Archives for the month of: November, 2016

The nonpartisan Cook Political Report says that Hillary Clinton now leads Donald Trump by 2.5 million in the popular vote.


Some commenters say, well, the Electoral College can’t be changed.


Funny, the original Constitution limited voting to white male property owners. It changed.


Imagine if the governor of your state was elected not by popular vote but by a state electoral college consisting of representatives from each district. Nuts, right?


In a democracy, the one with the most votes wins. Not in this democracy.



Andy  Borowitz writes that President-elect Trump will nominate El Chapo, the Mexican drug kingpin, to run the DEA. He has vast experience about drugs and how they are bought and sold and transported.

Reformers have been trying to figure what to say about Trump and DeVos. It is embarrassing for people who call themselves “progressives” to acknowledge that their agenda of charters and choice has been embraced by the most rightwing president in the past century, if not all of American history. They want more charters, as Trump promises, but they have to distance themselves from a president who has been warmly embraced by the KKK and other neo-Nazi groups.

Shavar Jeffries of DFER and Peter Cunningham of Education Post (and former aide to Arne Duncan) try to wend their way through the political thicket in this article. THE LINK IS NOW WORKING. 

First, they list all the Democrats (like Rahm Emanuel and Andrew Cuomo) who support school choice. But they include Albert Shanker without admitting that after promoting the idea of charters in 1988, he denounced them as no different from vouchers in 1993, when he saw the business groups vying to run schools for profit. Documented in my book The Death and Life of the Great American School System, pp. 127-128, revised edition).

Second, they give a nod to their friends in the unions, neglecting to mention that 93% of charters are non-union and are endorsed by all the Red State governors and right wing think tanks as a way to break unions.

Their biggest concern seems to be that DeVos might not adhere to the accountability regime established by George W. Bush. For them, high-stakes testing is a civil rights issue. Critics of high-stakes testing know that these tests measure family income and cause immeasurable harm to children who are poor, children with disabilities, and children who are English language learners. Just look at the Common Core scores in any state: most kids “failed” a test that was a grade level or two above their real grade. The highest failure rates were among the children with the greatest needs.

Accountability belongs at at the top. That’s where crucial decisions are made about resources and leadership. Yet the “reformers” still want to pin it on teachers and students.

As for “choice,” the results of 20+ years of vouchers in Milwaukee and Cleveland and Detroit, and of charters there and  in other cities should persuade everyone that neither vouchers nor charters address the needs of our children, especially those who are poorest. Their most damaging result is to drain resources from the public schools that enroll all children, making them less able to do their job.

Bill Moyers’ website, written by John Light and Michael Winship, reports the following:


Republicans suddenly less interested in hearings and investigations –> Michael McAuliffe at The Huffington Post: “House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) declined to express an opinion Tuesday about whether President-elect Donald Trump’s talks with world leaders about his business interests violate the Constitution. But McCarthy did have some advice for Democrats, telling reporters they should back off calls for Congress to investigate how Trump and his transition team are separating the president-elect’s business interests from the demands of the nation. Trump has reportedly spoken with a number of foreign leaders about various projects around the world. A part of the Constitution known as the Emoluments Clause bars presidents from getting anything of value from a foreign government unless Congress approves.”


Hmm. Instead of “draining the swamp,” Trump is expanding it. His choice of Tom Price for Secretary of Health and Human Services is alarming. Price opposes women’s reproductive rights and is a hardline Tea Party member who has been a vocal critic of Obamacare. What will replace it for the millions who rely on it for healthcare insurance? Stay tuned. Having criticized Hillary for making paid speeches at Goldman Sachs, Trump has named a partner at Goldman Sachs to be Secretary of the Treasure. Welcome to the Beltway Swamp.

Campbell Brown will not be covering Betsy DeVos on her website The 74. Brown, an ex-CNN talking head, has been a vocal critic of teachers’ unions and tenure and a vocal proponent of non-union charter schools. (She is on the board of DeVos’ American Federation for Children and on the board of Eva Moskowitz’s Success Academy charter chain.) She filed a Vergara style case against teacher tenure in Minnesota, claiming that tenure denied the rights of black and Hispanic children, but the Minnesota judge threw out her claim because of lack of evidence of any link between tenure and test scores. Another lawsuit filed by Brown’s “Partnership for Education Justice” has been filed in New York state.


Politico writes:


CAMPBELL BROWN STEPS BACK FROM COVERAGE: Campbell Brown, editor-in-chief of The 74, is “recusing herself” from her website’s news coverage of Betsy DeVos, President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for education secretary. That’s according to a note from Romy Drucker, CEO of The 74, which will post online today. The note comes after reporters and activists in the last week have raised questions about Brown’s ties to DeVos and the ethics of covering her in The 74, which Brown maintains is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news site. Critics have labeled the site as advocacy journalism.


– “We’ve received some inquiries about The 74’s relationship with Betsy DeVos,” Drucker’s note says. “In particular, her family foundation’s philanthropic donations to the site, our disclosures of any possible conflict of interest, and our standing policy on editorial independence. While we typically allow our article disclosures to stand by themselves, the current situation is unexpected and unprecedented – and deserves further transparency and explanation.”


– Brown and DeVos are friends, and Brown sits on the board of DeVos’ school choice advocacy group, the American Federation for Children. (DeVos resigned as chair last week after accepting Trump’s Cabinet offer.) In 2014, the Dick & Betsy DeVos Family Foundation helped launch The 74 with a two-year grant – the amount of which wasn’t disclosed to Morning Education. “The final disbursement of those funds, in the first quarter of 2016, means that the foundation is only an active donor through the end of this year,” Drucker’s note says. “Obviously, given Ms. DeVos’s potential role in the federal government, The 74 will not be seeking additional funding for 2017 or beyond.” The website receives funding from a number of other education reform organizations like the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, which has also funded education reporting at the Los Angeles Times. Last year, the American Federation for Children also sponsored a summit held by The 74 for Republican presidential candidates.


– Brown has also recused herself from covering New York’s Success Academy Charter Schools because she sits on the board. Drucker writes that The 74 will continue to post disclosures on articles that mention DeVos or the American Federation for Children. In a recent op-ed for The 74, Brown defended DeVos as Trump’s pick for education secretary. But when asked if she’d consider serving alongside her friend in the Trump administration, Brown said, “Absolutely not. Definitively.”



When you look over the win-loss column between the two major parties, what is striking is how little changed as a result of the 2016 election. The Democrats picked up 6 seats in the House and gained 2 seats in the Senate. They are still a minority in both chambers, but if a three dissident Republicans turn against Trump, he won’t get everything he wants.

The Louisiana Senate contest was not held on election day. The Republican is leading. The election will be held on December 10.

I posted this previously with the wrong link. This is the correct link:

Betsy DeVos, billionaire and Trump nominee for U.S. Secretary of Education, is chairman of the board and chief funder of the American Federation for Children. 

The organization advocates for charters and vouchers. If you scan its activities and news releases, you won’t find any mention of public schools. On her website, they are the invisible dragon that the AFC wants to slay.

When the election was over, the staff compiled a list of the victories for school choice. School choice means schools choose; school choice means segregation. School choice means privatization. In DeVos’ world, school choice means autonomy without accountability. School choice means the death of public education.

Read the AFC memo here.

Angie Sullivan, second grade teacher in Clark County (Las Vegas), Nevada, sent our her bulletin to legislators and journalists:

As far as I discern from the data available on the Nevada Report Card:

Nevada has 22 charter providing services to High School Seniors.

Five charters did not report data in 2015-2016:

Founders Academy (State Charter)
American Prep Academy (State Charter)
Global Community (CCSD)
Leadership Academy of Nevada (State Charter)
SSCS – Silver State High School (State Charter)

Leaving 17 Nevada charters which reported graduation data.

This is how many seniors failed to graduate in these charters:

Innovations Charter (WCSD) – 1554 Seniors; 1262 failed to graduate.

Nevada Connections (State Charter) – 1923 Seniors; 1238 failed to graduate

Delta Charter (CCSD) – 826 Seniors; 684 failed to graduate

Nevada Virtual Academy (State Charter) – 1127 Seniors; 411 failed to graduate

I Can Do Anything High School (WCSD) – 560 Seniors; 400 failed to graduate

Beacon Academy of Nevada (State Charter) – 803 Seniors; 380 failed to graduate

Odyssey Charter ( CCSD) – 792 Seniors; 376 failed to graduate

Rainshadow HS (WCSD) – 188 Seniors; 141 failed to graduate

Quest Academy (State Charter) – 42 Seniors; 8 failed to graduate

Coral Academy Reno (State Charter) – 34 Seniors; 8 failed to graduate

Andre Agassi (CCSD) – 34 Seniors; 7 failed to graduate

Explore Knowledge (CCSD) – 29 Seniors; 7 failed to graduate

Academy for Career Education (WCSD) – 59 Seniors; 2 failed to graduate

Coral Academy Vegas (State Charter) – 42 Seniors; 2 failed to graduate

Nevada State High School (State Charter) – 181 Seniors; 2 failed to graduate.

Alpine Academy (State Charter) – 21 Seniors; all graduated.

Overall Nevada Charters provided services for 9015 Seniors and 4928 failed to graduate. Perhaps more – since 5 charters did not provide data.

Tell me now why we are in a rush to turn our public schools into charters?

Aren’t charters supposed to be the experiment and competition for public schools? You would expect the graduation rate to be at least as high as a neighborhood public schools correct.

What is being done about these failing charters?

If CCSD and WCSD took out their failing charter data – their graduation rates would greatly improve.

Charters are worse than the regular neighborhood public schools. Legislation needs to get this mess under control. Failing charters have to be closed. This is ridiculous.

This is expensive and a scam.

One of the biggest scams in the charter industry is the virtual charter. Every study shows that they have high attrition rates, low test scores, and low graduation rates. A study by CREDO concluded that going to a virtual charter was almost like not going to school at all. The virtual charter gives the students a computer; the students logs on (or doesn’t); and a teacher monitors a large number of screens. For that service, the company providing the computer and the teacher is paid full state tuition. It is a very lucrative business.

In Ohio, where charter fraud is rife, the biggest charter of all is ECOT, the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow. The owner, William Lager, gives generously to elected officials. Until now, they have treated him kindly, enabling his school to be unaccountable. This year, however, in response to the general stench around the Ohio charter industry, the state audited ECOT and discovered that many students never logged on. They asked for a refund of $65 million. ECOT went to court to block the state action. It insisted it had no obligation to ensure that students actually attended the classes it made available. The court ruled against ECOT

ECOT appealed the lower court judgment. The appeals court rejected ECOT’s appeal. 

ECOT, Ohio’s largest online school, has lost a court appeal that would have blocked the state from trying to “claw back” as much as $65 million the school received last year, while e-schools across Ohio are asking state legislators to protect their funding.

The schools are asking state legislators to add a “hold harmless” provision to another bill in the next few weeks to stop the state from using attendance reviews of the schools to take millions of dollars of state funding away from them.

Nine other online charter schools could also have to return portions of their state funding after they could not meet new state expectations for documenting how many students they have taking classes.

House Education Committee Chairman Andrew Brenner said schools have asked to be excused from penalties while legislators debate a better way to fund online schools next year.

“There’s been a couple of discussions, but nothing is concrete,” said Brenner, a Powell Republican..

“This is an issue that’s more widespread than just ECOT,” he added. “This impacts a ton of schools. It something we’ve got to have a good conversation on.”

Sounds like Mr. Brenner is looking for a way to enable ECOT to evade accountability.

The DeVos family has had an outsize influence in Michigan, by its charitable contributions and its political contributions.

After the Detroit Free Press published a scathing series of articles about the corrupt, unaccountable practices in charter schools in the state, the legislature was shamed into drafting a law that would provide oversight of the charter sector.

The DeVos family gave out $1.5 million in campaign contributions to make sure that charter schools continued to be unregulated and unaccountable.

80% of the charter schools in Michigan operate for profit. No other state has so many for-profit operators.

Detroit is overrun with charters. It is at the very bottom of all urban districts tested by the National Assessment of Educational Progress, despite all its choice and competition. Or because of them.

Michigan doesn’t have vouchers, because the people of Michigan voted them down in 2000 when the DeVos family proposed an initiative to permit public funds to flow to nonpublic schools. The measure lost overwhelmingly, by 69-31%. No county in the state voted for it.

Milwaukee has had both charters and vouchers for more than 20 years, and it is among the lowest scoring urban districts in the nation, but ahead of Detroit.

Read what the New York Times wrote about charters in Detroit last June. DeVos now owns this mess.

Why should anyone open a charter school, get public money, and be free of oversight? Why should taxpayer dollars flow to religious schools when every state referendum on vouchers has gone down to inglorious defeat by large majorities?