Archives for category: For-Profit

In an interview, John White made it clear that he wants to keep his $275,000 job as state superintendent in Louisiana. Bobby Jindal pushed the state board to hire him after his brief stint as superintendent of the Néw Orleans Recovery School Diistrict. White loyally implemented Jindal’s agenda of vouchers, charters, for-profit schools, and attacks on teachers’ due process, as well as test-based evaluation. But then Jindal and White locked horns over Common Core. Jindal wanted out, White didn’t. (White’s only school experience is TFA. Also he attended the unaccredited Broad Superintendents’ Academy.)

Now one of the leading candidates for governor has said White has to go. Open the statement for links.

John Bel Edwards issued the following statement;

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: media@johnbelforlouisiana.com; 225-435-9808
Edwards: John White Will Never Be Superintendent On My Watch

BATON ROUGE, La. – State Representative and candidate for governor John Bel Edwards (D-Amite) responded to news that State Superintendent John White wishes to remain in his current position under the next governor’s administration.

“I have no intention of allowing John White, who isn’t qualified to be a middle school principal, to remain as Superintendent when I am governor,” Edwards said. “We have so many highly qualified candidates right here in Louisiana that we don’t need to go looking in New York City for our next head of K-12 education.”

White’s tenure as State Superintendent has been frought with controversy and accusations of wrongdoing. In 2012, White was embroiled in scandal after emails revealed political motives behind his fight to ensure that expanded school vouchers were approved by the Louisiana Legislature. Thanks to testimony by Rep. John Bel Edwards, the Louisiana Supreme Court later found the voucher scheme to be unconstitutional, because it did, as White denied, illegally divert funding designated for local city and parish public schools. Later, voucher schools approved under White’s watch were shown to lack a requisite number of teachers, lunch rooms, and other resources common to any proper school. In 2013, he was accused of having purposefully inflated letter grades for certain schools. For at least three years, White knew about inequities in special education funding which violated directives in the La. Constitution, but declined to take action to correct the problem even after the Legislature urged and requested that he do so in 2014. Under White’s watch per pupil funding for public k-12 schools was frozen despite many new unfunded mandates. During the same time period the per pupil amount paid to private schools through the state voucher program increased each year.

Citing these controversies Edwards said,”We need genuine leadership at the helm of the Louisiana Department of Education. We will have that when we elect a genuine leader as governor.”

White’s only formal training in educational administration was earned during six weekend trainings at the Eli Broad Superintendent’s Academy, meant to be an introduction to issues facing Superintendents at the local level.

A comment by a reader:

 

 

Education and the Industrial Imagination

 

 

Prof. Ravitch and followers of her blog are of course right to underscore the fact that for-profit colleges and universities must be understood in the broader context of an increasingly dominant business or industrial model of education. It is helpful to spell out that model more precisely, so that our criticisms can be more clearly and forcefully targeted. Let me take a stab at that here.

 

On the industrial model, educating whole persons for lifelong growth is replaced by education as just another industrial sector, on a par with any other sector. Education’s job is to manufacture skilled labor for the market in a way that is maximally efficient. Knowledge on this model is a market commodity, teachers are delivery vehicles for knowledge content, and students are either consumers or manufactured products. Educational institutions on the industrial model are marketplaces for delivering and acquiring content, tuition is the fair price for accessing that content, and the high-to-low grade differential is the means for incentivizing competition. It is not clear where growth, community, and democracy come into the picture.

 

 

A school may train more students with fewer teachers, and an industrial sector may produce more clothes, cars, or animal protein to meet market demands with lower overhead costs. These products can then be used, or put to work to produce more things. The industrial imagination stops here, with efficient production. This is arguably useful, but what else has been unintentionally made, to which industrial thinking is oblivious? Have we made narrower lives? Have we embittered and disabled? Have we anesthetized moral and ecological sensitivity? Have we, in John Dewey’s words, made life more “congested, hurried, confused and extravagant”? If the answer is a qualified yes, then these are questions that should be central to public deliberation about education. It would be a tragedy that trivializes all of our successes if we continue unchecked down a cultural path in which schools—or industries—gain efficiency and increase productivity by frustrating human fulfillment.

 

 

Steven Fesmire, author of Dewey (Routledge, 2015)

Teacher Andy Goldstein greets the new superintendent of Palm Beach County with a brief lecture about the evils of high-stakes testing.

 

In Palm Beach County and in Florida, he says, the basic ideology is “Testing is teaching.”

 

Watch the video, where he explains that the purpose of all this testing is to label schools as failures so they can be privatized and turned into profit centers.

 

He predicts:

 

“At this rate, I can imagine the day in the not-too-distant future when my daughter comes home and tells my wife and I, ‘I want to be a standardized test-taker when I grow up.’ And my wife and I would beam at her and say ‘Oh, we’re so proud of our little data point. You’re gonna make some rich plutocrat so happy.’”

 

 

This teacher blogger has compiled a list of some of the most recent charter school scandals. It is not an exhaustive list; the scandals just keep coming. [For a more exhaustive summary, go to “charter school scandals,” a website maintained by Oakland, California, parent activist Sharon Higgins (with no subsidy from corporations,foundations, unions or anyone else.)

 

 

This teacher blogger memorably writes:

 

As I see it, “corporate” is to “education” as “cigarette manufacturer” is to “public health and well-being.

 

And then on to recent scandals, like charter schools inflating enrollment to pad their payments by the state.

 

He finds:

 

In other words, with stunning regularity, corporate education boiled down to one simple word. And that word was: Greed.

 

Why is anyone really surprised?

 

Many of us have written, for example, about the giant cesspool that is the for-profit college industry. It’s a great gig, after all, when five top executives of Corinthian College can pull down $22 million in salary over a two-year stretch—at the same time saddling students with high-interest loans—providing low-quality course offerings—and finally going bankrupt this spring.

 

How about the five top executives at K-12, Inc., a for-profit chain of elementary and secondary online schools? They divvied up a cool $35.4 million in salaries and bonuses in 2013 and 2014.

 

For fun, put that in kid-centric terms.

 

Those five individuals took home enough cash to hire 354 teachers (at $50,000 each), for two years to actually work with kids in grades K-12.

 

Greed is good, isn’t that right?

 

Then there are corporations like Pearson, which spend millions lobbying politicians to keep high-stakes testing required. It’s all about the kids.

 

The scandals keep on coming:

 

Go ahead, Google away yourself. You’ll find endless examples to tickle your fancy. But let’s end with perhaps the biggest scam of all. Let’s hear it for the University of Phoenix, a money-making juggernaut, a company so successful at piling up $$$$ it was able to pay the Arizona Cardinals of the NFL $154.5 million for naming rights to their stadium! Good advertising? Sure! Too bad the school had to pay a fine of $67.5 million, plus $11 million in legal fees, for defrauding students!

 

Too bad a U. S. Senate investigation showed the school spent a mere $892 per pupil each year to actually educate students.

 

Hey, not to worry! Company founder John G. Sperling raked in $263.5 million in a little less than a decade in salary, bonuses and stock sales. And his son, Peter, did better still: $574.3 million.

 

It’s a new world, with surprising ways to make a profit by running schools.

Matthew Pulver, writing at Salon.com, describes Jeb Bush’s dangerous belief in privatization and free markets in education.

It is not so much a belief as an ideology, one that is impervious to evidence. The many studies showing thAt privately managed charters do not get higher test scores than public schools do not register with Jeb. The numbers of charters that open with grand promises and soon lose their doors with big debts does not affect his belief system. He is a zealot for school choice, period.

Not even the failure of the charter school he founded in Liberty City, a poor black neighborhood, dampens his passion for charters and vouchers.

Writes Pulver:

“There’s nothing else as large in all of society. Not the military—nothing—is bigger.”

“That’s how Randy Best, Jeb Bush’s business partner, sees public education, as an untapped market where untold billions are to be made when kids and their families become educational customers. Touting his impressive assault on public education while Florida governor in yesterday’s announcement of his 2016 candidacy, Bush may become the loudest proponent yet of turning public education into a for-profit enterprise.

“Before getting into Bush’s record and financial interests in for-profit education, a full understanding of the dystopian horrors of for-profit, privatized education is necessary. Bush offers it with a handful of Milton Friedman-esque catchwords and focus-grouped slogans, and it may be that the proposals sound innocuous and vaguely innovative until the slightest scrutiny is applied to the ideas — at which point, it’s difficult to imagine much worse than public education turned into a for-profit market. Because the most basic and collectively understood truisms about markets, when applied to children, take on a horrifying character.”

It should be noted that Bush’s partner, Randy Best, was one of the biggest beneficiaries of Reading First, the ill-fated program enacted as part of NCLB but eventually discontinued because of sweetheart deals and conflicts of interest. Best, an entrepreneur, not an educator, created a commercial reading company (Voyager Learning), which he later sold for $360 million. Best admits that he can’t read, that he is acutely dyslexic. But he knows how to make money.

Stephen Dyer of Innovation Ohio summarizes what is wrong with the charter industry in Ohio. Under the guide of helping “poor kids escape failing schools,” charter operators have created a profitable business running mostly low-quality schools. Deceptive marketing and contributions to key politicians keep the hoax going, stealing money from taxpayers and public schools to fatten the wallets of entrepreneurs.

 

“Charter schools –alternative schools meant to provide better educational options for parents and children while creating healthy competition for local public schools – have been hijacked in Ohio by profiteers and huge campaign contributors whose great talent is making money and winning elections, not educating kids. The results have been the poorest performing charter school sector outside Nevada.

 

“How bad is it? Some charter schools in Ohio can remain open even though they only graduate 2 out of 155 children. Meanwhile, more than half a billion state dollars that were meant for districts went instead to charters that performed the same or worse than the district last year.

 

“However, there is great hope that meaningful charter school reform is coming to Ohio. This could mean that my home state’s well documented status as the country’s most notorious charter sector could soon change.

 

Senate Bill 148, currently being merged in the Ohio Senate with another reform bill, takes meaningful and significant steps toward fixing many of the most obvious transparency and accountability issues with Ohio law.

 

“Despite its shortcomings on funding and tightening closure standards (due to how far behind Ohio is than any bill weakness), this is without a doubt the most comprehensive and courageous charter school reform effort offered by Ohio Republicans in three decades.”

 

 

Dyer warns that the biggest profiteers and their lobbyists could still weaken or torpedo the reforms, allowing charter scams to continue uninterrupted.

 

 

Nothing will really change, he writes, unless the funding formula for charter schools changes.

There is no end of charter school scandals in Ohio. Blogger Plunderbund follows these stories and reports the details. Here is the latest:

“Columbus Dispatch readers were shocked, shocked to learn last week that members of Imagine Columbus Primary School’s charter board, protesting that they had no say in negotiating the terms of an operational contract, resigned “en masse” over a lease imposed by the management company that had the school paying $58,000 per month in rent for space to house 150 students, as well as other issues related to the viability of the school.

“The board’s action, which did get some attention from the usually somnolent “Ohio’s Greatest Home Newspaper,” was so dramatic that the Casablanca Prefect of Police might have exclaimed it was time to “round up the usual suspects.”

“But Captain Renault and the rest of us don’t have to look too far. In this case, the usual suspect is Imagine Schools, a national for-profit charter school chain founded by Dennis Bakke, a well-known Christian evangelical, and his wife, Eileen.

“The Bakkes have found great success with Imagine and its subsidiary, SchoolHouse Finance. But as is the case with many charter school enterprises, success is one thing, and ethics is quite another.”

But is Imagine a charter chain or a real estate empire? A breathless world awaits the answer.

“Conflict of interest? When the friend of a governor is appointed to a commission to study the feasibility of charter schools and, using his insider knowledge, forms a charter school management company to coincide with the enactment of the legislation, when one of the sponsors of the original charter school legislation works to have it designed so that a political friend and a family member profit from its enactment, and when a private foundation affiliated with a school management company offers free international travel to members of the legislature as a vehicle for influencing favorable charter school legislation, could these be examples of possible conflicts of interest?”

Plunderbund adds:

“Unfortunately, the terms charter school and conflict of interest are becoming synonymous. And redundant. ”

Who owns the charter schools in Ohio? Like many states, Tthe charters are called “public.” But the owners of the for-profit Imagine chain believe they “own” the charters. The boards are a necessary encumbrance. The public has no role, other than to supply money to the corporation.

Peter Greene reports a shocking development (for operators of cyber-charters): Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf has said that he wants to reduce payments to cyber-charters, the online charter schools that are usually offered by for-profit corporations. Cyber-charters receive full state tuition for every student they enroll, and every dollar is subtracted from funding of local district schools that the student otherwise would have attended. Numerous studies have shown that the virtual schools have high attrition (as much as 50% a year), low test scores, and low graduation rates. But they are very profitable.

 

This is actually a shocking development for critics of virtual charters because their usual modus operandi is to sprinkle campaign contributions to key legislators and the governor, thus protecting their cash cow.

 

Greene writes:

 

 

Pennsylvania cyber charters are Very Sad, because the new governor of the state is threatening to end their long-standing party.

 

 

Years ago, a local departing superintendent offered a few words of advice. “If you want to get rich,” he said, “go start a cyber school.” He was not kidding. For the past decade-plus, running a Pennsylvania cyber charter has been as good as printing money. Despite their abysmal record of academic failure, Pennsylvania cybers rake in money hand over fist.

 

 

There’s no big secret to it– a cyber is paid the full per-capita home district cost of every student it enrolls. If it costs East Bucksawanna $10,500 per child to provide buildings and maintenance and infrastructure and resources and teachers and books and all the rest, then the Gotrox Cyber Acdemy gets that same $10,500, with which it provides the student with a computer (free!!) and access to a teacher or two (each of whom is carrying several hundreds of students).

 

 

It’s like running a dealership where every customer will pay the purchase price of their last brand new luxury automobile and in return, all you have to give them is some object with wheels.

 

 

This has been a point of contention in PA because every cent that goes into cyber coffers comes straight out of public school tax dollars. Every student that a cyber enrolls is a budget cut for public schools, and the cuts are vicious and deep and resulting in loss of programs, closing of schools, and furloughs of teachers. Taxpayers are complaining to public schools, “What the hell did you do with all that money I gave you,” and public schools reply, “That guy right over there [pointing at cyber charter] took it, and that guy right over there [pointing at legislator] says I have to let it happen.” People are getting pissed off. The baloney about how the money follows the child isn’t convincing, because people are now seeing that the child not only takes his own family’s money, but the tax dollars from all the neighbors on his street, too.

 

 

Cyber charters in PA have created whole new traditions. For instance, a cyber school may test a student to determine if the student has special needs. Why would they care? Perhaps because they get roughly $10K for regular students and $25K for students with special needs.

 

 

There’s also the tradition of enrollment day, on which guidance counselors and cyber schoolsters sit at their computers and toss students back and forth like hot potatoes on a reverse e-bay. Why? Well, there are two magic dates on the cyber calendar. After one certain date, the school gets to keep the money even if the kid leaves the cyber. After enrollment day, whoever still has the kid has to count that students test scores as their own.

 

 

Anyway. Governor Wolf has raised a fun question– how much does it actually cost to educate a cyber-student? Because shouldn’t it cost, you know, less? And if so, why should taxpayers pay more? No other public school (because, like all charters, cybers insist on calling themselves public schools) sets a budget that includes an extra couple of million just to feather the nest.

 

 

Just as a footnote, two operators of virtual charters are currently under indictment for the misappropriation of millions of dollars. Not like a principal or an assistant principal stealing petty cash. Big-time money. Millions.

 

The largest chain of virtual charters is K12, Inc. It was created by Michael Milken, noted non-educator, and his brother Lowell, also a non-educator. It is listed on the New York Stock Exchange.

 

 

The Leona Group, a for-profit charter corporation that runs the schools of Highland Park, Michigan, will not offer high school classes next year. It will also end its contract one year early. And enrollment in the schools has dropped by 40% since the for-profit takeover. It is just not that profitable to offer high school.

 

Leona is closing the only high school in the district, and students were stunned.

 

Hannah, a rising junior, said the students were shocked and upset. “A lot of us couldn’t believe that they’d close the only high school in Highland Park,” she told the World Socialist Web Site. “We thought they couldn’t do that, because where would we go? But the superintendent called us all down to a meeting in the lunchroom and said she had done everything humanly possible to try to keep the school open.

 
“It’s really crazy. I am going to miss this school.”

 
A community meeting has been scheduled for Monday, June 8, for parents and students scrambling to find new schools. They will be assigned to the Detroit Public Schools (DPS) system and reportedly will be offered enrollment at DPS schools, a range of other charter operations, as well as slots in the so-called “failing school district” run by the state’s Education Achievement Authority.

 
Displaced students, facing the hardship of much longer commutes, will be given bus passes. This hardly compensates for the potentially drastic increase in commute times. For a student to take a bus from the current high school, Highland Park Renaissance, to the closest DPS high school, Pershing, would require three buses. Wait times in the city are beyond onerous in the former “Motor City” where buses can be hours late. A single bus ride could take students to Cass Tech High School; however, that school has a very selective application process.

 
Hannah said she would be spending her senior year at the Detroit Public Service Academy. DPSA is another Leona Group-run charter school, whose students are called “cadets” and specialize in police, military and emergency responder skills.

 
“It’s not that I want to do that kind of work,” she explained, “I want to do culinary arts, but they’ll have other subjects too. The DPSA will provide buses right at the CVS to get you to the school. If your parents can’t take you to a further school, you need to do what you have to, to get an education.”

 

It’s all about the kids. The state of Michigan has washed its hands of responsibility or accountability for public education.

Stephen Dyer helped to create the marvelous Know Your Charter website for Ohio. Here he summarizes the awful week that charters have had in a state where GOP politicians and business leaders have embraced them.

Dyer writes:

“On Saturday, the Akron Beacon Journal (again) led the way on enterprise reporting on this topic by publishing an analysis of 4,263 audits done last year by the Auditor of State revealed that

“No sector — not local governments, school districts, court systems, public universities or hospitals — misspends tax dollars like charter schools in Ohio.”

Yikes.

“Among the findings:

“While charters only accounted for 400 of 5,800 audits, they accounted for 70% of the misspent money

“$25 million in misspent money remains unpaid

“For every $1 misspent found by private auditors, public auditors found $102
The misspending is probably worse than what the audits turned up because so many charters were next to impossible to audit, according to the Beacon Journal.

“Then came a Columbus Dispatch editorial (historically, no friend of the charter critic) that called out charter school sponsors for wanting to hide their expenditures to oversee the sector, except in limited cases — an argument not much different from one I made about the same time.”

Add to that charter school closings, convictions of charter officials for financial crimes, and more.

If this keeps up, the public will begin to associate “charters” with fraud, greed, and corruption.

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