Archives for the month of: April, 2019

 

Shawgi Tell, a professor of education at Nazareth College in Rochester, New York, says that charter schools areprivate schools and should not receive any public funding.

Efforts to make them accountable and transparent are a waste of time, he argues.

if the billions wasted on charter schools had been spent on public schools, they would be well funded, and society would be far better off.

He writes:

“The notion that thousands of charter schools engaged in all sorts of fraud, corruption, waste, and other serious problems can be fixed by implementing “smarter” policies, laws, or regulations that somehow “rein them in” ignores the fact that charter schools are deregulated and have loopholes by conscious design. The “Wild West” feature of charter schools is deliberate, inherent, and directly related to their “free market” underpinnings. This is not some aberration, oversight, or the result of poor thinking and planning. Far more importantly though, such a notion ignores the fact that charter schools have no legitimate claim to public funds or assets because they are not public entities in any way, shape, or form. Charter schools are not public schools; they never have been. Public funds belong only to public schools, no one else. To funnel public wealth to private competing interests under the banner of high ideals is irrational, destructive, and unethical.

“A school cannot be public in the proper sense of the word if its structures, functions, aims, practices, policies, owners, and results differ significantly from public schools that have been around for generations. Furthermore, something does not become public just because it is blindly called public over and over again, or because it is supposedly “tuition-free,” or because it receives public funds.

“Charter schools fail and close for a variety of reasons all the time, namely financial malfeasance and poor academic performance. Thousands of charter schools have closed in under 25 years, leaving many families abandoned and betrayed. “Here-one-day-gone-the-next” is not unusual or shocking in the unstable charter school sector, which is heavily dominated by wealthy private interests. Of course, churn, volatility, instability, and upheaval are the opposite of what a modern education system in a society based on industrial mass production needs. Modern society does not need any more chaos, anarchy, and violence….

”Government is not serving the best interest of the people when, with or without oversight, it annually funnels billions of public dollars to privatized, marketized, corporatized charter schools. Public funds belong to the public, not private competing owners of capital. Charter schools, whether they are transparent or not, have no valid claim to public funds, wealth, and property.”

Edward Johnson, a quality control consultant in Atlanta, wrote a message to the school board of Charleston, South Carolina: Do not copy Atlanta’s radically disruptive experiment as a “portfolio district.” It is a failure.

Johnson is steeped in the highly successful methods of W. Edwards Deming. To learn more about Deming, read Andrea Gabor’s book The Man Who Invented Quality and her recent book, After the Education Wars.

Johnson wrote this letter to the Charleston school board:

 

Urgent Open Letter to Charleston County School District Trustees seeking to do like Atlanta

26 April 2019

Board of Trustees
Charleston County School District
75 Calhoun Street
Charleston SC 29401

Rev. Dr. Eric Mack, Chair
Eric_Mack@charleston.k12.sc.us

Mrs. Kate Darby, Vice Chair
kate_darby@charleston.k12.sc.us

Mrs. Cindy Bohn Coats
cindy_bohn-coats@charleston.k12.sc.us

Rev. Chris Collins
chris_collins@charleston.k12.sc.us

Mr. Todd Garrett
todd_garrett@charleston.k12.sc.us

Mr. Kevin Hollinshead
kevin_hollinshead@charleston.k12.sc.us

Ms. Priscilla Jeffery
priscilla_jeffery@charleston.k12.sc.us

Ms. Joyce Green
joyce_green@charleston.k12.sc.us

Mr. Chris Fraser
chris_fraser@charleston.k12.sc.us

Dr. Gerrita Postlewait, Superintendent
superintendent@charleston.k12.sc.us

Dear Charleston County School District Trustees:

Please, don’t do it.

Please don’t look to Atlanta Public Schools as a model.  More specifically and correctly, please do not look to the Atlanta Board of Education and the APS superintendency as embodying a model of quality public education leadership worthy of emulation.

As regards academic outcomes for especially children labeled “black,” please understand that the leadership of APS continually show they know only to steer the district to experience change after change after change, but never improvement.

Also please understand that the leadership of APS imbibe and entangle private interests, free-market ideology, behaviorism, racialism, and other regressive traits of today’s school reform movement and charter schools, not unlike yesteryear’s institution of slavery.

Since the “school turnaround” strategy they implemented just over four years ago is starting to show signs of failure—predictably so, by the way—the APS leadership are now trying to get ahead of that looming failure by steering the district to change yet again.  However, their change this time portends the most egregious, inherently unethical, anti-public education, and anti-democracy change ever.

Now the APS leadership are actively driving the district to become a free market-styled “portfolio of schools.”  As such, it will be required to manage district schools as one would manage a portfolio of stocks—viz., continually assess performance, keep the top performers, sell off the lowest performers—and even as eighteenth century planters managed portfolios and schedules of “hands” on their plantations (see Accounting for Slavery: Masters and Management).

Deceitfully marketed as “Creating a System of Excellent Schools,” APS, as a portfolio of schools, will serve the interests of charter school operators and other private actors known to contribute to destroying public education as a public good fundamental to sustaining and advancing democratic practice ever closer to democratic ideals.

So, with that said, if you, Charleston County School District Board of Trustees, are honestly and genuinely interested to learn what authentic education system improvement looks like, academically and otherwise, consider visiting and learning from public school districts that have “walked the walk” and not merely “talked the talk”—districts such:

Moreover, in case you have yet to know it, the destructive wave of education reform much as the APS leadership know it and have practiced it, especially during the last five years, is beginning to subside and crash.

Even a leading charter schools proponent admits as much:

  • “The era of the nontraditional ‘no excuses’ urban superintendents is finished. Michelle Rhee, Joel Klein, and Tom Boasberg have all moved on. There are few comparable replacements. The vision of a radically transformed public education system with virtual schools, new charter models, and online personalization has crashed on the shores of reality.” —Van Schoales
Surely, you, the leadership of the Charleston County School District, do not wish to drive your district back to the trailing edge of the now subsiding wave only to have public education in Charleston County eventually crash along with where the leadership of Atlanta Public Schools is driving public education in Atlanta to crash.

Kindly set me straight if I am wrong about what you want to accomplish for the Charleston County School District.

Ed Johnson
Advocate for Quality in Public Education
Atlanta GA | (404) 505-8176 | edwjohnson@aol.com

This is a fascinating interview in which Larry Lee, an educator in Alabama, asks film-maker Mark Hall about how he became interested in school reform, charter schools, and the Gulen charter schools.

Mark Hall made the documentary “Killing Ed” about the Gulen charter schools, which he has shown in dozens of communities.

Lord knows he didn’t do it for the money.

He become interested and had to track down what happened and why. Why did a Turkish imam, living in seclusion in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania, create a large chain of charter schools, staffed mainly by Turkish teachers?

If  you google the film, you can contact Mark Hall and arrange a screening in your community.

 

 

The billionaires understand the growing rage caused by inequality on an unprecedented scale. They worry that the rage might be directed at them. This far, it has been captured by rightwing populists like Trump, whose tax policies deepen the crisis of inequality by transferring more wealth to the one tenth of the one percent.

Jacobin explains that multibillionaires like Bill Gates are trying to buy time through their philanthropy and “the giving pledge,” which commits them to give away a big chunk of their billions when they die. Unfortunately, or fortunately for them, their capital is so vast that they make more money than they give away, without working. At a certain point, capital multiplies just by sitting in stocks and bonds.

Anand Girihadaras hit a nerve in his book Winners Take All, where he described the elite Charade of pretending to save the world through philanthropy, while building mechanisms to control the lives of others.

Charter schools are a perfect example of elite philanthropy that offers a way to “save poor children” while destroying democratically controlled institutions and transferring control to private boards directed by financiers. The parents of the children being “saved” will never have a voice in the education of their children, will never meet face to face with a board member, will never gain admission to a board meeting, and-if they complain too much-will be told to take their child and go elsewhere.

Jan Resseger writes here about the charter schools in Ohio that received federal funding but never opened or closed soon after opening.

In Ohio, nearly $36 million was wasted, and that was only between 2006 and 2014. Throughout the 25-year life of the federal Charter Schools Program, the loss was far greater but has not yet been documented.

She writes:

I suppose the idea is that if you scatter hundreds of seeds across a state, they’ll grow and enrich the educational environment.  But as I examine Ohio’s list of failed or never-opened, CSP-funded charter schools, I can see that the seeds were scattered so widely that they weren’t particularly noticeable even when they came up. Unless there was a splashy scandal or a school was widely advertised on the side of city buses, nobody would have had any idea of the existence or failure of most of the seeds that did come up. And anyway a lot of them never sprouted at all.  Because the Charter Schools Program has lacked oversight from the U.S. Department of Education and because Ohio’s charter schools are poorly regulated by a large number of nonprofit agencies that serve as sponsors, the Ohio press has—until NPE’s Asleep at the Wheel report—not to my knowledge reported that the U.S. Department of Education is funding a lot of failed or never-opened schools. Until now, the failure of this program has been virtually invisible.

In the the list of failed or never-opened Ohio charter schools released last Friday by the Network for Public Education, NPE reports: “Two hundred ninety-three Ohio charter schools were awarded grants through the U.S. Department of Education’s (U.S. DOE) Charter Schools Program (CSP) from money that the U.S. Department of Education gave to the states between 2006-2014.  At this time, at least 117 (40%) of those (Ohio) charter schools were closed or never opened at all.” NPE explains that 20 of the Ohio charter schools on the list never opened; ninety-seven of the Ohio charter schools receiving CSP grants opened but subsequently shut down.

I suspect that like me, hardly anybody in Ohio has heard of most of the 20 schools that received CSP funding but never opened. Here are their names: Academy for Urban Solutions; Buckeye Academy; Central Ohio Early College Academy; Cleveland Arts and Literature Academy; Cleveland Lighthouse Charter Community School West; Columbus Entrepreneurial Academy; Cuyahoga Valley Academy; Medina City Schools Technology School; New Albany School for Performing Arts Middle School 6-8; Phoenix Village Academy Secondary 2; Rising Star Elementary School; School of Tomorrow; Summit Academy Community Schools in Alliance, Marion, Massillon, Columbus, and Cincinnati; Technology and Arts Academy of Cleveland; Vision into Action Academy-South Columbus; and WinWin Academy.  It is difficult to tell from the names of most of these schools even where it was intended that they would be located.

Ninety-seven CSP-funded schools in Ohio have shut down, but from the list, it is not possible to discern whether they were shut down by their sponsors for conflicts of interest or fraud, or whether their sponsors determined they were failing their students academically, or whether they just went broke. Most of the CSP grants awarded to closed or never-opened schools were in the six figure range—$150,000 or more.  Two of the schools that failed or were never opened had been awarded CSP grants over $700,000; three had been granted between $600,000 and $700,000; two had received between $500,000 and $600,000; and 25 had been awarded between $400,000 and $500,000.

The federal Charter Schools Program is neoliberal by design.  It awards public funding to private operators—individuals and companies—to run schools in competition with the traditional public schools. One primary problem with the CSP along with other schemes to privatize the public schools is that oversight is lacking to protect the rights of the students and to protect the stewardship of tax dollars.

 

 

So you assumed Trump assembles a group of knowledgeable experts to discuss policy. Wrong. He assembles his e Peet’s and calls on commentator Lou Dobbs of FOX News to tell them what to do.

Trump should stop pretending and put Hannity, Dobbs, Pirro, and other FOX hosts into his Cabinet.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/hardline-views-made-lou-dobbs-a-fox-powerhouse-now-hes-shaping-trumps-border-policy/2019/04/26/cb8ebd6c-5fa4-11e9-bfad-36a7eb36cb60_story.html

”One day in mid-March, President Trump gathered his top economic team at the White House to get its read on the state of the nation’s financial health.

“But before the Council of Economic Advisers finished its annual get-together with the nation’s chief executive, a basso profundo voice thundered into the room via speakerphone. With the council sitting by, Trump had placed a call to his unofficial policy whisperer — Lou Dobbs, the Fox Business Network host. The call ushered Dobbs into a traditionally private gathering, shielded from the media and investors eager to get a crystal-ball view of what lies ahead.

“The Dobbs-Trump mind meld on display that day is emblematic of a White House where the unusual has become the norm. Day by day, the relationship between the bombastic president and the cranky anchorman has become an object of curiosity and amusement. But it is also something much more profound.

”An echo chamber on ideology and policy has evolved; Trump often takes steps urged by Dobbs, such as declaring a national emergency to pay for a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, pushing out Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and pulling back from a proposed cessation of the trade war with China.

“Born just nine months apart, the 70-somethings share a penchant for schoolyard-style name-calling, grumbling about enemies seen and unseen, an apocalyptic view of illegal immigration and a deep embrace of hair-color shades not found in the natural world.

“Dobbs and Trump, among the most vocal border hawks in recent American history, also both happen to be married to women with recent immigrant heritages. First lady Melania Trump emigrated from Slovenia, and Dobbs’s wife, former CNN sports reporter Debi Lee Segura, is from a family with Mexican American roots.

”In public, Trump and Dobbs have engaged in a kind of lovefest. In a much-discussed October 2017 interview of Trump, Dobbs gushed, “You have accomplished so much” in his introduction and signed off by adding, “You are, if I may say, everything as advertised as you ran for president.” A left-leaning columnist dubbed the sit-down “a masterpiece of sycophancy.”

“Trump, in turn, typically refers to the television host as “The Great Lou Dobbs.” At the New Year’s Eve gala at Mar-a-Lago two months later, the president asked Dobbs to stand and be recognized: “I just wanted to tell you, you are fantastic and we appreciate it,” Trump said…

”Managing Dobbs can be treacherous. Former deputy White House chief of staff Bill Shine, a onetime top Fox News executive, strained to reassure Dobbs that Trump would follow through on promises to take dramatic immigration measures. A White House official, who was not authorized to speak publicly, said Trump grew frustrated with Shine as Dobbs carried on with monologues saying Trump was not taking a hard enough line on immigration.

“The president noticed that, and that was the start of Bill’s problems, in some ways,” the official said.

“The firebrand anchor was pushing for quick action.

“This is the president of the United States,” Dobbs told his audience in January. “He says a wall should be built. That it’s a national emergency. At that point the nation should rally behind him.”

“A month later, Dobbs got his wish: the president declared a national emergency.

“Shine, in office for just eight months, was out of a job before the national emergency went to a vote in Congress.

“Even after the national emergency declaration, Dobbs was grumpy. He set his sights on Nielsen, the beleaguered DHS secretary, who’d managed to anger immigrant advocates who thought she was too tough and the president who was pushing her to be tougher.

“In early March, Dobbs was asking, “Why doesn’t Trump fire Kirstjen Nielsen?”

“Within weeks Nielsen was announcing her resignation.

“Many Trump allies say Dobbs’s repeated criticism of Nielsen, more than anything else, made her position untenable in the administration.

“Think about it,” said one ally who works closely with the administration on immigration and requested anonymity to speak candidly. “Every night at 7 p.m. on Fox you’re getting slammed by Lou as the president watches.”

 

 

Florida is a puzzle. Parents and taxpayers support their community public schools and regularly vote to tax themselves to pay for them. Yet in the general election, they elect legislators who have a financial stake in privatization and are riddled with conflicts of interest.  Some legislators are employed by charter schools and their related companies; some have family members who own and/or operate charter schools. Until the voters figure out that they are being hornswoggled, they will continue to have a Legislature that robs money from their public schools to pay for unaccountable, inefficient charter schools.

 

                            

FEA: Legislature needs to heed voters and fund neighborhood public schools

 

TALLAHASSEE — Time and again, Florida’s electorate has demonstrated broad, bipartisan consensus on the need to increase funding for our students and neighborhood public schools.

 

The evidence of their support for investment in our schools can be found in the tens of thousands of petitions that the Florida Education Association (FEA) is delivering today, in the nearly 2 million Floridians who voted in 2018 to increase their local taxes in order to help schools, and consistently through public-opinion polls.

 

However, House leaders don’t appear to be listening.

 

“Stakeholders around this state have chosen to support their neighborhood public schools through local referendums, choosing to pay out of their own pockets to provide for students and keep qualified educators in classrooms,” said FEA President Fedrick Ingram. “The Florida House now wants to take that money in yet another attempt to defund our neighborhood public schools.”

 

Under House Bill (HB) 7123, money collected locally to support neighborhood public schools would be sent to charter schools and for-profit, out-of-state charter operators. The FEA calls on the House to leave the locally generated dollars alone and to instead follow the Senate’s lead in funding a substantial increase in the state budget’s per-student base allocation for our schools.

 

While financed by taxpayer dollars, charter schools are privately run. They differ markedly in several ways from the neighborhood public schools that educate the great majority of our students:

  • Public schools’ budgets are transparent — in order to get public support for local referendums, school districts had to prove the need for additional money. There is no such financial transparency for charter schools.
  • What little we do know about how charter schools spend their money paints a very troubling picture. Charter schools spend a much lower percentage of their revenue on instruction than public schools.
  • Instead of spending money on students, many charter schools spend in excess of $1 million a year of taxpayer money in fees to for-profit management companies.
  • Academic Solutions Academy in Fort Lauderdale, for instance, spends about 25 percent of all the taxpayer dollars it receives on instructional services, according to a school audit.
  • While HB 7123 does include language that says charter schools must use local levies for voter-authorized purposes, there appears to be no enforcement mechanism for that provision. How can voters be sure that charter schools are using the money the way voters intended, and how will charter schools be held accountable if they don’t?

 

The diversion of locally generated funds would represent one more sad chapter in the story of Florida’s failure to adequately support high quality neighborhood public schools.

 

Florida now ranks among the bottom 10 states nationally in funding for our students, and education spending remains below pre-recession levels. The average teacher salary in Florida has dropped to 46th in the nation, while many school staff earn a wage below the federal poverty line. We face a growing teacher shortage. More than 4,000 classrooms were without a qualified teacher at the start of this school year, and there may soon be more than 10,000 teacher vacancies according to Florida Department of Education projections.

 

The public and educators want change. More than 23,000 Floridians have spoken by petition to call for a major reinvestment in our neighborhood public schools. The printed petitions were delivered to the office of the speaker of the Florida House on Tuesday, April 23, following an FEA news conference at the Capitol. News conference speakers included FEA President Ingram; Justin Katz, president of the Palm Beach County Classroom Teachers Association; and Karla Hernandez-Mats, president of United Teachers of Dade.

 

We must fund our future. Find the FEA petition at https://actionnetwork.org/petitions/time-to-step-up-for-neighborhood-public-schools.

 

 

City leaders in Philadelphia, as in Chicago and other cities, have decided to sell off or give away some of their most beautiful and historic school buildings.

In Philly, the school district closed Germantown, one of the city’s elegant buildings, on the eve of its 100th birthday, in 2013.

After months of neglect and thousands of dollars of unpaid taxes, the historic pillared building at 40 E. High St., as well as an elementary school sold that year, is going up for sale again.

“After the schools were closed, the city had a responsibility to ensure efficient disposal and redevelopment of these properties,” said Emaleigh Doley, an organizer for the Germantown United Community Development Corp. “How is it possible that today, Germantown High School is up for sheriff sale, and both the high school and Fulton Elementary School sit vacant?”

In fall 2012, the Philadelphia School Reform Commission voted to close 23 schools to save money. Months later, buildings that once welcomed thousands of students were emptied, shuttered, and sold.

Some were revitalized as charter schools. Roberts Vaux High School became Vaux Big Picture; Stephen A. Douglas became Maritime Academy. Some were redeveloped into neighborhood mixed-use spaces like University City, or community and commercial centers like Edward Bok Technical.

Others, like Germantown, weren’t so fortunate….

In September 2013, the Maryland-based Concordia Group began negotiations to purchase Germantown High, as well as nearby Fulton and three other shuttered school buildings: Charles Carroll High School in Port Richmond, and South Philly elementary schools Walter G. Smith and Abigail Vare.

The schools were packaged for quick sale, but the purchase agreement shows that they sold for widely varying amounts: Vare and Carroll for a little less than half their assessed value; Smith for nearly twice its market assessment; and Fulton for one-tenth. Germantown was the lowest-priced of all five schools at $100,000 — a far cry from the value of $11 million listed by the city’s Office of Property Assessment.

Then, another twist. Before the sale could be completed, a group of Point Breeze community members filed a lawsuit in Commonwealth Court opposing the closure of Smith and saying the schools were being sold below value. The deal came to a halt.

In 2017, after an appeal from the School District, the court approved the sale of the five schools. But the Concordia Group no longer seemed so sure. It flipped Smith to Philadelphia developer Ori Feibush, who was building in Point Breeze. Carroll is in development under Philadelphia-based developer High Top, while Vare is still listed as an active project under Concordia

The Department of Licenses and Inspections has tracked 15 violations for vacancy, weeds, and trash at the Germantown High address. And property taxes haven’t been paid since the 2017 purchase. The high school is listed as on four lots, according to city records; combined, that’s $595,306.93 in overdue taxes. Fulton, just across the street, is on two lots and has racked up just under $250,000 in back taxes.

“It definitely affected the community,” said State Rep. Stephen Kinsey, a Democrat who represents the neighborhood and graduated from Germantown High. “Two or three businesses closed as a direct result of the lack of traffic. There was more illegal activity around the school, more police on the driveway.… To have a vacant building of that magnitude for six years, that changes the whole neighborhood….”

In March, Philadelphia-based real estate broker MSC Retail released a brochure that disclosed plans to replace the Germantown High school building with two large stores and 68 parking spots. Residents were shocked and outraged. Germantown United CDC and activist interfaith group POWER called an emergency community meeting.

City Councilwoman Cindy Bass, who represents the neighborhood, said at the meeting that she planned to arrange a dialogue between the community and the company planning to develop Germantown High School, High Top. But a spokesperson for High Top says it’s not currently involved with the project. Meanwhile, MSC Retail has removed the brochure from its website. A spokesperson for MSC declined to comment on the property but said the company had no current plans for redevelopment….

According to the Sheriff’s Office, if a property owner fails to pay utility bills, school taxes, or city taxes, the property may be auctioned at a tax delinquency sale so the city can collect what it’s owed. The opening bid on Germantown High next month is listed as $1,500. 

So a city-owned property once assessed as worth $11 million has been flipped from developer to developer and is now on the auction block for $1,500.

There is something unspeakably sad about the demise of a historic building that once rang with chatter and laughter and student orations and plays and life.

Tim Slekar, dean of Edgewood College in Wisconsin and consummate education activist, is writing a book about the teacher shortage and he needs your help if you are or were a teacher.

He wrote:

Attention Teachers. According to the media we are facing a teacher shortage. I disagree. We have a teacher exodus that is the result of 30 + years of “accountability.”
I need your voices.
Can you take a moment and answer these questions and send them to me on email (timslekar@gmail.com). Anonymity is promised. But I want to tell your story.
1) Why did you go into teaching?
2) What has changed during your time as a teacher?
3) Are you being asked to do things that do not benefit kids? Name some.
4) Have you thought about leaving teaching? Have you left teaching? Why?
5) What would it take to remoralize you and stay in the profession and or make you want to get back into it?
Please respond using this survey.

We are far from perfect
But perfect as we are.
We are bruised, we are broken
But we are god damn works of art!
Rise Against

 

Mitchell Robinson, Professor at Michigan State University, has a brilliant insight. Donald Trump runs the federal government (to the extent that he runs anything other than his Twitter feed) like a Charter School.

He write:

“One of Trump’s major goals as president* has been to eliminate or weaken regulations in eight major categories: agriculture, education, environment, finances, health care, housing, labor, telecommunications, and transportation. And on this one issue, even his detractors have to admit he’s exceeded their expectations. As of 2018, the Trump administration was eliminating 22 regulations for every 1 new regulation approved, surpassing their stated goal of “2 out for every 1 in.” These actions represent nothing less than a wholesale dismantling of the federal government’s oversight responsibility for every major sector of the country’s economic and environmental enterprises, many of which have been in place for decades. Taken along with the dramatic number of judicial appointments that the administration has jammed through, Trump’s influence on the nation’s direction is hugely outsized when compared to his legislative impact, which has been negligible.

“This focus on rolling back regulations was, of course, the entire rationale for the existence of charter schools. That the “purpose” of charters has now morphed perversely into a profit seeking endeavor only reinforces the importance of a lack of oversight to the proliferation of charters across the country. Charter management corporations depend on this lack of governmental accountability to hire uncertified teachers, pay them less than teachers in traditional public schools, pay charter leaders more, and keep teachers unions out of their schools. And when forced to play by the same rules as public schools, they just can’t compete.”

In addition, he hires completely unqualified people and has high staff turnover.

What’s more, he is in it for the money, just like so many charter leaders.

Robinson’s hope is that Trump’s administration closes as quickly as most charter schools.