Archives for category: For-Profit

In a shocking decision, the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 that the state has no legal responsibility to provide a quality education to every child. The case centered on the Highland Park school district, where achievement was lagging; the state turned the entire district over to a for-profit charter operator that had no track record of improving low-performng schools. The American Civil Liberties Union had filed the suit.

 

In a blow to schoolchildren statewide, the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled on Nov. 7 the State of Michigan has no legal obligation to provide a quality public education to students in the struggling Highland Park School District.
A 2-1 decision reversed an earlier circuit court ruling that there is a “broad compelling state interest in the provision of an education to all children.” The appellate court said the state has no constitutional requirement to ensure schoolchildren actually learn fundamental skills such as reading — but rather is obligated only to establish and finance a public education system, regardless of quality. Waving off decades of historic judicial impact on educational reform, the majority opinion also contends that “judges are not equipped to decide educational policy.”

 

“This ruling should outrage anyone who cares about our public education system,” said Kary L. Moss, executive director of the American Civil Liberties of Michigan. “The court washes its hands and absolves the state of any responsibility in a district that has failed and continues to fail its children.”

 

The decision dismisses an unprecedented “right-to-read” lawsuit filed by the ACLU of Michigan in July 2012 on behalf of eight students of nearly 1,000 children attending K-12 public schools in Highland Park, Mich. The suit, which named as defendants the State of Michigan, its agencies charged with overseeing public education and the Highland Park School District, maintained that the state failed to take effective steps to ensure that students are reading at grade level.

 

“Let’s remember it was the state that turned the entire district over to a for-profit charter management company with no track record of success with low performing schools,” said Moss. “It is the state that has not enforced the law that requires literacy intervention to children not reading at grade level. It is the state’s responsibility to ensure and maintain a system of education that serves all children.”

 

In a dissenting opinion, appellate court judge Douglas Shapiro accused the court of “abandonment of our essential judicial roles, that of enforcement of the rule of law even where the defendants are governmental entities, and of protecting the rights of all who live within Michigan’s borders, particularly those, like children, who do not have a voice in the political process.”

 

MEAP test results from 2012 painted a bleak picture for Highland Park students and parents. In the 2013-14 year, no fewer than 78.9 percent of current fourth graders and 73 percent of current seventh graders will require the special intervention mandated by statute. By contrast, 65 percent of then-fourth graders and 75 percent of then-seventh graders required statutory intervention entering the 2012-13 school year.

 

At the time the state of Michigan decided to privatize the Highland Park schools and turn them over to the Leona Group, some saw it as a last-ditch effort to save the district from its debt. 

 

The Wall Street Journal wrote in 2012:

 

Phoenix-based Leona will receive $7,110 per pupil in state funding, plus an as-yet-undetermined amount of federal funds for low-income and special education students. In addition, the Highland Park district will pay Leona a $780,000 annual management fee.

 

Unions have been sidelined after the district’s entire professional staff was laid off, as allowed by the state emergency law, but teachers can apply for jobs with Leona. Leona has budgeted about $36,000 a year for Highland Park teachers on average, the company said—compared with almost $65,000 a year the teachers received in the 2010-11 school year.

 

In a typical school it takes over, Leona has hired back about 70% of the teachers, the company said. Leona also will lease the Highland Park district’s buildings.

 

Under the five-year contract with Leona, the new city charter board will monitor the company’s progress in improving student performance.

 

Leona runs 54 schools in five states. Students in almost half of them fail state academic benchmarks. But of its 22 Michigan schools, 19 meet the mark, Leona officials said.

 

Leona Chief Executive William Coats said the company had no incentive to cut corners in Highland Park. “As we build equity, we give that back to the schools,” he said during Wednesday’s meeting when an audience member raised doubts about the for-profit approach. “We’re trying to manage this so you [the district] stay in business.”

 

Highland Park is where Henry Ford opened his first assembly line and Chrysler Corp. built its original headquarters. It has suffered the same ills as Detroit, its larger neighbor: an exodus of auto jobs, depressed housing stock and a surge in crime.

 

The city, which spreads across three square miles, lost nearly 30% of its population from 2000 to 2010, according to the latest U.S. Census. Nearly half of the 11,776 residents live below the poverty line.

 

Students and parents complain of dirty classrooms, exposed wiring in the schools, rationed textbook and swimming pools—once used by powerhouse swim teams—that now sit drained of water.

 

John Holloway, the school board president, said the problems became a “runaway train that we could not stop.”

 

As the situation worsened, the state gave the district a $4 million loan in July 2011 and advanced it $450,000 more earlier this year just to meet its payroll.

 

A union-backed initiative that could go to voters statewide in November seeks to repeal the emergency-manager law under which Ms. Parker was appointed to run the district. The law had been strengthened in 2011 by the governor.

 

Glenda McDonald, a Highland Park resident and laid-off teacher, said that the problem was not entirely the fault of the community. “The disinvestment in our communities led to the disinvestment in our schools, and that’s why people left,” she said. “We had nothing to offer them.”

 

After Leona took over, things did not go well. Enrollment dropped sharply. The company closed the district’s high school. It agreed to waive its fee for one year because of a lingering deficit.

 

 

David Brennan, Akron industrialist, operates Ohio’s largest charter chain. Most are low-performing. But Brennan donates generously to key politicians, and his schools are rewarded, not closed down.

Bill Phillis of Ohio Coalition for Equity and Adequacy writes:

“Brennan strikes again: More money proposed for the drop-out recovery schools

The billion dollar charter school operator, David Brennan, is about to get a huge early Christmas gift. His charter school empire includes dropout recovery charter schools. One of his dropout recovery charter schools graduated 2 out of 155 students in four years. A provision in HB 343, which is currently sailing through the House, will allow drop-out recovery charter schools to enroll students up to 29 years old for GED or diploma programs at a cost of $5,000 per student.

This provision in HB 343 exacerbates the transfer of tax money to private hands. For decades, Ohio public schools have provided adult basic education programs with remarkable results. The Johnny-come-lately state officials may be unaware of this.

Ohio taxpayers need to be informed about this, yet another example of inefficient use of tax money in charterland.

William Phillis
Ohio E & A

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

You don’t have to look far into the future to see the technology sector circling the schools, giving generously to elected officials, hyping the wonders of computers instead of teachers (so much cheaper, and computers never need a pension), and gently persuading legislatures to add online courses as graduation requirements. Consider the federally-funded tests for Common Core: all online, all requiring a massive investment in equipment, bandwidth and support services. The Golden Fleece: replacing teachers with computers.

 

Laura Chapman writes:

 

 

 

Latest Bamboozlers are the “on-line only” promoters of “learning,” no need for teachers.

 

In a press release dated February, 3, 2014 KnowledgeWorks and The International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL) announced their shared agenda for federal policies that would change “our entire K-12 education system” to fit a student-centered learning environment with demonstrations of competency, free of traditional notions of schools, teachers, and student learning.

 

The policy report addressed to federal officials calls for the status quo on requiring students to meet college-and career-ready standards, but these standards would be aligned with specific competencies mapped into the idea of optimum trajectories for learning that will lead to graduation. Individual students would be tracked on the “pace” of their mastery through the use of on-line and “real-time” data. The data for each student is supposed to inform the instruction, supports, and interventions needed by each student in order to graduate.

 

This vision requires competency-based interpretations of the college-and career-ready standards and measures of those competencies. It requires a recommendation system (data-driven guide) for prioritizing required learning and ensuring continuous improvement in learning until graduation.

 

The vision calls for federal funding to states and districts for developing “personalized learning pathways” (PLPs) for students along with the infrastructure needed to produce real-time data for just-in-time recommendations for the interventions and supports needed to move students to college and career readiness.

 

The system in intended to build reports on the progress of individual students relative to mastery, or a high level of competency, for the college and career readiness standards.

 

In addition to keeping individuals “on-pace” in demonstrating standards-aligned competencies, this entire system is envisioned as offering “useful information for accountability, better teaching and learning, and measures of quality in education.”

 

In effect, programmed instruction is the solution for securing student compliance with the Common Core State Standards, assuring their entry into college and a career, with “instructional designers and programmers” the surrogates for teachers. Teachers are not needed because the out-of-sight designers and programmers build the recommendation systems for needed “interventions,” also known as “playlists.”

 

This is a souped-up version of vintage 1950s programmed instruction amplified in scope and detail by technology–on-line playlists and monitors of PLPs–personal learning plans–available anytime.

 

In fact, students get one-size-fits education, at the rate they can manage. The rate learning is optimized by computers programmed to lead students to and from the needed playlists of activities (e.g., subroutines that function as reviews, simple re-teaching, new warm-ups for the main learning event or subsets of methods for presenting the same concept). The student does what the computer says and the computer decides if and when mastery or some other criterion for competence has been achieved.

 

The selling framework is for “personalized, competency-based student-centered learning in a de-institutionalized environment.

 

Out of view are scenarios where all education is offered by “learning agents” who broker educational services offered by a mix of for-profit and non-profit providers. Token public schools remain in the mix, but are radically reduced in number and the loss becomes a self-fulling prophesy justifying radical cuts in state support. Profit seekers, together with volunteers and “20-year commitments from foundations” provide for “students in need. This is one of several scenarios from KnowledgWorks.

 

 

The quest for federal funds is found here at http://knowledgeworks.org/building-capacity-systems-change-federal-policy-framework-competency-education#sthash.Nr0OpfWq.dpuf

 

See more at the CompetencyWorks website http://bit.ly/cwk12fedpolicy

Andre Agassi was a great tennis star. Although he never finished high school, he decided to open a charter school in Las Vegas. He talked it up as a model for education in America, he predicted that all its graduates would go to four-year colleges, and he downplayed the results, which didn’t live up to the hype. Like the revolving door of principals and teachers, and a host of other problems, such as a cheating scandal and the coach of the cheerleading squad who was charged with prostitution.

But in this society, you can count on journalists to swallow hype and ignore investigation. (For more about Agassi’s charter in Las Vegas, see “Reign of Error,” pp. 170-171.)

So now Agassi is an “education capitalist,” sponsoring charter schools in many cities despite the troubling experiences of his showcase charter.

Agassi has teamed up with a hedge fund, partners who know as little about education as he does:

“But some parents don’t buy the sales pitch.

“It kind of makes my stomach turn,” says Brett Bymaster, a parent in San Jose where the Agassi-Turner fund has been active.

“He’s taken it upon himself to dig into their business model, though one can only dig so far. While they’re building public charter schools, there’s very little disclosure, including what they charge tenants.

“We need to partner with people outside, but I don’t think the solutions to problems in my community are one-percenters getting filthy rich,” he says.

“Bymaster wonders what happens to one of these buildings if the charter has to shut down, and many do. So far, all 39 schools built by the fund are still up and running. A spokesman says if one closed, the building could be rented to another charter operator.

Even among charter school advocates, there is some quiet suspicion of partnering with hedge funds. First, there’s cost. One charter founder said a deal with Agassi was 25 percent above any other option.”

Bob Herbert’s new book Losing Our Way: An Intimate Portrait of a Troubled America is one of the most important, most compelling books that I have read in many years. For those of us who have felt that something has gone seriously wrong in our country, Herbert connects the dots. He provides a carefully documented, well-written account of what went wrong and why. As he pulls together a sweeping narrative, he weaves it through the personal accounts of individuals whose stories are emblematic and heartbreaking.

 

Herbert reminds us of a time when America’s policymakers had great visions for the future and acted to make them real, whether it was the building of the Erie Canal or the transcontinental rail system, Franklin D. Roosevelt’s TVA, or Dwight D. Eisenhower’s national highway system. He reminds us that the American dream was to create a nation where there were good jobs for those who wanted to work, where there was increasing equality, and a growing middle class.

 

What we have today is a nation dominated by plutocrats and corporations, which are allowed by the U. S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision to dump unlimited amounts of money into elections and to write legislation that favors plutocrats and corporations; what we have is historic levels of wealth inequality and income inequality, where corporations outsource good jobs and many people are slipping from the middle class into minimum wage jobs or even poverty. Herbert explains that our failure to invest in rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure has left us with crumbling bridges, tunnels, water mains, sewers, and gas lines, which are dangerous and sometimes fatal to citizens who happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, as bridges collapse, levees fall, and gas lines explode.

 

He goes into detail about the corporate assault on public education, fueled by the plutocrats’ desire to turn education into a free market. He points out that the plutocrats’ favorite reform—charter schools—enroll a tiny percentage of students and have on average an unimpressive record. Their relentless attacks on the teaching profession will damage that profession for many years into the future. Herbert spent time in Pittsburgh, meeting the activists and parent leaders there. He saw at ground-level the harm inflicted by massive cuts in the state budget and the determination of parents to fight back. He describes the emptiness of the reformers’ boast that they can close the achievement gap by privatization and by union-busting. Having talked to teachers, parents, and principals, he knows the harm that poverty inflicts on children, the pain caused by living without adequate food, shelter, and medical care.

 

Herbert writes movingly about the endless wars in the Middle East of the past decade. Did the policymakers know what they were doing when they launched the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan? Did they have a strategy for victory? No, they did not. They launched wars with a goal (victory) but not a plan. He quotes Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, who assured the American public that our invasion of Iraq would not last longer than five months. Herbert writes about a remote sector in Afghanistan called “the valley of death,” where American troops struggled to establish a base. It was portrayed in an award-winning documentary called “Restrepo.” Many young Americans died there, but no one could explain why our troops were sent there; eventually, the disaster ended, and we abandoned that forlorn valley. Herbert cites economists who calculate that the wars of the past decade will cost trillions of dollars, as well as thousands of American lives and hundreds of thousands of lives of people in the countries we went to “save.” There is no end in sight. Does anyone still believe that Iraq or Afghanistan are on their way to become stable democracies or even a country that will no longer harbor terrorists?

 

Herbert pulls all these events and issues into a coherent whole. We have lost our way. Our elected officials dream no big dreams. They have little or no concept of major public works programs to rebuild our nation’s infrastructure, which would put millions of people to work and invigorate our economy. They willingly waste blood and treasure on wars in distant lands, yet they cannot bring themselves to invest in our nation and create jobs by rebuilding the vital roads, tunnels, bridges, sewers, and other public assets that are now in disrepair, rusting, crumbling, threatening lives. We have money aplenty for war, but no money to put people to work fixing our infrastructure. Plutocrats buy politicians to protect their fortunes and reduce their taxes. Corporations buy politicians who will deregulate their activities and cut their taxes. The stock market rewards corporations that cut their payroll, firing experienced employees who had served those corporations loyally for decades. Men like Jack Welch of GE and “Chainsaw Al” Dunlap became famous as business leaders who coolly and heartlessly fired tens of thousands of workers to increase shareholder value in their corporations.

 

Herbert writes:

 

“How did things go so wrong? How is it that so many millions were finding it so difficult to get ahead, to emerge from the terrible, demoralizing rut of joblessness and underemployment? In a country as rich as the United States, why were so many being left behind?

 

“The biggest factor by far was the toxic alliance forged by government and America’s megacorporations and giant banks. That alliance of elites, fueled by endless greed and a near-pathological quest for power, reshaped the rules and regulations of the economy and the society at large to heavily favor the interest of those who were already well-to-do. In the process they trampled the best interests of ordinary Americans.”

 

Herbert’s book comes alive through his account of the experiences of two individuals: one, a woman in Minnesota who was driving across a bridge that spanned the Mississippi River when it collapsed in 2007; the other, a young man who was grievously wounded in Afghanistan and struggled to regain the ability to walk. In these and many other accounts of individuals and families, Herbert uses his superb journalistic skills to bring major issues to life. Along with the data and the documentation to make his arguments, Herbert vividly portrays what matters most: the human impact of political decisions.

 

If you read only one book this year, make it Bob Herbert’s “Losing Our Way.” It will change you. It will make you want to get involved, take action, make a difference. As he says at the end of the book, it doesn’t have to be this way. Changing it depends on us.

This comes from “In the Public Interest,” an organization that reports on outsourcing and privatization, which is usually NOT in the public interest.

Donald Cohen writes:

As we approach Election Day, a number of governors in tight races are finding that privatizing public services isn’t good politics. But it may be good for campaign fundraisers seeking donations from corporations that want government contracts.

A new report released by the Center for Media and Democracy highlights the intensive efforts of governors seeking re-election to privatize important public services to private firms. Time after time, outsourcing has gone awry, generating worse outcomes for the public, scandals, lawsuits, and scorching headlines that are impacting the campaigns. The report includes examples from Florida, Kansas, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Maine, and Wisconsin.

Here are examples from the report:

• In Michigan, Governor Rick Snyder outsourced prison food service to Aramark after the company spent half a million dollars on lobbying. The contract has been plagued by scandals, including maggots, employees smuggling drugs and having sex with inmates, and even murder-for-hire allegations.


• In Pennsylvania, Governor Tom Corbett has outsourced millions in legal contracts to major campaign contributors to defend ALEC-style voter ID legislation and other policies. The governor also attempted to privatize liquor sales, which would have benefited another set of deep-pocketed contributors like retail giant Walmart.
 Walmart donated $33,500 to Corbett’s campaign.

• In Florida, Governor Rick Scott has overseen a massive expansion of for-profit online schooling to companies that spent millions on lobbying. Scott signed a bill requiring every student to take online courses and tests benefiting firms like K12 Inc.

The outcomes of these races could very well be an important referendum on outsourcing and privatization. We’ll be watching.
Sincerely,

Donald Cohen
Executive Director
In the Public Interest

The blog has its own poet, who signs as “Some DAM Poet—Devalue Added Model.” Here is his or her poem for Imagine charters in Ohio:

“”Imagine” (sincere apologies to John Lennon)

Imagine no regulation
It’s easy if you try
No tax below us
Above us only $ky

Imagine all the charters
Living for today

Imagine there’s no oversight
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to sweat or lie for
And no inspections, too

Imagine all the charters
Living life in peace

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the charters will cheat as one

Imagine no prosecutions
I wonder if you can
No need for lawyers and trials
A brotherhood of scams

Imagine all the charters
Ruling all the world

You, you may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the charters will rule as one

Where have the state watchdogs been while Imagine Charters have profited handsomely with taxpayer dollars?

Where has the media been!

The Toledo Blade reports:

“The charter school Imagine School for the Arts is paying rent of nearly $1 million a year on a downtown building with the education funding it gets from the state, prompting criticism from a progressive advocacy group that studied charter-school finances around the state.

“The complicated financial arrangement also involves a school-affiliated trust company spending more than $7 million last year to buy a building valued at less than $2 million.

“The liberal advocacy group ProgressOhio attacked the size of the rent payments at charter schools operated in Toledo and other Ohio cities by Imagine Schools Monday as excessive. Imagine is a national for-profit educational management company.

“According to ProgressOhio, Imagine’s subsidiary, Schoolhouse Finance, collected at least $14.4 million in public money last year for the company’s 17 Ohio schools. Of that, $8.9 million covered rent for long-term leases to Schoolhouse Finance. The $5.5 million balance went to pay “indirect costs” to Imagine to provide management services.

“The state of Ohio and its oversight have been asleep at the wheel. If you look at the Imagine schools and the annual rents, they are outrageous,” said Brian Rothenberg, executive director of ProgressOhio in Columbus. “These for-profit management corporations have become profiteers, and they are taking this money to enrich themselves.”

The story says ProgressOhio receives union funding, as though that changes the facts. No, it does not. If the state won’t investigate, then welcome to anyone who does.

“According to ProgressOhio, Imagine Schools pays annual rent of $301,320 for the Clay Avenue Community School building, $175,464 for the Hill Avenue Environmental School, and $942,549 for the Madison Avenue School for the Arts.

“In addition, all three pay a management fee to Imagine: $483,852 for Clay Avenue, $124,646 for Hill Avenue, and $608,020 for Madison Avenue.

“All three had a performance index grade of D in the most recent statewide report card. The district in which those schools are located, Toledo Public Schools, had an overall performance index grade of D.”

Imagine buys the building, then leases it to itself at inflated rentals. That’s the business plan.

Read more at http://www.toledoblade.com/Education/2014/10/14/Charter-school-rent-stirs-debate.html#c7BTQOGG4UQjbbxI.99

Many Imagine charter schools are part of a portfolio owned by an entertainment and real estate corporation. Nine Imagine schools are in Ohio. They have a business plan that makes them a good investment as long as they don’t get shuttered for poor performance. Imagine buys a building, then rents the building to itself for the school. It pays a very high rent, above market rates. Imagine turns a profit on these sale-leaseback deals.

The New York Times scrutinized Imagine’s business dealings a few years ago.

St. Louis closed six Imagine charters in 2012.

Most taxpayers assume that they are paying for education, not for corporate profits. They don’t understand how for-profit charters work. ProfitsFirst.

Governor John Kasich has been charter-friendly, to say the least. Ohio is home to some of the nation’s most profitable charter operators. Think ECOT. Think White Hat. These charters gove generously to friendly politicians (think Kasich and the Ohio Republican Party). But now Imagine charters had some embarrassing publicity about some of their lucrative sale-leaseback deals, and even charter champions are calling them “crony capitalists.”

So ProgressOhio has called for an investigation of Imagine.

““Our ‘fiscally conservative’ governor needs to explain why he’s allowed all this money to be wasted and all these kids to be hurt. And his charter school watchdog needs to go,” said Brian Rothenberg, executive director of ProgressOhio.

“Rothenberg asked why David Hansen, who heads the state Department of Education’s charter-school accountability office, has ignored the problem, noting that he formerly served on the board of an Imagine school in Columbus and should have known about its lease arrangement.

“Hansen, husband of Kasich’s chief of staff, was on Imagine Academy of Columbus’ board and among those recommending that the school be closed because of poor academic performance. The school closed but reopened weeks later as a new Imagine school with the same lease, which directs more than half of its state aid to rent.”

And more:

“The Dispatch reported on Sunday that five Imagine schools in Franklin County received a combined $20.2 million in per-pupil state aid in the 2012-13 school year. A quarter of that money — more than $5.1 million — was spent on rent, all under long-term leases with Schoolhouse Finance, an Imagine subsidiary.

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

High profit margin, no?

“Research by ProgressOhio showed that, despite Imagine’s poor academic performance, Imagine and Schoolhouse Finance collected at least $14.4 million in public money last year for their 17 Ohio schools, according to records from the schools and state auditor.

“More than half — $8.9 million — covered rent for long-term leases to Schoolhouse Finance. The $5.5 million balance went to pay “indirect costs’’ to Imagine to provide management services.

“Rothenberg said the arrangement leaves little money for classroom instruction, and administrators for some of the schools complain that low teacher salaries have caused high staff turnover, which further undermines student achievement.”

Crony capitalism? Yes. Ripoff of public funds intended for children? What do you think?

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 116,688 other followers