Archives for category: Vouchers

Joy Resmovits of Huffington Post reports that Michelle Rhee is stepping down as leader of StudentsFirst, a group she founded in 2010. She is likely to remain a board member. She recently changed her name to Michelle Johnson.

“StudentsFirst was launched on Oprah’s TV talk show in late 2010 and immediately set ambitious goals, such as amassing $1 billion in its first year and becoming education’s lobbying equivalent to the National Rifle Association. Its policy goals focused on teacher quality, teacher evaluations, school accountability and the expansion of charter schools. But the group has failed to achieve some of its major goals. After revising its fundraising goal to $1 billion over five years, the group only netted $62.8 million in total: $7.6 million in its first year, $28.5 million in its second year and $26.7 million between August 2012 and July 2013. The group also has seen much staff turnover, cycling through at least five prominent spokespeople since 2010.

“After the group began, it saw some legislative and electoral successes. It claims credit for changing more than 130 education laws in many states. It has released report cards ranking states on their education policies, supported candidates through political action committees, and lobbied state legislatures and governors on reform issues.”

Although Rhee always claimed to be a Democrat, most of her group’s campaign contributions went to conservative Republicans. Last year, StudentsFirst honored Tennessee State Representative John Ragan as “education reformer of the year,” despite the fact that he was co-sponsor of the infamous “don’t say gay” bill). She opposed unions, tenure, and seniority, and she supported vouchers and charters. She was a leader of the privatization movement as well as the movement to evaluate teachers by test scores. Ironically, her successor in the District of Columbia announced yesterday the suspension of test-based evaluation of teachers, a move supported by the Gates Foundation.

Resmovits speculates that former CNN news anchor Campbell Brown will become the face of the movement to strip due process rights from teachers. StudentsFirst, however, is unlikely to have the national visibility that it had under Rhee’s controversial leadership.

Our wise friend Edward Berger took some time off from blogging, did some serious reflection, and has returned with some blockbuster posts.

This one is called “Never Again! Now the Evidence is Irrefutable.” He describes three groups of reformers.

http://edwardfberger.com/

He begins thus::

“While America was asleep at least three groups have moved to control American Education:

“Group one, the most damaging, is motivated by gaining access to the tax dollars citizens pay for public education. They hide behind a pretense of serving children and building America’s future. They are ruthless pirates who have no allegiance to anything but their own wealth and power. They are often hedge fund managers. Many are successful entrepreneurs who believe that because they created or inherited wealth, they are experts in every field…..

“Group two, a large mixed group made up of those who call themselves “education reformers.” Typically, these “reformers” do not have an education background, any legitimate certification, and any, or very little teaching experience. They have grand visions of themselves which manifest in a drive to change and profit from a system they are unable to accurately define and do not understand. None of these self-appointed change agents are focused on what our children need.
Those with this narrow, self-serving mindset accept that something is true without checking or affirming it. (i.e., Bad teachers are the problem). They claim to have hunches or insights that will correct problems. A woman who typifies this limited thinking is Michelle Rhee. She demonstrates a myopic way of thinking that is not productive. That is, if you threaten and hurt people they will get in line behind your assumptions or get out of your way. Bill and Melinda Gates are part of this way of thinking. If you devise tests that are designed to fail children and their teachers, you will motivate them and purge the profession – or so this tragic way of thinking plays out…..

“I have observed that almost every attempt to reform schools is accompanied by threats, punishments, bribes, and fear-generating ideologies. High Stakes Testing, Common Core, PARCC, the SAT, are all threat-based approaches. Most State testing programs are threat-reward based. (Teach what we tell you to teach and your school will get an “A” rating).
Fifty years ago many teachers used tests as threats and punishment. Today, teachers are aware of brain-based studies and no professional educators believe that fear, pressure, and student abuse are acceptable in a learning environment.
Why then does the USDOE (Arne Duncan), Pearson – a foreign company extracting billions of dollars from American schools – continue measurement systems that are not educationally viable, and in fact block learning? The answer is simple. They actually believe that people are motivated, learn, and work harder when they are threatened and under pressure. There is no evidence to support this, but of course, they are fact-adverse.

“Group three, is a collection of individuals and groups who cling to radical ideologies. At one end of the spectrum we find fundamentalists who advocate many types of non-scientific belief. We observe End Times preaching, and morality and sexual access based on the will of old white men. These sects or cults do not want public education. They reject equality between the sexes. They want to control what is taught. They want to control what the rest of us learn.”

These are the tried-and-true tenets of education in a democratic society:

“• We do not experiment on children.
• We honor and get to know each child, even those who are hurt and will not score well on summative tests. Unless the system is overloaded – not enough resources and too many children assigned to a teacher – no child is left behind.
• We honor a long history of One Nation united by our education system through common values, comprehensive curriculum, one overall language, and free K-12 education for every child.
• We reject the false assumption that schools can be run for profit. Profits take money away from children/schools. These are dollars that must go to services for children.
• School governance must follow democratic principles, starting with elected officials and elected school boards, and not mayoral control, politically appointed czars, or would-be oligarchs from the Billionaire Boys Club (think Eli Broad).
• We have a proven system of certification and competence. Educators are constantly evaluated by parents, administrators, peers, and students. This is the reason there are very few “bad” teachers.”

After many years of being rebuffed at the polls, the pro-voucher forces seemed to have given up. Voucher supporters turned to charter schools as their best hope for wresting public dollars out of public schools and putting them into private hands. But in recent years, vouchers have made a comeback. The Wisconsin legislature approved vouchers for Milwaukee in 1990, and the Supreme Court refused to overturn the law. Then the Ohio legislature approved vouchers in Cleveland, and a Republican-controlled Congress installed vouchers in the D.C. Schools. Other states have enacted tax credits or other means of subsidizing nonpublic schools, and few are willing to cal their voucher programs by their true name. instead they are “opportunity scholarships,” because they know the public doesn’t like vouchers. Thus far, the evaluations have failed to show any academic advantages for voucher schools. Some have a higher graduation rate than their peers in public schools, but their attrition rates are so high that it’s hard to cite the graduation rate (of those who did not drop out) as a victory. Despite the lack of results, and despite the lack of any popular mandate, the voucher movement continues to grow.

As I have learned in various public debates, voucher proponents make outlandish claims. Evidence is irrelevant. They claim success even when none exists.

It is time, I thought, to consider the philosophical and political case against vouchers. In this post, it is stated by Nicholas Meier. It may not surprise you to learn that Nick Meier is the son of famed progressive educator Deborah Meier.

Nick Meier’s first argument against vouchers is economic. Society is unwilling to pay the cost of elite private schools for all.

His second argument is about who gets to choose:

“The other issue is who chooses. Most private schools have selective admission, and limited space. Since unlike public schools they get to choose their students, even if the voucher fully paid for them (which of course it will not), they would still most likely cream the easiest students to teach, leaving the more difficult to teach children in the public schools.

“These two factors in combination would end up subsidizing private schools and middle and upper class families at the expense of public schools and the poor that are left in them. This would further segregate our schooling system into the haves and the have-nots.

“Since I have never heard voucher proponents either suggest that vouchers should be at the levels necessary to have them cover the full cost of most private schools, nor to force private schools to take those children, I find their arguments disingenuous.”

Not even charter schools pass muster, in Meier’s view:

“Why I still do not favor even this [charter schools] is that it fundamentally changes the purpose of public schools. Traditionally we have considered the education of the next generation to be a concern of society as a whole. In fact, virtually every society has considered this to be true throughout history. For this reason, locally elected school boards have governed our public schools.

“Charter schools and voucher systems make schooling a private consumer choice. In the charter and voucher systems consumers choose among the choices offered them, but have no guaranteed right to have a say about the schooling other than making that choice. Those who do not have children in the schools have no say at all. Private schools are run privately, and do not have to answer to the public. Charter schools usually have to answer for test scores and financial responsibility, but even there it is to the state and not in any direct way to the local public. While charter schools have governing boards, they select their own members of those boards. This gives control of the content of schooling to those who run the schools, often for-profit concerns, but even if not, private concerns of some sort. While our government is not perfect, should I really trust those who have private agendas and do not have to answer to the public to decide the how and what of our next generation’s schooling? Public school boards are elected, and have open meetings; private schools do not have to. Even if the charters do have open meetings, they are often run by national organizations and so are inaccessible and would probably just say, “Don’t send you child here if you don’t like our agenda.”

“Vouchers and charters are about redefining the public as consumers rather than citizens, which is part of a larger corporate agenda to destroy public institutions and the limit the power of the public.

“For the above (and other) reasons, I see truly public schools as the only answer for those committed to a democratic society.”

Lindsay Wagner reports in NC Watch that a judge in North Carolina said it was okay to dispense $10 million for private school vouchers before the courts rule on whether vouchers are constitutional. The far-right legislative leader Thom Tilles said the budget for vouchers would grow by another $800,000.

Do you think President Obama or Secretary Duncan will speak out against this diversion of public funds to private and religious schools?

The Koch brothers arranged a panel discussion about vouchers and why they are beyond wonderful. It wasn’t a debate. All four members of the panel supported vouchers. No one was there to say that voucher schools have never outperformed public schools, that voucher schools promote segregation, and that voucher schools divert money from public schools. The controversial Steve Perry from Connecticut, a state which has no vouchers, strongly endorsed them.

Fortunately, a few brave souls joined the audience and asked questions. One of them was a parent who went right to the heart of the matter. He was not intimidated by the stacked panel.

“Some were there to offer a counter view. T.C. Weber, a Metro Nashville school parent, questioned the “end game” of diverting funding from public schools.

“Are you looking to destroy the public system that we already have and build a new one based on your ideas?”

T.C. Weber is a hero of public education. I am delighted to add him to our honor roll for his courage and his commitment to democratic institutions.

Read this fascinating article in Slate by Ray Fisman, an economist at the Columbia Business School.

In the early 1990s, the Swedish government fell for Milton Friedman’s ideas about school choice. More students in Sweden go to privately-run and for-profit schools than any other developed nation in the world. “Swedish school reforms did incorporate the essential features of the voucher system advocated by Friedman. The hope was that schools would have clear financial incentives to provide a better education and could be more responsive to customer (i.e., parental) needs and wants when freed from the burden imposed by a centralized bureaucracy. And the Swedish market for education was open to all, meaning any entrepreneur, whether motivated by religious beliefs, social concern, or the almighty dollar, could launch a school as long as he could maintain its accreditation and attract “paying” customers.”

For a time, things looked promising. But no more.

“Advocates for choice-based solutions should take a look at what’s happened to schools in Sweden, where parents and educators would be thrilled to trade their country’s steep drop in PISA scores over the past 10 years for America’s middling but consistent results. What’s caused the recent crisis in Swedish education? Researchers and policy analysts are increasingly pointing the finger at many of the choice-oriented reforms that are being championed as the way forward for American schools. While this doesn’t necessarily mean that adding more accountability and discipline to American schools would be a bad thing, it does hint at the many headaches that can come from trying to do so by aggressively introducing marketlike competition to education.”

He concludes, quoting a charter founder:

“Maybe the overall message is, as Norman Atkins of Relay GSE put it to me, “there are no panaceas” in public education. We tend to look for the silver bullet—whether it’s the glories of the market or the techno-utopian aspirations of education technology—when in fact improving educational outcomes is a hard, messy, complicated process. It’s a lesson that Swedish parents and students have learned all too well: Simply opening the floodgates to more education entrepreneurs doesn’t disrupt education. It’s just plain disruptive.”

There is more than one way to harm public education. Several states have passed legislation to allow tax credits for scholarships to private and religious schools. This reduces the money available to support public schools.

But it gets better! In South Carolina, smart investors can actually make a profit by making gifts to the tax credit (aka voucher) fund.

David Slade writes in the S.C. “Post and Courier” that “S.C. Tax Rule Creates a Way to Profit by Funding Private School Scholarships.”

He says that taxpayers can save up to $1.42 for every dollar they give to the tax credit program.

He writes that high-wealth donors benefit the most. One single donor in the last fiscal year gave $1.52 million and gained a profit between $100,000 and $638,000.

Privatization produces no academic gains for students but it is a really swell gain for canny investors.

A group funded by the notorious conservative Koch brothers will host a school choice forum in Nashville on July 22.

Here are their panelists:

“Moderating the talk will be Shaka Mitchell, who works for Rocketship Education, a California-based charter school organization with an East Nashville location set to open this summer. A second Rocketship school in Nashville has been approved to open in 2015.

“Panelists are Jonathan Butcher, education director of the Goldwater Institute; Stephanie Linn, state programs and government relations director of the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice; Justin Owen, president and CEO of the Beacon Center of Tennessee; and Steve Perry, principal of Capital Preparatory Magnet School, a Connecticut-based charter school.

“In a statement announcing the forum, the organization applauds Tennessee’s 2010 move to an outcomes-based funding formula for public universities that’s supposed to reward institutions that meet benchmarks. The group says Tennessee’s K-12 public schools, however, have some of the “most high-profile problems in its urban school districts.”

“It alludes to last year’s failed push for school vouchers that would allow public funds to be used for private schooling.”

You can be sure that the panel will not mention Rocketship’s plummeting scores, nor the fact that neither vouchers nor charters outperform public schools. And the word will be mum on recent charter scandals in Connecticut, Ohio, and Michigan.

Georgia has an important run-off for State Superintendent of Education in the Democratic Party on July 22. If you care about the future of public education in Georgia, please vote.

Valarie Wilson came in first in the primary, with 32% of the vote. The runner-up, Alisha Thomas Morgan, received 26%.

The Network for Public Education has endorsed Valarie Wilson, a strong supporter of public education. In reviewing her list of contributors, it appears that almost all of them live in Georgia. Wilson’s total contributions, after taking out loans, was $178,147. Of those, $174,572 came from supporters who live in Georgia; $3,575–or 2%-came from outside Georgia.

Valarie was elected to the local school board in Decatur in 2002 and served as its president from 2005-2011. She was elected president of the Georgia School Boards Association in 2012-13.

Her opponent, Alisha Thomas Morgan, has been endorsed by the corporate reformers, the hedge fund managers and billionaires, who support privatization, charters and vouchers.

On Morgan’s website, she boasts that she has been endorsed by the Wall Street hedge fund managers group, Democrats for Education Reform; by the voucher-loving American Federation for Children (Betsy DeVos of the Amway fortune, sister of Erik Prince of the infamous Blackwater security company); by Michelle Rhee’s StudentsFirst; by billionaire Michael Bloomberg’s daughter Emma Bloomberg; by billionaire Eli Broad; and by Frank Biden, brother of Joe Biden, who manages a for-profit charter corporation in Florida called Mavericks.

Most of Morgan’s funding comes from out-of-state donors. Morgan has collected $21,203 from citizens of Georgia. She has collected $70,675 from out-of-state donors.

Here is the list of outside donors to Morgan.

LastName FirstName Cash_Amount
Aluise Joseph 500
American Federation for Children Action Fund-Georgia PAC 3700
Arnold John 1500
Bender Benefits & Insurance 3000
Bing Jonathan 250
Blew James 500
Bloomberg Emma 500
Bloomberg Emma 500
Bloomberg Michael 3700
Bloomberg Michael 6300
Bradley Katherine 1000
Bradley Sean 200
Broad Eli 3700
Broad Eli 6300
Conforme Veronica 250
Cunningham Peter 200
Deane-Williams Barbara 150
DeLaski Kathleen 500
DeVos Jr. Richard & Elisabeth 6300
Dostart Steve 250
Dostart Steve 250
Duncan Damon 250
Elisa Louis 100
Elisa Louis 100
Ferguson Wilkie 250
Fields Jarett 75
Fisher John 1000
Francis Gregory 200
Fuller Howard 250
Fuller Howard 250
Gaal Michael 250
Gordon Scott 250
Groff Peter 250
Groff Peter 250
Hilton Adriel 100
Hilton Adriel 100
Holifield Johnathan 250
Huizenga J.C. 2500
Jackson-King Carolyn 150
Johnson Alex 250
K12 Management Inc. 2000
Kihn Paul 250
Kihn Paul 100
Kirtley John 3700
Ledre Jr. Reo 200
Leslie Kent 200
Lomax Michael 250
Martin Rayne 100
McGriff Deborah 250
Nellons-Paige Stephanie 500
payton jr tony 150
Peabody Malcolm 500
Powell Jobs Laurene 6300
Rees Nina 500
Revenaugh Martha 500
Ritchie Daniel 3000
Rudall David 250
Russell Jerome 500
Schilling John 150
The Alex’s Group LLC 150
Thiry Kent 4300
Thompson Elizabeth 100
Thompson Elizabeth 100
Tilson Whitney 250
Total 70675

North Carolina won’t wait for a court to rule on vouchers. It will start giving them out next month before the court hearing.

“RALEIGH, N.C. — Taxpayer money for private or religious school tuition may start flowing to North Carolina families before a judge rules whether the program is legal.

“The state agency in charge of the Opportunity Scholarships late last month advanced to August 15 the date it planned to distribute tuition funding to families of students who won a lottery. That date is a month earlier than the North Carolina State Educational Assistance Authority previously projected and a week before a scheduled court date intended to debate the law’s constitutionality.

“The educational assistance authority isn’t setting its timetable based on the legal dispute, executive director Steven Brooks said Thursday. The agency decided distributing the money sooner was better than later, he said.

“I think we just said let’s get it out there as soon as we can,” Brooks said.

“But distributing the money before a court hearing late next month would cause needless chaos, said Burton Craige, an attorney for plaintiffs who are challenging the voucher program.

“It’s taxpayer money. It makes sense to have a ruling on whether it’s constitutional before we release that money to private schools,” Craige said. “Once money is paid out, it’s hard to get it back.”

“Wake County Superior Court Judge Robert Hobgood blocked the program in February until the issues raised in two lawsuits could be fully considered at a trial. Lawyers for two dozen taxpayers and groups representing teachers and many of the state’s 115 school boards had challenged whether it was constitutional for the state to spend public money on K-12 education at private or religious schools.”

Read more here: http://www.newsobserver.com/2014/07/17/4012139/nc-school-vouchers-may-flow-before.html?sp=/99/100/&ihp=1#storylink=cpy

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