John Abeigon, president of the Newark Teachers Union, wrote an article calling on the corporate charter chains to come clean about their finances and their practice of skimming the easiest-to-educate students, and to stop boasting about unverified results.


Abeigon writes:


“The time has come for New Jersey taxpayers to take a close look at corporate-sponsored charter schools in New Jersey. So-called school-choice advocates are pumping millions of dollars into political and advertising campaigns to protect the status quo when it involves the quasi-secret operations of privately managed charter schools in cities like Newark and elsewhere. The strike a wedge between Newark’s parents to draw the attention of taxpayers away from their financial shenanigans.


“The Newark Teachers Union has asked for more transparency in the management of corporate-backed charter schools. The Newark Public Schools have two monthly meetings where the school board and superintendent can be held accountable for the actions of their school. When was the last time the citizens of Newark were invited to a KIPP board meeting? What about Uncommon Schools?


Also, as these charters have grown, banks and corporations have developed ways, and found alternative credit routes, to provide capital to charter schools at favorable rates. What are these rates? And what are they funding? Have taxpayers and state legislators had an opportunity to review these credit applications?


Why are Newark’s corporate-run charters so afraid of transparency and democracy? Are Newark taxpayers allowed to run for election on a North Star Academy school board? Where are their financial statements? Where are their attendance reports? How are they spending taxpayer money? And why must the union be asking these questions?


“Second of all, corporate-charter advocates try to make the argument that Newark parents are “voting with their feet” and leaving public schools. But this is very misleading. Strong community schools like Dayton Street School were closed, forcing students from their communities. And still a vast majority of students elected to choose traditional public schools at their first option when they filled out their choices under One Newark.


“On top of that, the corporate charter industry throws millions of dollars into advertising their schools and broad claims of undocumented success. When was the last time you saw a billboard or TV commercial advertising your local traditional school? Or the many successful magnet high schools in Newark? There is no true choice here, just a financial tidal wave to push parents towards the corporate charter schools. They burn the village down, and then yell as loudly “This village has failed it’s citizens!”


“It is also very misleading when charters tout their successes without providing any evidence beyond their press release. As much as they promise “blind lotteries” are used to select their students, the numbers don’t hold up. Newark’s charter schools somehow manage to end up without the more challenging populations. They have far lower number of special ed, LEP, and poverty students.


“And as the charters expand, they continue to cream off select student groups, leaving the traditional schools with a more concentrated population of more challenging and more expensive students to educate — while draining away the very financial resources needed to provide these students with a quality education.


In contrast to the charters, the Newark Public Schools take students as they are:


“We educate all students, and we are proud of that. No matter what their IEP’s say. No matter what language their parents speak or if their parents are not involved in their lives. No matter if they are homeless or coming to school hungry every morning. That is what a Newark educator does, and shame on corporate-sponsored so-called school-choice advocates for denouncing that work for their financial and professional gain.



Abeigon concludes that if charters really are doing a good job, as they claim, they should open their doors and their books. They should share the secrets of their success, if it is real. Be transparent and be accountable to the public.





This weekend, Teach for America is celebrating its 25th anniversary. As befits an organization with hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue and assets,TFA is throwing itself a grand party at the vast Washington, D.C. convention center.

Some TFA alumni are not happy with the corporation. They criticize its role in privatizing public education, teaching children to conform, and undermining the teaching profession. The TFA propaganda machine does not welcome dissenters. It calls them “haters” and “traitor” and “enemies.”

Amber Kim is a TFA grad. She has grown critical. But, she insists, she is not a hater, and she refuses to be silenced or turned into an outcast.

She has organized a session at the TFA celebration for critical alumni, where they can convene, confer, and compare notes.

She writes:

“This February, though, at TFA’s 25th anniversary summit in Washington DC, I will be facilitating a sanctioned space for critics of TFA. The “Critics Not Haters” brunch will be held on Sunday, February 7 from 9 to 11am. All critical Summit participants are welcome to come and process their experiences at the Summit as well as critique TFA in general. This brunch came about after several deep conversations with TFA National staff. I requested space for all TFA alums, including critical alums, to collaborate and discuss perspectives that are important to them. This brunch is a space for TFA critics to build community, make connections, and hear numerous TFA counter-stories….

“It is important for me to state that I am very critical of how TFA has constructed, promoted, and empowered a very narrow, hegemonic definition of an “excellent education.” I am critical of the fact that TFA (often covertly) proclaims that an excellent education for all children is simply the content of the education that has historically been provided to and reserved for affluent, White children rather than an education that prepares students to challenge the deep injustices that undergird our society. I believe that TFA (covertly and overtly) pushes its corps members to deliver–unapologetically and uncritically–that kind of “rigorous,” “No Excuses” education to the students they serve while in TFA. Then, because of their (limited) experience in TFA, corps members go on to promote, teach in, lead, and create “No Excuses” schools (KIPP, STRIVE, Uncommon Schools, BES, etc.) where it is normal to hear “Voices off!” commanded or to see black and brown students marching in straight, silent lines to class. Schools where teachers are armed with their copies of Teach Like a Champion and equipped with robotic and patronizing “behavior narration” in order to improve test scores. Test score equity, though, is NOT equity when the means and methods used to achieve equal test scores are dehumanizing and rely on controlling the bodies, voices, and minds of other people’s children.

“TFA’s promotion of and alliance with these methods and No Excuses Charters (no matter how covert), however, is intentional and consistent. TFA tries to appear neutral and denies any formal connection, but the ties between TFA and the reform movement are evident and strong. TFA does not take any responsibility for the test-score obsessed, compliance-driven machine it has put in motion, nor does it own the harm that it does to students and the communities it purports to serve. So, yes, TFA makes me think critically. It makes me angry, makes me sad, makes me fight, makes me speak out, but it does not make me a hater.”

The Walton Family Foundation has been a key player in the movement to privatize public education. It recently pledged to pump $200 millions year into new charter schools to compete with public schools and drain away their resources.

Nonetheless, Walton published an editorial in Education Week admitting that online charter schools were a failure. Walton funded the research that showed their negative results.

“The results are, in a word, sobering. The CREDO study found that over the course of a school year, the students in virtual charters learned the equivalent of 180 fewer days in math and 72 fewer days in reading than their peers in traditional charter schools, on average.

“This is stark evidence that most online charters have a negative impact on students’ academic achievement. The results are particularly significant because of the reach and scope of online charters: They currently enroll some 200,000 children in 200 schools operating across 26 states. If virtual charters were grouped together and ranked as a single school district, it would be the ninth-largest in the country and among the worst-performing.

“Funders, educators, policymakers, and parents cannot in good conscience ignore the fact that students are falling a full year behind their peers in math and nearly half a school year in reading, annually. For operators and authorizers of these schools to do nothing would constitute nothing short of educational malpractice.”

Unfortunately, Walton doesn’t promise to stop funding these failed ideas. But it does promise to ask tough questions when the next online charter asks for money.

Fooled me once, shame on you.

Fooled me twice, shame on me.

Gene Nichol is Boyd Tinsley Distinguished Professor at the University of North Carolina. He writes here of the desperate situation that his state is in.


A few key statements summarize the article:



“North Carolina has been converted from an occasionally progressive island of the New South to the American Legislative Exchange Council’s most faithful and fevered servant


“Let’s be candid that the dismantling of public education is a principal, unrelenting goal of our General Assembly


“Nothing – not our air, our water, our seacoast, our mountains, not even our children’s health – seems to trump the claimed possibilities of profit”


Nichol writes:


“The Republican General Assembly has struck a dramatic new course for North Carolina. The Tar Heel State has been converted from an occasionally progressive island of the New South to the nation’s spearhead of political conservatism. The American Legislative Exchange Council’s most faithful and fevered servant. There can no longer be sensible doubt about the path laid out for us….


“Shall we abandon North Carolina’s historic, enabling and almost visceral commitment to public education? The commitment that, more than any other, has worked to separate us from much of the South. Do we mean to allow this jettison? Can’t we at least be candid that the dismantling of public education is a principal, unrelenting goal of our General Assembly? Or are all the vouchers, charters, budget cuts, wrenching salary limitations, tenure and teaching assistant eliminations, rhetorical attacks and constantly pronounced school failures actually meant to accomplish something else? When we settle in to the lowest funding regime among the 50 states, will we still boast a proud dedication to learning?


“▪ What of our obligation of stewardship to the wonders and majesties of North Carolina? We seem hell-bent on an increasingly consumptive and exploitative relationship to the state’s unparalleled natural environment. As if literally nothing – not our air, our water, our seacoast, our mountains, not even our children’s health – can trump the claimed possibilities of profit. We seem enthusiastic to prove we’ll embrace risk that others renounce – with fracking, offshore drilling, coal ash, agricultural waste, the dismantling of DEQ, the “see no evil” rejection of climate science. Hubris replaces reverence. Recklessness swamps conservancy.


“▪ To put it crudely, how long will we embrace the role of greedy bully? Though we have among the nation’s highest rates of poverty, child poverty, concentrated poverty, hunger, economic immobility and income inequality, our most consistent policy agenda has been to limit the benefits and raise the taxes of the impoverished to bestow even greater accumulations of wealth on the rich. As if it were no longer thought hideous to deploy power and privilege to pilfer from the poor.


“Our leaders have acted with energy and clarity to implement their values. Are their standards actually our own?”


Professor Nichol’s brief tally of the pillaging of the public sector explains why the Network for Public Education is holding its national conference in Raleigh on April 15-17. We will be there to stand in solidarity with educators and parents as they face the depredations of a mean and low legislature, determined to crush public schools in North Carolina and stamp out opposition.



Please join us as we rally with and for our friends in what was once an enlightened state

Bertis Downs is a parent and public education activist who lives in Athens, Georgia. His daughters attended the public schools in Athens. Bertis is a board member of the Network for Public Education and of People for the American Way.


He posted a speech in Salon that he says will bring about sure victory for the candidate who delivers it.


He begins like this:



Both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have decided to start talking about the state of K-12 public education in recent weeks. This is a very positive, if overdue, development, with both of them questioning the efficacy and priority of charter schools in the national dialogue on educating our children; and Sanders recently proposing a new, equity-focused approach to funding education in the United States.


Still, the candidates’ words don’t seem to resonate with many of the largely untapped public education parents and teachers who are in search of a candidate. Neither candidate really has a grasp on the varied and complex issues that have to be addressed when considering the changes and reforms our schools and children truly need. Let’s help their campaigns by outlining the speech that at least one of them ought to give — and soon.


Which campaign wants to lay claim to public schools supporters? Easy. Whoever embraces these ideas first. Just imagine:



Somewhere in New Hampshire:




Good morning. I want to spend a few minutes today considering the past, present and future of public education in our country— a topic too long ignored in this election year.


We know several things about public education. We know it is the road out of poverty for many children. We know many or most of our public schools are doing a fine job of educating our children. But we also know our nation still suffers from generations of neglect, discrimination and underfunding that drive unconscionable disparities in how we educate our privileged and our less affluent children. Clearly, education does not exist in a vacuum. We cannot expect schools or teachers alone to solve the immense problems many of our youngest children face in their home lives. Schools are expected to do more and more in an age when we are making it harder for them to do the basic job of educating their students. It seems that teachers have less control over what and how they teach, yet teachers are blamed more than ever for how their students perform on standardized tests. Is it any wonder we have an impending shortage of teachers? Even those who have long dreamed of being teachers may be hesitant to enter the profession as it is currently defined. Is that really what we want? Is that really what our children deserve?…..


We say we want good schools for each child. But the policies we have pursued at the federal and most state levels have not produced that result— not even close. Mine will be the first administration in a long time that not only makes speeches about strengthening and improving our public schools, but actually adopts policies that will strengthen and improve our public schools. To those of you who have said my campaign hasn’t emphasized public education enough: you are right. Admittedly, I am looking at this with new eyes as I consider the education of my own grandchildren. How we educate them, and the millions of peers coming up alongside them, is one of the nation’s greatest responsibilities. I, for one, am ready to do my part.


Read the rest of the speech that is guaranteed to elect the next President of these United States.

The Network for Public Education spent nearly two years developing the 50-state report card on “Valuing Education.” 


NPE issued a “request for proposals,” and the winning team of researchers was headed by Professor Francesca Lopez of the University of Arizona. Every statistic comes from reputable sources. Its conclusions are based on facts, not ideology or opinions.


Our public schools enroll nearly 90% of the children in the US. We cannot continue on a path of treating public schools as obsolete and unworthy of support. If policymakers neglect the public schools, they neglect the one institution that reaches the vast majority of children in the US. Our schools must embrace sound and evidence-based policies and cease the fruitless pursuit of market-based fantasies.


You can help. How? Download the report and give copies to your school board members, your local and state superintendent, and your legislators, both in the state legislature and in Congress. Make sure a copy goes to your mayor and other local and state elected officials. Send copies to your local newspapers. Make sure that the opinion makers and opinion molders are aware that there is a very different way to view schools, one that is based on evidence, not on failed policies of testing and privatization. If we fail to support our public schools, we fail to support our children and our future.


We need your help! Please let me know that we can count on you.

Earlier I posted a story about the four-hour grilling of the US Department of Education’s Chief Information Officer, Danny Harris.


According to the Washington Post, Mr. Harris had two outside businesses. And there was more that raised eyebrows:


The lawmakers’ concerns centered on an inspector general’s investigation that found Harris ran an after-hours car-detailing and home-theater-installation business that employed two subordinates from his agency and also allegedly accepted payments from other subordinates for the work.


The hearing also examined Harris’s effort to help a relative find work at the department and his close friendship with an agency vendor whose company has been awarded about $10 million in contracts to perform work that falls under the purview of his office.


Harris also failed to report an estimated $10,000 in income from his outside activities on federal disclosure forms and to the Internal Revenue Service, according to federal officials.



Here is a five-minute clip from that hearing, where Mr. Harris testifies and where Acting Secretary of Education John King insists that Mr. Harris was cleared by Department officials of any wrongdoing. This is a fascinating exchange and I highly recommend that you watch it.

I am re-posting this article because I neglected to insert the correct link on the first go-round.


It is an excellent job of reporting by Kristina Rizga, who has been writing about education for several years and spent four years embedded in a high school in San Francisco, which became an excellent book titled “Mission High.”


The purpose of the NPE report card is to change the conversation about how to rate schools. The important point is to hold states and districts accountable for making sure schools have the resources they need to be successful with their students. If they underfund the schools, if they focus too much on high-stakes testing, if they divert precious resources to privatization via charters and vouchers, they are not valuing public education.


And that is the point: Which states value public education? Which have resisted the fads and terrible policies pushed by the federal government?


The NPE report stands in sharp contrast to reports by ALEC, StudentsFirst, and the recent Brookings report giving stars to states that embrace privatization. We value public education. We think it is a pillar of our democracy. We expect states to prioritize public education, not to cut the budget of public schools or lower their standards for teachers and treat them poorly.



As Carol Burris and I were on the train to Washington, DC, to release the NPE report card, we had a phone conversation with Kristina Rizga of Mother Jones. Here is the article that resulted.


Rizga is no ordinary journalist. She recently published an excellent book called “Mission High,” about the four years she spent embedded at a so-called “failing school” in California, where extraordinary teachers and an excellent principal were performing daily miracles for kids from many countries. She knows schools.

Lyndsey Layton of the Washington Post reports that Danny Harris, the chief information officer for the U.S. Department of Education, collapsed after a four-hour grilling into his after-hours business activities. He was rushed to the hospital but is okay now apparently. Harris is paid $180,000 for his work as a senior officer of the Department.


She writes:



The lawmakers’ concerns centered on an inspector general’s investigation that found Harris ran an after-hours car-detailing and home-theater-installation business that employed two subordinates from his agency and also allegedly accepted payments from other subordinates for the work.


The hearing also examined Harris’s effort to help a relative find work at the department and his close friendship with an agency vendor whose company has been awarded about $10 million in contracts to perform work that falls under the purview of his office.


Harris also failed to report an estimated $10,000 in income from his outside activities on federal disclosure forms and to the Internal Revenue Service, according to federal officials.


Although Harris told lawmakers that he exercised “poor judgment,” he said that his side jobs were hobbies, even as he earned money for them and paid subordinates to help him. He also had created business cards and a logo for the business.



When I worked in the U.S. Department of Education in the early 1990s, the ethical rules were extremely strict and unbending. If you worked at a high level, you could not pursue any outside business or have any outside earnings. Period. After I left the Department, I served on the National Assessment Governing Board (the board that oversees NAEP), an appointment by the Secretary of Education. There, even as an unpaid appointee, I had to fill out an ethics disclosure every year. At one point, I was investigated because the Department was concerned that I was receiving royalties from books that I had written. No, there was no conflict of interest. It was bizarre, but the point was that the rules were strong and made no exceptions.


Now, granted that a car-washing business and a home-theater installing business are not in conflict with education stuff. But that kind of outside income was strictly forbidden. That’s the way it was in 1991-1992. Maybe the rules have changed. Maybe senior officials can do what they want to earn extra money on the side.


Funny that Arne Duncan put himself in charge of policing every school in the nation, but couldn’t monitor his own immediate staff.


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