Archives for category: For-Profit

Peter Greene discovered a bold new policy plan in Milwaukee. It turns the war on poverty into a war on the poor.

He writes;

“On Wednesday, Senator Alberta Darling and Representative Dale Kooyenga released “New Opportunities for Milwaukee.” It’stunning. It’s a blueprint, a plan, a carefully-crafted rhetorical stance that turns the war on poverty into a war on the poor. Does it present new opportunities? It surely does– but they are opportunities for more privateers to use the language of civil rights to mask the same old profiteering game.

“Make sure your seat belts and safety harnesses are locked in place, because we are about to travel to a place where up is down and forward is backward. The first chunk is directly related to education; the rest is not, but I’m going to go the distance anyway because it helps lay out a particular point of view that is driving some reformsters. The full report is twenty-five pages; I’ve read them so that you don’t have to, but you may still want to. Forewarned is forearmed.”

The report begins with this claim;

“2014 marked the 50-year anniversary of the war on poverty. Since 1964, taxpayers spent over $22 trillion to combat poverty. Little, if any, progress has been achieved.”

“”Two-thirds of the incarcerated African-American men come from six zip codes in Milwaukee and it is no coincidence that those zip codes are also home to the greatest density of failing schools and the highest unemployment in the state.” Boy, and that’s true. It’s also no coincidence that every time I see a building on fire, there’s a fire truck right nearby, or that every time find water dripping off my car, there’s rain. Say it with me, boys and girls– correlation is not causation.”

The plan not only declares the war on poverty a failure (no point throwing money at poverty, even though lack of money defines poverty) but declares the civil rights movement a success, therefore matters like segregation are unworthy of our attention.

Peter, in his inimitable style, dissects the recommendations for ending poverty without spending money. It starts with charter schools…

Jeb Bush prides himself on being a master of technology. He was one of the main movers behind a report called “Digital Learning NOW!,” which was underwritten by a score of technology companies. Many of those same companies are sponsors of Bush’s Foundation for Educational Excellence, and he has actively promoted replacing teachers with technology. A reporter in Maine traced the links between Bush and his sponsors and won a major journalism award for this story.

 

But technologically speaking, this was a bad week for Jeb Bush. First, in an effort to demonstrate transparency, he released a trove of private emails, not knowing that he was making public the emails, addresses, phone numbers, and in some cases, social security numbers of people who had corresponded with him. Then, he had another tech problem. He hired some guy to be his campaign’s technology director who had a long trail of misogynistic statements, referring to women as “sluts,” for example.

 

Read about it here.

Imagine Schools is one of the nation’s largest for-profit charter chains. Its schools were closed down in St. Louis and in Georgia for poor performance, but the corporation is undeterred.

Problems continue, however, as Imagine’s business model doesn’t always pass muster.

Here is the latest, written in the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette about Imagine’s legal troubles in Missouri:

“U.S. District Judge Nanette K. Laughrey ruled in December that Imagine Schools Inc. profited from a “double-dealing” lease scheme and that it must pay the local board of the now-closed Kansas City school nearly $1 million.

“The national charter school chain used its own finance company, Schoolhouse Finance, to sell Imagine Renaissance’s two campuses to obtain lower lease rates, according to the suit. While it benefited from the lower rate, it continued to collect taxpayer dollars through the local charter board at the higher rate.

“There is not evidence that Imagine Schools ever told any Renaissance board member how Imagine Schools would benefit from the leases,” the judge wrote.

“The Kansas City Star reported that Imagine Inc. did not appeal the ruling, as the company and the local charter board have reached a confidential settlement.

“The judge’s findings are remarkable for their parallels with the charter operator’s Fort Wayne experience. The company opened the city’s third charter school, Imagine MASTer Academy, at the former YWCA campus on North Wells Street in 2006. Oversight was supposedly provided by the Imagine-Fort Wayne Charter School Inc., a local board once headed by businessman Don Willis, but the board came under fire from its authorizer, Ball State University, for lax oversight.

“Imagine’s local real estate dealings were complex from the start. The YWCA campus was purchased in 2006 by North Wells Schoolhouse LLC, an Indiana company with the same Arlington, Va., mailing address as the for-profit Imagine Schools Inc. The sale price was $2.9 million. The local Imagine school board then subleased a portion of the campus from Schoolhouse Finance, Imagine Inc.’s real estate subsidiary. Schoolhouse, in turn, sold the property to JERIT CS Fund, a wholly owned subsidiary of Entertainment Properties Trust, a Kansas City-based real estate investment trust. The same company owned the Kansas City school at the heart of the lawsuit.

“The REIT, in fact, still lists the North Wells campus among its charter school real estate holdings, although Imagine MASTer Academy – threatened with closing by Ball State – relinquished its charter and reopened as Horizon Christian Academy. Three Fort Wayne Horizon schools collected nearly $2 million in tax-funded vouchers from Indiana last year. An Imagine spokesman said at the time of the switch that Horizon would pay Imagine for operation and facility support under terms of a private agreement. About $3.6 million in state loans made to Imagine were forgiven.”

Funny. Usually you need educators to figure out what went wrong. In the case of for-profit charter chains, you need an accountant and several lawyers.

The editorialist in Fort Wayne noted that this is a cautionary tale that was not told during National School Choice Week.

The Néw Yorker has a long article about Jeb Bush’s passionate interest in reforming public education by high-stakes testing, report cards, and privatization. Since his own children attend private schools, they are not affected by his grand redesign of public education.

To boil down his approach, regular public schools get loaded down with mandates and regulations. Charter schools are free of mandates and regulations, and many are run for profit. As public schools are squeezed by the competition with charters, they get larger classes and fewer programs. Meanwhile, Bush’s friends and allies get very rich.

It is a thorough story about Jeb Bush’s mission to turn public education into an industry.. One conclusion: If he were elected President, it would be the end of public education as we have known it for more than 150 years.

In December, the York (Pennsylvania) Dispatch tried to meet with representatives from Charter Schools USA, the Florida for-profit chain that has been selected by the district’s receiver to take control of the city’s financially strapped public schools. The company canceled the meeting. The newspaper submitted 36 questions. The company did not respond to 12 of them.

“Those questions include the following: Will Charter Schools USA allow employees to unionize? How much does the average teacher make at a school operated by Charter Schools USA? What is CEO Jonathan Hage’s annual salary? How much profit does Charter Schools USA expect to make on the York City contract?

“The Dispatch recently reiterated those questions to the company.

“Due to the current status of contract negotiations, Charter Schools USA will not be visiting our market for one-on-one media interviews until more information is known regarding the future of a potential contract in York,” Kernan wrote in response. “Should the situation change indicating potential movement on the contract, Charter Schools USA will welcome face-to-face interviews regarding the students of the York City School District. Charter Schools USA continues to be focused on providing educational opportunities for students.”

Kernan said Charter Schools USA would also decline phone or email interview requests.”

Meanwhile CSUSA has hired a prominent lobbying firm to represent its interests in Harrisburg.

“Malady & Wooten lists a diversity of clients on its website — from major retailers like Walmart, Target and Rite Aid to smaller interests like the Pennsylvania Golf Course Owners Association and several schools for deaf and blind children.”

“Calls to Malady & Wooten were not returned.”

Two questions occur:

First, how can any corporation make a profit managing a district with a tax base too small to support its schools?

Second, doesn’t the state have a constitutional obligation to provide public education to all children? If the district can’t afford to maintain its schools, doesn’t the state have an obligation to subsidize its schools rather than giving them away to a company whose first responsibility is to make a profit?

The public schools of York City, Pennsylvania, are on a precipice. They have a deficit. The state, contrary to its constitutional obligation, refuses to help. The district is in receivership. A judge approved the receiver’s plan to hand the schools over to a Florida-based for-profit corporation. How the corporation can make a profit from a district in financial distress is not clear. The district school board wants to appeal. The judge will decide in the next week whether he will permit an appeal from his ruling.

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Judge: Ruling on York City School District’s receivership appeal to come next week

York Dispatch by MOLLIE DURKIN 505-5432/@YDHealth 01/06/2015 01:58:20 PM EST

A court ruling on the York City School District’s appeal of receivership will have to wait until next week. York County President Judge Stephen P. Linebaugh held a hearing about the appeal on Tuesday, a week and a half after granting the state Department of Education’s petition to appoint David Meckley as the school district’s receiver. Meckley has served as the district’s chief recovery officer for about two years. For several months, he’s advocated for a full conversion of the district’s eight schools to operation by Charter Schools USA, a for-profit charter company.

The appeal: Marc Tarlow, an attorney representing the district, filed an appeal to Linebaugh’s decision and is pushing for a stay that would prevent Meckley from officially becoming the receiver until the appeals process is finished. But Clyde Vedder, attorney for the state Department of Education, argued that the district has no authority to appeal and that only the directors of the school board may file appeals. “Which, as we pointed out in our motion, they have not done,” he said. Linebaugh said he is “somewhat troubled” by the assertion that an entity affected by a decision has no right to appeal.

http://www.yorkdispatch.com/breaking/ci_27264505/judge-ruling-york-city-school-districts-receivership-appeal

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Judge considers appeal questions in York City receiver case

State wants court to strike appeal from York City School District

By Angie Mason amason@ydr.com @angiemason1 on Twitter 01/06/2015 06:05:01 PM EST

David Meckley could know as early as next week whether a judge will clear the way for him to move forward with the York City School District’s recovery plan, or whether appeals filed over his appointment as receiver will keep district control in limbo. On Tuesday, York County Judge Stephen Linebaugh heard arguments on the state education department’s motions to strike the school district’s appeal in the case and remove an automatic stay of receivership triggered by that appeal. Linebaugh gave the attorneys until Friday to file any supplemental documents and said he could rule early next week, unless he determines there’s need for a hearing.

Clyde Vedder, attorney for the state, argued Tuesday there’s a “fundamental distinction” between the school district and the school board. The appeal was “allegedly” filed by the district, he said, but the district was placed under Meckley’s control when he was named receiver Dec. 26. The board itself, Vedder argued, has not filed an appeal.

http://www.ydr.com/ci_27268935/judge-considers-appeal-questions-york-city-receiver-case?source=rss

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Politics is as politics does in York school debate (letter)

York Daily Record Letter by Jeff Kirkland UPDATED: 01/06/2015 02:34:03 PM EST

Jeff Kirkland is a former York City School Board President.

In response to the letter by state Reps. Seth Grove and Stand Saylor, and state Sen. Scott Wagner:

When it comes to assessing what is good for the York City School District, these guys are as delusional as they were when they participated in the decimation of the district. It is obvious this is a political hack piece as these arrogant “do-gooders” attempt to support their crony, Tom Corbett, and cover their own tracks in undermining urban education across the state.

When it comes to concern about the education of the kids of York, these charlatans have proven over the years they have no real interest in the education of city youth.

Both Saylor and Grove supported the destabilization of the city district by pushing the failed Edison Charter school experiment. The Edison group, like Charter Schools USA, made many similar empty promises of savings, improved academics and even free computers for families who fell for their false promises. When they could not squeeze enough profits out of this community to satisfy their greed, Edison left town in a hurry, leaving a disrupted and unstable district in its lurch. Where is the accountable Mr. Grove and Mr. Saylor? Where were you as your experiment with our children failed?

http://www.ydr.com/letters/ci_27266986/politics-is-politics-does-york-school-debate-letter

These daily emails are archived and searchable at

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Sorry I missed this great post when it came out in November. Jersey Jazzman, one of the nation’s best education bloggers, foretells the handover of the York City public schools to a for-profit charter chain and excoriates the state officials who are permitting this travesty to happen.

 

He digs into the stats on York City to show that it is performing about where you would expect given the socioeconomic disadvantage of its students. York City, he says, needs help, more resources, not a for-profit charter chain to siphon money out of its budget.

 

He writes:

 

Let’s recap:

Tom Corbett abdicated his responsibilities to the children of York and defunded their schools.
He sent in his personal hack to force the district to turn those schools over to a private, for-profit corporation through a shell non-profit.
The hack — as if he were a made man — told the district if they didn’t take his offer, he’d take over.
No one knows how much money the charter company is going to make on this deal.
Trust me, folks, we’re just getting started…

 

Meckley believes this plan is warranted because York’s schools aren’t performing up to snuff. But the truth is that they are exactly where we’d expect them to be, given the demographics of the city.

 

Do you want to see a photo of Jon Hage’s gorgeous yacht? Look here. He is the CEO of Charter Schools USA. The yacht was up for sale recently. He lives well. His business is very profitable with taxpayer dollars.

 

Jersey Jazzman asks:

 

And what kind of performance have the good people of Florida received for all of that money?

 
The chain was considered high-performing until this year. And on Tuesday the Orange School Board voted 7-0 to deny its applications for three new campuses.

 
Because charters are publicly funded per pupil, Charter Schools USA would receive about $27 million a year to run the three schools at capacity if approved.

 
“Their performance in Orange County is abysmally poor,” board Chairman Bill Sublette said of the Renaissance schools. “They’re underperforming the schools in the area that they’re drawing from. How can we look taxpayers in the eye and approve them?”
But Jonathan Hage, president and CEO of Charter Schools USA, said he is proud of all of the company’s schools, including Chickasaw.

 
“We do an excellent job over time, even with the lowest-performing students,” he said. “We knew we wouldn’t be able to turn those scores around in a year.” [emphasis mine]

 
JJ: I guess David Meckley knows better than the entire Orange School Board. Maybe CSUSA’s history in Indiana convinced him:

 
“The four takeover schools in Indianapolis lost huge numbers of students — between 35 and 60 percent at each school — between the start of classes in 2011 and when the takeover operators took over in 2012. Schools are mostly funded on the basis of their enrollment, so the departures came at a steep cost for the private operators.
On top of that, the takeover schools saw their share of a pot of federal funds for low-performing schools that is controlled by the state shrink as more state schools became eligible to claim that money. Tindley lost $212,000, and Charter Schools USA’s three schools lost more than $601,110 because of across-the-board reductions.
Together, the cuts have left takeover operators with much higher costs than they anticipated.
Sherry Hage, CSUSA’s chief academic officer, says the operator is planning to stick with its schools despite the costs. But for some, the price tag is proving too high. Earlier this month, Tindley shocked state education officials by threatening to pull out of Arlington shortly after the start of the school year unless the nonprofit could get $2.4 million in additional aid.”

 
– See more at: http://jerseyjazzman.blogspot.com/2014/11/york-pa-and-death-of-public-education.html#sthash.wCR7cUKg.dpuf

 

 

 

 

 

 

Peter Greene here recounts the sad story of the nation’s first all-charter district in Muskegon Heights, Michigan. You never hear about this important experiment on national radio and television. Want to know why? No big PR machine. No miracles. Instead, disaster.

Governor Rick Snyder appointed an emergency manager to impose change on Muskegon Heights. The students had low scores, and the district had a deficit. The emergency manager gave the entire district to Mosaica, a for-profit charter chain. It was “a historic opportunity” to show how private enterprise could raise scores, close achievement gaps, and succeed where the public schools had failed.

Things quickly went downhill. Teachers quit in large numbers, including new hires, wages were poor, scores remained low, discipline was erratic. The emergency manager warned Mosaica that it would be terminated if it couldn’t change things fast.

Last spring, Mosaica gave up or was pushed out or both. Even though they waived their management fee of $1 million, they couldn’t make a profit. Muskegon Heights didn’t suit their business model.

Greene concludes:

“First, Mosaica didn’t know what the hell they were doing. There are vague hints of protestations that they couldn’t be expected to fully staff and supply a system so quickly, but that’s exactly what they said they could do. They failed to recruit an adequate staff, and then they failed to retain them. They failed to provide the teaching supplies needed for the setting, and they failed to establish an environment of order and safety in the schools. The only thing Mosaica knew how to do was crunch numbers and manage cash flow (and that they did in ways that damaged every other part of their mission).

“Second, they brought no commitment, no ties, no roots, no intention of fighting to the end. They came to make money. When they couldn’t make money, they left…..

“And that is why school and business do not mix. A public school is a long-term commitment that stretches across the generations. It is a promise that a community makes to its children, past, present and future. That is not a reasonable expectation for a business, but it is the only acceptable expectation for a public school system.”

Bill Phillis of the Ohio Coalition for Equity and Adequacy notes that Governor John Kasich has promised to pass legislation requiring accountability and transparency from charters. But will the big campaign contributors who make millions from charters allow any regulation of their profitable enterprises?

Phillis writes:

“Governor: “We are going to fix the lack of regulation on charter schools” – but will ECOT, White Hat Management, K-12 Inc. and other big campaign funders allow it to happen?

“2014 has been the year of exposure of far-reaching financial fraud and educational malfeasance in the charter industry. To cap off the year, reports of two studies commissioned by the pro-charter Fordham Institute were made public. These reports “revealed” what was already known: charters are neither accountable nor transparent and their students lag significantly behind traditional schools in state academic measures.

“What else could the Governor say about charters but that additional regulations are needed? The real test, and the one the public education community should keep on the radar screen, will be the scope and depth of anticipated legislation on charter reform.

“Consider that, of the $57 million increase in charter funding over 2011-2012, the largest increase goes to William Lager’s ECOT and the largest per pupil increase for a charter group goes to David Brennan’s White Hat charters. Brennan and William Lager are among the largest political contributors in Ohio. Will they allow charter reform in Ohio? Charter reform that protects taxpayers and students would put them out of business. What do you think?

“Realistically, don’t expect genuine reform in accountability and transparency in charterland….unless the taxpayers of Ohio demand it. Right now the contest is between campaign contributions and sound public policy.”

William Phillis
Ohio E & A

We have all wrestled at one time or another with the deceptive rhetoric of “reformers.” They seem to have a common phrase book, written by PR whizzes, in which they have co-opted terms like “reform,” “great teachers,” “innovation,” “personalized,” and to have created terms like “a child’s zip code should not be his/her destiny,” a sentiment with which no one can disagree. Their solutions, typically, consist of privatizing public schools by handing public dollars over to private corporations to do the work of government, and dismantling the teaching profession by lowering standards for entry to young people without any professional preparation, eliminating due process, eliminating extra pay for additional degrees, and seeking to eliminate extra pay for experience. No reform movement in the past ever had this agenda. Reformers in the past wanted public schools to get better, not to replace them with privately managed schools or schools operated for profit. Reformers in the past wanted teachers to have better preparation, not to take away certification requirements. Reformers were not union-busters.

 

Education writer Steve Hinnefeld, on his blog, writes about the way the so-called reformers have corrupted the English language. I agree with him, and we see it all the time, such as when a pro-charter group calls itself “Save Our Public Schools” and circulates a petition to replace public schools with privately managed charters. However, I disagree with Steve on two of his definitions. I can’t think of a better term than corporate reformers, to demonstrate that their assumptions come from the corporate world, such as their belief in data, data-driven decision-making, standardization, incentives, and sanctions. Other people use terms like “deformers,” but that is more of an insult than a label. If Steve has a better term than “corporate reform,” I want to hear it.

 

I also challenge the claim–perhaps he does as well–that charter schools are public schools. They get public money, but that does not make them public schools. Lockheed gets public money. So does almost every private university. Charters have sued in different states to prevent public audits, on the grounds that they are private corporations, not subject to public audit. They have been taken to court by workers for violating state labor laws; they said they were private corporations, not public schools. When you hear this defense again and again, it is persuasive. I am persuaded.

 

Meanwhile, I welcome any suggestions from Steve or others to create a name for those who are leading the charge for more charters and vouchers and who are eager to strip teachers of due process, collective bargaining, and reduce their benefits.

 

I would also welcome suggestions for the name of “our side.” We do not “defend the status quo.” The status quo is headed by Arne Duncan, Bill Gates, Eli Broad, the Walton Family, Jeb Bush, Andrew Cuomo, and ALEC; it consists of high-stakes testing, privatization, and hostility to the teaching profession. We don’t like the status quo. We want better schooling for all children. We want the arts and history and physical education; we want experienced teachers; we want librarians, school nurses, guidance counselors, social workers, psychologists and after-school programs. Are we “the real reformers”? We fight for better education, for better schools, for high standards for entry into teaching, for respect for teachers and parents, and for kindness for children. What should we call ourselves?

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