Archives for the month of: October, 2016

Mercedes Schneider uncovered a fascinating development. The National Federation of Municipal Analysts, a professional association, has called for standards for charter school transparency and accountability. It is impossible to assess the credit worthiness of bonds, whether issued by state or local authorities, without full transparency on the part of agencies receiving public funds.

The Association released a 24-page draft statement on September 28, laying out what its members need to know, including:

“WASHINGTON – The National Federation of Municipal Analysts is urging charter schools to provide detailed financial, academic, and staffing information in primary and secondary disclosure documents. …

The [RBP] draft constitutes NFMA’s first disclosure recommendations for charter schools. …

The paper will be open for public comment through Nov. 30. After that date, NFMA will review comments and finalize the paper. …

According to the RBP, a charter school’s POS (primary offering statement) should disclose all material financial agreements, including the proposed indenture, loan agreement, capital leases, management agreements, and tax regulatory agreements. …Descriptions of facilities and their financing, pledged revenues, and projected cash flows. …Descriptions of debt service, repair and replacement, operating and deficit, as well as insurance and property tax reserve funds.

…Academic performance as well as school management and operations. …

…Charter board membership, compensation, and tenure; information available on the school’s website; management qualification, experience, and compensation; third-party manager control, compensation, and replacement; and charter school teaching faculty, classroom ratios, and teachers’ union affiliation. …Teacher and staff compensation, including retirement benefits, any complaints and claims the school is facing, as well as operating and funding information related to extracurricular activities.

…Information about the size, capacity, and condition of facilities, including equipment, along with descriptions of future capital improvement needs, insurance support, and transportation and parking capabilities for students and staff, respectively.

…Discussion of audited financial statements and interim financials, current budgetary processes, financial covenant compliance and projections, and existing banking relationships…. State aid and other governmental support… information about planned future debt and reliance on endowments, fund drives, contributions, and gifts.

…School’s location, enrollment, potential competition from other schools in the area, and future projections on such topics are also important….

[And] separate but related suggestions to consider credit risks and continuing disclosure.”

This is the kind of disclosure that has not been sought or expected by local, state, and federal governments, as they pump billions of dollars into the charter industry. Some districts and states are heading for a fiscal cliff, pushed there by reckless state and philanthrocapitalists like a Bill Gates, Eli Broad, the Walton family, Doris Fisher, and many more who are reckless with public money.

You can go to Amazon and click on this link to receive a free pdf of a 40-page report called “Who Controls Our Schools? The Privatization of American Public Education.”

It is up-to-date, concise, and well-written. It was prepared by Don Hazen, Elizabeth Hines, Steven Rosenfeld, and Stan Salett of THE INDEPENDENT MEDIA INSTITUTE.

If your friends and relatives don’t understand why you are worried about the future of public schools, share this document with them.

Here is the table of contents:

Introduction………………………………….

Analysis/Findings ……………………………..

2.1 How the School Privatization Industry Has Hijacked the Concept of Education Reform

2.2 How a Group of Billionaires Has Aggressively Pushed to Privatize the Public School System

2.3 How the Myth of “Failing Schools” Helped Spur
a Movement. . . One-Sided Propaganda Machine. . . . . . . . . . . ….

2.4 How a Lack of Transparency Undermines Schools
and Communities: Privatization in Action . . . . . . . . . . .

2.5 How Locally Elected School Boards and Democratic Governance Have Been Destroyed . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
In Los Angeles, Pushing Charters,
by Every Means Necessary . . . . . . . . . . .. ……..

2.6 How the Legal Framework for Privatization
and Total Control Has Taken Hold. . . . . . . .. ……. .

2.7 How the Rapid Expansion of Privatized
Charters Is Pushed. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. ……..
Today’s Battlefront States . . . . . . . . . . . .. ……..

2.8 How to Take a Hard Look at Charter Schools
and Educational Outcomes: Rhetoric Is Not
the Same as Results . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ……..

2.9 How Charters Create Self-Enrichment Schemes
and Crony Capitalism . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Self-Enrichment……. Nepotism … Corporate Profiteering . . . . . . . . .

2.10 How School Privatization Keeps Out Regulators
or Captures Them . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Policy Recommendations. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Acknowledgments ………………………………

About the Authors ……………………………….

A stunning story in Bloomberg BusinessWeek reveals Donald Trump’s end game: Suppress the Hillary vote. Target certain audiences and bombard them on the Internet with negative stories that discourage them from turning out.

Joshua Green and Sasha Issenberg went “inside the Trump bunker” to learn the campaign’s strategizing. Trump has abandoned traditional fund-raising events and is replying now exclusively on the Web to find campaign contributions. He has a small team with pre-written Tweets, ready to go to synchronize with his speeches. He has a highly sophisticated data team, conducting its own polling. His campaign is led not by veteran political operatives but by people skilled at marketing. Marketing the candidate is no different from marketing any other product.

They write:

When Bannon joined the campaign in August, Project Alamo’s data began shaping even more of Trump’s political and travel strategy—and especially his fundraising. Trump himself was an avid pupil. Parscale would sit with him on the plane to share the latest data on his mushrooming audience and the $230 million they’ve funneled into his campaign coffers. Today, housed across from a La-Z-Boy Furniture Gallery along Interstate 410 in San Antonio, the digital nerve center of Trump’s operation encompasses more than 100 people, from European data scientists to gun-toting elderly call-center volunteers. They labor in offices lined with Trump iconography and Trump-focused inspirational quotes from Sheriff Joe Arpaio and evangelical leader Jerry Falwell Jr. Until now, Trump has kept this operation hidden from public view. But he granted Bloomberg Businessweek exclusive access to the people, the strategy, the ads, and a large part of the data that brought him to this point and will determine how the final two weeks of the campaign unfold.

The Trump team knows very well that they are behind in the polls, and they have shaped a plan to reverse Clinton’s edge: suppress her voters.

Instead of expanding the electorate, Bannon and his team are trying to shrink it. “We have three major voter suppression operations under way,” says a senior official. They’re aimed at three groups Clinton needs to win overwhelmingly: idealistic white liberals, young women, and African Americans. Trump’s invocation at the debate of Clinton’s WikiLeaks e-mails and support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership was designed to turn off Sanders supporters. The parade of women who say they were sexually assaulted by Bill Clinton and harassed or threatened by Hillary is meant to undermine her appeal to young women. And her 1996 suggestion that some African American males are “super predators” is the basis of a below-the-radar effort to discourage infrequent black voters from showing up at the polls—particularly in Florida.

The nation is at risk if Trump wins, and the Republican party is at risk if he loses.

Regardless of whether this works or backfires, setting back GOP efforts to attract women and minorities even further, Trump won’t come away from the presidential election empty-handed. Although his operation lags previous campaigns in many areas (its ground game, television ad buys, money raised from large donors), it’s excelled at one thing: building an audience. Powered by Project Alamo and data supplied by the RNC and Cambridge Analytica, his team is spending $70 million a month, much of it to cultivate a universe of millions of fervent Trump supporters, many of them reached through Facebook. By Election Day, the campaign expects to have captured 12 million to 14 million e-mail addresses and contact information (including credit card numbers) for 2.5 million small-dollar donors, who together will have ponied up almost $275 million. “I wouldn’t have come aboard, even for Trump, if I hadn’t known they were building this massive Facebook and data engine,” says Bannon. “Facebook is what propelled Breitbart to a massive audience. We know its power.”

Since Trump paid to build this audience with his own campaign funds, he alone will own it after Nov. 8 and can deploy it to whatever purpose he chooses. He can sell access to other campaigns or use it as the basis for a 2020 presidential run. It could become the audience for a Trump TV network. As Bannon puts it: “Trump is an entrepreneur.”

Whatever Trump decides, this group will influence Republican politics going forward. These voters, whom Cambridge Analytica has categorized as “disenfranchised new Republicans,” are younger, more populist and rural—and also angry, active, and fiercely loyal to Trump. Capturing their loyalty was the campaign’s goal all along. It’s why, even if Trump loses, his team thinks it’s smarter than political professionals. “We knew how valuable this would be from the outset,” says Parscale. “We own the future of the Republican Party.”

Win or lose, he is not going away. White nationalism is his base, and he is cultivating it with dexterity. And keeping it intact for the future.

Joan Goodman, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania who has studied no-excuses charter schools, notes that no-excuses charters are sensitive to complaints that their heavy emphasis on discipline is joyless. Therefore, many of them have now inserted “joy” into their curriculum or made it a part of their mission statement. True, students must obey the rules to a T, and they must remain silent in the halls, but there will definitely be a time and a place for “joy.” It shall be so.

She writes:

Uncommon Schools promotes *joy* as one of its five values; Democracy Prep advertises a *joyous culture* with enthusiasm as one of its DREAM values; Mastery lists *joy and humor* among its nine core values; and Achievement First includes the child’s joy in its assessments of student progress. Success Academy says that, along with rigor, its schools stress *humor (joy)…making achieving exhilarating and fun!* Meanwhile, KIPP includes joy’s close cousin, *zest,* as one of the seven character strengths on its Character Growth Card. Chicago’s Noble Network has likewise embraced *zest.* According to Doug Lemov, a major source of CMO pedagogy, the Joy Factor, one of his 49 essential techniques, is *a key driver not just of a happy classroom but of a high-achieving classroom…. people work harder…when their work is punctuated regularly by moment of exultation and joy.*

When I first began visiting no excuses schools, I was struck by the striking juxtaposition of teachers presiding over silent class periods during which children diligently followed instructions, only to interrupt them periodically with the demand for reciprocal clapping, rhymed motivational cheers, and choral responses that seemed more appropriate to an athletic or marching event than an academic environment. The effort of schools to whoop up excitement appeared artificial and disingenuous given the often tedious tasks students were assigned, and the passive/receptive role they were, for the most part, expected to assume.

The intentional artifice is particularly clear in teacher training videos, when leaders like Lemov, or Doug McCurry of Achievement First, talk about how teachers must be skilled at quickly turning arousal on and quickly turning it off so that it serves its purpose – aiding their academic objectives. Stimulating this shallow *joy* is, then, just another control technique designed to foster high achievement. Joy has become a *character strength,* like grit, because of the results it produces, not for its own sake.

To elicit joy, the CMOs use emotional arousal techniques such as choral chanting, finger snapping, and gestural sequences. For instance, to lend *sparkle* to a lesson, Lemov advocates the Vegas Technique. This entails breaks from instruction, as brief as 30 seconds, for a ritualized routine loosely associated with the lesson. Students might, for example, do an action-verb shimmy, clap a routine to accompany a pronoun, or perform a vocabulary word charade. Achievement First’s McCurry advises teachers to plan *joyous interludes* by using four chants accompanied with gestures and 10 cheers per class. One chant, for example, is: *hey hey hey, I feel all-right,* followed with a stomp. The phrase is repeated with two stomps, then three stomps and finished off with: *I feel motivated to learn. And graduate college.*

Does it strike you that there is something unnatural about a program that tells you when to feel joy? It rings a bell for me, but I don’t want to be too harsh. It reminds me of a trip I made to China many years ago, about 1986. The government arranged the schedule, and the first stop was a women’s prison. Our group was treated to a performance by prisoners who sang and danced about how joyful they felt because they were being socially rehabilitated. It was joy on command. There was no real joy. It was a performance.

The Massachusetts Teachers Association released this bulletin just now:

​For Immediate Release
​October 27, 2016

Contact: Steve Crawford, Crawford Strategies, 857-753-4132, steve@crawfordstrategies.com​
Teachers Call for SEC Investigation into Possible Pay-to-Play Scheme

BOSTON – Deeply troubled by campaign contributions from investment firms overseeing millions of dollars in teacher pension funds, the presidents of the two Massachusetts educators’ unions today are calling for an investigation by the federal Securities and Exchange Commission and state authorities into a possible pay-to-play scheme involving large donors supporting Question 2, the charter school expansion question that will be on the November ballot in Massachusetts.

A report published today by the International Business Times reveals that management of eight financial firms has contributed more than $778,000 to groups backing Question 2. Together, these financial firms manage over $1.275 billion in state money.

“This is about the integrity of our pension investments and the integrity of our elections,” said Massachusetts Teachers Association President Barbara Madeloni. “We need an investigation to find out whether these firms are wielding inappropriate influence in state government.”


“These disclosures are an indication of the degree to which forces seeking to undermine our public schools are spending huge sums to promote Question 2,” Madeloni added.

The IBT report details the ways in which the investment industry circumvents federal rules designed to restrict financial executives from giving campaign cash to governors with the power to influence state pension business. Governor Charlie Baker is a leading proponent of Question 2. Earlier this week, he held a series of private meetings in New York with financial industry executives whose names remain undisclosed.

Although federal law does not cover money donated to the governor’s policy initiatives, executives whose firms are prohibited from donating directly to Baker are still able to give to the dark money groups backing Question 2. But questions need to be answered about the propriety of these donations.

Baker appoints three members of the state pension board.

“Retirees need to know that investment decisions are being made based on their financial security, not to curry favor with Governor Baker and his pension board appointees,” said Tom Gosnell, president of the American Federation of Teachers Massachusetts.

On Monday, Governor Baker addressed the members of the conservative, pro-charter Manhattan Institute about his work on Question 2. Paul Singer, chair of the Manhattan Institute’s Board of Trustees, is a major financial backer of charter school expansion around the nation. Singer also owns Elliott Capital Advisors, one of the hedge fund companies in which the state pension board invests its money.

###

A few days ago, I posted warnings about the stealth effort to expand charter schools in Pennsylvania, embedded in a bill called HB530. Exposed to daylight and to the righteous wrath of parents and school boards, the bill failed.

Good work by the Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA), teachers, and people who understand the importance of public schools managed to kill HB530, which was a sugarplum for the rapacious charter industry.

Here is a report from the PSBA:

Thanks to a tremendous effort made by current and retired school directors and many other public school advocates, charter school expansion legislation under House Bill 530 (Rep. Reese, R-Westmoreland) was stopped in its tracks. As the 2015-16 session winds to a close, the bill will die.

This accomplishment could not have been possible without your efforts. Over the past two weeks advocates responded to our call to action and generated more than 2,000 email messages, 300 calls and texts, and multiple Twitter and Facebook posts all in an effort to oppose the legislation. With multiple indications that the bill was geared up to be considered by the House of Representatives, PSBA was a leader in pointing out the serious flaws in the legislation.

House Bill 530 purported to be charter school “reform” that actually did little to provide real change in the way charter schools are operated, funded or held accountable. Instead, it enabled the expansion of charter schools with less accountability and oversight, and actually diluted existing powers of oversight by local school boards while costing them millions of dollars.

PSBA agrees that the need for genuine reform to the state’s outdated Charter School Law is long overdue. In fact, throughout this legislative session, PSBA was working with members in the Senate and House of Representatives in hopes of clarifying and addressing many of our concerns.

It’s been suggested that PSBA has made inaccurate and misleading claims about House Bill 530. PSBA would like to set the record straight. Make no mistake – school boards are very serious about charter school accountability. House Bill 530 does not strengthen accountability and does not contain significant, reasonable reform or relief from increasing charter school costs.

Michael Robinson, a parent of children with disabilities, has compiled state data on charter schools in Massachusetts and students with disabilities.

The facts are shocking and should be an embarrassment to the charter industry.

Here are just a few of those facts, from official data:

25% of Massachusetts charter schools have zero full-time special educators, as compared to only 3% of public schools.

Public schools report one special-education teacher for every 22 students with disabilities, charters report one special-education teacher for every 36 students with disabilities.

67% of the “districts” with the lowest service to students with disabilities are charter schools.

Students with disabilities enrolled in charter schools are three times as likely to be disciplined as students in public schools (14% vs. 5%).

91.3% of the districts with the highest rates of disciplinary actions for students with disabilities are charter schools.

Students with disabilities are 2.4 times more likely to be suspended at charter schools than at public schools.

80% of the districts with the highest rates of suspension/expulsion of students with disabilities are charter schools.

If you are a parent of a child with disabilities, forget about sending him or her to a charter school. They are not wanted, they will not have a teacher who has appropriate training and certification, and they are likely to be suspended or expelled.

These schools do not provide a free and appropriate education for students with disabilities. Why do their advocates call them “public”? Why are they allowed to ignore federal law protecting these students? John King founded one of the harshest of the “no-excuses” charter schools in Massachusetts. Is he now ignoring the abuse of federal law by other charter schools in Massachusetts?

I posted Robert Pondiscio’s proposal this morning that a talented African-American teacher-journalist should take Peter Cunningham’s job at Education Post, and that other white leaders of the reform movement should step aside because the reform movement has too many whites (with little or no teaching experience) in leadership roles.

The woman he recommended is Marilyn Rhames. She wrote a response to Pondiscio’s proposal.

In a sharp response, she reminds reformers that the point of “reform” is supposed to be about improving the education of black and brown children, not high-paying jobs for reformers.


“I wanted very much to believe that you had moved closer to acknowledging the racist paternalism that exists in reform circles after you lauded my “stellar” resume. But in highlighting my genius, you subtly sounded the alarm: Marilyn Anderson Rhames is a major black talent who could very well take your job, Peter Cunningham (and other white ed leaders who signed the diversity pledge). What a way to endorse multiculturalism!

My Ivy League educated, teacher-journalist-mother African American self has the potential to make a seismic shift in the systemic injustice that blocks black and brown children from a quality education, so why didn’t your piece frame me in that light? Instead, you positioned me as a threat. In your piece, I was the “other” in an us-versus-them fight for limited, high-paying ed reform jobs. Your title says it all: “Reform Leaders: You’re Fired.”

Ain’t I a reformer? In light of all my brilliance, your title should have been, “Black Reform Leaders: You’re Finally Hired!”

Your piece states that my ex-boss Peter Cunningham, and the many other middle-aged, privileged, non-educator white men who manage the education reform agenda that impacts millions of black and brown children living in poverty, need to step down from their six-figure salaries and let the “foot soldiers,” like me take their place. Why stop at Cunningham? You could have offered your nice-paying job at the Fordham Institute to me. I just may be more qualified than you to do your job, too!

Oh, I forgot, that to you would be “suicide.””

Marilyn,

I hope that you know that no high-performing nation in the world allows entrepreneurs, corporate charter chains, and non-educators to get public money to run privately controlled schools. You should also know, though your friends in the reform movement won’t tell you, that the surest path to a well-paying job and the middle class is a union job, with good pay, reasonable hours, and a pension. Surely you know that the money for the reform movement comes from the anti-union Walton family and Wall Street financiers. Rightwing governor’s like Scott Walker and Rick Scott love to create charters and offer vouchers while defunding the public schools that most black and brown children attend.

I invite you to stand with us to protect public schools from privatization and to fight for the resources and transformation in every state that will make every public school a good school for every child. We don’t have any billionaires on our side, but we have millions of parents and teachers and many others who understand that public education is a pillar of democracy. Privatization always produces inequality, winners and losers. Join us. We need you.

You will enjoy reading about Leonie Haimson’s busy and productive day. Leonie is a fighter for smaller class size, better funding for schools, and student privacy. She is founder of Class Size Matters and Student Privacy Matters. She is tireless (and unpaid). She is the most frightening antagonist for education reformers because they can’t understand people who are motivated by principle, not profit.

She started the day at the Harvard Club, outside the doors, protesting with other activists against the billionaires and dark money behind Question 2 in Massachusetts. Inside, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker had come to talk to the conservative Manhattan Institute about his efforts to lift the charter cap, thus expanding privatization of public education.

That afternoon, she learned that she and other allies had come a judicial decision to open the meetings of School Leadership Teams to the public.

She wrote:

“The Appellate court heard arguments from both sides on January 21, 2016 — and took nearly a year to rule. But finally, in another slam-dunk, unanimous decision, they reaffirmed the lower Court ruling that SLT’s are public bodies in state governance law, and thus their meetings must be open to the public. Much thanks goes to Michael Thomas, Tish James and the attorneys from NY Lawyers for Public Interest and Advocates for Justice who represented the Public Advocate and Class Size Matters in court.”

Leonie is on many boards, including the Network for Public Education and New York State Allies for Public Education, which organized the successful statewide parent opt out. She is already a hero of this blog. She is the right person to take on the billionaires. They can’t buy her or beat her.

Go, Leonie, go!

Julian Vasquez Heilig combed through the Podesta emails released by WikiLeaks in search of education-related comments. He found quite a few.

Reach your own conclusions.

I don’t think he included this one, where the Clinton campaign reacts to a question from the AFT about whether Joel Klein is involved in the campaign.

Education Week reported the story here.

Klein’s company Amplify lost about $500 million, when it was owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation. Murdoch dumped it, and Laurene Powell Jobs picked it up for the Emerson Collective, probably for a song.

But Klein is still in the money. Despite the epic failure of Amplify, Rupert Murdoch is paying him $4.6M per year to sit on the News Corp board. (And don’t forget that he filed for a pension from New York City for the eight years he spent as Chancellor, closing schools and opening charter schools.)

Klein is now working as “chief strategy” officer for the failing Oscar health insurance company, which is also losing millions fast. Klein has not had much luck in the business world. This company was co-founded by Josh Kushner, the brother of Trump’s son in law, Jared Kushner.