Archives for category: For-Profit

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?

Last week, a judge handed the schools of York City, Pennsylvania, to a receiver, David Meckley, a businessman, to do with as he pleases. He has said he will turn the district over to a for-profit charter chain, Charter Schools, USA. There is still a glimmer of hope, as the school board is appealing the decision. 

 

The local newspaper published a terrific editorial. It asks questions that the judge never considered: What are the for-profit corporations plans for the children with special needs? How can anyone justify diverting money to “profit,” when the district is in dire financial need? Does the for-profit corporation actually have a plan for improvement? My questions: why isn’t the state responsible to assist districts whose property tax base cannot support public schools? How many more districts will be handed over to entrepreneurs? What is the purpose of public education? Does the voice of the community matter? Whatever happened to democracy?

 

This is what the local newspaper said:

 

Meckley, a Spring Garden Township businessman who has led the district’s financial recovery process for two years now, intends to convert all eight schools to charters operated by a for-profit company, Charter Schools USA.

Such a conversion has never been tried in Pennsylvania, and the company’s plan for York City appears half-baked.

For instance, in response to questions submitted by The York Dispatch, a company representative showed limited knowledge of the district’s student population and couldn’t even describe plans for the 21 percent of students with special needs.

The community clearly opposes the plan. Yet while they have no say in the matter, city property owners’ tax dollars now will be used not only for education but to boost the profits of Charter Schools USA.

Since the district is struggling financially, how can anyone justify diverting even a penny away from the students?

Unfortunately, Linebaugh, York County’s president judge, was not allowed to consider these or any other aspects of the charter conversions.

Earlier today, I posted about the decision by a judge in Pennsylvania to declare the York City School District to be in “receivership,” meaning that it will now be controlled by the state. The district is being punished because its board refused to follow the receiver’s orders. Parents and educators fought the decision, but their voices did not count.

 

 

Here is a comment from one reader (Chiara), who also noted that Vice President Joe Biden’s brother, Frank, came to testify on behalf of the for-profit charter takeover (he works for a for-profit charter in Florida called Mavericks):

 

 

York isn’t the first public school district that was completely privatized by a politically connected for-profit charter management company.

 

Muskegon Heights MI was the first.

 

It was privatized but it’s never mentioned by ed reformers (unlike say, New Orleans) because the charter management company pulled out and left town when they determined they couldn’t turn a profit. Muskegon Heights doesn’t fit the ed reform narrative so it simply isn’t discussed.

 

“MUSKEGON HEIGHTS, MI — Mosaica Education Inc. will no longer manage the Muskegon Heights charter school district, and plans will begin immediately to seek a replacement company.
Muskegon Heights Public Schools Emergency Manager Gregory Weatherspoon said the separation came down to an issue of finances. Mosaica, a for-profit company, was running a deficit budget and not making a profit.”

 

I think they dump the for-profit charter chains in states where there’s no regulation, lawmakers are completely captured and there’s no national media focus – states like Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan and Florida.

 

OH, MI, PA and FL get all the ed reform garbage. It washes up here.

 

OH, MI, PA and FL should serve as a warning to other states not to lift charter caps and deregulate further, but it won’t. They’ll all end up like the least regulated states. It’s a race to the bottom.

 

http://www.mlive.com/news/muskegon/index.ssf/2014/04/mosaica_out_as_manager_of_musk.html

 

 

Another, 2old2teach, wrote this pointed question:

 

 

It really makes you wonder how these folks dare to appear in public. How do they teach democracy in York, now?

Last Friday, a judge cleared the way to put the York City schools into receivership, meaning under state control. The Pennsylvania Department of Education previously announced its intention to hand over the entire school district to the for-profit charter chain Charter Schools of America.

Be it noted that today’s education “reformers” don’t much care for democracy. They would rather turn public schools over to a for-profit corporation that siphons off 20% in management fees and pays itself outlandish rental fees rather than trust parents and local citizens to do what’s best for their children.

Choice? There will be no “choice” for the families of York City. Their children will have to attend a charter school whose headquarters are in Florida. Yes, it is the death of local control and democracy in York City.

The news story says:

“State officials have said they would, if approved for a receivership, bring in Charter Schools USA to operate the district.

“So this means York likely will be the first city in the Commonwealth – and only one in the nation – where public education is provided exclusively by a private company.

The Pennsylvania State Education Association plans to appeal, according to a statement released by the statewide teachers union immediately after the ruling Friday morning.

“York’s citizens don’t want this, the elected school board doesn’t want this, and parents and educators don’t want this,” said PSEA President Michael Crossey.

“Citing the district’s financial problems, PDE declared York schools in recovery status and appointed David Meckley chief recovery officer, or CRO, in late 2012.

“State law triggers a receivership petition if officials in a recovery school district act against the wishes of the CRO or in violation of their approved recovery plan, which is supposed to be collaboratively developed.

“In this case, one action was the board’s refusal to vote on a charter school operator contract until the company provided more information.

“The other was its vote on a teachers and staff union contract that didn’t cut as much as set out in the recovery plan.”

This is what we would expect from the outgoing Corbett administration, which actively promoted privatization.

What will the new Tom Wolf administration do?

Here are some thoughts from Mark Miller, a local school board member in Pennsylvania and an officer of the Pennsylvania School Boards Assiciation:

“PSBA was disqualified as a party of interest in the case despite the fact we are a state chartered agency with a membership of 4,500 elected officials sworn to uphold the constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania which guarantees a free and appropriate public education to all children. On that count alone, how can the court force any child to attend a charter school?

“Linebaugh also disqualified NAACP, PASA and twenty-two parents of children with special needs who combined their money to retain special education counsel. Commonwealth Court upheld the ruling on NAACP, PSBA, PASA and parents did not appeal as we were saving our war chest for this new fight.

“There was never any question in my mind that Linebaugh was going to hand the district over to privateers. Governor Elect Wolf is a resident of York County and a political ally of the Receiver (David Meckley). While he did ask for the courts to leave this matter wait until his term of office begins, he has been absolutely silent on his position in this matter.

“Wolf’s wife Frances resigned from the Board of York Academy Charter School two months before he declared for office. some observers think that CSUSA will sub-contract to York Academy and CSMI (Charter School Management Inc is Vahan Gureghian’s company) as CSUSA does not have the resources at hand to run these schools.

“York Academy and CSMI have been silent and CSUSA non committal http://www.yorkdispatch.com/breaking/ci_27186647/charter-schools-usa-mum-york-city-schools-special (Although Vahan Guerghian is building a $28MM mansion within a 45 minute drive to CSUSA headquarters in Florida.

“Obviously, we are going to file an appeal of the ruling handed down today.”

Charter Schools USA is a very successful for-profit business. It is very profitable. Its CEO Jonathan Hage is an entrepreneur, not an educator. The company’s headquarters are in Florida but it operates 70 charter schools in seven states. It hopes to take over the entire York, Pennsylvania, school district. The money to operate the charter schools come out of money that would otherwise go to district public schools.

How does Hage and the corporation make big money? It is not the management fee of 5%. It’s the rent.

As Channel 10 learned in its investigation, charters profit handsomely by paying outsize rent to themselves.

“When the company helps open a new school, its development arm, Red Apple Development, acquires land and constructs a school. Then, CUSA charges the school high rent.

“For example, Winthrop Charter in Riverview may struggle to balance its budget this year thanks to a $2 million rent payment to CUSA/Red Apple Development. The payment will equate to approximately 23% of its budget, even though CUSA CEO Jon Hage has been quoted as saying charter school rent should not exceed 20%.”

The corporation says that as long as test scores are high and parents are happy, the profits are no problem.

“But among CUSA’s critics is the League of Women Voters, which recently released a study suggesting a troubling lack of separation between a charter school’s advisory board and for-profit management companies. It also indicates charter school teachers aren’t often paid as well and profits all-too-often play a role in educational decisions.

“That means that children aren’t getting what they’re owed by the public funding,” said Pat Hall, a retired Jefferson High department head and Hillsborough County’s education chair for the League of Women Voters.

“The study also revealed school choice creates a higher risk of disruption to a child’s education, as “statewide closure rate of charters is 20%” and “Charters are 50% of all F-rated schools in 2011.” In the last week, last-minute problems displaced a hundreds of charter school students from St. Petersburg to Delray Beach.

“Hall acknowledges many charter schools are teaching children in unique and successful ways, but says Charter Schools USA isn’t offering students anything that’s not available in public schools. She adds that the schools are so focused on FCAT fundamentals, they forego many traditional aspects of the school experience.”

CUSA schools often don’t have a library or cafeteria, but school officials tout the superiority of eating in the classroom and having a classroom library.

Previously, the North Carolina state board of education rejected online virtual schools, which are eager to open up the “market” in that state. Now that the board is business-friendly, it appears that it may allow both K12, Inc. (launched by the Milken brothers and listed on the New York Stock Exchange) and Connections Education (owned by Pearson) to open. The issue will be decided at the next board meeting. 

 

These corporations receive full tuition, while giving students a “free” computer and instructional materials. Their parents are their coaches. It is a profitable business since the “school” has no facilities, no custodians, no playgrounds, etc. Online teachers monitor large numbers of screens and are low-paid. Essentially, the state is paying for home schooling. Online virtual charters typically have high attrition rates, low test scores, and low graduation rates.

Marian Wang of ProPublica reports on a curious phenomenon in the charter sector: “nonprofit” charters that are run by for-profit corporations.

“A couple of years ago, auditors looked at the books of a charter school in Buffalo, New York, and were taken aback by what they found. Like all charter schools, Buffalo United Charter School is funded with taxpayer dollars.

“The school is also a nonprofit. But as the New York State auditors wrote, Buffalo United was sending ” virtually all of the School’s revenues” directly to a for-profit company hired to handle its day-to-day operations.

“Charter schools often hire companies to handle their accounting and management functions. Sometimes the companies even take the lead in hiring teachers, finding a school building, and handling school finances.

“In the case of Buffalo United, the auditors found that the school board had little idea about exactly how the company – a large management firm called National Heritage Academies – was spending the school’s money. The school’s board still had to approve overall budgets, but it appeared to accept the company’s numbers with few questions. The signoff was “essentially meaningless,” the auditors wrote.

“In the charter-school sector, this arrangement is known as a “sweeps” contract because nearly all of a school’s public dollars – anywhere from 95 to 100 percent – is “swept” into a charter-management company.

“The contracts are an example of how the charter schools sometimes cede control of public dollars to private companies that have no legal obligation to act in the best interests of the schools or taxpayers. When the agreement is with a for-profit firm like National Heritage Academies, it’s also a chance for such firms to turn taxpayer money into tidy profits.

“It’s really just a pass-through for for-profit entities,” said Eric Hall, an attorney in Colorado Springs who specializes in work with charter schools and has come across many sweeps contracts. “In what sense is that a nonprofit endeavor? It’s not….”

“In Michigan, where NHA is the largest charter-school operator, state education regulators have voiced similar frustrations about the degree to which these private firms are shielded from having to answer to the public about how money is spent.

“I can’t FOIA National Heritage Academies,” said Casandra Ulbrich, Vice President of the Michigan State Board of Education, referring to the right to request public documents from public agencies. “I don’t know who they’re subcontracting with, I don’t know if they’re bid out. I don’t know if there are any conflicts of interest. This is information we as taxpayers don’t have a right to.”

“Last year, Ulbrich and the State Board of Education had called for more transparency to be brought to the financial dealings of charter-management firms. They specifically asked the legislature to outlaw sweeps contracts. “Unfortunately,” Ulbrich said, “it fell on deaf ears.”

Do taxpayers know that they are funding for-profit corporations that are not subject to public audit?

“If you have information about charter schools and their profits or oversight — or any other tips — email us at charters@propublica.org.”

The Progressive has become a leading journal covering the new world of corporate-style education, where data, high-stakes testing, and free-market ideology are the hot policy ideas.

Be sure to watch this hilarious video.

And be sure to read the story about Profit-Ship here.

This article appears on Breitbart.com, a conservative media outlet. Written by Dr. Susan Berry, a regular contributor to the website, it is critical of Jeb Bush’s support for the Common Core and details his relationships with other groups and funders.

 

With polls showing Republican support for Common Core plummeting, common sense would dictate that Bush call it a day with the nationalized standards, as has been done by other Republicans, such as Maine Gov. Paul LePage and U.S. Sen. David Vitter, who plans to run for governor of Louisiana next year.
However, as a review of Bush’s history with the education initiative demonstrates, his interest in pushing onto the entire nation the reforms he introduced while governor of Florida – and his methods for doing so – have led his critics to claim he is more about big government crony capitalism than concern for children’s education.
Bush is the founder of several organizations that all play into a reported strategy that involves not only motivating “the people” at large for changes in education, but also using state education officials to administratively make some of those changes happen without the scrutiny or approval of the public.
As the founder and chairman of the Foundation for Excellence in Education (FEE), a national group which states its ambitious mission is “to build an American education system that equips every child to achieve his or her God-given potential,” Bush tapped for CEO Patricia Levesque, his former deputy chief of staff for education, enterprise solutions for government, minority procurement, and business and professional regulation while he was governor.
Chiefs for Change is an affiliate of FEE and describes itself as a “bipartisan coalition of current and former state education chiefs who believe that American public education can be dramatically improved.” Current members of Chiefs for Change include Mark Murphy of Delaware, Tom Luna of Idaho, John White of Louisiana, Hanna Skandera of New Mexico, Janet Barresi of Oklahoma – who was defeated in the state’s primary election this year, Deborah Gist of Rhode Island, and Kevin Huffman of Tennessee, former education commissioner and ex-husband of controversial Washington, D.C., schools chancellor Michelle Rhee…..

 

As it happens, some of the Chiefs for Change are also members of the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), one of the two federally funded interstate consortia that are developing tests aligned with the Common Core standards.
“Cronyism and corruption come in all political stripes and colors,” wrote [Michelle] Malkin at Townhall. “As a conservative parent of public charter school-educated children, I am especially appalled by these pocket-lining GOP elites who are giving grassroots education reformers a bad name and cashing in on their betrayal of limited-government principles…..”

 

Additionally, Bush has joined with former president of the pro-Common Core Fordham Institute Chester Finn and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Conservatives for Higher Standards, a group that promotes the Common Core standards but whose supporters still call themselves “conservatives.” Among the organization’s supporters are Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), soon-to-be head of the Senate committee that oversees education; former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (R); former U.S. Secretary of Education Bill Bennett; Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad (R); Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam (R); former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R); and New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez (R).
The Fordham Institute, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and Bush’s national organization have all been awarded grants by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the primary private backer of the Common Core standards.
In 2013, Bush’s FEE itself received $3,500,000 from the Gates Foundation. Two million dollars of that was awarded to FEE “to support Common Core implementation,” and $1.5 million was “for general operating support….”

 

In addition to the Gates Foundation, FEE’s donor list includes names not unfamiliar to critics of the Common Core standards: the GE Foundation, the Helmsley Charitable Trust, News Corp, the Walton Family Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, Carnegie Corporation, the Schwab Foundation, Microsoft, Exxon Mobil, Paul Singer Foundation, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Intel, K12, Pearson, Scholastic, and Target.
Book publishers such as Pearson, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, K12, and Scholastic are all poised to reap billions off the sale of Common Core-aligned textbooks and instructional materials that school districts are forced to purchase if they want their students to succeed on the Common Core-aligned assessments. Similarly, technology companies will benefit from the online assessments and student data collection.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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