Archives for category: Vouchers

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.”

Now that North Carolina is controlled by an extremist governor and legislature intent on destroying public education, the Walton Family Foundation has increased its support for groups advocating for vouchers in that state.

Lindsay Wagner writes in NC Policy Watch:

“The Walton Family Foundation, known for supporting vouchers, charters, and other school privatization initiatives across the country, paid $710,000 to NC-based school voucher advocacy group Parents for Educational Freedom NC (PEFNC) in 2013, an increase of more than $100,000 over its 2012 contribution to the group.

“Parents for Educational Freedom NC has received large contributions from Walton since at least 2009. The Walton Family has paid PEFNC $275,000 in 2009, $525,000 in 2010, $625,000 in 2011 and $600,000 in 2012, according to the foundation’s website.

“Darrell Allison, president of Parents for Educational Freedom NC, has seen his own compensation increase considerably as the influx of Walton money has ramped up. In 2010, Allison received $107,889 for his work running the non-profit; in 2012, Allison reported an income of $156,582—a 45 percent pay increase in just two years.

“PEFNC has been the primary advocacy group responsible for bringing school vouchers to North Carolina.

“Last summer, lawmakers passed the Opportunity Scholarships program, a school voucher program that would enable taxpayer dollars to be funneled directly to private schools–$10 million in 2014-15 and $40 million in 2015-16, with the goal of expanding the program even further in the future.

“The law, passed as a part of the budget bill last summer, provides little in the way of accountability for private schools while reducing funds for public education at a time when schools are seeing sharp reductions in funding over a years-long period.”

Read the post to open the links to other articles about privatization.

- See more at: http://pulse.ncpolicywatch.org/2014/04/03/walton-family-spends-big-on-school-vouchers-in-north-carolina/#sthash.wNEd4Eig.dpuf

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.

Florida legislators king to expand vouchers, even though the voters turned down an effort in 2012 to change the state constitution to permit vouchers for religious schools. The
measure was defeated 58-42, despite Jeb Bush’s efforts to pass it.
An earlier voucher program was struck down as unconstitutional by
the state courts. The only current voucher program is for students
with disabilities, called the McKay Scholarship Program. A journalistic
exposé called it a “cottage industry” of fraud.
the
writer won a major national award for this story from his
colleagues. Yet legislators want more.

The good news–for the moment–is that parents and teachers recently beat back the latest attempt to give away public money to religious schools. But be vigilant. Jeb & Co. will be back.

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