Archives for the month of: January, 2019

A reporter in Dallas wants to know why social impact bonds are a bad idea. Or if they are a good idea.


Please write him.


Nevada’s State Commissioner Steve Canavero and two of his deputies are leaving.

“Nevada’s K-12 system consistently ranks as one of the worst-performing in the nation, according to NAEP scores and Education Week‘s Quality Counts. This has frustrated state and local politicians, technocrats and practitioners and led to a series of ambitious efforts over the years to improve the system.

“Canavero, whose last day will be Feb. 6, was appointed by former Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval to be the state’s interim superintendent in 2015 and hired full time into the role in 2016.  He has overseen the creation of the state’s plan under the Every Student Succeeds Act, the start of a state-run district that oversees some of the state’s worst-performing schools, and a debate over how expansive the state’s charter sector should be. “

Canavero loved charters and created a Nevada version of Tennessee’s failed Achievement School District. It was a disaster. Charters in Nevada are the lowest performing schools in the state.




Mark Zuckerberg and the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative funded the Summit learning program, which is computer-based online instruction. not personalized learning.

Students in Kansas sent a message to Zuckerberg:


Another student #walkout vs #SummitLearning – this time at McPherson MS in Kansas. Like earlier one in Brooklyn, protest was sparked by students’ frustrations about inadequacies of the online Learning program

Waving signs and chanting “No Summit, No Summit, No Summit,” the students spent their afternoon out of class venting their frustration with the changes in their curriculum…. “It’s a learning program that is supposed to be a better way, but you are just on a computer,” said Drake Madden, a seventh grader. “Every time I get home, my head starts hurting.” he said.

Video here:

Justin Parmenter, an NBCT high school teacher in North Carolina, writes here about the rapid expansion of charter schools in his state, which is doing serious damage to public schools. Charters were not promoted in North Carolina but by Tea Party Republicans who want to destroy public schools and make money.

Charter schools are playing a damaging role in North Carolina, acting as a vehicle for resegregation of the schools.

He begins:

This week is National School Choice Week, and you’re going to hear a lot of charter school proponents talking about what a great thing choice is for families when it comes to education. Folks who are opposed to unchecked charter expansion will be derisively labeled ‘anti-choice,’ as if their views run counter to American democratic values. But the charter movement in our state is deeply problematic, and it’s important that we have a fact-based conversation about it.

On its face, choice sounds good. We expect it when we go to the store for salad dressing, when we’re looking at books at the library, or when we’re holding the tv remote. What kind of person could possibly be against others having the freedom to make choices when it comes to their children’s education? But what happens when the choices I’m making have a negative impact on those around me? What happens when those choices don’t occur in a vacuum?

Charter schools were originally intended as places of innovation, where educators could develop new approaches in a less regulated setting and collaborate with traditional public schools to improve outcomes for all. In some states, charter schools have been able to stay relatively true to that mission. Not so in North Carolina.

On a systems level, the good that charter schools are able to do is determined 100% by the policies that govern them. In North Carolina, charter school policy is a mess, and that mess is leading to some really bad outcomes for our children.

Since the cap on charter schools was lifted by North Carolina’s state legislature in 2012, the number of charter schools in the state has nearly doubled. This year we have 185 charter schools in operation, serving more than 100,000 students across the state (overseen by a staff of 8 people). Next year we’ll have 200.

The rapidly expanding charter schools siphon money away from traditional public schools and reduce what services those public schools can offer to students who remain, according to a recent Duke University study. As students leave for charters, they take their share of funding with them–but the school district they leave is still responsible for the fixed costs of services such as transportation, building maintenance and administration that those funds had supported. Districts are then forced to cut spending in other areas in order to make up the difference. In Durham, where 18% of K-12 students attend charter schools, the fiscal burden on traditional public schools is estimated at $500-700 per student. As the number of charters increases, so will that price tag.

While charter schools in some states have been used successfully to improve academic performance for low-income students, in North Carolina they’ve been used predominantly as a vehicle for affluent white folks to opt out of traditional public schools. Trends of racial and economic segregation that were already worrisome in public schools before the cap was lifted have deepened in our charter schools. Now more than two thirds of our charter schools are either 80%+ white or 80%+ students of color. Charter schools are not required to provide transportation or free/reduced-price meals, effectively preventing families that require those services from having access to the best schools.


Poor Bill Gates. He has poured billions into reinventing education, and nothing has worked. Nothing! Not even in his home state.

One of his fondest desires was to open charter schools in Washington State. He poured millions into a referendum (the fourth in the state), and it barely passed. Then the highest court in the state said the charters couldn’t be supported by the general fund, because they are not really public schools. Public schools have elected boards. At last, he gently persuaded the legislature to tap into the lottery money to pay for Bill’s charters.

But, as Carol Burris writes, the charters did not outperform public schools and did not close achievement gaps.

Oh, woe. Poor Bill!

Burris writes:

“The 2012 initiative was Washington State’s fourth charter school ballot initiative. The previous three attempts failed — in 1996 (64.43 percent opposed to 35.57 percent in favor), 2000 (51.83 percent opposed to 48.17 percent in favor), and 2004 (58.3 percent opposed to 41.7 percent in favor).

“The fourth and final attempt was not pushed by the parents of Washington State. It was pushed and funded by billionaires. The collection of signatures to get the charter initiative on the ballot was a well-coordinated effort that cost nearly $2.5 million.

“Funders of the initiative included Microsoft founder Bill Gates (who contributed over $1 million) and California billionaire Reed Hastings of Netflix. A dark-money group based in New York — Education Reform Now Advocacy, an arm of Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) — contributed large sums as well.

“Without the financial push by billionaires both within and outside the state, the initiative, which barely passed on the fourth attempt, would likely have failed, as did the three previous efforts.

“Let’s fast forward to 2019. What was the outcome for all of those millions contributed allegedly on students’ behalf?

“The Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) at Stanford University, which is funded by pro-charter organizations, recently issued its report comparing the academic growth over a three-year period of students in Washington’s charter schools when compared with their true public school (TPS) counterparts. What it found was that charter school students did no better.

“From that report:

“Over that time, the typical charter school student in Washington demonstrated no statistically different academic growth in reading and math when compared to their exact-match counterpart in nearby district schools (TPS). The trend across the two growth periods shows a slight downward trend in reading and math as the number of students served grew. The finding of no meaningful difference in learning gains held across most of the different student groups within the charter population. Only English language learners [ELLs] experience significantly higher learning gains associated with charter school attendance. Other student subgroups such as students in poverty, Black students, and Hispanic students experience non-significant positive gains on average. “

“It should be noted that the small gains experienced by English Language Learners disappeared when Hispanic ELLs in charters were compared with Hispanic ELLs in public schools. The report also confirmed that charters in Washington, as elsewhere, enrolled fewer special education students and fewer ELLs.




Republican legislators in West Virginia want to tie pay increases for teachers—which they were promised when they went on strike last year—to the introduction of charter schools and vouchers. They think that school choice will raise test scores, which it won’t.

Governor Justice said he won’t support charter schools. The state can’t afford it. Presumably he won’t support vouchers either, which not only reduce revenues but lower test scores.


Robert Kuttner of the American Prospect reports about the con job in Wisconsin:


Kuttner on TAP

Fox Con Job. Remember Foxconn? Then-governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin lured the Chinese company to create “up to” 13,000 jobs in his state, with tax subsidies paid by Wisconsin taxpayers that could to as high as $3 billion. Foxconn was going to build a $10 billion factory complex to produce liquid crystal displays and other tech equipment that it now makes in Asia.

As the Prospect reported in an investigative piece last September, the taxpayer cost per new employee was estimated at $230,000, or five or six times the normal figure in such deals.

Though the 13,000 jobs were an estimate, not a formal commitment, President Trump touted that number at a ground-breaking ceremony last year with Walker, then-House Speaker Paul Ryan, and Foxconn CEO Terry Gou.

Well, that was then.

It now turns out that Foxconn will hire a maximum of 1,000 Wisconsinites, and is not building a factory at all. The company now describes its Wisconsin facility as an R&D center, combined with the possibility of some low-skill final assembly jobs.

There are several morals of this story. One, which we already knew, is never to trust Scott Walker or Donald Trump, either separately or together. Moral two is to keep your hand on your wallet whenever corporate execs hold you up for tax subsidies.

But the more important moral is that if the U.S. is to have a real industrial policy to reclaim U.S. manufacturing jobs, it is utter folly to rely on white knights on the form of Chinese companies. Making American manufacturing great again is not at the top of their national agenda.

Better to spend the money directly, on industrial strategies that benefit companies that are committed to producing in the U.S. It remains to be seen how much of the tax breaks were already squandered and what might be recouped. ~ ROBERT KUTTNER

The New York Times describes the same hoax in polite terms.

It was heralded a year and a half ago as the start of a Midwestern manufacturing renaissance: Foxconn, the Taiwanese electronics behemoth, would build a $10 billion Wisconsin plant to make flat-screen televisions, creating 13,000 jobs. President Trump later called the project “the eighth wonder of the world.”

Now that prospect looks less certain.

Pointing to “new realities” in the market, the company said Wednesday that it was reassessing the plans, underscoring the difficult economics of manufacturing in the United States. “The global market environment that existed when the project was first announced has changed,” Foxconn said in a statement.

Company officials had signaled for months that their emphasis was increasingly on research and development rather than large-scale production, dampening the potential for blue-collar job creation.

That turn runs counter to Mr. Trump’s vision for the project, which he had cited as a milestone in reversing the decline in factory jobs. The twist also brought new friction in Wisconsin, where the initiative has been politically fraught from the start because of its billions of dollars in tax subsidies.

Foxconn said that it remained committed to creating 13,000 jobs in Wisconsin and that it was “moving forward with plans to build an advanced manufacturing facility.” But it did not address the share of jobs to be devoted to production, and economists questioned how such a large work force could be created if the plant’s focus was on other areas.

A White House spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment.

The Foxconn statement followed a Reuters report that Louis Woo, a special assistant to the company’s chairman, Terry Gou, had said the costs of manufacturing screens for televisions and other consumer products were too high in the United States.

“In terms of TV, we have no place in the U.S.,” Mr. Woo told Reuters. “We can’t compete.”

Mr. Trump’s campaign promise to revitalize American manufacturing was considered an important factor in his capturing Wisconsin and other battleground states in 2016. Yet the cost of luring Foxconn set off a partisan battle in Wisconsin that extended into the midterm elections last year, when Gov. Scott Walker, a Republican, was defeated.

Mr. Walker and state lawmakers had agreed to more than $4 billion in tax credits and other inducements over a 15-year period, an unusually high figure, for a plant in Mount Pleasant, near Racine.

Wisconsin residents have had mixed feelings about the investment, polls show. And early on, economists questioned whether the large-scale manufacturing plant and the thousands of jobs would come to fruition. The increasing focus on research raised new doubts about the scale of hiring — economists said that strategy could produce a smaller number of higher-paying jobs.

“There aren’t that many R&D facilities in the world with 13,000 people,” said Susan Helper, an economist at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland


Interesting new details here about charter schools in Los Angeles. Contrary to the claims of their boosters, the great majority of charters have vacancies (82% do, according to board member Scott Schmerelson) and 8 ofthe 10 worst performing schools in L.A. are charter schools.



AFT President Randi Weingarten on Los Angeles School Board Charter School Moratorium Vote

WASHINGTON—The Los Angeles school board voted 5-1 yesterday to place an eight- to 10-month local moratorium on the opening of new charter schools, which would allow for the completion of a state study on the impact charter schools have on traditional schools. The vote comes after members of the United Teachers Los Angeles settled a contract with the Los Angeles Unified School District last week; one of the major issues in negotiations was how the exponential growth of charter schools has drained resources from the city’s public schools.  UTLA is an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers. AFT President Randi Weingarten issued the following statement: 

“In the wake of tax caps, the lack of appropriate investment has been a challenge for public education in Los Angeles for decades. Add to that the unregulated growth of charter schools that siphoned off more funding, and the result was the scarcity that led to the L.A. teachers’ strike. While charters were sold as a response to the demand for better schools, they too have a mixed record. More than 80 percent of charter schools cannot meet their projected enrollment numbers, and 8 of the 10 worst-performing schools in L.A., including one that has already been closed, are charter schools.

So a moratorium is a good idea to bring equity and sustainability back to LAUSD, and with this vote, the school board made good on its promise to help do it. 

“Now, we work to rebalance the city’s school system so every student has access to a well-funded school with normal class sizes, school nurses and counselors, and the same transparency and accountability measures to make sure kids’ needs are being put before anything else.

This resolution allows everyone who cares about education in Los Angeles to take a step back and make sure those needs are being met.” 

Will Republicans in Senate kill it? Will Trump veto it?

It’s an important step towards recognizing that public schools—not charters or vouchers— are the basic foundation of education and democracy.


January 30, 2019 Contact:

Elena Temple


AFT’s Randi Weingarten on the Rebuild America’s Schools Act
WASHINGTON—American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten issued the following statement on the introduction of the Rebuild America’s Schools Act, a $100 billion proposal to address the chronic underinvestment in school buildings across the country. The legislation will be unveiled tomorrow on Capitol Hill as one of the first items of business for the House Committee on Education and Labor.


“Every day, millions of students and educators across the country attend schools that put their health and safety at risk—black toxic mold on floors, classrooms without heat, leaking ceilings and contaminated water. We cannot send our kids to schools in these conditions and expect them to learn and thrive. Our children deserve better.


“Thanks to the leadership of Chairman Bobby Scott and Sens. Jack Reed and Sherrod Brown, Congress can take long-overdue action to address the deteriorating and obsolete school facilities that exist in far too many of our communities. Rebuilding America’s public schools requires making our school infrastructure a priority and committing resources to back that claim up.”





Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin says Americans have grown “soft,” complaining about schools that were closing due to extreme cold caused by the polar vortex.

Why, when he was a boy, he wore shorts and a T-shirt when the temperature dropped below freezing! The colder it got, the less clothing he wore.

Folks today are wimps! They expect salaries! Pensions! Healthcare! They are all soft! Socialists, maybe. Wimps!