Archives for the month of: October, 2016

Zephyr Teachout is a genuine progressive who is running for Congress in New York. She was endorsed by Senator Bernie Sanders. He came to her district to campaign for her. She has written a vivid analysis of the hedge fund managers’ effort to privatize public education (you should read it, it is excellent). She is one of the few people in a position to influence the debate about the future of public education who understands the danger of corporate reform to our democracy. She needs our help.

Three billionaires have flooded her district with money to help her opponent. She needs our help! She deserves our help.

Can you send her $19? That is the average contribution she has been receiving.

I received this email:

I had my final debate with my opponent this week, but there’s a couple more men that voters need to hear from before election day.

I want to debate the three billionaires who are funding the majority of outside spending in our district: casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson, and hedge fund billionaires Robert Mercer and Paul Singer. The super PAC they’re funding has spent more money against us than in any of the dozens of other races they’re targeting in the entire country.

These guys think they can just dump millions of dollars into our district to try to buy this seat in Congress. Well, if that’s how these billionaires they want to do things, I think voters deserve to hear from them directly.

When I first brought up the idea of debating billionaire super PAC funders, we never heard back. So let’s try something different. I hear billionaires like money. Let’s send a message to these billionaires in a language they’re sure to understand.

Can you help us raise $50,000 for our campaign today and to send an unmistakable message about the power of our grassroots movement? Please add your $19 contribution — the average amount donated to our campaign — or whatever you can afford to help with this challenge.

I think we can get their attention by showing we can raise the kind of money that can compete with what they’re spending every day in our district.

It’s important for voters that I debate these billionaires because we should hear what the billionaires are really interested in. Because something tells me that Robert Mercer doesn’t have an opinion about how to clean up contaminated drinking water in Hoosick Falls.

I’m willing to bet Sheldon Adelson doesn’t really care about the best way to fight Lyme disease in our district. And Paul Singer maybe hasn’t even thought about the concerns farmers have about sustaining their businesses — except when it comes to how Singer can profit from the banks who deny farmers loans.

What’s happening here is exactly the problem with corruption in our democracy. Billionaires are spending unlimited amounts of money to try and buy a seat in Congress, not because they really care about the Hudson Valley, but because they want a reliable vote to protect their profits.

That’s why it’s so important for our people-powered movement to respond to these super PACs by raising $50,000 for our campaign today. Let’s show we can compete with whatever they come at us next — and maybe one of them will even come to debate before Election Day.

Chip in $19 — the average contribution to our campaign — or whatever you can afford to send an unmistakable message to the billionaires who want to buy our democracy.

Thank you,



Tonight is the second showing of Backful of Cash in Philadelphia.

The producers have launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund the continued showing of the film in other cities and for post-production work.

Backpack Full of Cash is a highly professional film whose producers’ previous four-part series called “School” was shown on PBS a decade ago. As you can understand, it is much harder to raise money for a film that exposes the corporate reform movement than to raise money for a series called “School.”

Please give whatever you can. The Stone Lantern team has raised 25% of their goal. They need our help.

The United Teachers of Los Angeles hired an independent research firm to analyze the true cost of charter schools to the school district.

The firm, MGT of America, was free to reach its own conclusions.

Its report concluded that charters are costing the Los Angeles Unified School District nearly $600 million a year in lost revenue.

A report by MGT of America, an independent research firm, reveals that LAUSD has lost an astonishing $591 million to unmitigated charter school growth this year alone. If costs associated with charter school expansion are not mitigated with common sense solutions, the district will face financial insolvency, according to an analysis of the report.

As the number of independent charter schools continues to grow, it becomes increasingly important for LAUSD to quantify, forecast, and manage the costs associated with independent charter expansion. LAUSD oversees more charter schools than any other district in the country. Charters are privately managed despite relying heavily on district and taxpayer funding.

Taken together, the findings in the report paint a picture of a system that prioritizes the growth opportunities for charter school operators over the educational opportunities for all students.

As Massachusetts and Georgia voters prepare to vote on whether to expand the number of charters, they should be fully informed that more money for charters means budget cuts for public schools. Budget cuts for public schools mean larger class sizes, fewer teachers, fewer programs for the schools that serve the majority of students.

As the charter sector continues to expand, because of false promises to parents about their “success” (even before the school opens), the public school system that has been a foundational element in American democracy is threatened by loss of funding and privatization.

Nevada imported a woman named Jana Wilcox Lavin to run its “Achievement School District.” She is not an educator. She has a degree in marketing. The Nevada ASD is modeled on Tennessee’s failed ASD, which took over the state’s lowest performing schools and promised to vault them to the state’s top 25% in only five years and failed to do so (most are still in the bottom 5%). Lavin is employed by the United Way at the same time that she plans for the Nevada ASD. She ran charters in the Tennessee ASD and holds it up as a model. Is this what is called an “urban myth” or is it just a hoax? How many teachers and principals will be fired, how many charters will scoop up millions of dollars, and how many will succeed or fail? Place your bets, folks, it is Nevada.

Angie Sullivan, who teaches in a low-income school in Clark County (Las Vegas) writes:

The unfairness of the Achievement School District law became crystal clear during a discussion with Jana Wilcox Lavin.

The law requires a list which includes the under-performing schools in the bottom 5%.

It is apparent that Nevada’s under-performing schools are mainly charters and rural schools. 70% of the under-performing Nevada schools are charters and rural schools.

However the law ONLY allows a public school to be selected for charter take-over.

Severely underperforming charters are not allowed to be taken over by the Achievement School District.

This law is a direct attack on public schools while obviously ignoring the cancerous and tragic Nevada charters.

Also, rural schools which fill the under-performing list will most likely never be selected because there simply is zero appetite by charter schools to take over a rural school. This made me laugh inside to learn -having grown up in the rural communities of Lovelock, Winnemucca, and McDermitt. I would love to see an outsider go into those places and take over the school. I picture the community chasing the outsider out of town with a shotgun.

We also had a frank discussion about the alternative schools – 3 are on the list. These schools fill a specific need in our communities. Desert Oasis for instance is actually a school which serves a unique community of high school students and adult students. Teachers there teach could teach a 90 year old adult student in the same classroom as a 16 year old student. While the data looks terrible for this school, the school is likely to be the most effective we have at actually graduating students. Literally no other school serves the communities Desert Oasis takes on. The Desert Oasis teacher who attended the BEC meeting spoke about helping a student graduate who lied about his age to serve in the American Military during World War II.

For obvious reasons, Jana Wilcox Lavin will be looking into the possibility of the Nevada State School Board moving the Alternative Schools onto a different system because it is not appropriate to grade them as we currently do or include them on this list.

We had a frank discussion about the lists.

Apparently the multiple failure lists which caused 6,000 teachers to panic were produced by CCSD. I’m not exactly sure who or why this destruction and disruption occurs year after year. I would like to investigate this further and ask for the resignation of whomever takes on this task of scaring 140 school staffs – unnecessarily. Media needs to be aware of this scare tactic. Next year, when these lists are published, we all need to ask frankly if it is a “real” list or a scare tactic by the district. If it is not the “real” list – teachers need to stand against this harassment.

Frankly, CCSD blames the Nevada State School Board, I have asked during multiple interviews. Jana Wilcox Lavin stated the only list she has created is the under-performing 5% as required by legislators. And a Nevada State School Board member claims their hands are tied by the legislators.

Everyone blames someone else while public school teachers are bullied and threatened.

Bottom line: There is a list of 47 underperforming schools but the only schools seriously being considered are the 17 regular public schools in Vegas within the urban core. 30% of the schools are targeted. And it will most likely be Limited English Language students who will have their schools taken over.

Nothing will be done about the numerous charters which have extreme failing track records.

Nothing will be done about failing rural schools.

It will be brown children in Vegas with limited English who will be experimented on by the Achievement School District.

Jana Wilcox Lavin claimed the Achievement School District has been successful other places. I have read thousands of pages of University research which refute those claims. I regularly communicate with activist teachers all over the nation who refute those claims.

I follow this unfair and wasteful charter movement very closely – the success of charters nationwide has been very, very limited. The success of charters in Nevada is almost zero. As I have noted, Nevada charters are best at segregation by race, money, and religion.

This is the most blatantly unfair privatization legislation ever implemented. It targets ONLY public schools in urban Vegas and blatantly ignores all the other school failures in the state.

This law is not about helping Nevada kids. It is about public school privatization.

And a very wise BEC Meeting attendee stated: No one ever considers how many bodies will be damaged as we make these changes.

I am tired of being one of the bodies.

No one in power listens to the people directly affected. Teachers, Parents, and Students have zero voice.

Communities which do not want their neighborhood school to participate in this unfair take-over need to stand up for their schools – like West Prep and Tom Williams.



Retired teacher Christine Langhoff has been following the debate over Question 2 in Massachusetts closely. She concluded that its real goal was not to close the achievement gap–charters have not done that anywhere in the nation–nor even to provide better schools–most charters in the nation are no better and many are unquestionably worse–than public schools.

The real purpose is to bankrupt urban districts, and maybe other districts as well. This has been the story in Pennsylvania, where charters have sucked resources out of public school districts, causing budget cuts, layoffs, and program cuts to public schools. Meanwhile, the charter schools get outside funding from Wall Street, the Waltons, financiers, and other champions of privatization. The ultimate goal is the destruction of public education.

She writes:

It’s becoming apparent to many that the real objective of Question 2 is not merely to further the cause of privatization to benefit the hedge funders, but also to bankrupt our urban school systems. There is no mechanism in the ballot question to financially support more charters because Marc Kenen, executive director of the MA Charter School Association, author of the proposal did not include one.

The current law regarding charter funding is carefully worded. Up to 9% of a city or town’s education funding can be directed to charters. In the so-called “failing” districts, the percentage is up to 18%. This means that if a city like Boston decides to increase school funding, the parasitic charters get more dollars. The state is supposed to reimburse cities and towns for costs associated with charters, but has failed to do so in recent years. Last year, about 50% of the reimbursement due to Boston was not made.

This afternoon, the Boston City Council, which has taken a stand in opposition to Question 2, held a hearing on the financial impact of Question 2, should it pass, and how the diversion of money to charters is already harming the city’s ability to fully fund our schools. Dave Sweeney, Boston’s Chief Financial Officer was among those who testified. (See his explanation of the impact of charter funding on the city’s finances here: Councilor Tim McCarthy pursues this line of questioning about the state’s failure to honor this requirement beginning at about 1:22:00

Tito Jackson expressed his dismay that the state board of education – a cabal of appointees by the pro-charter Gov. Baker – has taken the position that DESE is not obligated to take into acount the financial impact the opening of more charters will have on the host cities and towns where the Board decides to site these charters. He also notes that the state of Massachusetts currently underfunds public education to the tune of more than $1 billion. Start at about 1:37:00 for his testimony.

Dear BACKPACK Friends and Supporters,

Did you miss our BACKPACK FULL OF CASH premiere this past Saturday?

No need to fret–you still have ONE MORE CHANCE to join us at our


We hope your week has been as great as ours since we messaged you last week. We’ve certainly been busy! First, we launched our BACKPACK Kickstarter fundraising campaign last Wednesday, then we premiered our film to the world at the Philadelphia Film Festival on Saturday—and so far, thanks to all of you, the film has been well-received.

If you haven’t heard of BACKPACK FULL OF CASH yet, it’s a documentary about the real cost of privatizing America’s public schools (see here for more details). We were thrilled to have a nice turnout at the premiere, where many of the key Philadelphia leaders and educators featured in the film were able to watch the film on the big screen surrounded by friends, family, and the public. We had interesting discussion and excitement both during and after the Q&A and we’ve gotten some good press since our first screening.

AND after just one week, we’ve already raised over 25% OF OUR KICKSTARTER GOAL! That’s $7,946. How incredible is that? We couldn’t be happier with the results so far.

All that said, we’d like to request your help this week in two ways.

1. We would love to pack the house in Philly this coming Saturday, 10/29! Help us show the people of Philadelphia and the nation that education matters. If you know any local individuals or organizations passionate about education and the well-being of children in general, please consider coming and sharing news about our screening this Saturday, October 29, 4:10pm, at the Prince Theater. We’d be immensely grateful!

2. If you haven’t already done so, please take a few minutes of your day to check out our BACKPACK Kickstarter and if you’re inspired, please back our project and share with your friends, contacts—anyone you think might enjoy, be supportive of, or learn something from the film.

We really appreciate every contribution you’ve made so far. Whether it is monetary, word-of-mouth sharing, or forwarding our emails, you help raise awareness about this extremely important issue—the education of our children. We are incredibly proud of this project and especially excited to share it with you and the world!

Gratefully yours,

Sarah Mondale, Vera Aronow, and the rest of The BACKPACK Team

“One of the ways a society shows its love of children is by the institutions it builds around them.”
– Helen Gym, co-founder of Parents United for Public Education –

As we know, the charter school movement began as a way to help public schools by encouraging innovation. However, in the past 25 years, it has evolved into an industry that is bent on privatization and that shamelessly diverts money and real estate from public schools.

The charter movement today is the darling of ALEC, the Koch brothers, and every rightwing governor and think tank.

In this article, Paul Buchheit describes the dark role that charter schools now play on behalf of corporate elites and their determination to privatize public education for fun and profit.

Their most important innovation seems to be their commitment to turning schools for children of color into tightly disciplined boot camps, where they learn the value of unquestioning obedience.

Any prospect of collaboration with public schools disappeared long ago, as it would be a compact between a robber and his victim.

Jack Hassard, retired science professor, refers to Governor Nathan Deal’s proposed “opportunity school district” as the the “misfortunate school district.”

He knows a hustle and a fraud when he sees one.

Governor Deal is angry that the state’s elected school boards don’t want him to have power to seize control of schools and turn them over to private entrepreneurs. So he calls them a “power hungry monopoly.”

Professor Hassard writes:

Deal, The Bully, Calls Local School Boards Power Hungry Monopolies Because They Oppose His Misfortunate School District

monopoly: exclusive control of a commodity or service in a particular market

bully: a blustering, quarrelsome, overbearing person who habitually badgers and intimidates smaller or weaker people.

Governor Nathan Deal is calling local school boards a power-hungry monopoly because they oppose his Opportunity School District which would steal 20 schools per year from the same local school boards. Deal’s definition of a monopoly (according to an AJC report) are entities “that have no competition and see no reason to change.”

Deal, I suppose, is angry that local districts are really not monopolies, but in fact run by democratically elected school boards, which indeed, change. However, since the Federal No Child Left Behind Law, and Race to the Top, the biggest obstacle facing local schools is the State which carries out the laws of the Federal Government.

Schools districts are not monopolies (thank goodness) but independent entities that have the right and responsibility to educate the youth in its communities. The only monopoly in the State seems to be the Governor’s office which wants to control educating children in direct opposition to the Georgia Constitution.

The Georgia Department of Education rank-orders all schools in the state on a scale with 100 being the top score. This score is primarily based on achievement test scores. Any school that has a scale-score less than 60 for three consecutive years is put on the list of chronically failing schools.

It’s from this list that the Governor will be able pick his schools that are “chronically failing” and put them under his control.

Many school districts are opposed to the Governors plan. So now the governor is lashing out saying he will punish districts if his plan is defeated. He says he will mess with the districts use and access to money and will require districts to give parents a choice in sending students in “failing schools” to a better school in the district. This is nothing new. Districts have in place the ability to do this, but it often is simply not realistic for parents who would find it difficult to provide the transportation for their children.

The Governor is acting like a spoiled child. Maybe he needs detention.

Arne Duncan appeared at a DFER event in Boston to lend his support to Question 2, which would increase the number of privately controlled charter schools by 12 per year forever. The bill was written by the CEO of the Massachusetts Charter School Association. DFER is the organization representing hedge fund managers, who have bet on privatization as the antidote to puberty and low test scores.

Duncan failed in Chicago, where he promised to transform the schools by 2010, and he failed as Secretary of Education, where his Race to the Top produced massive funding for privatization, high-stakes testing for teachers, a national teacher shortage, and endless rancor among teachers, parents, and school officials burdened by his mandates.

William Lager owns the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT), which according to the New York Times, has the lowest graduation rate in the nation. ECOT is a virtual charter school, where students take instruction online. The state recently reacted to public criticism and decided to audit ECOT. It found that the school’s enrollment was vastly overstated, which meant that ECOT was receiving millions of dollars each year for nothing. ECOT went to court and argued that the state had no right to audit participation rates (attendance), but the court did not agree. Unless the decision is overturned on appeal, Lager will have to refund $60 million to the state.

Since 2000, ECOT has given $2.1 million in campaign contributions. Since 2010, 99% of Lager’s contributions have gone to Republican legislators. In the brief period when Democrats controlled the House, Lager gave them nearly $200,000. Since 2000, ECOT has received nearly $1 billion in state funds for its perennially failing school.

Think of it: an investment of only $2.1 million in campaign contributions generates nearly $1 billion in state funding for a low-performing school. What a bargain!