Archives for the month of: March, 2018

 

This is a sad day for Puerto Rico.

The Governor imagines he will save money by handing public money over to charters and vouchers. 

Does he know that charters demand equal funding and choose the students they want?

Does he know that voucher students get worse results than their peers in public schools?

Probably the hedge funds that own the Commonwealth’s debt didn’t tell him.

Puerto Rico is now open to edupreneurs, no-excuses charters, and corporate exploitation of its children.

 

Reader Chiara posted this comment this morning. Whenever a legislature takes up charters and/vouchers, they forget that public schools exist. From that moment, at least 90% of their time in session will be devoted to the care and feeding of the 10% or 3% or 1% in publicly supported private schools.

“Schools in several of Kentucky’s largest counties were forced to close Friday when teachers angered by the passage of a pension overhaul refused to go to work. The state’s two largest districts in Louisville and Lexington were among at least eight school districts that closed schools due to employee absences.”

“West Virginia, Arizona and now Kentucky. Meanwhile, the “ed reform movement” remains blissfully unaware of this ongoing crisis in….public schools.

“I used to joke that every public school in the country could close and ed reformers wouldn’t notice because they don’t actually work on “public education” but instead work on charters and vouchers. I never dreamed we would actually see that, but we are.

“You know what ed reformers in Kentucky spent the last year on? Charters.

“Meanwhile, the schools NINETY FIVE PER CENT of people in that state were in crisis.

“They don’t work for public school families. They work for some abstract privatized school system that exists only at the Walton Foundation.

“Would someone notify the 4000 employees at the US Department of Education that PUBLIC schools are closing? No one in ed reform will notice- they don’t send their kids to our schools.”

 

Debbie Lesko is the Betsy DeVos of Arizona. She hates public schools and wants to privatize them. She is active in ALEC, the rightwing corporate bill mill.

Read about her campaign for Congress here, in an article by Graham Vyse in The New Republic.

“Lesko resigned from the state Senate in January to focus on running for Congress, and she’s now the Republican nominee in the April 24 special election for Arizona’s Eighth Congressional District. A darling of the Koch brothers in her own right, she’s the clear favorite to replace former Representative Trent Franks—a Republican who resigned in disgrace last year over sexual-misconduct accusations. Conventional wisdom says Democrats don’t have a shot in this heavily conservative district. It includes former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s political base, and Trump carried the district by 21 points in 2016. But after Conor Lamb’s victory this month in a Pennsylvania district Trump won by about the same margin, Democrats are allowing themselves to hope. “Arizona can be harder than Pennsylvania,” Dan Pfeiffer, a former senior adviser to President Barack Obama, recently said on Pod Save America. Yet, Pfeiffer argued, the two districts have “essentially the same political dynamic.” “There could be a real shot here,” he said. “There’s a good candidate who won the primary a couple weeks ago.”

“Pfeiffer was referring to Hiral Tipirneni, an Indian-born emergency-room physician and advocate for cancer research, who won the Democratic nomination with a moderate message. Even the conservative publication Newsmax calls her “a strong candidate,” which might explain why the Republican National Committee just invested $281,250 in this race along with $170,000 from the National Republican Congressional Committee and $100,000 on the way from the Congressional Leadership Fund. These investments come as polling by Lake Research Partners shows Tipirneni down 14 points, but Lesko’s record should motivate local Democrats looking to notch another upset victory. “Debbie Lesko has made it clear she’s representing ALEC,” Tipirneni told me. “She’s representing the Koch brothers. She’s representing her lobbyists.”

Could the Big Blue Wave that Elected Ralph Northam in Virginia, Doug Jones in Alabama, and Conor Lamb in Pennsylvania topple Lesko?

Most families in Arizona send their children to public schools. Do the public school parents in Lesko’s district know that she wants to defund their public schools?

Lesko has promoted vouchers in Arizona.

“Arizona was the first state in the country to enact Empowerment Scholarship Accounts, also known as Education Savings Accounts, in 2011. Championed by the state’s Goldwater Institute, a libertarian think tank also tied to the Kochs, these accounts allow families taking their child out of public school to put 90 percent of the child’s share of state education funding toward private education—tuition, tutoring, or other expenses. Eligibility for the program was initially limited to a small group of students, including those with disabilities, but Lesko’s law opened it up to all 1.1 million of Arizona’s public-school kids.”

Parents have blocked implementation by putting a refendum on the ballot. Vouchers have never won a public vote. The vote frightens voucher advocates.

The state’s voucher program operates with little or no oversight or accountability. Parents have used their debit cards to buy legitimate school supplies, then returned them for credit and spent state money on personal expenses. At least one report says the ESA was used to pay for an abortion.

The special election for the Congressional seat will be held on April 24. If you live in her district, be sure to vote.

 

In this stunning review of Oakland’s recent history, retired teacher Thomas Ultican shows how that city’s school district was completely captured and nearly destroyed by a succession of Broadie Superintendents.

The “Destroy Public Education Movement” was launched in 2001 by then-Mayor Jerry Brown, who started Oakland’s first charter school.

The district fell into debt, and the state took control. Under state control, Oakland schools were managed and mismanaged by a series of Broad-trained Superintendents. Oakland became a wholly owned subsidiary of the Broad Foundation, and each superintendent opened more charter schools than his predecessor.

“Like the Republican politicians in Detroit, Democratic politicians in California pushed OUSD into financial disarray. And like Detroit, Oakland’s financial issues were driven by declining enrollment stemming from the same drivers; privatization, gentrification and suburban development.”

Broadies, writes Ultican, have a long-established track record of disruption, discord, and fiscal mismanagement.

In Oakland, one Broadie followed another, driving demoralization and disarray.

There is at last, he writes, a new superintendent who is not a Broadie. Her name is Kyla Johnson-Trammell. If the billionaires get out of her way, she might be able to restore stability in the district.

Ultican writes:

“A constant theme promoted by the DPE movement is “every student deserves a high-quality school.” When you hear a billionaire or one of his minions say this, you and your community are targets and your about to be fleeced.

“The United States developed a unique education system that was the envy of the world and the great foundation upon which our democratic experiment in self-governance was established. Over two centuries, we developed a system in which every community had a high-quality public school.

“These schools had professionals who earned their positions by completing training at accredited institutions. Government rules and oversight insured that school facilities were safe, and the background of all educators was investigated. In urban areas like Oakland there was a professionally run public school in every neighborhood.

“Could it have been improved? Of course, and that is exactly what was happening before the deceitful attack on public education and teachers.”

He is hopeful that the new homegrown leadership might extract Oakland schools and students from the billionaires’ Petri dish.

 

 

This is a really good article by Rick Hess of the DeVos-funded American Enterprise Institute about reformers’ credulous embrace of every claim made by D.C. and using it as their model for the success of “reform.” Having elevated D.C. as their paradigm, they were unprepared for and blindsided by the recent graduation-rate scandal.

He faults the Washington Post, for its infatuation with Michelle Rhee and Kaya Henderson. And he faults President Obama for saluting a fake graduation rate increase.

Kudos to Rick for his fearless chastising of his compatriots.

He writes:

“Lots of self-styled “reformers” had good reason to observe DCPS through rose-tinted glasses. A wealth of advocates, funders, consultants, researchers, and friends had a rooting interest in DCPS’s success — and had every incentive to focus on the good news. This includes the senior author of this piece, who counted many DCPS leaders as friends of long standing — and who wrote admiringly about some of their efforts.

“After all, Washington, D.C., as much as any city over the past decade, served as a laboratory where philanthropists, policy analysts, and high profile media outlets converge. Philanthropists have poured more than $120 million into the school system since 2007. By 2010, the nation’s largest 15 philanthropies were spending more on K-12 education in D.C. than in any other school district in America.”

Curiously, he places some of the blame on critics of these fraudulent reforms, because their criticism made the reformers circle their wagons.

Maybe the reformers should have listened to critics like Guy Brandenburg and others who blew the whistle early on, instead of closing their ears and circling the wagons. Maybe they should have taken seriously the testing scandal that USA Today reported in 2011, instead of sweeping it under the rug.

 

 

When Corey Booker, then Mayor of Newark, and Chris Christie, then Governor of New Jersey, persuaded  Mark Zuckerberg to give them $100 million to transform the schools of Newark, they told him that Newark would become the New Orleans of the North and that it would become one of the highest performing districts in the nation. Hahaha. As Dale Russakoff explained in her book The Prize about Zuckerberg’s millions, most of the money went to consultants and to pay off debts to the teachers’ union.

Nonetheless, Christie delivered on his end of the bargain. Newark is on track to have more than 40% of its students in charter schools. Ten years ago, less than 10% were in charter schools.  

The state has signed off on nearly 7,000 more charter seats to be available by the 2022-23 school year, according to state data compiled by Sass Rubin, who teaches at the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning & Policy. If all those seats are filled and district enrollment stays flat at about 34,200 students, then the share of students who go to school in Newark and attend charters could climb as high as 44 percent.

No one knows whether the demand will meet the supply, but that doesn’t matter. The supply will be there thanks to the Christie administration.

Some said it made sense to stockpile extra seats during the charter-friendly Christie administration, under which the number of charter students doubled. “While the getting is good, and Christie is approving just about anything that sounds stable, why don’t we just go and apply for additional charters so we can have those in our pocket?” asked one charter leader, describing the thinking of some of his school’s board members.

So now we must eagerly await the results to see whether Newark becomes a model for the nation, as Booker and Christie said it would be. Or do we have to wait for Newark to become 100% charter? Apparently the goal is to prove that poverty and segregation don’t matter, and that charters can succeed despite those factors. Let’s see.

But the problem with Newark becoming 100% charter is that then the charters would have no place to send the kids they don’t want. As this report by Mark Weber and Julia Sass Rubin shows, the charters systematically under enroll students with disabilities and English language learners. If charters must take all of them, it might drive down their test scores.

Donald Cohen of “In the Public Interest” reports that operators of private detention facilities are delighted with the Trump crackdown on immigrants . It is generating huge revenues and profits!

Last fall, Chief Executive Officer George Zoley of the publicly traded private prison corporation GEO Group told shareholders he was “very pleased” with recent financial results after the company “experienced improved occupancy rates across a number of our ICE [immigration detention] facilities” — and now we know why.

In an early March filing to those shareholders, GEO Group divulged that total compensation last year for its top corporate executives nearly doubled, jumping from $10.9 million to $20.3 million. Zoley really made out. Stock awards, which the corporation gives out when it profits more than it expected, boosted his compensation from $5.1 million to $9.6 million.

The GEO Group CEO better have thanked President Donald Trump for the big payday.

Trump deported less people last year than the Obama administration did in 2016, but he arrested 30 percent more suspected undocumented immigrants. That means more people were held in immigration detention centers, which are primarily run by GEO Group and its main rival, CoreCivic (formerly CCA). GEO Group also manages the electronic monitoring used on some undocumented immigrants through its subsidiary BI Inc.

There are big bucks in privatization, whether it is prisons, schools, or veterans’ hospitals.

 

 

The Florida Legislature is firmly controlled by advocates for privatization, some with direct conflicts of interest because of their ties to charter chains. Last year, it passed the “Schools of Hope” law, creating a new program to bring in charter operators to compete with or take over low performing schools.

There has not exactly been a gold rush by charter operators but two have stepped forward and are having trouble meeting the state’s minimal criteria. (I got a one-day complimentary subscription to Politico Pro, so you may not be able to access the full  access the full article).

“A controversial program signed into law in June called “Schools of Hope” gives charter school networks designated as “Hope Operators” the ability to open a “School of Hope” within five miles of a persistently low-performing public school. Those operators, collectively, get access to a pot of tens of millions of dollars to cover startup costs, personnel and specialized educational offerings, plus are given the flexibility of being exempt from a long list of state public education laws.

“The State Board of Education will Tuesday consider Hope Operator applications for two charter school networks: Texas-based IDEA Public Schools and Somerset Academy, managed by Academica, a Miami-based network of schools that took over Jefferson County schools and may not meet the requirements for Hope Operator status.

“To become a Hope Operator, charter networks have to meet certain criteria laid out in the new law, which is itself currently the subject of litigation brought by school districts that compete with charter schools for students.

“Among those criteria is a requirement that at least 70 percent of a charter network’s students be eligible for a free or reduced-price lunch. But across Somerset Academy’s more than 60 public charter schools, the Florida Department of Education estimates only 60 percent of their students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch (89 percent qualify at IDEA schools)….

”The laws states that state education officials must also determine that the student achievement of the charter network “exceeds the district and state averages of the states in which the operator’s schools operate.”

When the “Hope”law was enacted, legislators expected an abundance of applications, but thus far there have only been these two.

Thanks to Congress, there is plenty of money there for charter operators. Florida seems to favor the corporate operators, the fast-food style of franchising and outsourcing.

If Florida legislators think that state laws are unnecessary for charter operators, why are they necessary for public schools?

 

Arthur Camins reflects here about the importance of the common good. He writes about a society in which we care about one another, as opposed to a me-first individualism that currently commands our  public discourse.

There is a play on Broadway right now and in touring companies outside New York City called “Come from Away.” It is about 9/11. It takes place in Gander, Newfoundland, when airplanes were ordered not to enter American air space, and the town of 9,000 people discovered that it had 7,000 guests for several days. They provided them with foood, places to sleep, and friendship. They asked nothing in return. Not me-first but “here is help, here is welcome and respite for the stranger.”

Camins writes:

“Without one another we are diminished. The more we have others around us, the stronger we can become. That is the idea of the common good.

“It’s not a uniquely American idea, but it is one with which many of us identify.

“Republicans in Congress have a different idea. It applies to guns, health care, retirement, and education.

“Their value is a strain of individualism that stands in opposition to the common good. Their strategies are: Promote fear and undermine public confidence in government as a vehicle to keep people safe. The goal is the further enrichment of the already privileged.

“The Second Amendment was written to address maintenance of state militias (albeit, in part, to capture escaped slaves), not individuals with rifles. Fomenting fear of rampant crime and with it, the incompetence of government to protect people has become the go-to strategy to increase gun sales. It has been remarkably successful.

“Similarly, conservative efforts to replace Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, the Affordable Care Act, and public education with individual vouchers appeal to the value of individualism that is in opposition to common-good collective solutions that depend on honest, effective government. Once again, the conservative strategy has been to undermine confidence in government by defunding it and thereby making it appear incompetent. Then, fear and just-worry-about-me individualism kick in as self-preservation.

“Conservatives have been remarkably successful, as Republicans are now dominant across federal and state governments and public confidence in government has declined…

”Progressives, need not shame individualism, but rather reframe it. That is, we become our best selves through others. We can only become our best selves when we are all safe, healthy, well-fed, and well-housed. We can only learn to be our best selves when we are educated with the benefits of diversity and equity. Hopeful, but hard.”

 

 

Linda Lyon, president of the Arizona School Boards Association, describes the legal battle to preserve dedicated funding for the state’s schools. 

She writes, following a judge’s decision to overturn Prop. 123:

”I’m sure there will be much more to come on this issue. Two things though, are for certain. First, the AZ Legislature’s raiding of district funding caused this problem in the first place, leaving Arizona K–12 per pupil funding with the highest cuts in the nation from 2008 to 2014. Secondly, if the Prop. 123 funding is taken away, Arizona citizens MUST demand that Governor Ducey and his Legislature find new revenue for our district schools. Even with Prop. 123, our teachers are the lowest paid in the Nation, and our schools have almost $1 billion less in annual funding that prior to the recession. The situation is dire, and the legislation recently forwarded to Governor Ducey for signature to extend the Prop. 301 sales tax at current levels doesn’t do anything to fix it.

“It is time for real leadership. If it doesn’t come from our Governor and Legislature, it MUST come from the voters in August and November.”

She sent me this infographic that gives a pictorial view of the struggle to fund the state’s public schools.

For more background, see this article about the court decision.