Archives for category: For-Profit

This post appears on a Florida blog called Accountabaloney. The blog was started by two parents in southern Florida, a retired pediatrician and a graphic designer. They are Sue Woltanski and Suzette Lopez.

This is the planned statement I presented to the Monroe County School Board, my local district board, on Tuesday, January 26, 2015. In it, I called the alarm regarding Competency Based Education (CBE), data mining and the planned destruction of public school as we know it. Please read it, study the attached links and additional reading, and share the information. We hope it will inspire parents and educators to speak out against efforts to destroy public schools while profiting off our children.

We believe Florida’s accountabaloney system is deeply entangled in this move to CBE. Schools and teachers must be labeled as failing, otherwise there is no political will to completely overhaul them. Years of underfunding public schools has hastened their demise. Voucher programs highlight the concocted need for students to flee failing schools while nothing is done towards funding needed public school improvements. State mandated remediation programs have brought CBE and data mining into our classrooms.

It must be stopped.

Mr. Chairman, Board Members, Mr. Superintendent,

Almost 2 years ago, I first spoke to this board about concerns regarding standardized testing. At that time I quoted State Representative Keith Perry who, during a House Education committee meeting had described the current state of education as a period of “Creative Destruction” in which only by destroying our schools will we emerge in the future with something better. He called this “the American Way.” At last fall’s Excellence in Education Summit, Miami Representative Erik Fresen publicly repeated the need to completely destroy public schools (at 54:45).

“Policy is what matters… The most courageous policy of all, which is: take the entire system that exists right now and disrupt it completely. That will require policy changes.”

Today, I am here to, once again, sound the alarm and to inform you that the complete destruction of our public schools is closer than you think. It goes by the name of Competency Based Education and it has already infiltrated Monroe County Public Schools. Multiple bills are currently being pushed through the Florida legislature this session allowing the unbridled expansion of the policies Mr. Fresen needs to “take down the entire system.”

I will try to outline what is happening:

In this modern computer era, digital personal data is gold, currently being traded like currency. You know when you search for something on Amazon and Google and then you start seeing ads related to that search in your feed? That is the result of data mining.

In a video I have linked, the CEO of Knewton explains how Education is today’s most data mined industry. He explains “the name of the game is data per user.” From Amazon or Netflix they get 1 data point per user per day. Google and Facebook 10 data points per user per day. In education, Knewton gets 5-10 million actionable data points per student per day! Apparently, every sentence of every passage in digital content has a data tag and they can tell how interested a child is in a certain topic, how difficult it was, etc., etc. Ten million data points a day! This data grab is a gold mine to companies that want to market and design products. For venture capitalists, Education is the new hot commodity.

This is probably why last year’s FSA had a reading passage straight out of American Girl… Not only is this, clearly, product placement advertising on our state mandated test, which should be questioned, but, by using a data tagged American Girl passage, data can be collected to see just what parts of the story is most interesting to boys and girls and marketing strategies can be developed.

This is also why, though paper and pencil tests would dramatically reduce testing time, there is an insistence on computer based testing. On a computer based test, more data than just marked answers can and is being collected and shared.

This also explains why state approved remedial reading and math programs have essentially all been computer based. State tests can be created, and cut scores manipulated, in order to fail large numbers of students and state law can mandate each failing student participate in a digital remediation program, ensuring a steady stream of data points to third party participants.

Keep in mind that student test scores are digitally linked to personal identification data, including student address, IEP, free lunch status, health records, and discipline records and god knows what else. What if your “permanent record” went viral? Last November, a U.S. Congressional committee criticized the USDOE, exposing how vulnerable its information systems are to security threats. I encourage you to watch the proceeding. Currently, federal student data is NOT secure.

Monroe County already participates in the sharing of student data through associations with Certi-port, Achieve 3000, iReady, iStation, and more. These are vendors that are known to collect and distribute student data. Can they guarantee our student’s privacy is protected? Who are they sharing the data with? Do we know? We do not.

Last week, the Senate Education Committee voted favorably on SB1714. This bill allows for Competency Based Education pilot programs, funded by massive grants from the Gates Foundation, in Lake and Pinellas County and at P.K. Yonge. An amendment was added allowing Commissioner Stewart to expand the program to other counties. They are expanding the program before they have any data on its effectiveness. By 2022 every single school in Lake County will be converted to CBE.

In Florida, to my knowledge, There has never been a legislative workshop devoted to even discussing what CBE involves. CBE is a data driven education system that follows a set of prescribed standards and requires demonstration of “competency” before advancement. It has embedded testing within the curriculum that collects hidden streams of data via unknown algorithms. Stealth, continuous data–collected by vendors, can be shared with third parties–parental consent not needed.

The goal is to digitalize education so data can be collected and, remember, data is gold.

According to Edweek, researchers are busy developing computerized tutoring systems that gather information on students’ facial expressions, heart rate, posture, pupil dilation, and more. Those data are then analyzed for signs of student engagement, boredom, or confusion, leading a computer avatar to respond with encouragement, empathy, or maybe a helpful hint.” Creepy…

The measurement of social and emotional competencies, like grit, perseverance and tenacity, is a stated goal of the USDOE . Measurement of these non-cognitive competencies is already embedded into education programs.

Monroe has spent millions of dollars increasing our technology capabilities under mandates from the state. Initially we were concerned that all these computers were used for little more than testing and test prep. The mandates may, actually, have been in preparation for CBE.

The good news is that, with CBE, end of course exams and the FSA will become obsolete. When data on student progress can be collected every minute of every day, the “BIG” test is no longer necessary.

The bad news… teachers won’t be necessary, either. Current pilot programs include teachers as facilitators but soon taxpayers will wonder why we need to pay a professional to monitor students engaged in primarily an online education and a move will be made to hire a less expensive substitute. By then high quality teachers, stripped of all professional decision making, will have already left the profession in droves.

Why even have brick and mortar buildings for an education that mostly takes place on line?

Why even call it education anymore when it is really the harvesting of student data?

Consider this the alarm.

In hindsight, it becomes clear that this was the goal all along. We have been allowing our children to participate in this huge data gathering scheme which has the ultimate goal of destroying public school as we know it. Students need face to face interactions with humans. No computer algorithm can allow and encourage the creative mind. America has prospered because of creativity and ingenuity. We must fight to keep that in our schools. We need to stop participating in the system designed to destroy our schools. This is not about accountability and it is certainly not about what is best “for the kids.” What is best for the kids is that everyone stands up and says “our children are not data points for you to profit from.”

Competency Based Education is NOT the answer for the type of quality public education I want my children to have. It IS the complete destruction of public schools that Representatives Fresen and Perry have envisioned. Do not expect prestigious private schools to institute it. CBE is designed for “other people’s children” and it has already infiltrated our schools. And it will make a few people ultra rich.

SB 1714 allows for CBE expansion without any evidence it even works.

It is the start of a Brave New World and we need to keep it out of Monroe County until and unless long term data from these pilot studies demonstrates its effectiveness.

In the meantime, I ask that you protect our children from the data grab. Achieve 3000, iReady, iStation, and other CBE data mining programs are already being used throughout Monroe. There should be significant discussions regarding whether their risks outweigh their benefits.

The alarm has been sounded. Please heed this warning.

Thank you.

ADDENDUM:

While asking for input in writing these remarks, these two remarks were particularly worthy of repeating in full:

From an Electrical Engineer by training, Information Security Professional by career choice and Software Engineer, having developed many commercial applications. He has first hand experienced developing applications for education – and has witnessed the “lure of data data data”:

Your definition of CBE is far too generous and idealistic. Let me just say that CBE and CBT crap has been around for a very, very long time.. The essence of it really comes down to nothing more than one long series of IF THEN ELSE statements preprogrammed to provide the illusion that you are advancing or retracting.

In other words this is just a three letter word that represents a profession (teaching) being codified into a linear progression of computer steps.

There is far too much faith that this will somehow magically create a more learned student than what a dedicated human being can. CBE and CBT are all about removing the need for professional teachers — fast forward 20 years…

If we let them use our kids to perfect this technology: teachers will look and act more like electronic librarians or proctors. All the courses and supporting standards will have been written I eve, debugged (at the cost of your children’s education) and shrink wrapped into a tidy downloadable virtual machine. Going to school will look a whole lot more like Startreck the search for Spock when Spock was brought back as a boy and forced to relearn a lifetime of knowledge downloaded into computer based CBT and CBE.

This stuff will make a lot if people very very rich, but until it’s fully functional we will loose generations of children to poor education through this grand technological dissection of the educational process. Computer Programmers are quite prone to being godlike – in commanding and getting their own way – after all they are creating their own alternate reality through their profession. That is CBE and CBT – a codified alternate reality that we won’t know if it’s good or bad until we put a classroom if kids through it !

From Peggy Robertson (www.pegwithpen.com)

People truly are not getting what is happening because mainstream media is keeping this very very quiet. Look at Colorado. One of the advanced states. Consequentially, CBE “advanced” states will also be the fastest to move towards alt. certified/fake teachers who stick around for a couple years. Because…… when you have 150 kids on computers and the computer creates the curriculum and the computer assesses students daily and plans for the next day’s instruction, well, golly, it seems there’s no need for a teacher in that picture. All that is needed is facilitators and a teacher here and there when it’s necessary to round up the kids for a computer lesson that the COMPUTER decides a human might actually need to teach. Don’t believe me? Check out Teach to One Math. Check out Carpe Diem. Check out Hickenlooper’s executive order for badges and Relay’s current foothold in Colorado. Check out my blogs that discuss this at http://www.pegwithpen.com. Check out the ESSA which GIVES FUNDING TO MAKE ALL THIS HAPPEN. And they will sell it as inquiry project/performance based that allows children to move and advance at their own pace – and let me tell you what it will really be…..mundane, skill,drill instruction that is tied to standards that will have many many data tags that will be used to track and manage children and make changes within the curriculum based on the shifts and demands within the market – NOT based on needs of children. If they want to, they can tell the public that suddenly we need a flood of pharmacists (for example), they can direct students into this profession via online classes, flood the market, therefore knock down salaries and benefit the corporate regime. Don’t think for a second that this was ever about the common good.

Peggy

ADDITIONAL READING:

The first four are “must reads” but really you should read it all, and more. They are talking about profiting off the total destruction of public school.:

CBE Online is Neither Personalized Nor Higher-Order Thinking!

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2015/11/12/the-astonishing-amount-of-data-being-collected-about-your-children/

The Business of Badging and Predicting Children’s Futures

http://nepc.colorado.edu/newsletter/2016/01/personalized-learning

http://emilytalmage.com She documents CBE which is being instituted in Maine Schools

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2016/01/07/new-student-database-slammed-by-privacy-experts/

In top performing nations, teachers – not students- use technology. http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2015/09/22/study-students-who-use-computers-often-in-school-have-lower-test-scores

https://epic.org/2016/01/epic-warns-education-departmen.html

http://kcur.org/post/missouri-auditor-finds-student-social-security-information-risk#stream/0

http://missourieducationwatchdog.com/data-breaches-and-ostriches/

https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2015/10/internet-companies-confusing-consumers-profit

https://www.facebook.com/notes/alison-hawver-mcdowell/a-troubling-scenario-cbehigher-edindustrystudent-debttechinternet-providers/415669021959739?hc_location=ufi

How to Foster Grit, Tenacity and Perseverance: An Educator’s Guide

Are Monroe County’s Chromebooks protected?

“Google’s Chromebooks as used in schools also come with “Chrome Sync” enabled by default, a feature that sends the student users’ entire browsing trail to Google, linking the data collected to the students’ accounts which often include their names and dates of birth. Google notes that the tracking behavior can be turned off by the student or even at a district level. But as shipped, students’ Chromebooks are configured to send every student’s entire browsing history back to Google, in near real time. That’s true even despite Google’s signature on the “Student Privacy Pledge” which includes a commitment to “not collect student personal information beyond that needed for authorized educational/school purposes, or as authorized by the parent/student.”

This is important: Google becomes school official if Chrome books used in classroom, meaning that FERPA rules do not apply. http://www.local15tv.com/news/features/top-stories/stories/Google-Becomes-a-39-School-Official-39-if-Chromebooks-Used-in-Classrooms-248827.shtml#.VqLG8sdYfSc

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-switch/wp/2015/12/30/google-a-school-official-this-regulatory-quirk-can-leave-parents-in-the-dark/

The new Minister of Education in Liberia made a deal with the for-profit Bridge International Academies to supply elementary education. The company’s investors include Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg. (NEA is an investment company, not the teachers’ union.)

 

 

“The Minister who has been serving the position for less than a year instead of helping to fix has turned to outsourcing reform in the sector to a private institution with negotiations ongoing for the private entity to manage the primary and early childhood education for a period of five years. Bridge Academies which runs education projects in Kenya and Uganda has record of using android mobile phones in providing classroom lessons to pupils.

 

“Under the Bridge Academies project, the notes and other lectures materials are stored on an android mobile phone and the teachers use the phones to teach, a method where the teacher does not have to be sophisticated to teach. The institution charges US$6 per student per month in Uganda and Kenya as part of its project and also charges other fees for feeding and others. Some in Kenya and Uganda believe that $6 plus other charges by Bridge Academies is a lot of money for the millions in the two countries. In Uganda, many say the amount requires poor Ugandan families with many children to borrow in order to keep all their children in school or to choose which child goes to school.

 

“Despite charging fees, the World Bank through its sector investment arm, the International Finance Corporation (IFC) invested US$10 million in Bridge Academies in 2014 in order to increase the number of Bridge schools in the country and expand to three countries including Uganda. The IFC also approved a loan of US$4.1 million to Merryland High School, a private, fee-charging secondary school in Entebbe, Uganda in December 2014.

 

“Bridge continues to get criticisms from the Governments of both Kenya and Uganda for its method of using Android mobile phones to teach students where most of the teachers used only use what is placed on the phone as Bridge resulted to using teachers who are not qualified to teach since the teaching materials are placed on a phone and the teacher only needs to teach what is available. The entity teaching method is seen in the two countries as discouraging the employment of qualified teachers who will interact with the students while teaching instead of using fixed materials downloaded on a mobile phone.

 

“Current Education Minister Werner whom many described as reformer, instead of working to revamp the education sector, took off time visiting East Africa mainly Kenya and Uganda where he started negotiations for Bridge to come to Liberia and manage the primary education sector on a private-public partnership program. FrontPageAfrica has gathered that Bridge officials are in Liberia to conclude arrangement for a pilot project of the first 50 schools to begin using the Bridge project beginning school year 2016-17.

 

“As part of the project the PPP providers will design their programmes (curriculum materials, etc., from April to September 2017 while phase two will rollout contracting out the remaining schools over 5 years, with government exit possible each year dependent on provided performance- September 2017 onwards. Eventually the Ministry of Education is aiming to contract out all primary and early childhood education schools to private providers who meet the required standards over 5 year period. According to the tentative timeline the by February/March 2016 the memorandum of Understanding for the pilot 50 schools will be signed and by September 2016, the first 50 schools launch, with baselines and performance measures.”

 

 

 

The following statement was written and released by a group of non-governmental organizations concerned about the growing movement to privatize education in Kenya. They call here for resistance to the introduction of for-profit organizations and for the building of a genuine free public education for all children. Pearson is one of the prime movers behind for-profit Bridge International Academy and Omega.

 

 

 

Screen shot 2016-01-29 at 7.46.00 PM

Joint Statement

 

Students before profit: Teacher unions and civil society unite to condemn the commercialisation of education in Kenya

 

Tuesday 26th January, 2016 (Nairobi)

 

According to Article 53 of the Constitution of Kenya 2010 every child has the immediate right to free and compulsory basic education. This is emphasised in Section 28 of the Basic Education Act 2013 and Section 7 of the Children’s Act 200.

 

The 2009 Policy for Alternative Provision of Basic Education and Training (APBET), recognises alternative or ‘non formal’ schools. Under this policy, non-formal schools have fewer requirements in terms of curriculum, infrastructure and teacher qualification.

 

The original intention of APBET recognition and support for non-formal schools was to provide access to education to children who would have otherwise been unable to attend the formal education system do to the unavailability of an adequate number of public schools. However, this policy has allowed big corporations and edu-businesses to benefit from these lower legal requirements and profit from the delivery of non-formal education in areas of the country that remain largely under-served by public schools.

 

These unintended consequences have drawn the attention of the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child and the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights all of which have expressed concern over the growing privatisation of education and fee charging for-profit schools in Kenya such as Bridge International Academies.

 

Most recently, on 21st January 2016, the 71st session of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child asked the Kenyan government to respond to the growing privatisation of education, specifically the impact of Bridge on the quality of education in Kenya. Olga Khazova, UN Committee member and Rapporteur for Kenya stated: “There are regulations on the quality of education children should receive but when it comes to Bridge, these regulations seem not to be enforced. What is the government doing about this?”

 

This follows from concerns expressed in November 2015 by the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (UNCESCR). Specifically, it asked “how the State party has regulated and monitored informal private schools, or low-cost private schools, to ensure quality education.”

 

Similarly, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights questioned the definition of “non-formal schools” by the Kenyan Government. It asked: “Why are private school chains, such as Bridge International Academies, registered as non-formal schools, whereas they appear to offer formal education?”

 

In May 2015, 116 organisations across the world expressed their deep concerns about the World Bank’s support for Bridge International Academies.

 

Bridge is a multinational chain of low-fee profit-making private primary schools targeting poor families in Kenya, Uganda, Nigeria. It has over 400 schools in Kenya. In Kenya, it is exploiting a loophole in regulations allowing it to register as ‘non formal’ schools instead of private schools.

 

The school chain has recently come under scrutiny over its opposition to new guidelines by the Kenya Cabinet Secretary for Education aimed at ensuring basic standards in non-formal schools such as the recruitment of qualified teachers.

 

The expansion of Bridge is a manifestation of the growing commercialisation and privatisation of education in Kenya. This commercialisation and privatisation of education represents one of the greatest threats to the achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals adopted in September 2015.

 

This threat has also been recognised by the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to Education, Kishore Singh, who warned that “soon, it may not be an exaggeration to say that privatization is supplanting public education instead of supplementing it”, where “inequalities in opportunities for education will be exacerbated by the growth of unregulated private providers of education, with economic condition, wealth or property becoming the most important criterion for gaining access to education”.

 

 

Teacher unions and civil society therefore, call on the government to

 

  • close existing legislative and regulatory loopholes and ensure compliance in relation to minimum national standards with respect to the provision of education. Registration of schools must be conditional on full compliance with minimum standards.

 

  • fulfil its obligations consistent with the UN Sustainable Development Goal 4. By adopting the Sustainable Development Goals governments have committed to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all. Target 4.1 requires governments to ensure that all girls and boys complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education leading to relevant and effective learning outcomes.

 

  • fulfil its primary obligation to properly and adequately fund free quality education for all children regardless of the background. This is crucial to Kenya’s future prosperity.

 

 

 

Signed,

 

Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT)

East African Centre for Human Rights (EACHRights)

Economic and Social Rights Centre – (Hakijamii)

Action Aid-Kenya

Kenya Union of Post Primary Teachers (KUPPET)

Universities Academic Staff Union

International Commission of Jurists – Kenya Chapter

Katiba Institute

The Cradle

Transparency International – Kenya

Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

Education International

Under Indiana’s former Secretary of Education Tony Bennett, the state determined to crack down on low-performing schools. Five schools were handed over to private management. The result was a disaster. Four schools made no progress at all. Enrollment plummeted at all the takeover schools.

 

 
Two recent comments point up the failure of private management in running public services. You would think that public officials would look at the record and stop privatizing public services and instead work to improve them.

 

 

Reader Chiara writes:

 

“What I love about the (bipartisan) mania for “running government like a business” is how they seem incapable of delivering basic government services.

 
“It’s the worst of both worlds. It’s not good government and it’s not good private sector. It’s this awful hybrid that we seem to be stuck with. Can we have two sectors again- a public sector and a private sector? Can we hire some people who don’t have complete contempt for the public sector they’re supposed to be improving?”

 

 
Another reader recounts the failure of private corporation Edison in Gary, Indiana.

 

 

“Roosevelt school in Gary, IN was taken over a few years ago by EdisonLeaning, a for profit charter school. There is a legal battle between the Gary Community Schools and EdisonLearning as to who is responsible for fixing up the school which is falling apart.

 

 

“Here is a partial quote from The Times of NW Indiana.

 

 

“GARY — As temperatures dipped below 20 degrees, Gary Roosevelt students and teachers stood outside the school Wednesday protesting a lack of heat in the building and the ability to get a quality education.

 
“Students have rarely been in the building since they returned from the Christmas holiday. The school was dismissed a half-day on a couple of days because of problems with the boilers that heat the building. It closed Jan. 8 due to the lack of heat and again Wednesday.

 
“The school is scheduled to be closed Thursday and Friday for development days.

 
“The students say enough is enough.

 
“Roosevelt senior Cary Martin said it’s really bad inside the building.

 
“Some of us have come to expect not being in the building because it’s too cold,” he said.

 
“This happens every year, but it’s time for a change. This is affecting our education. This is really sad.”

 
“He said there are also problems with water inside the building, with few water fountains working and none of the showers in the locker rooms.

 
“Some of my colleagues and friends stink after class because they can’t wash up,” Martin said.

 
“Food is also an issue, along with mold and damage in the school’s band room.

 
“In January 2014, due to the heating failures, a number of pipes burst causing the hallways near the gym to flood with up to 2 inches of water. In June 2014, Indiana American Water Co. turned off the water due to a lack of payment on the bill.

 

“Freshman English teacher Brandi Bullock said the temperature in the hallways ranges in the 40s, while the classroom temperatures are sporadic with some warm classrooms and others freezing.

 
“The problem is that we can’t be in the classrooms because there are not enough warm spaces,” she said. “It used to be that the library was a warm respite from the cold but the boiler that supported that room is not working.”

New Jersey Democrat Theresa Ruiz, chair of the Senate Education Committee, has a truly terrible idea. She wants to introduce “social impact bonds” that would pay off investors to reduce special education referrals. The assumption behind the bonds is that high-quality pre-K can reduce the need for special education.

A parent blogger was aghast and sees these bonds as an effort to end special education.

The blogger writes:

“What is Senator Ruiz attempting to achieve? Her statement, “we won’t have to have early-intervention programs and classification and wrap-around services because we did the work early on” is naive at best and potentially destructive at worst.

“High quality” Pre-K is not a magic bullet. Students with disabilities will not be magically cured by attending preschool. It sounds too good to be true because it is. New Jersey’s classification rate is about 14.5%, higher in low-income districts where this program will take place.

“Will preschool help decrease the percentage of students who need special education services in those districts? I have no doubt that it will. The research supports that presumption.

“Are you going to end the need for Early Intervention, classification, and wrap-around services? No. You aren’t. There will always be students who would have been classified no matter how much preschool they had. There will always be students who need wrap-around services because we, as country, much less as a state, are doing nothing to address the poverty that creates the need for these services.

“Big picture here is, Goldman Sachs is going to make money on students NOT being classified. RtI is going to become the framework for K-12, delaying as long as possible the identification and classification of students with disabilities. And the Special Education Ombudsman position the Senator is trying to create (because constituents have been begging for help) will work for the NJ Department of Education.”

A reader posted a comment about her own children.

“OMG! We won’t have to have early intervention because we have high quality PreK!

“I have three kids. One reg ed., one legally blind, one entered school as profoundly autistic.

“How, precisely, would the most awesome preK in the world have helped my one year old legally blind child? Who would have taught me to teach him?

“Would great preK have made my autistic kid neurally typical?

“Would NOT classifying them have led to educational success? Does Ruiz honestly believe that neither kid would need special ed if they got great preK?
$1700 a year would not have paid for OT!(and, strangely enough, legally blind kids have issues with hand eye coordination !)

“I am way to hot to write to her right now. I will gather my thoughts and write a letter.

“Thanks. I didn’t know Ruiz was so short sighted as to believe no child could possibly remain disabled when they had great preK.”

“In the Public Interest” is an organization dedicated to warning the public about the dangers of privatizing public services.

 

It has written a guidebook to explain to citizens what Social Impact Bonds are, how they work, who they benefit, and why they are dangerous for our society.

 

Shar Habibi, ITPI’s director of research, writes:

 

“Our guide is a must-read for any citizen or decision-maker trying to understand these new financing structures. It will help you ask tough questions to ensure that private dollars don’t create perverse incentives, fail to serve the neediest cases (also known as ‘creaming’), or distort measures of success for our most important social services.

“Ultimately, Pay for Success ignores the deeper cause of many of our growing social problems: underinvestment in the public interest. America desperately needs more investment in all our public services. Prevention-focused public funding of critical public services—like pre-K for all children and help for juveniles who end up in the criminal justice system—is our simplest and least expensive solution.”

Rick Cohen, a journalist for the Nonprofit Quarterly, wrote this article about social impact bonds in 2014. Rick died suddenly a few weeks ago, and it was a great loss. He was a fighter for social justice. When he led the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, he lacerated the Walton Family Foundation for its greedy, self-serving ways in two reports. After he left NCRP, this year’s report on the Waltons treated the far-right foundation with kid gloves, almost praising its lust to eliminate unions and public education.

 

In Rick’s article of 2014, he explains what social impact bonds are and why they are a terrible idea. He would have been outraged to see them embedded in the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, now called (absurdly) the Every Child Succeeds Act, which is a different way of saying “no child left behind.”

 

Rick offers eight reasons to worry about social impact bonds (“pay for success”), which were then a new idea.

 

Here is one of them:

 

Is it possible that a potential SIB/PFS downside is that private capital might overly influence the decision-making and priorities of government through the SIB/PFS model? As one advocate testified in a Congressional hearing, a SIB “improves decision-making by bring market discipline to government decisions about which programs to expand, as investors will only put their dollars behind programs with a strong evidence base.” If government overly focuses on programs that will attract private investors, the results might work to the investors’ benefit, but not necessarily to the benefit of appropriately identifying and prioritizing social initiatives that don’t generate private capital interest. Should private investors determine “which programs to expand,” or should public debate and discussion in a democratic process about human needs be the determining factors?

 

Is the investment “for the kids” or “for the investors”? Let the market decide. Rick would not agree.

 

R.I.P. to Rick Cohen. He will be sorely missed.

Bruce Baker and Gary Miron have written an important new study of the business of charters. It was released overnight by the National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado. The report proposes regulation of charter schools to remove the corruption and money-making that is currently an embarrassment to the charter sector. So far, so good. As I have told the authors, I don’t agree with their proposal that states declare charter schools to be public schools and to regulate them as public schools. Several states already have labeled them public schools and don’t regulate them. In those states where the governor and the legislature have been captured by charter industry financiers, it is not likely that there will be either regulation, transparency, or accountability because the lobbyists will never accept it. Nonetheless, this is an important report because it lays out the specific ways in which charter operators have gamed the system for the sake of lucre.

 

The Lucrative Side of Charter Schools

 

New report puts first pieces together on how charter schools are profiting through the privatization of public assets

 

Contact:

William J. Mathis, (802) 383-0058, wmathis@sover.net
Bruce D. Baker, (848) 932-0698, bruce.baker@gse.rutgers.edu Gary Miron, (269) 599-7965, gary.miron@wmich.edu

 

URL for this press release: http://tinyurl.com/py94cuk

 

BOULDER, CO (December 10, 2015) – Charter schools are educational providers, but they are also businesses. A large portion of them are run by private corporations, and receive taxpayer dollars to provide their services. Yet there is very little public understanding of the often- convoluted ways these companies use those dollars and take advantage of laws in ways that enrich owners, officers, and investors.

 

A new research brief from Bruce Baker and Gary Miron details some of the ways that individuals, companies, and organizations secure financial gain and generate profit by running charter schools, leading them to operate in ways that are sometimes at odds with the public interest. In The Business of Charter Schooling: Understanding the Policies that Charter Operators Use for Financial Benefit, they explore the differences between charters and traditional public schools, and they illustrate how charter school policies sometimes function to promote profiteering and privatization of public assets.

 

The authors explain, for example, how charter operators working through third-party corporations can use taxpayer dollars to purchase buildings and land. The seller in these purchases is sometimes the public school district itself. That is, taxpayer dollars are used to purchase property from the public, and the property ends up being owned by the private corporation that operates or is affiliated with the charter school.

 

“This particular type of transaction is usually legal and it can be very logical from the perspective of each of the parties involved,” said Baker. “But we should be troubled by the public policy that allows and even encourages this to happen.”

 

“In addition,” Miron explained, “less than arm’s-length leasing agreements and lucrative management fees are extracting resources that might otherwise be dedicated to direct services for children.”

 

The authors conclude with eight recommendations for policies to help ensure that charter schools pursue their publicly established goals and that protect the public interest.

 

 

“Social Impact Bonds,” which are a bonanza for financial investors like Goldman Sachs, is included in the new ESSA that passed the House yesterday. All efforts to strip it out must concentrate on your senators.

 

The matter appears in Title I, Part D, Section 4108, page 485.

 

Title IV, A.

 

And in a section called “Safe and Healthy Students.”

 

Social Impact Bonds are defined on page 797 as “Pay for Success.” Investors are paid off when a student is not referred to special education.

 

This business of profiteering in public education can only be stopped by electing people to office who will fight it.

From Beverley Holden Johns:

CALL D.C. ON PAY FOR SUCCESS
NOW IN S. 1177, the new No Child Left Behind law (ESEA):

You may be able to leave a message at any time, but to talk to
a live person just stay on the phone ignoring any prompts.

PLEASE SAY: S. 1177 will harm
special education. In Utah, Pay for Success (which is authorized
in the bill), funded by Goldman Sachs, resulted in over 99 percent
of children NOT being identified for special education.
(New York Times article of November 3, 2015: “Success Metrics
Questioned in School Program Funded by Goldman”).

PLEASE BE POLITE, BUT VERY FIRM AND INSISTENT –
YOU ARE TRYING TO DO A MOST DIFFICULT THING.

Call your U.S. Representative at their Washington, D.C. office.

Call House Speaker Paul Ryan at 202-225-0600

Call Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi at 202-225-0100

Call House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy at 202-225-4000

(each of above telephone numbers are for their leadership
office within the U.S. Capitol Building)

Call the top Democrat for S. 1177, Rep. Bobby Scott at 202-225-8351
(his office opens at 7:30 AM CST)

THE CONFERENCE COMMITTEE REPORT ON S. 1177:

The House amendment, but not the Senate bill, includes a definition for
‘‘Pay For Success Initiatives’’.
Amendment to strike the definition and insert the following:

PAY FOR SUCCESS INITIATIVE.
—The term ‘‘pay for success initiative’’ means a performance-based grant, contract, or cooperative agreement awarded by a public entity in which a commitment is made to pay for improved outcomes that result in social benefit and direct cost savings or cost avoidance to the public sector.
Such an initiative must include—

(1) a feasibility study on the initiative describing how the proposed intervention is based on evidence of effectiveness;

(2) a rigorous, third party evaluation that uses experimental or quasi-experimental design or other research methodologies that allow for the strongest possible causal inferences to determine whether the initiative has met its proposed outcomes;

(3) an annual, publicly available report on the progress of the initiative; and

(4) except as provided as under paragraph (2), a requirement that payments are made to the recipient of a grant contactor or cooperative agreement only when agreed upon outcomes are achieved.

Unfortunately NOTHING in this definition would have stopped
what is happening in Utah and in Chicago.

As we just passed its 40th birthday, special education
faces perhaps its greatest threat since the Education
of the Handicapped Act (EHA), now the Individuals with
Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), was signed into law.

The new No Child Left Behind bill, S. 1177, as reported
by the Conference Committee between the U.S. Senate
and the U.S. House includes the permissive use of Federal
funds by States AND by local school districts FOR
Pay for Success.

Funded by Goldman Sachs, Pay for Success in Utah
denied special education to over 99 percent of the
students that were in the early childhood Pay for Success
program.

Goldman Sachs has received a first payment of over
$250,000 based on over 99 percent of students NOT
being identified for special education.

Based on these results, Goldman Sachs may receive
an over 100 percent return on its investment as it
will receive yearly payments based on students
continuing to NOT be identified for special education
(multiple yearly payments for one student).

If special education is reduced to less than 1 percent
of students, for all practical purposes it will cease to
exist.

Goldman Sachs has also funded a Pay for Success
program for the Chicago Public Schools based on
paying Goldman $9,100 for each student, each year, NOT
identified for special education, but results for Chicago
from that program are not yet available.

Success is not the elimination of special education.
Success is not failing to identify students as needing
the specialized and individualized instruction required
by IDEA.

We simply cannot expect the general education teacher
to do it all, to know it all, and to achieve academic
excellence for each and every student.

Pretending we can eliminate disability, pretending
that almost every student with a disability and their
parents will benefit WITHOUT the legal rights of IDEA
which are only granted when a student is identified
for special education, is to turn us back over 40 years
to the time before we had State laws and then the
Federal law requiring special education for each and
every student with a disability.

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