Archives for category: For-Profit

Every so often, I run into someone who says that he or she cannot take seriously the claim that there is such a thing as a “privatization” movement. They think that charter schools are public schools (I do not) and they scoff at any concern about for-profit schools. They say things like, “There have always been for-profit businesses in education, selling tests, textbooks, supplies, etc., why does it matter if some corporations run schools for profit?” In their eyes, corporate reform is innovative and risky, and no one—not even the for-profit corporations—is trying to privatize public education.

 

To anyone who questions the existence of the privatization movement, I recommend Doug Martin’s “Hoosier School Heist.” Martin is a blogger who holds a Ph.D. in nineteenth century American literature. He is a native of Indiana who is deeply versed in that state’s school politics and its major (and minor) players. His book is eye-opening; actually, his book is eye-popping. It is a no-holds-barred critique of Indiana’s politically and financially powerful privatization movement.

 

Martin’s critique shows the linkages among the free-marketeers, the Religious Right, and the greedy.

 

A few examples of his snappy style:

 

“Academic progress is irrelevant to voucher supporters, for the goal is not to improve schools through competition, as they claim, but to completely dismantle traditional public schools altogether. In fact, those calling for school privatization don’t want to hold anyone with profit motives accountable, as Florida has proven.”

 

He recognizes that vouchers and charters drain funding from public schools, leaving the latter with fewer teachers, fewer aides, fewer programs—“so for-profit education management companies can take them over with temporary teachers or justify starting charter schools by deeming the neighborhood schools as ‘failing.’”

 

He sees why Wall Street is involved in the charter industry. “Making money from disasters is a Wall Street specialty, and investors have jumped on the opportunity for school privatization. Besides generating tax-exempt bonds, stocks, and other shady financial gimmicks, school privatization allows big bank CEOs, private equity firm honchos, and hedge fund managers to collect interest on loans to non-unionized charter schools which employ a temporary teacher workforce….Unlike traditional public school boards, charter school boards are unelected, undemocratic, and cloaked in mystery. Their conflicts of interest enable schemes like high rent to waste public education money.”

 

Martin challenges the corporate-sponsored claims that the public schools are failing to produce a good workforce. He says that Indiana’s newspapers and TV stations “advertise corporate school talking points, portray front group spokespeople as ‘experts,’ and seldom, if ever, question that profit motives and rigged research behind the corporate-sponsored statements that our schools are failing.”

 

The Republican-dominated legislature has taken steps to cripple the funding of public schools. “To sneak more politically connected for-profit charter schools into Indiana, in 2010 legislators cut $300 million annually from the public school budget and mandated tax caps to purposely ensure the destruction of public schools….Since the state controls the purse strings, Republican lawmakers have purposely bolted in place everything needed to start closing down Indiana schools and expanding for-profit charter schools.”

 

Martin shows how the overuse of standardized testing has benefited corporate politicians like Mitch Daniels. Not only do they stifle the critical thinking skills needed in a democratic society, not only do they send millions to testing corporations, but they demoralize and drive out good teachers. This too sets public schools up for failure.

 

One of the valuable aspects of Doug Martin’s book is his careful dissection of the sponsors of corporate reform in Indiana. A key player is called the Mind Trust, which Martin cites as an exemplar of “crony capitalism.” Martin writes:

 

“The Mind Trust typifies America’s counterfeit political Left. Mouthing the rhetoric of class warfare, civil rights, and female empowerment, the mock liberals at Education Sector, the Center for American Progress, and the New America Foundation, all supportive of the Mind Trust specifically or school privatization in general (and most bringing home six-figure salaries), attack teachers unions and public schools and connive to mount in place a school system based on corporate profit, one which disenfranchises the female teachers and minority and poor students they claim to be helping.”

 

Martin calls out the enablers of the school privatization movement, such as Eli Lilly and the Lilly Endowment, reliable funders of privatization activities, and of Teach for America and the New Teacher Project, which will recruit the temporary teachers needed for the charters. He cites the power of ALEC in the Indiana legislature, whose members pushed to evaluate teachers by their students’ test scores and to judge colleges of education by the test scores of students taught by their graduates. He provides overviews of the anti-teacher, anti-union, privatization agenda of Stand for Children, DFER (Democrats for Education Reform), the Christian right, the Bradley Foundation, the DeVos family of Michigan, and the Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO), which promotes charters and vouchers.

 

Martin doesn’t offer any suggestions about how to combat the well-funded, interconnected organizations that are advancing the privatization agenda. His book contains valuable information about the privatization movement, its goals, its major players, and its strategies. He leaves it to voters to figure out how to save public education in Indiana.

 

Whether or not you live in Indiana, you should read this book. The major players like DFER and BAEO operate nationally. The activities in Indiana follow a script that is being enacted in many states, probably including yours.

 

Hoosier School Heist is listed on amazon.com, or you can obtain a copy by going to the website http://www.hoosierschoolheist.com.

This is an excellent series of articles on the rise of the privatization movement in Pennsylvania. The bottom line, as usual: Follow the money.

 

If you want to understand the growth of charter schools in Pennsylvania, you must read this bombshell article by Daniel Simmons-Ritchie.

 

The charter lobby has spent millions to influence legislators. It also has the ability to mobilize hundreds of children to pack legislators’ offices, a tactic unavailable to public schools.

 

Pennsylvania does not allow for-profit charter schools, yet there are many for-profit charter schools in the state.

 

Do you want to know who is making money by sponsoring charters? The article has the names and details.

 

It’s no secret that Harrisburg is a hive of lobbyists, each representing industries and interests that spend millions to persuade state lawmakers to bend laws in their favor.

 

But perhaps what makes the charter-school lobby unique among the pack, says State Rep. Bernie O’Neill, a Republican from Bucks County, is its ability to deploy children to its cause.

 

In 2014, O’Neill experienced that first hand after proposing changes to a funding formula that would affect charter schools. Parents and children stormed his office and barraged him with calls and emails.

 

“They were calling me the anti-Christ of everything,” O’Neill said. “Everybody was coming after me.”

 

In recent years, as charter schools have proliferated – particularly those run by for-profit management companies – so too has their influence on legislators. In few other places has that been more true than Pennsylvania, which is one of only 11 states that has no limits on campaign contributions from PACs or individuals.

 

According to a PennLive analysis of donations on Follow The Money, a campaign donation database, charter school advocates have donated more than $10 million to Pennsylvania politicians over the past nine years.

 

To be sure, charter-school advocacy groups aren’t the only ones spending big to influence education policy in the Keystone State. The Pennsylvania State Education Association, which represents 170,000 teachers and related professionals, has spent about $8.3 million over the same time period according to Follow The Money.

 

But what perhaps makes the influx of money from charter-school groups unique in Pennsylvania is the magnitude of spending by only a handful of donors and, in recent years, some of their high-profile successes in moving and blocking legislation.

 

“They are mobilized,” O’Neill said. “Let me tell you something: they are mobilized.”

 

 

The series is introduced with this summation:

 

“It’s a plan reviled by teachers, loathed by parents, and decried by local politicians, but against huge opposition, York may become the third city in America to privatize the entirety of one of its public school districts.

 

“How did a public school system in the midstate rise to the forefront of a national experiment in education reform? And how did an entire community lose control of its own decision-making ability? The answer to both those questions, education researchers and public watchdogs say, lies in large part on a concerted, multi-million dollar campaign over the past decade by for-profit schools to alter Pennsylvania law.

 

“Those changes, and the industry lobbying that continues behind-the-scenes, have implications for teachers and students across the entire state. It’s a subject we have tackled in a series entitled “The Rise of Charter Schools in Pa.”

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

http://keystonestateeducationcoalition.org
Visit us on Facebook at KeystoneStateEducationCoalition

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.”

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