Teresa Hanafin writes the daily “Fast Forward” for the Boston Globe.

She writes:

It’s the last day for House Democrats to argue why senators should find Trump guilty and remove him from office. Yesterday they focused on the first article of impeachment, abuse of power; today they tackle the second, obstruction of Congress.

In making the case yesterday that Trump abused the power of his office, once again the House managers were clear, methodical, and thorough, using video, e-mails, and other material they were able to obtain from witnesses since Trump has tried to block everyone and everything (hence the obstruction charge).

They even showed a clip of South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham arguing during the Clinton impeachment trial that a president need not have committed a crime to be removed from office. Why show that? Because now that a Republican is in the White House, Graham is arguing the exact opposite.

But the closing statement by lead manager Adam Schiff stole the show, and his passionate and emotional plea that “Here, right matters” went viral before he had even sat down.

Schiff was echoing the testimony of Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman,an Iraq War veteran who had told the House Intelligence Committee that he wanted to reassure his father not to worry about his decision to defy Trump and show up to testify. Why shouldn’t his father worry?

“Because this is America,” he said. “This is the country I have served and defended, that all of my brothers have served. And here, right matters.”

It was the perfect phrase for Schiff to adopt last night. After he pointed out that when it came to the false Putin propaganda that it was Ukraine, not Russia, that interfered in the 2016 election, Trump chose to reject the truth as told to him by all of his intelligence experts and instead, believe what Rudy Giuliani was telling him. Why? Because people like FBI Director Christopher Wray were offering him information that was in the country’s interest, Schiff said, while Giuliani was offering him information that was in Trump’s personal and political interest. With Trump, the latter will win out every time, Schiff said, and that makes him dangerous. In closing, Schiff said:

If right doesn’t matter, it doesn’t matter how good the Constitution is. It doesn’t matter how brilliant the framers were. It doesn’t matter how good or bad our advocacy in this trial is. It doesn’t matter how well-written the oath of impartiality is. If right doesn’t matter, we’re lost. If the truth doesn’t matter, we’re lost. The framers couldn’t protect us from ourselves if right and truth don’t matter.

Here, right is supposed to matter. It’s what’s made us the greatest nation on earth. No Constitution can protect us if right doesn’t matter anymore.

You know you can’t trust this president to do what’s right for this country. You can trust he will do what’s right for Donald Trump. He’ll do it now. He’s done it before. He’ll do it for the next several months. He’ll do it in the election if he’s allowed to. This is why if you find him guilty, you must find that he should be removed. Because right matters. Because right matters, and the truth matters. Otherwise, we are lost.

Here’s a 9-minute clip of Schiff’s statement, or follow the trending Twitter hashtag #RightMatters.

Today, the House managers will make the case that Trump obstructed Congress,arguing that if Trump’s refusal to comply with every congressional request is allowed to stand, then Congress will have enabled him and all future presidents to hide their wrongdoing, effectively killing Congress’ constitutionally mandated duty to hold the executive branch accountable.

Their arguments come as the Republicans are touting a new reason not to find Trump guilty: That he’s just going to assert executive privilege anyway, and it will be dragged out in the courts, so why bother? They point to the fact that the House didn’t go to court (it actually did on several matters, and those matters are still tied up), but they are willfully ignoring history: During the Richard Nixon investigation, the House didn’t go to court to compel Nixon to turn over more information (he turned over many), but the Senate did. The difference? Those Senate Republicans wanted the truth; these Senate Republicans don’t.

Remember: In the entire history of the United States, no president has ever ordered the complete defiance of an impeachment inquiry.

What is stunning is how assiduously the Republicans are avoiding the simple question: Do you believe the accusations against Trump? Instead they’re whining about having to sit so long, they’re complaining that the Democrats have been repetitive, and they’re pouting that the House didn’t go to court. Yoo-hoo … do you think he’s guilty or not? Crickets.

The GOP begins its arguments tomorrow, and Trump’s lawyers have indicated that they likely won’t use their full 24 hours. The Republicans could vote to acquit Trump by the end of next week.


Meanwhile, a reprehensible spectacle unfolded on Twitter when GOP Senator Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee attacked Vindman, the veteran who has shrapnel in the body and a Purple Heart on his chest. With no evidence, she decided to accuse him of leaking information about Trump’s fateful phone call with the president of Ukraine to the whistleblower. And she called him unpatriotic.

How sad. How vulgar. To see a US senator grovel like this for Trump’s approval shows just how far the Republican Party has fallen. As anchor Jake Tapper put it on CNN: There’s no reward for decency in Trump’s Republican Party. There’s only reward for indecency.

Politico Morning Education reports on Betsy DeVos’ attack on “choice.” She was talking about slavery, not schools. Ironic. She’s wrong about both. She has a gift for bad analogies, like comparing schools to Uber and taxis or food stands outside the ED building.

HOW DEVOS USED THE ABORTION, SLAVERY ANALOGY: DeVos, a Christian conservative, was talking about the Trump administration’s record of opposition to abortion and her own at the Museum of the Bible on Wednesday when she invoked the comparison, saying she was reminded of President Abraham Lincoln “contending with the ‘pro-choice’ arguments of his day.”

— “They suggested that a state’s ‘choice’ to be slave or to be free had no moral question in it,” she said, according to prepared remarks shared Thursday by the department with POLITICO. She said Lincoln reminded “those pro-choicers” that a vast majority of Americans viewed slavery as a moral evil. “Lincoln was right about the slavery ‘choice’ then, and he would be right about the life ‘choice’ today,” she said.

— Similar comparisons between slavery and abortion by conservatives have drawn intense criticism. Minority members of the Utah Legislature, all of them Democrats, condemned comments by GOP Lt. Gov Spencer Cox comparing abortion to slavery at an Eagle Forum convention earlier this month.

— In November, Michigan Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, a Republican, called abortion a “scourge” that’s comparable to the scourge of slavery. State Sen. Erika Geiss, a Democrat who is black, called the remark “incredibly insensitive,” adding “I don’t think comparing something that is a reproductive health care choice for one in four women … has any place in a conversation about slavery,” the Associated Press reported.

Ah, sad for the Sacklers! Having become multi-billionaires by manufacturing, marketing and selling opioids, they can’t find peace. Major institutions are refusing their donations, some are taking their names off buildings they endowed, states are trying to claw back their fortune.

One branch of the family sold its NYC mansion for $38 million and left for Gstaad in Switzerland, future unannounced.  Perhaps the Swiss will be more forgiving than the states where thousands died of opioid abuse, victims of pill-pushing doctors who were assured that the drugs were safe—or didn’t care.

Even charter schools may be embarrassed to take their money.

Garrison Keillor writes today in his online “A Writer’s Almanac”:

 

It’s the birthday of novelist Edith Wharton (books by this author), born Edith Newbold Jones in New York City (1862). She grew up in a rich, socially prominent family with old money — the phrase “keeping up with the Joneses” is said to be a reference to them. In a family of beautiful women, she was not a beautiful girl, often teased about her big feet and hands, and her red hair. Her parents — especially her mother — strongly disapproved of her storytelling and writing. She said: “I was never free from the oppressive sense that I had two absolutely inscrutable beings to please — God & my mother […] and my mother was the most inscrutable of the two.” Her parents refused to give her writing paper, so she had to steal pieces of brown wrapping paper for her stories. She wrote her first novella at age 14, but her mother had only critical feedback; Wharton said, “This was so crushing to a would-be novelist of manners that it shook me rudely out of my dream of writing fiction.”

It was many years before she returned to fiction. In the meantime, she was married, finally, at the age of 23 — her mother had brought her into society and had been trying to find her a husband since she was 17. Her husband, Teddy Wharton, was a friend of her brother’s, and they were a terrible match. Teddy Wharton was pleasant but completely uninterested in the intellectual world that his wife craved; and as their marriage progressed, he descended into mental illness. She had a stretch of difficult years, feeling constantly nauseated and exhausted.

During these years, she continued to write poetry and short stories, and published here and there. Despite her unsatisfying marriage, she enjoyed being in charge of her own home. In 1897, she published her first book, The Decoration of Houses, which she co-wrote with an architect friend.

In 1902, the Whartons built a 35-room mansion called The Mount in the Berkshires of western Massachusetts. Edith and Teddy each had a bedroom — his was smaller, as was his den — and it was in her bedroom that Edith did most of her writing. She would wake up early in the morning and write by hand in bed, dropping the pages on the floor as she completed them. Sometimes she had coffee and rolls while she wrote. By late morning, she would turn her attention to seeing to the grounds and attending to her guests. Her secretary would take the pages and type them up, and then Wharton would make changes and have them retyped; the process repeated until she was satisfied. At The Mount, she wrote her first major novel, The House of Mirth (1905), which was a best-seller and made Wharton famous. She wrote to her lover, Morton Fullerton, about her work on the house and property of The Mount: “I am amazed at the success of my efforts. Decidedly, I’m a better landscape gardener than novelist, and this place, every line of which is my own work, far surpasses The House of Mirth.”

She wrote: “I have sometimes thought that a woman’s nature is like a great house full of rooms: there is the hall, through which everyone passes in going in and out; the drawing-room, where one receives formal visits; the sitting-room, where the members of the family come and go as they list; but beyond that, far beyond, are other rooms, the handles of whose doors perhaps are never turned; […] and in the innermost room, the holy of holies, the soul sits alone and waits for a footstep that never comes.”

By the end of her life, Wharton’s popularity had faded, but she was earning a huge amount for her work; in the year 1936, when a good salary was about $2,000, Wharton earned $130,000 from her writing. Her books include Ethan Frome (1911), The Custom of the Country (1913), The Age of Innocence (1920), and The Gods Arrive (1937).

Peter Greene writes here about the possibility that legislators might attempt to limit the damage done by the cyber charter industry, which is protected by armor of cash and campaign contributions.

Numerous studies, including one by the charter-friendly CREDO of Stanford, have found that students in cyber charters don’t learn much. Some studies have shown that cyber charters don’t learn anything.

But the industry is immensely profitable, because the cyber charters get paid full state tuition and provide almost nothing, unlike a brick and mortar school that must provide heat, electricity, a custodian, a library, transportation, etc. Cyber charters make all those things unnecessary, but at the same time that provide as meager an education as is possible.

Greene writes:

Rep. Curt Sonney is a GOP top dog in the Pennsylvania Education Committee, and he’s never been known as a close friend of public schools. But he represents Erie, a district that has been absolutely gutted by school choice, so maybe that’s why he has spent the last couple of years nipping at the heels of Pennsylvania’s thriving cyber charter industry.

Harrisburg just had hearings on his latest proposal, a bill that he first announced last October and which has something for virtually everyone to hate.

Pennsylvania cyber schools are an absolute mess, barely covered by laws that never anticipated such a thing and protected by a massive pile of money thrown both at lobbying and campaign contributions.

The cybers do offer a service that is useful for some students (I personally know of one such case). But they also provide a quick exit for parents who don’t want to deal with truancy issues or other disciplinary problems. Their results are generally very poor (none have ever been ranked proficient on the Big Standardized Test), and state oversight is so lousy that many were allowed to continue operating for years without ever having renewed their charters.

But what really has drawn the wrath of even people who don’t pay much attention to education policy is that they are expensive as hell. Because the charter laws didn’t really anticipate this cyber-development, cyber-charters are paid at the same rate as a brick-and-mortar charter. So an individual student may bring in $10-$20K, but costs the cyber charter the price of one computer, one printer, and 1/250th of an on-line teacher. The profit margin is huge, but so is the cost to local districts, with poorer districts in the state being hit the worst.

A year ago, there was a bill floating around Harrisburg to change the game– if a local district opened a cyber-school, then any families that wanted to send their kid to an out-of-district cyberwould have to foot the bill themselves.

The bill (HB 1897) is a bit involved, and we’ll go digging in a moment, but the two headline items are this: all cyber-charters will be shut down, and all school districts will offer cyber education. Now, to look for some of those devilish details.

Betsy DeVos is a huge fan of cyber charters and has even invested in them.

Be that as it may, they are a financial success and an education failure.

 

 

Oklahoma is famous for underfunding it’s schools. The legislature is under the thumb of the oil and gas and fracking industry, which wants low taxes and no regulations. Teachers revolted and went on strike in 2018 but the legislature continues to starve its schools, opting to satisfy its funders and forget about its children and its future.

The superintendent of Tulsa, Deborah Gist, is a Broadie who previously served as State Superintendent of Rhode Island, where she made her mark by threatening to fire everyone who worked for the Central Falls School District, a high-poverty district that was and remains the lowest performing district in the state.

As superintendent of Tulsa, she has worked with business leaders to cut the deficit by cutting the budget. Apparently the legislature’s neglect is just a given that Tulsa’s civic and business elite don’t want to bother by asking for more funding.

 

A parent sent me this analysis of the surgery Gist is performing on the schools—closing schools and laying off staff. To protect his children, he requested anonymity. Since I know his credentials, I agreed.

He writes:

How To Create A Zombie Public School District And What That Means For Tulsa Parents

Last week at the Tulsa Public Schools board meeting, Superintendent Deborah Gist and her administration laid out part of their plan to resolve a questionable $20 million budget deficit for the 2020-21 school year due to a declining enrollment.  Most of the attention has been focused on the four school closings (actually five), and little attention has been made of the other hits that are occurring.

Last fall, the administration held so-called community meetings to take input on what parents, teachers and students thought was most important for the district. These meetings mirrored the process in 2016 when the district was reeling from nearly a decade of budget cuts to education from the state. Both in 2016 and for the most recent cuts, the district listed identical items to absorb the loss, and asked people at community meetings to prioritize what they felt was important to save from cuts. The surveys included the following recommendations: reduce transportation by changing bell times; reduce costs through efficient use of buildings and operations; reduce central officeservices; increase class sizes; provide less professional development; reduce athletics and on and on.

The 2016 budget reduction outcome results were the following: Close three elementary schools and consolidate them into a fourth, consolidate a middle school and high school, eliminateover 142 teaching positions, increase class sizes, reducecustodial services and a create a supposed $1M savings in district office reorganization, among other items.

The survey results from the community meetings for this year’s(2020-21) budget reduction showed that respondents were leastwilling to: reduce teacher compensation; increase class sizes;reduce social emotional learning and supports. Respondents were most willing to save money in the following areas: change student transportation and bell times; reduce teacher leadership opportunities; provide more efficient building utilization and district office services.

After collecting and ostensibly reviewing the community survey results, the district recommendations for the 2020-21 school year were to: reduce district office services ($13-14 million); close and consolidate schools ($2-3Million); and change the elementary staffing plan, i.e. increase class sizes ($3 million)

Wait a minute. Didn’t the community just say they were least willing to increase class sizes?  Not only is Superintendent Gist recommending increasing the class size, she is also calculating it based on SITE totals rather than GRADE level totals.  What does this mean?  

Say you have a school with 400 students and one grade level has 66 students. A 24/1 ratio gets you 2.75 allocations or 3 allocations. Do this for every grade and you end up being allocated 18 teachers based on grade level counts. However, when teachers are allocated to schools based on the school total rather than the grade level total, a school with 400 students at the site will be allocated only 17 teachers (16.66).  So who gets the extra-large class? Principals are normally reluctant to have large classrooms, so they look to cut other allocations such as art teachers, music teachers, librarians, councilors, gifted & talented teachers and on and on.

And what does “office services” mean? No more school supplies? No more copies?  No more textbooks? Reducing social and emotional services?  So far, the district administration has not shared what “reducing district office services” means.

While TPS was having a “budget crisis” in 2016, what nobody was taking notice of at that time was the district’s declining enrollment (which puts the most pressure on the budget) at the same time that charter schools were quickly expanding. In 2015,enrollment in TPS stood at 39,451 and enrollment in charterschools stood at 1402. In 2019-20, enrollment in TPS is 35,390, a decline of nearly 10%, and enrollment in charters stands at3,119, a 120% increase.  In addition, in December of 2018, the TPS Board approved the expansion of an additional 875 seats for charter schools.

At the same time TPS is scheduled to close four elementary schools, the district is also poised to expand a so-called “partnership” school called Greenwood Leadership Academy(GLA).

The Founder and Chairman is Dr. Ray Owens, Pastor of the MET Church and GLA was supported by the usual charter-loving foundations and organizations: George Kaiser Family Foundation, Schusterman, Zarrow, Walton, Loebeck/Taylor and the Oklahoma Public School Resource Center.  

Greenwood Leadership Academy has been a train wreck since it opened in 2017.

In May of 2018: “Greenwood Leadership Academy staff member no longer employed after allegedly leaving student in locker.”  

A few months later, the principal who was a part of the Tulsa TFA cohort of 2013, unexpectedly resigned:  

TPS partner Greenwood Leadership Academy to replace principal”    “I am resigning from my role as principal because I feel led by God to do so. I am, unashamedly, a man of faith,” Asamoa-Caesar.

But, fear not, he landed at 36 Degrees North, an entrepreneurial incubation organization, also supported by George Kaiser Family Foundation and the Loebeck/Taylor Foundation. Asamoa-Caesar has now decided to run for congress.

Despite GLA’s questionable past, an article in the Tulsa World reported on the intent of the TPS administration to expand GLA. “Tulsa school board to vote on accelerating Academy Central Elementary’s conversion into Greenwood Leadership Academy”  

Tulsa School Board Member Jennettie Marshall, district 3,expressed concern about closing a public school to expand Greenwood Leadership Academy, a partnership school, which, arguably, is a failing school.

The article states: Marshall said she’d rather vote on the proposal after the final testing cycle is completed and noted the board typically doesn’t vote to renew GLA until the summer. Her concern stems from a history of underwhelming proficiency rates and disciplinary issues at the school.

She cited a recent data report showing a steep decline in third-grade proficiency. The report states 6% of GLA’s original student cohort, who now are in third grade, were proficient in math during the fall semester, compared to 31% in fall 2018. Their reading proficiency also declined from 27% to 13% during that time.

That’s right, Gist is recommending that those same third graders now enter the fourth and fifth grades under this “partnership” school. But what isn’t mentioned is that TPS promised the North Tulsa Community Task Force a moratorium on its school closures. Greenwood Leadership Academy is co-located in Academy Central Elementary’s building. Apparently TPS doesn’t consider a school closed if they transfer all the students out of it and let a privately run “partnership” school take over the building.   Why not allow Academy Central Elementary to “absorb” GLA, and then work to improve Academy Central Elementary?  

To further complicate the matter, TPS School Board Vice President Suzanne Schreiber works for the George Kaiser Family Foundation (GKFF)/Tulsa Community Foundation.  One would think if your boss was a major donor to the school (GLA) that is before the board for approval (or for that matter any of the other seven charter schools that have received GKFFdonations), you would have some sort of conflict of interest. Schreiber spoke in support of GLA at the January school board meeting:

These are our partners,” Schreiber said. “We need to trust and support them. We’ve seen really robust data and a trajectory going (upward). So I support this recommendation. I’m excited for Greenwood to accelerate to fifth grade, and I just expect that they’re not going to do anything but continue to provide a high-quality education for our kids.”

Let’s rewind:  

5.56% of GLA’s third graders are proficient in math – that’s three students out of 53.  THREE!

13.21% of GLA third graders are proficient in reading.  That makes 7 students.

Who in their right mind thinks that is providing a high-quality education and an upward trajectory?

Shouldn’t the Board Member Schreiber be trusting and supporting the public school, Academy Central Elementary, in the community she works for, or is she working on the school board for GKFF? Where is her first responsibility?

In addition, school board member Jania Wester works for Community in Schools and shares an office with her husband who is the Executive Director of Growing Together, a GLA partner which has also received millions of dollars from the George Kaiser Family Foundation.  No possible conflict of interest there.

And in the category of “You just can’t make this stuff up,” over the winter break Dr. Gist married Ronnie Jobe.  Congratulations!   The groom is Senior Vice President and Manager – Institutional Markets for Bank of Oklahoma.  BOK is the largest bank in Oklahoma and its majority shareholder is one George Kaiser.

And speaking of transfers, what also isn’t being talked about is TPS’s new open enrollment, or as they explain it to their charter partners, “Unified Enrollment.”  This is where anyone can go down to the TPS Enrollment Center and enroll their child in any school if there is an open seat. That’s right, TPS will assist you in enrolling your student in any public school or private charter school merely for the asking as long as there are seats available.  

Do you remember at the beginning of this article when I mentioned the budget deficit was due to declining enrollment?  Does anyone else see a problem here?

To make the process even easier, TPS administrators are also recommending a re-alignment of schools so all elementary schools are configured the same.  That way if you want to leave your public school, you will fit right in to the private charter schools.

To top it off, the charter schools now need space to expand.  Where are they going to get it?  The closed school buildings of course.  And just to make sure those spaces are nice, at the end of December the TPS Board voted to spend $1.6M not for the benefit of TPS students, but to benefit the private Legacy Charter School to improve its building. Simultaneously, one of the public elementary schools slated for closure has plenty of students, but the district plans to shutter it because the building is in need of repair and that would be too costly. Maybe they want those students to move to Legacy Charter School since it’s getting a nice refurbishment.

Tulsa Collegiate Hall has its eye on Wright Elementary, one of the schools slated to close at the end of this year.  Crossover Preparatory Academy wants the Gilcrease school building, which was recently closed in north Tulsa.    Crossover Preparatory Academy was recently visited by governor Kevin Stitt to tout the so-called benefits of the Oklahoma Equal Opportunity Education Scholarship Act which primarily grants scholarships to Christian schools .  Tulsa Honor Academy has reached out to the Walton Foundation for a $1 million donationto apparently go at it alone through Level Field Partners.  Does anyone else see a transfer of public dollars to private schools and real estate LLC’s in the future?

Nobody is talking about the costs associated with closing the schools. It isn’t zero. Nobody is talking about what an utter nightmare it is going to be to bus the students who under open enrollment can supposedly go to any school, with district transportation provided. TPS has enough problems trying to get students to school on time, now imagine buses taking any student to any school.

This last Friday it was announced that employees had been notified of the intent to eliminate their positions.  While Gist repeatedly assured the community that her staff would do everything they could to transfer teachers to other schools within the district once the schools were closed, the process is the equivalent of being fired and then having to re-apply for a job as if you had never been with the district.  I can only imagine the high morale of employees who have that to endure.

In five years, Superintendent Gist’s merry band of Broadies haveclosed at least eight schools, lost 10% of the enrollment, expanded charter schools by over 120%, re-aligned all the schools to make it easier for students to leave the district, helped them fill out the paperwork to do so, spent Bond dollars meant for TPS students for private charter schools and are cutting central office services while increasing class sizes.

If you’re a parent like me and are interested in saving public schools, you might want to look at two truly grassroots organizations that take no funding from reformer foundations or those who wish to privatize public schools: Network for Public Education and the Badass Teachers Association.

 

Addendum: The Oklahoma City School Board approved Superintendent Gist’s school closings and budget cuts. 

 

 

Indiana blogger Steve Hinnefeld reports here that a Democratic legislator has proposed a bill that prevents voucher schools from discriminating against students, staff, or families based on their religion, race, sexual orientation, or disability.

Bill Phillis of Ohio has proposed that religious schools that get vouchers should be subject to the same laws and regulations as public schools and should be required to report their finances and take the same state tests as other publicly funded schools.

Will legislators in Ohio and Indiana tolerate any restrictions on voucher schools?

Will they too be required to be accountable in exchange for getting public money?

Or will the public be forced to pay for schools that discriminate and schools that indoctrinate their students into their religious world-view?

 

Vicki Cobb is an award-winning author of more than 90 children’s books, mostly about science.

In this post, she reviews SLAYING GOLIATH.

The review begins like this:

For the past 25 years there has been a national war between so-called education reformers and public schools.  Education historian and indefatigable blogger on the topic, Diane Ravitch, has been chronicling the attacks, losses and now, finally, victories through her blog, where she posts up to ten times a day, every day, since April of 2012. In her new book Slaying Goliath: The Passionate Resistance to Privatization and the Fight to Save America’s Public Schools, she pulls the disparate threads together and writes a brilliant,  page-turner story of this war against public schools for a period that included my 5 grandchildren.

Who are the bad guys?  Millionaires and billionaires who come from a business background where forces of free-market choices,  competition, and new standards create disruption in the market place allowing the best products to rise to the surface.  Ravitch names names.  We know who they are and they include Bill Gates, Betsy De Vos, and the Walton (Wallmart) families.
Ravitch aptly changes their names from education “Reformers” to education “Disrupters.” Measurement is key to determining educational success in the form of high stakes testing that occurs every school year for grades k-12.  Right out of the starting gate the Disrupters’ premise was wrong-headed and untested. 

The methods of this warfare included slamming public schools as “failing” and demonizing teachers while supporting the creation of brand-new charter schools and vouchers to pay religious schools using  tax payer money and selling the concept that now parents have “choice.”  If you knew what it takes to create and sustain a good school, you would know that non-educators with dough  are not the people who should be starting one no matter how pure their motives. (I served 18 months on the board of a charter school that is now shuttered.) Politicians from presidents, G.W. Bush and Barack Obama, to local school board members jumped onto the shiny new Disrupter bandwagons.  It never occurred to them that America’s children were  Guinea pigs.  Disruption is not healthy for children. Using children to experiment with the profit-motive in education is an insane idea. 

Wendy Lecker is a civil rights lawyer who writes frequently for the Stamford (Connecticut) Advocate and is a regular contributor to the Hearst Connecticut Media Group.

Recently she wrote about Yale’s agreement to adopt Eli Broad’s school-wrecking “Broad Institute” in return for a donation of $100 million. The Broad Institute is a vanity project by a billionaire who readily admits he knows nothing about education but enjoys disrupting school districts because he can.

Lecker writes:

Wendy Lecker: Putting a price tag on public schools

When it comes to using one’s fortune to influence American policy, billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch stand out.
The Kochs have spent a fortune pushing American politics and policy to the right. Their secretive organization, Americans for Prosperity, is a major player in anti-labor activities, such as Wisconsin’s slashing of union rights, and fighting minimum wage increases nationwide. The Kochs poured money into the American Legislative Exchange Council (“ALEC”) a stealth lobby organization that writes bills that advance Koch industries’ interests specifically and the Koch’s extreme free market ideology in general, and then gets legislators all over the country to introduce them.
They have also donated millions of dollars to establish research centers at universities to push their brand of unregulated capitalism. They impose conditions and performance obligations on the donations, interfere in hiring decisions, and make curriculum and programming decisions. The Kochs often demand pre-approval of any public statements and include anti-transparency provisions in donor agreements. This research is then cited as the scholarly basis for Congressional decisions favoring the Kochs’ interests. The Kochs are proud of their integrated strategy to build a pipeline of influence. The president of the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation boasted that “(n)o one else has this infrastructure.”
Eli Broad, a billionaire who made his fortune through real estate and insurance, seeks to build a Koch-style infrastructure to push his education reform ideology. Broad recently announced that, with a $100 million donation, he is bringing his Broad Center to Yale’s School of Management (“SOM”).
The Broad Center trains school district leaders and those who seek to influence education policy. The center emphasizes applying business principles to running school districts and de-emphasizes education. In seeking candidates, the Broad Center prioritizes “a strong and direct alignment with specific (Broad Center) reform priorities” — which include school privatization and weakening labor protections. The Center openly aims to reshape American public education according to Broad’s ideology.
Eli Broad is a major player in some of the most aggressive — and controversial- education reform policies in America. Like the Kochs, Broad employs an integrated strategy of influence. For example, he bankrolled the education reform slate in the Los Angeles 2018 school board election. His star beneficiary, charter operator Ref Rodriguez, later resigned from the board and pled guilty to felony election fraud conspiracy. Broad also poured millions into Broad alumnus and charter operator Marshall Tuck’s 2018 unsuccessful campaign for California State Superintendent.
Broad used his money and influence to push the Education Achievement Authority (EAA) to run Detroit’s public schools. He provided significant funding and even summoned Broad alumnus and then Kansas City superintendent, John Covington, to be its first chancellor. Covington had wreaked havoc on Kansas City, firing hundreds of teachers and replacing them with inexperienced Teach for America members, and imposing other disruptive reforms. After his chaotic departure, Kansas City’s school district lost its accreditation. It then abandoned Covington’s reforms to regain its footing.
Covington left the EAA abruptly after charges of questionable spending, and the Broad Center hired him. The EAA was a devastating failure, plagued by financial mismanagement and abysmal academic failures.
A succession of Broad alumni ran Tennessee’s failed Achievement School District, which was also plagued by financial mismanagement and poor student achievement — worse than in schools under local district control.
Broad alumni were forced out of Seattle and Los Angeles amid financial impropriety, and Barbara Byrd Bennett, a Broad executive coach, is in federal prison after pleading guilty to a bribery scandal in which she engaged while head of Chicago Public Schools.
These scandals reflect poorly on Broad’s emphasis on applying business practices to school districts.
Much like the Koch’s foray into higher education, Broad’s move to SOM seems like an effort to profit from Yale’s name and perhaps sanitize the questionable track record of Broad alumni. Since Yale has no school of education — unlike other universities in New Haven — Broad’s interest is not to bolster any knowledge of how children can learn successfully.
In an effort to discern how much of the Koch playbook Broad is employing at Yale, I asked SOM about Broad’s involvement in the governance, curriculum, programming and hiring at SOM’s new center. After first indicating they would run these questions by SOM’s dean, SOM now fails to respond, despite my request for follow-up. Apparently, SOM’s Broad Center is adopting the Koch’s lack of transparency.
It is disturbing that a major university is helping enlarge the Broad pipeline, which has funneled scandal and upheaval across American public schools.
Wendy Lecker is a columnist for the Hearst Connecticut Media Group and is senior attorney at the Education Law Center.

In the Public Interest is one of those rare organizations that is what it says: it identifies efforts to privatize the public sector and exposes them. To be a healthy society, we need a vibrant private sector and a healthy vibrant public sector.

 

For years, we’ve heard the same false claims behind the push to use public-private partnerships to build new infrastructure, like toll roads and prisons.

Private equity firms and Wall Street banks say public-private partnerships are cheaper, which is flat-out wrong. State and local governments can borrow money using low-cost municipal bonds. Why should we, the public, pay extra to make private investors rich?

They say they’re “free money,” which is false, or that they’ll require “no tax increases,” which is also often dishonest. Public-private partnerships are complex contracts that put taxpayers on the hook often for decades. The money has to come from somewhere, whether new taxes or cuts in spending on education, public safety, or other public services.

Now we’re hearing these same claims about using public-private partnerships to build the centerpiece of many communities nationwide: public schools.

Prince George’s County in the Maryland suburbs of Washington, D.C., was the first. Now, Stamford, Connecticut, an affluent suburb of New York City, is thinking about taking the plunge.

Stamford is facing a mold crisis at half of its public schools. Its director of administration wants to use a public-private partnership to build and maintain five new school buildings. He just so happens to be a former Wall Street banker who once worked for a hedge fund that was busted for insider trading. (He himself was never accused of wrongdoing.)

The underlying math, or at least the little that’s been publicly released so far, appears shady. But regardless, a public-private partnership isn’t the answer. Not only will it be more expensive, but it could also hand over public control to private contractors.

Alberta, Canada, signed a public-private partnership to build 18 schools in 2007, only to find out later that costs had tripled from the original estimated budget. The contract also strictly limited access to the new school facilities. Community groups learned after the ink was dry that the schools couldn’t be used for after-hours uses, like child care and sports leagues.

Who knows what will be in Stamford’s deal if they decide to roll the dice? We may not find out until years into the estimated 45-year contract.

Let us know if you hear about your local school district or government considering a public-private partnership. Keep your ear to the ground.

Jeremy Mohler
Communications Director
In the Public Interest

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