Archives for category: Privatization

Jersey Jazzman warns of a very serious malady found in the charter industry: Charter cheerleading.

 

He says it is perfectly normal to be proud of your school and its accomplishments. It is normal to want the world to know that your teachers and kids are terrific.

 

But charter cheerleaders go beyond the bounds of normal pride. Their schools are far, far better than yours. They quote statistics that ignore the reality of skimming and cherry-picking. They even boast when their school has not been open long enough to have produced any statistics. The simple fact of being a “charter” makes them say that they are better than any public school.

 

These people need help.

 

 

Tony Lux, recently retired as superintendent of the Merrillville Community public schools, has written a blistering opinion article in the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette.

 

He says that it is time for all supporters of public education to unite and vote for legislators who support public education.

 

Despite the fact that the voters of the state of Indiana overwhelmingly ousted State Superintendent Tony Bennett, an advocate of privatization, his policies continue.

 

Glenda Ritz, running against Bennett, received more votes than Governor Mike Pence, yet Pence has used the powers of his office to cut down the power of Ritz and to push ever more profit-making into the schools.

 

The only way to stop the total destruction of public education in the great state of Indiana is to vote for legislators who will support public schools against the entrepreneurs, privatizers, and profiteers.

 

Lux writes:

 

All public schools continue to be harmed financially [by Pence's policies of privatization]. Tax caps and expanded tax reductions have reduced state income. Along with the continuing obsession for maintaining the golden grail of a $2 billion state surplus, these factors have resulted in declarations by the governor that there just isn’t any state money to appropriately increase school funding. Nevertheless, diversion of education tax dollars toward the proliferation of unproven charter schools and private school vouchers have reduced funding for all public schools.

The governor makes grand claims that Indiana lives within its means (despite tax income that is diminishing due to an array of continuing and expanding tax deductions), and that Indiana maintains strong reserves (through “reversions” that take money back from state programs that serve the public), while still making “investments in education.” These claims ring incredibly hollow and are transparently hypocritical to anyone close to public education (and other public services as well).

Supposedly, business tax breaks will bring new jobs. But those new jobs require better-skilled graduates. Only thriving public schools in our cities, towns, suburbs and farm communities will achieve those results. Charter schools have little evidence of success, and tax dollars for vouchers are being expanded to pay for already-successful students rather than to fund programs for underachieving students.

The state’s return on investment in these strategies is practically negligible in increasing the percentage of students at grade level and in increasing the college and career skills of our high school graduates.

 

Mel Hawkins of Indiana says the election of 2014 may be the most important ever for the future of public education in Indiana. Now is the time to step up and support those who will fund our public schools and oust those vandals who would destroy them and turn our children into profit centers.

This is an important message from a local school board member–Damon Buffum– to the New York Board of Regents. To commend him for his straight talk and thoughtfulness, I add him to our honor roll as a champion of American education.

-

From: Damon Buffum (dbuffum)
Sent: Monday, October 13, 2014 11:27 AM
To: Norwood; Regent Bendit; Regent Bennett; Regent Bottar; Regent Brown; Regent Cashin; Regent Cea; Regent Cottrell; Regent Dawson; Regent Finn; Regent Phillips; Regent Rosa; Regent Tallon; Regent Tiles; Regent Tisch; Regent Young
Cc: Damon Buffum (dbuffum) (dbuffum@cisco.com)

Subject: Times Union article Re: Common Core Divides State’s Regents Board

Hello New York State Board of Regents -

My name is Damon Buffum and I’m a Board of Education member in the Fairport Central School District (Monroe County). I’m also a District Resident, father, grandfather and high tech Engineering Manager with Cisco Systems. The comments in this email are my own and don’t represent the opinions or policy of the Fairport BoE or Cisco Systems.

I wanted to comment on the recent article in the Albany Times Union regarding education policy and the views of the state Regents. First, thanks for your efforts. I know from my experience on the Fairport BoE, the time commitment to education in New York is immense and I can only imagine the time and dedication required to fulfill your roll on the state Regents Board. The main purpose of the note however, is to strongly support the views that Regent Rosa expresses in her comments in this article. She states, “They are using false information to create a crisis, to take the state test and turn it on its head to make sure the suburbs experience what the urban centers experience: failure”. I couldn’t agree more. In representing the Fairport education system I can firmly state that we have no crisis in the Fairport education system.

It’s disturbing to me to listen to Governor Cuomo, Commissioner King and the Board of Regents decry, universally, that New York schools are failing our children, that we spend more money than any other state and that our state government is providing more funding to public education that ever before. All of these statements have context, but are ultimately not true. I believe that you understand this. I do consider it a fact that we have certain districts that are in crisis, but I’ve also done personal analysis and know that there is a DIRECT link of education performance (whatever academic metric you chose) and student poverty. This is not a vague connection, but a direct connection. To divert attention away from this link to poverty and broadly paint this as a nationwide or statewide education failure is both misleading and incorrect. Using our sparse and valuable resources to attack this problem through inappropriate curriculum for early grades, over testing and data collection, high stakes testing, curriculum changes and the need for increased (overwhelming) investment in technology, new text books, teacher development is irresponsible and wasteful. I won’t go into the associated, unquantified, costs to these reform policies, but I have a firm belief that these are moving New York education in the wrong direction and will ultimately cost our state dearly in terms of an educated workforce and a healthy economy. We sadly do have a crisis in many urban and rural communities. We have a poverty crisis, a social structure crisis, a health crisis and economic opportunity crisis. These are the FUNDAMENTAL issues that have to be recognized and dealt with. A child spends roughly 17% of their time in schools. The best teachers, curriculum and tests won’t fix a problem if 83% of a child’s time is being impacted by other areas that are in crisis. This is where Governor Cuomo should be focused. Schools and teachers can do amazing things, but the children have to be safe, fed, healthy and ready to learn.

In my home district, the Common Core and associated testing (3-8 state testing, field testing, SLO testing) have caused an immense distortion of our child-centric focus and ensuring the education of the whole child. I understand that the CCSS are only standards and not curriculum or a test, but it’s naïve to think that the immense quantity of time and impact of these tests to do not have a direct link to the curriculum, funding, focus and morale of our education system. I’ve personally toured every building in our District and spoken with administrators, staff and students. We have a 95% graduation rate, our kids have a healthy education experience that includes the arts, history, the sciences, athletics, robotics, community service, diversity and inclusion. We are proud of our kids and our schools. Again, for me personally, I consider the New York state reform agenda to be a direct attack on the education community we have.

I know that I haven’t told you anything that you haven’t heard or known already. However, I am asking you to get real here. Let’s recognize the REAL problems that we have in New York and start attacking those. We need to stop proclaiming ALL education systems as failures and support the best of what we have while addressing the gaps. We need to support these activities with funding – and giving support and then taking it away through the GEA is absurd. The current Common Core implementation in New York is creating chaos. We have our Superintendents divided in terms of impact, the states teachers union initiating a lawsuit around a testing gag order, multiple Districts adopting declarations against high stakes testing, tens of thousands of students and parents opting out of state tests, schools being closed and we have total political dysfunction. Our kids are paying the price for this as they only experience their education a single time. We entrust you with our state education policy. Please put our schools and kids first (above a political or corporate agenda) and put education back in the hands of educators.

Regards –

Damon Buffum

http://m.timesunion.com/local/article/Common-Core-divides-state-s-Regents-board-5067470.php

Perdido Street blogger asks why it is impossible to find out who contributed to the lobbying group Families for Excellent Schools, which spent $6 million this year to prevent Mayor Bill de Blasio from regulating the charter school sector and won a law that forces the city to pay the rent of charters not located on public school grounds.

 

The blogger quotes extensively from the business magazine Crain’s New York, which described how this lobbying group exploited loopholes to avoid complying with state laws that require disclosure of donors to political action committees. “Group is visible,” the article’s title says, “but not its donors.”

 

Why do they hide their names and faces? We know why Perdido Street blogger has no name: he or she would be fired for speaking candidly, although tenure might be an obstacle.

 

But why do Wall Street hedge fund managers hide their identity? Why are they ashamed to let the world know that they are the “Families for Excellent Schools,” that they—whose children attend elite schools—are pretending to be parents in New York City’s poorest communities? Why pretend that impoverished families raised $6 million to attack Bill de Blasio, even as he was fighting to raise the minimum wage, expand universal pre-kindergarten, and preserve public education? Why pretend that the poor families who have been hoodwinked into supporting the privatization of public education are paying for the destruction of public education and the enrichment of investors and charter entrepreneurs?

 

Perdido Street blogger writes:

 

Just as Campbell Brown refuses to reveal who the donors for her anti-tenure group are even as she spends the money she gets from them on her anti-tenure campaign, Families For Excellent Schools spends millions lobbying politicians and millions more on pro-charter ads without revealing where that money is coming from.

 

This is life in Andrew Cuomo’s New York, where he raised millions through his Committee To Save New York PAC, then had that PAC spend that money on ads touting his political agenda, all without having to reveal who was donating to the Committee To Save New York PAC.

 

When the law changed and he would have been forced to reveal that donor base, he shut down the Committee To Save New York instead.

 

The criminals are running the state, folks – they own it, they’re throwing their dirty money around and buying whatever they want and whomever they want whenever they want and there’s NOTHING you can do it about it.

 

Andrew Cuomo’s New York – a cesspool of corruption.

 

 

 

 

In September, I wrote about Dawn Neely-Randall, a teacher in her 25th year of teaching in Ohio who decided she had to speak out against the testing madness that had swept the nation. I said if there were 1,000 teachers with her gumption in Ohio (and every other state), we could drive the “reformers” out of our schools and back to the smoke-filled rooms and financial institutions where they came from (of I didn’t exactly say that, I meant it).

Dawn has continued to speak out, and she sent me her Facebook page, which has pictures of her in conversation with Governor John Kasich. Governor Kasich looks on approvingly while charter pirates raid the state treasury of about $1 billion a year. He doesn’t worry about their poor performance or about their high profits because they also are generous contributors to his party! He doesn’t worry about wasting the lives of Ohio’s children by putting them in schools run by mercenaries. He doesn’t care about squandering the public’s money intended for education.

Dawn sent this new letter:

“Diane, I just thought I’d share my FB post from today. I’ve now talked with 1 Governor (and 1 Governor Candidate); 3 Senators; 6 State Reps; 1 Congress Woman (and 1 Congress Woman candidate); the Ohio Board of Education (twice); and the Ohio School Board. Here’s a photo of me trying to hold Governor Kasich to task over all this testing (who agreed that 18 hours for my fifth-graders “seems excessive” and who PROMISED I would be heard, but, of course, I have still not received the guaranteed phone call from our State of Ohio School Superintendent. (I’m the one who wrote the Washington Post piece of throwing students to the testing wolves…) In the meantime, parents in Ohio are starting to activate. It is all so overwhelming.

“Here is my FB post. Please see photos with Koch-funded and future Presidential candidate John Ka$ich from last Saturday at LCCC in Elyria, Ohio:

Dawn Neely-Randall

“Stress is really setting in.

“This morning, I awoke feeling the weight of the world on my shoulders. I don’t know how one little rant on Facebook last March got me from just being a concerned teacher to being so out there politically and publicly. I have NO political aspirations and I have received NO compensation for anything I’ve done, however, as I’m sure you can imagine, once you enter the public arena, you become a target since there is no way to please everyone. I go to bed writing letters to legislators and stakeholders in my head and awake wondering what I can do next to stop all this testing madness for my students. It has become a heart and moral issue for me. It is all so out of control and if you were already on my FB page prior to March, you heard me forewarning that all this was coming. I have said before that I felt I was building an ark and telling everyone that a flood was coming and trying to get them to save their children and that is really how I feel. (And it is only going to get worse and is already happening in other parts of our country.) If things don’t change soon, my health really can’t continue to tolerate all this stress and I don’t know what I will do differently with my career next year, but I have a feeling that the testing students will have to sit through from February through May will be a deal breaker and will send me out of the classroom for good.

“The other problem is that the more I speak out, the more people want to refuse the tests which does, indeed, hurt a teacher’s evaluation rating (brilliant move by the State of Ohio to give students a zero for refusing a testing and penalizing teachers to keep teachers silent), so, you can imagine, this will not make me popular with my colleagues. However, what about the children? I feel caught between a rock and a hard place. Legislators from both sides are telling me they can’t help and that it will take a massive act of civil disobedience from parents to change things. Teachers have duct tape over their mouths. Many School Board members are starting to catch on (thank God) and I’m putting my hopes in the fact that they will take their roles very seriously as the first line of defense against the state harming the students on their watch. And in the midst of it all, slowly but surely, I have to teach my students to navigate the computer for all the online PARCC (Partnership for Assessment for Readiness for College and Careers) testing coming their way and just the first introduction I gave them to the online practice test seemed to really freak (and stress) them out; I fear it is literally breaking my heart.

“Here’s a list of Ohio Department of Education testing hours JUST for 3rd through 8th grade (NOT INCLUDING) all the other state mandated testing, which adds ample hours to each school year and not including students’ course work testing as well. Remember, please that this will be the SAME child (your child or your neighbor’s child or your grandchild) testing from grade to grade to grade; add up the hours. Which grade level will suffer the most? The grade level AFTER the grade level that students were testing. In other words, each year that goes by, the more fried students will, of course, become. (Imagine how “happy” students will be about going to school by their middle school years and how dejected they will feel about testing by then.)

“How many drives to Florida could I make from Ohio in the same amount of time that students are testing 3rd through 8th grade? And remember, kindergarteners this year started testing first off this school year. Also, remember, this is just a partial list of hours students are tested. Is it just me, or is this so insanely insane?

“The Ohio Department of Education assessment staff is pleased to report session times for this year’s administration of Ohio’s New State Tests”:

“PARCC TESTNG 3rd Grade: 9.75 hours

4th Grade: 12.5 hours
5th Grade: 12.5 hours
6th Grade: 12.3 hours
7th Grade: 10.8 hours
8th Grade: 13.3 hours”

Thank you, Dawn. Thank you for your courage. This testing is not helping children, and you know it. It is a hoax intended to make public education look bad so the profiteers can move in and “save” more children from public education. They will open fly-by-night schools staffed by uncertified “teachers.” They will profit. Our kids will not. Keep fighting. As the scandals accumulate, and as voices like yours continue to be heard, the public will support you, not the people who seek to profit by destroying what belongs to the public.

Own a charter school! Own four! The road to riches!

 

ProPublica reporters here tell the story of Baker Mitchell in North Carolina, who has discovered that the free market works very well indeed for those who know how to use it.

 

Mitchell has four charter schools in North Carolina. He is also closely allied with Art Pope, the multimillionaire libertarian. He is connected politically. What could possibly go wrong?

 

He boasts that students schooled at his sprawling, rural campuses produce better test scores at a lower cost than those in traditional public schools.

 

The schools, however, do more than just teach children. They are also at the center of Mitchell’s business interests. Every year, millions of public education dollars flow through his chain of four nonprofit charter schools to for-profit companies he controls.

 

Unlike with traditional school districts, at Mitchell’s charter schools there’s no competitive bidding. No evidence of haggling over rent or contracts. The schools buy or lease nearly everything from companies owned by Mitchell. Their desks. Their computers. The training they provide to teachers. Most of the land and buildings.

 

The schools have all hired the same for-profit management company to run their day-to-day operations. The company, Roger Bacon Academy, is owned by Mitchell, 74.

 

It functions as the schools’ administrative arm, taking the lead in hiring and firing school staff. It handles most of the bookkeeping. The treasurer of the nonprofit that controls the four schools is also the chief financial officer of Mitchell’s management company. The two organizations even share a bank account.

 

Mitchell’s management company was chosen by the schools’ nonprofit board, which Mitchell was on at the time – an arrangement that would be illegal in many other states.

 

As the article points out, his schools get higher scores than the local public schools, but they enroll half as many needy children as the public schools whose money they poach.

 

Two of Mitchell’s former employees told ProPublica they have been interviewed by federal investigators. Mitchell says he does not know whether the schools are being investigated and that he has not been contacted by any investigators.

 

To Mitchell, his schools are simply an example of the triumph of the free market. “People here think it’s unholy if you make a profit” from schools, he said in July while attending a country-club luncheon to celebrate the legacy of free-market sage Milton Friedman.

 

It’s impossible to know how much Mitchell is profiting from his companies. He has fought to keep most of the financial details secret. Still, audited financial statements show that over six years, companies owned by Mitchell took in close to $20 million in revenue from his first two schools. Those records go through the middle of 2013. Mitchell since has opened two more schools.

 

Some people look at Mitchell’s political activities and his financial rewards, and they see conflicts of interest. Mitchell is making a lot of money. Mitchell says that it is his business how much money he makes. And that is that.

 

My view: all for-profit schools and colleges should be made illegal. They are a ripoff for students and they take money that taxpayers intended for public education, not for investors.

 

Read more here: http://www.newsobserver.com/2014/10/15/4233621_new-charter-rules-benefit-owner.html?sp=/99/102/110/&rh=1#storylink=cpy

 

 

Frank Breslin, a retired high school teacher of history and world languages, has written an eloquent article about the corporate assault on public education and explains why this assault endangers democracy and the American dream of equal opportunity.

 

He begins in this way:

 

A specter is haunting America – the privatization of its public schools, and Big Money has entered into an unholy alliance to aid and abet it. Multi-billionaire philanthropists, newspaper moguls, governors, legislators, private investors, hedge fund managers, testing and computer companies are making common cause to hasten the destruction of public schools.

 

This assault also targets the moral and social vision that inspired the creation of public schools – the belief in a free and inclusive democratic society that unites all of us in a common destiny as we struggle together toward a just society and a better life for ourselves and our children.

 

Public schools were the welcoming gateway to equal opportunity for our nation’s children. The fate of Old Europe with its assigned stations in life, its divinely-appointed places in the order of things, was not to be ours as Americans. Inspired by the stories of Horatio Alger, we would seek our fortune because this was America, the country where dreams came true; the land of promise, where pluck, hard work, and a bit of luck would carry the day.

 

This was the manifest destiny of the poor and marginalized who came to these shores, and public-school children were ushered into this grand tradition of exalted ideals. The poor and the homeless, the sick and the hungry could lay claim to our help because that is what a great nation did – took care of its own, especially those who through no fault of their own couldn’t care for themselves. This was a radiantly humane vision in a dark and indifferent world, a belief that would insure our survival in mutual concern as a compassionate people.

 

Public schools were the flame-keepers of this national creed enshrined in FDR’s New Deal, now under radical assault by corporate America and their neoliberal acolytes who would drag the 99 percent back into the Dark Ages of Social Darwinism, the law of the jungle where might makes right, and the poor and weak go to the wall.

 

The Gates, Broad, Walton, and Koch Foundations deserve special mention in unleashing Armageddon upon our public schools, all the while preening themselves hypocritically as angels of light. So intent are these Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse in their class warfare against their own country that the sacrifice of millions of public-school children as collateral damage means nothing to them.

Thanks to readers for sending this YouTube video of the Philadelphia Student Union at “School Reform Commission” headquarters.

 

The students chanted “Philly is a union town! The SRC has got to go! Save our schools!”

 

Watch it and feel good about the future.

 

The students disrupted the showing of the anti-union, pro-charter, anti-public school film “Won’t Back Down,” which was produced by Walden Media. Walden Media also produced “Waiting for Superman.” It is owned by Philip Anschutz, a rightwing billionaire who has many corporate interests, including the nation’s largest film chain and a fracking business. Odd that the School Reform Commission was showing that particular film, which was a total bomb when it was released commercially. The union is evil in this film, and a teacher and parent combine to use the parent trigger to convert their public school into a charter school.

Karen Yi and Amy Shipley of the Sun-Sentinel in Florida report on the multiple problems of Mavericks Charter Schools. The chain currently runs six charter schools for dropouts, five of them in South Florida. The charter chain started more than five years ago and has collected more than $70 million, of which $9 million was management fees for the company. Vice President Joe Biden’s brother Frank was once a paid employee of Mavericks; currently he is registered as a lobbyist for the chain.

 

The reporters write:

 

But more than a thousand pages of public records obtained by the Sun Sentinel raise questions about the private company’s management of its six charter high schools, including five in South Florida, which are publicly funded but independently operated.

 

Many of the company’s schools have been investigated and asked to return public dollars. Three have closed. Local, state or federal officials have flagged academic or other problems at Mavericks schools, including:

 

• Overcharging taxpayers $2 million by overstating attendance and hours taught. The involved schools have appealed the findings.

 

 

• Submitting questionable low-income school meal applications to improperly collect $350,000 in state dollars at two now-closed Pinellas County schools.

 

• Frequent academic errors that include skipping state tests for special-needs students, failing to provide textbooks and using outdated materials.

 

The schools are overseen by volunteer governing boards, which pay the West Palm Beach-based company to manage the schools’ academics, finances and operations.

 

Administrators defended the schools, despite the financial issues and low grades.

 

Mavericks schools have been repeatedly cited for flawed enrollment and attendance numbers, which Florida uses to determine how much public money charter schools get.

 

The Miami-Dade school district counted no more than 200 students during four visits to the Homestead school in February 2011. Yet the school had reported a 400-student count and 100-percent attendance on those days, the district found.

 

A Broward school district official discussed a similar discrepancy in a June 2012 email to district staff members. Broward school district officials accused the Fort Lauderdale school of inflating attendance numbers, according to the email.

 

An audit released by the Palm Beach County school district in 2013 found 300 discrepancies between the attendance records logged by teachers and those reported to the school district, and no evidence that 14 students enrolled by the Palm Springs school were actually taking classes, the report states. The school was forced to return $158,815…..

 

Jim Pegg, who oversees charter schools for Palm Beach County school district, “said problems with Mavericks in Education have frustrated district officials. State charter-school laws do not address the performance of management companies.
“The statute doesn’t give any kind of authority to hold those management companies accountable; we can only hold the schools accountable,” Pegg said. “We need to be able to have some authority with [management companies]. They are the ones taking the tax dollars.”

 

Mavericks and the many other for-profit management companies flooding Florida are an integral part of former Governor Jeb Bush’s “Florida miracle.” The schools can be accountable, but the management company that gets paid cannot be held accountable.

 

 

 

I just noticed that the blog has had 15,000,050 page views since its inception on April 26, 2012.

 

I am amazed and gratified.

 

Thank you to the readers who are here everyday, commenting, sending articles from your town, city  or state.

 

Thank for for engaging in thoughtful dialogue in the comment section.

 

Some of the best-read blogs have been written not by me, but by you.

 

The blog has become a hub of the resistance to high-stakes testing and privatization. I will continue to highlight the hard work you do to strengthen your public schools, to stand up for children, and to defend real education, as opposed to the massive machinery of data collection that is now promoted by the U.S. Department of Education and the Gates Foundation. I will continue to honor those parents, students, and educators who speak out for real education and for treating students and teachers with dignity. I will continue to support those who fight politically motivated budget cuts that hurt children.

 

Together we will do what now seems impossible. We will one day restore sanity to education policy, which is now completely off-track and determined to tag and label each of us as though we were cattle. The policies that govern federal policy are written for the benefit of the education industry, not for the education of our children. Our policies bear no meaningful relationship to love of learning. We will put a stop to it, because it is absurd. Not today, not tomorrow, but in due time, the cyborgs who now control education policy will return to the planet from which they came and allow us once again to educate our children for meaningful lives, not as pawns of the testing industry, not as consumers of tech products, not as data points, but as full human beings.

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