Archives for category: Privatization

The corporate style reformers–the cheerleaders for charters, vouchers-and high-stakes testing–like to claim that they are leading the civil rights movement of their day. They imagine themselves locked arm-in-arm with Martin Luther King, Jr., in their efforts to end collective bargaining rights, to eliminate teacher due process rights, and to privatize public education.

 

I am not sure if they actually believe this or if they think they can pull the wool over the eyes of the media and the public.

 

In this fascinating interview, Josh Eidelson of Salon puts the question to Linda Darling-Hammond: Would you agree or disagree that the Vergara case–which would end teachers’ job protections–is an extension of the civll rights movement, as its proponents claim?

 

My guess is that Linda either fell off her chair laughing, or was momentarily dumbstruck by the absurdity of the idea.

 

She responded:

 

“I can’t understand why anyone would agree. To me, it’s completely unrelated to the agenda from Brown, which was about getting equal access to educational opportunities for students — you know, initially through desegregation, but the heritage of Brown is also a large number of school finance reform lawsuits that have been trying to advocate for equitable resource distribution between districts and schools. And Vergara has nothing to do with that …

 

“Even if you got rid of teachers’ due process rights for evaluation, you would do nothing to remedy the inequalities in funding and access that students have. And in fact you might exacerbate the problem.”

 

See, Linda remembers that the Brown decision was about equity, equitable resources for schools, and desegregation, and today’s self-proclaimed reformers avoid discussing things like that. They say that poverty is an excuse for bad teachers. Martin Luther King Jr. would never have said that. They certainly don’t care about desegregation. As the UCLA Civil Rights Project and as researcher Iris Rotberg have documented, charter schools exacerbate segregation. Indeed. the so-called reformers like to boast about all-black schools that get high test scores; segregation just is not an issue for them. They don’t see any reason to reduce class size–Bill Gates and Michael Bloomberg think it should be increased. If pressed, they say that we are spending too much on education already. Things like desegregation, equitable resources, and class size are not on their agenda.

 

Eidelson asks whether the plaintiffs are right in saying that it should be easier to fire bad teachers, and Linda responds:

 

First of all, just to be clear: It is extremely easy to get rid of teachers. You can dismiss a teacher for no reason at all in the first two years of their employment. And so there is no reason for a district ever to tenure a “grossly ineffective” teacher — as the language of the lawsuit goes — because you know if a teacher is grossly ineffective pretty quickly, and it’s negligence on the part of the school district if they continue to employ somebody who falls into that classification when they have no barriers to [firing them]. And districts that are well-run, and have good teacher evaluation systems in place, can get rid of veteran teachers that don’t meet a standard and [don’t] improve after that point.

 

But in fact, the ability to keep teachers and develop them into excellent teachers is the more important goal and strategy for getting a high-quality teaching force. Because if what you’re really running is a churn factory, where you’re just bringing people in and, you know, firing them, good people don’t want to work in a place like that. So it’s going to be hard for you to recruit. Second of all, you’re likely not paying enough attention to developing good teachers into great teachers, and reasonable teachers into good teachers.

 

That’s not to say you shouldn’t get rid of a bad teacher if you get one. But you ought to be very careful about hiring and development – that makes that a rare occurrence.

 

When Eidelson asks Linda what should be done to fulfill the promise of the Brown decision, she responds:

 

First of all, we have a dramatically unequal allocation of wealth in the society, which is getting much worse … We need another War on Poverty … Because we have a quarter of our kids in the country, and more than half in the public schools of California, living in poverty.

 

And so that’s No. 1: We need to do what other developed nations do, which is ensure that kids have healthcare, housing and a context in which they can grow up healthy – in communities which still have the kinds of recreation facilities, public libraries and other supports, [including] early childhood education, that would continue to allow children to come to school ready to learn.

 

Then we need schools that are equitably funded, with more money going to the students who have the greatest needs. I’m proud to say that in California, we’ve just passed a school funding law that is probably the most progressive in the nation, and that will actually, over the next years, allocate more money to each child that is living in poverty, is an English learner, or is in foster care than to other children. And we will begin to redress some of the profound inequalities that exist today … Cities in California typically are spending much less right now – before this kicks in — than affluent districts. That’s the real thing — if we were litigating the successes of Brown — that’s the real thing that would be first on the agenda to correct.

 

And then beyond that, I think we have to be sure that the state builds a high-quality teaching force, well-prepared for all candidates. If we were a highly developed nation that is high-achieving, we would be offering free teacher education to everyone that wants to teach, in high-quality [preparatory programs] … and getting rid of the [programs] that can’t meet the bar, so that everyone comes in ready and competent.

 

Wait a minute, that’s not what Bill Gates, Arne Duncan, Michelle Rhee, and other leaders of the Status Quo want!

Last week, Governor Andrew Cuomo and the State  Legislature passed a budget bill that allows charters to have free space inside public schools, even though the charters are private corporations. Not only that, the charters that are already located inside public schools may expand as much as they want, pushing public school children out of their buildings. In some cases, the charters will push out programs for students with profound disabilities to make way for a larger, highly privileged charter school.  If the charters rent private space, the city is obliged to pay their rent. All this, despite the fact that many charters have billionaires on their private boards of directors. Today, leaders of New York City parent organizations and community councils rallied on the steps of the New York Public Library, then marched to the office of Governor Cuomo.

 

The Governor should remember–this being an election year–that there are 1.1 million children in New York City who attend public schools. There are 60,000 children who attend charter schools. Parents will remember in August what Governor Cuomo did in April.

 

 
For immediate release
April 10, 2014

Noah E. Gotbaum: 917-658-3213; noah@gotbaum.com
Rashidah White: 646-229-1610; white.rashidah@gmail.com
Electeds and Parent Leaders Representing 1.5M NYC Public School Parents Say “All NYC Kids Matter”
Rally Against the Governor’s Giveaway of Public Space To Hedge-fund Backed Charters
This afternoon, in an unprecedented show of unity, elected officials, including State Senators Liz Krueger and Brad Hoylman of Manhattan and Council Member Danny Dromm, chair of the Council Education Committee, Hazel Dukes, President of the NAACP NY State Conference, and hundreds of parents and children from across the five boroughs filled the steps of the New York Public Library to say that all kids matter, and that the privileged few who attend charter schools should not be allowed to hijack space in our already overcrowded public schools. Then they marched to Governor Cuomo’s office where children present his representative with a large signed post-card, with counterfeit dollar bills attached, to symbolize how he has enabled his wealthy contributors in the charter lobby to engineer a hostile takeover of our public schools, over the needs of NYC’s 1.1 million public school children.

 
Said Gale Brewer, Manhattan Borough President, “It would be a mistake for Albany to force the City to provide public space for all charters or else require the DOE to pay charter rent for private space. Our City doesn’t benefit from Albany’s meddling; it can only breed resentment and the vast majority of New Yorkers will not stand for it. If Albany truly wanted to be helpful, it would make funding available to alleviate overcrowding and support class size reduction. In too many Manhattan school districts, pre-k seats have been eliminated to make room for kindergarten seats; and, year after year, class sizes continue to rise. New York City must have the ability to determine best uses for our public school buildings without intervention from Albany.”

 
“Governor Cuomo’s education budget is unfair to New York City schools,” said NYC Council Education Chairperson Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights, Elmhurst). “Giving privately operated charter school students preference for space and more per pupil public funding than public school students if the city is forced to pay their rent is totally unjust. Forcing co-locations in favor of privately run charter schools and forcing out public schools creates a logistical nightmare that begs the question about where will our public school students go. We stand united against gubernatorial control of our schools.”
“Despite school leaders’ best efforts and the best intentions of the Department of Education, a co-location disadvantages students from both schools by forcing them to share already-overburdened resources,” said Assemblymember Aravella Simotas of Queens. “I applaud the dedicated efforts of community parents, teachers, and students in working towards a vision that will benefit every New York student with fair and equal access to a quality education.”

 
John Fielder of Community Education Council in District 7 in the Bronx said, “The new charter law is absolutely disgraceful. Our public schools are losing classrooms and programs right and left because of co-locations. PS 162 in District 7 had one of the best music programs in the Bronx; now with the charter school being forced into the building it may lose that program. I say, let charters pay for their own buildings because they can afford it, instead of hurting the education of our public school kids.’

 
According to Lisa Donlan, President of the Community Education Council in District 1 in Manhattan, “Parents, educators, students and community members are coming together to send a strong message to Governor Cuomo: these are our public schools , and we will not allow the Governor to bully us and hijack them to satisfy private interests. The Governor needs to improve opportunities for ALL students, not for the small number who are already protected by wealthy special interests. He could start by addressing the fact that makes our state’s schools the most segregated in the country, with NYC charter schools the most segregated of all.”

 
“Perhaps we should thank Gov. Cuomo for finally uniting 1.1 million families across all five boroughs. To minimize co-locations in New York City’s public schools, we stand as many…we stand as one,” said Deborah Alexander, a member of Community Education Council in District 30 in Queens.

 
Miriam Aristy-Farer, President of Community Education Council 6 in Upper Manhattan said, “To ignore what the state owes the public school children from the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit was wrong. To further fuel the divide in our city by giving more funding and power to charters was not only short sighted but foolish. To then allow these same charter lobbyists to flood parents’ mailboxes with propaganda, saying we should thank the Governor, is particularly outrageous.”

 
“Traditional public schools will now suffer even greater financial strains, thanks to the NY legislature and Governor Cuomo mandating NYC pay rent for all charter schools. I appreciate charter schools and the competition they create for better schools. I just wish we had more safeguards in place to ensure charters retain all students, especially those with disabilities. Far too many charters counsel students out of the school. The charters “cream” the high performing and less costly students while the local zoned public schools absorb the costs of providing services to the students with the most needs,” pointed out Mike Reilly, Community Education Council member from District 31 on Staten Island.

 
Noah E. Gotbaum, Vice President of Community Education Council District 3 in Harlem and the Upper West side said, “12,000 New York City public school students have traded classrooms for rat-infested trailers, almost half a million of our children sit in schools above capacity, and all 1.1 million face class sizes at levels not seen in decades. So why have Governor Cuomo and the Senate Coalition leadership given unregulated expansion rights to all new and existing charters, and handed over control of our public school buildings to the charter school lobby, while defunding the 94% of kids in public schools? Because the hedge fund-driven charter lobby told them to.”

 
“During the Bloomberg years, our communities had a difficult time communicating the educational needs of our schools to the disconnected educrats in Tweed. Now the people making decisions are in Albany and even more removed from direct input from the stakeholders. What does a state charter school authorizer know about my Brooklyn neighborhood!? NOTHING! And now these folks are in charge! Is this any way to run a school system? As we say in Brooklyn, you bet it ain’t!” said David Goldsmith, President of the Community Education Council 13 in Brooklyn.

 
Andy Lachman of Parent Leaders of the Upper East Side said: “For the majority of NYC public school children this budget spells D-O-O-M. It dooms public education and puts control of education in the hands of private citizens and corporations. It will mean less funding for public schools and larger class sizes in an already overcrowded system. It will mean fewer essential services, and less space for art and physical education, already lacking in too many schools.”

 
Rashidah White of Community Education Council in District 5 in Central Harlem said, “In the national competition to “Race to the Top”, Albany legislatures have not only neglected to provide standard state regulated learning environments for some of our country’s most needy public school children, but their decision last week leaves them ill equipped to even enter the race at all. The parceling off of NY State’s constitutional obligation to provide equitable education to all students and the funneling off of public resources to corporate backed charters is wholly unconstitutional and must be reexamined.”

 
Kemala Karmen of the group NYCpublic said, “The voters of New York City gave Bill de Blasio an overwhelming mandate to charge charter schools rent. Now Andrew Cuomo, who seems to take his marching orders from the wealthy hedge-funders who donate to his campaign, has reversed that popular mandate to make the city pay charter rent. This is outrageous and undemocratic. Every single public school child in New York City is a potential victim of this budget. Lock up your teachers and your guidance counselors, because the city may have to lay them off to pay for the leases of well-financed charters.”

 
Ellen McHugh, member of the Citywide Council on Special Education said, “Please Governor Cuomo, be a Governor for every child. If you want to be a champion of education, see to it that the Campaign for Fiscal Equity settlement is implemented. Don’t abandon the most vulnerable 109 students with special needs at PS 811, who will be evicted by the charter school for the sake of a favored few. Where will these students go? To a Success Academy, which refuses to enroll disabled children? I don’t think so.”

 
Leonie Haimson, Executive Director of Class Size Matters said, “ While the Governor claims he is the ‘students lobbyist’ his new budget favors the pet charter schools of his contributors while cheating 1.1 million public school children out of space and resources, at a time when our schools are already hugely overcrowded and our class sizes the largest in fifteen years. Kudos to our elected officials and the parents elected to serve on Community Education Councils, for speaking out against this unfair and damaging mandate, and insisting that all NYC kids matter, not just a privileged few.”
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Responding to the extremist group Americans for Prosperity, funded by the Koch brothers, the Kansas state legislature enacted legislation that strips teachers of due process and expands “school choice” (aka privatization of public schools and their funding). In the future, teachers may be fired without a hearing.

The legislature used the pretext of a court ruling to equalize funding to enact proposals that align with the far-right ALEC organization.

Destroying due process is called “reform.” Teachers may be unjustly accused and fired without a hearing. They may be fired because they taught both sides of a controversial issue or expressed a controversial view. They may be fired because the principal doesn’t like the way they look or doesn’t like their race or religion. No reason is needed because there will be no hearing.

Without any right to a fair hearing, you can be sure that the word “evolution” will never be heard in many districts, nor any reference to global warming. Nor will many classics of American literature be taught. Books like “Huckleberry Finn,” “Invisible Man,” “The Grapes of Wrath,” are risky and controversial. Now is exactly when the children of Kansas and the U.S. should be reading “1984″ and “Brave New World.”

“The bill is potentially a big victory for conservative Republicans because it gives them some educational reforms they have sought while putting more money into schools.

The reforms would:

• Foster school choice by allowing corporations to make tax-deductible contributions to scholarship funds so children with special needs or who come from low-income households could attend private school.

• Make it easier to fire teachers by eliminating their due-process rights.

• Relax teacher licensing when hiring instructors with professional experience in areas including math, science, finance and technical education.

“As the final bill was negotiated, lawmakers jettisoned an idea to block funding for Common Core academic standards.

“They also shed a plan that would have provided property tax relief for parents who home-school their children or send them to private schools. Lawmakers questioned whether the property tax break was constitutional and whether they knew its real cost.

“Urged on by conservative special interests such as Americans for Prosperity, Republican leaders pressed hard to eliminate due process rights for teachers.

“They say the proposal is intended to ensure that school administrators are free from regulations that would keep them from firing substandard teachers.

“If you talk to administrators, they want this,” said Sen. Julia Lynn, an Olathe Republican. “They want really good teachers to thrive. They don’t want to be in a position to protect those teachers who are under-performing.”

“State law had required administrators to document conduct and provide a hearing for teachers they want to fire after three years on the job.

“The bill means terminated teachers would no longer be able to request a hearing.”

Read more here: http://www.kansascity.com/2014/04/06/4941974/kansas-lawmakers-pass-school-finance.html#storylink=cpy

Some districts, thinking that they have latched on to new thinking, have adopted the idea of a portfolio model.

This means that they pretend that their community’s public schools are akin to a stock portfolio. They keep the winners and “dump the losers.”

This is truly a dumb idea. It turns out that the “loser” schools are the ones serving the children with the highest needs, who get the lowest test scores.

 

Closing their school doesn’t help anyone learn to read, doesn’t help immigrants learn English, doesn’t help children with disabilities.

 

But some exceptionally thoughtless district leaders have adopted this as the newest, most indispensable fad.

 

As it happens, there was a discussion at AERA about the portfolio model

 

One of the panelists explained what it was, and another–who has the ear of the district’s power brokers–endorsed the idea of “dumping the loser schools.” 

 

Mark Gleason, CEO of the Philadelphia Partnership Schools, said  it was time to dump the “loser schools.”

 

And that is what his organization advocates. It has said nothing about the massive budget cuts that the Philadelphia schools have absorbed.

 

It has been silent about the systematic stripping of the public schools by Governor Corbett and the legislature. It has thrown its weight behind the idea of charter schools and stripping teachers of due process. Then policies of the PSP are no different from those of the extremist rightwing ALEC.

 

“You keep dumping the losers and over time you create a higher bar for what we expect of our schools,” Gleason said Friday while speaking on a panel at the American Educational Research Association conference, which has been held in Philadelphia over the last week.

 

Last year, Philadelphia closed 24 schools in the wake of massive state budget cuts and the rapid expansion of charter schools.
Parents United for Public Education leader Helen Gym said that Gleason held “extremist” views on public education.

 

“Mark Gleason is not an educator, and I think that’s one thing that should be pretty clear. He has been a relentless promoter of questionable reform models that have really wreaked havoc in other places. And he has unprecedented access to the Mayor’s Office of Education, to the School District, to push his agenda,” she told City Paper.

 

PSP, which issues large grants to schools that it wants to see expanded and lobbies policymakers, has become a lightning rod for criticism by public-education advocates since its 2010 founding. The group backs the expansion of charter schools and frequently opposes the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers. It has quickly become a major force in city education politics, thanks to millions of dollars of funding from The William Penn Foundation. Controversially, PSP’s board includes conservative figures Janine Yass, the wife of voucher-advocate and investment-fund manager Jeffrey Yass, and Republican powerbroker Chris Bravacos.

 

Someday, our policymakers will look at ideas like portfolio districts and review the havoc they have created. They are hurting children. They are destroying communities. They should stop calling themselves “reformers.” They are destroyers of the lives of children, families, and communities. Mark Gleason, I mean you. Have you no shame?

 

 

Andrea Gabor, the Michael Bloomberg Professor of Journalism at Baruch College of the City University of New York, has an opinion article in today’s New York Times, where she patiently explains that charter schools enroll a smaller proportion of students with disabilities, causing the neighborhood public schools to have a larger proportion of the students with the highest needs than the charter schools.

 

She writes:

 

In Harlem, there is a marked disparity between the special-needs populations in charter and traditional public schools, according to the city education department’s annual progress reports. In East Harlem, data for the 2012-13 school year shows that most of the public open-enrollment elementary and middle schools have double, and several have triple, the proportion of special-needs kids of nearby charter schools. At most of these public schools, at least a quarter of students have Individualized Education Programs, or I.E.P.s, which are required for children who receive special-education services.

 

Read that again slowly: the local public schools “have double, and several have triple, the proportion of special-needs kids of nearby charter schools.”

 

Noting that the latest legislative boon to favors allows them to expand at will inside public school buildings, pushing out the students who are there, Gabor asks the obvious question:

 

“Is there a point at which fostering charter schools undermines traditional public schools and the children they serve?”

 

Gabor makes a sensible recommendation:

 

If charter schools are allowed to push out existing public schools, they should, at the very least, be subject to the same accountability measures for enrollment, attrition and disciplinary procedures, to ensure that the neediest students are being treated fairly.

 

Gabor did not mention that charters do not accept the same proportion of English language learners, which causes the nearby public schools to have higher proportions of these students as well. One wonders why the reporters at the New York Times have not discovered these obvious disparities, which can easily be found in public records? Any school that manages to enroll fewer needy students and can push out those it doesn’t want will have higher scores than any school that must accept those that were unwanted by the first school. This is the charters’ secret sauce.

 

Gabor concludes, We should not allow policy makers to enshrine a two-tier system in which the neediest children are left behind. 

 

But with the latest favors to the billionaire-supported charter industry, that is exactly what New York legislators are doing. The legislature guaranteed that charters don’t have to pay rent, even though the latest legal ruling says that they are not “technically” units of the state and cannot be audited by the State Comptroller. The legislature guaranteed that if the charters rent private space, the New York City public schools must pay their rent. The legislature said that if they are already co-located in a public school building, they can expand at will and take public school space away from the children who are already enrolled there, who have far higher needs. The legislature also reversed Mayor de Blasio’s decision to deny approval to three charter proposals–all belonging to Eva Moskowitz’s Success Academy–because she wanted to place elementary schools in high school buildings and because she wanted to grow an elementary school into a middle school in a Harlem public school, which would require the relocation of students with severe disabilities.

 

The legislature accepted the charters’ claim that the needs of children with high test scores trump the needs of children with disabilities. They assume that those with high scores deserve the right to kick out those with disabilities. There is an ideology behind this but I forebear from naming it.

The Walton Family Foundation released its list of grantees in the education world, and once again, the foundation put its huge resources into privatizing American public education.

The billions that hard-working families spend at Walmart are used to support privately managed charters and vouchers and to undermine democratic local control and traditional public schools.

Some of the biggest recipients of the Walton family’s largesse are Teach for America (nearly $20 million), which staffs non-union charters; KIPP charter schools ($8.8 million); the Charter Fund, Inc. ($14.5 million); The Children’s Scholarship Fund (which gives our school vouchers) $8.56 million; and the California Charter School Association, $5 million. Parent Revolution got almost $2 million, the Black Alliance for Educational Options got $1.3 million.

Read the list and see who favors the privatization of public schools. Aside from a few dollars tossed to the Bentonville, Arkansas, public schools, it is a rogues’ gallery of privatization and teacher-bashing.

The Walton Family Foundation helped to underwrite the attack ads against New York City’s progressive mayor, Bill de Blasio, because he dared to turn down three charter school proposals. Two of the three schools did not exist, so no child was evicted. The third rejection was meant to stop the expansion of Eva Moskowitz’s charter school inside PS 149 in Harlem, which required the eviction of severely disabled students to make room for her desired new middle school. Apparently the theory of the billionaires is that students with high test scores deserve public space more than profoundly disabled students, who have lesser rights.

As a result of pressure by the billionaires, the legislature passed a budget that gutted mayoral control by saying that the mayor was not allowed to reject any charter approved by Bloomberg’s school board; that the mayor was not allowed to charge rent to charters, even though they had just won a lawsuit declaring that they could not be audited by the State Comptroller because they are not “a unit of the state”; giving charters the right to expand in any public school where they are now co-located, without regard to the needs of the children already enrolled in that school; and requiring that the city pay the rent of any charter that rents private space. So, with the help of the Walton Family Foundation, the charter schools, which are not public schools and are not subject to public audit, get free space and may kick public school students out of their buildings.

This was a shameful law, purchased by people of vast wealth. They are intent on busting unions, crushing the teaching profession, and harming one of our democratic institutions. Their maleficent influence is unchecked. The money they spend each year is meant to transfer public funds to private hands. They use their power to hurt the very people who have made them wealthy, destroying their communities at the same time.

The age of the robber barons is back.

EduShyster volunteers to join the mighty and the very rich at Camp Philos, where our self-anointed thought leaders will figure out how to hasten the privatization of public schools and how to get rid of those expensive veteran teachers, while encouraging more young people to spend a year or two as “teachers” before finding their real career.

Is that a real Paypal button? If it is, I am donating to send our very own thought leader.

Wouldn’t it be funny if most of those who signed up were opposed to privatization and union-busting and teacher-bashing?

I am reminded of a long story or short novel by Joseph Conrad in which the protagonist is encouraged by the authorities to join a small band of anarchists who are planning an act of violence. He joins, blends in, and—spoiler alert!–belatedly discovers that all of them are double agents, like him.

If only that were true at Camp Philos, but alas, we know the agenda of these guys: They represent the Status Quo and the 1%. In Cuomo’s case, he represents Wall Street and the 3% of children in charters. He just brokered a state budget deal to cut the tax rate on banks and to shower money on privately managed charters, at the expense of the 97%.

Dear Friends,

Today this blog reached the unbelievable number of eleven million page views!

I had no idea this would happen when I wrote the first post on April 26, 2012.

Thank you for reading. More than that, thank you for participating.

Many of you contribute regularly to what must be the liveliest discussion about education on the Internet. I read your comments and pick out some that are the most interesting, the most thoughtful, the most informative, and the most provocative and post them. It may be the same day or weeks later. The important thing is that I have tried to make this blog a place where the voices of parents, students, teachers, principals, and superintendents are heard, unedited.

The rules of the blog are limited and simple. Be civil. Avoid certain four-letter words which I will not print. Do not insult your host. There are plenty of other forums for all of the above. Just not here.

As you know, the blog has a point of view, because I have a point of view. I care passionately about improving the education of all children. I care passionately about showing respect for the dedicated men and women who work hard every day to educate children and help them grow to be healthy, happy human beings with good character and a love of learning. I care passionately about restoring real education and rescuing it from those who have dumbed it down into preparation for the next standardized test. I care passionately about restoring to all children their right to engage in the arts, to play, to dream, to create, to have a childhood and a youth unburdened by fear of tests. I care passionately about protecting the public schools from those who seek to monetize them and use them as a source of profit and power.

I am in my end game. I will fight to the last to defend children, teachers, principals, and public education from the billionaires and politicians who have made a hobby of what is deceptively called “reform.” What is now called “reform,” as the readers of this blog know, is a calculated plan to turn public schools over to amateurs and entrepreneurs, while de imaging the teaching profession to cut costs.

The people who promote the privatization and standardization of public education are the StatusQuo. They include the U.S. Department of Education, the nation’s wealthiest hedge fund managers, and the nation’s largest foundations. They include ALEC, Democrats for Education Reform, Stand on Children, ConnCAN, and a bevy of other organizations eager to transfer public dollars to private organizations. Their stale and failed ideas are the Status Quo. Their ideas have been ascendant for a dozen years. They have failed and failed again, but their money and political power keep them insulated from news of the damage they do to Other People’s Children.

We will defeat them. We will outlast them. Who are we? We are the Resistance. We are parents and grandparents, teachers, and principals, school board members, and scholars. We will not go away. They can buy politicians, but they can’t buy us. They can buy “think tanks,” but they can’t buy us. Public schools are not for sale. Nor are our children. Nor are we.

This is a video made by students at Middletown High School in New York.

 

It is addressed to Governor Cuomo, who once called himself “the students’ lobbyist.”

The students know he is not their lobbyist.

He is the lobbyist for the 3% of children in New York state who attend charter schools.

He is not the lobbyist for the students in Middletown High School.

Contrary to what Governor Cuomo thinks, our students are smart.

They can tell what is real and what is fake.

Denis Smith is a retired school administrator who worked both as a sponsor representative for charter schools as well as a consultant in the state charter school office. In this five-part series, he offers his perspective about charter school governance and how this mechanism designed to provide transparency and accountability for public entities is sorely lacking and may in fact be the “fatal design flaw” of these schools.

 

Part Four

 

Previously, we looked at the legal duties of governing board members as they serve as stewards of charter schools. In their positions, these individuals are expected to perform the duties of Care, Obedience, Disclosure, Custodian and Diligence as they were detailed in yesterday’s column. While there have been far too many scandals associated with Ohio charter schools, one school in particular serves as the perfect model for examining the importance of governance and how this element remains as the critical design flaw or broken genetic code that may ultimately end or influence long-needed radical reforms to this costly experiment with public education.

 

The Cleveland Academy of Scholarship, Technology and Leadership Enterprise, or CASTLE, was founded for the purpose of serving high school students in Ohio’s second largest school district. But there was a major problem with the school that was there for anyone to see. The governing board president just happened to be a partial owner of the building which housed the school. Did anyone – other board members, parents, the school’s sponsor, state officials – see a problem here?

 

Ultimately, the Cuyahoga County prosecutor did, when in 2013, ten individuals associated with the school, including the school’s CEO, his brother, treasurer, board president and another board member were named in a 33-count indictment for corruption and the theft of nearly $2,000,000 of Ohio tax dollars.

 

At issue was the creation of thirteen shell companies that received funds for services that were not performed or otherwise documented. The board president, a part-owner of the building, also benefitted from school payments that were in excess of the stated lease amounts. Clearly the duties of Care, Obedience, Disclosure, Custodian and Diligence were violated in every way by the board and its retinue, and there was no knight in shining armor that defended this CASTLE nor anyone that served to protect the students or serve the public interest.

 

In examining the systemic conflicts of interest and atmosphere of corruption associated with the school and its governing board, state auditor Dave Yost framed the issue very clearly. “The rules are clear – you can’t be on both sides of the transaction,” he said. “In our schools, the top priority should be the children, not the pocketbooks of the administrators.”

 

For news coverage of this story and a link to the State Auditor’s report of CASTLE that led to the 33-count indictment by the Cuyahoga County prosecutor, go to this link: http://stateimpact.npr.org/ohio/2013/04/30/indictments-filed-for-corruption-and-theft-at-cleveland-charter-school/

 

The murky dealings of the CASTLE board reminded me of several other experiences I had in assisting the public with finding out information regarding the operation of Ohio charter schools and their governing boards. One parent called to inform me that she had stopped by her son’s school and went to the office to find out information about the school’s board, when and where they met, and contact information for the members. She was told that the information was not available and then contacted the state department of education to ask if in fact a “public” school could refuse a parent such basic information.

 

In another case, a parent, upset with the lack of materials in the school, requested information about the salary and benefits for the school director. She was told that the information requested was considered proprietary by the school management company. When the school sponsor was contacted for assistance with the parent request, the management company gave the same answer.

 

Here’s what we have seen as part of this picture. Hidden boards operating in the shadows. Hidden salaries for school directors. Governing board members approving school payments and profiting from services billed to companies allegedly doing business with the school. National and state charter school chains determining who will represent them on the board rather than individuals who advocate for students and parents. What will be the scope of information that will be provided to school stakeholders and state oversight officials.

 

What’s wrong with this picture? Why have we allowed this to happen? Who is paying attention to what is happening to public schools as a result of the charter school experiment? Where do we start in cleaning up this mess? When will the public react to the sheer volume of issues created by hundreds of unregulated, ungoverned, and underperforming charter schools? How can these schools be fixed, if at all?

 

The who, what, when, where, why and how questions have now been posed. Unfortunately, complacent and compliant print and electronic media have not asked these basic questions about charter school issues that are part of reportage. The watchdogs – supposedly the media and perhaps the legislature – are not watching, nor are they hearing the sounds of growing discontent about deregulated education as represented by the charter school industry.

 

Tomorrow, in the concluding part of this series, we’ll look at some remedies aimed at providing needed safeguards that can improve school governance and better protect the public.

 

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