Archives for category: For-Profit

Denny Taylor, a professor emerita of literacy studies at Hofstra University, here comments on the recent exchanges among Marc Tucker, Anthony Cody, and Yong Zhao about high-stakes testing and education reform. The key issue, she believes, is not so much about policy as it is about money, power, and control. When big money takes control of public policy, what is at risk is not only children’s lives and their education, but democracy itself.

Taylor has written a scorching analysis of Marc Tucker’s finances and his role in education reform.

She writes:

“I have read with interest the dialogue between Marc Tucker, Diane Ravitch, Anthony Cody, and Yong Zhao on the establishment of an American test-based public education accountability system. Forty years of research on the impact of political structures on social systems,[1], [2] in particular public education,[3] leads me to categorize Marc Tucker’s rhetoric as nothing more than political cant to protect the lucrative profits of poverty “non-profit” industry that is bent to the will of the powerful rich donor groups that are dominating education policy in the US and UK.

“It is the PR discourse of big money that shapes the lives of teachers and children in public schools, and confounds the lives of families with young children struggling with the grimness of developmentally inappropriate instruction in public schools – instruction that rejects all that we have learned as a society about child development, how children learn language, become literate, and engage in math and science projects to both discover and solve problems. Knowledge gained from the sciences and the lived knowledge of human experience, the very essence of our human story, no longer counts.

“Tucker’s view of education is economic. Children in, workers out, could be the mantra of National Center on Education and the Economy. The NCEE website toots the familiar horn of the rich non-profit educational organization stating that: “Since 1988, NCEE has been researching the world’s best performing education systems to unlock their secrets.” Nonsense, of course. What NCEE has actually been doing is making money.

“In 2012 the total assets of NCEE were $93,708,833, with total liabilities of $1,572,013, and net assets of $92,136,820.[4] This highly lucrative “non-profit” fiefdom receives substantial funding from a long list of “donors” including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and the Broad, Walton, and Walmart Foundations. NCEE has also received substantial funding from the US Federal Government…..

“NCEE was the majority shareholder of America’s Choice, Inc. (ACI), which was established in November 2004 as a taxable for-profit subsidiary of NCEE. NCEE reorganized its internal America’s Choice program as a separate subsidiary to attract the capital investment and management talent to expand the implementation of the America’s Choice comprehensive school design program and related offerings for struggling schools. [6]

“In addition to his lucrative salary [$819,109 in 2012], Tucker was awarded stock options in ACI. In the 2010 Federal tax return for NCEE it further states:

“While any growth in the value of ACI would benefit these optionees, it was anticipated that such growth would also benefit NCEE’s charitable mission.

“NCEE then sold off ACI to Pearson. Here’s what is written on the next page of the 2010 federal tax return:

“The work of NCEE going forward will be funded in large part by the $65.9 million in proceeds that NCEE received as a result of the sale of ACI to Pearson…”

Taylor writes:

“Local control has been eviscerated through the enactment of laws and policies that have ensconced the Common Core in the new business driven public education system, which is centrally controlled through mandatory, highly lucrative, commercial accountability systems, that drain the coffers of local communities and diverts funds from essential programs and services that are no longer available for children in public schools.

“The new report on the American accountability system is just another example of big money writing private policy and sugar coating it to make it palatable. Zhao took the plan apart piece by piece, and Tucker might indeed counter Zhao’s arguments, but there is another problem, a little known fact, that cannot be explained away, not by the educational non-profits serving the needs of the big money backers who make public policy, or by the federal government that benefits.

“The basic research on which the economic system of public education was founded has no scientific legitimacy. This is not unsupported opinion; it is fact.

“At the beginning of the 1990’s, a well-orchestrated effort in state-corporate cooperation was initiated to disenfranchise the growing influence of teachers at the local level across the US, who were creating and using developmentally appropriate teaching-learning materials and activities in public schools that limited the influence of corporate curriculum producers. [19]

“School districts were spending money on real books instead of artificial, commercially produced programs, and there was concern about the growing rejection of commercial text-book producers, including McGraw-Hill, in the five big adoption states – Texas, California, Michigan, Florida, and New York.

“Billions in revenues and profits were at stake. Profits dropped. Not a whole lot, but even a slight dip could be counted in the hundreds of millions. Worse, the growing teacher-led democratic movement was taking hold, causing concern about displacement of the powerful elites in government and big business. From studying the teacher movements of that time, I can write that teachers really believed that through the ways in which they were teaching children in school, society could become more equitable.[20]….”

After a lengthy analysis of the power of big money to capture education policy at the federal and state levels, Taylor writes,

“Again, to ensure that this is not seen as unsupported opinion or that NCEE is an aberrant anomaly, one of the platforms on which big money is falsifying facts is the National Council on Teacher Quality, which has an Advisory Board that includes Pearson International, The Hoover Institution, the American Enterprise Institute, and Murdoch’s News Corporation. The assessment of the syllabi of reading courses in US schools of education by private groups with a commercial agenda is not only political, it is predatory. The assault on faculty and students in colleges of education by NCTQ is also an aggressive act against teachers and children in K-12 public schools that impacts the academic development of the nation’s children, and also their health and well-being.

“When an ideological elite joins with the economic and political forces that control what human beings do, it is important that we confront our illusions and expose the myths about what is happening in K-12 public education. The very existence of NCTQ is a clear indication that we live at a time when the pressures on educators and children in K-12 public schools are reaching a tipping point.

“It is the nightmare scenario that so many of us dread, when the escalation of the causes and conditions that have such a negative effect on the lives of teachers, children and their families become self-perpetuating, and reach a point beyond which there is no return from total disequilibrium. When this happens, at our peril, this nation will no longer have the smallest hope of becoming democratic. Self-aggrandizing private groups with corporate power will overwhelm the system and our struggle for democracy will flounder.

“But there is more than democracy at stake. Once again, to quote Eisenhower:

“Another factor in maintaining balance involves the element of time. As we peer into society’s future, we — you and I, and our government — must avoid the impulse to live only for today, plundering, for our own ease and convenience, the precious resources of tomorrow. We cannot mortgage the material assets of our grandchildren without risking the loss also of their political and spiritual heritage. We want democracy to survive for all generations to come, not to become the insolvent phantom of tomorrow.
What Tucker or many of his contemporaries don’t seem to get is that there is no time left for big money to mess around. The problem is that the redesign of our public education system based on “meeting today’s economic needs” is getting in the way of the transformation of schools which is urgently required to meet the real needs of our children tomorrow. The assessment system that he is pushing on teachers and children is designed to prepare children to work for the corporations that are using up Earth’s resources, contaminating the planet, causing the climate system to adversely change, and making Earth an unsafe place for our kids to be.”

“….. In public education we need big money to change everything. Tucker must alter course, save face before it is too late, and help get his contemporaries – the men with money, power, and privilege – to acknowledge that under their leadership the public education system has floundered, and that if, we are going to prepare today for tomorrow, we need to support the courageous teachers who were and are making a difference for children and society before big money got in the way. [26], [27]“

This is the most important article you will read this week, this month, maybe this year. Lee Fang, a brilliant investigative reporter at the Nation Institute, documents the rise and growth of the new for-profit education industry. They seek out ways to make money by selling products to the schools, developing new technologies for the Common Core, writing lucrative leasing deals for charter school properties, mining students’ personal data and selling it, and investing in lucrative charter schools.

Their basic strategy: disrupt public education by selling a propaganda narrative of failure, which then generates consumer demand for new, privately managed forms of schooling (charters and vouchers), for new products (a laptop for every child), and for new standards (the Common Core) that require the expenditure of tens of billions of dollars for new technology, consultants, and other new teaching products. The Common Core has the subsidiary effect of reducing test scores dramatically, thus reinforcing the failure narrative and the need for new schools and new products. Meanwhile, absent any evidence, the boosters of the Common Core promise dramatic results (“bigger better cleaner than clean, the best ever, everything you ever dreamed of, success for all, no more achievement gap, everyone a winner”), while reaping the rewards.

The end goal is the reaping of billions in profits for entrepreneurs and investors.

The crucial enabler of the entrepreneurial takeover of American public education has been the Obama administration. From the beginning, its Race to the Top was intended to close schools with low scores, require more charter schools, all to create a larger market for charter organizations. Its requirement to adopt “college-and-career-ready standards” established the Common Core standards in 45 states, thus creating a national market for products. Its funding of two national tests guaranteed that all future testing would be done online, thus generating a multi-billion dollar market for technology companies that produce software and hardware. At the same time, the Obama administration was curiously silent as state after state eliminated collective bargaining and silenced the one force that might impede its plans. Neither President Obama nor Arne Duncan made an appearance in Wisconsin when tens of thousands of working people protested Scott Walker’s anti-union program.

Lee Fang has connected the dots that show the connection between entrepreneurs, the Obama administration, ALEC, and Wall Street. We now know that their promises and their profit-driven schemes do not benefit students or teachers or education. Students will be taught by computers in large classes. Experienced and respected teachers do not like the new paradigm; they will leave and be replaced by young teachers willing to follow a script, work with few or no benefits, then leave for another career choice. Turnover of teachers will become the norm, as it is in charter schools. “Success” will be defined as test scores, which will be generated by computer drills.

This is the future the entrepreneurs are planning. Their own children will be in private schools not subject to the Common Core, or large computer-based classes, or inexperienced teachers. The public’s children will be victims of policies promoted by Arne Duncan to benefit the entrepreneurs.

We see the future unfolding in communities across the nation. It can be stopped by vigilant and informed citizens. If we organize and act, we can push back and defeat this terrible plan to monetize our children and our public schools.

Politico reports this morning that the giant for-profit charter chain Corinthian College is in deep financial trouble and is under criminal investigation as well:

“MORE CORINTHIAN INQUIRIES: Corinthian Colleges is facing two more criminal investigations, the dismantling for-profit giant reported in an SEC filing late Friday [http://bit.ly/1mwDAFi]. The company disclosed a federal grand jury subpoena in Florida related to employee misconduct and the return of student aid funds, plus one in Georgia requesting information on job placement, admissions, attendance and graduation rates. The subpoenas follow last week’s news that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is suing the company for nearly $569 million over an “illegal predatory lending scheme: http://1.usa.gov/1oW68U3″

For a real eye-opener, read the charges made against this for-profit corporation by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. This “illegal predatory lending scheme” is stunning in its scope. The administration and Congress should regulate these predatory institutions or put them out of business. Unfortunately, Congress has held off because the industry hired the top lobbyists from both parties to fight needed regulation. If it were up to me, I would ban for-profit education, including for-profit charter schools and colleges. Many, most, are worthless diploma mills whose purpose is profit, not education. Why urge young people to get a diploma when the choices include places like this one?

Bill Phillis founded the Ohio Equity and Adequacy Coalition, which advocates for public schools and exposes for-profit scams.

He writes here:

Imagine Schools, Inc.: For-profit, out- of- state business operation took $44.9 million of Ohio school districts’ funds last school year

Imagine Schools, Inc., based in Arlington, VA, has 18 Ohio business centers, authorized by eight different charter school sponsors. During the 2013-2014 school year, this for-profit company enrolled 6,235 students at a cost of $45 million to Ohio school districts.

Each of these 18 charter schools has a sponsor and a board of directors. The Ohio Department of Education and Ohio charter school sponsors typically provide limited monitoring and oversight. The boards of the Imagine Schools, Inc. appear to be mere rubber stamps of company decisions. (A company internal memo surfaced in which charter school principals were admonished to keep boards in line with company decisions because the schools belonged to the company.)

Since the financial operation of this school district-funded enterprise is hidden from public view, the amount of tax money that is converted to profits is a secret.

My resident school district had a deduction of $3,702,897.67 for Imagine Schools, Inc. last school year. As a taxpayer and supporter of my school district, board of education, administration and district employees, I object to a portion of the school district tax money being taken from my school district and handed to entities that have little or no transparency or accountability. I, along with other school district residents, have no access to the unaccountable financial operation of Imagine Schools, Inc. School districts’ finances, on the other hand, are available to citizens.

The Ohio Department of Education deducted $15,570,134.09 from my resident school district for students going to charter schools. These funds went to 66 charter schools, most of which had a lower state report card rating than the district.

State officials should eliminate the for-profit companies from the Ohio charter school industry.

William Phillis
Ohio E & A
Join Our Mailing List!

ohioeanda@sbcglobal.net |

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

The Palm Beach County Commission allocated $20 million to enable a new charter school to borrow money for school construction. Some members of the commission opposed it, but the majority thought it was just another business that needed public funding.

 

The County Commission voted in favor of allowing Renaissance Charter School at Cypress on Okeechobee Boulevard in West Palm Beach to borrow money by accessing tax-exempt bonds. Those bonds can help the charter school pay for the cost of buying land, constructing the new building, adding equipment and other educational expenses.

While the money comes from private investors, those bonds are supposed to get paid back by school revenues. Those revenues include the portion of school tax dollars that go toward charter schools.

Palm Beach County shouldn’t be enabling charter school companies to profit from the bond deals, said County Commissioner Paulette Burdick.

“It’s not about educating children. It’s about making money,” said Burdick, a former school board member….

 

Charter schools are billed as a way to provide parents more educational alternatives for their children. Private companies, nonprofit groups and other organizations can use public funds to start charter schools, which can operate without many of the regulations of traditional schools.

But a proliferation of charter schools has sparked concerns that they are poorly regulated and too often fail to deliver on promised educational improvements. Critics say charter schools are taking too many tax dollars away from educational efforts at existing public schools.

The Palm Beach County League of Women Voters on Tuesday opposed approving a bond deal for the Renaissance Charter School.

Charter school companies are using public financing help to profit off land deals and the county shouldn’t help, according to Elaine Goodman, of the League of Women Voters.

“What is happening to our traditional public schools?” Goodman asked. “Where are our priorities?”

 

Despite the critics, the commission approved the deal by a vote of 5-2.

 

 

This is a must-see. Peter Greene here presents and discusses comedian John Oliver on student debt.

Most students will leave college with heavy debts; some will spend years trying to pay it off. The arrangement was created by the federal government and state governments, which have steadily decreased their responsibility for subsidizing the cost of higher education, transferring the burden to students. There once was a time when community colleges were tuition-free. No longer. For-profit institutions and online “universities” have moved in to fill their place. These institutions have terrible completion rates. Despite repeated calls to regulate the for-profits, Congress and the U.S. Department of Education have failed to do so. The for-profit industry hires top lobbyists from both parties to protect their interests. Who protects the students?

When one of the worst for-profit institutions (Corinthian) teetered near bankruptcy, the US DOE extended a bail-out instead of closing it down.

Feeling down about corporate ownership of almost everything? So is David Greene. Gates, Walton, Bloomberg, Bezos, Murdoch, Koch. What don’t they own? Our votes.

David thinks back a century. Other oligarchs owned almost everything then. Of course, it didn’t occur to them to monetize the schools.

But we beat them back. We elected people to regulate the oligarchs. We can do it again.

This came in my email from a teacher who gave me her/his name, email, school name, and phone number. I asked for permission to post the letter and received it. Do you have any suggestions for this teacher?

Ms. Ravitch,

I am writing to you because you are the first person I have seen take such a great interest into researching the integrity of charter school systems. I am a teacher at a charter school in Cleveland. I hate it. I hate the whole idea of it. This company I work for is making BILLIONS of dollars by putting schools in impoverished areas… and pocketing it. So basically, they are making billions of dollars off poor people. I have funded nearly my entire classroom. We are a for-profit school and we don’t see any of that profit. In fact, we can’t even accept gifts or donations from charitable causes because they are not allowed to give things to for-profit schools. So when our students come to school in the same outfit every day for two weeks, we don’t have clothes that were so graciously donated to our school to let the students borrow. We have nothing. Their greed for money has gotten so extreme that as a way to push for more enrollment, they had the teachers go canvassing… in east Cleveland. Not sure how familiar you are with the area, but let’s just say I walked up to a neighborhood gang. This made me feel so invaluable- more than I could ever have imagined feeling with what I’m being paid and for the resources I have been given. It has come to a point to where they have actually begun to put our lives in jeopardy; risking our safety and threatening us with job loss due to unsubstantial funding. It’s a load of bullshit. They just want more money and it sickens me.

Why am I still working for them… because I feel like the students need me. Who will have a voice for the people with no voice if someone who knows what needs to be done isn’t there to do it?

I have thought of the problem and brainstormed multiple stepping stones to a solution, however, it is hard these days to accomplish anything meaningful when it is one person vs. a billion dollar corporation. I have met with a union rep and have tossed around the idea of starting a union. I continue to send her any information I can. However, starting a union not only seems unlikely, but I’m not sure if it would accomplish the real goal. I have little doubt that a company like mine would shut down all of their Ohio schools before turning over to the requests of a union. And quite frankly, they are excellent at covering their tracks. Our students’ IEPs are never met because we lack the staffing to carry out those duties– so illegal right? So they fired our entire intervention staff and made them interview with an outsourced company they hired, probably to take the fall if they get caught for not meeting IEPs…. Let’s just say they think ahead.

The other solution I looked into was turning to ODE or the political members that are supposed to be making sure these sort of things aren’t happening. Yet those people are turning their cheek the other way, calling people like me whistle-blowers. Apparently anyone who wants justice in this world is a tattletale… and will lose their job.

I could go on and on naming indecencies of the company I work for, but the point is, what am I accomplishing by complaining? Who can I turn to to help me make this company own up to their malpractices? How can one person make a positive difference in a system that is infiltrated with all sorts of corruption?

Any advice would be welcomed with open arms.

Sincerely,

Frustrated Teacher

The Ohio blogger Plunderbund here lays out the astonishing record of William Lager and the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow.(ECOT). This online charter school is the largest charter in the state. It receives almost $100 million a year from the state.

“On the latest report cards released by the Ohio Department of Education, ECOT continues to rank below all of the 8 large urban schools that are often-criticized by legislators and in the media for their “sub-par” performance.

“That hasn’t stopped ECOT’s founder, William Lager, from continuing to get paid. And getting paid he is.”

“Lager is also the owner of two privately-held companies that provide both the management services (Altair Learning Management) and curriculum (IQ Innovations) to the online school.” Those two companies will collect another $22 million for their services.

Plunderbund shows that Lager is a major campaign contributor. He has donated $2 million to political campaigns since he went into the charter business in 2000.

“Let’s just say that Lager is living pretty well thanks to Ohio’s Republican legislators who keep the money flowing. While Ohio’s public schools are are pinching pennies due to funding cuts and most public school employees are seeing modest (if any) raises, Lager’s companies take is increasing at a rate of nearly 15% per year.

“Lager is living large off of public education funding.”

Plunderbund wonders why the Columbus Dispatch says nothing about Lager’s lavish compensation and his school’s poor performance.

He concludes:

“THAT is the story of William Lager and ECOT. THAT is at least how much Lager is making [$2 million a year] on a salary funded by Ohio’s taxpayers and approved by Ohio’s Republican majority.

“But, since Ohio’s Republican legislators, including Lager’s close friend, John Kasich, aren’t truly interested in transparency as far as charter schools are concerned, we’ll never actually know the true extent of William Lager’s fleecing of Ohio’s taxpayers or why “Ohio’s Greatest Home Newspaper”, the Columbus Dispatch, continues to ignore Lager’s gross abuse of taxpayer-funded, public education dollars. Let’s just say Lager’s making and donating enough to keep it a secret.”

Bill Phillis, a veteran warrior for public schools and equitable financing of them, wrote the following in response to a court case that will be heard on September 23. Does a for-profit private corporation own all the assets of the schools it manages?

Who owns school facilities, equipment, technology, furniture and other assets purchased with taxpayer’s money? White Hat Management? The privately-operated White Hat charter school board? The public?

Over the past couple of decades, citizens of Ohio have, through taxes, purchased more than 1,000 new school buildings, complete with furniture, equipment, technology, etc. Who owns this vast investment? Duh–the public.

September 23, 2014 will be a pivotal day in Ohio history. The Ohio Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on whether a private company owns real estate, facilities, furniture, equipment, technology, and other assets that were purchased by taxpayer money extracted from school districts. The Supreme Court’s decision on this issue will have far-reaching consequences. Historically, taxes devoted to public school infrastructure has been owned and controlled by the public.

For the past couple of decades, while taxpayer money was being used to rebuild Ohio’s public school infrastructure, state officials have extracted $7 billion from school districts to fund privately-operated, so-called “public” charter schools. A portion of that $7 billion financial drain on public school districts has been used to purchase charter school furniture, equipment, technology, etc. Who owns these assets? The public? Individuals? Private corporations?

It would be absurd for public policy to allow private ownership of the new 1,000 public school buildings or any other school district assets. But, White Hat Management and some if its charter school allies, including the Alliance for Public Charter Schools, argue for private ownership.

The lower courts supported the claims of White Hat Management. It is quite interesting that the State Attorney General supported the claims against White Hat Management in the lower courts but has since dropped out of the case.

Also of interest is that the Attorney General’s Chief Operations Officer is the former Executive Director of the Ohio Department of Education’s Center for School Options and Finance and thus had administrative oversight of the Office of Community Schools.

Oh what a tangled web state officials weave—the taxpayers do they intend to deceive.

William Phillis
Ohio E & A

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

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 113,682 other followers