Archives for category: Privatization

One question that I have puzzled over again and again is why anyone who really cares about the quality of education would be a proponent of school choice, for example, vouchers for religious schools and charters run as a business. We have an abundance of evidence that these choices don’t usually produce better education. Children from low-performing schools are not being sent with public money to Exeter, Andover, Deerfield Academy, or Sidwell Friends. Instead, they are going to Backwoods Rural Evangelical Church or Mall Academy, which has few certified teachers, no curriculum, and teaches creationism; or they are going to Charter Schools, Inc., where profits matter more than education.

 

This article in Salon by Conor Lynch asserts that the GOP (and I would add, many Democrats who have been bamboozled as well) and corporate America (via ALEC) are complicit in the dumbing down of America. Some candidates, and he singles out Ted Cruz, willingly slander Harvard University (which he attended) as a haven for Communists (and I thought the days of McCarthyism were behind us) and ally themselves in opposition to the scientific evidence about climate change.

 

I have no beef with anyone’s religious beliefs as long as they leave me alone to practice my own religion (or not). But when religion and politics are intermixed, it is not a healthy blend.

 

Lynch writes:

 

Ted Cruz has already made it quite clear that, although he went to Harvard, he is as anti-intellectual as they come; embracing conspiracy theories and comparing the climate change consensus to the theological consensus of the geocentric model during the time of Galileo. Cruz has been adamantly opposed to the entire idea of climate change, and was recently named to be Chairman of the Subcommittee on Space, Science, and Competitiveness. Aside from promoting the conspiracy theory that Harvard law is a communist organization, he has promoted other conspiracies that are outright loony, like saying that George Soros was leading a global movement to abolish the game of golf.

 

Marco Rubio is also hostile to anything contradicting his faith, including climate change, while the leading contender for Republican nomination, Scott Walker, has taken the fight directly to academia, calling for major cuts in public university funding in Wisconsin that would add up to about $300 million over two years. He also just fired 57employees from Wisconsin’s Department of Natural Resources this past Earth Day. Predictably, he doesn’t believe climate change is a big issue either, and possibly has the worst record on environment out of all of the candidates.

 

And so the Republican primaries will be full of the usual evangelical type preaching, damning abortion and calling their Democratic contenders “elitist” snobs, while brushing off those so-called “expert” climate scientists and their warnings. But you can only blame the politicians so much. When it comes down to it, this is simply what a big part of the population expects from their leaders — religious buffoons who embrace a paranoid style of politics; where experts and academics are looked down upon as disconnected and deceitful, and where faith in Jesus and the Bible is the ultimate guiding light. Where one is expected to go with their gut rather than their head, and where “professorial” is an insult. Anti-intellectualism is an American tradition, and these new contenders denying scientific facts and calling Harvard a communist institution are simply embracing a populace that individuals like Billy Sunday and Joseph McCarthy once embraced. The alliance of religion and big business has fully incorporated America’s unfortunate anti-intellectualist culture, which has resulted in millions of people voting against their interest because of their own ignorant hostility towards anything that could be deemed elitist. It is a cycle of ignorance and poverty, and it is exactly what the real elites, like billionaire oil men, aim for.

 

The American writer, Issac Asimov, once said, “Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.’” Unfortunately, this thread has continued to this day, and individuals like Ted Cruz and Scott Walker are here to remind us that ignorance can be quite competitive with knowledge, as long as there’s money behind it.

 

Several governors have slashed spending on higher education–such as Douglas Ducey in Arizona, Scott Walker in Wisconsin, and Bobby Jindal in Louisiana. Why? Do they want to stop young Americans from learning about science and history? In some states, the expansion of charter schools is coupled with the abandonment of teacher credentials. The combination of vouchers to attend religious schools, lowered standards for entry to teaching, and budget cuts for higher education is ominous.

A letter to the editor:

“Private School Tax Credits

New York Times Letter To the Editor: by DONNA LIEBERMAN, Executive Director, New York Civil Liberties Union MAY 22, 2015

Re “Cuomo Promotes Tax Credits for Families of Students at Private Schools”

The right to a meaningful public education is at the core of our democracy, and educational opportunity must be available to all children on a fair and equitable basis, no matter how poor they are, no matter what their educational needs are, and no matter their race, religion or sexual orientation. Unfortunately, the proposal by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York to divert money from public schools to private and religious schools is not about improving public education for all children. It is not about choice. It is about allowing hedge funds and millionaires to siphon money away from public schools to support their narrow idea of what education should look like.

This includes private schools for the 1 percent, religious schools that can throw children out and dismiss teachers for having the wrong faith — or no faith — and privately owned and operated charter schools that operate without accountability and would turn our underfunded public schools into a dumping ground for New York’s neediest and most challenging students.

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/22/opinion/private-school-tax-credits.html?mabReward=CTM&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&region=CColumn&module=Recommendation&src=rechp&WT.nav=RecEngine&_r=0″

Anthony Cody is looking for a candidate who will support public education. He discounts Hillary Clinton, believing she is too close to Bill Gates.

The only other Democratic candidate as of this moment is Bernie Sanders. Cody wonders what his K-12 agenda will be. He offers some ideas and hopes that Sanders will become the spokesperson for the resistance to corporate reform.

Read his seven big ideas. Do you agree?

I am not ready to write off Clinton. Since she is the likely candidate, I want to get a chance to talk to her and try to educate her about the education issues. I have met her several times over the past 30 years, I supported her in 2008, and I will do my best to persuade her to oppose the ongoing demolition and privatization of public education.

Bob Braun writes here about the ongoing privatization of public schools in Newark, under the leadership of Cami Anderson, who was appointed by Governor Chris Christie.

Braun writes that Cami ordered additional cuts to the remaining public schools:

Anderson’s demand that every school in Newark cut their spending plans by anywhere from $200,000 to $700,000 meets her needs–the further degradation of neighborhood schools that would allow further expansion of the privatized sector, meeting the $70 million deficit she ran up through wasteful spending on favored consultants, hopeless legal cases costing hundreds of thousands of dollars, and the assignment of fully paid teachers to rubber rooms, and creating a pretext for the state’s approval of a seniority waiver that is still sitting on the desk of state education Commissioner David Hespe. If Hespe signs that waiver, seniority is a thing of the past–and so are public employee unions.

Newark’s public schools already have been stripped of virtually every service and amenity that would distinguish them from the educational equivalent of an Apple factory inside China. Attendance counselors. Guidance counselors. Meaningful art and music and other non-testable offerings that create human beings rather than cogs for the machine.

And charters, by the way, are untouched by this. More money to charters, less money to public schools. More failure in public schools, more students sent to charters. The cycle isn’t just vicious–it’s racist and elitist. The people of Newark will have to decide whether it’s every family for itself and to hell with everyone else–the charter game–or whether all Newark’s children are the responsibility of everyone, of every family, in the city and deserve a public school system that serves everyone….

But, of course, more is at stake than employee rights. The Anderson budget cuts, combined with the continued draining away of public funds to privately-operated charter schools, move Newark’s children closer and closer to an educational wasteland in which only a select few will have even a moderately acceptable education, while the vast majority of kids–black, brown, and poor–will be warehoused, prepared only for lives of quiet desperation.

This is no drill. This is a crisis.

But, of course, Christie and Anderson and Cory Booker and their billionaire supporters and enablers will call it reform.

Stuart Egan, a teacher of English at West Forsyth High School, wrote an article in the Winston-Salem, N.C., Journal explaining to readers why the reformster narrative about “failing schools” and “bad teachers” is wrong. He did it North Carolina-style, by comparing teaching to farming.

 

He wrote:

 

Last August, Business Insider published a report from the Brookings Institute highlighting the 15 cities where poverty is growing fastest in the nation. Greensboro-High Point tied for 10th, Winston-Salem tied for 8th, and Raleigh tied for 3rd with Charlotte.

 
Earlier this year, The Washington Post published a study by the Southern Education Foundation that found an incredibly high number of students in public schools live in poverty. And in April, the journal Nature Neuroscience published a study that linked poverty to brain structure. All three publications confirm what educators have known for years: Poverty is the biggest obstacle in public education….

 

North Carolinians know agriculture. We understand that any crop requires an optimum environment to produce the best harvest. Farmers must consider weather, resources, and time to work with the land. Since many factors which affect the harvest are beyond their control, farmers make the best of what they have; they must marry discipline with a craft. Teachers do the same.

 
But if the environment suffers and resources are limited, then agriculture suffers. Is that the fault of farmers? If variables surrounding the environment of public education are constantly being changed by governing bodies, then are teachers at fault?

 
Another fallacy with the rotten apple analogy is that the end product (singular test scores) is a total reflection of the teacher. Just like with farming, much is out of the hands of the education system. One in five children in North Carolina lives in poverty and many more have other pressing needs that affect the ability to learn. Some students come to school just to be safe and have a meal. But imagine if students came to school physically, emotionally, and mentally prepared to learn.

 
In some instances, resources vital to public education are siphoned off to other “factory farms” and for-profit entities. Just this past December, the Winston-Salem Journal reported that Rockingham County schools did not have enough money and were having to rob “Peter to pay Paul” just to keep public schools open and equipped with the basic supplies, even toilet paper. But at the same time, Sen. Phil Berger’s own son was slated to open up Providence Charter High School with taxpayer money in Rockingham County. Luckily, that endeavor never materialized, but the state’s Charter School Advisory Board just recommended that 16-18 new charter schools be financed by taxpayers.

 
The soil in which the public school system is rooted has been altered so much in the past decade that the orchard where teachers “grow” their crops has been stripped of much of its vitality. Look at the number of standardized tests, curriculum models and teacher evaluation protocols thrown at public schools. And those will change again with Race to the Top money running out.

 
We are treating the symptoms, not the malady. We are trying to put a shine on the apples by “raising” graduation rates with new grading scales. It is analogous to constructing a new white picket fence around an orchard and thinking that the crop will automatically improve.
But our elected officials can help or at least remove the obstacles for those who can.

 
The General Assembly can invest more in pre-K programs. They can stop funding for-profit charter and corporate-run virtual schools. They can expand Medicaid so more kids come to school healthy. They can reinstitute the Teaching Fellows program to keep our bright future teachers here in North Carolina. Then they can give decent raises to veteran teachers so they finish their careers here.

 

 

As early returns indicated, Bennett Kayer lost his seat on the Los Angeles school board to charter founder Ref Rodriguez and charter supporter Tamar Galatzan lost her seat to retired public school educator Scott Schmerelson. It was a very low turnout election, as usual (sadly). The president of the school board, Dr. Richard Vladovic, was re-elected. The board will remain divided over the continued privatization of the public schools. Los Angeles already has more students in charter schools than any other city. The charter industry had hoped to gain decisive control of the board to continue its expansion.

 

The battle continues. The billionaires dropped a few million into the L.A. race, principally to defeat Kayser. They succeeded. They probably didn’t count on losing Galatzan, or they would have spent a few million more to shore up that seat.

This is one of Valerie Strauss’s best columns, where she reviews a television interview with Dennis Brain, the CEO of Entertainment Properties Trust. Brain is a big investor in charter schools, and he is bullish about the future.

 

Here is a small snippet of the interview:

 

 

DB: Well I think it’s a very stable business, very recession-resistant. It’s a very high-demand product. There’s 400,000 kids on waiting lists for charter schools … the industry’s growing about 12-14% a year. So it’s a high-growth, very stable, recession-resistant business. It’s a public payer, the state is the payer on this, uh, category, and uh, if you do business with states with solid treasuries. then it’s a very solid business.

 

Anchor: Well let me ask you about potential risks, here, to your charter school portfolio, because I understand that three of your nine “Imagine” schools are scheduled to actually lose their charters for the next school year. Does this pose a risk to investors?

 

DB: Well, occasionally — we have Imagine arrangements on a master lease, so there’s no loss of rents to the company, although occasionally there are losses of charters in certain areas and they’re used to peculiar, ug, particular circumstances. In this case it’s a combination of relationship with the supervisory authorities and educational quality. Sometimes educational quality is very difficult to change in one, two, or three years. It’s a long-term proposition, so uh, there are some of these that occur, but we’ve structured our affairs so this is not going to impact our rent-roll and in fact we see this as uh maybe even a good experience as the industry thins out some of the less-performing schools and we move on to the best-performing schools.

 

Anchor: David, there has been somewhat of a public backlash to charter schools in some areas given their use of public money, as you noted. Any risk to the growth of charter schools generally?

 

DB: I don’t — there’s not a lost of risk, there’s probably risk to everything but the fact is, this has bipartisan support. It’s part of the Republican platform and Arne Duncan, secretary of education in the Obama administration, has been very high on it throughout their work in public education. So we have both political parties very solidly behind it, you have high demand, high growth, you have good performance across the board. Most of the studies have charter schools at even or better than district public education. So, I think it has some risk because it’s new and it’s emerging and it is a high-growth category. But at the same time I think … much more’s going forward so it’s still a safe area for investment.

 

 

The organization that has done the most to undermine public education is the Walton Family Foundation. It has given hundreds of millions of dollars to charter schools, voucher programs, Teach for America, and rightwing think tanks to advocate for privatization. The Néw York Times reported that the Walton foundation had underwritten one of every four charter start-ups in the nation. In addition, it has given more than $50 million to Teach for America to assure that the charters have a non-union teaching staff.

 

And lest we forget, the Walton family as individuals has given large sums to charter referenda in Georgia and Washington state, as well as to pro-privatization candidates.

 

A reader suggests:

 

“How about a national teachers’ boycott of Walmart re school supplies and asking parents/kids to do the same? Perhaps we can enlist Target or Office Depot, Staples, other nation wide alternatives. . .”

 

I generally don’t advocate boycotts, but on the other hand, I never never never shop at Walmart. That’s just me.

Learn here in only three minutes how to start a movement.

 

I posted this a few years ago, but it stayed with me as I watched what is happening in our society.

 

A few brave people spoke up and said what was in their hearts.

 

They didn’t like the corporate takeover of public education. They didn’t like the overemphasis on testing and the punishments that following testing. They didn’t like the nutty ideas that teachers are solely responsible for students’  test scores. They didn’t like the powerful top-down dictation coming from the federal government, nor the policy capture of government by hedge fund managers and billionaire philanthropists. They didn’t like the assault on public education as a keystone of our democracy.

 

One person alone is a “lone nut.” The key figures are the followers, who risk ridicule by joining in, but who together create a movement.

 

Today we have a movement. A movement of parents, educators, and concerned others who want to take education back from entrepreneurs; who want to build respect for teaching and learning; who admire teachers; who understand that poverty is the biggest obstacle in the lives of children who get low test scores; and who also understand that tests are a measure, not the goal of education. The goal of public education is to contribute to the development of well-educated citizens with humane values, citizens who are prepared to take charge of their own lives, to help their neighbors, to advance knowledge and science, and to improve our society. Turning standardized testing into a fetish does not advance us towards that goal.

 

 

Dallas is holding a crucial election on May 9. There is both a mayoral election and an election that will shape the school board and the fate of public education in the city. Mayor Mike Rawlings has worked closely with the business community to promote charters and privatization. Houston billionaire John Arnold (ex-Enron) created a “reform” organization called “Save Our Public Schools,” whose purpose is to push for a “home rule” district in Dallas that will allow local leaders to turn the Dallas into an all-charter district (in typical reform fashion, the name of the organization is the opposite of its real purpose).

Rawlings’ opponent, Marcos Ronquillo, has been endorsed by labor groups and community organizations. Rawlings has raised over $750,000; Ronquillo has raised $98,000, with pledges of another $78,000.

 

Dallas public schools have been under siege for the past three years. Its school board is dominated by so-called “reformers” who are not representative of the children in the public schools, nearly 90% of whom are minorities; the board majority admires the top-down, autocratic management style of Superintendent Mike Miles. Miles is a military man who graduated from the unaccredited Broad Superintendents Academy. Since he came to Dallas, the school district has been in turmoil. Many teachers have quit, principals come and go, initiatives come and go, achievement is flat as measured by test scores. There is no sense of stability.

 

When three members of the board called for a vote on Miles’ continued tenure, they were voted down, 6-3. In addition to Miles’ disruptive strategies, he has harassed school board members who disagree with him. When school board member Bernadette Nutall visited a troubled school in her own district, Miles sent members of the Dallas police force to remove her from the school.

 

If you want to get a sense of the polarization, demoralization, and anger that Miles’ tactics have produced, watch this YouTube video of the last school board meeting. This is a powerful and informative video. Please watch.

 

Before the Board meeting to discuss Miles’ future, the Dallas power structure rallied around him and even produced an organization with a report on academic progress in the Dallas schools under Miles. But not even the Dallas Morning News–a strong supporter of “reform” could accept the report’s slanted presentation. Its story pointed out that the number of A-rated schools had increased, as claimed, but the number of F-rated schools had grown even more.

 

For those who care about preserving the democratic institution of public education in Dallas; for those who want to stop an attempted privatization of the entire district, here are the school board candidates who deserve your support.

 

Kyle Renard, M.D., in district 1, David Lewis in district 3, and Bernadette Nutall in district 9.

 

To donate to these candidates, go to their websites: Dr. Kyle Renard; David Lewis. I did. I can’t find a “donate” page for Bernadette Nutall, or I would have sent her a contribution too.

 

If you are a parent or a teacher or a principal in Dallas, if you are a citizen who understands the importance of a free public education system with doors open to all, get out and vote. Early voting has already started. Call your friends and neighbors and urge them to vote. Don’t let the privateers take over the public schools of Dallas.

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