Archives for category: Vouchers

Conservatives are typically “strict constructionists” when it comes to the law and the Constitution. But not, apparently, in North Carolina.

The state Constitution says unequivocally that public dollars are to be users “exclusively” for public schools. The Legislature could try to change the Constitution but they decided instead that it doesn’t mean what it says. The Legislature has appropriated $10 million of public money that may be spent in private and religious schools.

“Those schools, which can range from religious schools with several students to a home school of one, are not subject to state standards relating to curriculum, testing and teacher certification and are free to accept or reject students of their own choosing, including for religious or other discriminatory reasons.”

As a plaintiff’s attorney put it:

“North Carolina’s voucher program is unique. No other voucher program in the country allows the receipts of vouchers by private schools that can be unaccredited; employ unlicensed uncertified teachers — including teachers who don’t even have a high school diploma; employ teachers and staff without performing a criminal background check; teach no science or history; teach only the recitation of religious texts; and discriminate against students with disabilities. In the absence of standards, North Carolina stands in a class of its own.”

— Burton Craige
on behalf of challengers in the Hart case”

Is there anyone who believes that this program will improve education?

Interesting that conservatives in North Carolina believe that the wording of the Constitution doesn’t mean what it says. They are now “loose constructionists.” The state Constitution says what they want it to say. They have no fidelity to the actual words in the Constitutuon, only to their ideology

A pro-voucher group called School Choice Wisconsin has asked school districts to turn over the names and addresses of students, presumably for recruitment to private and religious schools.

“Oshkosh Area School District parents have until Monday to decide whether they want their children’s personal information released to a statewide school voucher group.

“District leaders notified parents Monday about an open records request from School Choice Wisconsin, a Milwaukee-based nonprofit that advocates for school choice programs. Oshkosh is one of about 30 districts statewide to receive such a request.

“The group is seeking a portion of the district’s school “directory data” for each student, including name, address, telephone number, grade level and the school each student most recently attended.

“The data is collected and used for a variety of purposes, but the scope of the group’s request is uncommon, Superintendent Stan Mack II said.

“It’s so unusual; we don’t get blanket requests like this,” Mack said.

“School Choice Wisconsin President Jim Bender said the group likely would pass the information it requested to private and parochial schools that are part of the state’s voucher program.”

Superintendent Michael Hynes bravely spoke out against Governor Cuomo’s proposal to make test scores more important in evaluating teachers. The following story appeared in the Long Island Advance.

Pat-Med super pokes holes in governor’s reform

Story By: NICOLE ALLEGREZZA,

“My concern is that what he is doing as a governor is overstepping his rights and responsibilities,” Hynes said of Cuomo’s reforms. “It is impacting and impeding on public schools [ability] to function the way that they should.”

“One of Hynes’ biggest criticisms is the way Cuomo announced that public schools will receive $1.2 billion in state funding. While the money seems favorable, Hynes explained Cuomo did not break down exactly what each school should expect to receive during the critical time of planning for next year’s budget.

“He is not telling schools in advance. We have no idea what his thoughts are about state aid,” said Hynes. “It makes it very difficult to plan still not knowing and to me that is a major bullying tactic that he really shouldn’t be doing.”

“Additionally Hynes disagrees with Cuomo’s plans for teacher evaluation reform. He believes Cuomo is overstepping his role as the governor by designing a new teacher plan, which “is not his job.” Rather, Hynes states, the job belongs to the Commissioner of Education and the Board of Regents.

“Further, according to Cuomo’s state address, he is looking to offer $20,000 bonus incentives to those evaluated as “high performing” teachers. Cuomo stated there also would be improvement plans to those who score poorly.

“Hynes stated that incentives are inefficient and categorize teachers by putting them in boxes.

“He is looking to create a caste system of teachers and it just doesn’t work because it pits people against each other. Competition in schools doesn’t work,” explained Hynes.

“Also, in Cuomo’s reform proposal he suggests evaluating teacher’s effectiveness on both test scores and observations equally. The outcome, according to the governor, will stop the inflation of almost all teachers being rated as effective. It would also limit tenured teachers by only granting tenure to those who have achieved five consecutive years of “effective ratings,” as opposed to the original three-year requirement.

“Hynes suggests that if teachers’ evaluations are highly dependent upon test scores, they will become more anxious about testing and teach to the tests. In effect, students will be highly impacted by not only feeling the pressure to score high for their own good but also for their teacher’s well being. “That is a lot of pressure that I don’t feel our students need. In fact, I actually think that it is child abuse,” he said.

“Some changes that can be made in his opinion, include removing some old antiquated state mandates forced upon the public schools. He also believes teacher evaluation tools can benefit from following a “growth model” rather than a “deficit model” where observers are always looking for the negatives.

“The governor proposes to look for things that are wrong,” he said. “What I would like to do, and I know our principals certainly do here, is if I am observing in the classroom I am going to notice the things done well and some of things that need to be augmented and tweaked.”

“Hynes explained because the issue of “ineffective” teachers equates to such a minimal amount, a deficit model is unnecessary. “A significant amount of teachers leave the profession after the first five years because of all the stresses that go on but the number one thing that makes them leave is that they don’t feel they are doing a good enough job,” he said. The growth model in effect will create a more positive approach to teacher evaluation. He added that by also providing mentors to first- and second- year teachers, it effectively produces better quality, long term teachers.

“The real reason for underachievement, which is rarely addressed, is poverty. “Schools that have a significant amount of poverty in their school district will have low achievement,” he emphasized. Bad test scores, according to Hynes, “really comes down to schools that don’t have enough to serve the needs of the kids.”

“If and when Cuomo’s educational plans become reality, Hynes believes there will be a “seismic shift” in the way educational services are delivered to the students. With the agenda on the table, one question remains for Hynes: What will be the next step before Cuomo pushes his reform in early April? While he’s unsure whether or not local legislatures can help at this point, “I am counting on my fellow superintendents who are in support of what I am talking about, the PTAs, and the moms and dads to say `this is inappropriate,’” he said. ”Enough is enough. What you’re doing is going to destroy public schools.”

“Those who oppose the governor’s plans should attend board of education meetings and voice their concerns and write letters to the governor, the Commissioner of Education, and the Board of Regents. Additionally, if any parents from the Patchogue-Medford school district have any questions or concerns, Hynes encourages them to call or make an appointment to meet with him to discuss the issue at hand. He can be reached at (631) 687-6380 or mhynes@pmschools.org.

In the first year of this blog, someone explained the methodology of corporate reformers by referring to the marketing strategy known as FUD. This is an acronym for fear, uncertainty, and doubt. When trying to put a competitor out of business–whether in politics or commerce–spread FUD. That way, the public will distrust their brand or candidate, and be open to your promises for your brand or candidate. According to Wikipedia, the term has been used since the 1920, but more recently was adopted by IBM, then by Microsoft. We have certainly seen FUD employed against public education since 1983, when we heard from the government report “A Nation at Risk” that our very identity as a nation and a people, as well as our economic competitiveness, was undermined by our mediocre public schools. In 2012, Joel Klein and Condoleeza Rice released a report on behalf of the Council of Foreign Relations declaring that our terrible public schools were a threat to our national security. What was our salvation: Common Core, charters, and vouchers.

 

Peter Greene has analyzed the reformer game-plan and boiled it down to a 3-step strategy. Step 1: there is a terrible crisis; Step 2: therefore we must do Step 3) what I prescribe.

 

Here is one of his examples:

 

1) SOMETHING AWFUL IS GOING TO HAPPEN OH MY GOOD LORD IN HEAVEN LOOOK I EVEN HAVE CHARTS AND GRAPHS AND IT IS SOOOOOOOOO TERRIBLE THAT IT WILL MAKE AWFUL THINGS HAPPEN, REALLY TERRIBLE AWFUL THINGS LET ME TELL YOU JUST HOW AWFUL OH GOD HEAVENS WE MUST ALL BEWARE— BEEE WAAAARREEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!

 

2) therefore for some reason

 

3) You must let me do X to save us!

 

The trick here is to load up #1 with facts and figures and details and specifics. Make it as facty and credible as you possibly can (even if you need to gin up some fake facts to do it).

 

#3 is where you load in your PR for whatever initiative you’re pushing.

 

And #2 you just try to skate past as quickly as possible, because #2 is the part that most needs support and proof and fact-like content, but #2 is also the place where you probably don’t have any.

 

In a normal, non-baloney argument, #2 is the strongest point, because the rational, supportable connection between the problem and the solution is what matters most. But if you are selling baloney, that connection is precisely what you don’t have. So instead of actual substance in #2, you just do your best to drive up the urgency in #1.

 

Thus, we have a constant litany of complaints about test scores, graduation rates, dropout rates, etc., linked to solutions that have no evidence that they will have any impact whatever on test scores, graduation rates, dropout rates, etc. Where is the evidence for vouchers and charters? There is none? Where is the evidence to take away teacher tenure? There is none. Where is the evidence that merit pay improves student performance? There is none. Where is the evidence that evaluating teachers by test scores improves education? There is none.

 

Evidence doesn’t matter. So long as reformers play on the public’s doubts and fears for their children, they can keep pushing failed policies.

 

 

David Gamberg, superintendent of the public schools in Southold and Greenport–two independent districts on Long Island in Néw York–denounced Governor Cuomo’s “education reforms.” Gamberg was blunt. He has the full support of his board.

 

Gamberg said that the Governor’s desire to make test scores count for 50% of teachers’ evaluation “could devastate the faculty and, thus, the students of Southold.

 

“The governor has proposed a teacher rating system that would base 50 percent of an instructor’s evaluation on student performance on state tests — an increase from the current 20 percent.

 

“If this plan were to become law, I will provide the board with direct, accurate evidence of [the teachers] who will get swept up — that should not get swept up — in this metric to the detriment of the students of Southold,” Mr. Gamberg said. “I think it would be the highest irresponsibility for our school district to just sit by and allow it to happen….

 

““It can not go through because it is, without a doubt, the worst construct of improvement in public education that has been enunciated in the history of New York,” Mr. Gamberg said.”

 

Cuomo is holding school districts hostage, said Southold school board president Paulette Ofrias, by promising them a 4.8% increase in funds, but only if they implement his ideas.

 

“The New York State teachers’ union did not endorse Mr. Cuomo in his bid for re-election last year and has fought his reform agenda in recent years.

 

“I know he’s doing it to get back at the teachers, but the bottom line is it hurts the children in New York State,” Ms. Ofrias said about the governor’s latest plan. “It’s just deplorable and disgusting.”

Peter Greene and I are on the same page about Indiana. What is going on there has nothing to do with education, nothing to do with children, and everything to do with politics, power, and money.

 

Peter’s post, as usual, is brilliant. 

 

He writes:

 

In the modern era of education reform, each state has tried to create its own special brand of educational dysfunction. If the point of Common Core related reforms was to bring standardization to the country’s many and varied state systems, it has failed miserably by failing in fifty different ways.

 

What Indiana provides is an example of what happens when the political process completely overwhelms educational concerns. If there is anyone in the Indiana state capitol more worried about education students than in political maneuvering and political posturing, it’s not immediately evident who that person might be.

 

The current marquee conflagration of the moment is the announcement of a new Big Standardized Test that will take twelve hours to complete. This announcement has triggered a veritable stampede from responsibility, as every elected official in Indianapolis tries to put some air space between themselves and this testing disaster. And it brings up some of the underlying issues of the moment in Indiana.

 

Currently, all roads lead to Glenda Ritz.

 

Back before the fall of 2012, Indiana had become a reformster playground. They’d made early strides solving the puzzle of how to turn an entire urban school district over to privatizers, and they loved them some Common Core, too. Tony Bennett, buddy of Jeb Bush and big-time Chief for Change, was running the state’s education department just the way reformsters thought it should be done. And then came the 2012 election.

 

Bennett was the public face of Indiana education reform. He dumped a ton of money into the race. And he lost. Not just lost, but looooooooosssssssssst!!! As is frequently noted, Glenda Ritz was elected Superintendent for Public Instruction with more votes than Governor Mike Pence. I like this account of the fallout by Joy Resmovits mostly because it includes a quote from Mike Petrilli that I think captures well the reaction of reformsters when Bennett lost.

 

“Shit shit shit shit shit,” he said. “You can quote me on that.”

 

And it gets better. Read it.

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

 

Cathy Fuentes-Rohwer writes:

 

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

 
Fixed ISTEP?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 
Here’s the thing.

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

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

 
Tell you what:

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

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

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

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

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

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

 
Follow the money and you’ll find the motivations.

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

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

 
-Cathy Fuentes-Rohwer

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

 

 

Professor Glass writes:

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

Today, February 12, the Senate Education Committee voted to exempt voucher schools receiving public money from ISTEP, the state testing program. It was a straight party-line vote, 7-3. The voucher schools may take a test of their own choosing.

Here is a report from Vic Smith, who blogs about education and politics in Indiana:

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #201 – February 12, 2015

Put this bill in the category of “Just When You Thought It Couldn’t Get Worse for Public Education”!

Yesterday afternoon (Feb. 11th) the Senate Education Committee heard Senate Bill 470. It would allow private schools receiving vouchers to ignore ISTEP and to take instead “another nationally recognized and norm referenced assessment” of their own choice. The bill instructs the State Board to develop an A-F system just for the voucher schools taking alternate assessments.

Last year, a similar bill was quickly rejected by the committee because of the obvious reduction in accountability for voucher schools if they aren’t held to Indiana’s standards and assessed via ISTEP. This year, the Senate Education Committee passed the bill 7-3 on a party line vote.

Now we see why the State Board in House Bill 1486 wants to eliminate the current ban on using peer comparisons (norm referenced assessments) in the A-F growth metrics. It’s a complicated web they weave.

Governor Pence strongly endorsed the bill via his education policy director Chad Timmerman, who said that private schools should be able to “choose their own test.”

If anyone doubts that Governor Pence and the leaders of the General Assembly and State Board are favoring private schools over public schools in Indiana’s intense competitive marketplace of school choice, this bill should remove all doubts. The voucher program was sold in 2011 by promising that private schools would take ISTEP and would be measured like all public schools using the A-F system. Now just four years later the voucher schools want to change the rules but keep the money.

This bill would give private voucher schools a direct competitive advantage in the marketplace of school choice because they could attract parents who dislike excessive testing. Public schools would also like to reduce the excessive testing that the General Assembly and State Board have mandated, but this bill only relieves testing mandates for private voucher schools. My testimony on this bill is attached.

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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