Archives for category: Privatization

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.

Fund Education Now, a public school advocacy group in Florida, says that the Jeb Bush-ALEC machine gives out grades to legislators. Those who get an A are the ones who want to privatize public education and create profits for their buddies.

 

Florida voters need to understand that in the topsy-turvy world of Florida school politics, an A from the Bush-ALEC machine is actually an F.

 

Fund Education Now writes:

 

 

This is the season when the Foundation for Florida’s Future, the Florida Chamber and Associated Industries of Florida release their 2015 Legislative Report Cards. In particular, the Foundation assigns grades to legislators’ based on their willingness to pass the Jeb Bush/ALEC-driveneducation reform/privatization policy agenda.

 

These grades are a road map for voters. When your favorite Senator repeatedly gets an A grade from these folks, that’s a sign. It’s a big part of why legislators are willing to look foolish as they defy all logic to pass policies that hurt children and harm public schools.

 

Since 2009, parents, teachers, grandparents, districts and students have raised a mighty voice against the mind-numbing, narrowed curriculum, disrespect to teaching and the insane numbers of unfair high stakes tests. Every major newspaper has repeatedly demanded better from legislators. Despite all objections, politicians follow the plan and spend millions of public dollars on vendors, often in support of schemes promoted by wealthy ROI philanthropists eyeing a piece of what Joel Klein and others see as a $600 billion dollar education industry.

 

Sadly, it’s not enough to drive get out the vote numbers. Voters must know who they are voting for. Take Florida’s Orange County Delegation: There are 13 members and 8 of them got As from Jeb’s Foundation. These legislators carry the water for a particular, extreme policy group, not for voters. Parents seeking relief from Florida’s cruel education reform policies will get zero help from these lawmakers.

 

Orange County Delegation 13 members/8 A grades from FFF:

 

Sen. Hays, R, Dist. 11

Sen. Gardner, R, Dist. 13

Sen. Soto, D, Dist. 14

Sen. Stargel, R, Dist, 15

Rep Cortes, R, Dist 30

Rep. Sullivan, R, Dist. 31

Rep. Eisnaugle, R, Dist. 44

Rep. Miller, R, Dist. 47

 

The remaining 5 members of the Orange delegation who voted or advocated against high stakes testing, tying teacher pay to test scores, corporate tax voucher expansion, handing over voter approved public school tax millage to for profit charters and other measures received considerably lower grades, including an F for Orange’s Rep Bracy, D, Dist. 45.

 

Voters must understand that politicians who push policy agendas such as School reform are rewarded in many ways. Money pours into races from PACs such as the American Federation for Children and the Florida Federation for Children. And the education reform/privatization agenda seeks to redefine “local control” to reference state legislatures. As a result, duly-elected Florida school board members are under attack for disagreeing with reformers.

 

It’s interesting to look at a smaller Florida district whose entire delegation is under the sway of education reform. Superintendent Walt Griffin recently wrote a letter to Commissioner Pam Stewart asking to allow Seminole to return to paper and pencil abandon the state’s troubled FSA and switch to a nationally norm referenced test such as the ACT. How much support will Griffin get from his public servants?

 

Seminole County Delegation: All 5 members received an A grade from FFF:

 

Sen. Simmons, R, Dist. 10

Rep. Brodeur, R, Dist. 28

Rep. Plakon, R, Dist. 29

Rep. Cortes, R. Dist. 30

 

Those who work to advance high stakes education reform policies cross all political stripes. If a candidate is not willing to turn down education reform campaign funding, that’s a problem. If a candidate refuses to oppose using tax dollars to create multiple uneven, unfair school systems, that’s a deal-breaker.

 

We have reached a point where a candidate’s dedication to investing in and improving public education must be a litmus test for service. Legislators often give constituents less than 2 minutes to talk in Tallahassee while policy lobbyists such as Jeb’s Foundation for Florida’s Future are afforded unparalleled access across the board.

 

Using power and money to drive policy and elections is not restricted to Florida. The Foundation for Florida’s Future is part of an establishednational agenda. In fact, its affiliated with the Foundation for Excellence in Education National, whose motto is: Turning Reform into Reality.

 

It’s a cruel irony that politicians are so eager to earn grades for passing policies that hurt children. Now voters must use these education reform “loyalty grades” as a tool to weed out politicians who don’t deserve reelection.

 

 

 

Minutes ago, a bipartisan majority of the Senate approved the Every Child Achieves Act, which is the bill forged by Senators Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn) and Patty Murray (D-WA). This is the long-overdue reauthorization of No Child Left Behind, the legislation passed by Congress in 2001 and signed into law on January 8, 2002. The underlying legislation is the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, whose purpose was to authorize federal aid to education targeted to schools that enrolled significant numbers of children living in poverty. The original bill was about equity, not testing and accountability.

 

The Senate bill retains annual testing, but removes federal sanctions attached to test results. Any rewards or sanctions attached to test scores will be left to states. The Senate rejected private school vouchers; nine Republican Senators joined with Democrats to defeat the voucher proposal. The bill also strengthens current prohibitions against the Secretary of Education dictating specific curriculum, standards, and tests to states, as well as barring the Secretary from tying test scores to teacher evaluations. The bill repudiates the punitive measures of of NCLB and RTTT.

 

The House of Representatives has already passed its own bill, called the Student Success Act. A conference committee representing both houses will meet to iron out their differences and craft a bill that will then be presented for a vote in both houses.

 

As I get additional details, I will post them.

 

Speaking for the Network for Public Education, I will say that we are pleased to see a decisive rejection of federal micromanagement of curriculum, standards, and assessments, as well as the prohibition of federal imposition of particular modes of evaluating teachers. We oppose annual student testing; no high-performing nation in the world administers annual tests, and there is no good reason for us to do so. We reject the claim that children who are not subjected to annual standardized tests suffer harm or will be neglected. We believe that the standardized tests are shallow and have a disparate impact on children who are Black and Brown, children with disabilities, and children who are English language learners. We believe such tests degrade the quality of education and unfairly stigmatize children as “failures.” We also regret this bill’s financial support for charter schools, which on average do not perform as well as public schools, and in many jurisdictions, perform far worse than public schools. We would have preferred a bill that outlawed the allocation of federal funds to for-profit K-12 schools and that abandoned time-wasting annual testing.

 

Nonetheless, we support the Senate bill because it draws a close to the punitive methods of NCLB and RTTT. It is an important step forward for children, teachers, and public education. The battle over “reform” now shifts to the states, but we welcome an era in which the voices of parents, educators, and students can mobilize to influence policies in their communities and states. We believe that grassroots groups have a better chance of being heard locally than in Washington, D.C., where Beltway insiders think they speak for the public. We will continue to organize and carry our fight for better education to every state.

Can a fox be trusted to guard the henhouse? Can the guy who oversaw the Néw Orleans experiment in privatization be counted on to “improve” public schools? Does the Laura and John Arnold Foundation care about anything other than privatization and taking away defined benefit pensions from public sector workers? John Arnold was a very successful Enron trader, now a philanthropist and advocate for charter schools.

Reader Chiara contributed this development:

“HOUSTON, TX—The Laura and John Arnold Foundation (LJAF) today announced that Neerav Kingsland has joined the Foundation as a senior education fellow. Mr. Kingsland will oversee the Foundation’s efforts to improve K-12 education. Most recently, he served as the chief executive officer of New Schools for New Orleans (NSNO), a nonprofit organization working to ensure that every child in New Orleans, Louisiana, is able to attend a high-quality public school.”

This is the guy that wants to privatize all public schools, right? Glad to see the ed reform “movement” is moving towards ever-more extreme policy and practice.

Can someone who wants to eliminate public schools really “improve” public schools? If the ed reform movement attaches no value at all to schools that now exist, are they really likely to go about “improving” them with any kind of appreciation for the downside risk inherent in replacing them with the privatized model?

http://www.arnoldfoundation.org/neerav-kingsland-joins-the-laura-and-john-arnold-foundation-as-a-senior-education-fellow/

The Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II is a major national figure in the civil rights movement of our time. He will be the keynote speaker at the Network for Public Education’s annual conference on April 15-17 in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Rev. Barber is the founder of the Moral Mondays movement in North Carolina, where a radical faction has taken control of the Legislature and the Governor’s seat. The Moral Mondays convenes every Monday in front of the State Capitol to protest the legislsture’s assaults on basic human rights.

Please come to Raleigh to meet Rev. Barber and hear his eloquent plea for justice and decency in our time.

Here is a statement that Rev. Barber wrote about the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

Rev. Barber writes:

Fix public education, end high stakes testing, pass ESEA

All lives of students matter. Children come into life with fresh eyes, fresh minds, and boundless hope and energy. Our elders created schools, and taxed themselves to pay for well-educated, loving people to be teachers, to keep that hope, energy, and freshness alive through the first two decades of life. But every day we hear of kids being bullied, giving up, dropping out, losing hope. To stop this man-made flood from schools to prisons, we need an all-out, multi-dimensional effort.

I write today because all people of good will, all patriotic Americans, have a chance to do something now to begin repairing the striking poverty breach that is so plain. Congress is preparing to vote on the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) on its 50th anniversary. What they decide now can change the course of federal aid to education for decades to come.

My father taught physics at the high school I attended in one of the poorest counties in North Carolina. My mother has worked in the same high school for more than 40 years. My five children worked their way through public schools in the poorest part of our state. One earned a PhD from Harvard in public health; one starts law school this fall; and two are working on their college degrees. My youngest son has several more years of public school ahead of him.

But my heart aches for their peers. Everywhere I go, I see children attending under-funded schools with over-worked teachers. The seeds of justice and love that we try to sow have a hard time taking root, when they land on hungry stomachs and hopeless hearts. Kids are born as hungry to learn as they are to eat. All of them need learning environments that help them thrive and live purposeful, prosperous lives. Educational opportunities and qualified, caring teachers make this dream possible. But as we under-resource our public schools, we are not just deferring dreams, we are shriveling and stomping on them.

The Southern Education Foundation (SEF) has tried to alert the nation for years about the crisis in our schools. Their 2013 report makes the problem plain. SEF Vice President Steve Suitts said, “Without improving the educational support that the nation provides its low income students – students with the largest needs and usually with the least support — the trends of the last decade will be prologue for a nation not at risk, but a nation in decline…”

In our Moral Monday Movement in North Carolina, we believe we must engage in every non-violent means of struggle possible to stop the tea party extremist attack on our teachers, our schools, and our children. If we sit back and watch extremists destroy our University and public school systems, we are discredited before our children, and we forfeit our chance to be called ‘repairers of the breach.’

When Congress enacted the ESEA in 1965, everyone knew education opportunities for black children were radically unequal to the opportunities for white students. Now, 50 years later, these gaps persist and are widening–despite the law’s promise to level the playing field for the nation’s most vulnerable students.

The last time Congress reauthorized ESEA, they and President George W. Bush established high-stakes testing, labeling, and policies that punish schools if kids flunked the tests. Tests don’t teach. Nurturing creative adults who know how to draw out individual children are what education is about. We don’t send our kids to school to become skilled test takers. We pay our taxes and send our kids to public schools because we need future corporate CEOs, cardiologists and aerodynamic engineers, university presidents and school principals, urban planners and architects. Our sons and daughters can’t reach these heights when accountability in our education system hinges on standardized test scores, not cultivating intellectual opportunity—the real measure of education. Standardized tests can tell us only so much. Educators know that annual multi-dimensional assessments that tell us whether a child is falling behind, whether she or he needs intervention and support the school can’t provide, or if a youngster is on track to graduate are the tools they need—not a single number.

Congress has a chance to fix the high stakes testing regime that has failed. Congress has the chance to deliver on its promise of educational opportunities for all students, especially the nation’s most vulnerable ones, which is the purpose of ESEA. Congress has the chance to repair the breach caused by sins and systems of slavery and segregation.

All our children have a fundamental civil right to a quality education. The ESEA can help make schools of hope and love. Stop drying up our kids’ dreams, like raisins in the sun.

Barber is the current president of the North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP, the National NAACP chair of the Legislative Political Action Committee, and founder of Moral Mondays.

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