Archives for category: For-Profit

A teacher describes a new start up–open the link and see if you can find a teacher in the lineup of leaders–funded by Rupert Murdoch and aligned with the Common Core. Thar’s gold in them thar hills!

She writes:

“You probably know about this outfit already, but take a look at the team members of Teach Boost. Quite telling. I am enraged.

(By the way, we are not K-12 educators. We teach at-risk youth between 17-21 with the goal being passing the Test Assessing Secondary Completion (TASC) and college and career readiness. Of course, the test is Common Core-aligned, ensuring significant failure and dropout rates as we go forward.

Note in particular the connections to corporations, particularly Wireless Generation/Amplify:

https://teachboost.com/company/team

The TASC:

http://www.tasctest.com

Paul Rosenberg writes on Salon about the well-honed Fox-News style tactic of “crying wolf,” “the sky is falling,” we are in an “unprecedented crisis” to achieve political ends, in the present case, the privatization and monetization of public education. In urban districts, the privatization is gobbling up public schools and turning them over to private corporations–both for-profit and non-profit. In suburban districts, which are not prepared to relinquish their community public schools to charter chains, the gold rush is on to panic these districts into buying edu-schlock and paying consultants to train teachers to meet the federal government’s latest mandate.

What Rosenberg describes is what I earlier called the deliberate use of FUD–fear, uncertainty, and doubt–by the well-paid PR machine of the Status Quo privatizers.

Here is a small sample of Rosenberg’s comprehensive review of scare tactics and whom they benefit:

“In September 2012, for example, economist Jeff Faux, principal founder of the Economic Policy Institute, wrote an article, “Education Profiteering; Wall Street’s Next Big Thing?” which first noted, “It is well known, although rarely acknowledged in the press, that the [education] reform movement has been financed and led by the corporate class,” but then went on to note a crucial change:

In recent years, hedge fund operators, leverage-buy-out artists and investment bankers have joined the crusade. They finance schools, sit on the boards of their associations and the management companies that run them, and — most important — have made support of charter schools one of the criteria for campaign giving in the post-Citizens United era. Since most Republicans are already on board for privatization, the political pressure has been mostly directed at Democrats….

“What’s more, Faux noted, there was less money for Wall Street to play with from the sources they had burned, but the money-making opportunities in education were proliferating like never before:

“You start to see entire ecosystems of investment opportunity lining up,” Rob Lytle, a business consultant, earlier this year told a meeting of private equity investors interested in for-profit education companies….

“This is the context in which Andrew Cuomo hooked up with Wall Street, as the New York Times reported in May 2010. Cuomo’s ticket to Wall Street came courtesy of Joe Williams, executive director of Democrats for Education Reform, a PAC that “advances what has become a favorite cause of many of the wealthy founders of New York hedge funds: charter schools.” Members who met with Cuomo included “the founders of funds like Anchorage Capital Partners, with $8 billion under management; Greenlight Capital, with $6.8 billion; and Pershing Square Capital Management, with $5.5 billion.” But in retrospect, 2010 was nothing. As already noted, Cuomo has raised $800,000 from Wall Street charter school supporters — roughly half that total from Moskowitz supporters alone.

“The Philanthropic Dimension

“Money may be all the motivation Wall Street needs, but there’s more. Philanthropy has always been a means for the wealthy to extend their influence over society beyond the marketplace, to serve a multitude of functions. Northern philanthropists spent an enormous amount of money bringing education to Southern blacks after the Civil War, for example. This brought them into prolonged and complex conflicts with both Southern elites, who resisted virtually all education efforts, and with blacks who resisted the Northern philanthropists’ focus on industrial education (epitomized by the Tuskegee model), as well as their broader pattern of trying to appease Southern white racism. (See, for example,”The Education of Blacks in the South, 1860-1935.”) Although highly conflicted and complicated, these efforts eventually synergized with blacks’ own broader civil rights struggles to bring about the integration of public education in the South — at which time, Southerners’ first response was the policy of massive resistance, including the creation of private academies, and the closing of public schools.

“Amazingly, three decades later, the education panic reform movement began the process of recycling the racist Southern resistance strategies as general solutions for the purported failure of public education. Another three decades further on, those very same anti-civil rights strategies are now being touted as the key to civil rights. The reasons are at least partly psychological. After the financial crises decimated the economy, Wall Street elites and their 1 percenter allies were profoundly defensive, as seen most shockingly in remarks comparing their critics to Nazi Germany. But the “productive” manifestation of this same acute status anxiety was arguably much more destructive — that is, the intense desire to re-create themselves as moral leaders, not lepers, by recasting public education as a locus of evil, and portraying its destruction as “the civil rights struggle of our time” — which they, of course, would be only too happy to lead.”

A few years ago, Michigan governor Rick Snyder decided that the best way to fix the financial problems of districts in deficit was to put them under the control of an emergency manager to straighten out their finances. Some districts, however, are so poor that they don’t have enough money to educate their children. It is the state’s duty to help them.

In 2011, an emergency manager decided to give the Muskegon Heights school district to a for-profit charter chain, called Mosaica. It has not been profitable, and the district’s deficit continues.

Mosaica just received an emergency bailout from the state because it couldn’t meet its payroll. The corporation ended its first year in deficit because of the cost of repairs.

Years of deferred maintenance required expenditures of $750,000 to bring the buildings up to code. Meanwhile revenues have shrunk as enrollment dropped from 1400 to 920.

Lingering question: why did the state allow this impoverished, largely African American school district to fall into such shabby condition? Will for-profits be more cautious in the future about taking over neglected districts? Or will they have a commitment from the state for subsidies that were not available to the school district when it had an elected board?

The mainstream press in Ohio is starting to take a closer look at charter schools, many of which are money pits for big donors to Governor John Kasich and the legislature.

The Akron Beacon-Journal published a remarkable, three-part series on charters, looking closely at the peculiar financial operation of the for-profit White Hat management company.

In this article, the reporter discovered that most charters won’t tell anyone who is in charge.

Journalists learned that most charter schools will not provide basic information. They are neither transparent nor accountable.

“The calls were made as part of a school-choice project by the Akron Beacon Journal and the News­Outlet, a consortium of journalism programs at Youngstown State University, the University of Akron and Cuyahoga Community College.

“In a phone-call blitz that began in early January, students in the journalism lab called 294 of Ohio’s 393 charter schools in operation at the time, seeking basic information:

“• Who runs the building?
• Who is that person’s supervisor?
• Who is the management company in charge?
• How does one contact the school board?
• When does the board meet?

“Public accountability was difficult. Of the 294 called, the results by March 26 were:

“• 114 — more than a third — did not return messages seeking information.
• Eight refused to answer.
• Seven said they would call back but did not.
• 73 provided some of the information.
• 80, or about 1 in 4, provided the information requested.

“By law, Ohio charter schools “must follow health and safety, ethics, public records and privacy laws; and comply with open meetings laws,” states a 2014 position statement by the Ohio Alliance for Public Charter Schools. Citizens are not required to provide reasons for the requests.”

In the second article in the series, a reporter finds that board members of White Hat charters has no idea where the millions of taxpayer dollars go.

“As a board member of four publicly funded charter schools in Akron and Cleveland, Charlotte Burrell will watch this year as $5.3 million in taxpayer money passes through her financial reports.

“She knows most of it will go to White Hat Management ­— a private, for-profit Akron-based company that runs 32 charter schools in Ohio. But unlike an elected school board member who can obtain intimate details about spending, her hands are tied. What White Hat does with the money, she said, is beyond her control.

“She does, however, control “unrestricted net assets.”
She pointed to the line item on a budget at a joint board meeting in February for two of the charter schools — University and Brown Street academies. Of $2.1 million in expected yearly funds, unrestricted dollars for both schools totaled roughly $1,500, or less than 0.1 percent.

“That’s what we concern ourselves with the majority of the time,” she said.
She’s satisfied, so long as a school treasurer — employed by White Hat — says the money spent by White Hat adds up.

“So, who is in charge of the nonprofit, publicly funded Ohio charter schools that 20 years ago did not exist? This school year, more than $900 million in state and local tax dollars — some of it approved by local voters — will be transferred from local schools to charters.

“In Ohio, charter schools are required to satisfy strict federal guidelines as nonprofit organizations under Section 501(c)3 of the Internal Revenue Code, including board autonomy. If the board is not independent of the company, the IRS is supposed to throw up a red flag.
But state law allows private companies to throw out nonprofit boards that challenge them.

“At many White Hat-operated schools, this already has happened. Last summer, boards in Akron and Cleveland expressed dissatisfaction with White Hat, so White Hat forced them out and new boards were formed.
The three unpaid board members who attended the February meeting said they were recruited by White Hat to serve. They turn over 95.5 percent of funding to White Hat, which then hires the staff, pays the bills and gives rent to its for-profit affiliates that own the tax-exempt school properties.”

.

“The IRS’ checklist to qualify for federal tax-exempt status draws a bright line between the charter-school governing board and the management company hired to run the school. The company should not create the board or recruit the members, and any evidence of boilerplate contracts from one school to the next suggests the company may be in control.

“Richard Schmalbeck, a Duke University professor of law and a former tax law attorney, said the description of relationships between private companies and Ohio charter schools may be problematic.

“The charter schools appear to be run by a for-profit organization,” he said.
Because the private company creates and owns the nonprofit school, then recruits a governing board that would give a favorable contract to the private company, “There may be a private benefit problem. Charities are supposed to operate exclusively for charitable purposes, and not for the purpose of advancing for-profit business ventures.”

“Schmalbeck is disappointed but not surprised that the IRS, buried in applications, might carelessly grant tax-exempt status to a nonprofit created or controlled by a private company. “If these facts are accurate and fully disclosed to the IRS, I think the IRS should withhold 501(c)(3) status,” he said.

“Ohio law requires schools to obtain 501(c)(3) status. The federal government allows 27 months to apply. Some charter schools are created and disappear in less than two years.
University and Brown Street were created by a White Hat attorney in September 2011, or 28 months ago. The board for each school, represented by the same attorney, had yet to file as of mid-March.

“Last year, the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) barred the creation of four White Hat schools when the state determined that boilerplate contracts would strip too much power from the boards.

“So directors who owe their position and continued appointment to White Hat are voting a lucrative operator contract to White Hat. Since a community school is a public entity, ODE feels this is not permissible,” ODE’s Mark Michael wrote in an email rejecting White Hat’s applications.
This was a rare event, though, because the legislature has shifted direct regulation of charter schools from the state to school-choice friendly groups known as sponsors — such as Buckeye Community Hope Foundation, a two-time sponsor of the school at 107 S. Arlington St.

“Initially sponsored by ODE and known as Hope Academy University Campus, the state handed over control after State Rep. John Husted — now secretary of state and a recipient of at least $139,033 in campaign contributions from the Brennans — sponsored legislation that effectively stripped ODE oversight.

“Buckeye Community Hope then took over. Peggy Young, director of the group’s Education Division, takes the position that the boards have ultimate authority.

“We’ve seen boards fire management companies, so in that sense they have ultimate control of the school,” Young said.

“However, when 10 school boards attempted to fire White Hat, it didn’t work out so well. Because White Hat had trademarked school names and bought up real estate through affiliate companies, the renegade boards couldn’t force White Hat out of the building.

“All but one has since contracted with another private company, this one a Delaware-based affiliate of a Florida company founded by a former White Hat employee.

Young saw that as the board maintaining control.

“I’ve had boards do that. They move next door. They have the students. The records,” Young said.

The old buildings didn’t stay empty. They have students and teachers, and board members who say they were recruited by White Hat.

And their attorney, Amy Goodson, whose name is on incorporation papers for several White Hat-managed schools, said it’s “pretty typical” that lack of wherewithal forces boards to enter contracts with big name companies.

“What happens is, I can’t say broadly, but in the case of University and Brown Street, those were education models that White Hat creates,” said Goodson, who is paid by the board. “It’s kind of a chicken and an egg thing because you have to have someone start this.”

Burrell is unaware of her predecessors’ disapproval of White Hat. To the contrary, it’s been “fabulous” working with White Hat, she said.

When asked if she could provide some of the financial information that prior boards continue to seek in court, she replied: “That comes under the management company, not the board. So you would have to interview those persons at White Hat.”

A third article describes IRS rules supposedly governing the tax exempt status of charter schools.

Doug Livingston can be reached at 330-996-3792 or dlivingston@thebeaconjournal.com. Contributing to this story were NewsOutlet reporters Matt Hawout and Sara Rodino.

TheNewsOutlet.org is a collaborative effort among the Youngstown State University journalism program, the University of Akron, Cuyahoga Community College and professional media outlets including, WYSU (88.5-FM) and The (Youngstown) Vindicator, The Akron Beacon Journal and Rubber City Radio (Akron).

http://www.ohio.com/news/local/irs-sets-rules-on-how-charter-schools-qualify-for-tax-exempt-status-1.477137

Lets hope that journalists keep asking questions. The public has a right to know who and what they are funding, and where the money goes.

Jon Hage cashed in on the charter industry in a big way. And where else but Florida, where for-profit schools are welcome no matter what their quality.

EduShyster tells the story here of Jon Hage, a non-educator who is one of Florida’s most successful charter entrepreneurs.

“Have you ever encountered a story so sadly tragic that you were forced to break your own rule regarding pre-noon winebox decanting? I have… Hankies at the ready, reader, for we are *going there.* I’m talking about the super sad true tale of Charter Schools USA founder and CEO Jonathan Hage and his wrenching decision to part with his yacht: the aptly named Fishin’ 4 Schools. In other words, onto every teak deck a little salt water must spray. It’s time to don your stripes, reader; we’re goin’ fishin’.”

She says the boat has been listed for sale for $350,000. Just like your typical superintendent’s boat.

Stephen Dyer, a former legislator, explains here why charters in Ohio are very different from those in some other states.

The question he does not address is whether charters in other states operate as secretively and non-transparently as those in Ohio. Don’t expect to get an answer from the Obama administrations’ Department of Education, which loves the charter industry. We will have to wait for an enterprising researcher or journalist to dig deep and investigate.

Charters in Ohio collect $900 million yearly from taxpayers, but there are important questions they will not answer.

Dyer writes:

“Now it is true that sometimes it’s tough to get information out of traditional public schools. As a former reporter, I remember many rounds I’d go with districts about whether I could get information. But I never remember failing to receive this kind of information:

“Who runs the building?

“Who is that person’s supervisor?

“Who is the management company in charge?

“How does one contact the school board?

“When does the board meet?

“Only 1 in 4 Ohio Charter Schools answered these five basic questions. That’s right. Only 1 in 4 Charters told members of the public, who pay $900 million a year for these schools, when the school board meets. And these schools are called “public schools” throughout the Ohio Revised Code. Perhaps this is why courts around the country are finding that Charter Schools aren’t actually public schools? Because they act like private schools?

“Look, Ohio taxpayers fork over $900 million a year for Charter Schools. They deserve to know how that money is being spent. Because they would be able to find the answers to these five questions on every single traditional public school website. You wouldn’t have to set up phone banks to find out the answers to these basic five questions, the way the Akron Beacon Journal did for Charters.

“Can you imagine if the Beacon called Akron Public Schools and they refused to tell them who the Superintendent was, or when the board met, or how to contact the board? I mean, that is just beyond imagination, right? But Charters, we are told, are just as public a school as APS. So why do they operate under such a shadow?

“Ohio’s Charter School system is a disaster. It needs serious overhaul.

“Ohio’s Charter Schools take far more kids from school districts that outperform the Charter than the other way round. They spend nearly 3 times as much on administration than the average school district. They spend more per pupil overall than traditional school districts. And because the state pays about twice as much per pupil for the typical Charter School kid than the typical traditional public school kid, kids not in Charters get several hundred dollars less in state revenue than the state says they need. So what’s the bottom line for Ohio’s Charter Schools in comparison with traditional public schools, overall?

“They perform far worse academically

“They cost the state far more

“They spend more per pupil

“They spend far more on administration

“They are far less transparent”

Why is this situation possible? Two reasons: charter lobbyists make large campaign contributions to politicians, especially Republicans. They are not public schools, and need not be transparent or accountable.

Let’s face it. Some people have the Midas touch.

Take Jon Hage, the CEO of the for-profit charter chain, Charter Schools USA.

He was named Floridian of the Year.

He has a yacht named “Fishin’ for Schools.”

And he has figured out a cool way to make his charters very profitable.

This comes from Coach Bob Sikes in Florida:

“This week’s hilarious story that Charter Schools USA CEO Jonathan Hage owns a yacht called Fishin’ 4 Schools overshadows what may be some major wrongdoing on the part of Hage. In a column that appeared in the Tampa Bay Times, Hillsborough League of Women Voters president, Shirley Arcuri revealed this little tidbit:

“Another area where the distinction between public and private is blurred for the benefit of for-profits is in the issuing of bonds. Although Florida law prohibits charter schools from issuing bonds, Charter School USA has found a way.

“When naming Jon Hage, CEO of Charter USA, as Floridian of the Year, Florida Trend in December 2012 contended that Charter School USA is the largest seller of charter school debt in the country. “It will sell $100 million worth of bonds this year, Hage says. … The bonds come with tax-exempt status because they are technically held by the nonprofit founding boards that oversee the schools.”

Endless to say, Hage is not and never was a teacher.

The Walton Family Foundation released its list of grantees in the education world, and once again, the foundation put its huge resources into privatizing American public education.

The billions that hard-working families spend at Walmart are used to support privately managed charters and vouchers and to undermine democratic local control and traditional public schools.

Some of the biggest recipients of the Walton family’s largesse are Teach for America (nearly $20 million), which staffs non-union charters; KIPP charter schools ($8.8 million); the Charter Fund, Inc. ($14.5 million); The Children’s Scholarship Fund (which gives our school vouchers) $8.56 million; and the California Charter School Association, $5 million. Parent Revolution got almost $2 million, the Black Alliance for Educational Options got $1.3 million.

Read the list and see who favors the privatization of public schools. Aside from a few dollars tossed to the Bentonville, Arkansas, public schools, it is a rogues’ gallery of privatization and teacher-bashing.

The Walton Family Foundation helped to underwrite the attack ads against New York City’s progressive mayor, Bill de Blasio, because he dared to turn down three charter school proposals. Two of the three schools did not exist, so no child was evicted. The third rejection was meant to stop the expansion of Eva Moskowitz’s charter school inside PS 149 in Harlem, which required the eviction of severely disabled students to make room for her desired new middle school. Apparently the theory of the billionaires is that students with high test scores deserve public space more than profoundly disabled students, who have lesser rights.

As a result of pressure by the billionaires, the legislature passed a budget that gutted mayoral control by saying that the mayor was not allowed to reject any charter approved by Bloomberg’s school board; that the mayor was not allowed to charge rent to charters, even though they had just won a lawsuit declaring that they could not be audited by the State Comptroller because they are not “a unit of the state”; giving charters the right to expand in any public school where they are now co-located, without regard to the needs of the children already enrolled in that school; and requiring that the city pay the rent of any charter that rents private space. So, with the help of the Walton Family Foundation, the charter schools, which are not public schools and are not subject to public audit, get free space and may kick public school students out of their buildings.

This was a shameful law, purchased by people of vast wealth. They are intent on busting unions, crushing the teaching profession, and harming one of our democratic institutions. Their maleficent influence is unchecked. The money they spend each year is meant to transfer public funds to private hands. They use their power to hurt the very people who have made them wealthy, destroying their communities at the same time.

The age of the robber barons is back.

Florida legislators king to expand vouchers, even though the voters turned down an effort in 2012 to change the state constitution to permit vouchers for religious schools. The
measure was defeated 58-42, despite Jeb Bush’s efforts to pass it.
An earlier voucher program was struck down as unconstitutional by
the state courts. The only current voucher program is for students
with disabilities, called the McKay Scholarship Program. A journalistic
exposé called it a “cottage industry” of fraud.
the
writer won a major national award for this story from his
colleagues. Yet legislators want more.

The good news–for the moment–is that parents and teachers recently beat back the latest attempt to give away public money to religious schools. But be vigilant. Jeb & Co. will be back.

Wow! How cool is this? You, me, and all of us are invited to join today’s thought leaders of education “reform” (aka, privatization and segregation) at a philophers” retreat.

I wish I were a thought leader in education, but apparently my thoughts don’t lead in the right direction (e.g., handing public money over to privately managed schools with no transparency or accountability, smashing unions, demoralizing teachers, eliminating pensions, making test scores the goal of education, firing teachers who can’t raise test scores higher and higher every year, stuff like that, which these days makes you a thought leader).

The meeting is billed as a three-day retreat, “a philosopher’s camp on education reform.” I wonder if the philosophers there will talk about Horace Mann or John Dewey or William James or William Torrey Harris or Sidney Hook? Somehow, I doubt they will. I kind of doubt that they ever heard of any of our eminent philosophers of education.

You too can attend for only $1,000. If you want to be a VIP, it will cost you $2,500.

Two other things: the meeting will be held at the Whiteface Lodge in Lake Placid. Is there a coded message here?

And for the benefit of the assembled philosophers, they might want to be reminded that they have a spelling error on the invitation. It is James Russell Lowell that once attended a meeting at that lodge, not James Russell Lowes. Do they know the difference? But when you are a thought leader in education, why bother with details?

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