At a policy forum in Miami before the Council of the Great City Schools, surrogates for Trump and Clinton clarified their views, sort of.

Carl Paladino, remembered in New York for his racist and sexist emails during his campaign against Cuomo, promised that Trump would not put an educator in charge of the Education Department. That’s no surprise. In other settings, both Trump and Paladino have promised to turn all federal funding over to charters and vouchers and to abandon public education.

Clinton’s surrogate said that she is a “big backer” of charter schools, but not for-profit schools. That is not at all reassuring, since some of the most rapacious charter schools are technically non-profit but are managed by for-profit EMOs. And some rapacious charter chains are non-profit but pay their executives obscene salaries. And some non-profits are agents of privatization, even when the profit motive is absent.

The article also said:

During her 2016 campaign, Clinton’s position on charters became a bit less clear. During her time as a U.S. senator from New York, for example, Clinton was a supporter of charters. She’s even taken some grief from the teachers’ unions for that stance. But during this White House run, she also criticized charters for not necessarily accepting all the same students that traditional public schools do. And she’s said charters should supplement what public schools do and not replace them.

She was right. Charter schools do not accept the same students that real public schools do. They can admit those they want and kick out those they don’t want. And while it is admirable to say that charters should not replace public schools, the reality is that charters drain both resources and students from public schools, causing public schools to cut their programs and staff and to have even less capacity to serve the overwhelming majority of students.

The United States simply cannot afford to have a dual school system: one that chooses the students it wants, and the other required to accept all who apply. No high-performing nation in the world operates a dual school system.

If Clinton is to have an intelligent policy about public and charter schools, she must be better informed than she is now, and she can’t rely solely on charter advocates for her information about the way charters are systematically eroding public education in America. She need only look at what is happening in Pennsylvania, Ohio, California, Arizona, Nevada, Florida, and a dozen or more other states.

She might learn that more than 90% of charters are non-union. She might bear in mind that her strongest supporters have been the NEA and the AFT, whose jobs will be lost as charters expand.

Profit is not the only issue, though it is one. The central issue is privatization and the danger to America’s historic commitment to universal public education, doors open to all, not to some.

The good news is that one of the Podesta emails leaked by Wikileaks said that a group of billionaire reformers organized by Laurene Powell Jobs wanted to meet with Hillary but she couldn’t make time for them, and Podesta responded:

Probably worth the time. Not sure we can reassure them. Want to discuss by phone?

Note bene: she didn’t make time to meet with them, and the staff was not sure it could reassure them. That’s a good sign. Take that, reformers!

Carl Petersen is a candidate for the Los Angeles Unified School Board in 2017. He is also a close observer of school board meetings and a strong supporter of public schools.

In this post, he describes the last school board meeting, where five charters were not renewed. Three of them were part of the Fethullah Gulen charter chain called Magnolia (in Los Angeles), and the two others were Celerity charters. This was quite a shocker for the charters involved because the LAUSD has a long record of nearly automatic renewal of all charters (according to the article, 155 of 159 charters have been renewed).

Carl notes that despite the fact that most students in Los Angeles attend public schools, not charter schools, the agenda of every meeting is dominated by charter schools. It is as though the public schools disappeared and no one noticed.

He writes:

Last year, the charter industry invested “nearly $2.3 million” in “the nation’s most expensive school board elections” to ensure that they were free from the inconvenience of oversight. While the California Charter School Association (CCSA) has stated that they “are deeply concerned that this month District staff have recommended more charter renewal [denials] and material revision denials than they have in the last five years combined”, the recommendations against Magnolia and Celerity should not have been a surprise or seen as a change in policy. In 2014, the Board voted against two other Magnolia campuses “for fiscal mismanagement and a slew of other accounting irregularities.” Celerity had two charter renewal petitions rejected last November. The Board’s interest in the “financial shenanigans” at ECRCHS is a little more surprising, especially since their charter was renewed last year with at least two Notices to Cure outstanding. However, the publicity provided by the Los Angeles Daily News investigative reports most likely made the irregularities more difficult to ignore.

The is no way that the allegations against any of these charters could be considered nit-picking. Neither the LAUSD Charter School Division (CSD) nor the Fiscal Crisis and Management Assistance Team (FCMAT) felt that Magnolia was providing all of the information that was requested of them. It is important to note that Magnolia had agreed to let FCMAT audit their operations to settle a previous dispute with the LAUSD over the renewal of some of their other charters. The organization holding the charter for Celerity was accused of being a shell. According to CSD testimony at the Board meeting, the Governing Board is controlled by a third party which refuses to cooperate in any way with LAUSD’s oversight. Up until reaching a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the District just prior to the meeting, ECRCHS had refused to terminate their principal after he was caught charging expensive meals, $95 bottles of wine, first class airfare and personal charges on the school’s credit card. Interestingly, the Governing Board was also accused of violating California’s Brown Act, which they appear to have done again when they appointed a team to negotiate the MOU at their meeting on Monday night even though this issue did not appear on their published agenda.

Here is the Board’s complaint about the Magnolia (Gulen) charter schools:

If the charter schools had their way, there would be no oversight at all, no supervision, and no accountability for anything they do.

Under Governor Jerry Brown and the state school board, that has the common practice. The California Charter Schools Association is shocked when any school board has the temerity to exercise any oversight, fiscal or academic.

T.C. Weber, a public school parent in Nashville, can’t understand why voters in Georgia would vote to create a state takeover of low-scoring schools to turn them over to charter operators. It hasn’t worked in Tennessee, despite the propaganda, and there’s no reason to believe that it will work anywhere else. What’s worse, it defunds public schools so that the charters get whatever they want.

“On November 8, Georgia residents will head to the polls, and, along with their presidential vote, will decide on whether or not to give the state the power to take over so-called failing schools. As a parent of two children who attend a school that sits right outside the periphery of the priority school list, I urge you reject this idea. No matter what they try to tell you, the Achievement School District in Tennessee has been an unmitigated failure. The only thing the ASD has been successful at is creating another government entity rife with financial mismanagement and becoming an endless source of debate as they constantly change goals.

“As I said earlier, I’ve got two children in a school that for all intents and purposes is a “priority school,” and I hate that term. First of all, I believe all schools should be “Priority Schools,” meaning that we should make it a priority that all schools have the resources they need. Taking schools and ranking them while ignoring their resource shortfalls gives us an inaccurate portrait of our educational system and allows us to ignore societal issues that need addressing. The focus becomes not on actual learning, but rather on standardized test results. I know the two should be the same, but unfortunately we all know they are not. Ranking schools in this manner further exacerbates an inequitable education experience for children because the emphasis becomes getting off the list versus providing the best possible well-rounded educational experience for all children.

“Let’s look at Nashville, for example. Currently, we have 11 schools on the state’s priority list. At a recent school board meeting, the newest plan was unveiled to rescue these priority schools. One of the elements of the plan was that we were no longer going to call underperforming schools “priority schools.” We were now going to refer to them as “innovation schools” because “priority” conveyed a sense of failure and punishment. That’s fine, you can change the language – something the reform movement is particularly adept at – but the state will still refer to these schools as priority schools. And if they fail to improve, the state will reassign them to the state’s innovation zone, the Achievement School District, which has proven to be not so innovative after all. Their idea of innovation has more to do with growing the charter sector than with their stated goal of moving the bottom 5% of schools to the top 25%. Any local action is potentially neutered by the vulture on its perch waiting to pounce.

“So if an ASD-type program gets approved in your state, what follows is a plan of action that focuses on getting these schools to show growth in the only measurement that matters to the state, the standardized test. Want to take a class on a field trip to the state museum? Well, that’s great, but how’s that going to improve literacy scores? Want to teach a novel to your class? Yeah, that’s nice, but we have other strategies that’ll have a bigger impact on test scores and we’d prefer you utilize that time for them. Thank God there are still teachers willing to buck the system or it would be test prep all the time, which is basically already happening in a lot of places.”

Laura Chapman lives in Cincinnati, Ohio, where the national board of the NAACP held its annual meeting and approved a resolution calling for a moratorium on new charter schools. The resolution was first proposed by the annual national convention of NAACP members from across the nation. Protestors arrived from Memphis to protest any moratorium on new charters.

Laura, a retired arts educators and an inveterate researcher, wrote about why people came from Memphis to Cincinnati:

“Cincinnati was the site of protests against the NAACP resolution to put a moratorium on charter schools. About 150 protesters, who wore coordinated t-shirts, were bussed to Cincinnati from the infamous “Achievement School District” (ASD) in Memphis, TN, specifically by a group called Memphis Lift.

“Who actually paid for the trip and why did protesters against the NAACP resolution come to Cincinnati from Memphis? I do not final have answers, but there can be no doubt that the charter industry is organized to protest against any cuts in charter expansion. Here are some things worth noting.

“Three persons from Memphis are on NAACP’s 63-member national board: Jesse H. Turner Jr., the organization’s treasurer and the president of Tri-State Bank of Memphis; Rabbi Micah Greenstein of Temple Israel of Memphis; and Bishop William Graves of Christian Methodist Episcopal Church.
No doubt the pro-charter group, Memphis Lift, hoped to influence their vote.

“Memphis Lift was created in 2015 in order to organize black parents as vocal supporters of school choice. Memphis Lift has close ties to the wife of Chris Barbic, the founding superintendent of the scandalous Memphis “Achievement School District (ASD)”

“Why scandalous? An August 2016 audit of the ASD indicated that for school year 2016-2017, ASD added 4 more charter schools to its Memphis portfolio, for a total of 33 under the charter management organizations (CMOs) in charge of running day-to-day operations. This first ever audit revealed frauds on a grand scale in just one year. Among them, the liberal issuance of purchasing cards combined with records of purchases totaling $14,895 for which the cardholders did not obtain advanced approval as required by ASD policy. (p. 44). Six transactions were for a dental insurance premium, donation, coffee supplies, and “accrual calculations” totaling $131,637. Three travel claims were for one flight and CMO expenses, totaling $4,734 with no supporting documentation (p. 43). For more examples of this free spending, including luxury transportation and the bar charges at parties, see the report.

“Participants in Memphis Lift are not grassroots volunteers. They are employed-parents who received paid training channeled through Education Reform Now. Education Reform Now is supported by Democrats for Education Reform’s Political Action Committee. Chris Barbic’s wife, Natasha Kamrani, works as the Director of Democrats for Education Reform in Tennessee. She would certainly know about the training program and the political action funding channeled to it.

“How was the training financed? Memphis Lift is a fairly expensive operation. Initially, it was organized around 19 parent-employees who received $1800 for attending a 10-week training program. The training included help on public speaking, canvassing parents, and the use of a laptop, a perk given to participants in the program. The parent-employees, paid $12 to $15/hour, worked for about 25 hours per week. They were sent to canvas parents in Memphis neighborhoods where the public schools had been given the lowest performance rating by the state. In addition to providing these parents with information about the low performance of these schools, they discussed charters as an option for the parents. This paid “voice group” for parents successfully canvassed about 1,100 parents, and simultaneously created a roster of prospective contacts for marketing charter schools.
Who provided the training? The Parent Leadership and Advocacy Institute (PLAI). PLAI, the local affiliate of Democrats for Education Reform. Successive cohorts of participants in Memphis Lift were trained by Dr. Ian P. Buchanan, Deputy Director of the Parent Leadership Advocacy Institute/Democrats for Education Reform in Memphis TN.

“Dr. Buchanan’s work for Memphis Lift was aided by co-director Johnnie M. Hatten, a conspicuous supporter of charter expansion and member of the ASD Advisory Council, who ran for the state legislature in 2016 (as a Democrat), but lost the contest to Antonio Parkinson, a vocal critic of the state-run school turnaround district. Hatten’s campaign coffers were filled by charter-supporting groups: Tennessee Federation for Children PAC ($11, 501), along with Education Reform Now, Students First Tennessee, and Campaign for School Equity (each contributing $5,000). Support for charters in Memphis is clearly threatened, another reason for hoping to get help from the NAACP.

“Political connections still supply money to Memphis Lift. In January 2016, Memphis Lift sent 21 members to Washington, D.C. for Teach For America’s 25th anniversary celebration. “Natasha Kamrani, director of Tennessee’s branch of Democrats For Education Reform and wife of founding ASD superintendent Chris Barbic, introduced the group to attendees of the TFA reunion, stating she was lucky to work with them.”

“Follow the money to Teach for America and Democrats for Education Reform and to the many states across the country where “voice groups” like the parents in Memphis are paid for recruiting other parents to charter schools while carefully avoiding the truths about the rip-offs from charter operators.

“For a really eye-opening and well-documented report on Democrats for Education Reform and who is guiding its activities, go to this website

“And do look for the quote from one of the founders of DER, hedge fund manager, Whitney Tilson

Pennsylvania became an ATM for the charter industry under Republican Governor Tom Corbett. He is gone now, but the legislature remains indebted to the fat, happy charter owners. Many public school districts are on the brink of bankruptcy due to the rapacious charters that snare their students with deceptive advertising. Pennsylvania has more virtual charter schools than any other state, despite the fact that study after study (including one by CREDO, funded by the Daltons) has shown that virtual charters are educational disaster zones. Students who enroll in them don’t learn anything, but the virtual charter industry is rolling in dough. Two different virtual charter leaders have been indicted for theft in Pennsylvania; one admitted stealing millions of dollars, the other saw her trial dismissed because of age and infirmity but was indicted for theft of millions.

Into this land of struggling public schools and thriving charters comes a new legislative plot to privatize and monetize public school funding. It is called HB530. Under the (usual) guise of “reform,” the bill would open the door to the vaults that hold taxpayer money meant for children and welcome the charters to help themselves.

HB530 is a blank check for a rapacious, greedy industry.

Lawrence Feinberg of the Keystone State Education Coalition wrote this post, “20 Reasons to Vote No on PA HB530.”

Here are a few of his reasons:

Pennsylvania taxpayers now spend more than $1.4 billion on charter and cyber charter schools annually, in addition to funding the state’s traditional public schools. The current “rob from public school Peter to pay charter school Paul” system drains money from traditional public schools, forcing districts to cut programs and services for the students who remain. In 2011, the charter reimbursement line was eliminated from the state budget. It provided state funding to districts for the costs and financial exposure resulting from the addition of charter schools.

Legislators are now considering House Bill 530, which would bring much-needed reform to the charter school law that was written in 1997. The bill has several helpful provisions, but the harm that it does far outweighs the good. Here are 20 reasons that the legislature should vote against this measure.

#HB530 does not provide significant accountability to taxpayers for payments made to charter school entities.

#HB530 would create a Charter School Funding Commission that would consider establishing an independent state-level board to authorize charter school entities, bypassing any local decision-making by school boards and their communities.

#HB530 further limits the ability of communities to negotiate the role of charters locally. The decisions about how, when, and where to expand them should be made by those who have the information and expertise to do so in ways that improve education.

#HB530 is an entirely unwarranted intervention in the local governance of school districts. It would remove local control of tax dollars from Pennsylvania taxpayers and their elected school directors.

#HB530 sets no limits to money that charters can drain from local school districts, eliminating districts’ capability to plan and budget.

#HB530 is a vehicle for the Pennsylvania legislature to have local taxpayers pay for unlimited charter expansion.

#HB530 would let charter operators expand and add grades without any local input or authorization, regardless of performance.

#HB530 would let charters expand by enrolling students from outside of the district in which it is located.

If you want to save public education in Pennsylvania, contact your legislators now.



House Bill 530:  Stop this last minute attempt to push bad charter expansion bill in the final week of session


The General Assembly is preparing to push charter expansion legislation under House Bill 530 all the way through in this final week of voting for the 2015-16 legislative session and send this bad bill to Gov. Wolf.  Conversations in the House and Senate are happening now to fast-track this bill to the governor’s desk by the end of the week.

Between Monday and Wednesday, House Bill 530 is expected to be moved out of the House Rules Committee and sent to the House floor for quick passage. The bill will then move directly to the Senate Floor for a concurrence vote.  Final action could occur within 48 hours, so your action against this bill now is critical.

We need to STOP House Bill 530! Please send the prepared letter that is available by clicking on the Take Action button. This is a NEW letter that has been prepared to be sent to members of BOTH the House and Senate, so if you sent one to House members last week, please send this latest version.  This letter will also be sent to Gov. Wolf.

In addition, please call, text or tweet your members of the House and Senateand tell them not to push this bill through in these final session days. Use the talking points below.

House Bill 530 creates numerous changes to the Charter School Law, but does not provide real, meaningful reforms or relief from increasing charter funding costs. Tell your House and Senate members to vote NO on this bad legislation.

House Bill 530 is not taxpayer friendly because:

  • It does nothing to address the fact that charters continue to be overpaid for special education costs. In 2014-15, school districts overpaid charter schools more than $101.7 million more than the expenditures actually reported by charters.
  • It does nothing to address that fact that charter tuition payments continue to wreak havoc on local school district budgets. Since 2007-08, tuition payments from school districts to charter schools have increased 139.3%.
  • Instead, House Bill 530 creates a statewide advisory commission to explore funding issues that doesn’t even include school directors, even though they are charter school authorizers and responsible for the budget and taxing decisions in their districts. This is not a balanced step toward reform.
  • It includes provisions to allow charter schools to have significantly higher fund balances than school districts and it removes the ability of school districts to negotiate with charter schools for discounts on tuition rates.

House Bill 530 is not real reform because:

  • It does nothing to address fraud, waste and abuse by charter management companies
  • It falsely purports to set tighter rules for financial transparency and accountability when in fact such provisions that are already required.
  • It enables the expansion of charter schools with less accountability and dilutes existing authorizer oversight.
  • More charter school proponents are added to the state Charter School Appeal Board.

House Bill 530 makes charter schools less accountable because:

  • School districts’ ability to revoke charters for poor performance is reduced by forcing them to use a new performance matrix to measure the academic performance of charter schools and to assess renewal terms. Oh, and guess who creates this matrix? A commission comprised of members that is weighted in favor of charter school representatives.
  • It expands charter renewal terms and further removes authorizer oversight.
  • It allows charter schools to ignore student enrollment caps
  • Charter schools are not required to use the state-developed evaluation system for teacher and principals required for school districts.

What House Bill 530 does:

  • Eliminates the ability to compare charter schools and their sending school districts and undermines the original intent of the Charter School Law to create schools that provide something above and beyond what is provided by traditional public schools.
  • Instead, it makes new rules that only benefit charter schools at the expense of students, school districts, and local taxpayers.
  • Allows unchecked expansion of charter schools

Click here for more detailed information on PSBA’s concerns with House Bill 530

Click here to see a video that takes a deeper dive into the impact of House Bill 530

Click the link below to log in and send your message: BroadcastLinks/kmO4R0E_ pLy5wlktrTQwsw

It is always hard to explain complicated issues to voters, especially when you don’t have much money.

Take Georgia, for example. Governor Nathan Deal wants to change the State Constitution to allow the state to take over low-scoring public schools and hand them over to charter operators. It hasn’t worked anywhere else, but no matter. The amendment is being sold as a way to help kids and improve schools, when it is a transfer of public schools to private management. It is privatization of public schools and squelching of democracy.

How do you reach voters?

Here is one way: Someone hired an airplane to fly over a University of Georgia football game flying a banner that said:

“No School Takeover. Vote NO on Amendment 1.”

In the battle over Question 2–whether to expand the number of charter schools by a dozen a year indefinitely into the future–sentiment is running against the proposal, despite the millions of dollars spent on television ads by the pro-charter groups. In western and central Massachusetts, according to this article, a majority of voters are against Question 2 once they hear from a volunteer about the fiscal impact on their public schools.

In Worcester, meanwhile, school officials want to see Question 2 defeated….

“To have the possibility of losing additional funding from our budget – it would be devastating,” said Molly O. McCullough, a member of the Worcester School Committee, which was among the first school boards in the state to officially oppose the ballot question in January.

Brian E. Allen, the Worcester schools’ chief financial and operations officer, said the public schools are already losing critical funding – $24.5 million this year – to the two existing charter schools in the city. If the district were to absorb all 2,000 of Abby Kelley Foster Charter Public School and Seven Hills Charter Public School’s students back into its population, for example, the money it would get back would be enough not only to hire the necessary teachers to instruct those students but also an additional 150 teachers to use elsewhere in the system, he said.

On the flip side, if Worcester were to add 2,000 more charter school seats – the equivalent of two new schools – “now we’re talking about significant financial impacts,” he said, to a district that cut staff last year because of a budget deficit.

In essentially the same boat as Worcester, as far as the financial impact a charter school would have on them, the majority of other school districts in Central Massachusetts have also taken official stances against Question 2. Two other school systems besides Worcester – Fitchburg and Marlboro – already share their city with charter schools. Fitchburg and other districts have also seen recent proposals from local groups to start new ones.

As school boards consider the fiscal impact of the existing public schools, they take a stand against the resolution.

What all this demonstrates is the utter callousness of the pro-charter advocates. Massachusetts has the most successful public school system in the state, yet “reformer-billionaires” think it should be disrupted. Worcester, as the article points out, had a third charter school that lasted only three years. What is the logic of disrupting and defunding the nation’s most successful state public school system by adding a dozen new transient schools every year and causing budget cuts to the public schools that remain?

Many of us have wondered about the practice of measuring, rating and ranking every student, every teacher, every school. We know that Big Data is insatiable.

China is perfecting Big Data.

“Imagine a world where an authoritarian government monitors everything you do, amasses huge amounts of data on almost every interaction you make, and awards you a single score that measures how “trustworthy” you are. 

“In this world, anything from defaulting on a loan to criticizing the ruling party, from running a red light to failing to care for your parents properly, could cause you to lose points. 
And in this world, your score becomes the ultimate truth of who you are — determining whether you can borrow money, get your children into the best schools or travel abroad; whether you get a room in a fancy hotel, a seat in a top restaurant — or even just get a date.

“This is not the dystopian superstate of Steven Spielberg’s “Minority Report,” in which all-knowing police stop crime before it happens. But it could be China by 2020.
It is the scenario contained in China’s ambitious plans to develop a far-reaching social credit system, a plan that the Communist Party hopes will build a culture of “sincerity” and a “harmonious socialist society” where “keeping trust is glorious.”

Big Data has valuable uses for macro-trends in society. Big Data is dangerous when it scoops up personally identifiable data.

The number of towns saying NO to Question 2 now exceeds 200 in Massachusetts.

Out-of-state billionaires have poured $20 million into the campaign to pass Question 2, which would cause budget cuts to the state’s public schools so that the charter industry could grow by 12 a year indefinitely.

School districts say no.

Mayor Walsh of Boston says no.

Senator Elizabeth Warren says no.

Save your schools: Vote NO.