Archives for category: Vouchers

Reader Chiara Duggan says that study after study shows that charters and vouchers demonstrate that data don’t change their minds. She is right. The charters that get high test scores systematically exclude the most challenging students. Some public schools get higher test scores because they serve affluent districts. The differences between charters, vouchers, and public schools tend to be small if they enroll the same students. But the Status a quo pays large numbers of people to argue that the Status Quo–the destruction of an essential institution of a democratic society–is “working” and has positive effects. When the test scores don’t support their argument, they shift the goal post and claim that the private schools–the charters and vouchers–have higher graduation rates. They take care not to mention attrition rates, which are very high. In the case of Milwaukee, the “independent” evaluators from the Walton-funded University of Arkansas quiet.y acknowledged that 56% of those who started in voucher schools left before graduation.

Chiara writes:

Oh, data doesn’t matter to ed reformers. It’s a belief system. Private is better than public. You can’t move someone off a belief with numbers.

How many times have you see a voucher study like this over the years? Once a year for two decades? Yet Democrats and Republicans and paid lobbyists and pundits still promote publicly-funded private schools over public schools. Vouchers have expanded every single year in this country under ed reformers. There isn’t a scintilla of evidence that they’re any better than the public schools they undermine and then replace, but it simply doesn’t matter.

“Students attending private schools receiving taxpayer-funded vouchers in a new statewide program did not score as high overall as public school students on state tests in reading and math, according to data released Tuesday by the Department of Public Instruction.”

It doesn’t matter what public schools do; improve, don’t improve, whatever. They are the designated punching bags for the punditry set. It’s knee-jerk at this point. Heck, a lot of people are PAID to bash them. It’s a smart career move.

I think this may inadvertently benefit public school students. As it becomes more and more clear that privately-run schools don’t outscore public schools in any meaningful way, the goalposts will move, and standardized test scores will no longer be the measure. I think it’s already happening. Ed reformers may actually do something that benefits public schools, and deemphasize the lunatic, obsessive fealty to test scores. They’ll do it it only to defend their own schools, but public schools may benefit collaterally.

Read more: http://host.madison.com/news/local/education/blog/dpi-wisconsin-voucher-schools-show-lower-test-scores-compared-to/article_df494180-cd29-538a-80be-a923cded39aa.html#ixzz2yNzhk7yP

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The following post was written by Mario Waissbluth, President of Educación 2020 Foundation, a Chilean citizen’s movement founded in 2008. Its latest reform proposals (in Spanish) are called “La Reforma Educativa que Chile Necesita”, and were published in April 2013. A book on this subject (in Spanish) is also available. These proposals were mostly adopted by and included in the educational program of the recently elected government of Michelle Bachelet, and are starting to be implemented now.

Valentina Quiroga (32) was one of the student founders of this organization and is now Undersecretary of Education.

Although Educación 2020 remains as a fully independent movement, the positions stated thereon are in many ways similar to those of the current government.

Chile: Dismantling the most pro-market education system in the world

Mario Waissbluth

In August 2013 I wrote in this blog a three piece series, called “Chile: The most pro-market system in the world.” The first described the origins and structure of the system. The second explained its educational and social results, good and bad. The third pointed the way Chile should choose to get out of this mess. If the reader wants to fully understand this situation (the most “Milton Friedmanish” in the world), incomparable with any other country, it is advisable to read those beforehand.
Although some might disagree, from both extremes of the political spectrum, we are happy to inform that the proposals we made are very similar to those being implemented now. However, the political, financial and cultural obstacles will be formidable.

Bachelet was elected by a large margin of voters and has a majority in both the House and the Senate. Nonetheless, positions within the government’s coalition are not fully homogeneous. In addition, there is an impending tax reform that is vital for funding these reforms, costing no less than 2% of gross national product in gradual increments.

Of course, many powerful companies, with strong lobbying capability, are not happy about that. The educational reforms will include dozens of new laws and budgets, covering from preschool to tertiary education.

A warning for American readers. I am fully aware that many of you are criticizing charter schools, profit, teaching to the test, skimming, and the destruction of the teaching profession. I myself have cited Diane Ravitch’s books many times. But you have to be aware that, after 30 years of neoliberal schemes in Chile, charter schools subsidized by government are a majority (55%). One third of them are religious. Two thirds of them are for-profit, and one half of them charge anywhere from US$ 10 to US$ 180 a month on top of the subsidy, therefore skimming quite efficiently.

Teaching to the test, with consequences, has been taken to the greatest extreme imaginable. Policies to destruct public education are too numerous to mention here, and the result is that this system is in acute crisis financially, managerially and emotionally. The teaching profession is in far worse condition than in the US, by any statistical criteria.

In this situation, it is simply not possible to pretend now that charter schools could vanish. Less so if millions of parents have chosen to send their children to highly segregated charters, in a country whose social inequalities are far worse than those in the US, which I know are ugly by themselves.

In short, if the US is navigating towards hell, we are already there and are trying to get out without sinking the ship. It is a very different situation.

The most difficult hurdle in front of us is not legal, political or financial, but cultural. Parents have been led to believe, for decades, that the “best” school is that which is segregated, both academically and socioeconomically. We have a true cultural and educational apartheid. Therefore, the changes will have to be gradual and careful. At the same time, the government is sending strong signals: this is not going to be a minor adjustment but a major change in the overall orientation of the school system; not to make it fully state owned, but simply to resemble the vast majority of OECD countries, probably in a way similar to that of Belgium or The Netherlands. The whole strategy is described in more detail in the above mentioned entries of this blog,

Recently, the Education Minister, Mr. Nicolás Eyzaguirre (with a powerful political and financial experience and profile) has announced the first wave of legislation, to be sent to Congress in May, whose details are now being drafted. They include, amongst other things, the radical ending of academic selection and skimming, the gradual elimination of cost-sharing (to reduce social skimming), the phasing out of 3,500 for-profit schools (to be converted into non-profits), the radical pruning of the standardized testing system, the strengthening and expansion of the public network of schools (so that they can compete in a better way with the charters) and a major reform to the teaching profession, from its training (completely unregulated so far), to improving salaries and working conditions.

This is an evolving situation. I will be most happy (if I can) to answer questions through this blog, and also to inform you about new developments in the future.

Scholars such as Henry Levin have earlier warned that the Swedish experiment in privatization is promoting greater social segregation and not improving education.

 

Reader Chiara Duggan adds this recent Reuters article, with her comment on the failure of market-based reform. Will anyone tell Arne Duncan or will he continue to follow the guidance of (Sir) Michael Barber of Pearson?

 

Duggan writes:

 

http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/12/10/us-sweden-schools-insight-idUSBRE9B905620131210

 

“Good piece on Sweden’s experiment with privatizing education:

 

“In a country with the fastest growing economic inequality of any OECD nation, basic aspects of the deregulated school market are now being re-considered, raising questions over private sector involvement in other areas like health.

 

Two-decades into its free-market experiment, about a quarter of once staunchly Socialist Sweden’s secondary school students now attend publically-funded but privately run schools, almost twice the global average.

 

Nearly half of those study at schools fully or partly owned by private equity firms.

 

Ahead of elections next year, politicians of all stripes are questioning the role of such firms, accused of putting profits first with practices like letting students decide when they have learned enough and keeping no record of their grades.

 

The opposition Green Party – like the Moderates long-time supporters of privately run schools but now backing the clamp-down – issued a public apology in a Swedish daily last month headlined “Forgive us, our policy led our schools astray”.

 

“I give the Greens huge credit for that.

 

“Can you IMAGINE a US political party writing “forgive us, our policy led our schools astray”? :)

 

“Never, ever happen.

 

“In 20 years when there are no public schools left we’ll get “mistakes were made”- by some unidentified person or group of people. :)”

Our friend Edward Berger returned from a long period of rest, reading, and reflection, and he is back in fine form.

He wrote a letter to President Obama and the First Lady to warn of the damage their education policies are inflicting on the nation’s children, teachers, and schools.

He writes:

“Prior to your administration, with few exceptions, public schools were not created as sources of investment income or profit. Schools were run by democratically elected boards under state supervision. Schools were accountable for financial management and academic achievement. A proven (if not100%s effective) means of teacher accountability and school effectiveness was in place and functioning well in areas where great poverty and futility were not generated by our failed economic system.

“Prior to your administration, the tax dollars Americans pay for public education could not be accessed by profiteers or religious groups and cults. No taxpayer was forced to support a religion, ideology, or partial school with their education tax dollars.

“Sadly, strengthened by your administration, an unproven and false use of testing replaced the tests used by educators to understand student needs and to teach effectively. Data generated by wrong and unproven means is causing great harm to students and teachers throughout America. The only known beneficiaries of this drive for data are the corporations creating the tests, and the egos of billionaires who use their wealth to force their “hunches” on our schools.

“Your administration supports those who can buy access to schools and thus children’s minds. Your administration accepts the whims of billionaires who have no certification, little or no contact with professional educators, no concept of the history of American education and how education is delivered, and most devastating, they have very little concern for our children. Almost all send their children to separate schools that do not follow the rules your administration is instigating.”

And much more.

I have recently read that Senator Elizabeth Warren is a supporter of school vouchers. This made people who despise public schools, like certain hedge fund managers, tingle with joy. At last, a progressive who is as contemptuous of public education as they are! At last, someone who will support their efforts to dismantle our nation’s precious democratic institution whose doors are open to all.

About a month ago, I visited Senator Warren in her office in Washington, and she said without reservation that this was untrue.

She told me that she was, like me, a graduate of public schools. Without public education, she said, she would not be where she is today.

I gave her a copy of “Reign of Error,” which she promised to read.

Since I am writing this on an iPad from Louisville, I can’t figure out how to add the photo of me and Warren, holding the book. But I will tweet it.

I hope to hear from her again. More on this when I do.

Hedge fund managers, don’t be so sure of yourselves. You can’t buy everyone.

One of the most absurd conceits of the “reformers” is that they are leaders of the civil rights movement of our time. They bust unions. They strip teachers of hard-won due process rights. They include in their ranks the titans of Wall Street. How long can they pretend that they have any common ground with Martin Luther King Jr., who died while helping the sanitation workers of Memphis who wanted a union ?

In this post, Julian Vasquez Heilig conducts a mock interview with labor leader and civil rights leader Cesar Chavez. Heilig seeks to show how Chavez would see today’s Status Quo billionaires and their apologists.

A sample:

“Q: How about charter and voucher approaches that help the few at the expense of the many?

A: We cannot seek achievement for ourselves and forget about progress and prosperity for our community… Our ambitions must be broad enough to include the aspirations and needs of others, for their sakes and for our own.”

Paul Rosenberg writes on Salon about the well-honed Fox-News style tactic of “crying wolf,” “the sky is falling,” we are in an “unprecedented crisis” to achieve political ends, in the present case, the privatization and monetization of public education. In urban districts, the privatization is gobbling up public schools and turning them over to private corporations–both for-profit and non-profit. In suburban districts, which are not prepared to relinquish their community public schools to charter chains, the gold rush is on to panic these districts into buying edu-schlock and paying consultants to train teachers to meet the federal government’s latest mandate.

What Rosenberg describes is what I earlier called the deliberate use of FUD–fear, uncertainty, and doubt–by the well-paid PR machine of the Status Quo privatizers.

Here is a small sample of Rosenberg’s comprehensive review of scare tactics and whom they benefit:

“In September 2012, for example, economist Jeff Faux, principal founder of the Economic Policy Institute, wrote an article, “Education Profiteering; Wall Street’s Next Big Thing?” which first noted, “It is well known, although rarely acknowledged in the press, that the [education] reform movement has been financed and led by the corporate class,” but then went on to note a crucial change:

In recent years, hedge fund operators, leverage-buy-out artists and investment bankers have joined the crusade. They finance schools, sit on the boards of their associations and the management companies that run them, and — most important — have made support of charter schools one of the criteria for campaign giving in the post-Citizens United era. Since most Republicans are already on board for privatization, the political pressure has been mostly directed at Democrats….

“What’s more, Faux noted, there was less money for Wall Street to play with from the sources they had burned, but the money-making opportunities in education were proliferating like never before:

“You start to see entire ecosystems of investment opportunity lining up,” Rob Lytle, a business consultant, earlier this year told a meeting of private equity investors interested in for-profit education companies….

“This is the context in which Andrew Cuomo hooked up with Wall Street, as the New York Times reported in May 2010. Cuomo’s ticket to Wall Street came courtesy of Joe Williams, executive director of Democrats for Education Reform, a PAC that “advances what has become a favorite cause of many of the wealthy founders of New York hedge funds: charter schools.” Members who met with Cuomo included “the founders of funds like Anchorage Capital Partners, with $8 billion under management; Greenlight Capital, with $6.8 billion; and Pershing Square Capital Management, with $5.5 billion.” But in retrospect, 2010 was nothing. As already noted, Cuomo has raised $800,000 from Wall Street charter school supporters — roughly half that total from Moskowitz supporters alone.

“The Philanthropic Dimension

“Money may be all the motivation Wall Street needs, but there’s more. Philanthropy has always been a means for the wealthy to extend their influence over society beyond the marketplace, to serve a multitude of functions. Northern philanthropists spent an enormous amount of money bringing education to Southern blacks after the Civil War, for example. This brought them into prolonged and complex conflicts with both Southern elites, who resisted virtually all education efforts, and with blacks who resisted the Northern philanthropists’ focus on industrial education (epitomized by the Tuskegee model), as well as their broader pattern of trying to appease Southern white racism. (See, for example,”The Education of Blacks in the South, 1860-1935.”) Although highly conflicted and complicated, these efforts eventually synergized with blacks’ own broader civil rights struggles to bring about the integration of public education in the South — at which time, Southerners’ first response was the policy of massive resistance, including the creation of private academies, and the closing of public schools.

“Amazingly, three decades later, the education panic reform movement began the process of recycling the racist Southern resistance strategies as general solutions for the purported failure of public education. Another three decades further on, those very same anti-civil rights strategies are now being touted as the key to civil rights. The reasons are at least partly psychological. After the financial crises decimated the economy, Wall Street elites and their 1 percenter allies were profoundly defensive, as seen most shockingly in remarks comparing their critics to Nazi Germany. But the “productive” manifestation of this same acute status anxiety was arguably much more destructive — that is, the intense desire to re-create themselves as moral leaders, not lepers, by recasting public education as a locus of evil, and portraying its destruction as “the civil rights struggle of our time” — which they, of course, would be only too happy to lead.”

Last year, Christopher Lubienski and Sarah Theule Lubienski published a book called “The Public School Advantage,” which shows through careful scholarly research that public schools have inherent advantages over private schools, especially p charter schools and voucher schools. In doing so, they stirred up a hornet’s nest.

In this post, Chris Lubienski responds to Patrick Wolf and Jay Greene of the “Department of Educational Reform” at the University of Arkansas, which is heavily funded by the Walton Family Foundation. Walton is well known as one of the nation’s leading–perhaps THE leading–funders of school privatization. For several years, they have handed out $150-160 million annually, almost all dedicated to charters and vouchers. On the political spectrum, they are far to the right.

Patrick Wolf is not only the 21st Century Endowed Chair in School Choice at the University of Arkansas, but the “independent” evaluator of the voucher programs in Milwaukee and the District of Columbia. He is an avowed proponent of school choice in general and vouchers in particular. Greene, who previously worked for the conservative Manhattan Institute, is now chair of the “Department of Educational Reform” at the University of Arkansas.

Both were students of Paul Peterson at Harvard, where he runs the Program on Educational Policy and Governance and edits Education Next. The editorial board of Education Next is made up of senior fellows at the conservative Hoover Institution (I was one of them for some years). Peterson is perhaps the nation’s leading advocate for school choice, at least in the academic world.

Lubienski not only challenges their criticisms of his book, but questions the ethics of releasing purportedly scholarly studies to the media without any peer review. This happens more and more frequently, as “think tanks” release studies and reports to a credulous media, who simply report what they received, not realizing that peer review never took place.and so the public hears about a study or a report in the newspaper not knowing they are getting “research” commissioned by advocates and carried out by sympathetic researchers.

The one thing that comes up again and again in these debates is the failure of the media to do due diligence before they report the findings that were recently released with great fanfare. They should ask who paid for the study, they should check the allegiances of those who conducted it, they should check to see if has been peer reviewed, they should determine whether it is part of a larger political agenda.

The News-Oberver in North Carolina reported that a court put a freeze on the voucher program passed by the legislature:

“The state school voucher plan remains frozen after the N.C. Appeals Court this week rejected requests to lift a lower court’s injunction.

“A Superior Court judge in February halted the new program that would have given parents up $4,200 in taxpayer money to help pay their children’s private school tuition.

“Two parents who want to use vouchers asked the Appeals Court to lift the legal freeze.

“The N.C. School Boards Association and state residents, backed the the N.C. Justice Center and the N.C. Association of Educators, are suing to stop vouchers. Among their claims is the program violates the state constitution.”

Parents in Georgia sued to block a tax-credit program that has drained nearly $300 million from public schools since 2008. Meanwhile the public schools have had to absorb crippling budget cuts.

“A controversial state program that offers tax credits to people who fund private school scholarships is unconstitutional and robs public schools of much-needed financial support, a lawsuit filed by Georgia parents Thursday argues.

“The group, backed by the Atlanta-based Southern Education Foundation, says the student scholarship tax credits violate both the state constitution and tax laws by, among other things, providing indirect public funding to religious schools, giving donors illegal benefits and allowing a publicly funded school program to be run by private groups.”

The Southern Education Foundation issued the following statement:

Statement by Steve Suitts, Vice President, Southern Education Foundation

April 3, 2014

“The Southern Education Foundation fully supports the lawsuit challenging Georgia’s tax credit scholarship program.

“The tax credit program for private schools has drained almost $300 million in tax funds from the state treasury since 2008 while public schools have suffered deep cuts across the state. The first constitutional obligation of the state is to provide “an adequate public education” for Georgia’s public school children.

“This state tax-funded program is administered by self-appointed private organizations that are virtually unregulated. They collect, spend, and distribute millions of tax dollars to private schools. Both tax funded private scholarship organizations and tax-funded private schools are unaccountable to the public for how they spend tax dollars, who receives tax-funded scholarships, and how they are educating children to meet state standards.

“This has been a costly failed experiment that is operating contrary to the state constitution. It is time to end it once and for all.”

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