Archives for category: Privatization

Cathy Fuentes-Rohwer, a parent in Bloomington, Indiana, posted the following “rant” (as she calls it) on her Facebook page. She is one of the parents who is outraged by Governor Pence’s unrelenting attack on State Superintendent Glenda Ritz, who was elected in 2012 with more votes than Governor Pence. She is a member of the Indiana Coalition for Public Education. The great majority of parents—Democrats, Republicans, and independents–send their children to public schools, not to charters or voucher schools. They see clearly what the Governor and the Legislature are up to: the destruction of their community’s public schools. They know what is behind it: money, campaign contributions from private interests who will profit by the proliferation of for-profit charters. And they are furious that their votes for Ritz have been disregarded by Pence and his allies.

 

Cathy Fuentes-Rohwer writes:

 

“Governor Pence has swooped down on his white horse and hat to right the wrongs of the ISTEP. You have got to be kidding me.

 
Fixed ISTEP?

 
Yes. The same way that dissolving his secondary department of education at the start of this session (CREATED BY HIS OWN EXECUTIVE ORDER WASTING MILLIONS OF OUR HARD-EARNED TAX DOLLARS) “FIXED” the troubles with Ritz and the SBOE.

 
Governor Pence has created both problems and then somehow gets credit for finding solutions. Heck, he doesn’t need his own state-run newspaper. He’s got a confused unaware citizenry.

 
It was the pressure of his constituency and that of the super majority that made them PASS A LAW TO STOP COMMON CORE AND CREATE NEW STATE STANDARDS. Yes, the feds require college and career ready standards. So give up the waiver already. Democrats, Republicans– these are corporate education reformers we are talking about and they are not doing ANY OF THIS FOR YOUR KIDS. It is all about the money.

 
Glenda Ritz put together new state standards by including as many of the players she could and being sure that she was including all of the many standards that the supermajority, SBOE and governor required of her. She and her staff wanted to ask for a halt to the accountability until they could roll out and test this assessment. This is our superintendent enacting THE POLICY SET BY THE GOVERNOR THE SBOE AND THE SUPERMAJORITY. (Yes, in line with the federal requirements. So drop the waiver already. Aren’t you so flipping proud of your surplus as others have pointed out).

 
But it’s not even about standards. There is NO RESEARCH that shows that standards educate children. I thought they salivated over data? SHOW ME THE DATA.

 
It’s about Chambers of commerce blaming teachers for not having kids “college and career ready for a global economy” while they and their corporate interests ship jobs overseas or avoid paying workers a living wage so the top tier can make more money. SHOW ME THE JOBS, INDIANA SUPERMAJORITY. Because these kids in public schools can sure as heck show you some jobless parents.

 
It’s about making money off of these exams that show that kids are failing and blaming the schools of education for creating these teachers who can’t get kids to test well. Let’s test the teachers to test the schools of education to prove that they, too are failing. Watch them open their virtual online academies of teacher preparedness training. OR, more profitable, let’s create more Teach for America unskilled well-meaning teachers to replace those union thugs.

 
It’s about a narrative that calls superintendents CEOs and views schools as businesses and education as a product and our kids.. widgets in a factory. Those unskilled laborers are creating a better product because of competition.

 
It’s about a message that claims that our public schools are failing. And the offer: MARKETS WILL SOLVE EVERYTHING.

 
It’s about ALEC (google ALEC and destroy public education) and the Friedman Foundation and creating a market. Choose your schools, privatize the system so the markets can improve everything. Try charters (where only engaged parents can transport kids and get on lotteries and no democratic accountability to the people exists because there is no voting for a board to run them and they are proven to be no better and no worse, but way way more open to corruption and harm for kids).

 

Try your voucher (then you don’t have to go to school with those kids. Except, of course in your private school doesn’t want to keep you or deems you a behavior problem).

 
Where these have existed, public schools have not improved. What of the kids in those schools?

 
Here’s the thing.

 
My child is not college and career ready because he is a child. A test does not begin to sum up what I want for him. I trust teachers. i believe in public education because I believe that every single child regardless of background should have the same opportunity to a free, high quality public education as it states in our Indiana constitution. I believe that accountability means:

 
Every child should have a school that has enough nurses, social workers, guidance counselors, gym teachers, art teachers, music teachers, librarians, small class sizes, electives, hands-on projects, science experiments, theater, band. Every child. But instead our schools are being strangled. They are jumping through hoops where every. single. thing. is. tied. to. a. score. And the purpose is money.

 
Tell you what:

 
Let’s privatize firefighters and police officers. They don’t get to houses in the inner cities or out in rural areas fast enough. Let’s see if competition improves things. Oh? That child in the meth trailer out in the county? Too bad. If his parents weren’t on drugs maybe they could have afforded to buy a house closer to the damn fire department.

 
No, you know what? I don’t ride the city bus. But my teens could use a new used car. Give me a voucher for the money for public transportation because the money should follow my child. I don’t like to touch the books at the library either, gimme my voucher for Barnes and Noble.

 
Ridiculous? Our ancestors would be appalled that we want to go back to the days where the children lie dying neglected in the streets.

 
Governor Pence and his friends at ALEC, the Koch brothers, don’t believe in democracy. They don’t believe in a government for the people, by the people and of the people. They don’t believe in democratically elected school boards and schools.

 
Glenda Ritz was in the way of a much bigger agenda. My child who has not yet lost his baby teeth is a pawn in a game that has taken away our local control, relegated our public school system to a circus act of jumping through testing hoops to please the ringmaster… who can bring the tent down at any time.

 
Fix the problem? Be rebellious, Indiana. Wake up and smell the fascism. You’ve got someone who gets his way by executive order and a supermajority with no checks and balances. The one dissent in the education policymaking just lost her major responsibilities–not by democratic vote, but by changing her position through statute.

 
Follow the money and you’ll find the motivations.

 
I hope the mama bears and papa bears, and yes, the Grandma and Grandpa Grizzlies will get mad enough to do something radical:

 
Vote. Until then, see you at the protests and rallies.”

 
-Cathy Fuentes-Rohwer

Gene V. Glass, distinguisher researcher of education at Arizona State University, brings us up to the date with the drama in Arizona over privatization and the Common Core, with surprising enemies and allies taking sides:

 

 

Professor Glass writes:

 

 

It all started when Doug Ducey won the governor’s race last November. Duce, who cut his political teeth as a student at Arizona State University editing the campus newspaper, made his millions in the ice cream business (Cold Stone Creamery). Immediately upon taking office he instituted a hiring freeze and promised to increase school choice. That same mid-term election saw a virtual unknown Republican school board member, Diane Douglas, defeat ASU Education professor David Garcia for the office of State Superintendent of Public Instruction. Douglas vowed to dump Common Core on grounds of its being federal intrusion into a state responsibility, but policy had nothing to do with her victory; if you had an R behind your name in the mid-term election, you won.

 

Two days ago, Douglas fired two of her top administrators — Executive Director and Asst. Executive Director — at the Department who were carry-overs from the previous Superintendent. It’s not hard to imagine why; they were far down the road of installing the Common Core in Arizona schools. Yesterday, the whole business erupted in a public fight between Ducey and Douglas over whether the latter has the authority to fire people in her department. After a prayer breakfast Thursday morning, the Governor was barely out the door before he gave reporters an insincere piece of his mind: “[I’m] sorry she chose to go down that path.”Douglas shot back: Ducey, she said, is establishing a “shadow faction of charter school operators and former state superintendents [referring to Lisa Graham Keegan who supported Douglas’s opponent in the election] who support Common Core and moving funds from traditional public schools to charter schools.”

 

Score +1 for Douglas for speaking the truth. The Arizona Senate has moved forward quickly in this session to support the privatization of K-12 education. The Senate education committee has already approved bills that would 1) award vouchers (at 90% state per pupil expenditure) to any student whose application has been turned down to open enroll in a public school or a charter school within 25 miles of their home, and 2) award a voucher to any student on an Indian reservation. Clearly the Republicans are flexing their muscles after the November victory; such radical pro-voucher legislating has never before made it into law in Arizona. Perhaps this is the year.

 

 

Gene V Glass
Arizona State University
National Education Policy Center
University of Colorado Boulder
_________________________

The following letter by Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers in New York City, appeared in the Wall Street Journal in response to a column by Eva Moskowitz about “The Myth of Charter Cherry Picking” (it is behind a paywall):

 

Mulgrew writes:

 

 

Eva Moskowitz must have been staring in the mirror when she wrote her latest screed about the “big lie” about charter vs. public schools (“The Myth of Charter-School ‘Cherry Picking,’” op-ed, Feb. 9). Even as others in the charter sector are beginning to acknowledge that differences in student demographics and attrition are a real problem in comparing charters to district schools, she and her organization have refused to admit that many charters don’t educate children with the same challenges as do public schools.

 

Let’s look at one among many examples—Success Academy 3 in Harlem. It shares a building with a local public school, but her charter has half as many English-language learners, fewer than a third as many special-education students and no “high-needs” students in the special-ed category versus 12% in the public school.

 

She also confuses student mobility with student attrition. Most schools in poor neighborhoods have high student turnover. But while public schools—and some charters—fill empty seats, Ms. Moskowitz’s schools don’t. According to state records, more than half the students in one Success Academy class left before graduation.

 

While Ms. Moskowitz cites a recent report from the city’s Independent Budget Office about student attrition in charters, she neglects to mention an earlier IBO report that found that it is the less successful students who tend to leave New York City charters. And as Princess Lyles and Dan Clark note “Keeping Precious Charter-School Seats Filled,” op-ed, Feb. 3), failure to fill these seats allows a school to maintain “the illusion of success,” as the percentage of proficient students rises.

 

So when Ms. Moskowitz and her allies claim that charters educate the same kinds of children as do the public schools, who is telling the truth?

 

 

Michael Mulgrew

 

 

Stephanie Simon reports in Politico.com on a major investigation of Pearson and its extraordinary ability to profit from its activities, whether or not they are successful.

 

She writes:

 

A POLITICO investigation has found that Pearson stands to make tens of millions in taxpayer dollars and cuts in student tuition from deals arranged without competitive bids in states from Florida to Texas. The review also found Pearson’s contracts set forth specific performance targets — but don’t penalize the company when it fails to meet those standards. And in the higher ed realm, the contracts give Pearson extensive access to personal student data, with few constraints on how it is used.
POLITICO examined hundreds of pages of contracts, business plans and email exchanges, as well as tax filings, lobbying reports and marketing materials, in the first comprehensive look at Pearson’s business practices in the United States.
The investigation found that public officials often commit to buying from Pearson because it’s familiar, even when there’s little proof its products and services are effective.
The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, for instance, declined to seek competitive bids for a new student data system on the grounds that it would be “in the best interest of the public” to simply hire Pearson, which had done similar work for the state in the past. The data system was such a disaster, the department had to pay Pearson millions extra to fix it.
Administrators at the University of Florida also skipped competitive bids on a huge project to build an online college from scratch. They were in a hurry. And they knew Pearson’s team from a previous collaboration. That project hadn’t been terribly successful, but no matter: UF dug up the old contract and rewrote it to give Pearson the new job — a job projected to be worth $186 million over the next decade.
And two public colleges in Texas not only gave Pearson a no-bid contract to build online classes, they agreed to pay the company to support 40,000 enrollments, no matter how many students actually signed up.
Pearson has aggressive lobbyists, top-notch marketing and a highly skilled sales team. Until the New York attorney general cracked down in late 2013, Pearson’s charitable foundation made a practice of treating school officials from across the nation to trips abroad, to conferences where the only education company represented was Pearson.
The story of Pearson’s rise is very much a story about America’s obsession with education reform over the past few decades.
Ever since a federal commission published “A Nation at Risk” in 1983 — warning that public education was being eroded by “a rising tide of mediocrity that threatens our very future as a nation and a people” — American schools have been enveloped in a sense of crisis. Politicians have raced to tout one fix after the next: new tests, new standards, new classroom technology, new partnerships with the private sector.
K-12 superintendents and college administrators alike struggle to boost enrollment, raise graduation rates, improve academic outcomes — and to do it all while cutting costs.
In this atmosphere of crisis, Pearson promises solutions. It sells the latest and greatest, and it’s no fly-by-night startup; it calls itself the world’s leading learning company. Public officials have seized it as a lifeline.
“Pearson has been the most creative and the most aggressive at [taking over] all those things we used to take as part of the public sector’s responsibility,” said Michael Apple, a professor of education policy at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

 

And that is only a sampling of the contents of this explosive report. Read it to find out where your taxpayer dollars are going.

 

As an added bonus, Simon also wrote about how Pearson used its foundation to bolster its profits.
Read more: http://www.politico.com/story/2015/02/pearson-education-115026.html#ixzz3RLxhh6ub

 

 

Jersey Jazzman pulls together a host of reformer ideas in this post and shows that none of them has any evidence behind it.

 

How can public schools, which take everyone, compete with and match the braggadocio of charter schools, which promise that every student will graduate and go to a four-year college, even if it isn’t true?

 

Why do policymakers continue to push merit pay, even though it has failed again and again for nearly a century?

 

Why the conservative love affair with vouchers, when we now have evidence from Milwaukee, Cleveland, and D.C. that vouchers drain money from public schools without producing better education?

 

Jersey Jazzman asks for proof. Before accepting any of the reformer policies, reformers should show the evidence? Indignation is not evidence. Nor are promises of miraculous results.

Motoko Rich reports in a front-page story in the New York Times that Teach for America has seen a significant decline in the number of applicants.

 

TFA executives explain that the improved economy has drawn young people to work in high-paying jobs, instead of joining TFA (this explanation raises unintended questions about their interest in teaching or children).

 

Another suggestion is that the lure of teaching is down, since enrollments in education colleges has also declined.

 

The story suggests that TFA has lost its luster because of its close association with standards and testing, with charter schools, with evaluation of teachers by test scores (which seldom affects TFA recruits, who don’t stay in the classroom long enough to build up a record), and with weakening of teacher tenure. Some potential recruits are turned off, writes Rich, by TFA’s close association with the Walton Family Foundation, which has given it more than $50 million, no doubt because TFA staffs many non-union schools. In short, they are an integral cog in the movement to privatize public education and to undermine the teaching profession.

 

How are students learning about the underside of TFA, its close connections with the agenda of the 1%, who look down their noses at public schools and unions? At the end of the story, Rich mentions Hannah Nguyen as a student who has organized protests against TFA on campus. Hannah wants to make a career in education, not a jumping-off place to build her resume en route to working at Goldman Sachs or J.P. Morgan Chase. There are many other aspiring teachers who have become activists on their own campuses in opposition to TFA; even some former members of TFA have spoken out against the role that TFA has played in lowering the status of the teaching profession. Their efforts may have played a large role in dimming TFA’s image among their peers. What real profession would permit anyone to become a member with only five weeks of training? When veteran teachers complain about TFA, they are not protecting their jobs, they are protecting their profession.

Governor Scott Walker released a budget proposal that contains no significant increase in funding for public schools, but a large expansion of vouchers and charters for the entire state. He wants to remove the cap on the number of students who may receive vouchers to attend private and religious schools but maintain the income limit of about $44,122 for a family of four. He wants a new charter board that he and his allies control. He wants to withdraw support for the Common Core exam known as Smarter Balanced and to cancel Milwaukee’s integration funding. He proposes to lower standards for those entering teaching and to introduce A-F letter grades (a Jeb Bush invention):

 

If enacted, the proposals would cause major waves in the state’s public school systems, which have faced an onslaught of reforms in recent years, both financially and academically.

 

The governor’s budget calls for throwing out the new state standardized achievement exam aligned with the Common Core academic standards, which is set to be administered to students in third through eighth grade for the first time this spring.

 

And he wants schools to receive A-F letter grades on their state report cards, instead of the current descriptions explaining how well they’re meeting expectations.

 

Walker’s budget plan would also make it easier for anyone with a bachelor’s degree and real-world experience to get a license to become a middle or high school teacher. And to free up aid for districts statewide, the governor wants to end the Chapter 220 program designed to help racially integrate Milwaukee’s city and suburban schools — something he says will redirect $60 million in aid to other districts.

 

Even the state superintendent complained that Walker’s budget shortchanged public schools:

 

State Superintendent Tony Evers noted the governor’s budget offered no increase in the revenue limit for public schools, which is the total amount districts can raise per pupil in state aid and property taxes.

 

“That’s huge,” he said. “Schools are at the breaking point.”

 

Will this improve education in Wisconsin? Not likely, since vouchers in Milwaukee have not improved the performance of students receiving them, and several of Milwaukee’s charters are in academic distress. Letter grades have nothing to do with school improvement; they are a strategy that typically places extra emphasis on standardized test scores and sets low-scoring schools up for closure. As for inviting non-educators to become middle-school and high-school teachers, that might provide a new labor force to replace experienced teachers, but it is hard to see how it leads to better instruction to turn students over to people who have never taught and have no preparation to do so.

 

Chronicle Mclain, a high school student in Buffalo, testifies passionately before the Board of Education, in protest against closing his “low-performing” school and handing it over to a charter. He notices that at least one Board member is texting as he is speaking, and he says if he did that in class he would be called “low-performing.” The board member, a real estate developer who was recruited to the Board by charter champion Carl Paladino, ignores the student and continues texting as the young man is speaking.

 

Talk about respect! Why would someone serve on a city’s Board of Education who has such obvious disdain for students?

Rick Perlstein reports that Chicago is the national leader in privatization of public property and services. Mayor Rahm Emanuel has become the master of privatization, building on his predecessor’s legacy.

This is an eye-popping article. It begins like this:

“In June of 2013, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel made a new appointment to the city’s seven-member school board to replace billionaire heiress Penny Pritzker, who’d decamped to run President Barack Obama’s Department of Commerce. The appointee, Deborah H. Quazzo, is a founder of an investment firm called GSV Advisors, a business whose goal—her cofounder has been paraphrased by Reuters as saying—is to drum up venture capital for “an education revolution in which public schools outsource to private vendors such critical tasks as teaching math, educating disabled students, even writing report cards.”

“GSV Advisors has a sister firm, GSV Capital, that holds ownership stakes in education technology companies like “Knewton,” which sells software that replaces the functions of flesh-and-blood teachers. Since joining the school board, Quazzo has invested her own money in companies that sell curricular materials to public schools in 11 states on a subscription basis.

“In other words, a key decision-maker for Chicago’s public schools makes money when school boards decide to sell off the functions of public schools.

“She’s not alone. For over a decade now, Chicago has been the epicenter of the fashionable trend of “privatization”—the transfer of the ownership or operation of resources that belong to all of us, like schools, roads and government services, to companies that use them to turn a profit. Chicago’s privatization mania began during Mayor Richard M. Daley’s administration, which ran from 1989 to 2011. Under his successor, Rahm Emanuel, the trend has continued apace. For Rahm’s investment banker buddies, the trend has been a boon. For citizens? Not so much.”

Knewton, as you may recall, is a leader in data mining, collecting information about children and using it to develop and market products.

Peter Greene has done an amazing investigative review of the Boston Consulting Group. What is BCG? Why do reformers in so many cities hire this management consulting firm? What is its connection to the Gates Foundation and Arne Duncan?

Greene writes:

“Word went out today that immediately after Arkansas decided to make Little Rock Schools non-public, the Walton family called a “focus group” meeting “in conjunction with the Boston Consulting Group. This is worse than finding the slender man in the back of your family portrait. For a public school system, this is finding the grim reaper at your front door. And he’s not selling cookies.”

Greene reveals BCG’s business strategies, which are totally inappropriate for education but beloved by reformers.

“Bottom line? Say a little prayer for the formerly public schools of Little Rock, because BCG is in town and they’re sharpening their axe.”

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