Archives for the month of: April, 2018

The lame-duck School Reform Commission in Philadelphia, which ceases to exist on June 30, voted to award a third charter to Franklin Towne Charter school, which currently has two charters serving majority-white populations. The SRC called on the charter operator to make a greater effort to achieve diversity. The current K-8 charter is 75% white; the high school charter is 83% white. They are located in diverse neighborhoods and do not reflect the neighborhood.

What makes this decision peculiar is that the owner of the Franklin Towne charter chain has engaged in ethically dubious real estate deals. As The Notebook reported, the CEO of Franklin Towne is involved in one of those real estate deals where the charter company is both landlord and tenant.

The debt of Franklin Towne Charter network is long-standing, incurred through a series of circular real estate arrangements that were used to purchase and construct school buildings and rent the buildings from companies that its CEO created.

A 2010 report from the city controller found these arrangements at nine different charter school operators around the city and described it as a way of “transferring taxpayer-funded assets to non-profits that are not accountable to the School District.” 

The report found Franklin Towne’s high school to be among those nine. CEO Joseph Venditti leased the school’s already-purchased property to a for-profit entity he created, Franklin Towne Holdings LLC, and then subleased it back to the school. He also doubled his own compensation over the course of three years. 

As CEO, Venditti took the building bought by the high school with bonds and leased it to Franklin Towne Holdings. The holding company sub-leases the building back to the school, which pays rent to the holding company. Venditti signed the lease and sublease as both CEO of the school and manager of Franklin Towne Holdings LLC, according to the 2010 city controller’s report. 

Franklin Towne is no longer collecting state reimbursements for rent payments, but a 2014 audit of the high school’s finances found that the same circular leasing arrangement was still in place. According to the audit, this agreement will not expire until January 2033.

Franklin Towne has since expanded to open a K-8 school called Franklin Towne Elementary. Audits of that school found it is in the same sort of relationship with the Richmond Street Development Corp., a nonprofit, which collects rent on the already-purchased school building.

Richmond Street Development Corp. was established by the elementary school in 2009 to acquire land and construct a school building, according to the 2014 audit. And Franklin Towne Charter Elementary is “the sole member of the corporation.” 

The school also “effectively appoints a voting majority of the board” and Richmond Street Development Corp. is “economically dependent on Franklin Towne Charter Elementary School for financial support,” according to the audit. 

The Charter Schools Office’s evaluation of Franklin Towne’s proposed new middle school, which the School Reform Commission will consider on Thursday, would be set up with a similar arrangement. This time, the high school itself would be acting as the landlord by subleasing a portion of the building to the new middle school. 

These kinds of financial shenanigans are not uncommon in the bizarre world of charter school finance.

But the question is, why would the School Reform Commission ignore this report of Franklin Towne’s shady finances?

The SRC can’t say they were not informed.

Lisa Haver, retired teacher and public school activist, suggested some possible reasons for the SRC’s readiness to award a new charter to the Franklin Towne charter chain in her testimony to the School Reform Commission before they voted to approve expansion:

Testimony of Lisa Haver to the School Reform Commission

April 26, 2018

There is no need in the Frankford/Tacony community for another Franklin Towne Charter.  Franklin Towne already gades 6-7-8 in its K-8 school. The only reason that company needs a new school is to secure its own bottom line.

I taught at Harding Middle School in Frankford for over 10 years. It seemed that there were 2 exits for graduating 8th graders: one for the African-American and Latino students to Frankford High, and another for the white students to Franklin Towne Charter, which should be renamed the Lower Northeast Democratic Ward Leaders Apartheid Real Estate Charter Company.  How does a school in ANY neighborhood in this city, in particular that neighborhood, explain an 83% white enrollment rate? That alone is reason to deny.

As I said about Aspira, what we see here is a Real Estate company/bank that happens to run charter schools.

As CEO, Venditti took the building bought by the high school with bonds and leased it to Franklin Towne Holdings. The holding company sub-leases the building back to the school, which pays rent to the holding company. Venditti signed the lease and sublease as both CEO of the school and manager of Franklin Towne Holdings LLC, according to the 2010 city controller’s report. 

 Venditti is the proposed “incorporator” of the middle school. He is also the CEO of the high school. The high school is proposed to be the management organization for the middle school, as well as its landlord.

 The Charter Schools Office’s evaluation of Franklin Towne’s proposed new middle school…would be set up with a similar arrangement. This time, the high school itself would be acting as the landlord by subleasing a portion of the building to the new middle school. 

 Is it the business of the SRC to fund this pyramid scheme—with taxpayer dollars?

 FTC board pays Venditti $226K to manage two schools, which is almost the amount Dr. Hite is paid to mange 200 schools.  What we don’t know, because of the legal firewall charters are allowed to set up, is how much Venditti makes off of the real estate dealings.

Of all of the political connections of the FTC board, this is the crucial one:

Ryan Mulvey, a board member for Franklin Towne’s elementary school, is a legislative aide for State Sen. John Sabatina Jr., a Democrat, and would also be on the board of the middle school if it is approved.

 Sabatina is the ward leader who supported Commissioner Green’s failed run for Congress.  In fact, Mr. Green’s address on his filing form, 7718 Castor Avenue, 2nd floor, is a commercial property whose sign says “Sabatina Associates”.  Ryan Mulvey’s brother, Scott Mulvey, was Mr. Green’s chief of staff when he was a city councilman.  Thus, Mr. Green, who should have recused himself when he voted to approve this application in February, must recuse himself now from any vote on FTC.


This paper was recently presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association. While it gets technical fast, the conclusions should be of great interest to early childhood educators. While there is much that cannot be reliably measured, what is clear is the importance of the first five years of a child’s life.

You can download the paper here.


Maurice Cunningham is a political science professor at the University of Massachusetts who has become an expert on the subject of Dark Money. He has his own name for the billionaires devoted to charter schools. He calls them the “Financial Privatization Cabal.” That’s clever and accurate but I stick with “corporate reformers” because there are fewer syllables.*

Cunningham (no relation to the charter-loving Peter of the same last name) has done a deep dive into the Dark Money funders of the 2016 campaign to expand charter schools in Massachusetts via a referendum called Question 2. A New York City organization called Families for Excellent Schools (FES) arrived on the scene to bundle and dispense Dark Money and renamed itself Great Schools Massachusetts. (FES was funded by the Waltons and has now been replaced by a new group which calls itself Massachusetts Parents United, also Walton funded.)

What is Dark Money? It is money given to political campaigns by donors whose identities are hidden. The donors do not want their names to be revealed. So they give to a group like “Families for Excellent Schools.” After the charter lobby lost in Massachusetts in 2016, beaten by a sturdy coalition of teachers, parents, and volunteers, the state’s Office of Campaign and Political Finance conducted an inquiry and fined FES for failing to disclose the names of its donors. The fine was $426,00, along with a five-year ban on future political activity in Massachusetts. Shortly thereafter, FES folded due to a #MeToo scandal involving its executive director.

Before it closed its doors, FES was required to reveal its donors. One of them was  billionaire Seth Klarman.

Maurice Cunningham has checked out Klarman and found that he is one of the top donors to the Republican Party in New England. He doesn’t like Trump, so he recently gave $222,000 to the Democratic Party. That was front-page news in the Boston Globe.

Cunningham wonders why Klarman’s gift of $222,000 to the Democrats made the front page, but his gift of $3 Million to the pro-charter campaign in 2016 didn’t merit even a mention. 

But then relentless Maurice Cunningham discovered this:

“Klarman also is a part owner of the Fenway Sports Group, the Boston Red Sox parent company that is led by principal owner John Henry. Henry is also owner and publisher of The Boston Globe.”

Blood is thicker than water. Money is thicker than blood or water.

It is way past time that I name Maurice Cunningham to the honor roll of this Blog for his indefatigable sleuthing and pursuit of Dark Money. As always: Follow the money.

PS: To learn more about Stand for Children as a conduit for Dark Money and about Strategic Grant Partners read this post by Cunningham. 

*He explains:

“A NOTE ON TERMINOLOGY: I’ve failed to come up with a catchy name for the dark money funders so for now I’ve settled on “Financial Privatization Cabal.” Financial since most of the dark money is coming from the financial services industry. Privatization, because I believe their intention is to privatize public services. Cabal because it denotes a secret plot.”


In this insightful and harrowing article, we can see clearly the contours of a devilish plan, hatched in the corridors of ALEC and other corporate-controlled entities. The centerpiece of the plan is the destruction and privatization of public education, which all of us own and paid for with our taxes.

Read it and get involved. Join the Networkfor Public Education. Join your local advocacy group. Never despair. Don’t stop fighting.

It begins like this:

It was the strike heard ‘round the country.

West Virginia’s public school teachers had endured years of low pay, inadequate insurance, giant class sizes, and increasingly unlivable conditions—including attempts to force them to record private details of their health daily on a wellness app. Their governor, billionaire coal baron Jim Justice, pledged to allow them no more than an annual 1% raise—effectively a pay cut considering inflation—in a state where teacher salaries ranked 48th lowest out of 50 states. In February 2018, they finally revolted: In a tense, nine-day work stoppage, they managed to wrest a 5% pay increase from the state. Teachers in Oklahoma and Kentucky have now revolted in similar protests.

It’s the latest battle in a contest between two countervailing forces: one bent on reengineering America for the benefit of the wealthy, the other struggling to preserve dignity and security for ordinary people.

If the story turns out the way the Jim Justices desire, the children of a first-world country will henceforth be groomed for a third-world life.

Gordon Lafer, Associate Professor at the Labor Education and Research Center at the University of Oregon, and Peter Temin, Professor Emeritus of Economics at MIT, help illuminate why this is happening, who is behind it, and what’s at stake as the educational system that once united Americans and prepared them for a life of social and economic mobility is wiped out of existence.

The Plan: Lower People’s Expectations

When Lafer began to study the tsunami of corporate-backed legislation that swept the country in early 2011 in the wake of Citizens United—the 2010 Supreme Court decision that gave corporations the green light to spend unlimited sums to influence the political system—he wasn’t yet clear what was happening. In state after state, a pattern was emerging of highly coordinated campaigns to smash unions, shrink taxes for the wealthy, and cut public services. Headlines blamed globalization and technology for the squeeze on the majority of the population, but Lafer began to see something far more deliberate working behind the scenes: a hidden force that was well-funded, laser-focused, and astonishingly effective.

Lafer pored over the activities of business lobbying groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) – funded by giant corporations including Walmart,, and Bank of America—that produces “model legislation” in areas its conservative members use to promote privatization. He studied the Koch network, a constellation of groups affiliated with billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch. (Koch Industries is the country’s second-largest private company with business including crude oil supply and refining and chemical production). Again and again, he found that corporate-backed lobbyists were able to subvert the clear preferences of the public and their elected representatives in both parties. Of all the areas these lobbyists were able to influence, the policy campaign that netted the most laws passed, featured the most big players, and boasted the most effective organizations was public education. For these U.S. corporations, undermining the public school system was the Holy Grail.

After five years of research and the publication of The One Percent Solution, Lafer concluded that by lobbying to make changes like increasing class sizes, pushing for online instruction, lowering accreditation requirements for teachers, replacing public schools with privately-run charters, getting rid of publicly elected school boards and a host of other tactics, Big Business was aiming to dismantle public education.

The grand plan was even more ambitious. These titans of business wished to completely change the way Americans and their children viewed their life potential. Transforming education was the key.





New Mexico is one of the lowest performing states in the nation on the NAEP. It ranks about 49th in the nation. It also has the highest child poverty rate in the nation. Unfortunately the state has a Republican governor who has swallowed the Jeb Bush formula of high-stakes testing, test-based evaluation of teachers, and privatization of schools as the answer to the state’s problems. New Mexico education has not improved at all during the reign of the Bush acolytes.

Hannah Skandera was the State Secretary of Education for seven years. She has been replaced by TFA alum Christopher Ruszkowski. He has just proposed taking control of the state’s teacher education institutions and having sole power over whether they should continue to be allowed to prepare teachers. 

The Secretary-designate is proposing to assert authority that now resides with the legislature.

New Mexico’s teacher evaluation model–one of the most punitive in the nation (test scores are 50% of a teacher’s grade)–are currently suspended while a judge considers whether they are valid.

Being a true “reformer,” Ruszkowski wants to impose letter grades on teacher education programs.

Given the persistent failure of the state’s Public Education Department over the past eight years, it would be a mistake to allow its leader to control teacher education in New Mexico.

The state Public Education Department is pushing to have more direct authority over teacher development programs, including taking on the oversight duties now provided by national accreditation groups.

But some are questioning whether the proposal is within PED’s authority.

By this time next month, PED wants a rule in place that allows it to rate educator preparation programs – which ultimately license teachers – through site visits and a scorecard system.

PED Secretary-designate Christopher Ruszkowski said he thinks they would end up evaluating about 12 to 15 New Mexico institutions, such as the University of New Mexico, New Mexico Highlands University and New Mexico State University, if the rule goes through.

The proposed evaluation system mirrors PED’s teacher evaluations and school grading efforts. Both systems have generated controversy in public school districts statewide.

PED’s proposal would allow the agency to decide whether a teacher education program may remain in operation, regardless if the institution is private or public. An institution can appeal a revocation but ultimately PED has final decision-making power, according to the rule.

Rule requirements

PED’s proposed requirements include: The program’s pedagogy, or instruction in teaching methods, has to align with PED standards; teachers in training would undergo observations by PED; the institution would be required to store documentation of the observations for at least five years; and teacher trainees would be evaluated using methodology of NMTEACH, which is the state teacher evaluation system.

PED would annually score the programs, rating them on an A to F scale and evaluating their effectiveness through factors like acceptance rates of candidates into the program, how they do on performance and licensure tests and how those who complete the programs are rated in NMTEACH.

Right now, teacher preparation programs are being reviewed by national accrediting bodies like the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education or the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation.

But Ruszkowski said the measures those organizations provide aren’t rigorous enough and they don’t review the programs frequently enough.

“The PED has the ultimate decision-making authority over teacher preparation programs that impact K-12 education directly,” Ruszkowski said. “And what states did historically is they took the NCATE or the CAEP and used it as a rubber stamp of approval.”

While UNM declined to comment, the university has previously called NCATE the “gold standard for teacher preparation.”

If PED’s new rule goes into effect, institutions already offering teacher prep programs will have to reapply under the new standards.

Instead of imposing letter grades of institutions of higher education, New Mexico needs fresh thinking about teaching and learning. It should start by throwing out the failed Florida model of test and punish.


Leonie Haimson describes Mayor Bill de Blasio’s very bad, horrible week, in which he slandered teachers by saying they complain too much and closed a high school for struggling students over the protests of students. 

A reporter asked why so few complaints of sexual harassments by teachers had been resolved, and the mayor said that teachers like to complain.

Leonie responds:

“Really?  Only 471 complaints over the last four years itself seems quite low given the fact that there are more than 135,000 DOE employees — the largest by far of any city agency.  Instead, the more likely explanation for the low number of allegations and the even smaller number of substantiated complaints is the well-documented chronic dysfunction and corruption at the DOE internal investigative office, the OSI, staffed by agents who drag their feet, whitewash, or retaliate against teacher whistleblowers when they attempt to expose misdeeds of their superiors.”

She then went on to the meeting of the Board of Education, which the mayor controls:

”Then last evening the Panel for Educational Policy met at Murry Bergtraum HS, the first with the new Chancellor Carranza.  It started with typical DOE dysfunction, with hundreds of students, teachers, and parents standing in an incredibly slow line to sign up to speak, with two pairs of DOE employees assigned to take each of their names.   Each speaker was asked to spell out his or her name, while one DOE staffer then recited the name to another staffer, who slowly entered the names into laptops.

“When the meeting started at about 6:15 PM, Chancellor Carranza repeated the news that the increase in Fair Student Funding to 90% – though not the Mayor’s controversial comments about the “culture of complaint” at DOE.  The proceedings went on till past midnight, with one student after another begging the DOE to keep their schools open or being saved from being merged and squeezed into less space….

”The two most controversial proposals involved the closure of Crotona Academy High School, a Bronx transfer school enrolling high-risk, overage and under-credited students, many of whom had already attended two or more high schools previously, and the merger of two transfer schools in Brooklyn, Bedford Stuyvesant Preparatory High School and Brooklyn Academy High School.

“There were many Crotona Academy High School students at the meeting, all of them opposed to the closure. Students spoke about their experiences at their other high schools, where large class sizes and overcrowding led to them being unable to form meaningful connections with their teachers. For hours, students pleaded with the Chancellor and  PEP members to keep the school open, including giving a musical performance. One parent said she was a DOE teacher, but she couldn’t help her two children who had dropped out of their previous schools — but Crotona did. The teachers explained that the data the DOE used to justify the closing of the school was out-of-date; later the Superintendent admitted to PEP members that he didn’t have access to the latest data but he insisted the school should be closed anyway.

“Crotona Academy has been a school in “good standing” by the New York State Education Department for the last five years. Closing a school is always disruptive for students, but it is particularly damaging for transfer students, whose self-confidence is exceedingly fragile. One student warned of an increase in street violence if the school closed. Yet the PEP approved the school’s closure by a vote of 7-5, with every mayoral appointee voting for closure and the five borough president appointees voting to keep the school open. Advocates say they will sue the DOE for violating federal law.

“The merger of Bedford-Stuyvesant HS and Brooklyn Academy HS also drew intense and passionate opposition. The merger is part of a plan to bring Uncommon Brooklyn East Middle school Charter , into the building, and give most of the building’s floors to Uncommon, which already operates a high school there. Uncommon has among thehighest reported suspension rates of any of the charter schools in the city, but for some reason it is a favorite of former Chancellor Farina anyway who granted it special privileges even when this undermined the education of public school students.

“Uncommon had to move from its current location, co-located in the building of PS 9, which is hugely overcrowded,at 117%, with enrollment having grown 28% since 2012-2013 school year. Yet the the DOE acknowledged that the intrusion of Uncommon into the new building would also result in overcrowding; by the 2021-2022 school year, the building is projected to have a utilization rate of 96%-104%.

“As a result, the merged transfer schools will lose an entire floor of the building to Uncommon . In addition, PS K373, a co-located District 75 school, will be assigned a classroom with only 240 square feet for its  12:1:1 program. This violates state guidelines, which call for at least 770 square feet for 12:1:1 classes.

“Neither Bedford-Stuyvesant HS nor Brooklyn Academy HS is poorly performing. Their graduation rates are at the 93rd and 88th percentiles for transfer schools, making them among the top transfer schools in the city. Merging the two schools will cause them to lose intervention rooms, counseling rooms, and classrooms, lead to teachers and counselors being excessed, and undermine the amazing progress made by their students, which should be celebrated and supported rather than undermined.”

So the Mayor closed needed public schools to make space for another no-excuses charter school.

I still remember his campaign promise in 2013 to reverse the Bloomberg policy of closing public schools and opening charter schools. I thought he supported public schools. Guess not.








The nation’s largest virtual charter chain, K12 Inc., has consistently gotten low marks for its academic results. Founded by junk bond king Michael Milken, it is listed on the New York Stock Exchange. It is a for-profit business, but according to this financial report, its future profitability is in doubt.


“Two days ago, we revealed multiple K12 school closures and a first ever union contract that we estimate will lead K12 to lose money in fiscal 2019 and beyond.

“Yesterday, we learned of another school closing; we estimate this non-managed school will reduce revenue by another $7 Million and operating income $5 Million.

“We were told the school was closing due to its inability to meet academic standards, marking yet another failed chapter in the virtual charter school story.

“More Bad News For K12’s Fiscal 2019

“On Monday, we released a report that disclosed five K12 (NYSE:LRN) schools that are closing or at risk of closing after this school year and a first ever union contract for the California Virtual Academies. We estimate that the lost revenue and increased expenses will cause pre-tax earnings to decline $20 Million and lead K12 to lose money in fiscal 2019 and beyond.

“Yesterday, we were told of yet another school closing. A parent of the Texas Virtual Academy (TVA) 3-8 Campus told us that, according to a letter from the school, it will be closing after the school year due to an inability to meet academic standards.

“We called K12, who partners with the school’s operator, and the enrollment specialist confirmed that the school is closing.”

In 2014, the NCAA announced that it would no longer accept credits accrued by student athletes at 24 K12 Inc. virtual charters.


Lisa Haver and Deborah Grill pose this question in an incisive article in the Philadelphia Inquirer. 

There was a national media flap when billionaire investor Stephen Schwarzman offered his alma mater in Abington, Pennsylvania, $25 million in exchange for renaming the school, putting his name over six entrances, and changing the curriculum to meet his demands. Ultimately, the board refused some but not all of his requirements.

Haver and Grill worked in the Philadelphia public schools. They say, “Welcome to our world,” where the Uber-rich have owned the public schools for years and run them into the ground.

”In November 2011, the state-imposed School Reform Commission (SRC), absent any public deliberation, approved a multimillion-dollar grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. In return, the SRC agreed to several conditions, including yearly charter expansion, implementation of Common Core standards, more school “choice” and testing, and permanent school closures. No one elected Bill Gates, typically portrayed in the media as just a very generous rich guy, to make decisions about Philadelphia’s public schools. But his mandates have had devastating and lasting effects on the district, much more than renaming one school.”

No one elected Bill Gates. An unelected board outsourced control of the Philadelphia public schools to an unaccountable billionaire. Why? Money. No evidence. No research. No wisdom. Just money. Goal: Privatization. Means: Silence the public.

“Here in Philadelphia, the Gates Compact conferred authority upon the Philadelphia School Partnership (PSP) “to provide funding …to low-performing or developing schools.” PSP has since raised tens of millions from a stable of wealthy donors; most has gone to charter schools, in keeping with Gates’ pro-privatization ideology. PSP’s influence has grown in the last seven years: the group now funds and operates teacher and principal training programs, oversees a website rating all Philadelphia schools, and holds the district’s yearly high school fair. PSP’s money, like Schwarzman’s, always comes with strings attached, whether that means changing a school’s curriculum or a complete overhaul of faculty and staff, as its 2014 grant to two North Philadelphia schools mandated.”

The PSP meetings are closed to the public. Its board members are wealthy suburbanites.

There is something to be said for democracy. Why has Philadelphia prevented its citizens from having any role in the o ersight of the public schools? Could those who have a genuine stake in them do worse than the rich dilettantes who control them now?






John Thompson, teacher and historian in Oklahoma, writes here about Deborah Gist, now superintendent in Tulsa, formerly State Superintendent in Rhode Island during the infamous mass firing of the staff at Central Falls High School in 2010.

He writes:

What’s the Matter with Deborah Gist’s Tulsa?

As explained previously, teacher walkouts started in Oklahoma and other “red” states are primarily caused by the rightwing agenda described in Thomas Frank’s What’s the Matter with Kansas? And so far, the teachers’ rebellions are mostly coming from places where corporate school reform was imposed. But as Jeff Bryant notes, teacher resistance is growing in the “purple” state of Colorado and other regions. Bryant explains:

“The sad truth is financial austerity that has driven governments at all levels to skimp on education has had plenty of compliance, if not downright support, from centrist Democrats who’ve spent most of their political capital on pressing an agenda of “school reform” and “choice” rather than pressing for increased funding and support that schools and teachers need.”

Data-driven, charter-driven reforms incentivized by the Race to the Top and edu-philanthropy likely contributed to recent walkouts by weakening unions and the professional autonomy of educators. This undermined both the political power required to fight budget cuts, and the joy of teaching and learning.

And that brings us to the question of What’s the Matter with the Tulsa Public Schools?

Whether its Dana Goldstein writing in the New York Times, Mike Elk writing for the Guardian, or Oklahoma reporters, the coverage cites disproportionate numbers of Tulsa teachers. Their complaints start with budget cuts but often mention the ways that the TPS is robbing teachers and principals of their professional autonomy.

Goldstein notes that Deborah Gist is now allied with the Oklahoma Education Association in advocating for increased teacher salaries, even though she was “the hard-charging education commissioner in Rhode Island [who] tried to weaken teachers’ seniority protections and often clashed with their union.” I wonder, however, whether Gist’s policies have contributed to the anger and exhaustion that prompted the walkout. After all, Gist is a member of the corporate reform “Chiefs for Change,” and a Broad Academy graduate in a system with nine other Broadies, and who is now expanding charter and “partnership schools.”

Tulsa started down a dubious policy path of “exiting” teachers around the time when Gist was attacking Rhode Island teachers. It accepted a Gates Foundation “teacher quality” grant. A Tulsa World analysis of turnover data showed that the Gates effort was followed by “a significant uptick … when it suddenly went from about 200-250 exits in any given year and jumped in 2011 to about 360-400 per year. That’s when the district began using its then-new teacher evaluation for ‘forced exits’ of teachers for performance reasons.”

From 2012 through 2014, “some 260 ‘forced exits’ were reported by TPS leaders.”

The World reports that teacher turnover grew even more after Gist arrived. Over the last two years, there has been an “exodus of 1,057, or 35 percent, of all 3,000 school-based certified staff.” The district’s average turnover rate was 21% in 2016-17, with turnover reaching 47% in one school.

And what happened to student performance? Tulsa’s test score gains are now among the lowest in the nation, with 3rd graders growing only 3.8 years during their next 5 years of schooling.

The World’s data shows that the exodus is not merely due to low salaries. About 28% of former teachers “are not in higher-paying states but in other Oklahoma school districts with comparable pay.”

The World quotes a former Tulsa teacher criticizing the implementation of “personalized learning.” He could understand how standardized laptop technology “could help bad or inexperienced teachers, but for him, it made him feel like little more than a computer lab attendant.” The teacher said the TPS “standardized it so we’re all at the low-rung of the totem pole. … That’s like a huge slap in the face for a teacher. That’s the best part of teaching for most people is to be able to design and use your creativity.”

Earlier this year, Tulsa teacher resistance began in Edison Preparatory School, a high-performing school with a five-year teacher turnover rate of 62%. An Advanced Placement teacher, Larry Cagle, has been quoted extensively by the national press. Cagle recounted how “year after year, high-quality teachers retire early.” So, he and fellow teachers started to address both the deterioration of school climate and the increase in turnover.

Even though Cagle has sympathy for the administration which has to face serious budget challenges, he challenges its Broad-style, top-down policies. Despite the teacher shortage, the administration is incentivizing the retirements of older teachers. It is also using philanthropic donations to fund the Education Service Center (ESC), which sounds to me like a misnomer. Its highly-paid administrators have disempowered rather than served administrators and teachers.

Cagle says, “We would like the ESC to stop lobbying philanthropists,” and start lobbying legislators.

A detailed analysis by Tulsa Kids shows that the Tulsa micromanaging is consistent with that of other failed Broad-run districts. And its comments by TPS teachers is especially revealing. A teacher who worked with the Broad-laden administrative team wrote that they identified themselves as the “Super Team.”

And that helps explain why so many Tulsa teachers walked out of their classrooms before the statewide walkout. If the reign of Gist is not stopped, even the $6,100 pay increase will not be enough to start rebuilding its schools. What happens, however, if Oklahoma’s reenergized teachers fight back against the Billionaires Boys Club’s mandates? Maybe Colorado teachers will do the same with its corporate reforms that were choreographed by the Democrats for Education Reform, as Arizona teachers resist their state’s mass privatization, and Kentucky teachers challenge last year’s attacks on their state’s profession.


The University of Arkansas has a “Department of Education Reform”  that exists to prove the value of school choice. Members of the department churn out studies demonstrating the success of school choice.

They just published a study of vouchers in Louisiana, in which they acknowledged that students who use vouchers don’t get higher scores. Well, that undermines the familiar trope about “saving poor kids from failing schools.”

But do not despair, Walton funders. The researchers you fund assert that students with vouchers are more likely to graduate from high school.

But there is a problem, as Mercedes Schneider, a researcher and high school teacher in Louisiana, observes. Their findings are not statistically significant. 

She calls the study “another festival of nothing.”

Chalkbeat reported on the study. But even Chalkbeat noted that the results were not statistically significant.

As Schneider writes:

”The University of Arkansas (UArk) has a Department of Ed Reform (EDRE) funded by the Waltons, who spend untold millions (billions?) promoting school choice in the form of charters and vouchers.

“Thus it comes as no surprise that EDRE studies school voucher programs, including the one in Louisiana, called the Louisiana Scholarship Program (LSP), which has not fared well in voucher research.

“In EDRE’s latest study on Louisiana vouchers, researchers considered two groups of high schoolers who chose to participate in LSP: those who were awarded their first choice of LSP-participating private school and those who did not receive their first choice. The outcome measure of interest was initial college enrollment (enrolled or not enrolled in 2- or 4-year institutions).

“So, this is not a study in which students who chose vouchers are being compared to those who did not choose vouchers at all (and who did not choose to leave a public school for a voucher-accepting private school). It is a study comparing only students who chose to participate in LSP (and who were granted first-choice school) with other students who chose to participate in LSP (and who were not granted first-choice school).

“The findings amount to nothing.”

Nothing. Not statistically significant.

The students were not saved.

Hey, Walton Family Foundation. Stop wasting money on vouchers.

Support public schools.