Archives for category: Vouchers

Tony Lux, recently retired as superintendent of the Merrillville Community public schools, has written a blistering opinion article in the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette.

 

He says that it is time for all supporters of public education to unite and vote for legislators who support public education.

 

Despite the fact that the voters of the state of Indiana overwhelmingly ousted State Superintendent Tony Bennett, an advocate of privatization, his policies continue.

 

Glenda Ritz, running against Bennett, received more votes than Governor Mike Pence, yet Pence has used the powers of his office to cut down the power of Ritz and to push ever more profit-making into the schools.

 

The only way to stop the total destruction of public education in the great state of Indiana is to vote for legislators who will support public schools against the entrepreneurs, privatizers, and profiteers.

 

Lux writes:

 

All public schools continue to be harmed financially [by Pence's policies of privatization]. Tax caps and expanded tax reductions have reduced state income. Along with the continuing obsession for maintaining the golden grail of a $2 billion state surplus, these factors have resulted in declarations by the governor that there just isn’t any state money to appropriately increase school funding. Nevertheless, diversion of education tax dollars toward the proliferation of unproven charter schools and private school vouchers have reduced funding for all public schools.

The governor makes grand claims that Indiana lives within its means (despite tax income that is diminishing due to an array of continuing and expanding tax deductions), and that Indiana maintains strong reserves (through “reversions” that take money back from state programs that serve the public), while still making “investments in education.” These claims ring incredibly hollow and are transparently hypocritical to anyone close to public education (and other public services as well).

Supposedly, business tax breaks will bring new jobs. But those new jobs require better-skilled graduates. Only thriving public schools in our cities, towns, suburbs and farm communities will achieve those results. Charter schools have little evidence of success, and tax dollars for vouchers are being expanded to pay for already-successful students rather than to fund programs for underachieving students.

The state’s return on investment in these strategies is practically negligible in increasing the percentage of students at grade level and in increasing the college and career skills of our high school graduates.

 

Mel Hawkins of Indiana says the election of 2014 may be the most important ever for the future of public education in Indiana. Now is the time to step up and support those who will fund our public schools and oust those vandals who would destroy them and turn our children into profit centers.

The Milwaukee Common Council passed an ordnance prohibiting the use of bribes to induce students to enroll in charter or voucher schools.

Despite the frequent boasting about “long waiting lists,” it turns out that many of these non-public schools have trouble filling their seats. Public schools are not allowed to offer cash prizes or gifts for enrolling, but privately managed schools were offering cash and other inducements to boost their numbers and get state money.

The ordinance that “the Common Council approved Tuesday also recommends the city’s lobbyists push for a statewide ban on the practice, which independent charter schools, private voucher schools and even day care centers have quietly used — in some cases for years — to boost enrollment numbers.

“Enrollment is the lifeblood for schools that rely on public funding because it guarantees a certain amount of per-pupil dollars from the state.”

A review by the Wisconsin State Journal found that taxpayers wasted $139 million in the past decade on failing voucher schools.

“Over the past 10 years, Wisconsin taxpayers have paid about $139 million to private schools that were subsequently barred from the state’s voucher system for failing to meet requirements related to finances, accreditation, student safety and auditing, a State Journal review has found.

“More than two-thirds of the 50 schools terminated from the state’s voucher system since 2004 — all in Milwaukee — had stayed open for five years or less, according to the data provided by the state Department of Public Instruction. Eleven schools, paid a total of $4.1 million, were terminated from the voucher program after just one year.

“Northside High School, for example, received $1.7 million in state vouchers for low-income students attending the private school before being terminated from the program in its first year in 2006 for failing to provide an adequate curriculum.

“The data highlight the challenges the state faces in requiring accountability from private schools in the voucher program, which expanded from just Milwaukee and Racine to a statewide program last school year. The issue has emerged as a key area of disagreement between Republican Gov. Scott Walker and Democratic challenger Mary Burke, a Madison School Board member, in this year’s gubernatorial campaign.”

This latest study tells you about the voucher schools that were closed. What about the abysmal voucher schools that have not been closed? Join Ruth Conniff of The Progressive as she tours some of the ramshackle “schools” that continue to operate, with no standards, untrainedleaders, poorly prepared teachers, and a faith-based curriculum.

Hey, it’s Wisconsin! Step right up and get your public money to open your own school! Preparing children for the 19th century!

Governor Scott Walker wants to expand the voucher program, so more children have the opportunity to attend church schools and “schools” with uncertified teachers. This is not “reform.” It is the purposeful destruction of public education, which belongs to the entire community, not to Scott Walker, the Koch brothers, and the rightwing Bradley Foundation.

Read more: http://host.madison.com/news/local/education/local_schools/state-paid-million-to-schools-terminated-from-voucher-program-since/article_d4277f72-51ca-5da3-b63d-df2a7834569b.html#ixzz3G27GOCes

The leading advocates for privatization are funding Marshall Tuck’s campaign for State Superintendent of Education in California. If you want to get rid of public schools, Tuck’s the guy. If you want to improve public education, vote for Tom Torkakson.

From the Torlakson website:

Pension/School Privateers Invest in Tuck for Schools Chief

A handful of ultra-wealthy donors who support school privatization and cutting public pension systems are behind a flood of spending supporting former Wall Street Banker Marshall Tuck’s campaign for state schools superintendent, campaign disclosure records show.

Far from “Parents and Teachers for Tuck,” the $4.7 million collected so far comes instead from sources that support school vouchers, privatization of public pension systems and using disruptive business tactics to overhaul public schools.

Major funders include:

$500,000 from Carrie Walton Penner, whose family made its fortune running anti-union, low-wage paying Wal-Mart. The Walmart 1% website reports that Penner’s biography includes serving on the board of the Alliance for School Choice – a school voucher advocacy group.

$300,000 from John D. Arnold, a former Enron trader and funder of efforts to persuade governments to cut public employee pensions. In February, the New York Times reported that a public television station returned $3.5 million Arnold’s foundation had paid to underwrite a series examining the economic sustainability of public pensions.

$1 million from corporate CEO Eli Broad. He drew statewide attention when it was revealed he had donated $500,000 to a group with ties to the Koch Brothers to defeat Proposition 30 and pass Proposition 32.

Here’s how Parents Across America, a public school advocacy group, described Broad’s approach: “Broad and his foundation believe that public schools should be run like a business. One of the tenets of his philosophy is to produce system change by ‘investing in disruptive force.’ Continual reorganizations, firings of staff, and experimentation to create chaos or ‘churn’ is believed to be productive and beneficial, as it weakens the ability of communities to resist change.”

Ernest Anemone, lawyer and teacher, describes here the growing opposition to market-based reforms such as school choice, test-based accountability, and Common Core. He praises the Badass Teachers Association for bringing out not only the grievances of teachers but giving them a vehicle to fight such powerful figures as Bill GTes and the Walton family.

What is at stake, he avers, is the future of democracy.

He writes:

“On one side of this battle are a powerful group of self-proclaimed reformers inspired by market values and financed by billionaire philanthropists like Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Reed Hastings and the Walton Family. They believe that the purpose of education is to prepare children for the labor market by teaching them a “Common Core” of subjects which emphasize English and mathematics. Student proficiency is measured by standardized tests in these subjects, and classroom innovations are supposedly spread to the ‘best performers’ through the mechanisms of competition and ‘school choice.’

“On the other side of the battle are groups like the Badass Teachers, the teachers’ unions, and organizations like FairTest and the Network for Public Education who believe that schools should prepare children to be active agents of democracy, while providing them with a potentially-transformative experience. In their vision of education, students are engaged in cultivating their own moral voices through critical reflection, so educational achievement cannot be reduced to a standard curriculum or measured by standardized test results.

“Although classroom innovations are important, educational success is defined by broader factors outside of the school’s control—especially poverty. According to education historian Diane Ravitch, “poverty is the single greatest determinant of low test scores.” However, the standard package of reforms that is pushed so hard by Gates and others lacks any practical understanding of what it means to teach the 45 per cent of American children who come from struggling families, including the 16 million who live in abject poverty.

“The implication of ‘school choice’ programs is that good choices by ‘consumers’ lead to good results, and poor choices lead to poor results. But recasting poverty as a choice is not only misguided but damaging to the fabric of democracy. High-stakes standardized testing also creates a marketplace of shoddy comparisons—a marketplace that fails to see the strength in certain types of variation because it erroneously regards all variation as weakness.

“Against this background, it’s vital to protect the ability of schools to cooperate with each other (not to compete), and to model other aspects of democratic culture. When teachers, parents and children collaborate in a common search for solutions they increase their democratic capacities. It’s a fundamentally egalitarian vision that rejects the view of education as a commodity that can be quantified, bought and sold.”

Stuart Egan, a teacher of English at West Forsyth High School in North Carolina, here reviews the Republicans’ desperate attempt to portray themselves as friends of public education after four years of attacking teachers and public schools. The Republican legislature has enacted charters and vouchers and done whatever they could think up to demoralize teachers and privatize public dollars. The crucial race in the state is between U.S. Senator Kay Hagan and State Rep. Thom Tillis, one of the architects of the new budget that strangles public education. Will teachers, parents, and friends of public education remember in November?

 

 

Egan writes:

“The current General Assembly is very scared of public school teachers and their supporters. And they should be: What had originally looked like an election year centering on economic growth has morphed into a debate about how our state government should better serve citizens. This GOP-controlled General Assembly has unintentionally but successfully turned the focus of November’s elections to the vitality of communities and the right to a quality public education (explicitly defined by Section 15, Article 1 of the N.C. constitution).

 

“North Carolina has 100 counties, each with a public school system, in addition to several city systems. According to the Labor and Economic Analysis Division of the N.C. Department of Commerce, the public schools are at least the second-largest employers in nearly 90 of the counties — and the largest employer, period, in 66. That means teachers represent a base for most communities, the public school system. And they are strong in numbers.

 

“Those running for the General Assembly in November knew that two years ago; they just didn’t seem to care. They knew it when they attempted to buy teachers’ rights to due process for $500 million after their attempt to eliminate it was declared unconstitutional. They knew it when they froze pay scales more than six years ago. They knew it when they abolished the Teaching Fellows Program. They knew it when they allowed unregulated charter schools to take money earmarked for public schools — which, by the way, also was declared unconstitutional.

 

“That is why the GOP powers passed a secretly crafted budget that included a “7 percent average raise for teachers.” But this budget is a pure political farce. It was really just a reallocation of money and a calculated way to give the public the illusion that the General Assembly is a champion for public education.”

 

‘N.C. Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger said, “Now by providing the largest teacher pay raise in state history, we’ll be able to recruit and retain the best educators to prepare our children for the future.” He’s wrong. N.C. House Speaker Thom Tillis is airing a campaign ad about his leadership in strengthening public education. He’s misleading you. That historic raise is funded in part by eliminating teachers’ longevity pay. Similar to an annual bonus, this is something that all state employees — except, now, for teachers — gain as a reward for continued service. The budget rolled that money into teachers’ salaries and labeled it as a raise. That’s like me stealing money out of your wallet and then presenting it to you as a gift.
‘Also, the bulk of the pay raise comes in the lower rungs of the pay scale. The more experience a teacher has, the less of a raise he or she sees, down to less than one percent for many teachers with more than 30 years’ experience and advanced certification. And new teachers who start graduate work will never be rewarded for becoming better at what they do. In fact, this current budget ensures that no teacher who begins a career in North Carolina will actually finish that career here. No matter the qualifications or experience a teacher possesses, he or she will never receive a competitive salary like other states offer.
If public education matters to you at all, then please understand the damage this General Assembly has done to our public schools and communities. The number of teachers leaving the state or the profession is staggering. It is has given rise to a new state slogan: North Carolina – First in Teacher Flight. Do some homework and see which candidates for school board supported vouchers or which state legislatures voted to eliminate teacher assistants in public schools.

 

“Under this legislature, teachers and public education in North Carolina have been under siege.

 

“If public education matters to you at all, then please understand the damage this General Assembly has done to our public schools and communities. The number of teachers leaving the state or the profession is staggering. It is has given rise to a new state slogan: North Carolina – First in Teacher Flight. Do some homework and see which candidates for school board supported vouchers or which state legislatures voted to eliminate teacher assistants in public schools.

 

“If our communities are to recover and thrive, then this trend must stop. Educate yourself, then please vote.”

Lindsay Wagner writes in NC Policy Watch that 90% of the students using the state’s new vouchers are attending religious schools. The institution receiving the largest number of vouchers is the Greensboro Islamic Academy.

The vouchers are given the euphemism “opportunity scholarships,” in an effort to disguise the fact that they are vouchers, which voters never approved.

North Carolina legislators are proving that our Founders were far wiser than legislators today. The Founders wanted no establishment of religion, and they did not foresee the subsidy of religious schools by the state. It was Thomas Jefferson who wrote about separation of church and state in 1802, aware of centuries of religious strife in Europe. For years, the U.S. Supreme Court tried to maintain such a wall, allowing some subsidy for religious schools to perform state-required activities, subsidizing textbooks and testing, even transportation, but not tuition in religious schools.

Wagner writes:

“Religious private schools account for 90 percent of those receiving the state’s new taxpayer-funded school vouchers—a disproportionately high amount given that only 66.4 percent of the state’s 715 private schools are religious institutions.

“According to data released by the N.C. State Educational Assistance Authority, 98 out of the 109 private schools that have received vouchers (formally known as Opportunity Scholarships) from the state so far are religious institutions. Ninety-four of those schools identify as Christian, and four other schools identify as Islamic. To date, the state has disbursed just over $1 million to the religious schools.

“The largest recipient of school voucher dollars thus far is Greensboro Islamic Academy. The school has received more than $90,000 from taxpayers while information has surfaced indicating that the school is in financial trouble and has inflated its tuition rates to reap as many publicly-funded vouchers as possible to stay afloat.

“The Opportunity Scholarship Program, which lawmakers enacted last year, siphons approximately $10.8 million dollars out of the public school system to allow students to attend private and religious schools instead. Each voucher is worth a maximum of $4,200 per student, per year.

“Proponents of the program say the voucher program is a way to give low-income students better choices when it comes to their education; critics say it siphons badly needed funds away from public education and funnels them into unaccountable, religious private schools that are not obligated to hold themselves to high quality teaching standards.

“In August, a Superior Court judge found that the program violates the state’s constitutional mandate to use public funds only for public schools – but thanks to a Court of Appeals ruling last month, the state must disburse school vouchers that have already been awarded while the case winds its way through the state appellate courts.”

- See more at: http://pulse.ncpolicywatch.org/2014/10/09/ninety-percent-of-private-schools-receiving-taxpayer-funded-vouchers-are-religious-institutions/#sthash.N9RY1dr4.dpuf

Politico.com reported that StudentsFirst chose a staunch advocate of charters, vouchers, and privatization to replace Michelle Rhee. (As usual, the word “reformer” is a synonym for privatization and hostility to teachers’ rights):

“STUDENTSFIRST PICKS NEW PRESIDENT: Longtime education reformer Jim Blew has been selected by the StudentsFirst Board of Directors to serve as the group’s new president, replacing former D.C. schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee. Blew has served as an adviser to the Walton Family Foundation on a host of K-12 education reform issues and he has directed campaigns for the Alliance for School Choice and its predecessor, the American Education Reform Council. He steps in at an integral time for StudentsFirst – when news broke in mid-August that Rhee was stepping down, reform activists said [ http://politico.pro/1rt7Uh8%5D she was leaving a trail of disappointment and disillusionment in her wake. Four years ago, Rhee pledged to raise $1 billion to transform education worldwide. But StudentsFirst has been hobbled by a high turnover rate. And activists said Rhee failed to build critical coalitions, instead alienating activists who should have been her allies with strategies they found imperious, uncompromising and even illogical.”

Lindsay Wagner of NC Policy Watch reports that the school that received the largest number of vouchers in North Carolina—the Greensboro Islamic Academy–is in financial trouble.

She writes:

A private religious school receiving by far the largest payout from the state’s new school voucher program was in financial trouble during the last school year, pleading for help from the public online to fund its $150,000 shortfall so the school could complete the 2013-14 school year.

“The Greensboro Islamic Academy is suffering from a scarcity of funds,” said Eesaa Wood, a leader at the school’s parent organization, the Islamic Center of Greensboro, in a YouTube video posted online last January. The school has run a deficit of $150,000 every year, according to the fundraising pitch.

“For over a decade, the Muslim community of Greensboro has paid for this shortfall,” said Wood. “For that we are grateful to Allah…but we can no longer rely exclusively on this system.”

The school is the biggest recipient of all those participating in the state’s new Opportunity Scholarship Program, having already received 43 school vouchers totaling more than $90,000 dollars in public funds.

But as taxpayer money flows into Greensboro Islamic Academy’s coffers, questions arise: will the school be able to sustain itself going forward given the financial difficulties it faces? And if not, what happens to funds that taxpayers have already spent on private, religious education?

Lawmakers enacted a school voucher program last year that pulls approximately $10.8 million dollars away from the public school system to allow students to attend private and religious schools instead.

Proponents of the program say the voucher program is a way to give students better choices when it comes to their education; critics say it siphons badly needed funds away from public education and funnels them into unaccountable, religious private schools that are not obligated to hold themselves to high quality teaching standards.

The state received 170 applications earlier this year from students wishing to attend Greensboro Islamic Academy (GIA) this fall with a school voucher – by far the most popular school chosen among voucher applicants and a very large number considering that the school only accommodated 130 students the previous year.

Since then, a high-profile court battle ensued, resulting in a Superior Court judge finding that the program violates the state’s constitutional mandate to use public funds only for public schools – but thanks to a Court of Appeals ruling last month, the state must disburse school vouchers that have already been awarded while the case winds its way through the state appellate courts.

In September, the N.C. State Educational Assistance Authority awarded 43 vouchers to students attending Greensboro Islamic Academy, totaling more than $90,000 tax dollars– nearly 8 percent of the $1 million+ in school vouchers that were disbursed to 109 private schools so far across the state. The next largest recipient of school voucher funds was Word of God Christian Academy in Raleigh, which received 26 vouchers totaling $54,600, followed by Trinity Christian School in Fayetteville, which received 18 vouchers totaling $37,800.

More voucher funds will be disbursed in the coming weeks, although it’s not clear how much more money, if any, GIA will receive.

According to its fundraising video, Greensboro Islamic Academy is the only full-time Pre-K through 8th grade Islamic private school in the Triad area – and it has struggled with financial obstacles since its inception in 2003.

“Because GIA never turns down any student because of financial need, this has resulted in a $150,000 deficit ever year,” said Islamic Center of Greensboro leader Eesaa Wood in his fundraising plea.

A link on the school’s YouTube fundraising video brings the viewer to a fundraising page that says the school raised only $374 of its $150k goal. Numerous calls and emails to school officials seeking more information about the financial status of Greensboro Islamic Academy, as well as calls to the Islamic Center of Greensboro, the parent organization of GIA, have gone unanswered. Efforts to reach out to the video’s narrator, Eesaa Wood, have also been unsuccessful.

Reached by telephone, GIA school board president Dr. Hatim Mahmoud, a physician practicing in Danville, VA, said he wouldn’t talk about the school with N.C. Policy Watch, despite the fact it now receives taxpayer dollars.

“We don’t talk to reporters. We don’t wanna talk to nobody. Goodbye,” said Mahmoud.

NC Policy Watch is a project of the North Carolina Justice Center.
© 2014 NC Policy Watch | 224 S. Dawson Street, Raleigh, NC 27601

Bob Braun, veteran investigative journalist is baffled: the Néw Jersey Educational Association endorsed Cory Booker, who loves vouchers and charters. About 90% of charters are non-union. About 100% of voucher schools are non-union.

Braun asks:

“In the latest NJEA Review, the organization that calls itself a union and supporter of public education not only endorses this pro-voucher, pro-charter, pro-Cami Anderson, pro-Chris Christie candidate of Wall Street, it also provides a forum for him to spread lies and half-truths. How, when the children and parents of Newark are suffering from the agony that is “One Newark,” when the city’s teacher union is under attack and about to be broken, how when Booker already has said he wanted to see Newark turned into the charter capital of New Jersey—how could the NJEA publish this rot?”

He adds:

“I went on a voucher pilgrimage to Milwaukee that Booker helped organize, a trip sponsored by the right-wing organization Education Excellence for Everyone (EEE). He brought us to see evangelical schools operated with public funds where students greeted each of us individually with “Jesus loves you.” He brought us to see Catholic schools kept alive with public money. And it was then that he began his nonsensical mantra—“Public school choice is the civil rights issue of our time.”

“To be honest, I was in favor of school choice until that trip. When I saw what it really looked like in operation, I was repelled. It meant the end of public education as we know it: And that is precisely what Cory Booker wants—and, if he succeeds, the NJEA will have helped him.”

Braun says the NJEA is so desperate to maintain a Democratic majority in the U.S. Senate that they support a candidate who wants to privatize public education.

Another explanation is that his opponent on the Republican line is a Tea Party extremist who is far worse–from the point of view of teachers and public education–than even Cory Booker.

Is it best to make a deal with someone like Booker or to send a message to the Democrats that teachers and parents of public school students will not vote for them or send them a dime until they end their privatization policies? That’s why I Am voting for the Green Party in the Néw York gubernatorial election. Cuomo is a tool of the charter industry, and I can’t vote for him. If I lived in Néw Jersey, I would not vote for Cory Booker. Bob Braun calls him “the Manchurian candidate of rich, white people who don’t live in Newark but want to control it and its people and, most of all, its real estate.”

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