Archives for category: Privatization

Brian Malone, documentary film-maker, has self-funded a film about the corporate assault on public education.

 

His film is a MUST-SEE. It is titled EDUCATION, INC.

 

Malone is a parent of two children in the public schools of Douglas County, Colorado. He documents the well-funded effort to take control of the local school board. Grassroots activists running for school board raised $40,000. Corporate reform privatizers received over $1 million in funding, which they used for a slick propaganda campaign. They won control of the school board and immediately began implementing their plans for vouchers, charters, union-busting, and salary caps for teachers. The exodus of teachers from the district more than doubled. The district paid hired guns (including former Secretary of Education Bill Bennett) to praise its “reforms.” A commissioned study by Rick Hess of the American Enterprise Institute hailed DougCo as “the most interesting district” in the nation.

 

Malone crisscrosses the nation, interviewing teachers, parents, and trying to interview leaders of the privatization movement (who usually refuse to be interviewed).

 

What he shows dramatically is the huge pot of money coming from organizations connected to the Koch brothers, Jeb Bush, Michael Bloomberg, and other advocates for dismantling the public school system and replacing it with a free market of unregulated private schools and charters. He takes a close look at ALEC and its national network of rightwing extremists dedicated to privatization. Extremists and billionaires are pouring large sums into state and local school board races and into state legislative races. The only way to stop them is to go to the polls and vote for candidates who support public schools. The only way to make that happen is to education the public.

 

This is an important film about the future of American education. It is a call for citizens to get involved and take back their public schools from those seeking to privatize them.

 

Malone plans a national “house party” to show the film on August 14. Please contact him and get a copy and invite your friends and neighbors. EDUCATION INC. is a great place to start informing the public about the monied elite that wants to steal their schools and divert the funds to corporations, entrepreneurs, consultants, charter schools, and vouchers.

 

Go to the website for the film to learn how to get a copy: http://www.edincmovie.com or google Education, Inc.

The move is on to privatize every public service and to squeeze a profit out of its budget by cutting staff and services.

The watchdog group “In the Public Interest” reports on the library privatization efforts and pushback by communities that love their public libraries:

Earlier this month, in yet another win for local control, leaders in one central Florida county rejected a proposal from a for-profit library management company to take over their public library. The company, Library Systems & Services (or LSSI), operates at least 80 public libraries across the country, but Marion County joins a growing list of municipalities who realized that LSSI’s claim to do more with less while still making a profit was a greater fiction than even Stephen King’s best stories.

In 2010, the chief executive of LSSI admitted to the New York Times that the company saves money by cutting overhead and replacing unionized employees. “Cutting overhead” can mean fewer services and reduced hours. Privatized libraries make up for less professional staff by depending on unpaid volunteers and automation. Of course, when outsourcing relies on cutbacks in wages and benefits to realize savings, the local economy suffers and income inequality continues to grow. The company claims efficiencies from buying materials at the national level, but critics contend this sacrifices a local branch’s ability to adapt to the needs and interests of patrons.

Even LSSI’s basic sales pitch that they can operate libraries for less than the public is suspect. When the town of Dartmouth, MA, evaluated a proposal to privatize their libraries, they found there was no evidence that privatization saved communities money. San Juan, TX, remunicipalized their libraries after contracting with LSSI for five years due to frustrations with the company’s refusal to divulge its profit margin. After bringing their libraries back under local control, town leaders were able to extend branch hours, giving residents better flexibility and access. The California town of Calabasas canceled its contract with LSSI and saved $68,000 in their first year back with public library service.

Back in Marion County, residents and Friends of the Ocala Library are celebrating their win to keep a critical public good under public control. In an inspiring act of solidarity, the local firefighters union, Professional Firefighters of Marion County, criticized the privatization proposal: “Strong libraries are essential to strong communities.” When neighbors join together to protect common resources, they strengthen their communities as well as democracy. And that’s no fiction.

Sincerely,

Donald Cohen
Executive Director

InthePublicInterest.org

Mitchell Robinson, Associate Professor of Music Education at Michigan State University, has compiled a handy guide to the bold idea of “achievement school districts.”

 

There is the Recovery School District in New Orleans; the Education Achievement Authority in Michigan; the Achievement School District in Tennessee; and more on the way in other states.

 

The main thing you need to know about these experimental districts is that they promise rapid improvement in the state’s lowest performing schools, and all of them have failed.

 

Here are the key traits of Achievement School Districts:

 

School Funding

 

Individual ASD schools are often required to pay a “kickback” or “tax” to the state ASD authority for the “privilege” of being identified as a “low performing school”. In Nevada, “ASD schools receive the same state and local per-pupil resources that they would have received as part of their original home district. This includes local, state, and federal funding. As with other charter school sponsors, the ASD will receive a small administrative fee from each school it authorizes.” (bold added)
In other words, in spite of the probability that an ASD school has been chronically underfunded for years, perhaps decades, the state will now take its own cut from whatever local, state and federal funding the school may be receiving for administrative overhead, further decreasing the actual number of dollars that are going to classrooms, teachers and children.
Local Control

 

Local control, long recognized as a hallmark of public education, is a dinosaur in ASDs. In Detroit, the locally-elected school board still meets, but has essentially been stripped of all power and authority. The members of the elected school board refer to themselves as being “exiled,” and the newly elected state superintendent of schools has called on the governor and state legislators to return control of the Detroit Public Schools to the local school board, saying, “I believe we ought to have a Detroit school district for the Detroit community.” Instead, Gov. Rick Snyder has proposed a radical plan to split the city’s schools into two districts: one to educate children, and the other devoted to addressing the district’s debt problem.

 
Transparency

Even though it is often trumpeted as an integral aspect of effective school governance, very few ASDs follow their own propaganda when it comes to transparency in reporting. Detroit’s EAA is an especially notorious offender in this respect, making claims that do not stand even the faintest amounts of scrutiny. According to Wayne State professor of education Thomas Pedroni, the EAA’s “internal data directly contradicts their MEAP data. Even Scantron, the maker of the internal assessment, would not stand behind the EAA’s growth claims. And Veronica Conforme, the current EAA Chancellor, removed all the dishonest growth claims from their advertising and their website, and told me personally she doesn’t give them credence for the purpose the EAA used them for.” For more from Dr. Pedroni on the EAA’s specious relationship with transparency, see this, and this.

 
Punitive vs. Educative Methods

Many ASD charters include language regarding the possible consequences if schools do not meet “adequate yearly progress” goals, such as: “Operators of ASD schools that do not demonstrate meaningful improvement will be held accountable pursuant to policies set by the ASD.” Indeed, school closings have become a prominent tool in the school reform playbook:
Washington, D.C. closed 23 buildings in 2008. Officials are currently considering another 15 closures.
New York City closed more than 140 schools since 2002; leaders recently announced plans to shutter 17 more, beginning in 2013-14.
Chicago closed 40-plus buildings in the early 2000s. The district recently released a list of 129 schools to be considered for closure.
This approach follows guidelines first established in the No Child Left Behind legislation, which stipulate draconian changes for any school that fails to meet yearly progress within five years….

 

This thinking represents a sea change in terms of strategy with respect to schooling and education policy. Never in our nation’s history have we taken a punitive approach rather than an educative approach when schools or children have struggled with demonstrating expected levels of progress.

The superintendents of the Philadelphia public schools, William Hite, is a graduate of the unaccredited Broad Superintendents Academy. The BSA is a major proponent of charter schools, and a major critic of public schools, which it considers to be failing, failing, failing.

 

Superintendent Hite has filled up the top administrative jobs of the public school system with veterans of the charter school movement.

 

Guess that is what he learned as a Broadie.

Bad news from North Carolina.

Contact: Yevonne Brannon/Patty Williams

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Tel: 919-244-6243/919-696-8059

Email: info@publicschoolsfirstnc.org

NC SUPREME COURT DEALS STUNNING BLOW TO PUBLIC EDUCATION

More children placed at risk by decision

Raleigh, NC—July 23, 2015— Public Schools First NC is disheartened by the NC Supreme Court ruling that will transfer tens of millions of desperately needed public education dollars to fund unaccountable private schools.

“Today is a very sad day in the history of our state,” said Yevonne Brannon, Chair, Public Schools First NC. “Our long-standing tradition of commitment to excellence in public education has made North Carolina a jewel among southern states. We cannot fathom how this decision upholds the constitutional promise that all children receive a sound, basic education within the public school system. And we are deeply concerned as strong public schools are critical for growing our economy and maintaining the vitality of our communities.”

Where voucher programs have been implemented, there is no evidence that they offer high- quality educational alternatives to children from low-income families. In Indiana, the number of vouchers awarded has grown exponentially; according to an education leader in that state, the program “now benefits middle class families who always intended to send their children to private (mostly religious) schools and taxpayers are footing the growing bill.” Today,
Indiana taxpayers pay an estimated $116 million to send 29,000 students to private/religious schools.

Public Schools First NC questions the “public purpose” of the school voucher program, when there are clear solutions—ranging from fully-funding pre-K programs, adequately funding
classroom supplies, and offering programs and compensation that encourage recruitment, preparation, support and retention of professional, experienced educators—to improve public education. Since 2008-09, funding for education essentials, including (textbooks,
transportation, teacher assistants, teachers, etc.) has been reduced by over $1 billion.

“How can sending at-risk children to schools where accreditation is not necessary, where teachers do not need a high school diploma, and where adherence to academic standards is not required be a worthy educational alternative,” noted Brannon. “All children lose when public schools are further depleted of their funds, and those funds are then used for unworthy ends.”

About Public Schools First NC:

Public Schools First NC (PSFNC) is a statewide, nonpartisan organization focused solely on public education issues. We collaborate with teachers, parents, business and civic leaders, students and communities across North Carolina in support of an effective public education system that will prepare each child for life. To learn more or to join our organization, please visit: publicschoolsfirstnc.org. Follow us on Twitter: @PS1NC. Read our 2015 legislative priorities.

I hope you will read the opinion piece that I wrote for today’s Los Angeles Times about what priorities the next superintendent should have.

 

For those of you who have frequently criticized the LA Times as a tool of the charter industry, please note that I was invited to write the article.

 

The article is a strong plea for a leader who will restore public confidence in public education. Given that Los Angeles has a very rich, very powerful lobby for privately managed charters, it was written to counter their pressure to convert more public schools to private management. They heavily invest in school board candidates who follow their agenda. In the last election, the charter lobby managed to place a charter school operator on the district school board. Only an awakened public can defend the public sector from raids by the corporate sector on what rightly belongs to the entire community.

 

Los Angeles’ public schools are indeed in crisis. The solution is not to abandon them, but to rebuild them so as to meet the needs of the children enrolled in public schools.

 

 

Chris Barbic led the Achievement School District in Tennessee from May 2011 until resigning a few days ago. Barbic has sterling reformer credentials: he is both an alum of Teach for America and a graduate of the Eli Broad center. After creating the YES Prep charter chain in Houston (which won the Broad Prize for Charter School Excellence in 2012), Barbic was invited to Tennessee by then State Commissioner Kevin Huffman to achieve a daunting task: To take control of the lowest-performing schools in the state and move them to the top 25%. Barbic, a Broadie, was sure he could do it. When he took charge, he handed neighborhood schools (mostly in Memphis) over to various charter operators. (Here is a report on the ASD by EduShyster, written in 2012.)

Despite a steady stream of press releases claiming progress, the reality was that test scores barely budged. Four years into the five-year plan, none of the ASD schools are in the state’s top 25%. In addition, local parents and communities pushed back, angry about losing their neighborhood school to outsiders. Even Barbic’s YES Prep chain decided not to join the Achievement School District.

Barbic declared when he announced his resignation, “Let’s just get real.” He acknowledged that it is easier to get good results in a choice school than to transform a neighborhood school.

In a choice school, the students choose the school, and the schools choose the students.

“Barbic admitted what skeptics of charter schools have preached for years — “achieving results in neighborhood schools is harder than in a choice environment.”

The Houston Chronicle reported:

“Barbic, as founder of the highly acclaimed YES Prep charter school network in Houston, was used to starting schools from scratch, enrolling students whose parents chose to send them there instead of to their zoned school. Charter schools in Texas are supposed to be open-enrollment, meaning they can’t set admission criteria, but some people argue that charters benefit simply from enrolling children with more motivated parents.

“Tennessee presented a different challenge for Barbic. There, he was charged with launching a special school district that included the state’s lowest-performing schools. A key part of Barbic’s mission was to recruit charter networks to step in and improve the schools. However, he ran into some trouble as most charter operators have a start-from-scratch model, rather than taking over existing schools. Even YES Prep withdrew from the experiment.”

But here is an irony:

Terry Grier, the Houston superintendent, has hired Jason Bernal—Barbic’s successor at YES Prep–to take charge of transforming Houston’s lowest performing middle schools and high schools. He will be Houston’s “chief transformation officer.”

This is an open letter to Senator Bernie Sanders written by teachers who support him but oppose high-stakes testing and the Common Core standards. They wanted to let him know that they were disappointed that he voted for the Murphy Amendment to the Senate’s “Every Child Achieves Act.” The Murphy Amendment would have continued, in fact intensified, the punishments attached to No Child Left Behind. These teachers want Senator Sanders to know that they oppose punishments and sanctions based on test scores.

They write:

We are disappointed with your recent votes in the senate that contain provisions which perpetuate quantitatively based measures of education. Your Tennessee senatorial colleague Lamar Alexander correctly stated that what you just recently voted for, “Instead of fixing No Child Left Behind, it keeps the worst parts of it.”

Quantitative measures are invalid. They are masks for social inequalities. They merely highlight and then reflect economic and racial inequalities. Mel Riddile, “PISA: It’s Still ‘Poverty Not Stupid'” at the blog, “The Principal’s Corner”, found that numerical performance of districts mirrors the scale of economic inequalities of those districts. Statisticians have proven over and over again that the use of value added modeling is logically flawed. NCLB drove the use of value-added modeling (VAM) which negatively transformed the teaching and learning processes in the nation’s schools.

Furthermore, as union members we believe that the current education “reform” agenda is a relentless and insidious attack on unionism itself. This agenda’s usurpation of the language and iconography of the Civil Rights struggle and the limitlessness financial resources of the billionaires, hedge funders, and corporations who are championing and bank rolling it are reprehensible. It is therefore, sir, not merely an attack on children, teachers, and public education, but an undermining of the noblest and most progressive movements in American history: union rights and civil rights. We implore you to rethink your recent vote, which is wholly and utterly incongruous to your noble and progressive defense of the American working class.

That is only part of their letter. It appeared on the Huffington Post.

Laurie Gabriel, a teacher with nearly three decades experience, decided that she had to do something to fight back against the absurd attacks on teachers.

 

The first thing she did was to create a documentary to explore the critical issues of the day. It is called “Heal Our Schools,” and it offers practical advice that most teachers would vigorously agree with. In her video, she interviews teachers, students, and a few outsiders (like me). The people she spoke to talked about what matters most in teaching and learning, which she would say is to encourage students to find their passions and pursue them. Her first recommendation, by the way, is to reduce class size so children can get individual attention when they need it.

 

The high point of the film, in my estimation, was when she spoke to some vocal critics of teachers. She invited them to teach a list of vocabulary words to ten students, and they accepted her offer. The scenes were priceless. The students were restless; one put his head on the desk. Announcements on the public speaker interrupted the lessons. When one of the “teachers” reprimanded a student and told him that when he was in the Army, he would have gotten 50 push-ups for his behavior, another student piped up and said, “We’re not in the Army.” After their students took their tests, Laurie gave them feedback about their performance. They were less enthusiastic about grading teachers by their students’ test scores and even seemed to be more respectful of the skill that it takes to teach middle schoolers.

 

The second thing she did was to take her documentary on the road, showing it to interested audiences. Her current schedule starts tonight in Wyandotte, Michigan. You can see her other stops listed below. If you live in one of these cities or towns, please show up and bring some friends.

 

July 21 WYANDOTTE MI (Detroit area)- 7:00 at Biddle Hall, 3239 Biddle Ave.
July 22 CLEVELAND – 7:00 at the West Shore Unitarian Universalist Church
July 23 PHILADELPHIA – 7:00 at the Ethical Humanist Society, 1906 Rittenhouse Square
July 24 WASHINGTON DC – 8:00 at the Holiday Inn Washington Capitol, 550 C Street SW
July 26 – JERSEY CITY – 7:00 pm at the Jersey City Union Building, 1600 W. Kennedy
July 28 NEW YORK CITY – 2:30 pm at the Actors Theatre Workshop, 145 W. 28th Street, 3rd floor
July 29 RAYNHAM MASS. 6:00 pm at the Massachusetts Teachers Regional Office, 656 Orchard Street 3rd floor
July 30 PORTSMOUTH NH, 7:00 pm at the Women’s City Club, 375 Middle Street
August 3 – GRAND BLANC, MI – 6:00 at the Grand Blanc Mcfarlen Public Library.
August 9 DENVER – 1:00 pm at the Highlands Ranch Public Library, 9292 Ridgeline Blvd in Highlands Ranch

 

If you don’t live in one of those locales and want to see “Heal Our Schools,” contact Laurie at aspenquartet@hotmail.com

 

Perhaps you could arrange a showing in your community.

Privatization often turns out to cost more and provide worse service than public sector workers. Michigan just fired Aramark, which had a three-year contract worth $145 million.

The Eclectablog website credited the persistence of Progress Michigan:

“While the Detroit Free Press takes a victory lap for this development, the true heroes were Progress Michigan who tenaciously kept the story in the news including spending the money needed to procure thousands of pages of documents through Freedom of Information Act requests.”

Thanks to Progress Muchigan but thanks to the Detroit Free Press too.

The Detroit Free Press reported:

“A transition will begin July 29 and is expected to be concluded on Sept. 9 — what would have been three months shy of the two-year anniversary of Aramark’s three-year, $145-million contract with the state of Michigan.

“The Free Press, using the Freedom of Information Act and other sources, has documented a wide range of problems with the prison food service since Aramark took over the contract, replacing 370 state employees. Issues have ranged from meal shortages to maggots in the kitchen, to smuggling of drugs and other contraband by Aramark employees, to Aramark workers engaging in sex acts with prisoners. […]

“Close to 200 Aramark workers have been terminated and banned from prison property for a range of transgressions, including allegedly attempting to hire an inmate to have another inmate assaulted.”

The state has signed a new contract with another private company, Trinity Services Group, for $158 million over three years. Keep your eyes open.

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