Archives for category: Michigan

An article in Huffington Post reports on a study by University of Michigan researchers, led by Professor Sarah Reckhow, who found that the rhetoric of charter schools is very appealing to the public, especially to conservatives. Think of it: charters promise high achievement, better graduation rates, student success, all at a reduced cost to taxpayers. They promise that every child will go to a four-year college; not just any college, but an Ivy League college. Promise them anything but give them Arpege (for those not old enough to remember, that was a perfume ad, but lots of other words are substituted for “Arpege,” like “the shaft,” or “tyranny,” or “nothing.”). Promises, very alluring. Put that rhetoric against the reality of public schools, where some students don’t succeed, some don’t graduate, and some have low achievement. Supporters of public schools need to hone their rhetoric; the public likes the idea of non-union schools, at least in Michigan, and they don’t seem troubled by the idea of privatization. The language used by charter advocates has great appeal, even when it is not true. That must be why snake oil salesmen made a lot of money hawking their wares at state fairs in the 19th century, and why diet books continue to be best-sellers. It is the old P.T. Barnum rule.

 

Although charters are supported more by conservatives than liberals, they have bipartisan support, most notably from President Obama and Secretary Duncan. Add to that the strong charter advocacy of Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, John Kasich, Rick Snyder, Rick Scott, Nathan Deal, and every other conservative governor, as well as ALEC, and it is a winning combination, politically if not educationally.

 

 

Groups against the expansion of charter schools typically argue that charter schools serve to privatize public education, thereby exacerbating existing inequalities. Supporters of charter schools, on the other hand, say that they offer parents a choice, and that employing nonunion teachers can help spur innovation.

 

The researchers found that self-reported conservatives were more likely to express support for charter schools when they learned that these schools employed nonunion teachers, while liberals were more likely to turn against charter schools when presented with information about the role of private companies in their operations — although this made less of an impact. Arguments against unions seemed to resonate more strongly with participants, and made them significantly more likely to support charter schools….

 

[Professor Sarah] Reckhow also noted that when people were asked if they support the proliferation of charter schools in their communities versus in the state’s lowest-performing districts, they were more likely to favor increasing the number of charter schools in failing areas. She told HuffPost she thought this was because respondents might be satisfied with their local school options, and might be more likely to support charter schools in places where they feel distant from the schools’ impact.

 

Still, certain aspects about Michigan politics and the state’s charter landscape may have also impacted the results.

 

“Michigan recently became a ‘right-to-work’ state,” noted Reckhow. This means that in Michigan, it is illegal to require groups of workers to pay union dues as a precondition for employment. In recent years, union membership in Michigan has dropped.

 

“This is a visible issue in Michigan,” said Reckhow. “Once you bring unions into the equation, it does affect public perception.”

 

The survey did not measure participants’ reactions to charter schools after learning about their academic results, although Reckhow said she would have been curious to see that data.

 

“In Michigan, charter schools run the gamut — some schools are high-performing and do better than nearby public schools, and a good number of charter schools are in the bottom 25 percent of schools in the state, they probably should be shut down but they’re not being shut down,” said Reckhow. “The limitation of the study is we really can’t deal with that type of question.”

 

Interesting that people liked the idea of charters…for other people’s children.

Just when you think you have heard it all, another amazing for-profit charter scandal emerges

Imagine this: an optometrist in Michigan comes up with an insight about learning: Children learn VISUALLY. So he founds a charter school and recruits other optometrists to serve on the board. In time, he has four charters, and their scores are about average for the state.

But Michigan, as the Detroit Free Press documented last year in a week-long exposé, has almost no accountability or transparency for charters, most of which are operated for profit.

Eventually, lawyers for the school noticed that the founder was borrowing large sums from the schools and repaying them by borrowing from other schools in his chain. Somehow, hundreds of thousands of dollars of public funds were somehow left in his personal bank account or that of his wife.

His trial is set to begin next month.

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.”

Lloyd Lofthouse comments on a post about the decision by the State Attorney General to divert dedicated public school funds to the building of a new hockey stadium:

 

Lloyd writes:

 

 

More examples of what the corporate reformers bring to the table of teaching children.

 

1. In Los Angeles, money that was designated by the voters to repair and improve schools, was spend on iPads boosting profits for Apple and software developers.

 

2. In Michigan, the reformers take money meant to support public schools and built an arena to host ice hockey for a private-sector owned team.

 

This is an example of what will happen as the fake Pub-Ed reformers get the upper hand in cities and states across the country.

 

Who do we thank for this mess?

 

A. Bill Gates
B. the Walton family
C. The Koch brothers.
D. All of the above and a few more

 

Mike Ilitch, The owner of the Red Wings, has an estimated net worth of $1.7 billion. Who else does he own? Does he own the governor of Michigan? Does he own the majority of the state legislature?

 

The team value of the Detroit Red Wings is $570 million with annual revenue of $134 million.

 

http://www.forbes.com/teams/detroit-red-wings/

The Attorney General of Michigan ruled that it was appropriate to use school funding to build a new hockey arena for the Red Wings.

“Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette quietly issued an opinion that said state taxes for schools can legally be used to fund the arena’s construction. The opinion came in response to a request in October from state Rep. Rose Mary Robinson (D-Detroit), who asked if it was a constitutional use of the funds.

“In her request, Robinson pointed to a section of the Michigan Constitution, which says that money from the state School Aid Fund is to be used “exclusively” for public schools and colleges in Michigan.

“Some quick background: Robinson’s request stems from the structure of how the Red Wings arena will be financed. An estimated 58 percent of the cost to construct the arena will funded by public tax dollars, about $261 million….”

“Whether you agree that public tax dollars should be used for the project, or decry the idea of subsidizing a billionaire’s arena, the fact is that schools in Michigan could use all the help they can get. Even if it is only $15 million.

“For example, this past May, Michigan officials lowered revenue projections for state school taxes over the next year by nearly $80 million. This was seen as a big deal when the revised projections were released. And if facets of a recent state House plan to support road funding — by phasing out the sales tax on gasoline and replace it with an increase to fuel taxes — gains traction when lawmakers hash out a compromise this week, that could cost deplete school taxes of “hundreds of millions of dollars,” according to one study.

“And while Robinson hasn’t said this outright, her point speaks to a larger concern about the current revitalization in downtown Detroit: No one questions the fact that it’s a positive sign to see young millennials moving into the city. But what will those transplants do when they have children later in life and want to send them to school — in Detroit?

“I represent Detroit, and I represent the center of Detroit, the core,” Robinson told MLive. “And our priorities are our children, schools, police protection, basic essential city services. Give us that. Take your arena … it’s just not fair.”

Larry Miller is a member of the Milwaukee school district. Milwaukee has been a district subjected to the reform nostrums of choice for the past 25 years. It has a large charter sector and a large voucher sector. The shrinking public schools have a much larger proportion of students with disabilities than the other two sectors, which don’t want them. Despite the skimming practices of the two privatized sectors, neither the charter or voucher sectors outperform the public schools. Choice has not lifted all boats; in fact, it has shown no results other than to shrink the public schools. The city’s “independent” evaluator says that the voucher schools have a higher graduation rate, but that higher rate is accompanied by a 44% attrition rate.

 

Now the business community and other “reformers” in Milwaukee decided that having lots of charters and voucher schools is not enough. They want the whole district to be converted to a New Orleans-style charter district. Apparently no one told them that the majority of charter schools in the Recovery School District in New Orleans are rated D or F by the charter-friendly state. Or that the New Orleans district is ranked 65th out of 68 districts in the state in academic performance.

 

Milwaukee school board member Larry Miller here briefly reviews the nation’s four “recovery-style school districts”: the one in New Orleans, the Achievement School District in Tennessee, the Education Achievement Authority in Michigan, and the Opportunity Educational Institution in Virginia. The bottom line: parents lose representation and voice; staff are fired; academic achievement is stagnant.

Here is Mercedes Schneider with a brilliant post about the Obama U.S. Department of Education. She writes brief sketches of eight key appointees, each of whom is tied to the privatization movement.

 

When the President wonders why his party was so badly beaten at the polls earlier this month, he might think about the millions of educators who work in public schools and the millions of parents whose children attend good public schools; they are disgusted by Race to the Top, non-stop testing, test-based teacher evaluation, the Department’s preference for charter schools over public schools, and the millions of public dollars directed to TFA and charter schools. Educators were at one time a key part of the base of the Democratic party. As states like Michigan, Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio, Louisiana, North Carolina, and Tennessee lashed out at teachers, no protest was heard from Arne Duncan. As billions were cut from school budgets in Michigan and Pennsylvania, the Obama administration was silent (Duncan wrote a letter to Governor Corbett of Pennsylvania about the defunding of Philadelphia, but it was a faint protest, not like actually showing up). At present, educators and parents feel abandoned by both parties.

In a shocking decision, the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 that the state has no legal responsibility to provide a quality education to every child. The case centered on the Highland Park school district, where achievement was lagging; the state turned the entire district over to a for-profit charter operator that had no track record of improving low-performng schools. The American Civil Liberties Union had filed the suit.

 

In a blow to schoolchildren statewide, the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled on Nov. 7 the State of Michigan has no legal obligation to provide a quality public education to students in the struggling Highland Park School District.
A 2-1 decision reversed an earlier circuit court ruling that there is a “broad compelling state interest in the provision of an education to all children.” The appellate court said the state has no constitutional requirement to ensure schoolchildren actually learn fundamental skills such as reading — but rather is obligated only to establish and finance a public education system, regardless of quality. Waving off decades of historic judicial impact on educational reform, the majority opinion also contends that “judges are not equipped to decide educational policy.”

 

“This ruling should outrage anyone who cares about our public education system,” said Kary L. Moss, executive director of the American Civil Liberties of Michigan. “The court washes its hands and absolves the state of any responsibility in a district that has failed and continues to fail its children.”

 

The decision dismisses an unprecedented “right-to-read” lawsuit filed by the ACLU of Michigan in July 2012 on behalf of eight students of nearly 1,000 children attending K-12 public schools in Highland Park, Mich. The suit, which named as defendants the State of Michigan, its agencies charged with overseeing public education and the Highland Park School District, maintained that the state failed to take effective steps to ensure that students are reading at grade level.

 

“Let’s remember it was the state that turned the entire district over to a for-profit charter management company with no track record of success with low performing schools,” said Moss. “It is the state that has not enforced the law that requires literacy intervention to children not reading at grade level. It is the state’s responsibility to ensure and maintain a system of education that serves all children.”

 

In a dissenting opinion, appellate court judge Douglas Shapiro accused the court of “abandonment of our essential judicial roles, that of enforcement of the rule of law even where the defendants are governmental entities, and of protecting the rights of all who live within Michigan’s borders, particularly those, like children, who do not have a voice in the political process.”

 

MEAP test results from 2012 painted a bleak picture for Highland Park students and parents. In the 2013-14 year, no fewer than 78.9 percent of current fourth graders and 73 percent of current seventh graders will require the special intervention mandated by statute. By contrast, 65 percent of then-fourth graders and 75 percent of then-seventh graders required statutory intervention entering the 2012-13 school year.

 

At the time the state of Michigan decided to privatize the Highland Park schools and turn them over to the Leona Group, some saw it as a last-ditch effort to save the district from its debt. 

 

The Wall Street Journal wrote in 2012:

 

Phoenix-based Leona will receive $7,110 per pupil in state funding, plus an as-yet-undetermined amount of federal funds for low-income and special education students. In addition, the Highland Park district will pay Leona a $780,000 annual management fee.

 

Unions have been sidelined after the district’s entire professional staff was laid off, as allowed by the state emergency law, but teachers can apply for jobs with Leona. Leona has budgeted about $36,000 a year for Highland Park teachers on average, the company said—compared with almost $65,000 a year the teachers received in the 2010-11 school year.

 

In a typical school it takes over, Leona has hired back about 70% of the teachers, the company said. Leona also will lease the Highland Park district’s buildings.

 

Under the five-year contract with Leona, the new city charter board will monitor the company’s progress in improving student performance.

 

Leona runs 54 schools in five states. Students in almost half of them fail state academic benchmarks. But of its 22 Michigan schools, 19 meet the mark, Leona officials said.

 

Leona Chief Executive William Coats said the company had no incentive to cut corners in Highland Park. “As we build equity, we give that back to the schools,” he said during Wednesday’s meeting when an audience member raised doubts about the for-profit approach. “We’re trying to manage this so you [the district] stay in business.”

 

Highland Park is where Henry Ford opened his first assembly line and Chrysler Corp. built its original headquarters. It has suffered the same ills as Detroit, its larger neighbor: an exodus of auto jobs, depressed housing stock and a surge in crime.

 

The city, which spreads across three square miles, lost nearly 30% of its population from 2000 to 2010, according to the latest U.S. Census. Nearly half of the 11,776 residents live below the poverty line.

 

Students and parents complain of dirty classrooms, exposed wiring in the schools, rationed textbook and swimming pools—once used by powerhouse swim teams—that now sit drained of water.

 

John Holloway, the school board president, said the problems became a “runaway train that we could not stop.”

 

As the situation worsened, the state gave the district a $4 million loan in July 2011 and advanced it $450,000 more earlier this year just to meet its payroll.

 

A union-backed initiative that could go to voters statewide in November seeks to repeal the emergency-manager law under which Ms. Parker was appointed to run the district. The law had been strengthened in 2011 by the governor.

 

Glenda McDonald, a Highland Park resident and laid-off teacher, said that the problem was not entirely the fault of the community. “The disinvestment in our communities led to the disinvestment in our schools, and that’s why people left,” she said. “We had nothing to offer them.”

 

After Leona took over, things did not go well. Enrollment dropped sharply. The company closed the district’s high school. It agreed to waive its fee for one year because of a lingering deficit.

 

 

Last year, the school board of Lansing, Michigan, voted to eliminate music, art, and physical education from its elementary schools. It was a budget-cutting measure. Where were the “reformers”? Silence. Do you remember the strong statement from Secretary Duncan? Neither do I.

 

After the teachers of the arts and physical education were laid off, the job of teaching those subjects was assigned to the regular classroom teachers. No specialists, no art teachers, no music teachers, no gym teachers.

 

Remember that old idea about equality of educational opportunity? This isn’t it.

 

 

 

 

Jane Slaughter describes what she calls the neoliberal assault on Michigan, and she adds in Wisconsin as well. The assault consists of a plan to end collective bargaining and to weaken the unions so they are unable to protect the benefits for working people.

I am not sure why she calls this movement “neoliberal,” as it seems that the main movers and shakers are far-right conservatives who always hated unions.

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