Archives for category: Privatization

Dr. Yohuru Williams, historian at Fairfield University in Connecticut, recently delivered a blockbuster speech to a conference on educational justice in New York City.

He begins by quoting FDR on the Four Freedoms, then moves on to weave together the current movements and issues of our day. It is eloquent and powerful rhetoric on behalf of children, justice, and equity.

I promise if you start watching, you won’t be able to stop.

Conflict of interest? How could it not be?

Billionaire Eli Broad is underwriting education coverage at the Los Angeles Times.

Eli Broad wants 50% of the students in the Los Angeles Unified School District to be enrolled charter schools. He intends to pool $490 million to create 260 new charters.

The LA Times wrote an editorial endorsing Broad’s plan to privatize a huge part of public education.

One man wants his way. Eli Broad does not believe in democracy.

Gary’s latest post has a smart title: “For Whom the Bell Tolls; It Tolls for Rhee.”

Having received Race to the Top funding, and being part of the (not so) great “reform” movement, the District of Columbia enthusiastically endorsed every reformy idea that involved high-stakes testing, or test-based accountability. Of course, D.C. school leaders Michelle Rhee and her successor Kaya Henderson supported Common Core and joined the PARCC testing consortium (one of the few to remain in PARCC).

The scores were released yesterday. Gary has analyzed them and made some important discoveries. The scores overall were pretty awful, as you would expect from a test that was designed to fail most students. But, surprisingly, the much-abused D.C. public schools outscored the much-lauded D.C. charter schools. How could that happen? How embarrassing for the Walton Family Foundation, which has poured so much money into charterizing the D.C. schools, as well as to Eli Broad, who recently announced his intention to open more charters in D.C. to save more kids from the terrible public schools. And yet those “terrible” public schools got higher scores than the charter schools! Go figure.

Rhee used to say that she would turn D.C. into the best urban district in the nation. She used to scoff at the educators who preceded her, citing the fact that only 10% met the standards in math. Well, what percent do you think met the “proficiency” standard in math? 10%.

Gary writes:

So of course the ‘no excuses’ crowd begins making excuses. But rather than saying that the quality of the PARCC test could be an issue, they instead say things like, “We knew this was going to happen. We just need to adjust to the new more rigorous standards.” This may buy them a few years, but I have to wonder how long supposedly ‘data driven’ reformers can continue to ignore data that refute their agenda.

Mitchell Robinson, professor of music education and blogger, ponders whether the education wars are winding down. He thinks not. The contention over policy issues remains profound.

To help explicate the issues, he has compiled a brief guide to the different “sides.” In a recent post by Sam Chaltain, who does think the battles are subsiding and a new convergence is on the horizon, one side is the “practitioners, and the other is the “policymakers.” Robinson says the labels illustrate a clash of views.

Robinson writes:

“Mr. Chaltain’s descriptors for the two sides in the war on education are revealing, in that he sees a clear distinction between those who actually teach (the “practitioners”), and those who establish and enforce the rules and policies that govern that practice (the “policy makers”). Perhaps unintentionally, his labels also highlight a major flaw in our current education enterprise: public education policy is being written and administrated largely by persons who have not themselves attended public schools, have no degrees or certification in education, have never taught, and have spent little time in public schools. Whatever meager educational background that the members of what I term the Deformer “edu-tribe” may have is often accrued through alternative routes to the classroom (i.e., Teach for America, The New Teacher Project, the Michigan Teacher Corps), and their educational credentials are often received via online programs that require little or no actual teaching experience, residencies or interactions with other teachers or professors with actual teaching experience.

“Many of the “foot soldiers” in the Deformer army wind up in high-level positions in state departments of education, policy think-tanks, on school boards and as leaders of high-profile charter school networks. They reach these positions of power and authority with shockingly little experience in classrooms, or working with children, but exert out-sized influence on the shape and nature of public education. These members of the Deformer “advance force” parrot a regressive agenda of union-busting, tenure-smashing, and teacher-demonizing, paired with an obsessive devotion to standardized testing, “data driven decision making”, charter school expansion, and privatization as the “answers” to the “crisis in public education”–while remaining seemingly oblivious to the fact that it was their policies that manufactured the crisis they claim to be addressing, and which are paying off so handsomely for the investors who fund their charter schools and pay their generous salaries.”

On the other side are what Robinson calls “the Guardians of Oublic Education.”

“The members of this army largely consist of teachers, retired teachers, and teacher educators, most of whom have significant experience as classroom teachers, multiple degrees in education, and a career commitment to children, schools and education. Few Guardians entered the profession by alternative routes, instead earning their credentials in traditional colleges and universities, under the tutelage of professors who had themselves been classroom teachers before moving to higher education. Many of these activists earn graduate degrees in their chosen field–even as states now refuse to pay for additional degrees–and seek out weekend and summer professional development opportunities at their own expense in order to remain certified.

“The activism practiced by these Guardians is not their sole focus as professionals–rather, these teachers blog at night after lessons have been planned, and kids put to bed, or on rare quiet weekend mornings and afternoons when a few minutes can be stolen from other tasks and responsibilities. And the conflict in which they are engaged is a non-linear war–they are fighting not just the Deformers, but also their support staff in their underground bunkers, typing away on banks of sleek laptops as they push back against kindergarten teachers furiously hammering out their frustrated rants on the ridiculousness of testing 6 year olds, or 3rd grade teachers pointing out the illogic of retaining 8 year olds who struggle with reading.”

The “Deformers” are well-paid. But the Guardians work not for money but for conviction.

“These writers and activists don’t receive a penny for their efforts, in stark opposition to the Deformers’ forces, who are stunningly well-compensated for their work. Instead, these bloggers often toil away in anonymity, providing a voice for the thousands of teachers that have been silenced for speaking out against the reform agenda.”

He provides a list for each side. My lists would be longer. Make your own lists or additions. I would certainly place ALEC, Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, John Kasich, Rick Scott, Rick Snyder, and a number of academics and philanthropists on the Deformer list.

Ed Berger says that if schools are judged by who chooses them, the people of Arizona have spoken: 85% of the state’s children are in public schools. Yet the policymakers keep trying to find ways to funnel public money to private operators of charters and vouchers. The culprits are financed by the Koch brothers, encouraged by ALEC, and most are motivated by simple greed.

He writes:

Will our community be able to save our public schools? The election for a bond, and override funding is November 3. I could wait until the results are in, but here are the issues. Citizens be aware:

The overwhelming majority of parents want their children in public schools. Not charter schools, partial schools, religious schools, or schools which keep out parents, destroy the joys of childhood, and use force as motivation. Parents have choice and they have chosen. Over 85% of Arizona parents have chosen public schools.

The overwhelming majority of parents want their child exposed to many disciplines as well as math and reading. They want their children exposed to art, humanities, science, social studies, history , government, health, physical education, and languages. They want their child to love learning and love their learning community. Parents want their children prepared as interdisciplinary, self-directed learners ready for the future.

They want childhood’s magic honored with time to play and explore and do the things children must do to develop into healthy adults. They want pre-K through great K-12 programs.

Parents know that childhood is a critical developmental time for their child. They like and support the way public school classrooms and the curricula are developmentally appropriate. They know that foundation skills are acquired at different times for each child and that forcing learning to pass standardized tests or other inappropriate measurements damages children.

They want full services for their child. School safety. Safe transportation. A school nurse. Counselors and mentors. A good lunch program and breakfast and snacks for kids who would otherwise go hungry. They want school clubs, newspaper staff, annual staff, business clubs, science club and science fairs, and dance. They want field trips, assemblies, and Americanization.

They demand trained and certified teachers. Most parents know that today’s certified and experienced teachers are many times more effective than teachers in the past. The education profession is advancing and very effective. If there is a learning conflict, they have choice within the system.

The overwhelming number of parents and community members understand that the community has built and provided safe and well-maintained buildings – well-maintained that is until tax dollars they pay for schools have been taken away by a small handful of ideologues who are robbing our communities. In every community, these destructive people always vote NO to damage the opportunities of others.

If you agree with the list of things children need – and parents and citizens demand – note that few are provided by the charter or partial schools. For example, qualified, experienced certified faculty and administrators. Publicly elected school boards. Financial accountability and academic accountability. All of the above are an integral part of our public schools.

IF the great majority of citizens do not want their tax dollars directed away from our students and schools why are they ignored?

BECAUSE those who want to destroy public education or rob kids to profit from our tax dollars have used their power in the Legislature and government to create a system where every charter or other partial school supported by our tax dollars must duplicate what the citizens are already paying for in public schools. Charters must use state dollars that follow the child to duplicate facilities, accounting, utilities, support staffing, libraries, computes, classrooms and physical education resources. The citizens end up paying twice for the same services. The money that citizens intend for children is not there for the majority of kids, teachers, building maintenance, books and supplies or the things children need. The irony is that as few as 10% of the students are enrolled in these partial schools, but they wreak havoc and have the potential to destroy quality education for the majority of students. This is not an accidental consequence. It is being done intentionally.

On Saturday, the people of Louisiana will vote on many races. Among the most important will be the races for state board of education.

The Network for Public Education Action Fund has endorsed Lotte Beebe, Lee Barrios, and Jason France.

This article describes what is at stake.

Out of state billionaires have put up nearly $1 billion to impose privatization.

The several local candidates have about $50,000 among them.

The question is whether big money can defeat democracy and secure control of Louisiana’s schools and children.

Geoff Decker, writing in Chalkbeat New York City, says the state is asking charter schools to do their best to recruit more students with disabilities and students who are English language learners. The state has set very low targets. For example, New York City charters are supposed to meet a target of 7 percent English language learners, which is only half of the city’s proportion of 14.3 percent.

Why should they have a target of 7 percent when the citywide average is 14 percent?

The state says it will crack down, but not very hard. It will act like a cotton hand in a velvet glove.

Such disparities have been flash points in debates about New York City’s charter schools for years. Lawmakers stepped in five years ago, requiring schools to have targets for enrolling students with disabilities, English language learners, and students from low-income families. The idea was that not making efforts to hit those targets would jeopardize a school’s ability to stay open.

This year, for the first time, schools’ progress toward those goals are being scrutinized. But it appears that state regulators plan to treat the targets as guidelines, not requirements.

“We’re not exactly sure how rigidly we’re going to interpret the targets because there may be some challenges that the schools face,” Joseph Belluck, who chairs the committee that governs SUNY’s Charter Schools Institute, said last week. If a school can’t show it has tried to meet its targets, SUNY will be stricter, he added.

“We hope that they will not say that they’ve done nothing to meet them,” Belluck said. “That would be a problem.”

So here is the scenario. The SUNY Charter Schools Institute will ask charters that enroll only 2 or 3 percent English language learners, have you really truly tried to increase the enrollment of ELLs? The charter operator will say, “Oh, yes, we have certainly tried. We printed flyers in Spanish. We have done our best.” And the case will be closed. No sanctions for non-compliance. And charters will continue to under-enroll the students with the greatest needs without penalty.

Eli Broad has recruited Paul Pastorek, former state superintendent in Louisiana, to lead his effort to privatize the schools of 50% of the children now in public schools in Los Angeles.

Pastorek oversaw the elimination of public education in Néw Orleans. He was also a member of Jeb Bush’s far-right “Chiefs for Change,” a group dedicated to high-stakes testing and privatization.

In his new post, he will press for the elimination of many public schools.

“Few issues have roiled the LA Unified community more than the foundation’s plan to expand the number of charter schools in the district. An early report by the foundation said the goal is to serve as many as half the students in the district in 230 newly-created charter schools within the next eight years, an effort that would cost nearly half a billion dollars.

“It’s also a plan that district officials have said would eviscerate public education as it is now delivered by LA Unified. The LA teachers union, UTLA, has also attacked the plan as part of the Broads’ latest effort to “privatize” public education at the cost of union teaching jobs.”

Center for Media and Democracy federal charter grant report RELEASED TODAY

“Charter School Black Hole” – CMD Special Investigation Reveals Huge Info Gap on Charter Spending

Madison, WI (CMD) – Today the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) is releasing a special report on its year-long investigation into charter schools spending in the United States. You can access the full report “Charter School Black Hole” here.

CMD, a national investigative group that conducts in-depth investigations into the influence of corporations, trade groups, and PR firms on media and democracy, found that the public does not have ready access to key information about how their federal and state taxes are being spent to fuel the charter school industry since charters began almost 25 years ago.

Indeed, no one even knew how much the federal government had spent on its program designed to boost the charter sector. So CMD reviewed more than two decades of federal authorizations and appropriations to calculate the sum, which is now more than $3.7 billion—as noted in this new report. CMD also found that the federal government was not providing the public with a list of all the charter schools that received federal tax monies and how much.

CMD also found that many states have not provided the public with ready information about the amounts of federal funding each charter has received under the federal “Charter School Program” (CSP) for state education agencies (SEAs), and that most states have not provided the public with information about the amounts in state and federal tax dollars that have been diverted to charters rather than spent strengthening traditional public schools.

What is even more troubling is how difficult it is to find essential information on how some charters have spent federal and state tax dollars, even as governments continue to increase funding for charters while slashing funds for traditional public schools. Unlike truly public schools that have to account for prospective and past spending in public budgets provided to democratically elected school boards, charter spending of tax monies is too often a black hole.

This is the largely due to the way the charter industry has been built by proponents, favoring “flexibility” over rules. That flexibility has allowed an epidemic of fraud, waste, and mismanagement that would not be tolerated in public schools. Charters are often policed—if they are really policed at all—by charter proponents, both within government agencies and within private entities tasked with oversight as “authorizers” of charters.

In this investigation, CMD pursued numerous open records requests under federal or state law about how much federal CSP money had been given to charters and how that money was spent in 12 states. As a result, CMD found that public information about funds received and spent by charters is severely lacking. It also documented how little is known about spending by closed charters, and identified “ghost” schools, where federal grants were awarded to charters that never opened.

“The bottom-line is taxpayers know far too little about how much their federal tax dollars are being used to fund charters and there is far too little information provided by states about how tax monies are being spent by charters or by for-profit firms they are tied to,” said Lisa Graves, Executive Director of CMD. “Neither the federal government nor the states require charters to publish that information on their websites and neither the federal or state governments we examined publish that information themselves. Even aside from serious questions about academic performance by charters—especially online charters—the lack of real accountability remains a real problem for kids and families, as more and more people and corporations have sought to get a piece of pie, a revenue stream from taxpayer money, to operate or assist charters.”

Below are a few key findings from the report:

Michigan: In 2011 and 2012, $3.7 million in federal taxpayer money was awarded to 25 Michigan “ghost” schools that never even opened to students. The organizations behind these schools received at least $1.7 million, according to the state expenditure database. WestEd—a private company that contracts with the U.S. Department of Education to monitor how states comply with federal regulations—flagged this as a potential problem, but the agency did little to address the problem. After verbal assurances that this would not happen again, the federal agency assured the Michigan Department of Education “that there will not be any additional follow-up.”

Ohio: Out of the 88 schools created by planning and implementation grants under CSP between 2008 and 2013, at least 15 closed within a few years; a further seven schools never even opened. These charters received more than $4 million in federal taxpayer money. Despite this track record, Ohio landed the biggest one-year grant by far in the 2015 competition for federal funding: $32.6 million. CMD can reveal that part of the reason Ohio won the grant was a glowing endorsement from the National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA)—an organization that had previously referred to the charter system in Ohio as “broken.” But NACSA was more than willing to take that back as long as the Ohio Department of Education signed a $40,000-a-year deal. The deal was brokered by former NACSA senior executive and lobbyist David Hansen only days before he resigned as head of the Ohio Office of Quality School Choice amid accusations of having manipulated charter school performance data.

California: More than $4.7 million in federal taxpayer money was handed out to create charter schools that subsequently closed within a few years. CMD’s investigation found that California’s record on charters is marked by continued failures, including squandering of taxpayer money, along with deference to unaccountable authorizers and resistance to federal efforts to mandate better state oversight.

Wisconsin: More than $2.5 million in CSP money was used to create charter schools that shuttered shortly thereafter. In addition to the school closings, at least one of the schools created by federal charter school money was a former religious school that has since “converted” to charter status so as to be eligible for funding, an audit obtained by CMD shows. There appears to have been no regular evaluations about whether such conversions in Wisconsin–and also Texas–affect the content of the instruction or not.

Indiana: At least $2.2 million was awarded to charters that either closed or never opened. In addition, emails obtained by CMD through a public records request to Gov. Pence’s office found troubling examples of how the private charter sector, notably for-profit chain Charter Schools USA, influences on policy-making.

New York State: CMD discovered that almost every single application for the New York subgrants was written by the same multi-million-dollar charter consultancy firm: Charter School Business Management. The nature of CSP funding competition means that charter schools relying on private contractors for services, such as grant-writing and budgeting, can gain a competitive edge.

Colorado: State leadership responsible for managing the federal charter school grants fought legislation that would have advanced charter school oversight and accountability, emails obtained by CMD show.

The report also reviews federal charter spending in Arizona, District of Columbia, Florida, Texas and Utah. Read the full report here.

Open the full report for a complete state-by-state list of charter schools that were created by CSP SEA seed money in the 2010-2015 grant cycle. Dozens of these “schools” never opened to students in the first place, and many of the schools that did open have since closed. For an updated tally of the $3.7 billion disbursed under the CSP umbrella since the inception of the program, click here. Click here for emails from Ohio’s Office of Quality School Choice, detailing the role NACSA and David Hansen, who resigned in July amid accusations of having manipulated data on charter school “success,” played in securing the biggest federal charter grant in 2015. –

See more at: posted about the fight over vouchers in D.C. and about the charter teachers’ rally for “equality” (meaning more charter schools in New York City):

OUTSIZED FIGHT OVER D.C. VOUCHERS : Outgoing House Speaker John Boehner has one swan song that’s guaranteed to be a hit among even his most bitter Republican critics: picking a fight with the president over private school vouchers. The House is expected to pass a bill extending the life of Washington’s school voucher program today, setting up an outsized fight with the White House over a small, $45 million program that allows students from low-income families in the nation’s capital to attend private schools on the taxpayer dime. Maggie Severns has the story:

– School vouchers have united even the angriest factions of the GOP : The day after Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy dropped out of the race for speaker and the chamber descended deeper into turmoil, some of Boehner’s fiercest critics gathered to wax poetic about vouchers during a markup. Democrats have criticized the program as ineffective and harmful to public schools – and an ironic Republican cause celebre given the GOP’s frequent calls for transferring more power to states.

– The D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program allocates funds directly from Congress for D.C. students to use at a private school of their choice. About 6,200 students have used the vouchers over the last 10 years, and the average household income of enrolled students is about $20,575. The fight over Washington’s vouchers, which has raged for more than a decade and even earned a plot line on the television show “The West Wing,” is a proxy for lawmakers debating if – and when – the government should pour resources into helping poor kids escape failing public schools.

– The White House strongly opposes the bill, but didn’t say whether President Obama would veto it:….

– And speaking of school choice: More than 1,500 New York City teachers will rally in Manhattan this afternoon to decry Mayor Bill de Blasio and his policies that ignore “the depth of inequality in the classroom while opposing charter schools – some of the only city schools that have narrowed the achievement gap,” according to the pro-charter group Families for Excellent Schools. The group and other advocates have held a number of similar rallies over the last year.

Now, here are the nits I have to pick. Paragraph 3 describes vouchers in GOP rhetoric as a way for “the government [to]…pour resources into helping poor kids escape failing schools.” Not a word about the fact that multiple evaluations by a researcher from the Walton-funded Department of Educational Reform at the University of Arkansas has never found any achievement gains in voucher schools in D.C. (or anywhere else) for “poor kids” trying “to escape failing public schools.” The studies show no achievement gains but a higher graduation rate, which may reflect the huge attrition rate of these schools. In Milwaukee, for example, nearly half the students who started in a voucher school left before high school graduation.

D.C., like Milwaukee, now has three publicly funded sector: the shrinking public schools, the charters, and the voucher schools. Milwaukee, having had this tri-part division of public funding for more than 20 years, is one of the nation’s lowest performing school districts on the Urban NAEP. Writers for should know this.

In addition, refers to a “rally” by 1,500 teachers, without mentioning that they are teachers in charter schools (most of whom will be gone within 2-3 years due to teacher churn in NYC charters) and does not explain who the “Families for Excellent Schools” are. These are not poor black and brown families seeking more charter schools. FES consists of a handful of billiionaires, the same hedge fund managers who raised millions of dollars in a few minutes to attack de Blasio with a barrage of TV commercials in 2014 when he gave Eva Moskowitz only 8 of the 11 new charters she wanted, the same hedge fund managers who gave some $800,000 to Governor Cuomo to turn him into a charter school champion.

Please guys, some in-depth reporting is needed here, as opposed to quoting press releases.


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