Archives for the month of: March, 2019

Anthony Cody, co-founder of the Network for Public Education, arrived at the DeVos budget hearing very early. He was there at 7:30 am and chose a seat directly behind where the speaker would be.  He was directly over her left shoulder, scowling. I remembered the guy in the plaid shirt at a Trump rally, similarly located, shaking his head no and making quizzical expressions.

Anthony did not hear anything he liked. Cutting the budget; cutting Special Olympics; hundreds of millions for a failed and unnecessary charter school program.

DeVos ❤️ charters. The 💋of ☠️

Well done, Anthony!

cody

 

Anna Phillips of the Los Angeles Times has written a powerful expose of California’s “Wild West” charter industry. This is the first of three articles.

The article is titled:

“How a couple worked charter school regulations to make millions”

The article begins:

“The warning signs appeared soon after Denise Kawamoto accepted a job at Today’s Fresh Start Charter School in South Los Angeles.

“Though she was fresh out of college, she was pretty sure it wasn’t normal for the school to churn so quickly through teachers or to mount surveillance cameras in each classroom. Old computers were lying around, but the campus had no internet access. Pay was low and supplies scarce — she wasn’t given books for her students.

“She struggled to reconcile the school’s conditions with what little she knew about its wealthy founders, Clark and Jeanette Parker of Beverly Hills.

When Kawamoto saw their late-model Mercedes-Benz outside the school, she would think: “Look at your school, then look at what you drive.”

“That didn’t sit well with us teachers,” she said.

“The Parkers have cast themselves as selfless philanthropists, telling the California Board of Education that they have “devoted all of our lives to the education of other people’s children, committed many millions of our own dollars directly to that particular purpose, with no gain directly to us.”

“But the couple have, in fact, made millions from their charter schools. Financial records show the Parkers’ schools have paid more than $800,000 annually to rent buildings the couple own. The charters have contracted out services to the Parkers’ nonprofits and companies and paid Clark Parker generous consulting fees, all with taxpayer money, a Times investigation found.

”Presented with The Times’ findings, the Parkers did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

“How the Parkers have stayed in business, surviving years of allegations of financial and academic wrongdoing, illustrates glaring flaws in the way California oversees its growing number of charter schools.

“Many of the people responsible for regulating the couple’s schools, including school board members and state elected officials, had accepted thousands of dollars from the Parkers in campaign contributions.

“Like other charter operators who have run into trouble, the Parkers were able to appeal to the state Board of Education when they faced the threat of being shut down; the panel is known for overturning local regulators’ decisions. A Times analysis of the state board’s decisions has found that, over the last five years, it has sided with charters over local school districts or county offices of education in about 70% of appeals.

“California law also enables troubled charter operators to escape sanction or scrutiny by moving to school districts more willing to accept them. The Parkers have used this to their advantage, keeping one step ahead of the regulators.”

The Parkers live in a 7,700 foot mansion in Beverley Hills, valued at more than $15 million.

The city and county have repeatedly tried to close down their charter schools, only to be overridden by the state. Their scores swing wildly from the lowest in the state to among the highest, then down again. The Parkers contributed to the then superintendent’s campaign fund. He recommended renewal. The state board agreed. Soon after the renewal, a teacher at the school wrote county and state officials to complain about malfeasance and neglect at the school, so bad that students were endangered. Children were sometimes served food that was spoiled or undercooked. Supplies were scarce.He was fired.

Mrs. Parker, who receives a salary of $285,000 as superintendent of her charter chain, gave Mr. Parker a contract for $575,000 to manage construction of their new school in Inglewood.

Last year, Governor Jerry Brown reluctantly signed legislation banning for-profit charters (reluctantly, because he had previously vetoed similar legislation), but that has no effect on this charter chain, which is technically not for profit.

Phillips describes the law, how it was written to “unleash creativity” by deregulating charters and by requiring them to get approvals by local, then county, then state officials. California has 330 different authorizers, compared to only 18 in Texas. Oversight is patchy, slipshod, sometimes nonexistent. As the Parkers realized, campaign contributions to school board members can ease the way to approval.

The Parkers are adept at shopping for friendly authorizers. They opened a charter in distressed Compton and generously contributed to the campaign funds of board members, including the board President.

When the school came up for renewal, district staff warned of deficiencies, noting that “Jeanette Parker had not disclosed who was on her organization’s board or whom her charter was doing business with.”

“Please note that the petition is generally vague and inconsistent regarding the details of the programs outlined in the petition,” the report said.

“Still, district officials recommended renewal. They had been assured, Brawley said, “that the deficiencies identified in the petition would be rectified.”

“When the charter’s renewal came up in December, Compton school board members did not discuss the charter’s academic performance. They did not question the Parkers, who sat before them in the audience.

“What they did was a foregone conclusion.

“The board took less than a minute to vote unanimously to renew Today’s Fresh Start until June 2023.”

 

Betsy DeVos was grilled yesterday in Congressional hearings about her budget proposals. She was repeatedly questioned about her desire to increase charter school funding from $440 million to $500 million a year. The Network for Public Education report on the waste, fraud, and abuse in this program was cited.

While increasing the charter budget, DeVos wants to cut $18 million from the Special Olympics, which benefits 272,000 children with disabilities. 

To put it mildly, her priorities are wacky. She wants to cut the budget of a successful and valuable program while heaping money on charters that are likely to never open or quickly close.

DeVos said the philanthropic community already funds the Special Olympics. The same is true of charters. Billionaires and Wall Street heap hundreds of millions on charters. The Waltons alone have spent more than a billion on charters. Why does the Federal government add hundreds of millions more?

To add insult to injury. She is proposing a 12% cut for the Department but a 15% increase in executive salaries.

Then there was this exchange, reported by Politico:

“— Another concern raised by Democrats was the department’s proposal to cut funding for the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program, which funds aftercare. Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) questioned DeVos about why she’s attempting again to cut a program that’s long had bipartisan support and has shown results. She noted that Congress had rebuffed the proposal last year, and instead gave the program a $10 million boost.

“— DeVos responded that the funds flowing out of the program aren’t necessarily getting to the centers that work really well and there aren’t great participation rates. She said the department’s budget focused on things “we really know are yielding results.””

If DeVos cared about results, the Department would cut funding new charters (many of which will never open, will close soon after they opened, will get poor results, or will cherrypick the students likeliest to succeed on tests), and eliminate all proposed funding to vouchers, which consistently get very poor results.

The only good thing about the DeVos heading was that Anthony Cody arrived early, sat directly behind DeVos, and scowled throughout her testimony, prominently featured on CSPAN. He was her Greek chorus.

 

Fire and building inspectors condemned the Delaware Christian Academy after entering the building and finding its six students huddled around a heater for warmth. Betsy DeVos always says that parents always know best, but why did these parents send their children to school in an unsafe building?

”Fire and building inspectors say they found six students at the private Delaware Christian Academy “huddled around a kerosene heater in blankets trying to stay warm” one morning last week.

“Authorities ordered the building — the former Riley Elementary School on North Walnut Street — to be vacated. The children’s teacher took them home.

“Meanwhile, the city building commissioner on Wednesday condemned the structure, finding it unsafe for occupancy.

“The school, whose enrollment has declined to just six students, was using only one classroom in the 28,282-square-feet building.

“The school superintendent acknowledged in an interview Thursday that the building has deficiencies but denied the children were cold — “some kids just like to have blankets” — and said the plan is to reopen.”

A school of six students? Six vouchers do not produce enough revenue for one teacher. Not to mention enough revenue to heat and maintain the building.

 

Gay Adelmann, Parent Activist in Jefferson County and Leader of Save Our Schools Kentucky, writes about the hostile actions of the Kentucky Legislature: 

 

Privatization or Potential Punishment: Are Louisville Teachers Being Forced To Choose The Lesser of Two Evils?

“The beatings will continue until morale improves,” seems to be the mantra of the Kentucky GOP when it comes to public education.

In the latest attack on its teachers, Kentucky’s new pro-charter education commissioner vowed to not punish teachers “as long as there are no more work stoppages.” It’s unclear whether the final day of Kentucky’s legislative session this Thursday will be met with another teacher-led “sick out.” It would be the 7th sickout in Jefferson County in a month. Kentucky Legislature has been on recess the last 14-days, resuming on March 28 for “sine die” and to pass any final legislation.

In addition to other terrible bills that pose a potential risk, nine resolutions stand ready to be passed by the Kentucky Senate, which would confirm the governor’s newest seven appointments to the Kentucky Board of education. The two additional resolutions appear to extend the length of current appointees’ service by swapping their seats (expiring in 2020) with two who would have been appointed to the new slots, possibly a maneuver to protect key players in the event Kentucky’s unpopular governor does mitt win reelection.

The entire 14-member board is now completely made up of privatization-friendly appointees from Kentucky’s charter-pushing, ALEC-backed governor, following an earlier round of appointments two years prior. Last year, the new board ousted the Commonwealth’s highly qualified commissioner, Stephen Pruitt, the day after they were appointed, and replaced him with an 5-year teacher and charter school ideologue who immediately called for a state takeover of the state’s largest district.

Serving nearly 100,000 students, and a $1.7 billion annual budget, Jefferson County Public Schools is by far the largest school district in the state of Kentucky, and the 30th largest in the nation.

Let’s ignore the fact that few, if any, of these board members have experience as educators or parents in the public school sector. In fact, several of the members have direct ties to charter schools and have been working behind the scenes to undermine public schools and/or position themselves to potentially profit from charters, scholarship tax credits and state takeovers of schools and districts.

KBE appointments subject to confirmation include Hal Heiner, Gary Houchens, and Ben Cundiff. Their names, along with that of their chosen commissioner, Wayne Lewis, can be found on formation documents and on boards of existing charter schools dating back to 2011, long before they worked their way into positions of conflict of interest or self-dealing.

Charters, vouchers, “scholarships” and myraid other hedge-fund darling investments have been the law of the land on 43 other states, so these well-funded privatizers know how to penetrate a market. And once they’re in, they can have their way with everything else they want. We know. We’ve heard this from allies in Indiana, Tennessee, Florida, Arizona, California, West Virginia, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Iowa, Washington State, the list goes on and on.

These folks keep telling us, “whatever you do, don’t let them in. It’s much harder to get them out once you have them.” JCPS teachers see it, and they have been literally keeping these most dangerous bills at bay this session and last. “To again fail to (approve charter funding) is pretty shocking and something we’ve never seen in any other state,” according to Todd Ziebarth, a national charter school advocate who helped craft the 2017 law.

But this fight is far from over. So what legislation is still in play that could happen on Thursday?

House Bill 358 would give public universities the option to exit the Kentucky Employees’ Retirement System (KERS). The bill passed the House where the Senate “took a problematic bill and transformed it into an outright dangerous one,” according to Louisville House Rep Lisa Willner. “The Senate version would still permit public universities to opt out of the public retirement system (KERS), and would all but require that “quasi-governmental” agencies – community mental health centers, domestic violence shelters, child advocacy organizations, rape crisis centers, and all 61 health departments statewide – exit the public retirement system altogether. The Senate version of HB 358 threatens the very existence of these lifeline organizations, and could effectively dismantle the statewide system of public protection and crisis support.” The number of Kentucky workers whose inviolable contracts would be broken would expand to nearly 9,000.

Although many legislators have assured us HB205 (Scholarship Tax Credits) and HB525 (Pension Trustee Appointments) are dead this session, it doesn’t mean they won’t continue to bring them back next year and the year after that until they pass, much like they did with charter school legislation, which finally passed in 2017. Our only saving grace has been the fact that there was so much pushback, the general assembly’s been unable to muster enough intestinal fortitude to fund them again this session. The trick is figuring out if we can really trust this latest promise, because those in the minority are usually the last to know what’s going on, and those in the supermajority have broken our trust before.

The same body that passed an unconstititional “sewer bill” on the last day of 2018 session is the same body that called a special session to try to pass it again constitutionally last winter. And now we’re simply supposed to trust them when they say these harmful education bills are dead?

But those bills aren’t the only threat in the near future. As I mentioned, charter school legislation passed in 2017, but has yet to be funded. A looming state takeover of JCPS could open the door to conversion charter schools, without waiting for any funding mechanism to pass.

Could the confirmation of the KBE appointments be checkmate for Jefferson County Public Schools? Or said another way, could a disruption in the confirmation of these appointments derail the privatizers’ agenda to implement charter schools in our most vulnerable communities? If for no other reason, concerned citizens of Jefferson County need to email, call and then head to Frankfort on Thursday to put pressure on the Kentucky Senate to not confirm Bevin’s appointments to the KBE.

Jefferson County teachers are fighting against a “solution” that has been not only proven not to work, but leads to school closures, district bankruptcies, displaced vulnerable students and increased taxes.

If I were a teacher, I would be outraged at Commissioner Lewis’ latest attempts to bully and intimidate teachers. I’d love to see teachers call his bluff and reveal their collective power over him..

But I’m not a teacher. I’m a parent, community organizer, concerned citizen and taxpayer (link:https://www.courier-journal.com/story/opinion/2019/03/26/jcps-parents-students-should-join-teacher-sickout-gay-adelmann/3269349002/) who recognized years ago that her son’s “failing” public school in a high-minority, high-poverty area of town was being groomed for a charter school takeover. And yet, here we are, six years and one helluva fight later, risking watching everything we’ve been warning folks about come to fruition.

The Friday following the last sickout, many parents also kept their children home to show solidarity with teachers who have been fighting for our students, and to exercise the only power they knew how. There is talk of another parent-led action during the week of abusive state testing. It’s time teachers and parents in these red states recognize the power they do hold, and to use it to stop the hostilities coming out of Frankfort.

Whether it’s parents or teachers doing the talking, it’s time to turn the conversation around and say to Lewis, the KBE and our state legislators, “There will be no more closures to our public schools, as soon as you stop the shady attempts to privatize them against the wishes of taxpayers and against the best interest of our most vulnerable students.”

Dear JCPS invites other concerned citizens to Frankfort on March 28 for a Rally in the Rotunda from 10 am – 12 pm. We will also have the table in the annex basement where concerned citizens like myself are happy to answer any other questions you may have about what’s really behind this movement and what are next steps.

Gay Adelmann is a parent of a recent JCPS graduate and co-founder of Dear JCPS and Save Our Schools Kentucky. She can be reached at moderator@dearjcps.com.

 

Tom Ultican has been writing about differentcities where the Destroy Public Education Movement has made extraordinary gains. Atlanta has fallen into the clutches of the DPE as a result of Teach for America’s success in electing its alumni to the school board, which hired a superintendent committedto the DPE agenda.

Ultican writes:

“On March 4, the Atlanta Public School (APS) board voted 5 to 3 to begin adopting the “System of Excellent Schools.” That is Atlanta’s euphemistic name for the portfolio district model which systematically ends democratic governance of public schools. The portfolio model was a response to John Chubb’s and Terry Moe’s 1990 book, Politics, Markets, and America’s Schools, which claimed that poor academic performance was “one of the prices Americans pay for choosing to exercise direct democratic control over their schools.”

“A Rand Corporation researcher named Paul Hill who founded the Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE) began working out the mechanics of ending democratic control of public education. His solution to ending demon democracy – which is extremely unpopular with many billionaires – was the portfolio model of school governance.

“The portfolio model of school governance directs closing schools that score in the bottom 5% on standardized testing and reopening them as charter schools or Innovation schools. In either case, the local community loses their right to hold elected leaders accountable, because the schools are removed from the school board’s portfolio. It is a plan that guarantees school churn in poor neighborhoods, venerates disruption and dismisses the value of stability and community history.

Atlanta’s Comprador Regime

“Atlanta resident Ed Johnson compared what is happening in APS to a “comprador regime” serving today’s neocolonialists. In the 19th century, a comprador was a native servant doing the bidding of his European masters; the new compradors are doing the bidding of billionaires privatizing public education.

”Chalkbeat reported that Atlanta is one of seven US cities The City Fund has targeted for implementation of the portfolio district governance model. The city fund was founded in 2018 by two billionaires, John Arnold the former Enron executive who did not go to prison and Reed Hastings the founder and CEO of Netflix. Neerav Kingsland, Executive Director of The City Fund, stated, “Along with the Hastings Fund and the Arnold Foundation, we’ve also received funds from the Dell Foundation, the Gates Foundation, the Walton Family Foundation, and the Ballmer Group.”

“City Fund has designated RedefinED as their representative in Atlanta. Ed Chang, the Executive Director of RedefinED, is an example of the billionaire created education “reform” leader recruited initially by Teach for America (TFA).

“TFA is the billionaire financed destroy-public-education (DPE) army. TFA teachers are not qualified to be in a classroom. They are new college graduates with no legitimate teacher training nor any academic study of education theory. Originally, TFA was proposed as an emergency corps of teachers for states like West Virginia who were having trouble attracting qualified professional educators. Then billionaires started financing TFA. They pushed through laws defining TFA teachers as “highly qualified” and purchased spurious research claiming TFA teachers were effective. If your child is in a TFA teacher’s classroom, they are being cheated out of a professionally delivered education. However, TFA provides the DPE billionaires a group of young ambitious people who suffer from group think bordering on cult like indoctrination.

“Chang is originally from Chicago where he trained to be a physical therapist. He came south as a TFA seventh grade science teacher. Chang helped found an Atlanta charter school and through that experience received a Building Excellent Schools (BES) fellowship. BES claims to train “high-capacity individuals to take on the demanding and urgent work of leading high-achieving, college preparatory urban charter schools.

“After his subsequent charter school proposal was rejected, Chang started doing strategy work for the Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP). This led him to a yearlong Fisher Fellowship training to start and run a KIPP charter school. In 2009, he opened KIPP STRIVE Academy in Atlanta.

“While complicit in stealing neighborhood public schools from Atlanta’s poorest communities, Chang says with a straight face, “Education is the civil rights movement of today.

“Chang now has more than a decade working in billionaire financed DPE organizations. He started in TFA, had two billionaire supported “fellowships” and now has millions of dollars to use as the Executive Director of RedefinED. It is quite common for TFA alums like Chang to end up on the boards of multiple education “reform” organizations.

“Under Chang’s direction, RedefinED has provided monetary support for both the fake teacher program, TFA, and the fake graduate school, Relay. In addition, they have given funds to the Georgia Charter School Association, Purpose Built Schools, Kindezi School, KIPP and Resurgence Hall.”

Keep reading to learn the scope of the civic disaster in Atlanta, where DPE is rapidly applying its failed ideas and dismantling public education.

The sad part of DPE is that it proclaims lofty goals but eventually has to confront its failures, which are predictable.

 

Reflecting on the recentmassive scandal of rigging college acceptances, Valerie Strauss discusses the debate about whether the SAT and ACT are necessary. 

Research indicates that a student’s four year record reveals more about his or her college readiness than either of the two big standardized tests.

Wealthy parents have always had advantages, including the ability to pay tutors to help their children.

Now we see that some parents paid to have someone take the test for their childor change the answers from wrong to right.

Fairtest has long kept count of the number of colleges and universities that have gone “test-optional.” The number now exceeds 1,000. The elite University of Chicago joined the list.

One thing is clear: from NCLB To the SAT, American schools place far too much emphasis on standardized tests.

 

 

If you liked the NPE report ASLEEP AT THE WHEEL, released today by the Network for Public Education, please consider joining. It is free. We rely on donations. We believe in the power of numbers, combined with a small but amazing staff. If you sign up, you will get alerts about what is happening in DC and in your own state, where your participation can make a difference. You will be asked to send emails to your representatives when important matters are being decided.

If you want to become more active in the fight for better public schools and against privatization and high-stakes testing, we can direct you to local groups in your state. We have toolkits for civic action.

Our affiliate (Network for Public Education Action) endorses candidates for local and state elections.

We believe that people power can beat money power, when we are informed and organize. We are many, they are few.

Go to this link to learn more about what you can do and how you can get involved. 

Our next national conference will be held in the spring of 2020 in Philadelphia. Stay tuned for details.

You can find “Asleep At the Wheel” here. 

 

 

 

 

John Rogers and his research team at UCLA have completed a valuable study of the effect of Trump and his ideology on schools, students, and society. 

If you go to the link, you can open the report.

Here is a summary:

“This study examines how a broad set of social issues at the forefront of the Trump presidency are felt and affect students and educators within America’s high schools.  We look closely at:

  1. Political division and hostility;
  2. Disputes over truth, facts, and the reliability of sources;
  3. Opioid misuse and addiction;
  4. The threat of immigration enforcement;
  5. The threats of gun violence on school campuses.

“In addition to assessing the impact of these challenges on students’ learning and wellbeing, we also report on how high school principals throughout the U.S. are addressing these issues.  Further, we measure how the impact and responses differ across schools depending on student demographics, geographic location, or partisan orientation of the surrounding community.

“The study findings are based on an online survey conducted in the summer of 2018 by UCLA’s Institute for Democracy Education and Access (IDEA) of 505 high school principals whose schools provide a representative sample of all U.S. public high schools. UCLA IDEA also conducted 40 follow-up interviews with principals who participated in the survey selected to be representative of the larger pool of schools.

“Our findings make clear that in the age of Trump, America’s high schools are greatly impacted by rising political incivility and division.

  • Eighty-nine percent of principals report that incivility and contentiousness in the broader political environment has considerably affected their school community.
  • Eighty-three percent of schools see these tensions intensified and accelerated by the flow of untrustworthy or disputed information and the increasing use of social media that is fueling and furthering division among students and between schools and the communities.
  • Sixty-two percent of schools have been harmed by opioid abuse.
  • Sixty-eight percent of the principals surveyed say federal immigration enforcement policies and the political rhetoric around the issue have negatively impacted students and their families.
  • Ninety-two percent of principals say their school has faced problems related to the threat of gun violence

“In the face of these societal challenges, it is students themselves who bear the brunt of the impact.  Many students feel greater anxiety, stress, and vulnerability, and parental opioid misuse and aggressive immigration enforcement have both resulted in greater material deprivation for young people—unstable housing, insecure food supplies, and a lack of other necessary supports.

“School principals are also impacted. The average principal in the study reports spending six and a half hours a week addressing the five societal challenges. One in four principals spend the equivalent of one workday a week responding to the challenges.  That time represents lost opportunity costs, taking time away from efforts to meet students’ academic needs and enhance the quality of teaching and learning.

“The report closes with a call for relationship-centered schools that attend to the holistic needs of young people and their families, while building social trust and understanding.  We recommend:

  1. Establish and communicate school climate standards emphasizing care, connectedness, and civility and then create practices that enable educational systems to document and report on conditions associated with these standards.
  2. Build professional capacity within educational systems to address the holistic needs of students and communities and extend this capacity by supporting connections between school-based educators and other governmental agencies and community-based organizations serving young people and their families
  3. Develop integrated systems of health, mental health, and social welfare support for students and their families.
  4. Create and support networks of educators committed to fostering care, connectedness, and strong civility in their public education systems.”

 

 

 

Kevin Bosworth, a teacher at Olathe East High School in Olathe, Kansas, wrote to tell me about a class discussion of grades and tests. A student shared her poem with the class, and Kevin shared it with me. The reformers and disrupters now say they are intrigued with social and emotional learning. Let them read this and see what they have learned.

 

Hello my name is worthless

Name number and date

State your class and hour

Let the rubric pick your fate

 

Your value as a human

Can be measured by percent

All that matters is the value

That the numbers represent

 

We promise that you matter

You’re more than just a grade

But you better score one hundred

Or else you won’t get paid

 

They require our attendance

We’re brain dead taking notes

So we can barf back up the knowledge

That they shove down our throats

 

Each human life is precious

And every childhood has worth

But if you fill in the wrong bubbles

Then you don’t belong on earth

 

They question our depression

They wonder why we’re stressed

When our futures are decided

Doing better on a test

 

They tell me that I’m gifted

That there’s no need to despair

But if you only read the numbers

I’m a living waste of air

 

I might think I have talents

But there’s no worth in art

Because it can’t be measured

By a number on a chart

 

The people say I’m flying

The numbers say I’ll crash

My letter grades ‘ll prove it

I’m worthless human trash

They use standardized procedures

To find the worth of kids

But I don’t fit in boxes

Without spilling out the lids

 

Some kids don’t fit the system

But differences can’t stay

They put us in the garbage

And throw it all away