Archives for category: Privatization

Sorry I missed this great post when it came out in November. Jersey Jazzman, one of the nation’s best education bloggers, foretells the handover of the York City public schools to a for-profit charter chain and excoriates the state officials who are permitting this travesty to happen.

 

He digs into the stats on York City to show that it is performing about where you would expect given the socioeconomic disadvantage of its students. York City, he says, needs help, more resources, not a for-profit charter chain to siphon money out of its budget.

 

He writes:

 

Let’s recap:

Tom Corbett abdicated his responsibilities to the children of York and defunded their schools.
He sent in his personal hack to force the district to turn those schools over to a private, for-profit corporation through a shell non-profit.
The hack — as if he were a made man — told the district if they didn’t take his offer, he’d take over.
No one knows how much money the charter company is going to make on this deal.
Trust me, folks, we’re just getting started…

 

Meckley believes this plan is warranted because York’s schools aren’t performing up to snuff. But the truth is that they are exactly where we’d expect them to be, given the demographics of the city.

 

Do you want to see a photo of Jon Hage’s gorgeous yacht? Look here. He is the CEO of Charter Schools USA. The yacht was up for sale recently. He lives well. His business is very profitable with taxpayer dollars.

 

Jersey Jazzman asks:

 

And what kind of performance have the good people of Florida received for all of that money?

 
The chain was considered high-performing until this year. And on Tuesday the Orange School Board voted 7-0 to deny its applications for three new campuses.

 
Because charters are publicly funded per pupil, Charter Schools USA would receive about $27 million a year to run the three schools at capacity if approved.

 
“Their performance in Orange County is abysmally poor,” board Chairman Bill Sublette said of the Renaissance schools. “They’re underperforming the schools in the area that they’re drawing from. How can we look taxpayers in the eye and approve them?”
But Jonathan Hage, president and CEO of Charter Schools USA, said he is proud of all of the company’s schools, including Chickasaw.

 
“We do an excellent job over time, even with the lowest-performing students,” he said. “We knew we wouldn’t be able to turn those scores around in a year.” [emphasis mine]

 
JJ: I guess David Meckley knows better than the entire Orange School Board. Maybe CSUSA’s history in Indiana convinced him:

 
“The four takeover schools in Indianapolis lost huge numbers of students — between 35 and 60 percent at each school — between the start of classes in 2011 and when the takeover operators took over in 2012. Schools are mostly funded on the basis of their enrollment, so the departures came at a steep cost for the private operators.
On top of that, the takeover schools saw their share of a pot of federal funds for low-performing schools that is controlled by the state shrink as more state schools became eligible to claim that money. Tindley lost $212,000, and Charter Schools USA’s three schools lost more than $601,110 because of across-the-board reductions.
Together, the cuts have left takeover operators with much higher costs than they anticipated.
Sherry Hage, CSUSA’s chief academic officer, says the operator is planning to stick with its schools despite the costs. But for some, the price tag is proving too high. Earlier this month, Tindley shocked state education officials by threatening to pull out of Arlington shortly after the start of the school year unless the nonprofit could get $2.4 million in additional aid.”

 
– See more at: http://jerseyjazzman.blogspot.com/2014/11/york-pa-and-death-of-public-education.html#sthash.wCR7cUKg.dpuf

 

 

 

 

 

 

In this post, retired teacher Edward F. Berger uses the words “barbarism” and “barberism” interchangeably, on purpose.

 

On one hand, he refers to the “barbarism” of allowing testing companies to serve as a sieve to separate children into those who succeed and those who are rejected.

 

On the other, he refers to the ideology of Michael Barber, who is chief advisor to Pearson and previously served in a similar role at McKinsey. Berger refers specifically to the writings of Peter Greene, the teacher-blogger who carefully dissected a recent Pearson statement on the future of education, with the corporation at the epicenter as the foremost testing corporation in the world.

 

Here is a sampling of Berger’s thoughts on “the new Barberism”:

 

Let’s agree to use simple terms to describe complex matters. Think of a sieve used for separating coarse, from fine parts of matter. Now imagine people who believe that running students through a sieve built of data will allow them to correct or remove unacceptable thinking – like getting rid of individuality, and those who think in ways that are not acceptable to those who are designing new standards for humankind. Barbarism: Selecting those who can be programmed (educated?) in a new world order, and re-programming those who do not fit through the data-screens they create….

 

Sieves are being designed to standardize and program children. The warp and woof of these techniques is made up of data threads used to identify children who will be shaped to fit a predetermined ideal of the perfect subordinated child/citizen (learner?) Sieves are being used to generate data to decide who will be accepted into the new order and those data-judged souls who must go through “customized” re-programming. No one is making this up. This is happening now.

 

Who designs the sieves? That’s easy: TEST DESIGNERS. When people have the power to design tests, they can force what is taught, in any way they choose. Sadly, there are still people who have not realized that tests drive curriculum – what is taught, what is left out, and what is fact-adverse. Teachers use tests to see if what they taught is what students learned. Now, corporations have made testing and curriculum design a multi-billion dollar a year business. They are so powerful they can force their products and their views on school districts, universities, departments of education, and the AMA and doctors – on all of us. Few question their motives or the Barbarism behind their hidden agendas. They make the tests secret so no organization can study them understand how they are used for inculcation.

 

Those who run these corporations have amassed great wealth and power. They are well aware that by writing tests and the curriculum to support the tests, and by using tests to collect data on every aspect of a child’s life, they can engineer a new order, a utopia they design and force into place. This is beyond fiction in any genre. This is the power and warped ideology they are forcing on America and much of the world. Focusing on the Common Core fiasco is but one example. Common Core forces machine language and thinking, instead of creative and original thought in all disciplines.

 

Will it work? Can they program young brains to do what they want while sorting out those who do not or cannot think their way? As we peruse their agenda and plan of attack, we ask, who would have to be re-programmed? Who would not be admitted into their utopia? Of course, Albert Einstein. As a child he did not do what was expected. He jumped over the limited thinking of his time. He would be data-judged by the new Barbarism, and rejected as untrainable.

Camden, New Jersey, is one of the poorest cities in the state of New Jersey. The public schools are dilapidated. But charter schools are not dilapidated. Jersey Jazzman tells how one entrepreneur in Camden was able to raise $10 million through a bond issue to build a state-of-the-art facility, with a new cafeteria, science labs, a fitness center, and a health clinic.

 

He writes:

 

If you know anything about Camden and its schools, you’ll know that this is quite a story — a story that shows, once again, that charter schools play by a completely different set of rules, often to the detriment of public schools.

 

Let’s start with some background: I spent a lot of time last year telling the story of Camden’s LEAP Academy University Charter School and its founder, Gloria Bonilla-Santiago. The tale is long and twisted, but let me give the quick highlights:
Despite a track record of regularly missing Adequate Yearly Progress (and academic outcomes that even today lag compared to schools across New Jersey), LEAP was always a favorite of then-Acting Education Commissioner and school privatizing guru Chris Cerf:

 

*LEAP actually lost its tax-exempt status for a while in 2013 because it failed to file its tax returns. This was serious because $8.5 million in bonds had been issued from the Delaware River Port Authority for the school’s expansion. LEAP eventually got its tax-exempt status back, but not before blaming the debacle on the IRS.
*But the failure to file taxes for three years was the least of the questionable behaviors surrounding LEAP. The school illegally recruited athletes back in 2005, leading to a severe sanction from the NJISAA. The school engaged in unfair labor practices, leading to extraordinary levels of teacher turnover. LEAP had to repay the NJDOE when it used federal funds for non-allowable expenses. A LEAP employee filed a lawsuit, claiming he had been forced to do personal work for Bonilla-Santiago at her home (I can’t find any follow-up reporting on the status of this suit).
*But perhaps the biggest scandal coming from LEAP came from the Philadelphia Inquirer’s reporting on Bonilla-Santiago’s live-in boyfriend, Michele Pastorello:
When Camden’s LEAP Academy University Charter School compelled its new food-service management company to retain the school’s executive chef and give him a $24,000 raise, LEAP also had to pay a $151,428 penalty to its previous vendor, documents show.
Including Michele Pastorello’s new $95,000 salary, LEAP has spent nearly $250,000 this school year to keep him employed as executive chef. The position typically pays about $40,000, according to industry experts.
Pastorello is the live-in boyfriend of LEAP founder and board chairwoman Gloria Bonilla-Santiago. His raise, as well as the fee paid to the previous management company, Aramark, now are under review by the school’s board of trustees. [emphasis JJ]
Not surprisingly, a subcommittee of LEAP’s board found that nothing was wrong with this deal.

 

JJ adds, with careful documentation, comparing LEAP charter school to the Camden public schools:

 

LEAP serves a substantially different student body than the Camden Public Schools. We can argue about whether that’s acceptable or not, certainly acknowledging that LEAP’s student body has far more children in economic disadvantage than its suburban neighbors. But let’s get back to those bonds…

Because what I don’t understand is why there is plenty of money ready and available for charter schools like LEAP — which serves fewer children with special needs — to expand, while its neighboring public schools in Camden have to wait years just to get enough funding to keep from falling apart.

Why is Wall Street so eager to give a school like LEAP — a school with a history of not filing taxes, engaging in unfair labor practices, and paying favored employees far more than market wages — money with which to expand? So eager that, according to this Wall Street Journal story, LEAP is getting a remarkably good deal?
The school is paying a rate of 6.3% on longer-term debt. Comparable borrowing costs in 2009 were about 7.6%, according to the Local Initiatives Support Corp., which advises charter schools on finances.
Do you think that maybe the street came to a conclusion about LEAP? That maybe it doesn’t need to jack up interest rates for their bonds, because — as the school’s history shows time and again — it simply can do no wrong? – See more at:

 

 

http://jerseyjazzman.blogspot.com/2014/12/theres-always-more-money-for-charter.html#sthash.NcIzEwPK.dpuf

 

 

New York State Allies for Public Education released a letter refuting Governor Andew Cuomo’s “Misguided Agenda” for public education.  NYSAPE consists of 50 organizations of parents and educators from across New York state.

 

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: January 5, 2015 (Revised Link)
More information contact:
Eric Mihelbergel (716) 553-1123; nys.allies@gmail.com
Lisa Rudley (917) 414-9190; nys.allies@gmail.com
NYS Allies for Public Education (NYSAPE) – http://www.nysape.org

Governor Cuomo’s Misguided Agenda is Harming Public Education

NYS Allies for Public Education (NYSAPE), a coalition of 50 groups statewide, has sent a letter to Governor Cuomo, responding to the questions posed in a letter from his office addressed to Commissioner King and Chancellor Tisch on December 18 and shared widely by the media.

It is evident that the Governor has a misguided agenda about the state of our public schools and what strategies should be used to improve them. In our letter, we challenge the current reform agenda and advocate for education policies that have been proven to work, based on evidence and experience.

“Governor Cuomo says his responsibility is to ‘represent the students’ and that he wants ‘to do the best we can for the students and for their education.’ If so, he should listen to parents throughout the state who truly want the best for their children and who believe that the policies he is proposing —to double-down on privatization, high-stakes testing, Common Core and data sharing—are severely undermining the quality of their schools,” Eric Mihelbergel, Erie County public school parent and founding member of NYSAPE.

 

Jeanette Deutermann, Nassau County public school parent and founder of Long Island Opt-Out said, “The letter claims that during the campaign, the Governor ‘spoke to New Yorkers all across the state that [sic] had many questions about…what we could do to fundamentally improve public education.’ We do not know to whom he spoke, but he clearly did not speak to public school parents, who in surveys and polls overwhelming reject the top-down policies from Albany that are leading our schools in the wrong direction. We urge him to hold town hall meetings throughout the state, to listen to parents and hear directly their views about a better course of action, based on sufficient and equitable funding, local control, diminishing the focus on privatization and testing, and treating their children as the valuable unique individuals they are, rather than test scores or data points.”

In our letter to the Governor, http://www.nysape.org/nysape-response-letter-to-governor-on-public-education.html, NYSAPE addresses issues ranging from charter school expansion, mayoral control, teacher accountability system, and the Common Core, to consolidation of districts and the selection process for the Board of Regents. Instead of harsh political rhetoric from Albany pushing privatization and high-stakes testing, New York students deserve support from elected and appointed officials who respect and understand what kind of support public schools need to succeed.
For example, NYSAPE’s response regarding charter schools notes that according to the 2010 amendment to the New York charter law, before charters are renewed or allowed to replicate, they must show they enroll and retain equal numbers of at risk students as the districts in which they are located, and yet neither the Board of Regents nor SUNY have ever rejected a charter proposal on these grounds – despite the fact that many charters have sky high student suspension and attrition rates. Neither SUNY nor the Regents have provided adequate financial oversight, and in 95 percent of charter audits, the State Comptroller’s Office has found corruption or mismanagement. Yet when the Deputy Comptroller wrote a letter to the state’s major charter-school regulators asking for stronger oversight, he received no response.
On the question of improving teacher quality, NYSAPE responds that since 2012, due to “reform,” teacher morale is at a 20 year low. New reports have shown that there have been dramatic drops in enrollment in teacher preparation programs—New York State experienced a 22% drop in two years. It is likely that the majority of that 22% were highly qualified candidates who had other career options. It is clear that the rhetoric of teacher evaluation and the assignment of blame to teachers have made teaching a less attractive profession. Moving teacher evaluation systems from the control of local boards of education to politicians in Albany has resulted in a dysfunctional evaluation system that goes against current research. Worst of all, it has created unintended consequences for students, as teachers are incentivized to drill students for the tests.
The parents and educators of New York want strong and appropriate learning standards with a focus on classroom learning not testing. Without equitable funding throughout the state, schools will continue to be at a disadvantage and not have the essential resources to help students meet their full potential. Local control has been eroded by those who want to privatize public education and destroy the most vital cornerstone of our democracy. NYSAPE and its allies around the state stand together for proven strategies to help all children succeed.

NYSAPE’s full response to the Governor’s questions was sent not only to Governor Cuomo but to every legislator in the State of New York as well as to the Board of Regents. You can find the full NYSAPE response here: http://www.nysape.org/nysape-response-letter-to-governor-on-public-education.html

This is a comment by one of our frequent participants, identified as Teacher Ed:

 

Virtually every component of corporate “reform” imposed across this country is based on disasters that “reformers” have fabricated and tyrannical racketeering. Clearly, this is being done in order to privatize public education and raid tax dollars, while diverting attention away from the real disasters of poverty, a severe decline in the number of jobs with livable wages, a diminishing middle class and the inequitable distribution of wealth.

 

Are we supposed to wait until the perpetrators turn the screws and receive their dues for each part of this scheme before lawsuits can be filed? Is that how it works with the mob, too –payoffs have to be made first by victims before anything can be done about all the threats and dire consequences to result from not kowtowing to demands?

 

Is it possible to file a lawsuit that addresses virtually ALL of the components of the corporate “reform” business plan that is rapidly unravelling the fabric of American education? Maybe the ACLU could manage it, if only someone who cares would help fund it.

Larry Miller, an elected member of the Milwaukee school board and a member of the editorial board of Rethinking Schools, has written an excellent review and summary of Kristen Buras’ book–Charter Schools, Race, and Urban Space– about the privatization of public education in New Orleans. New Orleans has gotten an undeserved national reputation as “the answer” to struggling school districts. The establishment in many other urban districts are looking at New Orleans as a model, but it is a model of what NOT to do. As Buras tells it, the reforms in New Orleans dispossessed the black citizens of New Orleans and created great possibilities for white entrepreneurs. A teaching force that was 75% black was dismissed and replaced largely by white Teach for America recruits.

 

Milwaukee is one of the urban districts where the civic and business leadership is looking longingly at New Orleans. Perhaps Larry Miller can share Buras’ book with them.

 

Miller writes: “A major theme to her research is that the New Orleans RSD is a Southern strategy to use market-based reforms to give control of public schools, attended by Black children in Black communities and often taught by Black teachers, over to well funded white entrepreneurs.”

This comment was left by a reader in response to this post from a teacher who had worked in the Brighter Choice charter chain in Albany. A few years ago, this chain was described as “the holy grail” of charter schools. Since then, some of its charters have been closed for poor performance and two more are on the chopping block:

 

 

Hi, I too worked in an Albany Charter and now work in the Albany City School District. I can agree with the post that there are a lot of teachers and administrators who really care about the kids and want to do everything they can to help them. In my time in the charter school I met and learned from a few really fantastic and committed teachers. I can also say most of these teachers and administrators are generally very young and inexperienced. The majority of administrators do not have administrative licenses. The majority of the teachers are still completing their Master’s degree and have limited-no experience.

 

The problem with the Albany Charters is the Brighter Choice Foundation and the tone of the schools. They need to make their money and run the schools like a business. The BCF (which is somehow now called the Albany Charter School Network, not sure why?!) sits on the third floor of the MS that may close. Mr.Carroll, Bender, and the other white, wealthy and older men who run this organization make no effort to get to know the students or interact with the staff. They park in their reserved spots and jet to their cushy offices to send down orders. I don’t really understand how the school can have Board Members who carry the lease of the school and profit from it, work for the BCF or have other clear, financial interests in the school. I think they should have to post all of their board meeting materials in the same manner ACSD does (http://albanyschools.org/district/board/2014-15/12-11/12-11-14.documents.html). Perhaps the public should start attending their board meetings. It is strange that although each school has a separate charter, the four board meetings happen at one time, in one building. I have never seen an agenda or minutes of a meeting, but I understand they are only an hour or two long as well.

 

There is too much pressure on the students, teachers and administrators. Yes, they do not expel as many kids but I have seen them “counsel out” a large, large number of students. They suspend students, have their parents come in and eventually say “maybe the district schools will be a better fit for your family”. The Brighter Choice Middle Schools also do not enroll students in the 7th or 8th grades because “it takes so long to teach the expectations of the school that at 7th grade it is too late”. Their special ed. and ELL population is limited and entirely different than the population of ACSD. They have no self-contained classrooms for students with autism, learning disabilities or emotional disturbances. They have no ELLs who are refugees and have never been to school or learned to read. This is probably a good thing for these students because they teach directly to the test and rarely differentiate instruction. The inexperienced and young teachers are pressured by administrators (who are in turn pressured by the Foundation) to drill test prep and test taking skills. They rarely read novels. Students are pulled during Sci/SS (which they receive in rotation instead of daily) for AIS services. With the high focus on test prep, students receive little to no humanities education. Lunches are often silent and the students do not even have the freedom to stand up to throw away their own lunches. The students know little freedom, so they often rebel any chance they get.

 

The interesting thing about the Brighter Choice MS for Boys and Girls failing is that it is in a way very reflective of both the Albany Charter Schools and the fact that it is not easy to run an effective urban middle school. The majority of the students at BCMS-Girls and Boys are from the area charter elementary schools. This means that the elementary schools (BCCS-Girls, Boys, Henry Johnson, ACC) are not preparing the students for the challenges of middle school as well. Could it be that there is no “quick fix” to better urban middle schools?

 

I imagine the BCF will put up a big fight to keep these schools open as they stand to lose a lot of money if this building closes. I imagine their deep pockets will end up keeping this school open for a few more years. I am sure Cuomo will fight tooth and nail for his friends at the Foundation as well.

Leonie Haimson lists here the best and worst education events of 2014.

She cites the demise of inBloom as one of the best and the Vergara decision as one of the worst.

What would you add to her list?

We have all wrestled at one time or another with the deceptive rhetoric of “reformers.” They seem to have a common phrase book, written by PR whizzes, in which they have co-opted terms like “reform,” “great teachers,” “innovation,” “personalized,” and to have created terms like “a child’s zip code should not be his/her destiny,” a sentiment with which no one can disagree. Their solutions, typically, consist of privatizing public schools by handing public dollars over to private corporations to do the work of government, and dismantling the teaching profession by lowering standards for entry to young people without any professional preparation, eliminating due process, eliminating extra pay for additional degrees, and seeking to eliminate extra pay for experience. No reform movement in the past ever had this agenda. Reformers in the past wanted public schools to get better, not to replace them with privately managed schools or schools operated for profit. Reformers in the past wanted teachers to have better preparation, not to take away certification requirements. Reformers were not union-busters.

 

Education writer Steve Hinnefeld, on his blog, writes about the way the so-called reformers have corrupted the English language. I agree with him, and we see it all the time, such as when a pro-charter group calls itself “Save Our Public Schools” and circulates a petition to replace public schools with privately managed charters. However, I disagree with Steve on two of his definitions. I can’t think of a better term than corporate reformers, to demonstrate that their assumptions come from the corporate world, such as their belief in data, data-driven decision-making, standardization, incentives, and sanctions. Other people use terms like “deformers,” but that is more of an insult than a label. If Steve has a better term than “corporate reform,” I want to hear it.

 

I also challenge the claim–perhaps he does as well–that charter schools are public schools. They get public money, but that does not make them public schools. Lockheed gets public money. So does almost every private university. Charters have sued in different states to prevent public audits, on the grounds that they are private corporations, not subject to public audit. They have been taken to court by workers for violating state labor laws; they said they were private corporations, not public schools. When you hear this defense again and again, it is persuasive. I am persuaded.

 

Meanwhile, I welcome any suggestions from Steve or others to create a name for those who are leading the charge for more charters and vouchers and who are eager to strip teachers of due process, collective bargaining, and reduce their benefits.

 

I would also welcome suggestions for the name of “our side.” We do not “defend the status quo.” The status quo is headed by Arne Duncan, Bill Gates, Eli Broad, the Walton Family, Jeb Bush, Andrew Cuomo, and ALEC; it consists of high-stakes testing, privatization, and hostility to the teaching profession. We don’t like the status quo. We want better schooling for all children. We want the arts and history and physical education; we want experienced teachers; we want librarians, school nurses, guidance counselors, social workers, psychologists and after-school programs. Are we “the real reformers”? We fight for better education, for better schools, for high standards for entry into teaching, for respect for teachers and parents, and for kindness for children. What should we call ourselves?

Earlier today, I posted about the decision by a judge in Pennsylvania to declare the York City School District to be in “receivership,” meaning that it will now be controlled by the state. The district is being punished because its board refused to follow the receiver’s orders. Parents and educators fought the decision, but their voices did not count.

 

 

Here is a comment from one reader (Chiara), who also noted that Vice President Joe Biden’s brother, Frank, came to testify on behalf of the for-profit charter takeover (he works for a for-profit charter in Florida called Mavericks):

 

 

York isn’t the first public school district that was completely privatized by a politically connected for-profit charter management company.

 

Muskegon Heights MI was the first.

 

It was privatized but it’s never mentioned by ed reformers (unlike say, New Orleans) because the charter management company pulled out and left town when they determined they couldn’t turn a profit. Muskegon Heights doesn’t fit the ed reform narrative so it simply isn’t discussed.

 

“MUSKEGON HEIGHTS, MI — Mosaica Education Inc. will no longer manage the Muskegon Heights charter school district, and plans will begin immediately to seek a replacement company.
Muskegon Heights Public Schools Emergency Manager Gregory Weatherspoon said the separation came down to an issue of finances. Mosaica, a for-profit company, was running a deficit budget and not making a profit.”

 

I think they dump the for-profit charter chains in states where there’s no regulation, lawmakers are completely captured and there’s no national media focus – states like Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan and Florida.

 

OH, MI, PA and FL get all the ed reform garbage. It washes up here.

 

OH, MI, PA and FL should serve as a warning to other states not to lift charter caps and deregulate further, but it won’t. They’ll all end up like the least regulated states. It’s a race to the bottom.

 

http://www.mlive.com/news/muskegon/index.ssf/2014/04/mosaica_out_as_manager_of_musk.html

 

 

Another, 2old2teach, wrote this pointed question:

 

 

It really makes you wonder how these folks dare to appear in public. How do they teach democracy in York, now?

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