Archives for category: Privatization

Camden, New Jersey, is one of the state’s impoverished small cities that is under state control. It may be the poorest district in the state. It is rhe lowest performing. The Chris Christie administration appointed a 32-year-old inexperienced young man (Teach for America alum) with some time working in the New York Department of Education and Newark as Camden’s superintendent, and naturally, his goal is to turn public school students over to charter operators. Save Our Schools NJ sent the following letter to the state commissioner of education:

“FOR IMMEDIATE USE

April 21, 2014

Save Our Schools NJ requests that Commissioner Hespe stop additional legally-questionable activities by the Camden School District

Save Our Schools NJ Contacts

Susan Cauldwell susancauldwell@saveourschoolsnj.org 908-507-1020

Julia Sass Rubin jlsrubin@verizon.net 609-683-0046

Today, Save Our Schools NJ, a non-partisan, grassroots organization with more than 15,000 members across New Jersey, sent a second letter to the state’s Acting Education Commissioner David Hespe, alerting him to actions by the State Operated Camden School District that raise serious legal concerns.

Highlighting the fact that the Camden School District had mailed home to district families a recruitment flyer for the Mastery charter school network, Save Our Schools NJ requested that the Acting Commissioner “investigate the extent to which Camden’s public school resources were used in mailing” the recruitment flyers to parents as this “would constitute inappropriate use of school funds to promote — and give preferential treatment to — a specific private organization.”

Save Our Schools NJ further informed the Acting Commissioner that Mastery recruiters had been going to the homes of Camden public school students, to encourage them to enroll in the school. Save Our Schools NJ asked the Acting Commissioner to “investigate how Mastery, a private entity, obtained the addresses of Camden students for purposes of conducting unannounced visits to students’ homes” and to “examine whether Camden provided Mastery with students’ home addresses — or any other individual student information — without the consent of parents and guardians.”

Referencing the legislative record of the Urban Hope Act, Save Our Schools NJ also raised once more the concern identified in a prior letter that Camden was violating the Act’s ban on temporary facilities for Renaissance charter schools:

“In passing the Urban Hope Act, the legislature was very clear that Renaissance Schools cannot operate as temporary schools in temporary facilities, but rather must be in a “newly-constructed” school. The legislative statement to the Urban Hope bill, issued by the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee on January 5, 2012, states on page 3 that “[t]he committee amended the bill to: … clarify that renaissance school projects are newly-constructed schools…Yet, Camden is planning to locate both Mastery and Uncommon Schools Renaissance schools in existing public school buildings, for the 2014-15 academic year.”

Save Our Schools NJ requested that the Commissioner “immediately investigate whether Camden has authorized Mastery and Uncommon to operate schools under the Urban Hope Act in 2014-15 on a temporary basis in existing Camden school facilities and, if so, take prompt action to direct Camden to terminate this arrangement.”

April 21, 2014

Commissioner David C. Hespe
New Jersey Department of Education
100 River View Plaza
P.O. Box 500
Trenton, NJ 08625

Dear Commissioner Hespe,

As a follow-up to our April 14, 2014 letter, we wish to bring to your attention additional actions by the State Operated Camden School District (Camden) that raise serious concerns about Camden’s compliance with the Urban Hope Act and regulations, and with other laws.

1) Temporary facilities are not allowed under the Urban Hope Act

We remain very concerned that, although their application to build such schools has yet to be approved by your office, Camden is moving forward to facilitate the enrollment of Camden public school students in September, 2014 in “temporary” schools, to be operated by the Mastery and Uncommon organizations and located in existing Camden public schools, ostensibly as Renaissance Schools under the Urban Hope Act.

In passing the Urban Hope Act, the legislature was very clear that Renaissance Schools cannot operate as temporary schools in temporary facilities, but rather must be in a “newly-constructed” school. The legislative statement to the Urban Hope bill, issued by the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee on January 5, 2012, states on page 3 that “[t]he committee amended the bill to: … clarify that renaissance school projects are newly-constructed schools.”

Yet, Camden is planning to locate both Mastery and Uncommon Schools Renaissance schools in existing public school buildings, for the 2014-15 academic year.

The attached letter, which was mailed by Camden to public school parents, states:

“Mastery School of Camden will open this fall in two temporary locations for approximately 600 kindergarten through 5th grade students:

-At PynePoynt Family School, Mastery Academy will serve up to 380 new K-5 Students.

-At the old Washington School, Mastery Academy will serve approximately 220 K-2 students.”

These types of schools — to be operated by a charter management organization and located temporarily in existing public school facilities — are clearly not authorized under the Urban Hope Act. Accordingly, we request that you immediately investigate whether Camden has authorized Mastery and Uncommon to operate schools under the Urban Hope Act in 2014-15 on a temporary basis in existing Camden school facilities and, if so, take prompt action to direct Camden to terminate this arrangement.

2) Public school districts should not advocate for specific private entities

The letter quoted above, which Camden sent to public school parents, included the attached solicitation flyers for the Mastery charter school chain.

The use of Camden personnel and resources to encourage public school students to attend the privately managed Mastery school would constitute inappropriate use of school funds to promote — and give preferential treatment to — a specific private organization.

We request that you investigate the extent to which Camden’s public school resources were used in mailing Mastery recruitment flyers to parents.

The investigation also should ascertain why it appears that Mastery was the only charter organization in Camden to be given direct assistance by the Camden School District for 2014-15 enrollment recruitment activities.

3) Camden cannot share confidential student data with individual private entities

Camden parents who live in the area from which Mastery plans to draw for its unapproved Renaissance school also indicated that Mastery representatives came to their homes to encourage them to enroll their children in the Renaissance school.

This raises serious concerns about whether Camden disclosed individual student records and information to a third party entity without the consent of the students and their parents and guardians.

We request that your Office launch an immediate investigation into how Mastery, a private entity, obtained the addresses of Camden students for purposes of conducting unannounced visits to students’ homes. This investigation should examine whether Camden provided Mastery with students’ home addresses — or any other individual student information — without the consent of parents and guardians.

We would appreciate the opportunity to meet with you to discuss this further.

Sincerely,

Susan Cauldwell, volunteer organizer, Save Our Schools NJ
Executive Director, Save Our Schools NJ Community Organizing
susancauldwell@saveourschoolsnj.org

Julia Sass Rubin, volunteer organizer, Save Our Schools NJ
Chair, Board of Directors, Save Our Schools NJ Community Organizing
jlsrubin@verizon.net

cc: Paymon Rouhanifard, Superintendent, Camden City Public Schools

David Sciarra, Executive Director, Education Law Center

Civil rights attorney Wendy Lecker calls out the charter sector of Connecticut for its unabashed practice of racial segregation.

A new report from Connecticut Voices for Children finds that charter schools are hyper segregated and that they exclude children with disabilities and English language learners.

Don’t expect the State Commissioner of Connecticut to care: he was co-founder of one of the state’s most segregated charter chains.

Charter founders think they are advancing civil rights by creating segregated schools but that turns history on its head, Lecker writes:

“As the Voices report notes, the practices engaged in by charter schools and condoned by the state reveal a troubling approach to choice. For them, choice is about advancing the individual interests of families, rather than any broad community wide educational goals; such as desegregation. The authors found that when individual interests are the goal of choice, then choice policies undermine the goal of equitable educational opportunity for all students.

“The idea of equity for all was the driving force behind the civil rights movement. Martin Luther King Jr. declared that “I am never what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be.”Lyndon Johnson’s motto was “doing the greatest good for the greatest number.”

“The principles of communal good underpinned Connecticut’s commitment to school integration. Connecticut’s Supreme Court deemed that having children of different backgrounds learn together is vital “to gain the understanding and mutual respect necessary for the cohesion of our society.” The late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall maintained: “Unless our children learn together, there is little hope that our people will learn to live together.”

The charters have a peculiar idea of civil rights, one that does not reflect the views of Dr. King or Justice Marshall:

“Choice as practiced by charter schools perverts the notion of integration. In its annual report, under the goal of reducing racial isolation and increasing racial and ethnic diversity, Achievement First Bridgeport wrote that the school’s “African-American, Hispanic and low-income students will outperform African-American, Hispanic and low-income students in their host district and state-wide, reducing racial, ethnic and economic isolation among these historically underserved subgroups.”

“Achievement First defines integration as children of color getting better standardized test scores. Justice Marshall must be spinning in his grave.”

In the eyes of charter leaders, higher test scores–achieved by pushing out o excluding low-performing students–trumps integration.

According to the first filing of spending in the Newark race for Mayor, the hedge fund managers’ group Education Reform Now has given $850,000 to Shavar Jeffries, a charter school supporter.

Jeffries’ spending is about triple the spending of his chief opponent Ras Baraka, and the gap is expected to grow given the deep pockets of Jeffries’ supporters on Wall Street.

The Network for Public Education has endorsed Ras Baraka for mayor, in light of his opposition to closing public schools. He is a high school principal and a member of the City Council of Newark.

 

 

 

 

This reader, a lawyer in Mine, asks important, thoughtful questions that go to the heart of the current debate over the future of education–from pre-kindergarten through graduate school. Is technology now promoting the demand for objective, measurable means and ends? Is the technological culture at odds with the humane goals of the Western intellectual tradition? Do we treasure only what can be measured? Or do we recognize that what we treasure most can seldom be quantified, unless it is money? Should we give up and let the corporate reformers place us and our children into “the market”? Or do we resist and fight for the value of every child, for the value of deep and reflective learning, and for the principles of democracy?

He writes:

I recently finished reading two books, Jacques Ellul’s The Technological Society and Neil Postman’s Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology, both of which are rather depressing for those of us who seek intellectual quality in education.

According to both authors, we have moved into a technological culture that is driven by the unstoppable quest “efficiency” and the unwavering belief that a technique (including both methods of action and specific devices) exists that will provide “maximum efficiency” for any task. Modern, so-called “neo-classical”, economic theory is based on this very idea. (Although I agree with Noam Chomsky that “neo-classical” is neither new nor classical.) Not surprisingly then, the dogmas of neo-classcial economists are treated like the dogmas of the Roman Catholic Church during the Reformation. As Ellul notes, the problem is a sociological and cultural one, one that we cannot simply “correct” by modifying our attitudes or values. Only a radical change in society can really change our culture.

So, when I look at the reformers, I have begun to see that they are the champions of the technological culture (technopoly) and are applying the values and tenets of that culture to our schools. (Which, as T.S. Elliot once remarked, are the repositories of our culture.) Since neo-classcial dogma teaches the rational inerrancy of the “the market” in determining the most efficient practices, then schools must be privatized. The market needs “objective measures” of school, teacher, and student performance. Since computers can manipulate data in an “objective” way, then we must structure our schools to function in accordance with computer-based evaluations of schools, students, and teachers. To do anything else is, by definition, irrational.

To defeat this, we must start to offer a different vision. A vision that puts humans and human development ahead of “efficiency” and “rationality”. That’s a tall order. For me, it requires returning to the basic values of the Western intellectual tradition, since our current cultural monster arose from the abuses of modern thought that displaced the ideas of the Enlightenment after the Industrial Revolution. I think we can do this, but it will a long, hard road.

Reader Laura Chapman has done some research on the education entrepreneurs  now meeting in Scottsdale to learn more about how to profit from the public education industry. Note that tickets for the event ranged from $1,000-2,000. In addition, there were many sponsors. Whatever comes from this conference, it is a gold mine for its organizers:

 

I was also doing research on this. My direct quotes come from press releases and one extended interview with Michael Moe.

 

The sell-out crowd of about 2000 ed tech promoters meeting in Scottsdale, AZ have been promised this event is their “Davos” for understanding how big profits be made in the education business— K-12 and higher education—where investors put $650 million last year. This market is expected to grow rapidly around the CCSS, and with spillover effects from the federal “college and career” mantra. The pace of innovation in tech tools for some profitable “educational use” is said to be breathtaking.

 

Over 230 “disruptive education companies” will present their wares to “industry leaders and visionaries – educators, investors, philanthropists… with “some of the world’s most passionate and energetic players in the education innovation space…” The purpose is “to stimulate opinions, debate, fundraising, strategic alliances and overall community activism toward global enrichment.” (We know what counts as “enrichment” and who wants to gets rich).

 

The summit theme is the “American Dream” — “a global aspiration rooted in the conviction that opportunity is limitless and that education makes possible social mobility and prosperity.” For the participants, limitless prosperity means scaling ”education innovation globally” thereby driving “a higher return on education.”

 

The annual Summit is the brainchild of two people: Michael Moe, serial investor in ed-tech startups and Michael M. Crow, president of Arizona State University since 2002. Moe is a champion of charter and for-profit schools and CEO of a big pot of money for tech industry projects. Michael M. Crow is known as a ”transformational” leader in higher education eager to have the university be a model of savvy (and cash-producing) liaisons with business.

 

President Crow’s view of the Summit is clear: “Universities must become effective partners for global development. Only through the proliferation of networks —such as those the Summit helps to build—can transformation occur at the scale that is immediately needed in order to advance our global knowledge economy.”

 

Both Michaels, Moe and Crow, think that “immediate scaling up” means disrupting public education. According to one press release, the most “disruptive organizations” in education will be presenting at the Summit, including DonorsChoose, edX, Code.org, Minerva, Inkling along with five of Moe’s investments: Coursera, Curious.com, DreamBox Learning, General Assembly, and Knewton
http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/2014-asugsv-summit-to-feature-gov-jeb-bush-earvin-magic-johnson-netflix-ceo-reed-hastings-and-more-than-225-game-changing-education-companies-250681841.html

 

The event is part of Arizona State University’s Education Innovation Network described as an “open innovation platform where entrepreneurs can find the resources to validate concepts, accelerate growth, and reach transformative scale” working with “the intellectual assets of ASU, the greater Phoenix public and private educational K-20 systems and investors of all types….”

 

In a 2011 interview, Moe (who seems to be connected at the hip to ASU’s president Crow) said that he hopes ASU will serve as a model for other universities, and as a hub of innovative activity. Moe heaps praise on Crow’s “bold leadership” of ASU and its “unique initiatives such as its partnership with Teach For America, which aspires to have a scale impact.” Not mentioned by Moe, and apparently ignored by ASU’s president, are the frauds perpetuated by Teach for America. See http://www.google.com/#q=teach+for+america+%2B+Fraud

 

Moe praises ASU’s president as a skilled and visionary manager of intellectual talent working in and on behalf of education. Crow’s bio shows that he lauded by free-marketers who want to see many more public universities function as service-providers for full-spectrum entrepreneurial activity and economic development. This agenda is not entirely new, but the trend is clearly against a tradition of academic freedom in scholarship, with the university nurturing a mental environment for basic research and many studies not tied to economic values.

 

Moe was also impressed with Crow’s recent success in recruiting faculty in education, specifically “a highly regarded head of research from Vanderbilt.” I have not been able to determine who that person is, but since 2006 Vanderbilt’s research in education has been devoted to teacher pay-for-performance, aided by a $10 million USDE grant in addition to a relationship with Mathematica on a five-year, $7.9 million study on the same topic. Well-designed experimental studies, including some by Vanderbilt researchers, have shown that such schemes have no significant and uniform influence on student test scores, even if the bonus is up to $15,000 !! USDE poured $600 million into similar grants to market this idea through “research.”
see https://my.vanderbilt.edu/performanceincentives/about-us/ also http://www.mathematica-mpr.com/education/tif.asp
The study with the $15,000 bonus is at http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED518378.pdf

 

In addition, Moe sees the state of Arizona leading the way, not only as an early adopter of charter schools but as home state of the University of Phoenix, the world’s largest for-profit, along with Grand Canyon University, and Universal Technical Institute. All three are widely known centers of fraud in recruiting and “educating” students. Moe ignores that inconvenient truth. See:
http://www.google.com/#q=fraud+university+of+phoenix http://www.google.com/#q=fraud+%2BGrand+Canyon http://www.google.com/#q=fraud+%2B+Universal+Technical+Institute.

 

Finally, in praising ASU, Arizona, and the Phoenix area as the milieu for the Summit, Moe notes the presence of corporate giants such as INTEL and Honeywell and innovators such as First Solar. Again, no mention of the multi-year class action lawsuit filed by investors in First Solar. See http://www.google.com/#q=First+Solar+%3D+Lawsuits

 

Here are some hints from Moe on where education innovations will go in the near term. 1. Investors will be drawn to the iphone, apps, and related networks as a learning platform for K-12 with adaptive technology for individualized learning similar to recommendation systems of Amazon and Netflix. 2. Teacher training and tools for the CCSS are “a sweet spot.” 3. In higher education, more “partnerships” of universities with online corporations offering courseware and social learning. More at http://higheredmanagement.net/2011/01/13/asus-education-innovation-network-an-interview-with-michael-moe/

 

A reader from the Netherlands noticed  the recent post by Mario Waissbluth in Chile. Waissbuth said that Chileans were looking to the Netherlands as a possible model as Chile tries to extricate itself from decades of privatization. The privatization was launched by the dictator Pinochet, whose advisors admired the libertarian ideas of Milton Friedman.

 

Our reader from the Netherlands commented:

 

In The Netherlands, the situation has changed in the past 15 years. It used to be the case that about 60% of all schools were privately owned. The umbrella term for these schools was, and is, ‘Bijzonder Onderwijs” and this includes all schools on a religious basis (either Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Muslim or any other denomination) as well as schools with a special educational denomination (such as Montessori, Jenaplan, Dalton, Democratic etc.). The remaining 40% of schools used to be governmental, i.e. really ‘public’.

All of these schools were (and still are) paid for by public money. Parents are asked a small yearly fee (about 25 to 100 dollars) in order for a number of extracurricular activities.

Then came the neolib overhaul. All school boards were privatized, which is merely a legal construction by which private non-profit foundations took over the former public schools. Now all Dutch primary, secondary or tertiary schools are part of some private Foundation of Union. They are not marketed, and don’t have shareholders. They receive about 8000 dollar of public money for each subscribed student. School boards can do with that money what they like, within very, very wide limitations. The ‘freedom of education’ has turned into an increased freedom for school boards, and a decreased freedom for teachers (who have to obey the boards’ working orders) and limited freedom for parents (who can send their children to a limited number of schools).

The neolib privatization overhaul was sold to the Dutch public by the usual pretexts: ‘more quality for a lower price’. As the sceptics expected, the result turned out exactly the other way. The public expenses have more than doubled in 13 years time (the cumulative inflation being less than 30%), salaries for non-teaching staff have increased hugely, as have their number. Teaching staff, however, receive lower pay, and both teaching hours and class size have increased. PISA comparisons show that results have steadily decreased, compared to similar countries, as have the qualifications of newly arrived teachers.

I find it a bit ironic that Chile would consider The Netherlands an example in order to fight segregation. The neolib overhaul and the government-forced ‘concurrency’ between schools has resulted in dramatic segregation in urban areas. The percentage of either ‘black schools’ and ‘white schools’ has increased from 25% to 75% in only two decades, and is still growing.

I used to be proud of Dutch education. That was when I started my career as a teacher, and researcher. At present, I see very little in my country’s education system or policy that can make me proud. And I certainly would not recommend it as an example to other nations.

Julie Vassilatos, a Chicago parent, blogs about school issues.

 

In one of her latest posts, she realized she could  no longer use the term “education reform” because it was a complete phony and misrepresentation of reality.

 

She writes:

 

Something in me snapped today and I realized that I am finished using the phrase “education reform.”

 

That’s how folks refer to the constellation of ideas firmly entrenched in the White House right now, upheld by almost every governor of every state, red and blue, and most mayors, notably our own. It includes the tenets that privatizing our schools will improve them, that the Common Core State Standards are the fix for all that ails our failing schools, and that testing our students more and more will raise test scores.

 

But this, truly, is not “reform.” Some of these are ideas that have been implemented for 25 years all over the country to little effect.

 

This is the status quo.

 

So I’m not going to call it reform anymore.

 

I’m going to call it what it is. Corporate control of education.

 

 

I want you to read her whole post so I hate to print too much of it. But it is so on-target, so clear-headed, so obvious that I am going to have to give you even more to think about, then go open the link and read how this Chicago mom went straight to the heart of the beast:

 

In every instance, every plank in the platform, every element of this effort can be traced back to cash–flowing into the coffers of very rich corporate entities and individuals.

 

Like Pearson, one of the testing companies that is creating the tests and the test prep materials, all new and improved and Common Core aligned, and who lobbies Congress to mandate more tests.

 

Like Reed Hastings, Netflix CEO, a huge proponent of charters and innovative uses of technology in schools. What kind of technology does he advocate as the best fix for students today? In Learning Lab modules at his Rocketship Charters kids sit at a computer monitor, streaming video content for 100 minutes per day.

 

Or Rupert Murdoch. He is a cheerleader for what he calls a $500 billion industry of education technology including content and assessment.

 

Or Bill Gates. His push for the Common Core, the inBloom initiative to harness students’ big data, and his vision for the classrooms of the future, which will be heavily dependent on his own technologies.

 

The proponents of this snake oil have managed to control the rhetoric for so long that we don’t even blink when they say that their education plan is “the civil rights issue of our time.” They say this a lot.

 

So if we wish to stand up against the corporate control model we are not only anti-reform but anti-civil rights.

 

They say they want “excellent teachers,” and by this they mean they want to get rid of union teachers and replace them with uncertified, pensionless staff handling up to 50 kids at once who receive their education from handheld devices or monitors.

 

They say they want “school choice,” which usually means less choice: families can’t choose their neighborhood schools that the city has underfunded to the point of death throes, pouring its available money instead into privately supported charters.

 

 

I don’t know Julie, but I know this: She has seen through the sham rhetoric and the phony claims. She has seen through the facade to the internal workings of a machine that hurts children, closes community schools, and will ultimately do grievous harm to our democracy.

 

She writes:

 

Enough little bits of reality have popped out that folks are starting to notice. The stranglehold grip on the narrative held by the corporate education controllers is beginning to weaken. Because we can all see with our own eyes that it isn’t actually civil rights for kids to have their school closed or subjected to a turnaround. It isn’t actually higher order critical thinking to bubble in bubbles. And it isn’t education and it isn’t reform to work toward the dismantling of public schools in our city and our country.

 

It’s stale old rhetoric that is losing its power. And it can no longer conceal the naked emperor, nor the naked greed of the corporate power grabbers.

 

Thanks, Julie, for seeing through the PR baloney.

 

I am so tired of the media accepting the corporate bosses’ claim that they are “reformers.” Listen up, reporters. They are NOT reformers. Their program is the corporate control of education.

The following post was written by Mario Waissbluth, President of Educación 2020 Foundation, a Chilean citizen’s movement founded in 2008. Its latest reform proposals (in Spanish) are called “La Reforma Educativa que Chile Necesita”, and were published in April 2013. A book on this subject (in Spanish) is also available. These proposals were mostly adopted by and included in the educational program of the recently elected government of Michelle Bachelet, and are starting to be implemented now.

Valentina Quiroga (32) was one of the student founders of this organization and is now Undersecretary of Education.

Although Educación 2020 remains as a fully independent movement, the positions stated thereon are in many ways similar to those of the current government.

Chile: Dismantling the most pro-market education system in the world

Mario Waissbluth

In August 2013 I wrote in this blog a three piece series, called “Chile: The most pro-market system in the world.” The first described the origins and structure of the system. The second explained its educational and social results, good and bad. The third pointed the way Chile should choose to get out of this mess. If the reader wants to fully understand this situation (the most “Milton Friedmanish” in the world), incomparable with any other country, it is advisable to read those beforehand.
Although some might disagree, from both extremes of the political spectrum, we are happy to inform that the proposals we made are very similar to those being implemented now. However, the political, financial and cultural obstacles will be formidable.

Bachelet was elected by a large margin of voters and has a majority in both the House and the Senate. Nonetheless, positions within the government’s coalition are not fully homogeneous. In addition, there is an impending tax reform that is vital for funding these reforms, costing no less than 2% of gross national product in gradual increments.

Of course, many powerful companies, with strong lobbying capability, are not happy about that. The educational reforms will include dozens of new laws and budgets, covering from preschool to tertiary education.

A warning for American readers. I am fully aware that many of you are criticizing charter schools, profit, teaching to the test, skimming, and the destruction of the teaching profession. I myself have cited Diane Ravitch’s books many times. But you have to be aware that, after 30 years of neoliberal schemes in Chile, charter schools subsidized by government are a majority (55%). One third of them are religious. Two thirds of them are for-profit, and one half of them charge anywhere from US$ 10 to US$ 180 a month on top of the subsidy, therefore skimming quite efficiently.

Teaching to the test, with consequences, has been taken to the greatest extreme imaginable. Policies to destruct public education are too numerous to mention here, and the result is that this system is in acute crisis financially, managerially and emotionally. The teaching profession is in far worse condition than in the US, by any statistical criteria.

In this situation, it is simply not possible to pretend now that charter schools could vanish. Less so if millions of parents have chosen to send their children to highly segregated charters, in a country whose social inequalities are far worse than those in the US, which I know are ugly by themselves.

In short, if the US is navigating towards hell, we are already there and are trying to get out without sinking the ship. It is a very different situation.

The most difficult hurdle in front of us is not legal, political or financial, but cultural. Parents have been led to believe, for decades, that the “best” school is that which is segregated, both academically and socioeconomically. We have a true cultural and educational apartheid. Therefore, the changes will have to be gradual and careful. At the same time, the government is sending strong signals: this is not going to be a minor adjustment but a major change in the overall orientation of the school system; not to make it fully state owned, but simply to resemble the vast majority of OECD countries, probably in a way similar to that of Belgium or The Netherlands. The whole strategy is described in more detail in the above mentioned entries of this blog,

Recently, the Education Minister, Mr. Nicolás Eyzaguirre (with a powerful political and financial experience and profile) has announced the first wave of legislation, to be sent to Congress in May, whose details are now being drafted. They include, amongst other things, the radical ending of academic selection and skimming, the gradual elimination of cost-sharing (to reduce social skimming), the phasing out of 3,500 for-profit schools (to be converted into non-profits), the radical pruning of the standardized testing system, the strengthening and expansion of the public network of schools (so that they can compete in a better way with the charters) and a major reform to the teaching profession, from its training (completely unregulated so far), to improving salaries and working conditions.

This is an evolving situation. I will be most happy (if I can) to answer questions through this blog, and also to inform you about new developments in the future.

Scholars such as Henry Levin have earlier warned that the Swedish experiment in privatization is promoting greater social segregation and not improving education.

 

Reader Chiara Duggan adds this recent Reuters article, with her comment on the failure of market-based reform. Will anyone tell Arne Duncan or will he continue to follow the guidance of (Sir) Michael Barber of Pearson?

 

Duggan writes:

 

http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/12/10/us-sweden-schools-insight-idUSBRE9B905620131210

 

“Good piece on Sweden’s experiment with privatizing education:

 

“In a country with the fastest growing economic inequality of any OECD nation, basic aspects of the deregulated school market are now being re-considered, raising questions over private sector involvement in other areas like health.

 

Two-decades into its free-market experiment, about a quarter of once staunchly Socialist Sweden’s secondary school students now attend publically-funded but privately run schools, almost twice the global average.

 

Nearly half of those study at schools fully or partly owned by private equity firms.

 

Ahead of elections next year, politicians of all stripes are questioning the role of such firms, accused of putting profits first with practices like letting students decide when they have learned enough and keeping no record of their grades.

 

The opposition Green Party – like the Moderates long-time supporters of privately run schools but now backing the clamp-down – issued a public apology in a Swedish daily last month headlined “Forgive us, our policy led our schools astray”.

 

“I give the Greens huge credit for that.

 

“Can you IMAGINE a US political party writing “forgive us, our policy led our schools astray”? :)

 

“Never, ever happen.

 

“In 20 years when there are no public schools left we’ll get “mistakes were made”- by some unidentified person or group of people. :)”

This teacher read the post about Gulen charter schools and wrote the following comment:

 

This is so eerily similar to my job-it is a shame that there is poor oversight in these types of schools. I work in a Ohio-based charter school. I’m under great stress due to this under performing school. Misleading marketing leads unsuspecting parents to the school with inaccurate curriculum/academic expectations. Unfortunately, student turn-over is high, attendance/enrollment records are altered and no one ever questions-if you do, you just may lose your job. The principal is a bully and the superintendent is a pushover. Taxpayers don’t deserve for their hard-earned monies to be utilized in such a irresponsible fashion. There is no HR or outlet for employee grievances, no unions, the Department of Education really needs to stop winking at these degrading practices and shut underperforming schools down ASAP.

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