill, which passed the Senate last week 40-9, for programs similar to ones at The Crossing, a network of private religious alternative schools that serve about 2,500 Indiana students.
“The network includes 28 accredited private Christian schools spread throughout Indiana that cater specifically to students who struggled at other schools, were expelled or dropped out.”
“Yoder’s bill, however, would apply to any eligible student who wants to transfer to an eligible private school, not just those who are struggling and want to switch to a school in The Crossing network.”


Ritz may not be able to stop the legislative raid on funds that the state constitution reserves only for public schools.


The media has swallowed the myth that John Kasich is a moderate. They have forgotten that he tried to eliminate collective bargaining but was rebuked by Ohio’s voters. Certainly the media doesn’t know about the shameful profiteering in Ohio’s charter sector, where wealthy campaign contributors have been excused from any accountability. Just keep those campaign bucks coming!


At least the Cleveland Plain Dealer knows the story. Kasich’s campaign manager is Beth Hansen. Her husband David Hansen resigned as director of charter school operations after he presented phony data to the feds and won a $71 million grant to create more charter schools. Unfortunately–it must have been a “lapse of judgment”–he neglected to include in his report to the US Department of Education the F grades of Ohio’s online charter schools (a source of great profit to their owners and a reliable source of political donations).


In an editorial the newspaper said:


At this point, it’s nearly impossible to trust anything the Ohio Department of Education has to say on charter school performance, the subject of so much chicanery last year that in November the federal government froze a giant $71 million charter school expansion grant to Ohio.


And it just gets worse.


The latest news? A Jan. 29 letter from ODE to federal regulators sent in an attempt to win back the grant reveals that Ohio has nearly 10 times as many failing charter schools as it first reported to the U.S. Department of Education in its 2015 charter-school-expansion grant application.


The letter was in response to a federal government request for more information from Ohio as it reviews the state’s once-successful grant that would allow the best charter schools to expand using federal funds.


The state department of education seems to be more committed to the well-being of the charter industry than to Ohio’s children, say the editorial writers.


Here is the latest restatement of the charter data:


In the letter, the state increased the number of failing charter schools to 57 in 2013-2014 compared with six in the original application. That’s a nearly tenfold difference. At the same time, the letter reported 59 high-performing charter schools instead of 93, a 36 percent decrease.


So Ohio has 57 failing charter schools, and 59 high-performing charter schools. Picking a successful charter is akin to flipping a coin. Meanwhile, scarce taxpayer dollars are subsiding an inexcusable number of failing charter schools. And the state wants more.


If you want a candidate to take from the middle class and give to the rich, if you want a candidate to protect the powerful, if you want a candidate to attack unions and working people, Kasich is for you.


Valerie Strauss posted earlier today a review of Kasich’s education record. It is a mess and nothing to boast about. He is no more a moderate than Cruz, Rubio, or Bush.







Wonder no more about what Arne Duncan will do next. The Chicago Tribune reports that he has signed with CAA, a major talent agency.


CAA will arrange speaking engagements for him and line up a book deal.

Reported this morning on politico. The interesting question is, what does Ptesident Obama see as his legacy in education now that Race to the Top is over? 

OBAMA’S FINAL BUDGET: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: President Barack Obama’s FY 2017 budget will propose spending billions on his education legacy, but might not invest enough for advocates focused on implementing the Every Student Succeeds Act. Obama’s budget increases Title I grants by $450 million above the FY 2016 enacted level, totaling $15.4 billion, according to documents obtained by POLITICO. But the devil is in the details: Changes in the new law, including a 7 percent set-aside for school improvement within Title I, could potentially result in initial cuts to districts’ Title I allocations. We’ve got the full story:
– “When you look at the funding and you can’t provide increases for the formula grant programs that are the center of the new law, it says a lot,” said one advocate about Obama’s proposed Title I funding.
– Grants to states under IDEA are essentially frozen at $11.9 billion. But if Congress is going to increase funding for anything, it’s likely going to be for special education because it’s a popular bipartisan issue, advocates say.
– The budget proposes a modest $1.3 billion, or 2 percent, increase in discretionary spending over the fiscal 2016 appropriation for the Education Department, at $69.4 billion.
– The budget will propose a host of legacy-building administration plans: A $4 billion computer science initiative, a $1 billion program to help attract and keep teachers in high-needs areas and a $120 million request to encourage school integration. Charter School Grants get a $17 million boost over the 2016 enacted level at $350 million and Magnet Schools Assistance gets an $18 million boost at $115 million. Both magnet schools and charter schools can be part of strategies that encourage integration, the administration is expected to emphasize.
– On pre-K: Obama’s budget includes, for HHS, $350 million in discretionary funding for Pre-K Development Grants. That’s a $100 million increase over the FY 2016 appropriation.


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