Archives for category: Parent Groups

New North Carolina Champions Investment in Public Education

Raleigh, NC—February 4, 2013—Public Schools First NC, a new statewide, non-partisan, grassroots advocacy group committed to high-quality public schools for North Carolina, has formed out of deep concern about the growing threat to privatize and weaken North Carolina’s public schools.  Despite the fact that most North Carolinians regard public education as the foundation of North Carolina’s economic future and our best investment, public school funding has declined year after year and our children are bearing the brunt.

“We believe that North Carolina’s families deserve a public education system that is inclusive, innovative, responsive, and flexible—a system that operates within a framework of fairness, sound planning and local public accountability for tax dollars,” said Nick Rhodes, Public Schools First NC Board of Directors. “Adequate and equitable funding for all schools, effective teacher and principal recruitment, retention and support, and rich educational experiences will allow North Carolina to keep its rightful place as a state that leads the nation in excellent schools.”

Public Schools First NC supports:

  • Adequate, equitable funding reflecting at least the national average for each of North Carolina’s 115 school districts.
  • Increased funding for pre-school, because research demonstrates that high quality, early childhood education is a wise investment for communities and has lifelong, positive results for children.
  •  Excellent educational environments that are partnerships between schools, families, teachers and the community.
  •  Programs that encourage the retention of professional experienced teachers.
  •  A limited number of truly innovative charter schools designed to work with local school districts, managed with careful local and state oversight.
  •  A broad education—including literature, mathematics, the arts, history, civics, science, foreign languages, physical education, vocational education and new technological innovations—that allows students to thrive in a challenging, changing, and competitive global economy.

Public Schools First NC opposes:

  • Vouchers, tax credits, education savings accounts or other similar plans that take resources from our public schools—with little public oversight and even less evidence of success for students.
  •  Overuse and misuse of high stakes testing. Time and resources should be spent on hands on learning, creative problem solving, and a holistic curriculum. Test scores should not be used to punitively grade schools or evaluate teachers but as one of many tools that inform instruction.
  •  Educational “strategies” that ignore the impact of poverty on student success and blame teachers and schools.  We will hold our elected officials accountable f or addressing the growing rates of childhood poverty in North Carolina.

As our history shows, North Carolinians understand that education is the “great equalizer” for our citizens, and each child’s right to an excellent public education is guaranteed in our state constitution.

Public Schools First NC will be a voice to remind us all that our public schools are our first and best investment for North Carolina’s future.

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About Public Schools First NC:

Public Schools First NC (PSFNC) is a group of citizens, parents, teachers, businesses and organizations joining together to advocate for a first-rate public education system for all North Carolinians. To learn more or to join our organization, please visit: www.publicschoolsfirstnc.org

 

New Jersey Save Our Schools reminds us that “school choice” was closely associated with resistance to court-ordered school desegregation in the South. Not only vouchers but segregation academies (“schools of choice”) were havens for whites fleeing contact with blacks.

Save Our Schools NJ Statement on School Choice Week

This week, there will be a concerted national effort to use the idea of parental school choice to advance an entirely different agenda.

We want to remind our legislators and those marketing school choice that legitimate school choices:
• Ensure every child has access to a high-quality public school education;
• Do not segregate or discriminate against our children on the basis of income, English proficiency, special needs, race, gender, religion or sexual preference;
• Are transparent in the sources and uses of their funding and in their educational outcomes;
• Are democratically controlled by local communities.

Unfortunately, what is being promoted by “choice” advocates does not come even close to meeting these standards.

Vouchers arose in Southern states during the 1960s, as a method of perpetuating segregation. To prevent children of color from attending their all-white schools, some districts actually closed those public schools and issued vouchers to parents that were only good at privately segregated schools, known as segregation academies.

The more recent history of voucher use in other states confirms that they continue to increase segregation.

Unfortunately, many charter schools have the same segregating effect.

For example, the recent Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) study of New Jersey charter schools found that New Jersey’s traditional public schools served four and a half times as many students with Limited English Proficiency and one and a half times as many special-needs students as did the charter schools. Rutgers Professor Bruce Baker has documented that this segregation also includes income, with charter schools serving a wealthier population of students than comparable traditional public schools.

New Jersey Department of Education statistics confirm that a number of New Jersey charter schools are also segregated by race and ethnicity.

Until school choice advocates can ensure that greater options for some parents do not equal more segregation for all of our children, their claims of looking out for the needy do not ring true.

Joining an all-white country club is also a choice, but not one that we would ever support.

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Save Our Schools NJ is a nonpartisan, grassroots organization of parents and other concerned residents whose more than 10,000 members believe that all NJ children should have access to a high quality public education.

CPS Parents File Formal State Complaint Against UNO Charter Schools Updated

January 18, 2013 5:35pm | By Ted Cox, DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

(DNAinfo/Ted Cox)

CHICAGO — Education-reform groups, including the president of a Pilsen Local School Council, have filed a formal complaint with the state against the UNO Charter Schools Network.

Julie Woestehoff, executive director of Parents United for Responsible Education, and Rosemary Sierra, president of the Pilsen Academy LSC, filed the complaint in Chicago Thursday asking Illinois Executive Inspector General Ricardo Meza to probe UNO’s school finances.

The complaint charges that the United Neighborhood Organization, a Hispanic community group since the 1980s, has overleveraged its charter schools and is using more than $70 million in state-approved tax-exempt bonds in part to pay off private loans rather than fund education.

“I wondered what they were doing with all that money,” Woestehoff said Friday. “We found that they’re very overextended in their debt.”

The complaint cited $17.3 million in bonds for UNO and the Noble Charter Schools arranged through the Illinois Finance Authority in 2006. The IFA approved another $15.8 million in bonds for UNO in 2007 and an additional $35.9 million in 2011, which Woestehoff suggested went in part to pay interest on a reported $65 million loan UNO arranged with the help of Ald. Edward Burke (14th) in the darkest days of the financial collapse in 2008.

According to official nonprofit filings by UNO Charter Schools in 2011, it posted $69.6 million in overall assets and $71.2 million in liabilities for a net debt of $1.7 million. It claimed $61.9 million in mortgages and notes owed to third parties, with $2.9 million in interest paid for the year.

UNO has 13 charters in the Chicago Public Schools, and 12 received funding increases in the 2013 budget for a total outlay of $55.6 million. That’s tied directly to school attendance, but Woestehoff suggested that’s part of the problem, that UNO uses students as “collateral” in its loans.

Standard & Poor’s report in September 2011 gave the school bonds a BBB- rating, warning of “considerable growth risk with two schools opening.” It made clear that UNO’s ability to repay was based on school population.

“That money they’re getting that’s supposed to be for children is being used to pay their debt,” Woestehoff charged. “That doesn’t seem like a healthy situation.”

Asked to comment, UNO spokesman Ray Quintanilla invited media to visit the construction site of a new UNO high school on the South Side on Tuesday. “We will be happy to expand on other concrete measures UNO has taken to address student overcrowding at that time,” he added by text.

Ald. Daniel Solis (25th) is an UNO co-founder, and the agency has abundant political ties.

As a nonprofit agency, UNO is not allowed to play a role in political campaigns, but Chief Executive Officer Juan Rangel has skirted that by saying he makes endorsements as a private citizen, not as an UNO representative. He was co-chairman of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s campaign in 2011, and he backed Burke’s brother, Dan, in his state representative campaign against Rudy Lozano, Jr., with Rangel citing Lozano’s opposition to charter schools.

According to 2011 non-profit filings, Rangel has a salary of $207,000, and UNO’s chief operating officer, senior vice president, vice president and director of operations all make more than $100,000 each. They’re cited as officers with the UNO Charter Schools as well, which also pays two school directors over $100,000. The filing for UNO that year also posted $125,000 paid to the Edelman public relations firm for consulting.

UNO received $98 million from the state in 2009, the largest taxpayer subsidy to a single charter network. “There are no other charter networks getting anywhere near that money,” Woestehoff said.

According to Woestehoff, UNO was up for another $35 million state grant during the recent lame-duck session of the General Assembly, but it didn’t go through, although it’s pending. She said her complaint was filed in part to draw attention to UNO and encourage legislators to reconsider their support.

Cole Kain, chief of staff in the Office of Executive Inspector General, said he was forbidden to comment on any complaint filings or ongoing investigations.

“We have watched them grow into a political powerhouse,” Woestehoff said of UNO. “We looked at how they started and got into the charter school business, and when I say business, I mean business.”

Spring is coming.

People are standing up and speaking up.

Teachers at Garfield High in Seattle say “no more.”

Teachers at Ballard High School support their colleagues at Garfield.

The Seattle Education Association supports the Garfield and Ballard teachers.

Randi Weingarten tweeted her support.

Superintendents, one after another, are saying the testing obsession is out of control.

The principals of New York State stand together to demand professional evaluation, not trial by testing.

Parents are defending their children by supporting their teachers and their community schools.

The PTA of Niagara County in New York say hands off our public schools.

Communities are opposing school closings and corporate takeovers.

Students are speaking out because they know what is happening to them is not right.

Journalists are starting to recognize that the “reformers” are not real reformers but privatizers.

It is starting to happen.

We will put education back into the hands of educators and parents and communities.

We will work to make our schools better than ever, not by competition, but by collaboration.

Last year, someone emailed and asked me to create and lead the movement to stop the corporate reformers, and I said I couldn’t do it, that all I can do is write and speak.

That truly is all I can do, but when I started this blog in late April, it turned into a platform for the movement, and leaders are emerging all over the country, and learning about each other. They are communicating.

I am not the leader, I am the facilitator. You are the leaders.

A Néw York City parent organization has created a report card for Michelle Rhee. Good read.

Here is a great new parent and community group supporting strong public schools in Tennessee.

Please check it out.

Are there active parent groups in Memphis? Chatanooga? Knoxville? Other cities and towns?

Please write to let us know.

As I travel the country, I am often astonished to see how discouraged educators and parents are by the unproven schemes foisted on their schools by politicians.

The worst of these schemes come from radical politicians who think that government should get out of the business of providing public education.

They want education to be a commodity that you pick up whenever you want, wherever you want.

That is their ideal, though they are far from accomplishing it because it is fundamentally a very idiotic idea.

Governor Bobby Jindal is on that track in Louisiana.

Governor Rick Snyder is pushing hard in Michigan to ensure that education is available “any time, any place, anywhere, anyhow,” or words to that effect.

He doesn’t see to see any purpose or value in public education or public schools.

He recently got a report from a pretentiously named group of faithful right-wing operatives who call themselves the “Oxford Foundation,” even though they have nothing to do with Oxford University and they are not a foundation. They are Republican party wonks, cranking out what the governor wants.

The basic idea behind many of the radical deregulatory schemes is to strap the money to the child’s back (usually called either “fair student funding” or “weighted student funding” or some variation thereof) and then let the student take the money anywhere.

To a local public school; to a religious school; to a for-profit virtual charter; to a trade school; to anyone who hangs out a shingle or advertises on TV. In time, there would be no limits on what sort of institution fits the rubric of “any place, any time.”

Yes, there is pushback. I recently met with a group of superintendents in Michigan whose districts encompass nearly half the children in the state: They are not happy. They are discouraged. In private, one said this whole approach is “educational malpractice.”

And the parents are organizing.

I recently received this excellent post from Michigan Parents for Schools.

The parents understand that what is happening will destroy their schools and their communities.

They know more about their children and about education than Governor Snyder and the “Oxford Foundation.”

The best way to stop this madness is to educate the public. Educate parents.

Bottom line: Vote the rascals out.

People often ask me: How can parents and teachers hope to beat the big money that is buying elections in state and local races around the nation? What chance do we have when they can dump $100,000, $200,000, $500,000 into a race without breaking a sweat?

True, they have a lot of money. But they have no popular base. The only time they win votes is when they trick voters with false rhetoric and pie-in-the-sky promises. They call themselves “reformers,” when they are in fact privatizers.

They claim they know how to close the achievement gap but their standard-bearer, Michelle Rhee, left DC with the biggest achievement gap of all big cities in the nation.

They claim to be leading the “civil rights issue” of our day, but can you truly imagine a civil rights movement led by billionaires, Wall Street hedge fund managers, ALEC, and rightwing think tanks?

They say they love teachers even as they push legislation to cut teachers’ pensions and take away their job rights and their right to join a union.

There are two reasons they will fail:

First, none of their ideas has ever succeeded, whether it’s high-stakes testing, charters, vouchers, merit pay or test-based teacher evaluations.

But even more important, the public is getting wise. The public has figured out the corporate reform strategy. In state after state, parents are organizing.

Here is one great example in Texas, of all places.

Similar groups of parents are organizing in every state. Even students are getting active in the movement to protect the commons.

When the public gets wise, the privatization movement dies.

Leonie Haimson has some excellent ideas about where to make budget cuts and how to raise revenues to protect children in the looming fiscal crisis.

Haimson is executive director of Class Size Matters in New York City and has long been the city’s leading parent activist. Her ability to analyze research and budgets is astounding. Her courage in fighting for students and parents is unmatched.

Leonie Haimson was among the first people to be placed on the honor roll as a champion of public education. She was one of the original founders of Parents Across America.

She is a tireless and effective advocate who makes a difference in improving the lives of children.

A teacher in Memphis writes about how parents in her school reacted to the announcement that it would be taken over by the Achievement School District and turned into a charter school. Her school is poor but it has made steady growth and is not one of the lowest performing schools in the city. The media in Memphis, she says, is not reporting the genuine rage of the local black community:

First, see this article in my local paper about the state takeover of 10 more schools and the meetings about that takeover:

http://www.commercialappeal.com/news/2012/nov/07/10-more-memphis-schools-to-be-taken-over-by/

I am a teacher at one of those schools in Frayser, a neighborhood the Achievement School District (ASD) seems to have targeted since they took over three schools there last year. The article notes that 6 of the 10 schools taken over will be run by charter operators.

I attended the meeting last night at Pursuit of God in Frayser, an impoverished and predominantly black neighborhood. The crowd was angry that their children’s teachers were going to be fired and that their children would have to adapt to a whole new school. They spoke about the great current teachers in their schools. They wanted to know what was going to make these schools better, and there was no one from the ASD who could explain that.

There was also concern expressed by a 30-year veteran teacher and resident of Frayser that this was an attempt to segregate the poor black neighborhood of Frayser from the rest of the county in the upcoming merger of Memphis City and Shelby County School Systems.

The community at the meeting was very antagonistic to state takeover. I overheard an employee of the church comment, “We got a tough crowd tonight,” and the ASD people were clearly uncomfortable.

I expected an article in the local paper to mention the atmosphere at the meeting.

The media ran this segment: http://www.wmctv.com/story/20049306/tn-asd-getting-set-to-take-over-more-memphis-schools

And the paper did not report on the events of the meeting. The shot of the crowd was purposefully taken while most of them were in the other room getting refreshments. There was no other coverage of the meeting in the media.

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