Archives for the month of: August, 2016

Tim Slekar, dean of education at Edgewood College in Wisconsin, alerted me to an important decision by the National Labor Relations Board.

The NLRB ruled that charter schools are private schools, not public schools. This echoes several previous rulings by the courts and the NLRB, which concluded that charter schools are private corporations that contract with government and are not “state actors.” Public schools are “state actors.” Charter schools are not.

The ruling was reported by a blog for the Albany Times-Union:

Here’s an interesting item that touches on the semantics as well as labor issues surrounding New York’s charter school movement.

A recent ruling by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), concludes that charter schools are private and efforts to start teachers unions in them should fall under their purview, rather than the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) which oversees the public sector.

The decision stemmed from efforts by the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) to unionize teachers at the Hyde Leadership charter school in Brooklyn.

PERB had asserted jurisdiction over the school, but the union ended up arguing that organizing efforts should be overseen by the NLRB which administers labor law in the private sector.

The NLRB in its decision, concluded that “Hyde was not established by a state or local government, and is not itself a public school.”

I describe previous rulings by federal courts and the NLRB that charter schools are “not state actors” in Reign of Error. In a criminal case in California a few years ago, the California Charter School Association entered an amicus brief in defense of charter operators accused of fraud and claimed that charter schools are not subject to the same laws as public schools. They are not state actors.

The appropriate analogy would be a corporation like Boeing, which works for the government, is funded by the government, but is not a state actor. It is private.

Leonie Haimson, parent activist in New York City, crusader for reduced class size and student privacy, lays waste to the charter privateers in this hilarious post!

First came the devastating resolution passed by the national convention of the NAACP, calling for a charter moratorium.

Then came the attack on charters by Black Lives Matter.

And the topper was John Oliver’s funny and accurate portrayal of charter school graft.

But the privateers (or privatizers, as I usually say) continue their assault on public education with propaganda and lies.

In Massachusetts, they claim that expanding charter schools will “improve public education,” when in fact it will drain money from neighborhood public schools and take away local control.

In Georgia, a constitutional amendment on the ballot in November authorizes the creation of a state district that will eliminate local control, like the failed Tennessee ASD, yet says it will empower communities.

This is Orwellian. That means when you say one thing but mean the opposite. Another word for lying. Like saying “reform” when you mean “privatization.”

On Sunday, I attended a fund-raising event for Hillary Clinton.

I have met her on several occasions in the past, beginning in 1984, when I stayed overnight at the Governor’s mansion in Little Rock while visiting the state to give a lecture. Although she has met many tens or hundreds of thousands of people over the years, she always remembers me (as does Bill).

I had a few minutes to talk to her privately. I gave her my “elevator speech” about the disaster of the privatization and testing policies of the past 15 years, and the need for a revival of support for public schools.

If you look at the photos, you will see the progression of our meeting. She recognizes me; we hug; I give her my views. And then the great shot, all taken from my cell phone by one of her staff.

After she did the meet and greet, she spoke for about 25 minutes to the 50 or so people there.

She spoke about the importance of working across party lines to get important work done that benefits all Americans. She talked about building better relationships with our allies. She said that she would work closely with Senator Sanders to develop a realistic plan to make college tuition-free for those below a certain income level and to reduce the cost of public college overall. She spoke of the need to elect Democrats to the Senate and the House and to reverse the Citizens United decision. She spoke of defeating the gun lobby, which represents not gun owners but gun manufacturers. She was especially eloquent on the subject of guns. She said that hunters should keep their guns; collectors should keep their guns. But there should be careful screening of all gun purchasers. The fact that Congress refuses to ban sales of guns to people on the terrorist watch list is madness. When asked what she would do about the millions of guns already in circulation, she said she was not sure, but would look into the gun buyback program that Australia used. She spoke eloquently about protecting and bettering the lives of all Americans.

She is knowledgable. She is experienced. She speaks with wisdom, judgment, and clarity. She has the stamina of a person of 30 (this was her fourth event of the day, and she never sat down, not once. And she had two more similar events to go that day.) Don’t believe the Trump nonsense about her health. She looked and sounded great. She is informed, and she is ready.

#Iamwithher

For the education reformers of our day, Hurricane Katrina created an opportunity for disruption and privatization.

A chance to get rid of public education.

A chance to get rid of the union.

A chance to fire all the teachers, most of whom were African Americans.

A chance for education reform.

Mike Klonsky remembers and puts it into context.

Jonathan Pelto warns residents of Connecticut that their children will be forced to take the “new” SAT despite serious charges that the test is ill-designed and invalid.

The spark that set off this latest controversy about the SAT is a devastating critique by Manuel Alfaro, who until recently was Executive Director for Assessment at the College Board, which is responsible for the SAT. The SAT was redesigned at the direction of David Coleman, the architect of the Common Core standards. Alfaro became angered by what he saw and he became a whistle blower. Just last week, the FBI raided his home in search of evidence that he might have been the person who leaked 400 SAT questions.

Alfaro has been writing on Linked In, and he posted these statements on August 28.

The first is an Open Letter to David Coleman, letting him know that Alfaro is defiant and will see him in court. He accuses Coleman of perpetrating a “global fraud.”

Alfaro wrote to Coleman and said (in part):

You have done an excellent job discrediting me so far. You have stopped news organizations from investigating my statements and allegations of the global fraud you have committed against millions of students and their families, College Board members, state governments, and the federal government. You have convinced the heads of the Department of Education using the SAT for accountability that—to use the words of your Chief Administrative Officer and General Counsel—I’m “a disgruntled former employee who has expressed anger at the college Board in a very public way. Though his employment ended over a year ago, he has not “moved on.”” However, even with all your resources, I feel that you are still at a disadvantage. So, I’m going to show you one of my cards: in order to properly defend myself against any charges you level against me, criminal or otherwise, a court will have to grant my legal team access to College Board records.

I’ve tried to get help from parents, Senators, House Representatives, the White House, and the heads of the Department of Education of the states using the SAT for accountability without success. Thanks to you and the FBI, I will soon have a path to the College Board records I so desperately need to prove the global fraud you have committed.

The second denounces heads of state education departments for using the new SAT without telling the public that it is invalid.

It begins like this:


Residents of CO, CT, DE, IL, ME, MI, and NH, the heads of the Department of Education of your states have failed to protect the best interests of your students and your families, opting instead to protect their own interests and the interests of the College Board.

As these officials are elected (or appointed by an elected official), you can demand their immediate resignation or you can vote to replace them immediately to ensure that the department of Education in your state is headed by an individual willing to put the interests of your students and your family first.

In the paragraphs that follow, I will describe how the current heads of the Department of Education have failed you and why they lack the judgment (and common sense) to protect the best interests of your children.

On May 7, 2016, I wrote a letter to the heads of the Department of Education in CO, CT, DE, IL, ME, MI, and NH to let them know that the College Board has committed global fraud against their states and the federal government. In that letter, I offered to meet with their legal teams to expose the fraud. Instead of meeting with me (or asking me for additional information), they approached the College Board about my statements and allegations. According to a Reuter’s story, published on Friday August 26, 2016, here is what some of the states had to say about my statements and allegations:

A spokesman for the Michigan Department of Education, Bill DiSessa, said the state “checked with the College Board” and decided not to look into Alfaro’s claims. Jeremy Meyer of the Colorado Department of Education said the state discussed Alfaro’s email with the College Board and was “satisfied with the response we received.”

Kelly Donnelly, spokesperson for the Connecticut State Department of Education, said the state considered Alfaro’s email to be “replete with hyperbole, but scant on actual facts. We did not take further action.” Donnelly said the state hadn’t reviewed Alfaro’s detailed posts on LinkedIn.

Although I have not seen any of the explanations the College Board may have provided, I can assure you that none included the following critical fact: The College Board, ETS, and the Content Advisory Committee did not have time to review all the items prior to pretesting, as the College Board has repeatedly claimed they do.

It is very hard to be a whistle blower. It is difficult to walk away from a lucrative job. Manuel Alfaro did it. I name him to the blog’s honor roll for his courage and integrity.

I accidentally put the wrong date on a post that is supposed to run tomorrow at 9 am.

It tells the story of my meeting last night with Hillary.

I took it down and will repost tomorrow.

Carl Petersen, an education activist in Los Angeles, attended the school board meeting in Los Angeles where the plight of El Camino Real Charter High School and its ethics-challenged leaders was discussed. Peterson is running to defeat Monica Garcia, a charter cheerleader, in the next school board elections.

It is astonishing. Several defenders of the charter school spoke, and they said the board was picking on the school. No defense of the extravagant charges to the school’s credit car. Just attack the board for daring to investigate this school.

The El Camino Real Charter High School was a successful public high school; in 2011, it converted to charter status, and it is now a successful charter school.

But it has a big problem. Its principal and other top employees charged many thousands of dollars to the school’s credit card for expensive dinners, luxury hotels, and first-class air travel while moonlighting as a scout for a professional basketball team.

The school has been warned repeatedly, and now the school board is giving it one month to clean up the mess.

The case is one more example of tensions between the nation’s second-largest school system and its charter schools, which manage their own public funding and are free from some rules that govern traditional campuses. El Camino Real Charter High School was run by the district until 2011.

At last week’s meeting, board member Scott Schmerelson said El Camino as a charter remains “an excellent school.”

But it “is not a private school,” said Schmerelson, who represents the west San Fernando Valley area where the school is located. “It is a public school. They have to go by the same rules we do.”

The El Camino case could test the limits of that assertion. El Camino, for example, has declined to tell the district whether it has taken disciplinary action against Executive Director Dave Fehte, who has come under internal and external scrutiny. Such action could be considered a confidential personnel matter, to be kept even from L.A. Unified.

A report from the district’s charter school division accuses El Camino of demonstrating “an inability to determine how public funds are being used,” adding that “fatal flaws in judgment … call into serious question the organization’s ability to successfully implement the charter in accordance with applicable law and district requirements.”

According to L.A. Unified, a sampling of 425 credit card expenses from five El Camino employees, including Fehte, revealed that “countless expenses were incurred without adherence to any uniform procedure, and without verification of the necessary details.”

Apparently the charter school board thought that the school’s autonomy extended to its financial affairs. We will watch what happens.

Is it a public school or a publicly funded private school?

Mercedes Schneider here describes a new entity that has joined the corporate reform movement. It is called SEN, the School Empowerment Network. It seems to be funded by the Walton Family Foundation, the billionaires who want to privatize all of public education and get rid of teachers’ unions. It is based in Brooklyn, New York, but gained its first contract in Michigan.

Michigan is the state where 80% of the charters operate for-profit. It doesn’t really need more charters. It does need accountability and transparency. The Detroit Free Press published a week-long series in 2014 about taxpayers being fleeced by the charter industry, which gets $1 billion a year and is never held accountable.

Bill Phillis of the Ohio Coalition for Equity & Adequacy reports on efforts by the charter industry in Ohio to block any meaningful oversight or accountability:

Here we go again-Legislators halt charter accountability, although the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) may have been up to mischief

It appears that legislators on the Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review (JCARR) latched on to some technicalities regarding “retroactive dates” to stop rules promulgated to hold charter sponsors accountable. Jim Siegel’s August 23 Dispatch article gives a play-by-play account of the August 22 JCARR meeting. Those in control of the meeting brought in their junkyard dog to unleash on the ODE witness. But several charter advocates who testified were treated with kid gloves.

There is some speculation that ODE is angling to weaken charter accountability by intentionally creating an invitation for litigation within the rules.

One of the primary reasons for the failed charter school experiment is that sponsors (which have collected in the range of $270 million over the years in a non-transparent, unaccountable environment) set their own agenda which could amount to little or nothing in terms of providing assistance to the schools they sponsor. More than 200 charters have closed or failed to open. Tens of millions of dollars have been wasted primarily because charter sponsors have not done due diligence. Why? Because they didn’t have to.

The charterites were out in force to oppose the rules during the JCARR committee hearing. This should not have been a surprise. During the August 11 & 12 State Auditor’s Charter School Summit there was a great amount of whining about the proposed rules for sponsors. The Summit served as a springboard for the display of charter power at the JCARR meeting.

The charter industry and its legislative allies, once again, have thwarted charter accountability; thus, taxpayers and students are again left behind.

Here is the linked article, which is a podcast:

By Jim Siegel The Columbus Dispatch • Tuesday August 23, 2016 7:21 AM

Legislative Republicans blocked an agency rule today that is key to completing new charter sponsor evaluations designed to weed out poor performers.

Those first-ever sponsor evaluations, crafted to help bring more accountability to a charter system sharply criticized both in Ohio and nationally, are supposed to come in October but are now clouded with uncertainty. The move to block the new rule, which Republicans said largely hinged on the Department of Education trying to enact it retroactively back to Aug. 1, comes less than seven months after a sweeping charter school reform law took effect.

The acrimonious relationship between the Department of Education and GOP lawmakers was on full display before the Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review (JCARR). Sen. Bill Coley, R-West Chester, fired thorny questions at Diane Lease, the department’s chief legal counsel, for several minutes.

Coley, R-West Chester, was a replacement on the committee for another senator who said he was on a family vacation.

“Had the department had its act together, you could have complied with all the rules of JCARR…w ithout imposing rules that have a retroactive effect,” Coley told Lease.

Lease referred to a “compressed timeline” in getting rules together for the October evaluations. “We believe we are doing what is required under the legislation. We don’t believe it’s retroactive.”

Coley replied, “I’m a trial lawyer. Don’t do that to me.” Earlier, he said the rule “ demonstrates the height of arrogance.”

The new sponsor evaluations are based on three parts — academic performance, adhering to best practices and compliance with state laws and rules. The rule up for debate Monday related to the compliance with 319 laws.

Segments of the charter school community have been fighting various aspects of the new evaluations, including asking that sponsors get an extra year before consequences take hold.

“This is a clear case of Republican charter school industry allies doing everything in their power to derail, disrupt and delay new reforms that would help hold charter schools to a reasonable standard of achievement,” said Rep. Greta Johnson, D-Akron.

The rule isn’t dead, but it is going back to the Common Sense Initiative office, which determines if agency rules have an unusually detrimental impact on businesses. The CSI office had already issued a report on the rule, but critics said the sample of charter sponsors was too small, and they submitted estimates before knowing what the department required of them.

The CSI will spend up to 30 days reviewing the rule again. Then the clock restarts on the JCARR process, which takes at least another 30 days.

“We may be back here the next month with the same impasse,” said Sen. Joe Uecker, R-Loveland, chairman of JCARR, referring to the retroactive date. “There is a distinct unwillingness on (the department’s) part to work with us on this.”

Some suggested Gov. John Kasich could implement an emergency rule that takes effect for 120 days. A Kasich spokeswoman said the governor has not been approached about that.

Even without the rule, all but two charter sponsors submitted validations on July 25 that they are following state laws.

“Even if there wasn’t a question about the dates, many of the same players would still be here saying the process wasn’t correct for some reason,” said Chad Aldis of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a sponsor that has advocated for more accountability.

“If legislators are really concerned about retro-activity, then we should take action to quickly rectify that issue.”

David Cash, testifying on behalf of charter sponsor St. Aloysius, estimated the cost of compiling the information at $240,000 for the sponsor’s 43 schools.

“In the eyes of (the department), student education takes a back seat to redundant client’s work,” Cash said.

Reps. Mike Duffey, R-Worthington, and Cheryl Grossman, R-Grove City, voted to block the rule, while Sen. Charleta Tavares, D-Columbus, voted to allow it.

“The department has said this is an extension of existing law, therefore nothing has changed,” Duffey said. “But on its face, the rule is amplifying the law and creating new hoops people have to jump through.”

jsiegel@dispatch.com
@phrontpage