Archives for category: For-Profit

Bill Phillis is a watchdog for Ohio public schools. He is a man of great integrity who cares passionately about fair and equitable funding of the schools. He was Deputy State Superintendent many years ago and is now a fighting septugenarian, with no goal but the public interest. He created and leads the Ohio Coalition for Equity and Adequacy.

Here is his reaction to the collapse of charter school reform a few days ago:

“An initiative petition for a law or a constitutional amendment will be necessary to hold the charter industry accountable or phase it out

“High hopes were dashed by the refusal of House leadership to schedule HB 2 for a vote on June 30th. Democrats and Republicans, charter proponents and charter opponents were in support of HB 2 as amended by the Senate. Had the bill been scheduled it would most likely have passed; hence House leadership kept it off the House floor.

“This lack of House action on HB 2 demonstrates the absolute legislative control the for-profit sector of the charter school industry has on charter policy in Ohio. It matters not that the industry is laced with fraud, corruption and education malpractice. It matters not that Ohio is the butt of jokes regarding its deregulated, injudicious charter policy. Maybe Senate leadership permitted the Senate amendments with a nod from the House that the bill as amended would not pass in House. Who knows?

“When will Ohio taxpayers rise up to demand accountability of their legislators and the Governor? Until state officials are held accountable, charters will extract a billion dollars annually from school districts. Much of this money flows to for-profit management companies which is used for campaign contributions, cozy business arrangements, marketing and of course, PROFITS. When one thinks Statehouse turpitude can’t get worse, it does. Citizens must rectify this matter by by-passing the legislature and Governor with an initiative petition.”

William Phillis
Ohio E & A

ohioeanda@sbcglobal.net |

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

This report is a fascinating and scary analysis of Pearson’s ambitious efforts to create a demand for their products around the world and to satisfy that demand while making profits.

It is called “Pearson and PALF. The Mutating Giant,” and it was written by Carolina Jünemann and Stephen Ball. It shines a much needed light on the international ambitions of the privatization movement and the commercializing of education as a consumer good. It is worth your time to read this important report. Arm yourself with knowledge and information.

It begins:

Education is big business. There are global, national and local businesses all seeking to profit from education and educational services. Increasingly, business, education policy and what it means to be educated are intimately intertwined.

Pearson is the world’s largest edu-business. Over the last 10 years Pearson has been involved in a process of re-invention, leading to its re-branding in 2014 as a ‘learning’ company with a vision, summed up in the strapline ‘always learning’, and with the aim of contributing to “the very highest standards in education around the world.”

This transition has at least two aspects to it. The first relates to Pearson’s repositioning of the brand as a social purpose company, one which portrays itself as having a positive, and measurable, impact on society, that of “help(ing) more people make measurable progress in their lives through learning”. The other relates to Pearson seeking to position itself as an increasingly powerful global policy actor in education – “to playing an active role in helping shape and inform the global debate around education and learning policy” (2012 annual report p. 39). But as Pearson is contributing to the global education policy debate, it is also reconfiguring the education policy problems that will then generate new markets for its products and services in the form of educational ‘solutions’.

In 2012, Michael Barber Pearson’s Chief Education Adviser, previously Head of the UK’s Prime Minister’s Delivery Unit (2001-2005) launched PALF (the Pearson Affordable Learning Fund) as a for-profit venture fund to support and encourage the development and expansion of affordable learning school chains in developing countries.

The creation of PALF is an integral part of the repositioning of Pearson as a global company rather than one focused strongly on European and the US markets. It fits into Pearson’s business strategy of venturing into new markets (geographical) and uncovering new market opportunities, in this case, a new market segment (socio-economic), moving the company away from its traditional position as mid-market and high-end operator in education. PALF has been created to develop an unconventional market niche – the need and ambition of the poor in developing countries to give their children a good education.

The main focus of investment in PALF’s first phase of activity was for-profit Low Fee Private School (LFPS) chains. PALF’s first investment was in Omega Schools, a chain of Low Fee Private Schools operating in Ghana. Another is Affordable Private Education Centres (APEC), a chain of low-cost secondary schools in the Philippines. A third investment within the LFPS chain sector in 2014 is eAdvance, a company that manages the first South African blended learning low fee school chain called Spark schools.

However, PALF’s initial focus on Low Fee Private School chains has been inhibited by the absence of appropriate investment opportunities – sustainable, innovative businesses that could provide the expected financial returns. This has resulted in a recent shift in PALF’s scope to include a more general mix of investments and a broader focus on commercial education ‘solutions’ that, as Pearson explains, “might involve new business models, investing in new technology, or testing innovative partnerships or distribution channels” (Pearson plc, 2014, p. 56).

As part of this change of focus, in March 2014 PALF made an equity investment in Zaya Learning Labs and another in Avanti Learning Centres, a provider of college entrance exam preparation for students of low-income families through a pedagogic approach based on peer-to-peer learning and self-study, both in India. This kind of investment, as those in Ed-tech more generally, also facilitate, and illustrate, the increased used of non-teacher based or blended learning pedagogies.

An important aspect of PALF’s outcomes driven ‘demonstration’ work is related to the role of technology as an enabler of scale through delivery cost savings, that is, by reducing the reliance on qualified teachers as the primary medium of instruction. There are complex and over-lapping profit opportunities in the technology – teaching equation. This has profound implications for the role of teachers. The commitments and functions of the teacher are increasingly narrowed to include only those deemed necessary for enhancing performance and outcomes, at the same time as teachers are residualised and ‘de-professionalised’.

I usually devote days like July 4 to appropriate pieces, such as poems and songs celebrating our nation and its freedoms.

 

But I am not feeling especially celebratory today. In many respects, it appears that our politics is rushing headlong back to the 1920s or even the 1890s, when polite society diverted its eyes from unpleasant facts like hunger, homelessness, and other signs of human distress. Our politicians must worry constantly about raising enough money for the next election, so they listen more attentively to those who have the most to contribute to their campaign, rather than to voters. Voters can always be hoodwinked by a slick media buy.

 

We must not despair because despair is a certain path to defeat. We must rededicate ourselves on this day to saving our democracy, to restoring the belief that America is meant to be “of the people, by the people, and for the people.” We can’t compete with the billionaires’ cash for votes, but we can build organizations to inform and mobilize public opinion to take our government away from the plutocrats. I, for one, do not want to sit idly by as income inequality and wealth inequality grows. I commend to you the book The Spirit Level: Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger, by Kate Pickett and Richard Wilkinson. A short description on amazon.com, “Almost every modern social problem-poor health, violence, lack of community life, teen pregnancy, mental illness-is more likely to occur in a less-equal society.”

 

If you look back over American history, you will see swings of the pendulum, from eras where there was a strong sense of social responsibility to eras of selfish individualism. We are now at the far end of the pendulum swing, with our elites pushing hard to persuade the public that selfish individualism and consumerism is true Americanism: every person for him- or herself! Let the hungry fend for themselves, it is their own fault that they are hungry.

 

We can sit back and watch as the social safety net is shredded, or we can resist. We can sit back and allow our public schools to be taken over by entrepreneurs, religious groups, and privateers, or we can resist.

 

I say resist.

 

Here is a wonderful post by Edward F. Berger, a blogger in Arizona who is leading the charge against corporate reform in that benighted state, where the profit-making entrepreneurs have grown fat by taking over public schools and draining their funds for their own profit.

 

He asks the following questions and urges his fellow Arizonans to organize and resist the destruction of the public square and the corporate takeover of public education:

 

 

Edward R. Murrow once said: “I am in a financial morass from which I am unable to extricate myself.” Many States are in a political morass as a result of a planned assault on America. The question is, how do we extricate ourselves? In Arizona, one of the most corrupt states, leaders are emerging who know how. They use facts and data, and social media to bypass the in-pocket Press.

 

Is there anyone who believes that the misuse of hundreds of millions of dollars of public taxpayer money in Arizona is an unexpected consequence of so-called education reform?

 

If so, they most likely profit at the expense of the children and families from whom this money is stolen.

 

If so, they are part of a radical and nation-killing movement based on feudal ideology and pure greed.

 

If so, they are part of a State Legislature that intentionally forbids charter school accountability and protects those who are given our tax dollars and use them for their own profits, kids-be-damned.

 

If so, they have written laws that allow pirates to create closed and unaccountable “schools” that rake in millions of public tax dollars via side-deals and Real Estate deals. They eliminate students that they can’t benefit from. They kick out children that don’t serve their needs and send them back into the public schools humiliated, damaged, and often broken.

 

If so, they are Legislators who do not believe in the separation of Church and State.

 

If so, they are part of political organizations that supports the privatizers and radical right-wing, and ignore the damages to their community and to children and families.

 

If so, they support privatization and profiteering from dollars citizens pay to educate children. They privatize any-and-all functions of government where there is profit to be gleaned. Prisons and schools for example.

 

Is there anyone in Arizona who believes that the extreme right-wing, working for ALEC-Koch-Goldwater Institute-John Birch Society bosses has not intentionally, decade after decade, placed totally unqualified non-educators in the position of Superintendent of Public Instruction, thus undermining public education from inside?

 

Those who wield these powers have used every opportunity to destroy the teaching profession, our community schools, and now our Universities.

 

Is there anyone in Arizona who doesn’t know that a Right To Work State is a trick to extract more profit from battered workers and to curtail information the public needs by not letting workers organize and speak out?

 

Is there an educated citizen of Arizona who is not convinced that the Democratic process of Representative Government has been defeated through the control of primary elections and the selection of those who will get massive financial support: Those candidates they allow to run and win? That those who wield power have effectively discouraged people from voting?

 

Be sure to read his conclusion.

 

And when you are done, join The Network for Public Education, which is supporting resistance across the nation.

The biggest scam in higher education was perpetrated by Corinthian Colleges, a for-profit corporation that once enrolled more than 120,000 students at 120 campuses. Corinthian collapsed recently, leaving tens of thousands of students saddled with debt and worthless degrees.

 

The recruiters focused on minorities, the poor, and veterans, making false promises about future employment and costs. The bottom line was always the same: profits. Not education.

 

The linked article is the inside story of the decline and fall of Corinthian, its predatory practices, its lies to students, and the inaction of the DOE.

 

“In lawsuits, official complaints to state and federal regulators, sworn declarations submitted in Corinthian’s bankruptcy proceeding, and conversations with The Huffington Post, dozens of former Corinthian students and several former Corinthian employees said that Corinthian drowned students in debt and sent them off with meaningless diplomas that did not help — and sometimes even harmed — their job prospects. It illegally padded job placement statistics and gave students college credit for “externships” at fast-food restaurants. It charged students up to 10 times what a comparable community college degree would cost. More than 1 in 4 Corinthian graduates defaulted on their student loans, according to Education Department data. And for years, the Education Department not only failed to recognize the depths of the abuse, but effectively funded Corinthian’s business model, sending the company billions of dollars in financial aid to help cover students’ bills.”

 

Why did the U.S. Department of Education allow this fraud to continue for so long? One might well ask why the U.S. Department of Education has been silent about the growth of predatory for-profit K-12 schools, both virtual and brick-and-mortar. For the first time in history, the U.S. ED just doesn’t see privatization and profit-making as a problem.

 

“In 2008, Tasha Courtright visited the Everest College campus in Ontario, California, with a friend. She was not looking to pursue higher education. “The recruiter said, ‘How about you? Do you want to go to school?’” Courtright recalled.

 

“I said I can’t afford it, I can’t do loans,” she remembered, noting that she was working a minimum-wage job at a gas station when Corinthian first recruited her. “They said, ‘Let us do the numbers.’ They said I qualified for Cal Grants and Pell Grants, and I wouldn’t have to pay anything.”

 

“The recruiter called Courtright repeatedly for two days, pressuring her to make a decision. “They said classes were starting and ‘If you don’t do it now, you never will.’ So I went down again and signed up.” Courtright spent four years at Everest, earning a bachelor’s degree in applied business management. She said recruiters promised she wouldn’t pay a dime; she ended up with $41,000 in student debt.

 

“High-pressure sales tactics like that were deliberately targeted at vulnerable demographic groups, including single mothers and the unemployed, according to Lueck, the former Corinthian manager. Recruits were often the first in their families to attend college. Almost anyone could qualify.

 

“Laurie McDonnell, a librarian at the Everest-Ontario Metro campus, resigned after learning that her school had enrolled a man who read at a third-grade level.

 

“The goal was simple: profits. Smaller chains like Lincoln Tech or DeVry used to dominate the for-profit college industry. But toward the end of the last decade, larger, publicly traded companies took over. By 2009, three-quarters of all U.S. students enrolled in for-profit colleges were at schools owned by a corporate conglomerate or private equity firm. Goldman Sachs owns around 40 percent of Education Management Corporation, another operator of for-profit colleges.

 

“Many for-profit college companies own multiple university brands. Corinthian, which traded on Nasdaq, ran Everest, Wyotech and Heald Colleges. The consolidation of the industry changed how for-profit schools operated, argues Elizabeth Baylor, senior investigator on a landmark 2012 Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee study of for-profits. “Student success was not the primary focus of the entity. It was returning investor value,” Baylor, who now works at the Center for American Progress, told HuffPost.

 

“One-quarter of the average for-profit college budget goes to marketing and recruitment, Baylor said. The goal is to capture and retain students, and squeeze as much money out of them as possible. The 2012 Senate report found that Corinthian’s students defaulted on their loans at a rate that was “by far the highest of any publicly traded company” that investigators scrutinized.”

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.

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