Archives for the month of: May, 2019

Whenever there is a battle over the expansion of charter schools, we read in the papers that “charter parents” prevailed and the teachers’ union lost.

Why don’t the stories say “charter lobbyists prevail,” and public schools and their students lost?

Why do reporters always assume that only the unions oppose charter expansion.

Why are “charter parents” seeking more charter schools?

Don’t their children already attend a charter school?

Here is the conundrum.

Who benefits when legislators allow unlimited expansion of new charter schools?

Not the parents. Their children are already in a charter school.

How many charter schools does one child need?

This unrestricted expansion is solely for the benefit of the charter operators and their lobbyists.

As we have seen again and again, charter operators use the children and the parents as pawns to expand their empire of privately managed schools and enrich themselves.

Unlimited expansion of new charters does not benefit any charter school parent.

It sucks money away from existing public schools, the schools that 90% of the nation’s are enrolled in.

The California Legislature failed to take action on bills to impose a moratorium on new charter schools, and charter lobbyists were exultant.

Despite the ongoing scandals in the charter industry, the Legislature was unable to act.

Only this week, eleven charter leaders were indicted for misappropriating millions of dollars that ended up in their personal bank accounts.

Only last week, the founder of a charter chain was sentenced to thirty months in prison for theft of millions of dollars.

The California Charter School Association, funded by billionaires such as Reed Hastings and Eli Broad, want predators to go unsupervised and unregulated. They want no limits on charter growth, public schools be damned.

If it is not there already, I place the CCSA on this blog’s Wall of Shame.

Let’s see what happens to AB 1505, which enables districts to have some say over whether charters can open in their space, which would curb the rapacious appetite of sleazy operators who are able to get a charter in Rural District Z and open the school in an urban district that doesn’t want them.

Ten percent of the students in California are enrolled in privately managed charter schools; 90% are enrolled in public schools. Why undermine and deprive the 90% for the (possible) benefit of the 10%? Only one group benefits from the legislators’ inaction: the charter industry. This is insane. And corrupt.

Erika Jones is an experienced teacher in California. In this post, she responds forcefully to the claim by charter advocates that privately managed charter schools “save” children of color.

They don’t.

I urge all charter advocacy groups and individuals to read her eloquent article and consider her words carefully.

She begins:

As a public-school educator who is African-American, I am keenly aware of what it means to be a student of color within the public school system and the role institutional racism has played.

We have faced decades of funding and resource inequities, which have left our current public schools in marginalized communities unable to fully serve their students. Historically, acknowledging these inequities can lead to strategies to combat institutional racism in our schools and across the country.

The last 20 years of exploding charter school growth in communities of color also make it clear that many proposed solutions can have serious negative consequences for the overwhelming majority of public school students. The time is now for our elected leaders in Sacramento to pass laws to support students by curtailing the worst parts of this broken, decades-long experiment.

Often within the conversation of supporting communities of color, school choice and specifically charter schools frequently are presented as the answer. When looking at institutional racism within public education, instead of being the panacea for children of color, more often than not the charter school industry actually leads to worsening conditions for a majority of students of color. This is because many school districts in California, whose students are overwhelmingly students of color, are in crisis mode: seeing upwards of a 200 percent growth in charter schools, lacking facilities and averaging hundreds of millions of dollars in fiscal impact directly attributed to this growth.

Yet the achievement gap for students of color has continued to widen. We see a select group of children of color leaving the traditional public school setting to attend charter schools, while the majority of children of color remain in the traditional setting.

I taught both 3rd grade and kindergarten in South Los Angeles at Angeles Mesa Elementary and during the years I was there multiple new charter schools popped up surrounding my school. I saw firsthand how our families of color were lured away by the promise of free tablets for their kids, nicer uniforms and so-called college readiness. I hugged parents as they brought their children back to my school, feeling devastated that their child had been kicked out of one of the charters or their children found themselves in schools with higher class sizes and less student support. Some of my families had even been misled to believe that the new charter school was their new home school.

The original intent of charter schools was to be educator-driven incubators of change where innovations that lead to student success could be shared with all schools within the public school system. Here we are 20 years later and instead of sharing methods, many traditional public schools in communities of color find themselves competing for resources, having disproportionate numbers of students with high needs and having larger populations of English learners. All this while for the most part charters are performing about the same as traditional public schools.

Erika Jones answers all the questions with facts and evidence. Please read the rest of her article.

Finance experts in Pennsylvania warned that the costs of charter schools and cyber charters threaten to bankrupt as many as 500 school districts. 

Finance experts with the Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials (PASBO) said lawmakers must change the way charter costs are assessed to local school districts or accept that some school districts are not going to be able to continue to bear the cost of paying hundreds of thousands, and in some cases millions, of dollars in charter school tuition.

The call for change comes as the General Assembly weighs a variety of bills aimed at altering the way the state regulates and finances charter and cyber charter schools that now enroll about 140,000 students in kindergarten through 12th grade.

Hannah Barrick, of the Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officers, said charter school costs, which are borne almost entirely by local school districts, totaled $1.8 billion last year and accounted for 37 cents of every new dollar raised in local property taxes.

In some school districts, the costs are even higher.

Enrollment in Pennsylvania’s charter schools grew dramatically over the last decade, increasing from about 78,000 students in 2009-10 to 140,000 this year.

Along with that growth, school districts have seen the bill for charter school tuition grow by double digits five out of the past eight years.

Charter schools, promoted as a free option for public school students whose families wish to look outside their districts, are funded by the students’ local school districts. Tuition is calculated using a complex formula that requires each district to pay charter school fees based on the local district’s cost per student per year. Across the state, those figures ranged from $7,600 to $18,500 per mainstream student to $15,100 to $48,000 per special education student.

Pennsylvania has about 1.7 million students. Supplying choices for 140,000 students (8%) in schools that are of mixed quality threatens to bankrupt the state’s school finance system.

Has it occurred to the lawmakers in Pennsylvania that running a dual school system, both publicly funded, is an insane idea?

 

 

Leonie Haimson is a force of nature. She and her! Student Privacy allies beat Bill Gates’ $100 Million inBloom data-collection project. She and her parent allies forced the NYC Department of Education to back down and keep open high-performing low-enrollment PS 25 in Brooklyn. Now she and her allies are going back to court to fight State Commissioner MaryEllen Elia over the matter of class size in NYC. 

Give up, MaryEllen!

Haimson sends out the alert: Game on!

On Thursday May 23, 2019 the Education Law Center filed an appeal on behalf of nine NYC parents, Class Size Matters and the Alliance for Quality Education, urging the Appellate court to order the Department of Education to reduce class size in all grades as the Contracts for Excellence law requires. Our original lawsuit, Agostini vs. Elia, was filed in April 2018 when the State Education Commissioner refused to take action and enforce the law.   

In December 2018, Acting Supreme Court Judge Henry Zwack ruled against us in a brief decision that engaged with neither the law nor the facts of the case, and merely claimed that this was a matter for the Commissioner to decide.  She in turn had argued that any class size obligations on the part of the DOE had expired years ago. Our appeal demonstrates how that view is false — and if the Legislature wanted to eliminate DOE’s legal obligation to lower class size, they would have changed the law.  Oral arguments in the case will likely occur late this summer.

The press release from ELC is here and below. — Leonie Haimson 

LAWSUIT TO ENFORCE MANDATE TO REDUCE CLASS SIZE IN NEW YORK CITY SCHOOLS MOVES FORWARD
The plaintiffs in a legal action to enforce a mandate to reduce class size in New York City public schools filed their brief on May 23 in an Albany appellate court. The lawsuit began in June 2017 as an administrative petition demanding that the State Commissioner of Education, MaryEllen Elia, order the NYC Schools Chancellor, the New York City Department of Education, and the New York City Board of Education to comply with the law. When the Commissioner dismissed the petition, the plaintiffs brought the case to court.
The plaintiffs in the case are nine New York City public school parents, as well as Class Size Matters and the Alliance for Quality Education, two prominent New York public school advocacy organizations. Education Law Center Senior Attorney Wendy Lecker is representing the plaintiffs.
Under a state law known as the Contract for Excellence, or “C4E,” the NYC Chancellor and the Department and Board of Education are required to develop a five-year plan to reduce class size to target averages in three grade spans: K-3, 4-8, and 9-12. After the law was enacted in 2007, New York City developed a plan which was approved by the Commissioner in 2007.
The City never fulfilled the 2007 plan within five years, or by 2012. Nor has the City implemented the 2007 plan or any other plan that complies with the C4E law. As a result, class sizes now are as large or even larger than they were in 2007. Between 2007-2016, for example, the number of students in classes of 30 or more in grades 1-3 increased by 4,000% to over 40,000.
In dismissing the Petition in 2017, the Commissioner ruled that since the 2007 plan “concluded” in 2012, or five years after it was approved, the petition was moot even though the City never implemented the plan. The plaintiffs challenged the Commissioner’s decision in State Supreme Court, which “deferred” to the Commissioner’s interpretation of the term “within five years” in the C4E law.
The plaintiffs have now appealed to the Appellate Division. They argue that the Commissioner misinterpreted the C4E law. The five-year endpoint in the law was the deadline the Legislature imposed to accomplish class size reduction. It was not the date at which the City’s legal obligation would magically disappear. Moreover, the lower court wrongly deferred to the Commissioner’s interpretation of the C4E law.
“The NYC Department of Education has violated the Contract for Excellence Law for over a decade because of its refusal to reduce class size,” said Leonie Haimson, Executive Director of Class Size Matters, a plaintiff in the lawsuit. “As a result, more than 336,000 students were crammed into classes of thirty or more this fall. Our thanks to the Education Law Center for representing Class Size Matters and nine NYC parent plaintiffs in this important appeal. If the Appellate Court decides on the basis of the law and the facts, it will require that NYC students finally receive their right to a sound basic education with the smaller classes they need and deserve.”
“Class size is an important factor in determining whether students have the opportunity to succeed in school. Ensuring that every student has a chance to succeed is our moral duty. Following the law shouldn’t be a choice. We hope the court ensures that the students of New York receive their constitutionally granted right to ‘a sound basic education,'” said Marina Marcou-O’Malley, Operations and Policy Director for the Alliance for Quality Education.
Oral argument in the appeal will likely take place in the late summer.
Education Law Center Press Contact:
Sharon Krengel
Policy and Outreach Director
skrengel@edlawcenter.org
973-624-1815, x 24

 

Gary Rubinstein reports that U.S. News & World Report altered the way it measures “the best high schools,” and charters suffered. Many got top rankings in the past despite their high attrition rates and demographics towards whites and Asians. The new formula is harder to game.

Gary knows that the annual exercise in ranking the best high schools is inherently fraudulent. What matters most can’t be measured, and what is considered “best” usually means having students from affluent families. What is “best” for some students is not necessarily best for others. The best high school may be the ones where students feel welcomed, inspired, learn to love learning, and are encouraged to do their best and care for others.

What do you think “the best high school” is?

Our good friends who lead Pastors for Texas Children—the Revs. Charles Foster Johnson and Charles Luke—have great news to report from the Lone Star State. It was a bipartisan victory for five million children, their teachers, and their public schools!

       The 86th Session of the Texas Legislature, just completed on Monday, May 27, was the most productive on behalf of our 5.4 million schoolchildren in recent memory. Certainly, it was the finest session in the six years Pastors for Texas Children has been in existence.

The signature policy achievement of this legislature was House Bill 3, which secured over $5 billion dollars in new funding for our 8500 Texas public schools, enacted a significant teacher pay raise, implemented full-day, high quality Pre-Kindergarten instruction—and did all of this without any standardized test contingency and without any substantive push for a private school voucher. While some regressive forces in state government wished to use our surplus of $10 billion plus dollars to “buy down” rising property taxes, more generous and aspirational voices prevailed to allocate this bounty for investment in the public education of our children. While the return on that investment is delayed until the child reaches adulthood, there is no better investment in the future prosperity of our great state than good public schools.

Furthermore, our message that public schoolteachers are the messengers of God’s Love and the keepers of God’s Common Good, joining Christian pastors and church leaders in this high and holy calling, resonated more harmoniously with policymakers than ever before.

Clearly, the voices of faith leaders and faith communities played a key role in this huge step forward of the enactment of HB3. Quality public education for all of God’s children is protected by the biblical mandate for justice as well as by the Texas State Constitution. It is a moral imperative embraced by civil society.

We were in the capitol every day making visits, holding significant conversations, praying with House and Senate members– but we were also in the Texas communities urging pastors and church leaders to do the same with their own legislators!  It is this dual approach that is so effective. It was our privilege to carry that message every day of this session to our 181 House and Senate members.

This historic legislation is not perfect. There are fixes and corrections that need to be made in it in the 2021 session. But, as an old preacher said years ago, “Something doesn’t have to be perfect in order to be good.” Clearly, HB3 is a huge first step in the right direction in correcting funding lapses of the past decade, and in restoring Texas to its rightful place of leadership among our United States in per pupil spending on our children.

The work is not finished. Now that the Session is over, we can focus exclusively on the great work to mobilize churches and pastors for local school assistance. This is the fun part! We love taking this powerful message to our Texas communities!

  None of this could have been done without you. Your moral witness and direct advocacy on behalf of God’s “least of these”—our precious children—advanced healthy education policy this session. It also helped produce the kind of legislature that supports public education as a provision of social justice and opposes its privatization for personal financial gain. “Well done, good and faithful servants.” We thank God for you!

Stay Involved with PTC at the June 18 Benefit!

The end of the session is just the beginning of our year-round ministry to Texas’ public schools, and we have a great way for your organization to support our important work!

PTC’s  Benefit Luncheon, honoring rural education hero Dr. Don Rogers, is on Tuesday, June 18, and we still have plenty of tables available for your congregation, company, or organization to sponsor!  Check out our website and contact Brandon Grebe to make your reservation today!

Support Our Ministry: Give a Gift to PTC
Our mailing address is:

Pastors for Texas Children

 

Ohio enacted a dreadful state takeover bill in the dead of night called HB 70. It has placed Youngstown and Lotain City Public Schools under the control of a dictator. In response to public outrage, the Legislature is writing a new law.

Jan Resseger warns: Don’t Be Fooled! It is old wine in new bottles. 

She writes:

Make no mistake, the Ohio School Transformation Plan is still a state takeover.

Thousands of public school teachers in Los Angeles went on strike in February, demanding basic services for their students: smaller class sizes (many classes have more than 40 students), classes in the arts and music, a librarian and nurse and other support staff in every school. The strike won broad public support. The teachers won an agreement from the school board.

Now comes the hard part: Paying for the agreement.

On Tuesday June 4, voters in Los Angeles will go to the polls and vote on Measure EE.

It is a parcel tax that would raise $500 million additional dollars every year for the public schools for the next twelve years.

Please show up and vote for Measure EE.

The money is desperately needed to provide the students of Los Angeles the schools they need and deserve. Why should they attend schools that are deteriorating, where the library is open only on occasion or not at all, where a nurse is available once a week, a guidance counselor has hundreds of students, and a school psychologist is available never?

Please show up and vote for Measure EE.

California is one of the richest states in the nation, with a roaring and dynamic economy.

But California spends less on education than most other states. Shockingly, it is on par with Kansas, Louisiana, and South Carolina.

Los Angeles spends far less than other big cities on its students.

Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez met with Superintendent Austin Beutner and UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl at an elementary school in the school library, which is closed two or three days a week.

He wrote:

“The two most powerful people in Los Angeles public education are like a tag team now, practically completing each other’s sentences.”

California, he wrote, “ranks at the top in wealth and near the bottom in funding per pupil.”

What would EE cost the taxpayer? The owner of a 1,500 square foot home would  pay an additional $240, twice as much for a house twice as large. About 82% of the revenue would come from commercial, industrial and apartment building owners, while senior homeowners (over 65) and disabled homeowners are exempted from the tax.

Who is fighting EE? The Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce, which opposes taxes and apparently opts for an undereducated workforce; the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association is also opposed, that being the organization responsible for Proposition 13, which undermined school funding in 1978 by setting strict limits on property taxes. The Chamber prefers a regressive flat tax, one that is the same for the owner of a small house and the owner of a skyscraper.

Beutner and Caputo-Pearl pointed to business leaders who understand that the future success of Los Angeles depends on the success today of the students in the city’s public schools and who support EE.

Measure EE includes strict accountability requirements, meaning an independent financial audit to assure that every dollar goes to the schools for the intended purposes of reducing class size and providing needed services, such as nurses, counselors, and librarians.

Measure EE needs a two-thirds majority to pass, and that’s a high bar, but other cities in California have met it. Beutner listed them: Oakland, San Francisco, Santa Monica, and Torrance.

The people of Los Angeles cheered the teachers when they struck and marched in the rain. They honked their horns and gave them thumbs-up because they were doing what was best for their students.

Now comes the voters’ turn.

Will they too stand up for the children who are the future of Los Angeles?

Will they agree that every school should have a working library, a school nurse, a psychologist, and reasonable class sizes?

Will they agree that all children deserve equality of educational opportunity?

Tuesday June 4 will be a decisive day for the children of Los Angeles.

They are OUR children.

If you live in Los Angeles, please vote and urge your friends, family, and neighbors to vote.

Vote as if your future depends upon it.

It does.

 

 

 

 

 

The California Legislature is considering four bills to reform the state’s massive charter school industry (1,300 schools, mostly unregulated and unsupervised). One of the bills would prohibit school districts from authorizing charters in other districts. The following story is a classic example of rural school districts authorizing online charters in San Diego and Los Angeles, solely to get the commission attached to each student. In this case, the online charters were cash cows for their owners. [A personal aside: Last February, I was in Newport Beach, California, having breakfast at a hotel. The man at the next table was loudly discussing his schools with someone who was selling athletic services, $5 a student. When he got up to leave, I asked him if he was “in the charter school business.” He said, “Yes,” and said he owned 40 schools under six different corporate names. I asked him his name. He said, “Sean McManus.” I should have asked him to join us. He is one of the key figures in the following article.]

The San Diego Union-Tribune reports that eleven people connected to online charter schools have been indicted for “criminal charges of conspiracy, personal use of public money without legal authority, grand theft and financial conflict of interest.“

The online charters operate in San Diego and Los Angeles, but were authorized by other districts that get a slice of the revenues. This is one of the corrupt practices that have been rampant in California, where lax state law allows sharp operators to get public money and cheat students with no consequences. The Legislature is currently debating a proposal to stop allowing District A to authorize a charter in District B, a practice that is mercenary and predatory. Until now, the powerful California Charter Schools Association—enriched by billionaires like Reed Hastings and Eli Broad—has fought all accountability for charter schools.

At the center of the allegations are leaders of the charter school management corporation A3 Education, a Newport Beach corporation whose leaders control 13 charter schools across California, according to an indictment filed May 17.

A3’s chairman, Sean McManus, and president, Jason Schrock, essentially owned and operated the charter schools throughout California at the same time that A3 contracted with those schools, according to the indictment.

McManus and Schrock operated multiple businesses that charged their own charter schools millions of dollars for services. Then they channeled money from those businesses into their own charitable trust and personal bank accounts, according to the indictment.

A3 Education and the businesses affiliated with McManus and Schrock together have invoiced at least $83.3 million from the 13 charter schools, according to the indictment.

From the affiliated businesses, at least $8.18 million went into personal bank accounts, some in Australia, and into charitable trust accounts for McManus, Schrock and their wives, and $500,000 went to a family member of McManus, according to the indictment.

McManus and Schrock also used $1.6 million of A3 Education’s funds to buy a private residence for McManus in San Juan Capistrano, the indictment states.

Also according to the indictment, six people, including McManus and Schrock, conspired to collect state money for students who were listed as being enrolled in Valiant Charter Schools but were not receiving services.

The two Valiant schools will close permanently on June 30. Several thousand students will need to find new schools. The San Diego online charter was authorized by the Dehesa School District, and the one in Los Angeles was authorized by the Acton-Agua Dulce Unified School District.

The children were not assigned to teachers who have state-required professional certificates, the indictment said. The students were not in contact with the schools or provided with educational services during the summer months, as some of the co-conspirators claimed, according to the indictment…

Also indicted is Nancy Hauer, who is superintendent of Dehesa School District, which authorized several charter schools, including Valiant Academy of Southern California. The Dehesa district office did not immediately provide a comment Tuesday.

Also among the indicted is Steve Van Zant, a former Mountain Empire Unified superintendent who three years ago pleaded guilty to violating conflict-of-interest laws, after he brokered deals with charter schools to operate in other school districts, prosecutors said at the time.

Valiant Academy had 43 students two years ago, 726 last year, and 2,250 this year. It’s academic performance was so poor that even the California Charter School Association recommended that it be closed.

Betsy DeVos says that parents always know what’s best. Why were they enrolling their children in these failing “schools.”?