Archives for category: Vouchers

Here are the legislative changes recently enacted in Nevada, designed to implement charters, vouchers, test-based teacher evaluations, merit pay, and almost every other idea in the ALEC bucket list of how-to-create-chaos-in-public-schools-and-encourage-privatization.

This post was written by “Nevada Succeeds,” a corporate reform group.
Friends,

Below my email signature is our weekly Implementation Update; we hope this serves as a useful tool for the community as we continue to monitor the progress made on implementation and regulation of key policies that have come out of the 2015 Legislative Session. Every week, we will adjust the list to put the bills that have undergone recent changes at the top.

In this issue, we have categorized each bill into a one of five main areas of focus which will provide more clarity as to how each piece of legislation relates to the broader agenda.. Below you will see a key highlighting the color that indicates these new groupings:

Blue: Charter
Green: Teacher Pipeline
Red: Targeted Funding
Orange: Private Choice
Purple: Other Education Changes

We are trying to get all of the information right, so if there are any corrections or additions, then please send us an email at seth@nevadasucceeds.org.

Best,

Seth Rau
Policy Director, Nevada Succeeds
P: (702) 483-7096
E: seth@nevadasucceeds.org
Education Savings Accounts (SB 302)

This bill is being regulated by the Treasurer’s Office. There was a hearing earlier today (Friday July 17th) to make two modifications to the rule that requires students to be fully enrolled in a district or charter school for at least 100 days before gaining the ESA. First, they are going to say that even though the program does not begin until January 4, 2016, students who were enrolled in public schools for at least 100 days in the 2014-15 school year and switch to a non-public option for the 2015-16 school year are eligible for the program. Additionally, the proposed regulations would say that a student only needs to take at least one course at a public school for 100 days to become eligible. The proposed regulations were supported by a majority of the speakers aside from the teachers union and Educate Nevada Now.

On Thursday July 9th, the Treasurer’s Office announced that the payment of the ESA will occur in the first week after the end of a quarter. Therefore, the first ESA payments will be at the beginning of April for the first quarter of 2016. In August or September, they will have a broader public hearing discussing reimbursement options (debit cards as in Arizona or expense reports as in Florida) and other regulatory matters. Those additional regulatory matters will have a hearing in August or September.
Teacher Evaluation (AB 447)

The Department of Education and the Teachers and Leaders Council will be working on the rules and regulations around this bill. One aspect of this bill included a tweak to the language, lowering the percentage that student test scores count in a teacher’s evaluation from 50% to 40% since our state and local tests were not yet ready. At the July 23rd State Board of Education meeting, there will be a discussion around the board’s role with this bill. The next TLC meeting is on August 26th and there should be a regulatory workshop scheduled by the Department in the near future.
Read by 3rd Grade (SB 391)

The Department of Education is in charge of setting up these regulations. At the July 23rd State Board of Education meeting, there will be action around creating the Request for Proposal (RFP) for the program’s assessment tool along with guidelines around learning strategists and professional development. It’s unclear if there will be one or multiple approved assessments. Apparently, the Department is going to recommend the use of an adaptive assessment as it will help students prepare for the Smarter Balanced Exams. There is also a regulatory workshop
Collective Bargaining Changes (SB 241)

The largest changes here are to school administrators. The employees who makes over 120K per year are now excluded from the bargaining unit but it’s unclear if they will be able to retain their health care benefits. It’s also unclear when the 5 year at-will cycles will start for each employee. That must be clarified in the coming months. Additionally, this bill ended the evergreen clause, which should favor management in labor negotiations.

While changes resulting from this bill have been seen outside of the education arena, it has become a major issue in CCSD contract negotiations. On Thursday July 16th, CCSD management used this bill as one of the main reasons for not allowing for step and columns increases to occur as scheduled since a new collective bargaining agreement had not been signed. Needless to say, teachers were not exactly pleased with this rationale and protested in large numbers at the July 16th board meeting.
School Construction (SB 119, SB 207)

These bills passed the legislature fairly early in the legislative session allowing for a ten-year bond rollover for school districts with bonding capacity. At this time, CCSD appears to be the only district in the state to take advantage of the program. At the CCSD Bond Oversight Committee meeting on Thursday July 16th, CCSD now says that only 6 schools will open in 2017 and 6 will open in 2018. Now, Rex Bell Elementary School appears to be the only school that will go under a full replacement. That should be ready in 2017.
Data Privacy (SB 463, AB 221)

The districts and the State Charter Authority are designing their data security plans that will need to be approved by the Nevada Department of Education. On Wednesday July 15th, the P20W Council met for the first time in two years and announced that the statewide longitudinal data system will be ready for use by schools, NSHE, DTER, and researchers by the end of the month.
Alternate School Framework (SB 460)

All schools under the State Charter Authority are beginning to update their contracts to reflect the changes coming from this law around closure and possible qualification for an alternate school performance framework. A regulatory hearing on this bill is scheduled for Tuesday September 15th.
Charter Reforms (SB 509)

The Charter Authority issued a new charter application on June 22nd, which requires applicants to file a Letter of Intent by August 14th and a full application by the end of August. The earliest the Authority will award a charter for the 2016-17 school year is in the fall. CMOs will not be able to gain a charter until January 2016 since not all of SB509 goes in effect until then. All schools under the State Charter Authority are beginning to update their contracts to reflect the changes coming from this law.
Non-Citizen Teachers (AB 27)

The Department of Education has begun accepting teacher licensure applications from non-citizens in Clark County. The first applications have been processed successfully.
Zoom Schools (SB 405)

On Thursday July 16th, CCSD approved the following 29 schools to be Zoom Schools in the 2015-16 school year: Arturo Cambeiro, Manuel J. Cortez, Lois Craig, Jack Dailey, Ollie Detwiler, Ruben P. Diaz, Ira J. Earl, Elbert Edwards, Fay Herron, Halle Hewetson, Robert Lunt, Ann Lynch, Reynaldo Martinez, William K. Moore, Paradise Professional Development, Dean Petersen, Vail Pittman, Bertha Ronzone, Lewis E. Rowe, C.P. Squires, Stanford, Myrtle Tate, Twin Lakes, Gene Ward, Rose Warren, and Tom Williams. The following three secondary schools will be Zoom Schools for the 2015-2016 school year: William E. Orr Middle School, Del H. Robison Middle School, and Global Community High School at Morris Hall. Additionally, the Department of Education will be administering the funds for the rural districts and the charter schools. We are still waiting to hear the new Zoom Schools from Washoe County.

At the July 23rd meeting of the State Board of Education, they will discuss recruitment and retention incentives for these schools.
Opportunity Scholarships (AB 165)

The temporary regulations for this program were created at the end of June. Groups such as Students First, the American Federation for Children, the Foundation for Excellence in Education, and ourselves advocated for a preference for students whose families are at/or below 185% of the poverty line and for a preference for students currently enrolled in public schools. After much fighting from the private schools in the state, the Department of Education decided to solely make decisions based on the income levels of students. Therefore, the program is pretty much first-come, first-serve. There is a tiebreaker on the day when the scholarship organization runs out of funds to prioritize siblings and students zoned for lower star schools. The scholarship students must take nationally-normed referenced tests to measure student outcomes but are not required (or even expected) to take the Smarter Balanced exams. These temporary regulations were approved on Thursday June 25th. After the program’s first enrollment period, there will be a review in the fall for more permanent regulations.

On July 1st, both scholarships organizations and private schools could begin to sign up for the program. So far, only AAA Scholarships has been approved by the Nevada Department of Education and they are currently raising funds for their organization. 20 private schools have signed up so far as eligible recipients of the funds. Parents should be able to apply to AAA (and possibly other scholarship granting organizations) by early August. The permanent regulations will begin to be drafted at a hearing on Thursday August 13th.
School Performance Plans (AB 30)

There will be a number of updates to the School Performance Plans coming from the Nevada Department of Education with a focus on literacy rates, especially among ELLs.
Charter School Police Officers (AB 321)

We will be tracking if any charter schools enter into policing agreements as a result of this bill.
Expanded Charter School Bonding (AB 351)

We will be tracking if any 3 star charter schools go to the Board of Examiners and are able to get approval for state facility bonds.
Washoe County School Construction Tax Committee (SB 411)

The Washoe County School Board has approved the selection process for committee members. The full committee should be unveiled by Wednesday July 22nd, and they will begin to meet soon afterwards. This committee is tasked with coming up with a possible revenue raising measure for capital projects in Washoe County to be put forward to the voters in 2016.
Great Teaching and Leading Fund (SB 474)

On Tuesday July 7th, the Department of Education released the application for the Great Teaching and Leading Fund for FY16. They announced that $2 million will go towards implementing the Next Generation Science Standards, $1 million for the Nevada Educator Performance Framework, $1 million for teacher recruitment, development, and retention, and $900,000 for leadership development. Eligible applicants include the RPDPs, school districts, charter schools, the Charter School Authority, NSHE, the educator associations and nonprofits. The application window closes on Friday July 31st. The fund winners for FY16 will be announced at the State Board of Education meeting on Thursday September 3rd.
SAGE Commission (AB 421)

It has been announced that the Governor’s Business Roundtable on Education Reform will be combined with the SAGE (Spending and Government Efficiency) Commission. Nevada Succeeds backed that measure during the session. The Department of Education will staff the commission. The members and the first meeting date have yet to be announced.
Multicultural Education (AB 234)

The regulations for this bill will be handled by the Commission on Professional Standards. Their next meeting is on Wednesday July 29th.
Achievement School District (AB 448)

On July 1st, the website for the Achievement School District (ASD) launched. This month, the Department of Education is actively seeking charter management organizations to apply to take over struggling district schools for the 2016-17 school year. The application window closes on Friday July 31st.

A national search firm has been hired to conduct the Executive Director search, and their goal is to hire an ED by the end of September. The initial staff of the ASD will only be an ED, a program officer, and a secretary. All positions will be based in Las Vegas. There will be a rulemaking hearing on Thursday August 27th at the Department of Education.
Victory Schools (SB 432)

Before the end of the session, the state created the list of Victory Schools. Each school must file a letter of intent by August 15th and a full implementation plan for FY16 by September 15th. With the exception of schools in the Turnaround Zone, CCSD is creating a new zone for Victory Schools. At the July 23rd meeting of the State Board of Education, they will discuss recruitment and retention incentives for these schools.
Charter Harbormaster (SB 491)

The Department of Education is expected to issue an RFP for the harbormaster by September 1st. Once the RFP window closes, the Board of Examiners will make a decision on which organization will become the state-funded harbormaster.
Teacher Performance Pay (AB 483)

This bill does not go into effect until the 2016-17 school year. In 2016, the districts will have to submit their plans on how they will comply with the bill to the Department of Education.
New Teacher Bonuses (SB 511)

Each district in the state has already submitted a plan to the Department of Education on how they want to administer the new bonuses. For example, CCSD requested $9.5 million of the available $10 million for FY16 to pay the maximum $5000 bonus to a teacher at every eligible school (behavior schools are not eligible for the program since they do not receive Title I funds-much to the dismay of the districts). CCSD plans to pay the $5000 in 20 segments of $250 over the course of the year. Some districts are paying the entire bonus up front and others are doing half at the beginning of the year and the other half at the end of the year. Due to PERS, all bonuses will be stipends. On July 23rd, the State Board of Education will make a decision on the district allocation.

On the university scholarship side of this bill, funds will not be available for the program until January. There is currently a lack of clarification of exactly who is and who is not eligible for the program due to the start of funding. Programs will apply to the Department of Education for funding and then the program will distribute the funds.
New Nevada Plan (SB 508)

A regulatory hearing on this bill is scheduled for Tuesday August 25th to discuss the Special Education funding weight along with other possible topics. The Department of Education is required to produce an update on base and weighted funding formula over the interim.

A regulatory hearing on this bill is scheduled for Thursday August 27th. In related news, 15 CCEA teachers are sueing CCSD over the changes to post-probationary status and that court case will likely affect this bill.
Teacher Supply Reimbursement (SB 133)

The districts will set up their own systems for teacher supply reimbursement and the Department of Education will send each district and charter school their share of the funds ($5 million over the biennium).
Peer Assistance and Review (SB 332)

The Department of Administration will send $1 million each year of the biennium to CCSD to ensure that the program is funded. We will continue to monitor this program in the Turnaround Zone to ensure that it is effective and a good use of taxpayer money.
CCSD Deconsolidation (AB 394)

In the fall, the Legislative Commission will appoint the 9 members (2 members from each caucus from Clark County along with an additional Republic) of the main Committee that will meet over the course of 2016.

Paul Farhi, a veteran reporter at the Washington Post, wrote an article recently about Campbell Brown’s new “news site” called “The 74,” which is a vehicle for her ongoing campaign against teachers’ unions and tenure and for charters and vouchers. Brown, who has no experience as a teacher, scholar, or researcher, who attended a private high school (her own children attend a private religious school), has become the new face of the corporate reform movement since Michelle Rhee stepped out of the limelight. Last year, Farhi wrote about Brown’s transition from TV talking head to advocate for vouchers, charters, and the elimination of teacher tenure. (You will notice in the earlier article that Brown takes great umbrage to my having described her as telegenic and pretty; well, she IS telegenic and pretty, and I would be happy if anyone said that about me! I consider it a compliment.)

Farhi reports the funding behind “The 74″:

As it happens, Brown raised the funds for the Seventy Four from some of the biggest and wealthiest advocates of the restructuring that the Seventy Four appears to be espousing. The funders include the Dick and Betsy DeVos Family Foundation, the Walton Family Foundation and Bloomberg Philanthropies, all of which have opposed teachers unions and supported various school-privatization initiatives. (Her co-founder, Romy Drucker, was an education adviser to billionaire and former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg.)

This would be just another garden-variety profile of a controversial figure, but blogger Alexander Russo blasted Farhi as biased against Brown. Although Farhi does not quote another corporate reformer, he quotes Brown herself extensively. Russo questioned Farhi’s objectivity as a journalist. He complained that there was no outside voice supporting Brown, and that Farhi ended the article with skeptical quotes from Washington insider Jack Jennings and AFT President Randi Weingarten. Russo says that Farhi should have allowed Brown to respond to the critics, and he should have found “another outside voice — a journalist, academic, or education leader of some kind — to express support” for Brown. He also wrote that “the overview was inaccurate or misleading” by stating that Brown’s views are supported by conservative politicians and business interests.

In an earlier post, Russo candidly disclosed that he had hoped to join Campbell Brown’s “team,” but didn’t make the cut:

Disclosures: This blog is funded in part by Education Post, which shares several funders with The Seventy-Four. Last summer and Fall, I spoke with Brown and others on the team about partnering with them but nothing came of it.

The curious aspect of this particular flap is that Russo’s blog is jointly funded by the American Federation of Teachers and Education Post (which is funded by the Broad Foundation, the Bloomberg Foundation, and the Walton Family Foundation).

Randi Weingarten tweeted:

Randi Weingarten (@rweingarten)
7/26/15, 1:14 PM
Russo’s criticism of Farhi is off base. Farhi’s piece is smart, effective journalism: washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/styl…

Also:

Randi Weingarten (@rweingarten)
7/26/15, 3:27 PM
@alexanderrusso do u really believe Campbell Brown is no longer ideological or are u acting this way b/c of funding washingtonmonthly.com/the-grade/2015…

Brian Malone, documentary film-maker, has self-funded a film about the corporate assault on public education.

 

His film is a MUST-SEE. It is titled EDUCATION, INC.

 

Malone is a parent of two children in the public schools of Douglas County, Colorado. He documents the well-funded effort to take control of the local school board. Grassroots activists running for school board raised $40,000. Corporate reform privatizers received over $1 million in funding, which they used for a slick propaganda campaign. They won control of the school board and immediately began implementing their plans for vouchers, charters, union-busting, and salary caps for teachers. The exodus of teachers from the district more than doubled. The district paid hired guns (including former Secretary of Education Bill Bennett) to praise its “reforms.” A commissioned study by Rick Hess of the American Enterprise Institute hailed DougCo as “the most interesting district” in the nation.

 

Malone crisscrosses the nation, interviewing teachers, parents, and trying to interview leaders of the privatization movement (who usually refuse to be interviewed).

 

What he shows dramatically is the huge pot of money coming from organizations connected to the Koch brothers, Jeb Bush, Michael Bloomberg, and other advocates for dismantling the public school system and replacing it with a free market of unregulated private schools and charters. He takes a close look at ALEC and its national network of rightwing extremists dedicated to privatization. Extremists and billionaires are pouring large sums into state and local school board races and into state legislative races. The only way to stop them is to go to the polls and vote for candidates who support public schools. The only way to make that happen is to education the public.

 

This is an important film about the future of American education. It is a call for citizens to get involved and take back their public schools from those seeking to privatize them.

 

Malone plans a national “house party” to show the film on August 14. Please contact him and get a copy and invite your friends and neighbors. EDUCATION INC. is a great place to start informing the public about the monied elite that wants to steal their schools and divert the funds to corporations, entrepreneurs, consultants, charter schools, and vouchers.

 

Go to the website for the film to learn how to get a copy: http://www.edincmovie.com or google Education, Inc.

North Carolina’s high court ruled 4-3 in favor of vouchers yesterday.

 

Even those who like the idea of using public funds to send students to private and religious schools, as well as to pay for home-schooling, may have trouble stomaching this bizarre decision.

 

Sharon McCloskey writes in NC Policy Watch just how bad this decision is, how it will set back the education of large numbers of children by using public money for home schooling and for schools that have no accredited teachers, no curriculum, no standards. This cannot be the way to prepare for the 21st century. It sounds instead like a headlong rush back to the nineteenth century.

 

McCloskey writes:

 

Chief Justice Mark Martin, writing for the majority and joined by Justices Robert Edmunds, Paul Newby and Barbara Jackson, couched the opinion in terms of judicial restraint and deference to the legislature, saying that the court’s role was “limited to a determination of whether the legislation is plainly and clearly prohibited by the constitution.”

 

Finding that the state’s “Opportunity Scholarship Program” did not clearly violate the state constitution, the court reversed Superior Court Judge Robert Hobgood’s 2014 ruling reaching the opposite conclusion.

 

“The General Assembly fails the children of North Carolina when they are sent with public taxpayer money to private schools that have no legal obligation to teach them anything,” Hobgood wrote at the time.

 

The challenged law, enacted as part of the 2013 state budget, allows the state to appropriate more than $10 million in public money to award qualifying low-income families $4200 per child for use at private 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.

 

In reaching its conclusion — and despite the constitution’s language that state funds should be “appropriated and used exclusively for establishing and maintaining a uniform system of free public schools” — the majority held that public funds may be spent on educational initiatives outside of the uniform system of free public schools.

 

As to the lack of accountability required of the private schools receiving public voucher money, the majority said that the constitutionally required “sound basic education” for North Carolina students, set down in the landmark Leandro decision, did not apply to private schools.

 

– See more at: http://pulse.ncpolicywatch.org/2015/07/23/states-highest-court-upholds-school-voucher-program-despite-lack-of-accountability-and-standards/#sthash.K1zyIHFX.dpuf

 

 

Bad news from North Carolina.

Contact: Yevonne Brannon/Patty Williams

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Tel: 919-244-6243/919-696-8059

Email: info@publicschoolsfirstnc.org

NC SUPREME COURT DEALS STUNNING BLOW TO PUBLIC EDUCATION

More children placed at risk by decision

Raleigh, NC—July 23, 2015— Public Schools First NC is disheartened by the NC Supreme Court ruling that will transfer tens of millions of desperately needed public education dollars to fund unaccountable private schools.

“Today is a very sad day in the history of our state,” said Yevonne Brannon, Chair, Public Schools First NC. “Our long-standing tradition of commitment to excellence in public education has made North Carolina a jewel among southern states. We cannot fathom how this decision upholds the constitutional promise that all children receive a sound, basic education within the public school system. And we are deeply concerned as strong public schools are critical for growing our economy and maintaining the vitality of our communities.”

Where voucher programs have been implemented, there is no evidence that they offer high- quality educational alternatives to children from low-income families. In Indiana, the number of vouchers awarded has grown exponentially; according to an education leader in that state, the program “now benefits middle class families who always intended to send their children to private (mostly religious) schools and taxpayers are footing the growing bill.” Today,
Indiana taxpayers pay an estimated $116 million to send 29,000 students to private/religious schools.

Public Schools First NC questions the “public purpose” of the school voucher program, when there are clear solutions—ranging from fully-funding pre-K programs, adequately funding
classroom supplies, and offering programs and compensation that encourage recruitment, preparation, support and retention of professional, experienced educators—to improve public education. Since 2008-09, funding for education essentials, including (textbooks,
transportation, teacher assistants, teachers, etc.) has been reduced by over $1 billion.

“How can sending at-risk children to schools where accreditation is not necessary, where teachers do not need a high school diploma, and where adherence to academic standards is not required be a worthy educational alternative,” noted Brannon. “All children lose when public schools are further depleted of their funds, and those funds are then used for unworthy ends.”

About Public Schools First NC:

Public Schools First NC (PSFNC) is a statewide, nonpartisan organization focused solely on public education issues. We collaborate with teachers, parents, business and civic leaders, students and communities across North Carolina in support of an effective public education system that will prepare each child for life. To learn more or to join our organization, please visit: publicschoolsfirstnc.org. Follow us on Twitter: @PS1NC. Read our 2015 legislative priorities.

EduShyster interviewed Seth Rau, a prominent young reformer in Nevada, about the Silver State’s “universal choice” or “Education Savings Account” program, which gives every student $5,700 to spend in the school of their choice.

Rau is policy director for the reform organization “Nevada Succeeds.” He is an alum of Teach for America; he taught for two years in a charter school. The conservative Thomas B. Fordham named him the “Wisest Wonk” in the nation for a paper in which he said that schools should be regulated lightly, like brothels in Nevada.

Despite his sterling reform bona fides, Rau is not your typical reformer. He does not celebrate the great successes of charters and vouchers. He is honest about the flaws of both, including the ESA that was recently adopted in Nevada.

EduShyster asked where should a student with a backpack full of $5,700 go to school.

He answered that the charters in Nevada were nothing to brag about:

In Nevada, the miracle of the high-performing seats that you’re so familiar with in Massachusetts never happened. For the most part our district charter schools are strongly underperforming. There’s also been a heavy reliance on virtual charter schools. More than a quarter of the students who attend charters attend virtual schools, which have been a disaster for many kids. For example, Nevada Virtual Academy was the largest charter school in the state and had a 32.5% graduation rate in 2011-2012.

The charter sector is growing, he said, especially in suburbs where students are high-performing. The charter scores are rising because “they’re not serving students who are actually in poverty.”

When EduShyster asks about access to private schools, Rau says that those schools are for the children of the 1%. So who will benefit from the ESA-style vouchers?

Rau answers:

I’ve heard people extolling Education Savings Accounts, saying that this is going to be the great solution to poverty, but equity is not the goal of the ESA. This bill will benefit middle class and upper middle class constituencies….That’s going to be the majority of people who use the ESA program. They’ll come from our limited middle class or upper middle class who are dissatisfied with the school district or with charters for one reason or another.

I am not ready to nominate Rau to the honor roll yet, as I save that honor for champions of public education, but I happily name him the “Wisest Wonk” of the reform movement for his willingness to tell the truth about the poor performance of charters and to admit that the ESA (vouchers) won’t help the majority of poor kids. If other reformers owned up to basic facts as Rau does, we would have a different conversation about education in this country.

Education Next is an influential rightwing publication. Its editors are mostly fellows at the free-market Hoover Institution. It is based at Harvard University, because its editor-in-chief is Paul Peterson, who holds a chair at Harvard. Peterson is one of the leading voices (perhaps THE leading voice) in the academic world for free markets and unfettered choice. He was once a strong supporter of public schools; he is now a strong advocate for vouchers, charters, and anything but public schools. Paul Peterson is a tenured professor who opposes teacher tenure. He also opposes teachers’ unions; he believes they are selfish and greedy and disrupt the working of the free market.  Of course, professors at Harvard make double or triple what the average K-12 teacher earns in a year and work far fewer hours (nine hours a week of class time? three hours? none?). Paul, whom I knew well when I was a senior fellow at Hoover, is an amiable guy. He is also one of the most prolific of the academic boosters for privatization.

 

Paul Peterson’s influence can be seen in the new movement for vouchers, which have repeatedly been voted down by the public. He has trained a large number of scholars who are dedicated advocates of free-market policies and school choice. One of his former students, Patrick Wolf, is the official evaluator of the voucher programs in the District of Columbia, Milwaukee, and Louisiana. Wolf holds an endowed chair in the “Department of Educational Reform” at the University of Arkansas, a department led by another Peterson student, Jay Greene. Peterson and Wolf have written a number of articles together about school choice. On his website, Wolf says that he has received $20 million in grants and contracts for his research studies.

 

Peterson’s latest piece, written with Martin West, another of his former graduate students at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, says that the public doesn’t believe that unions should be able to collect dues from people who don’t want to belong to the union but enjoy the benefits that the union negotiates for them. If the public doesn’t believe in unions, then presumably the courts should be willing to strip them of the revenues that enable them to represent workers and to exert influence to protect workers.

 

Do workers need unions? Growing up as I did in the 1940s and 1950s, unions were seen as a force for progressive change, as the defender of workers, as builders of the middle class. I have never belonged to a union but I continue to believe that without unions, workers will be exploited, treated as chattel, paid below the minimum wage, expected to work long hours in poor conditions, and fired with or without cause. The New York Times recently reported on protests by farm workers, some of whom work nearly 70 hours a week, seven days a week, in substandard conditions. One said that he would be grateful to have one day off a week.

 

I can’t help but think of a recent tweet by teacher Steven Singer: #Unions are the only reason we have weekends, vacations, overtime pay, 8-hour work day, sick leave, etc.

 

As unions disappear in the private sector, we see vast numbers of workers who work long hours, do not receive minimum wage or sick days. We see workers who are exploited by corporations that do not have a human face and discard people like trash. To be anti-union is to be anti-worker and anti-middle-class. Unions have their flaws, but their fundamental role is to create better lives for their members. To lose them will exacerbate the growing divide between the 1% and the poor and will hasten the shrinkage of the middle class. That’s bad for America. It’s bad for families and communities. It’s bad for children. It is shameful.

 

 

Educate Nevada Now, which advocates for public schools, documents the damage that vouchers will cause to public schools and the great majority if students who attend them. ENN is funded by the Rogers Foundation.

 

ENN reports:

MOST NEVADA SCHOOL DISTRICTS TO FACE BUDGET DEFICITS

Las Vegas, NV – Proponents of the new “education savings account” (ESA) law, enacted in June by the Nevada Legislature, are touting ESAs as beneficial for public school children. On closer inspection, it is clear that ESA’s, the transfer of potentially large amounts of public funding to pay for tuition at private and religious schools and other entities, poses a grave threat to the 450,000 children enrolled in Nevada public schools.

The new law requires the State Treasurer to transfer public school funding to an ESA for any student who leaves Nevada’s public schools. These transferred public funds are similar to a “voucher” that can be used to pay for all or part of private or religious school tuition. But the Nevada ESA law goes beyond private school vouchers, allowing the public funds deposited into an ESA to pay for an unlimited array of services, fees and other expenses provided by any for-profit or non-profit “participating entity.”

The ESA law is intended and designed to divert millions of taxpayer dollars from public schools to pay for private and religious schooling. Moreover, it could support an unlimited variety of other services, with little or no accountability for education outcomes and the use of those dollars.

ESAs will impact Nevada’s public school children in three critical ways:

Reducing public school funding and resources,

Increasing student segregation and isolation in public schools,

Limited or no accountability for the private schools and other entities accepting ESA funds.

Reduced Resources

The ESA law requires the “statewide average basic support per pupil” — $5,100 per student and $5,710 for low-income, and students with disabilities — be deposited into each ESA from local district budgets, a process that will divert, over time, substantial resources from the public schools. Studies have shown that Nevada substantially underfunds K-12 public education. For example, calculations by the Guinn Center show that Nevada K-12 funding is over $3,000 per pupil, or $1.5 billion, below the amount determined adequate by a 2015 education cost study. A recent ENN analysis shows that, even after the Legislature increased funding in the biennium budget, most Nevada school districts, including Clark County, are once again facing shortfalls in their operating budgets for the 2015-16 school year.

ESAs will trigger an outflow of funds from already inadequate school district budgets, beginning in the 2015-16 school year. This loss of funding to ESAs will further impede districts’ ability to provide sufficient qualified teachers, reasonable class size, English language instruction, and gifted and talented programs. Furthermore, services for students academically at-risk and special education, will undermine the opportunity for public school students to achieve and graduate ready for college or the workforce.

As children leave public schools with ESA funds, some of the costs to educate those students, will leave with them. But, ESAs will cause a deficit for the local district, given the fixed costs of operating the school system for all children. As ESAs take funds out of the school system, the cost of educating the remaining students – e.g., providing teachers, maintaining buildings, offering rigorous curriculum – must still be covered by the district. As more ESAs are established, the budget deficits in the districts will increase, resulting in fewer teachers, larger class sizes, and cuts to gifted and talented, art and music, and other essential resources.

ESAs also create instability in district and school budgets. Districts will not know how many students will exit and how much money will be taken out of the budget during the school year. This unpredictability will make it difficult to manage public school budgets, as local administrators won’t know how many teachers and staff to hire, whether to fix buildings in disrepair, or how to allocate funds to provide sufficient resources to schools throughout the school year. It is also difficult for districts to increase or lower the teacher workforce during the school year, as hiring is done in the spring and summer before the start of the school year. Teacher vacancies and reliance on unqualified substitutes – already a major problem – could rise, impeding the recruitment and retention of effective teachers.

Student Isolation and Segregation

ESAs, by design, will increase segregation of students by disability, economic status, and other factors. The ESA law does not require the private and religious schools and other entities accepting ESA funds to educate students with special needs, does not prohibit discrimination, and does not ban selective admissions practices, such as pre-testing. Similar to the current record of Nevada charter schools, ESA schools will serve disproportionately fewer students with disabilities, students in poverty, and students learning English, than many public schools serving the same communities and neighborhoods.

Because the ESA per student amount does not cover the full cost of tuition at private and religious schools, families must have the personal means to cover any remaining tuition. This will also include the cost of fees, uniforms, books, transportation and other expenses associated with private and religious schooling.

The ESA law has no limit on the income of households that can obtain ESA funds. There is only a handful of private schools in Nevada with tuition low enough to be covered by $5,100 or $5,710, the annual ESA amount. ESAs are designed to be a “subsidy” by more affluent families who can already afford to send their children to selective private and religious schools. Conversely, ESAs are insufficient for students from low-income families, and those who need more costly English language instruction or special education services. At-risk students will stay in the public schools, therefore, increasing the segregation of students based on race, socio-economic status, disability, English language proficiency, and other factors in those schools.

No Accountability

The ESA law is vague, allowing ESA funds to pay for tuition, services, fees and other expenses, not just to private schools, but to any “participating entity,” including for-profit businesses. ESAs can be used not only for private or religious schools, but also online education, a tutor or tutoring facility, or, as one lawmaker testified, reimbursement for home schooling. The law also allows ESAs to buy textbooks and curriculum, pay for transportation, and even to reimburse financial institutions to manage the voucher “savings account” itself. Any ESA funds not spent on K-12 can be reserved for post-secondary tuition or fees.

In enacting this law, the Legislature cites no evidence that private and religious schools, online schooling – or the unlimited array of services offered by for-profit and non-profit providers – paid for by ESA funds, will produce better education outcomes for Nevada’s public school children.

The ESA law has virtually none of the accountability measures imposed by the Legislature on public schools. The law requires student tests in math and English language arts, but the tests can be any “norm-referenced achievement exams.” They need not be comparable to Nevada public school tests. There is no requirement that private school teachers be qualified or offer a curriculum based on Nevada common core standards. The law provides no way to know whether students are achieving sufficient outcomes, and there is no protection for parents and students from being victimized by low-performing, under-performing and non-performing schools or other “participating entities.”

The ESA law has no meaningful mechanism for state oversight or review, let alone the type of rigorous fiscal and education standards public schools must adhere to. For example, there is no mechanism for investigating and closing schools or sanctioning “participating entities” that fail to properly educate students.

Unlike Nevada public schools, the private and religious schools accepting ESA funds are not prohibited from discriminating based on race, gender or disability. Although they will receive funds appropriated by the Legislature for public education, the private institutions, businesses and other organizations that participate in the ESA program are exempt from the most basic protections that prevent discrimination of disadvantaged and vulnerable student populations.

Finally, the private for-profit or non-profit education providers that accept ESA funds can use their admissions rules, including competitive pretesting, transcript evaluation and letters of recommendation. These schools and entities are free to select students based on who they decide fit their religious or secular mission, culture and program. In contrast, Nevada public schools have a constitutional duty to educate all children, including those with disabilities and other special needs, and those children whom private and religious schools choose not to admit or decide to remove from school.

ESAs Harm Public Schools and Students

ESAs, by design, will weaken Nevada’s public education system and undermine the efforts of public school teachers, administrators and parents to improve outcomes for all students, including at-risk children. Over half of Nevada public school students are economically disadvantaged. Nevada has the largest percentage of English language learner students in the nation. ESAs will further concentrate and isolate those students in the public schools while taking away critical resources necessary for a quality education.

ESAs are a serious setback for Nevada public schools and students. ESAs will erode already inadequate funding and budgets, reduce essential education resources, widen achievement gaps and increase segregation. Most important, ESAs will impede progress in ensuring that all students have a meaningful opportunity for a sound basic education as guaranteed by the Nevada Constitution.

Contact: Stavan Corbett | Director of Outreach
702.657.3114 | scorbett@educatenevadanow.com

http://www.educatenevadanow.com

About ENN

Educate Nevada Now! (ENN) is a non-partisan coalition of education stakeholders whose mission is to bring equity to the distribution of Nevada State educational funding. ENN’s membership is comprised of education groups, teachers, community organizations, parents, and students across the State. The reform of the State education funding will ensure that all of Nevada’s children receive the same educational opportunities regardless of location or wealth of the community.

Campbell Brown, the pretty, telegenic journalist who was once a talking head for CNN, has launched her website and news service to report and opine on education issues with a strong point of view. It is called The 74 Million, referring to the 74 million children below the age of 18. You can expect to read and hear about the glories of charter schools, vouchers, privatization, and Teach for America. You should not expect to see any good news about public education, unions, or veteran teachers.

Its funders include Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Dick and Betsy DeVos Foundation, Daniel S. Loeb, Jon Sackler, and the Walton Foundation. All of these are well-known supporters of vouchers and charters. Loeb, a billionaire hedge-funder, is the chair of the Board of Eva Moskowitz’s Success Academies; Sackler started a charter chain; the Walton Foundation pours about $150 million a year into vouchers and charters and Teach for America; Betsy DeVos founded American Federation for Children, which zealously advocates for vouchers; Jonathan Sackler, a wealthy equity investor, is a leader in the Connecticut and national charter school movement.

Two of our best bloggers have reacted to The 74 Million.

Jennifer Berkshire, aka EduShyster, got a tip about a journalist who applied for a job with The 74. She was told that the 74 news service needed investigative journalists but they would not cover subject of charter school scandals. She shared her story with EduShyster but insisted on anonymity as revealing her name would be “career suicide.” EduShyster repeatedly reached out to a high-level official at The 74. Eventually he responded and insisted that he could not comment based on a report from an anonymous source. And of course, the site will be “fair and balanced.” Where have we heard that before?

Peter Greene also received the news blast about the arrival of the Campbell Brown news service. Greene is impressed by the professional look of the site and the journalists hired to write for it. Its budget is $4 million but he says it is far slicker than Peter Cunningham’s Ed Post, which was funded by same of the same sources with $12 million.

He observes:

This is an advocacy site, and “advocacy” is our nice name for PR. It has a point of view that it wants to push, and whether that’s because Brown is a clueless rich dilettante who doesn’t know what she’s talking about or an evil mastermind who’s fronting for her husband and his disaster capitalist friends, either way, this is a site that has a point of view to push. This is no more nor less than we expected. That’s evident just in the choice of topics. One good way to be subtle in slanting news is to provide fairly level coverage– but only of the things you want to talk about….

We’ll see how things play out. If Brown can convince candidates to cue up for her educational summits, she may start looking like a real player in the ed debates, or at least a good mouthpiece for candidates who want to say educationy things without being challenged on their baloney.

But if you had the slightest thought that there would be any surprises at The 74, banish such foolish notions. It’s a slicker package and better buns, but it’s the same old pro-charter, anti-union, pro-privatization, anti-public ed meal inside. I can’t wait till they start covering Brown’s heroic fight to destroy tenure in New York, but I definitely won’t hold my breath waiting for a hard-hitting expose of a charter school scandal.

There is no such thing as advocacy journalism. You cannot, as Brown promises we will, have both. Either you have a journalist’s interest in pursuing the truth, wherever the path leads you, or you have an advocate’s interest in finding support for the position that you have already committed yourself to. It’s one or the other, and for all the journalistic trappings, Brown has chosen the path of the advocate.

Peter Greene dissects a statement by the Heartland Institute, a rightwing think tank, cheering for the “dismantling” of public education in Wisconsin. The cheering from the free marketeers was prompted by new legislation to expand vouchers and charters. That legislation awaits Governor Scott Walker’s signature, of which there is no doubt.

 

The privateers view public education with scorn, as a public monopoly rather than a public responsibility. They forget, or never knew, that the development if public education was long considered a major milestone in our democracy, a promise that all the children would have the right to a free public education. Given our diversity, the public schools would be common schools, serving the entire community and creating an educated citizenry.

 

Greene writes:

 

“The Wisconsin Legislature passed a budget this week that dumps more funding into the already-robust voucherific choicetastic system in Wisconsin. All the budget needs is a signature from Governor Scott Walker, and the only way Walker wouldn’t approve such move would be if he were disappointed that it didn’t explicitly end public education and replace public school teachers with minimum-wage temps.

 

“Also cheering for this are the boys at the Heartland Institute, a thinky tank devoted to free market causes and a better world where rich people are free to do as they wish and poor people live the crappy lives they deserve.”

 

Greene quotes from a press release from the Heartland Institute:

 

““Wisconsin’s new budget, which expands school choice programs, is a big win for Wisconsin parents and taxpayers. The strategy of across-the-board expansion of choice accelerates the process of dismantling the inefficient ‘district-based’ system and the educational apartheid that system creates.” Says Bruno Behrend, who just goes right on ahead and uses the word “dismantling.”

 

One thing we know about choice programs: they accelerate segregation of every kind, by race, religion, class, and income. The other is that they do not produce either better education or higher test scores than public schools serving the same kinds of students.

 

How long will the people of Wisconsin continue to tolerate the destruction of their public schools and public university systems?

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