Archives for category: For-Profit

Thanks to Valerie Strauss for reporting that the University of Phoenix is experiencing a huge enrollment decline and a consequent drop in its profitability and stock price. I am not at all sorry to see this, as I am not an aficionado of online “colleges” or for-profit education institutions.

 

She writes:

 

The University of Phoenix, the largest for-profit university in the United States, has lost a few hundred thousand students in the last five years, according to its parent company.

 

Apollo Education Group, which owns the University of Phoenix, announced Wednesday that revenues and enrollment had fallen in the last quarter about 14 percent compared to the same period in 2014. What’s more, the school’s enrollment five years ago was 460,000 students and now it is 213,000, CNN Money reported. The news on Wednesday sparked a 30 percent drop in Apollo’s stock. (Apollo stock was at $19.57 a share in Thursday morning trading, down 2.4 percent.)

 

The University of Phoenix, which started in 1976 in the Phoenix area, delivers education largely online but also has brick-and-mortar classrooms. In recent years it has been forced to close some of its classrooms and has faced competition from traditional universities that have started their own online courses.

 

Studies have shown that many of the for-profit institutions are predatory and concerned more with profit than with learning. Education should be profitable but intellectually and spiritually, not on the stock exchange.

 

 

Student privacy activists are outraged by the legislation that’s being rushed through Congress that would legalize industry’s right to confidential data about children without parental consent.

 

This is from Leonie Haimson and Rachel Strickland of Student Privacy Matters:

 

Rep. Luke Messer (IN) and Rep. Jared Polis (CO) are introducing a bill in the House that would allow vendors of online programs used in schools to collect, share and commercialize the personal information of students. Rep. Polis has said that they intend to rush this bill through the House, without amendment or debate. Parents and privacy advocates CANNOT let this happen.

We need your help. Please visit our action page to send a letter and then make a quick call to your US Representatives.

For more information, see articles in POLITICO and The New York Times, and read the comments of the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy available here.

Thanks,

Rachael Stickland and Leonie Haimson

Co-chairs, Parent Coalition for Student Privacy

http://www.studentprivacymatters.org

 

 

Here is today’s story in politico.com by Stephanie Simon:

 

 

“STUDENT PRIVACY BILL UNDER FIRE: A bipartisan student privacy bill to be introduced in the House today aims to reassure parents that their children’s data is safe. But the bill lets companies continue to collect huge amounts of intimate information on students, compile it into profiles of their aptitudes and attitudes – and then mine that data for commercial gain. It also permits the companies to sell personal information about students to colleges and potential employers, according to a near-final draft reviewed by Morning Education. Microsoft has already endorsed the bill. And the chief sponsors, Republican Rep. Luke Messer and Democratic Rep. Jared Polis, say they’re confident it will quickly earn bipartisan support in both chambers. It will likely get a push as well from the White House, which worked closely with Messer and Polis on the language. But privacy advocates and parent activists see the bill as deeply flawed. It’s riddled with “huge loopholes” and “escape clauses,” said Khaliah Barnes, director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center’s student privacy project.

 

– Consider a provision barring companies from selling personal information about students. That seems rock-solid. Yet there’s an exception: A company can sell data if a student or parent requests it be shared “in furtherance of post-secondary education or employment opportunities.” An online textbook, tutorial service or gaming app could likely fulfill this requirement by asking kids to check a box if they want to hear from colleges or employers interested in students just like them. I have more here: http://politico.pro/1CPMUf3

 

– Industry has opposed any federal privacy law, out of concern that it would stifle innovation. Hoping to showcase the benefits of that innovation, the Software Information and Industry Association and the trade association TechAmerica have launched the “Smarter Schools Project,” which highlights classrooms using technology wisely. More: http://bit.ly/1CHTPXw

 

– Some ed-tech start-ups, meanwhile, are moving aggressively to showcase their own commitment to protecting privacy. The company Kickboard is sharing privacy protection advice with other start ups. Clever posted its privacy policy on GitHub, which lets readers track any changes. And when parent activists took to Twitter to question how a startup called LearnSprout was using student data, the company responded by asking them for help making sure the data was protected. Months of dialog followed. LearnSprout unveils its new approach today: The company promises that it will never sell or rent personally identifiable information about students and will never use that information to improve or market its own products. Read more about the dialog from LearnSprout Marketing Director Paul Smith: http://bit.ly/1GCQUNw and from Rachael Stickland and Leonie Haimson of the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy: http://bit.ly/1CGVgnz.”

I am on the email list for an organization called “In the Public Interest.” It follows privatization in every sector, including education. The current newsletter is eye-opening. If you want to know how private interests have finagled their way into making a killing off public sector dollars, read this e-newsletter and subscribe (free).

 

Here is my favorite privatization story of the week:

 

National: Top executives of the Blackstone Group, owner of the janitorial services company GCA Services Group, pull down massive annual compensation. Stephen Schwarzman, Blackstone’s CEO, received $656 million in dividends and pay; and its real estate chief Jon Gray took in $205 million, for a combined total of $861 million. GCA has faced repeated accusations of low pay. The New Haven Register reported in 2011 that “a proposed GCA contract for custodial services would plunge 200 New Haven, Connecticut, Public Schools custodians into poverty, according to a research report by the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts.”

 

I have trouble understanding why some billionaires refuse to pay workers a living wage. Why was it so hard for the Walton family, each of whom is a billionaire, to agree to pay their workers $9 an hour? Why are so many of their workers part-time, even when they are eager to have full-time jobs? The billionaires pay great compensation to their executives, apparently, but think that the people who do the daily work of the corporation can get by on 20 hours a week at $9 an hour.

 

Open the link about GCA. It isn’t just accusations of low pay that have been a problem:

 

GCA Services placed two custodians with drug and sex offense criminal records in schools. One of the custodians, in Tennessee, was charged with the rape of a 16-year-old student in a closet on school property during school hours. It was later discovered the employee had a criminal record for aggravated battery, assault and theft of property. Another, in Texas, was a registered sex offender who was found in a school locker room dead, with his pants down and a bag over his head. A GCA official said about the incidents, “You have to understand, we hire a lot of people. I think a couple of incidents with 20,000 employees is a pretty good batting record” (“Ky. district hiring service, despite problems,” Associated Press, June 6, 2010; “Teamsters: Outsourcing custodians is a bad idea,” Naples Daily News, May 30, 2008).

 
A GCA Services custodian stole $900 from a day care center at Pasco-Hernando Community College in Florida that he was hired to clean after-hours. The GCA employee was arrested (“Police: Janitor Cleaned Day Care Out of $900,” St. Petersburg Times, November 26, 2008).

 
Rockford, Illinois, School District parents, teachers, principals and other staff were unhappy with GCA Services’ custodial work there. Reports complained that “trash wasn’t removed from classrooms, carpets weren’t cleaned and tile floors weren’t swept. The reports also indicate chemicals had been mixed improperly, resulting in health issues with students and teachers. There also were allegations of thefts from the schools, with custodians suspected,” reported the Naples, Florida, Daily News (“Documents: Custodial group gets poor marks,” June 19, 2008).

 
A GCA custodian had been working for four months at a Tennessee middle school before she was arrested in January 2011 as a fugitive from Texas. The employee had violated her probation on a felony drug conviction. A GCA official said the company had conducted two background checks including a fingerprint check before hiring the woman (“Company to review workers after fugitive found,” Associated Press, January 16, 2011).

 
The University of Tennessee in April 2012 decided to end its contract with GCA and move all cleaning work in-house. The university said that although the base cost was $500,000 higher than what it paid to GCA, it would break even after accounting for extra services like carpet care or hard-floor maintenance (“UT to use in-house custodial services,” Knoxville News-Sentinel, April 18, 2012).

Ohio has been a profitable state for the charter school industry. Charter leaders make huge contributions to politicians. Politicians make sure that the industry’s cash cows are lightly regulated, if at all. With the right political connections, charters may be rated D or F without any consequences. Should charters be audited? Should they be held accountable for their academic and financial performance? Bear in mind that the essential premise if charter schools was that they were willing to be held accountable inexcjangefpr producing “results.” (Higher test scores.). You might say that this deal has actually warped almost all discourse about the purpose of schooling. It rests on the premise that higher test scores are the fundamental goal of education.

Ohio State Auditor Dave Yost wrote a thoughtful newspaper article describing the dilemma of auditing public-private partnerships.

When does public money trigger public audits? Not when the money flows to a purely private business, like a janitorial service. But what about charter schools?

He writes:

“There’s a messy place where the public and private meet, and the old ideas about accountability aren’t good enough to sort it out. The subject is lurking in the background of the debate over charter-school reform, but it’s wider than that and needs some hard thinking.

The distinction between what’s public and private drives many things in the law. A public entity is subject to open-meetings laws, public-records requirements, public audit and stringent ethics requirements. A purely private entity, such as a sole proprietorship or your family, is not.

But that neat set of labels doesn’t work as well when a thing is both public and private. Lawmakers here and elsewhere are deliberately blending the two — and it seems to be the trend, not the exception.

So, when an entity is a little private and a little public, which rules apply?
For example, a government office generally is cleaned by a contract service, not by government employees. Joe’s Janitorial Service shouldn’t have to open its books to public audit or abide by public-records law. The government is buying services from Joe, and as long as he provides the promised quality of service, it’s no business of anyone’s how he does it or how he spends his money.

On the other hand, if Brave New World, Inc., contracts to be the police department for your town … well, that’s a different story. Brave New World is no longer simply selling services; it is functioning as the government. Lawyers and political philosophers would say it is exercising the sovereign power of the state — and Brave New World probably ought to be subject to the traditional transparency requirements we impose upon our government.

And in between, there are all these other entities that aren’t quite private, but aren’t really public, either.

There are good reasons for blending the public and the private. Government, because its decisions apply to all of us, is designed to go slow. We shouldn’t make decisions at the speed of business when it’s about liberty, or education, or spending money that was collected by law (taxes).

On the other hand, the private sector has the freedom to move quickly, to react to market forces, to innovate — and to fail. So in certain areas where the government process has become bogged down, it makes sense to bring those private-sector virtues into the mix. That’s the idea with many hybrid organizations empowered by state government (and our tax dollars), from charter schools to privatized prisons to the Ohio Air Quality Development Authority.

But then, what does accountability look like?

In Ohio, like elsewhere, the answers are all over the board. There are custom mechanisms drawn into contracts, such as the contract with the state’s private prison contractor. Charter-school management companies are required by statute to provide certain financial information to their schools. The schools then import that information into their own financial statements — which are subject to public audit….

At the same time, it’s mostly or all our money and, therefore, the public’s business. Somehow, treating these entities — usually private corporations — as though they were a sole proprietorship, operating in private, doesn’t seem right, either.
The ongoing debate over charter-school reform is going to happen smack in the middle of this disorganized space in our public life.

How do we protect the public interest while harnessing the best qualities of a mostly private-sector actor? I don’t have a comprehensive answer, but meaningful reform will have these characteristics:

• Information. Although making all the papers of a private corporation public is the wrong answer, the law should require certain relevant information to be provided at particular intervals.

• Independent verification. Some information needs external, independent verification. This could be provided by a firm’s certified public accountants or subject to review by another body. But corporations are used to dealing with this — banks require audited financial information to ensure the numbers are adequate. It’s not growing government to make sure that the information is true. As President Ronald Reagan urged: trust, but verify.

• Segregation of duties. Businesses and governments both make sure that certain duties are done by different people. The IRS has published some criteria for how to think about segregation of duties, which I cited in our report on charter schools earlier this year.

• Governing Board independence.

“Outside directors” — board members who are not otherwise affiliated with the organization — have become a best practice in the private sector, ensuring divergent points of view and oversight of management decisions.

How to approach these factors, and how much weight should be given to them, should be driven at least in part by how much discretion the entity has in exercising the authority of the state. In our examples, Joe’s Janitorial exercises no government discretion, and Brave New World exercised a huge amount.

The details are matters for serious debate. One thing seems utterly clear to me, though: the oval peg of accountability for these hybrid organizations fits neither the square nor the round peg holes we already have. We owe it to Ohio taxpayers and families to fill that hole and repair their doubts about this public-private part of our system of government.

Peter Greene uses the example of Coke to show how market competition does not produce a better product. When faced with a loss of market share, Coca-Cola decided to put the same product into smaller cans. Maybe the failure of “Néw Coke” in 1985 taught them not to mess with the formula.

Similarly, in education, competition has not produced better education. Vouchers are used to send children to schools that teach creationism, that have no curriculum or certified teachers or to charter schools that push out low-scoring students and spend inordinate time on test prep.

Our slavish devotion to competition is destroying education.

One of my favorite charter school stories is the one about the Lion of Judah charter in Ohio. When it was learned that more than a million dollars had been transferred from the charter school, the lawyer for the church asked the judge to forgive his client because it wasn’t his fault: he saw the easy money and greed got the best of him, what an original defense!

Here is the latest from Bill Phillis of the Ohio Coalition for Equity and Adequacy:

“Finally, the Ohio Attorney General files a lawsuit in charterland

Extremely late, but it may be a good sign. The Ohio Attorney General is going after individuals and entities who received $2 million from a now-closed charter school-Lion of Judah. Financial fraud has been a continuing thread in some sectors of the charter industry since the beginning.

Why didn’t Ohio’s Attorney General sue White Hat Management several years ago when Scripps Howard News Service documented that the company was receiving funding for students enrolled but not attending? The Scripps report-GHOST SCHOOLS-documented a vast difference between enrollment and attendance. In one case, a White Hat charter school had a 64% absentee rate for the 2004-2005 school year. The Scripps Howard report quoted a former principal of the Life Skills Center of Cincinnati, “It’s a cash cow! We all used to sit around and joke about it.” Further he said, “I spent less than $1 million on a $3 million operation. What the *%@& are they (executives at his former company) doing with the other $2 million?”

A recent report by the State Auditor showed a great disparity between attendance and enrollment in several charter schools. In March 4 testimony before the House Education Committee, State Auditor David Yost admonished the committee to craft legislation to correct this type of abuse and enforce it via criminal penalties.

The Attorney General should be aggressively protecting taxpayers and students from blatant charter fraud. The lawsuit against those associated with the Lion of Judah charter is a good start.

William Phillis.

Ohio E & A | 100 S. 3rd Street | Columbus | OH | 43215

A few days ago, I posted about a proposal by powerful Republicans to “reform” public education with a grab-bag of failed policies that punish public schools and demoralize teachers while creating a flow of public dollars to the private sector.

 

In this article, the brilliant and persistent Sara Stevenson explains the details of the proposal. Stevenson, a member of the blog’s honor roll, is a librarian at O. Henry Middle School in Austin. She has had more letters published in the Wall Street Journal than anyone I know. She believes in setting the record straight, and she believes in public education. That’s why this destructive proposal made her blood boil.

 

The bill could well have been written in ALEC’s corporate offices. It has everything on the corporate free-market wish list.

 

Stevenson writes:

 

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Senate Education Committee Chairman Larry
Taylor, R-Friendswood, delivered the terrible news last week: The
Senate education plan contains no financial help for school districts,
600 of which are already suing the state for inadequate and
inequitable funding. It offers no testing relief for students in
grades 3 through 8 who must sit for up to four hours at a stretch
taking multiple standardized tests.

 

Furthermore, their proposals are
merely warmed up, stale leftovers written by the American Legislative
Exchange Council, a corporation-funded group that emphasizes free
markets and limited government. Here’s a sample serving:

 

Giving letter grades (A-F) to individual public schools.

A “parent trigger” law, which allows the majority of parents at
individual failing schools to petition for new management.

Removing limits on full-time virtual schools and online courses.

Tying teacher performance to compensation.

Creating a “college and career readiness” course for Texas middle
school students.

Creation of a statewide district to manage failing schools.

 

The most dispiriting part of this education plan is that it proposes
absolutely nothing that will help educators with the serious charge of
preparing our young citizens for their adult lives. Our schools are
terribly underfunded. After the Texas Legislature cut $5.4 billion in
education dollars in 2011, Texas ranked 49th among the fifty states in
per pupil spending. Today we are spending less money per student than
we did ten years ago. How can the Legislature’s continued starving of
school districts help us with the very real challenges we face?

 

Less state funding for schools translates into larger class sizes,
fewer teaching assistants and painful cuts to electives, arts, PE,
libraries and clinics. Texas educators are willing to work hard in
daunting circumstances, but the more our legislators insult us with
unoriginal, ineffective schemes as they deprive us of necessary
resources, the more those of us with choices will flee our beloved
profession. The best teachers will refuse to work in an environment in
which they cannot be successful. I give this lazy, irresponsible
education plan a big, fat zero.”

 

Never mind that not one of these proposals is new or that not one of them has been successful anywhere.

 

Ideologues don’t care about evidence. The goal is to dismantle public education, a fundamental, essential institution of our democracy. In doing so, they override local control and funnel taxpayers’ dollars to entrepreneurs and religious institutions. There is not a shred of evidence that any of their proposals will improve education.

 

These men are not conservatives. Conservatives conserve. Conservatives don’t blow up community institutions. These men are radicals and anarchists, destroying heedlessly, mindlessly, zealously, without regard for the damage they do to the lives of children, families, educators, and communities.

Denish Jones is a contributor to EmPower magazine. She holds a Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction from Indiana University. She has taught kindergarten, preschool, served as a campus based preschool director, and taught college for over 10 years. Currently she is a Visiting Assistant Professor of Early Childhood Education at Howard University.

 

In this article, Jones warns that so-called “reformers” have stolen the language of the civil rights movement to advance their goals of privatization and deprofessionalization. Their aims actually contradict the aims of the civil rights movement.

 

 

She writes:

 

1. Privatization is inherently unequal.

The corporate reform movement that is waging war against public education has one goal in mind: privatization. Free-market advocates do not believe in a system of public education and are on a mission to see every aspect of a public society privatized from our prisons to our schools. But with privatization comes the loss of public ownership. Public systems are open to inspection by the public. Records are made public and the process is transparent so that community members can understand what is happening and voice their concerns. Privatization removes the ability of the public to know what is happening with their tax dollars. Private companies can use proprietary laws to prevent them from disclosing documents and following laws pertaining to public records….

 

Without the transparency of how our tax dollars are spent how do we hold private corporations accountable? Some businesses do well but others fail to garner enough capital to stay afloat; that is the nature of capitalism. But when the business model of winners and losers is applied to public education, the losers tend to be children who struggle academically and families without the social capital needed to advocate for their children. The winners are CEO’s and stock holders who earn high salaries with public money but can use their private status to shield themselves from public accountability.

 

2. School choice is not about parents choosing good schools it’s about schools choosing good students.

 

School choice has been pushed by corporate reformers since the creation of charter schools and vouchers. Using the plight of underfunded poverty ridden urban schools reformers argued that low-income and minority families should be given a choice in where they send their child to school. Choice and competition would force low-performing schools to compete for students or be closed. Why should low-income and minority families have to settle for a failing neighborhood schools when parents with more money could choose better schools? This is how the argument for school choice is often framed as a benefit for certain groups. But the research paints a different picture….

The push for privatization distorts the picture of who really gets to choose under school choice schemes. Reformers would have us believe that parents are doing the choosing but in reality it is the charter schools, many which are for-profit corporations, who get to choose.

 

3. Underprepared teachers for other people’s children.

 

Privatization of public education cannot be fully implemented unless the system for educating teachers is also privatized. Typically teachers were prepared through colleges and universities were they took a variety of courses and completed a semester long student teaching internship before they could apply for a teaching license through their state. Today fast-track teacher preparation programs like Teach for America (TFA) are turning teacher preparation into a business. Recent college graduates are recruited to spend a few years teaching in inner-city schools with high needs students. Armed with five weeks of training and a desire to give back, these recruits are placed in classrooms and expected to outperform educators with teaching degrees and years of experience. TFA is touted as noble program that will change the teaching profession by removing the union thugs who only care about themselves and replacing them with young idealistic people who have the commitment to do what needs to be done and will not use poverty as an excuse.

 

Armed with language of from the Civil Rights movement, TFA claims to be champion of low-income and minority children. Statements like this, “Nearly 50 years after landmark civil rights marches throughout the region, deep, entrenched poverty still persists along racial lines” and “From Birmingham to Selma, corps members are helping to prove that all kids can achieve at high levels, even those living in poverty” can be found on their website and are clear examples of how TFA has co-opted the language of the Civil Rights movement. But hidden behind these nice quotes is the assumption that other people’s children deserve underprepared “saviors” as their teacher…..What the richest and most educated parent wants for their own child should be what we aspire to give all children.

 

Denisha Jones concludes:

 

There is much work to done as we continue to march towards Dr. King’s dream. Corporate education reform is not an ally in our fight for educational justice. We must not be fooled by those who seek to use the legacy of our struggle to turn a profit at the expense of our children’s education. A strong democratic republic needs high quality public schools that offer a free and appropriate public education to all.

 

 

Every so often, I run into someone who says that he or she cannot take seriously the claim that there is such a thing as a “privatization” movement. They think that charter schools are public schools (I do not) and they scoff at any concern about for-profit schools. They say things like, “There have always been for-profit businesses in education, selling tests, textbooks, supplies, etc., why does it matter if some corporations run schools for profit?” In their eyes, corporate reform is innovative and risky, and no one—not even the for-profit corporations—is trying to privatize public education.

 

To anyone who questions the existence of the privatization movement, I recommend Doug Martin’s “Hoosier School Heist.” Martin is a blogger who holds a Ph.D. in nineteenth century American literature. He is a native of Indiana who is deeply versed in that state’s school politics and its major (and minor) players. His book is eye-opening; actually, his book is eye-popping. It is a no-holds-barred critique of Indiana’s politically and financially powerful privatization movement.

 

Martin’s critique shows the linkages among the free-marketeers, the Religious Right, and the greedy.

 

A few examples of his snappy style:

 

“Academic progress is irrelevant to voucher supporters, for the goal is not to improve schools through competition, as they claim, but to completely dismantle traditional public schools altogether. In fact, those calling for school privatization don’t want to hold anyone with profit motives accountable, as Florida has proven.”

 

He recognizes that vouchers and charters drain funding from public schools, leaving the latter with fewer teachers, fewer aides, fewer programs—“so for-profit education management companies can take them over with temporary teachers or justify starting charter schools by deeming the neighborhood schools as ‘failing.’”

 

He sees why Wall Street is involved in the charter industry. “Making money from disasters is a Wall Street specialty, and investors have jumped on the opportunity for school privatization. Besides generating tax-exempt bonds, stocks, and other shady financial gimmicks, school privatization allows big bank CEOs, private equity firm honchos, and hedge fund managers to collect interest on loans to non-unionized charter schools which employ a temporary teacher workforce….Unlike traditional public school boards, charter school boards are unelected, undemocratic, and cloaked in mystery. Their conflicts of interest enable schemes like high rent to waste public education money.”

 

Martin challenges the corporate-sponsored claims that the public schools are failing to produce a good workforce. He says that Indiana’s newspapers and TV stations “advertise corporate school talking points, portray front group spokespeople as ‘experts,’ and seldom, if ever, question that profit motives and rigged research behind the corporate-sponsored statements that our schools are failing.”

 

The Republican-dominated legislature has taken steps to cripple the funding of public schools. “To sneak more politically connected for-profit charter schools into Indiana, in 2010 legislators cut $300 million annually from the public school budget and mandated tax caps to purposely ensure the destruction of public schools….Since the state controls the purse strings, Republican lawmakers have purposely bolted in place everything needed to start closing down Indiana schools and expanding for-profit charter schools.”

 

Martin shows how the overuse of standardized testing has benefited corporate politicians like Mitch Daniels. Not only do they stifle the critical thinking skills needed in a democratic society, not only do they send millions to testing corporations, but they demoralize and drive out good teachers. This too sets public schools up for failure.

 

One of the valuable aspects of Doug Martin’s book is his careful dissection of the sponsors of corporate reform in Indiana. A key player is called the Mind Trust, which Martin cites as an exemplar of “crony capitalism.” Martin writes:

 

“The Mind Trust typifies America’s counterfeit political Left. Mouthing the rhetoric of class warfare, civil rights, and female empowerment, the mock liberals at Education Sector, the Center for American Progress, and the New America Foundation, all supportive of the Mind Trust specifically or school privatization in general (and most bringing home six-figure salaries), attack teachers unions and public schools and connive to mount in place a school system based on corporate profit, one which disenfranchises the female teachers and minority and poor students they claim to be helping.”

 

Martin calls out the enablers of the school privatization movement, such as Eli Lilly and the Lilly Endowment, reliable funders of privatization activities, and of Teach for America and the New Teacher Project, which will recruit the temporary teachers needed for the charters. He cites the power of ALEC in the Indiana legislature, whose members pushed to evaluate teachers by their students’ test scores and to judge colleges of education by the test scores of students taught by their graduates. He provides overviews of the anti-teacher, anti-union, privatization agenda of Stand for Children, DFER (Democrats for Education Reform), the Christian right, the Bradley Foundation, the DeVos family of Michigan, and the Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO), which promotes charters and vouchers.

 

Martin doesn’t offer any suggestions about how to combat the well-funded, interconnected organizations that are advancing the privatization agenda. His book contains valuable information about the privatization movement, its goals, its major players, and its strategies. He leaves it to voters to figure out how to save public education in Indiana.

 

Whether or not you live in Indiana, you should read this book. The major players like DFER and BAEO operate nationally. The activities in Indiana follow a script that is being enacted in many states, probably including yours.

 

Hoosier School Heist is listed on amazon.com, or you can obtain a copy by going to the website http://www.hoosierschoolheist.com.

This is an excellent series of articles on the rise of the privatization movement in Pennsylvania. The bottom line, as usual: Follow the money.

 

If you want to understand the growth of charter schools in Pennsylvania, you must read this bombshell article by Daniel Simmons-Ritchie.

 

The charter lobby has spent millions to influence legislators. It also has the ability to mobilize hundreds of children to pack legislators’ offices, a tactic unavailable to public schools.

 

Pennsylvania does not allow for-profit charter schools, yet there are many for-profit charter schools in the state.

 

Do you want to know who is making money by sponsoring charters? The article has the names and details.

 

It’s no secret that Harrisburg is a hive of lobbyists, each representing industries and interests that spend millions to persuade state lawmakers to bend laws in their favor.

 

But perhaps what makes the charter-school lobby unique among the pack, says State Rep. Bernie O’Neill, a Republican from Bucks County, is its ability to deploy children to its cause.

 

In 2014, O’Neill experienced that first hand after proposing changes to a funding formula that would affect charter schools. Parents and children stormed his office and barraged him with calls and emails.

 

“They were calling me the anti-Christ of everything,” O’Neill said. “Everybody was coming after me.”

 

In recent years, as charter schools have proliferated – particularly those run by for-profit management companies – so too has their influence on legislators. In few other places has that been more true than Pennsylvania, which is one of only 11 states that has no limits on campaign contributions from PACs or individuals.

 

According to a PennLive analysis of donations on Follow The Money, a campaign donation database, charter school advocates have donated more than $10 million to Pennsylvania politicians over the past nine years.

 

To be sure, charter-school advocacy groups aren’t the only ones spending big to influence education policy in the Keystone State. The Pennsylvania State Education Association, which represents 170,000 teachers and related professionals, has spent about $8.3 million over the same time period according to Follow The Money.

 

But what perhaps makes the influx of money from charter-school groups unique in Pennsylvania is the magnitude of spending by only a handful of donors and, in recent years, some of their high-profile successes in moving and blocking legislation.

 

“They are mobilized,” O’Neill said. “Let me tell you something: they are mobilized.”

 

 

The series is introduced with this summation:

 

“It’s a plan reviled by teachers, loathed by parents, and decried by local politicians, but against huge opposition, York may become the third city in America to privatize the entirety of one of its public school districts.

 

“How did a public school system in the midstate rise to the forefront of a national experiment in education reform? And how did an entire community lose control of its own decision-making ability? The answer to both those questions, education researchers and public watchdogs say, lies in large part on a concerted, multi-million dollar campaign over the past decade by for-profit schools to alter Pennsylvania law.

 

“Those changes, and the industry lobbying that continues behind-the-scenes, have implications for teachers and students across the entire state. It’s a subject we have tackled in a series entitled “The Rise of Charter Schools in Pa.”

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