Archives for category: Privatization

Ginia Bellafante has a dynamite article in The Néw York Times about a new protest organization called the “Hedge Clippers.”

The Hedge Clippers picket, demonstrate, and call attention to the political activities of the 1%. In addition to promoting the proliferation of charter schools, they lobby for low taxes–on the rich.

“Two weeks ago, several busloads of New Yorkers made a pilgrimage to Greenwich, Conn., to visit the waterfront estate of the hedge fund titan Paul Tudor Jones II, where, suffice it to say, they were not invited in to see the china. It was a rainy Saturday afternoon and the protesters, many of them ordinary working people who have felt cheated by the inequities of a tax system that favors the rarefied few, were there to call attention to Mr. Jones’s educational agenda, built on the premise that the extravagantly rich know better how to teach reading, and to his support of Republican candidates and causes in the New York State Legislature that disadvantage the poor and working class.”

Mr. Jones was one of the funders last year of the multi-million dollar TV campaign to stop Mayor de Blasio’s effort to deny public space to charter schools and to charge rent to those that could afford to pay. Not only was that campaign to stop the mayor successful, but Governor Cuomo persuaded the legislature that all charters in Néw York City were entitled to free public space, regardless of their assets, and the city had to pay their rent if they were located in private space.

While fighting to protect and expand charter schools, the hedge funders supported a group called Néw Yorkers for a Balanced Albany, which helped Republicans retain control of the State Senate. That is their guarantee that there will be no new taxes on the 1% and minimal new funding for traditional public schools.

Meanwhile, Governor Cuomo received millions from Wall Street for his re-election campaign, and he spoke at a charter school rally last year where he declared his fealty to charters. Only 3% of the students in Néw York state are enrolled in charter schools. In 2012, Cuomo said he would be the “students’ lobbyist.” Now we know that what he meant was that he would be the charter students’ lobbyist.

I have not read this book yet, but it looks like a must read. People are always asking, “What can I do to save our public schools? What can I do to stop the hideous explosion of testing?” This book offers answers.

An Activist Handbook for the Education Revolution

United Opt Out’s Test of Courage

Edited by:
Morna M. McDermott, United Opt Out National
Peggy Robertson, United Opt Out National
Rosemarie Jensen, United Opt Out National
Ceresta Smith, United Opt Out National

Published 2014

Contributions by: Rosemarie Jensen, Shaun Johnson, Morna McDermott, Laurie Murphy, Peggy Robertson, Ruth Rodriguez, Tim Slekar, Ceresta Smith, United Opt Out National

Forward by Ricardo Rosa, University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth

This book is intended for educators, parents and community activists interested in reclaiming our public schools and reclaiming the public narrative around education policy. The book infuses research about the recent history of education policy reform, the strategies United Opt Out uses for fighting back against these policies, and proposes solutions that work to create sustainable, equitable, anti-racist, democratic and meaningful public education. This book is for anyone interested in an “insider’s look” behind the scene of forming an organization, or leading a resistance. Simultaneously the book provides scholarly-based research about the broader issues, policies and data around education reform, and the opt out movement.

Education policy has been heating up ever since NCLB but especially since the roll out of Race to The Top and the Common Core State Standards. Nationally publicized debates and discord over these policies are garnering public attention of teachers, parents, and whole communities. We hope this book will add to the library of other recent books such as Mercedes Schneider’s A Chronicle of Echoes (2014), Diane Ravitch’s Reign of Error (2013) and Bowers & Thomas (eds) Detesting and Degrading Schools (2012), that have exposed the complex corporate interest in shaping education policies and the destructive influence such policies will have on our children and on our democracy. This book uses first person narratives infused with research and scholarship, to create personalized accounts into the life of education activism. Each chapter includes an Activists Handbook section to provide support for our activist/readers in their own efforts. We hope that our experiences will inspire others to take this charge upon themselves as well.

CONTENTS

Acknowledgements. Forward by Ricardo Rosa. Introduction- by Peg Robertson. CH 1: Predators, Colonizers, and Corporate-Model Reform- By Morna McDermott. CH 2: Who We Are- By Morna McDermott. CH 3: Changing the Narrative- By Ceresta Smith. CH 4: Occupy This- By Peg Robertson. CH 5: Taking Action- By Shaun Johnson, Ceresta Smith, and Morna McDermott. CH 6: Every Narrative Has a Lens: The Value of Social Justice- By Ceresta Smith and Morna McDermott. Ch 7: A Case Study in Reform Failure: The Inconvenient Truth- By Ruth Rodriguez. Ch 8: Strategizing 101- By Laurie Murphy. CH 9: Where Do We Go From Here -By Tim Slekar. Conclusion- By Rosemarie Jensen. APPENDIX.

Steve Matthews, superintendent of the Novi school district, here explains how the education profession has been attacked and demonized, with premeditation.

 

He begins:

 

So you want to kill a profession.

 

It’s easy.

 

First you demonize the profession. To do this you will need a well-organized, broad-based public relations campaign that casts everyone associated with the profession as incompetent and doing harm. As an example, a well-orchestrated public relations campaign could get the front cover of a historically influential magazine to invoke an image that those associated with the profession are “rotten apples.”

 

Then you remove revenue control from the budget responsibilities of those at the local level. Then you tell the organization to run like a business which they clearly cannot do because they no longer have control of the revenue. As an example, you could create a system that places the control for revenue in the hands of the state legislature instead of with the local school board or local community.

 

Then you provide revenue that gives a local agency two choices: Give raises and go into deficit or don’t give raises so that you can maintain a fund balance but in the process demoralize employees. As an example, in Michigan there are school districts that have little to no fund balance who have continued to give raises to employees and you have school districts that have relatively healthy fund balances that have not given employees raises for several years.

 

Then have the state tell the local agency that it must tighten its belt to balance revenue and expenses. The underlying, unspoken assumption being that the employees will take up the slack and pay for needed supplies out of their own pockets.

 

Additionally , introduce “independent” charters so that “competition” and “market-forces” will “drive” the industry. However, many of these charters, when examined, give the illusion of a better environment but when examined show no improvement in service. The charters also offer no comprehensive benefits or significantly fewer benefits for employees. So the charters offer no better quality for “customers” and no security for employees but they ravage the local environment.

 

Then create a state-mandated evaluation system in an effort to improve quality…..

 

That is how it begins.

 

For his willingness to speak out honestly and courageously, I add Steve Matthews to the blog’s honor roll as a hero of public education.

 

 

 

WOW.

This is a remarkable and candid story of Jorge Cabrera, who joined the reform movement as a believer. He wanted to help the children of Bridgeport, where he grew up. He wanted better schools. He was a community organizer for Excel Schools.

And then he learned the truth.

“As I began my work in the “education reform movement” in Bridgeport, I noticed a plethora of ivy league educated “consultants” and “transformational leaders” that littered the often loose coalition of funders, new organizations and executive directors. From the beginning, it was clear that many of these new “leaders” that were emerging were well credentialed. They had graduated from prestigious universities and, it was presumed (though not by me), that alone qualified them to lead. Many were very young (recent graduates), energetic, unmarried with no children and little life experience. They often exhibited a cultish commitment to “the movement.” Their zeal for “education reform” and “saving the children” often resulted in a bizarre abdication of critical thinking that made a mockery of their high priced “education.” For instance, in many meetings I attended, many of these acolytes extolled the virtues of charter schools as the only solution to closing the achievement gap in Bridgeport but never once did anyone bother to discuss the ample research (i.e. “Teaching with Poverty in Mind” ) available regarding the negative impact of poverty on academic achievement or that Bridgeport had several public magnet schools that outperformed (as measured by standardized test scores) many charter schools. These magnet schools had long track records (20 plus years) of success and I assumed we should advocate for what we know, firmly, works. Despite this evidence, there was never any serious discussion regarding expanding magnet school options or advocating for high quality, universal preschool programs (research shows the achievement gap begins at this level). The entire approach to “education reform” lacked any serious understanding of the many variables (i.e., social-emotional issues, poverty, funding, English language learners) that clearly effect a child’s ability to learn. Anytime a more dynamic and multifaceted approach to closing the achievement gap was raised it was quickly dismissed as “making excuses.” The atmosphere vacillated between a callous indifference to the real challenges Bridgeport children faced and arrogant dismissiveness. Permeated throughout these various organizations that formed a loose network of power was a culture that prized blind dedication to the “mission” and socially affirmed and promoted those who obeyed and exhibited “urgency” in “reforming” the “failing schools.” The people in “the movement” made it clear that it was up to the “best and brightest” of minds to “transform” the “system” as “outside influencers.” By “best and brightest” they almost exclusively meant people who would do their bidding without question and certainly not anyone that would exhibit any degree of independent or critical thought. On more than one occasion, when the argument was made that the solutions to the multilayered challenge of public education needed to come from the people and required an authentic, engaging process with the Bridgeport community the response was often glib at best. I recall in one strategic planning meeting when I advocated for authentic engagement and patience to allow parents the time to become informed on the various issues and was told to, “just use language to convince” the parents and impress upon them a sense of “urgency.” Another person told me, “It’s all about how you say it…..”

“I began to sense that someone or something I was not fully aware of was calling the shots behind the scenes and many of these young ivy leaguers were the mercenaries on the front lines tasked with implementing the agenda. This whole enterprise was quickly becoming astroturfing and I was in the middle of it. Worse, I was starting to feel like I was hired to put lipstick on a pig and it was beginning to burn me on the inside. Nevertheless, through it all, I never gave up hope and tried to create spaces for honest, authentic and fact based discussions inside “the movement” with limited success.”

The reformers decided that Bridgeport needed mayoral control, so the mayor could open more charters faster. In the run-up to the election, high-priced media consultants arrived to take charge.

“Immediately, the focus was on marketing and sloganeering. Worse, we were trying to build the plane while it was in the air! The whole thing was rushed and disorganized. We were told to make sure we communicated to the public that voting in favor of the city charter change was good for parents, students and would lead to better academic outcomes. The insinuation was that anyone who was against the charter revision changes was anti-child or anti-education. When parents or community leaders asked questions that required more substantive, fact based responses we were coached to respond to everything in soundbites and with shallow arguments that lacked any grounding in reality. It was the worse kind of insult to the community’s intelligence and pandered to the worse aspects of human nature and—it almost worked.”

” My nearly three years in the “movement” in Bridgeport revealed to me the incredible lengths that private, often unseen and unaccountable power will go to in order to create and capitalize on a crisis. In Bridgeport, that crisis in our public education system was created by powerful forces at the local and state level who systematically starved the school system by withholding necessary school funding (Shock #1) which then created a crisis that set the stage for a takeover (Shock #2) of the Bridgeport board of education on the eve of the fourth of July in 2011. Essentially, these forces were engaged in a form of social engineering under the guise of “urgency” and “reform.” To be clear, in this “movement” there are people who have good intentions and sincerly want to improve the conditions of Bridgeport’s public schools but they do not sit at the tables of power when strategic decisions are made and their voices are often silenced. Their talents, skills and knowledge are often used to serve a larger, opaque agenda that is dictated by a radical ideology of deregulation and privatization. Shot throughout most, if not all, of the education reform “movement” you will find the radical ideology of economist Milton Friedman. Looking back, there were moments when this mindset (disaster capitalism) was revealed to me in meetings. On one occassion, a very influential operator in the “education reform” community was discussing the “amazing opportunity” that revealed itself after hurricane Katrina in New Orleans desimated the population and led to the “charterization” of the public school system. He expounded that sometimes you have to, “…burn the village to save it…” and that what we (the “reform community”) are essentially involved in is, “creative destruction.” Worse, he argued that we needed a “clean slate” in order for real “change” to happen in the school system in Bridgeport. But this was my home. This was the city I grew up in and where most of my family lived and worked. You want to burn down their city!? You want to destroy it so you can be creative!? For whom? It was all surreal. I was done.”

It’s an incredible story that confirms your darkest suspicions.

A reader saw the earlier post about the ruin caused by privatization in Chile and wrote this post about Colombia:

 

 

I live and work in Colombia. The same was tried here. Perhaps Colombia drank the “Chilean miracle” koolaid, or perhaps it’s simply that Colombians tend to think anything that comes from abroad (particularly if its roots are in the US) must be golden. The private system insisted it could and would provide better education than the public schools, so the government provided funding for what we would call charters, but here are really just private schools. Among the results: lots of fraud, lots of tiny primary schools opening and closing in garages, often leaving kids with no chance to get into other schools until the next term…if they were lucky, since private schools don’t have to let them in, and there aren’t enough seats in the public schools any more. Inequality is very high, even though the government includes some aspects of social democracy, like nearly universal health care and a progressive tax policy. (The pension system was privatized too, and that’s been a disaster for most people, but I digress.) I can’t speak to whether inequality is actually greater than before the education reforms, but I wouldn’t be surprised if that were the case. Certainly the public schools lost funds, as anyone who had enough money to pay tuition (yes, not only did these schools get government funds, but they were allowed to charge tuition), enrolled and still enroll their kids in “private” schools on the assumption that public schools are the worst possible option, even though public school kids regularly win scholarships to attend public universities of excellent quality.

 

Since I moved here in 2006, scores on international tests like the PISA, have dropped. The sorely underfunded public schools have continued to produce most of the top scorers on the ICFES, a national exam required for university entrance, similar to the SAT or ACT. That wasn’t enough to open the government’s eyes. It was the drop in scores on international tests that finally did it. As a result (YAY!), recently, the government stopped funding the private/charter schools. I don’t know if this means the public system will get more funding – I hope it does, because they need a big infusion. Since I’ve been here, there aren’t enough public schools to provide an education for all the children whose families can’t afford a private one. Now, finally, the push is on to build enough to solve that problem. It’s not like our education policy leaders would have to go far to see what NOT to do: Colombia’s a mere four hour flight from Miami. There are none so blind as those who will not look, much less see.

Why do we refuse to learn from successful nations? The top ten high-performing nations do not test every child every year.

 

Why aren’t we willing to learn from educational disasters in other nations? Take Chile, for example.

 

In this post, two scholars–Alfredo Gaete and Stephanie Jones–explain what happened in Chile when national leaders imposed the free-market ideas of two libertarian economists, Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman.

 

Inspired by the ideas of such neoliberal economists as Hayek and Friedman, the “Chilean experiment” was meant to prove that education can achieve its highest quality when its administration is handed over mainly to the private sector and, therefore, to the forces of the market.

 

 

How did they do this?

 

 

Basically by creating charter schools with a voucher system and a number of mechanisms for ensuring both the competition among them and the profitability of their business. In this scenario, the state has a subsidiary but still important role, namely, to introduce national standards and assess schools by virtue of them (in such a way that national rankings can be produced).

 

 

This accountability job, along with the provision of funding, is almost everything that was left to the Chilean state regarding education, in the hope that competition, marketing, and the like would lead the country to develop the best possible educational system.

 

 

So what happened? Here are some facts after about three decades of the “Chilean experiment” that, chillingly, has also been called the “Chilean Miracle” like the more recent U.S. “New Orleans Miracle.”

 

 

First, there is no clear evidence that students have significantly improved their performance on standardized tests, the preferred measurement used to assess schools within this scenario of the free market.

 
Second, there is now consensus among researchers that both the educational and the socioeconomic gaps have been increased. Chile is now a far more unequal society than it was before the privatization of education – and there is a clear correlation between family income and student achievement according to standardized testing and similar measures.

 
Third, studies have shown that schools serving the more underprivileged students have greater difficulties not only for responding competitively but also for innovating and improving school attractiveness in a way to acquire students and therefore funding.

 
Fourth, many schools are now investing more in marketing strategies than in actually improving their services.

 
Fifth, the accountability culture required by the market has yielded a teach-to-the-test schema that is progressively neglecting the variety and richness of more integral educational practices.

 
Sixth, some researchers believe that all this has negatively affected teachers’ professional autonomy, which in turn has triggered feelings of demoralization, anxiety, and in the end poor teaching practices inside schools and an unattractive profession from the outside.

 
Seventh, a general sense of frustration and dissatisfaction has arisen not only among school communities but actually in the great majority of the population. Indeed, the ‘Penguins Revolution’ – a secondary students’ revolt driven by complaints about the quality and equity of Chilean education – led to the most massive social protest movement in the country during the last 20 years….

 

The ‘Chilean Miracle’ – like the ‘New Orleans Miracle’ – it seems, is not a miracle of student growth, achievement, equity, and high quality education for all. Rather, it is a miracle that a once protected public good was finally exploited as a competitive private market where profit-seeking corporations could receive a greater and greater share of public tax dollars.

 
It is also a miracle that such profit-seeking private companies and corporations, including publishing giants that produce educational materials and tests, have managed to keep the target of accountability on teachers and schools and not on their own backs.

 
Their treasure trove of funding – state and federal tax monies – continues to flow even as their materials, technological innovations, products, services, and tests fail to provide positive results.

 

Why are we allowing philanthropists, entrepreneurs, and the U.S. Department of Education to force us to follow the same path as Chile? Are we powerless? No. Show your displeasure by opting out, speaking out, contacting your elected representatives. Organize demonstrations and protests. Make them notice you. Stop them.

Joshua Leibner writes here about a new HBO television show called “Togetherness,” selling the idea of charter schools as the latest trend for hip white families.

 

They don’t want their children to be in a minority. But they are uncomfortable with the idea of private school. The charter school offers them a chance to avoid “those” children and get a free education and at the same time, think they are on the cutting edge.

 

The show’s creators, Mark and Jay Duplass, are the very talented Hollywood powerhouse titans of smart, artsy films about the white middle class and its obsessions; their work dominates Sundance and they have a four-picture deal with Netflix. The brothers also live in Eagle Rock, Los Angeles School Board District 5, and that’s where they’ve set “Togetherness.” It also happens to be where I live and will send my son to school when he is old enough. Although the show is ostensibly about the marriage and lives of Hollywood sound man Brett and his wife, Michelle, the charter school plotline is enlightening and can be discussed in light of not only LAUSD’s relationship to these characters, but to the nation as a whole.

 

The charter school speech-maker, David Garcia, an aspiring politician, begins with the mantra that has been drummed around the country for the last 20 years: “Our public education system is broken.”
Is it broken in Palos Verdes? In Beverly Hills? In Malibu? Or any of the richer districts that surround L.A.? No, but definitely, apparently, in Eagle Rock.

 

Michelle goes up to David after his speech and says, “My daughter is going to start kindergarten and we’re talking about where is she going to go… what is she going to do… I’m wondering why is there not some community place — somewhere I can put her and feel good with a lot of different people. I don’t want to put her in a private school where she doesn’t get to experience what life is like where we live. I mean why is there not a great place?”

 

The Eagle Rock public schools are obviously not an option for Michelle. Our local elementary schools — Eagle Rock, Rockdale, Dahlia Heights — get conflated into the fictional “Townsend Elementary,” and are clearly not gonna cut it. It goes without saying.

 

Michelle has previously been shown speaking longingly to her husband, who has all but decided to put their kid in private school: “Don’t you want her to be in a different kind of community with kids of different colors and economic backgrounds?

 

That obviously — to these characters and to many real life members of their demographic — isn’t the public schools.

 

But why not? One LAUSD school board member has said pointedly that “maybe it’s time for the district to look in the mirror and figure out what can be done within district schools to make parents less eager to remove their children into charters.”

 

True enough. And maybe it’s time for charter school advocates to look into their own mirror.

 

Is it, could it actually be, the “bird shit” and “five-day-old sloppy joes”? No, because episode 6 demonstrates how hard Michelle is willing to work to find and clean out an old building for the new school. Surely, cleaning up some bird feces at an already functioning facility and agitating for better food — or packing a lunchbox — would have been much easier.

 

Is it because a bloated school bureaucracy is truly causing these parents to be “disenfranchised and lost”? Not really, because when David and Michelle finally make their impassioned plea for a charter to the public school commission in Sacramento, they are met with misty-eyed commissioners and an implied approval.

 

Could it be — gasp! — race, or class? Eagle Rock Elementary School is only 17 percent white, with 57 percent of the kids qualifying for subsidized school lunches.

 

No, no, no, no! the series replies. In the final episode, there is Michelle leading a post-racial bandwagon, driving up to Sacramento to argue their case. Along with David, the show’s sole Latino, there’s a gay Asian political consultant and a black principal who will fight for this charter. They all bond over a car karaoke hit.

 

Wealthy white people, as a rule, control the charter school industry across the country. White people run the billionaire philanthropic foundations that funnel money into charter schools. White people dominate the editorial boards of the major urban papers who sympathize with charter school interests.

 

No surprise that the film-makers have a deal with Netflix. Netflix is owned by Reed Hastings, who sits on the board of KIPP and Rocketship, and who predicted at a California Charters Schools Association that one day there would be no boards of education, only charter schools. Hastings, at last look, was a multimillionaire, but he might be a billionaire.

 

 

 

 

The state-appointed superintendent of the Camden, Néw Jersey, public schools announced that five public schools would be handed over to private charter chains. These schools will receive “significant” renovations to prepare them for the takeover by private managers. Three private organizations–KIPP, Mastery, and Uncommon Schools–have been designated to take over the schools and students.

“”This marks a new beginning for five of Camden’s most-struggling schools,” predicted Paymon Rouhanifard, the district’s state-appointed superintendent. “We hope this will be remembered as the moment we turned the corner.”

“A different view came from Save Our Schools New Jersey, an education-advocacy group. It asserted the schools were being “given” to private operators “to ensure a forced supply of students.”

“The people of Camden had no say in this decision,” said the group, which noted the city district is under state control and does not have an elected school board.

“Current staffers at the five schools would have to interview for new positions with the renaissance schools, Rouhanifard said.”

Read more about the superintendent here and here. Here is Jersey Jazzman’s description of his resume: Teach for America, Goldman Sachs, And a high staff position in the Néw York City’s Department of Education. He was 32 when Governor Chris Christie appointed him.

This is a very funny video. First you see Governor Andrew Cuomo, who plans to enrich the testing industry by testing everyone who works or enrolls in a school. He is a huge supporter of charter schools, having received millions of dollars in campaign funds from charter advocates on Wall Street. Charter students are 3% of the students in New York state.

 

Then you will see two key supporters of charters, both leaders in the New York state senate, which is controlled by Republicans. Neither has any charters in their districts. They represent Long Island, where parents are passionate about their public schools, where the graduation rate is far higher than that of the state, and where the anti-testing movement has a large following. These state senators don’t want charters in their districts, but would be happy to see more charters elsewhere. What is also ironic is that Albany, the state capitol, closed two charter schools just weeks ago for financial and academic failures.

Historian and teacher John Thompson reports on the progress of privatization in Oklahoma.

 

The state naively accepted the Gates compact, which obliged districts to welcome charter schools.

 

Thompson writes:

 

“The previous blockbuster discovery for Oklahoma City and Tulsa schools was S.B. 68, the “under-the-radar” bill to authorize cities to compete with school systems in sponsoring charter schools. The Tulsa World’s Andrea Eger, in “Change in State Law Sought for Tulsa Public Schools Would Allow Outsourcing of Instruction,” reports that another charter bill, H.B. 1691, “has flown largely beneath the public’s radar during a legislative session that has seen high-profile clashes over bills seeking private school vouchers and the expansion of charter schools into rural areas.”

 

“Eger reports that the Tulsa Public School System is moving ahead with plans to locate its three newest charters inside traditional public school facilities. Lunch and bus service would be provided for students. All three contract charters would be run by an out-of-state charter-management organization.

 

“Linda Hampton, the president of the Oklahoma Education Association, opposes H.B. 1691 “[b]ecause the bill is so broad in scope, it could open the door to total privatization of public schools.” She adds, “We also want to be sure we are not turning over our public school students to organizations that are looking to make a profit.”

 

Tulsa’s next superintendent is Deborah Gist, previously state superintendent of Rhode Island and a member of Jeb Bush’s Chiefs for Change.

 

Watch for a full-blown drive for privatization in Oklahoma.

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