Archives for the month of: June, 2019

One of our readers and frequent commenters—Joe Nathan— was elected to the Charter School Hall of Fame and will be honored at the National Charter Schools Conference. Joe helped to write the first charter law in the nation in Minnesota. He and Ted Kolderie ensured that charters would be deregulated and would not confirm to Albert Shanker’s template on unionized schools approved only by local school districts. Joe continues to insist that charters are “progressive,” even though their most important funders are the Walton Family Foundation (which funds Joe) and their biggest cheerleaders are the rightwing ALEC and Betsy DeVos.

Charters are in the midst of an existential crisis right now after years of boasting about unlimited growth. That growth has stalled, as Democrats distance themselves from charters. A backlash against charters and privatization is in full swing.

Part of that backlash stems from the daily drumbeat of charter scandals, especially the recent indictment of 11 people connected to an $80 million scam in California.

Here is the program of the National Charter Schools Conference.

NCSC will honor not only Joe, but Ferdinand Zulueta, who runs one of the largest for-profit charter chains in Florida, called Academica. The Zulueta Family has amassed a real estate fortune of more than $100 million, thanks to their business acumen and public funds.

National Charter Schools Conference

We are bummed you couldn’t make it, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get a little taste of Vegas during the 2019 National Charter Schools Conference (NCSC19)! We will be livestreaming all general sessions and happenings on the Charter Talks stage.

Tune in on our Facebook page for these sessions:

Monday, July 1

Opening General Session (9:30-10:30 a.m. PT): We’re thrilled to welcome back Sal Khan, founder of Khan Academy, back to the main stage at NCSC19! National Alliance President & CEO Nina Rees will kick-off and lead the first plenary session of NCSC19 with her annual State of the Movement address encouraging us all to share our stories.

And, finally, don’t miss a special guest introduce one of the 2019 Charter School Hall of Fame inductees, Fernando Zulueta, president of Academica!

Charter Talks (11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. PT): Back for a third year, presenters will share a 15-minute compelling presentation that shares a big idea, is a tech demo, delves into an issue, or shares a small idea with a big impact. These Charter Talks pack a punch, so come ready to learn a lot in a small amount of time from interactive, engaging presenters!

  • 11:15 a.m. The Fight for the Best Charter Public Schools in the Nation – Cara Stillings Candal, Pioneer Institute
  • 11:30 a.m. The Life and Times of an Independent Charter School Operator – India Ford, T-Squared Honors Academy
  • 11:45 a.m. College for All: A Personal Odyssey – Robert Lane, Southland College Prep HS

Recording of The 8 Black Hands Podcast (3-4:30 p.m. PT): For the first time ever, we will have a live recording of two podcasts on-site, starting with The 8 Black Hands Podcast. The podcast from four black men (Ray Ankrum, Charles Cole, Sharif El-Mekki, and Chris Stewart) engages in passionate discussions about educating Black minds in a country that has perpetually failed them. Don’t miss the live recording of this powerful podcast!

Tuesday, July 2

Recording of Academica Media’s Charter School Superstars Podcast (10 a.m.-12 p.m. PT): The second live podcast recording at NCSC19 will feature a Q&A session with big players in the charter school movement on the Academic Media podcast.

Unleashing Opportunity and Creativity with Computer Science (12:15-1 p.m. PT): Hadi Partovi, founder of and creator of the global Hour of Code campaign, talks about the importance of teaching computer science as part of the core academic curriculum in grades K-12, introducing creativity to the classroom, approaches to diversity in computer science, and implementation challenges in schools.

Second General Session and Charter School Rally (3:15-4:30 p.m. PT): The National Alliance is pleased to have Hadi Partovi as our keynote speaker during Tuesday’s general session. Romy Drucker, deputy director of K-12 Education at the Walton Family Foundation and co-founder of The 74, will also give remarks. The General Session will close with a Charter Schools Rally encouraging us all to speak up on behalf of the nation’s 3.2 million charter school students, led by Dr. Howard Fuller, Institute for the Transformation of Learning; Keri Rodrigues, Massachusetts Parents United; and Myrna Casterjón, California Charter Schools Association.

Wednesday, July 3

Closing Session (9-10 a.m. PT): During the closing session of NCSC19, we will be recognizing two more 2019 Charter School Hall of Fame inductees: Joe Nathan, Ph.D., director of the Center for School Change, and Dr. Margaret Fortune, president and CEO of Fortune School. Clifton Taulbert, president of the Freemount Corporation and author of Once Upon a Time When We Were Colored, will be delivering our last keynote session of NCSC19 with his talk on the charter of community—a fitting end to the conference. Kendall Massett, executive director of Delaware Charter School Network and vice chair of the State Leaders Council, will lead the final session.

Don’t forget to follow the conversation throughout the conference on Twitter with #NCSC19!


While technology is great, everything is so much better in person—and you can still register onsite at Mandalay Bay. We’d love to have you!

National Alliance for Public Charter Schools   1425 K Street  Suite 900  Washington,  DC   20005   USA



Thanks to Leonie Haimson for sending along this paper. The “academy” concept began under a Conservative government that believed private enterprise was infinitely wiser than public anything. Corporations and wealthy individuals were encouraged to “buy” control of schools by putting up a large sum. Things seem to going swimmingly for the idea. This is a small excerpt. When I was part of the Koret Task Force at the rightwing Hoover Institution, we journeyed to England as a group to learn about this example of privatization in action.

The paper contains a valuable review of “related party transactions,” that is, financial self-dealing in the private entities that receive public funding in the U.S. and Great Britain.


Charter Schools, Academy Schools, and Related-Party Transactions: Same Scams, Different Countries

Preston C. Green III and Chelsea E. Connery


Academies were first introduced in 2000 as the City Academy Program. 34 City academies were to

replace locally run schools in urban areas that were deemed to be failing by the school inspection

body Ofsted, or that were underachieving. The Education Act 2002 permitted academies to open

outside of urban areas.


Eight years later, Parliament enacted the Academies Act 2010. This statute extended the academy

option, until then limited to struggling schools, to include successful schools at both the primary

and secondary levels. The government financed conversion costs and provided considerable

financial incentives to encourage schools to convert. The number of academies increased

dramatically as a result of these policy changes. In 2010, there were 203 academies throughout

England, all of them serving secondary schools with high proportions of disadvantaged students.40

As of September 2018, there were 8,177 academies, constituting 36% of England’s state funded

schools. About 66% of England’s secondary schools and 30% of its primary schools have achieved

academy status.



This is a great opinion article by Tony Messenger, a regular columnist for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, which is one of the nation’s great newspapers. It is an Open Letter addressed to Missouri’s Suburban Moms and written in the voice of the state Republican party. This is the party that loves women so much that it voted to eliminate all abortions, even in the case of rape, incest, or a threat to the survival of the mother. The GOP loves the unborn but ignores the born.

For starters:

First off, and this is really important: We didn’t raise your taxes. As you save to send your children to college, it’s important to us to allow you to spend your hard-earned money the way you want to. Of course, that doesn’t mean college isn’t going to get more expensive. Because we are so committed to never, ever raising taxes, Missouri is among the lowest-funded higher education systems in the country. And that’s why the Board of Curators of the University of Missouri voted to raise tuition 5 percent starting next year. Some might call that a back-door tax increase. Not us.

Speaking of college, if you are sending your daughter to a university in the state — public or private — we want you to know about our efforts to change the federal Title IX regulations meant to protect her from sexual assault or discrimination. We fell just short in our effort to gut those Obama-era regulations this year, but rest assured, we’ll be back at it next year.

It is a wonderful satire that isn’t funny because it is so true.



Jeff Bryant writes about the obstacles faced by districts where state control is coming to an end. 

He takes St. Louis as his prime example.,

One urban district that faces an especially steep climb out of the abyss of oppressive rule is St. Louis.
When I first reported from St. Louis in 2017, I found a school system which had been designed to be the gem of the Midwest had instead been decimated.
First, waves of policies from local, state, and federal governments imposed racial segregation on the system. Chronic underfunding hobbled progress. When the system eventually crashed, a wave of “reforms”—hiring consultants, cutting services, outsourcing to corporate contractors, and opening the system to privately operated charter schools—plundered what was left.
At the lowest point in the decline, in the early 2000s, St. Louis was the number one most shrinking city in the world. Today, the school system is a shell of its former self, down to fewer than 29,000 students compared to 115,543 at its peak in 1967. The district lost its accreditation in 2007, which led to a state takeover that nullified the authority of the locally elected school board and handed governance over to officials appointed by the state, who often ruled with impunity.
But on July 1, St. Louis has a historic opportunity to turn a corner when governing authority transitions from the state-appointed board to a locally elected one. With a newly elected board, a return to full accreditation, and a supposed clean slate to write its future, can St. Louis show how democratic governance can overcome years of corrosive politics and genuinely reflect the desires of local citizens?
In my conversations with locals, answers are mixed.
‘Very Concerned About the Future

I am very concerned about the future,” Susan Turk tells me. Turk, a former St. Louis public school parent and a relentless school board watchdog, has been a studious observer of the past 25 years of district history. Her periodic newsletter is a brash alternative to a generally uncritical local press.

When I first interviewed Turk nearly two years ago, she described local politics as “run with an iron fist” with “only certain people” in the local power structure. She welcomed the return of the district’s accreditation but lamented the lack of significant improvement in academic performance. “We’re no better than we were ten years ago,” she said. “It’s really hard to see something positive.”

Today, she sees in the elected board an opportunity for real progress but has concerns that years of state-appointed oversight and corrupt influencers still entrenched in the system will thwart authentic democratic governance.


St. Louis will get four new charters, including another KIPP and a private school that turned charter so families would no longer pay tuition. A charter plagued with financial mismanagement and suspicion of inflated enrollment will close.

Kairos Academies is enrolling sixth-graders for its personalized learning-themed middle and high school opening in the Marine Villa neighborhood. It’s the only entirely new school opening in August. Founders Gavin Schiffres and Jack Krewson are Teach For America alumni who taught briefly in north St. Louis County districts. Krewson is the son of St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson.

St. Louis College Prep closed in May after it wound up in financial trouble mid-year following revelations of possible attendance inflation by its founder and executive director. Lafayette Preparatory Academy, a nearby elementary school, tried to step in and purchase the building to add its own high school. The deal to purchase the building fell through and plans for a high school have been postponed, according to Susan Marino, Lafayette Prep’s executive director.

The Soulard School, which had been a private school in south St. Louis, is converting to a charter school this fall.

Creative destruction continues to roil St.Louis, aided by TFA.


Maurice Cunningham is a Professor at the University of Massachusetts who writes a blog that”follows the money.” He also happens to be one of the heroes in my new book “Slaying Goliath.”

In this post, he warns that philanthropists are using their vast resources to buy control of the news, in this case, the Boston Globe. You may recall that Eli Broad gave the Los Angeles Times $800,000 a year yo increase its education coverage at the same time that he was trying to buy control of the LAUSD school board and ultimately put half the city’s children in charter schools. Fortunately, another billionaire bought the paper who was not interested in the schools, and Broad’s money went down the drain.

In Boston, as Cunningham explains, the Barr Foundation made a $600,000 gift to the Boston Globe. He explains that the Barr Foundation has a long history in the privatization movement.

This is not an innocent, no-strings-attached gift.

Cunningham writes:

The announcement last week of the $600,000 grant from the Barr Foundation to the Boston Globe was presented as a public spirited philanthropy offering the Globe the means to research our education system’s failures and report back on how to fix them.  It is not. It is the dawn of philanthro-interest group journalism.

That’s a mouthful so let me explain. Journalism is easy – the Globe is the most important media outlet in the state. Philanthropy is something that generates positive responses as leading citizens “give back” to the community. What? You’d rather have them buy another yacht? But philanthropies are increasingly acting like interest groups[1] and that is what Barr is doing. It’s expending money to gain influence for its policy preferences on education.[2]

Get over the idea of Barr as a disinterested philanthropy scrupulously pursuing only the public good. It’s an interest group. How so?

Consider the political operating charities Barr has been supporting in the bitter contest between union and civil rights and community groups versus the wealthy interests who wish to privatize public education. Barr’s Form 990 tax returns show it routinely donates to political non-profits that promote privatization.

  • In both 2015 and 2016 Barr gave $200,000 to Stand for Children, a beard for privatization interests. (SFC, then funded by members of Strategic Grant Partners, was behind the 2010 charters ballot measure and the 2012 anti-union ballot proposal, both of which ended in compromise legislation).
  • In 2016 Barr gave $125,000 and in 2017 $175,000 to Educators for Excellence “to support the launch of E4E’s Boston chapter.” E4E is a faux teachers operation, a company union alternative to real teachers’ unions.[3]
  • Barr has contributed to Massachusetts Parents United, the Walton family front that executes privatization activities for the WalMart heirs.[4]
  • Just this year Barr funded the rollout of SchoolFacts Boston, a new operating non-profit headed by former mayoral candidate John Connolly, whose candidacy was backed by $1.3 million in dark dollars from Democrats for Education Reform Massachusetts. Connolly recently appeared at a DFER event.

We also can’t ignore the history of the money man behind Barr, Amos Hostetter Jr. (By the way, did Hostetter donate to DFER for the 2013 Boston mayor’s race? We’ll never know. DFER is a dark money front).

  • In 2009 Hostetter contributed $32,500 to the Committee for Public Charter Schools, the ballot committee formed by Stand for Children to support a ballot initiative in support of more charter schools.
  • In 2016 Hostetter secretly donated over $2 million to Families for Excellent Schools in favor of Question 2 to increase the number of charter schools. Because Hostetter hid his donations behind that dark money front, his largesse was not known until the Office of Campaign and Political Finance ruled that FESA had violated state campaign finance law and ordered it to disclose the true sources of its funding. Hostetter was the fourth largest individual donor to FESA.[5] If not for OCPF, we’d never know.[6]

Keep reading. The Barr Foundation is buying influence. It’s money will be used to point the Globe to ideas favored by Barr and to ignoreodeas that Barr dismisses.

This is a new-dangled kind of corruption.


Peter Greene writes here about Betsy DeVos’s recent decision to roll back Obama-era regulations intended to protect students against predatory for-profit colleges. 

Sadly, this is what we have come to expect from a Secretary of Education who is more interested in protecting the free market than protecting students against fraud.

Greene writes that DeVos rolled back

the Obama-era requirement that such schools either show that their graduates actually land jobs, or the school would lose access to all that sweet sweet federal money. That was a powerful piece of leverage, because the for-profit colleges focus on veterans and poor folks with the result that a great deal of the for profit college revenue stream comes from the feds, who loan to the students and pay off the schools, guaranteeing that the for-profits get paid and that the students are in hock to the feds.

Rolling back Obama-era protections is problematic because the Obama administration itself did a super-lousy job of riding herd on these predatory schools. At one point, having announced that they were now by golly going to clamp down those outfits, they turned around and bailed out one of the worst. Then, when that outfit collapsed anyway, the feds let them be sold off to a debt-collection agency.

It was after all that foolishness that the administration finally implemented a gainful employment rule. This was also followed by  students scammed by the for-profit agitating to be released from their debts. The Department of Justice requested that the Department of Education simply release the portion of that debt that they held; they refused.

All of that happened before Trump ever descended the escalator to unleash havoc on US politics; it’s only fair to note that this is, in many ways, a mess that DeVos inherited and which the Obama administration never exactly showed signs of fixing.

Last week, DeVos was sued–again–by a boatload of students stranded in massive debt. The student position is that they were defrauded and their loans should be forgiven.

DeVos’s position about loan forgiveness has been to simply pretend to lose all the paperwork and never process any of the requests to have loans erased. Having ignored the rules for two years, DeVos last year tried to get rid of them, and this week she finally did it.

Hundreds of thousands of students who were defrauded by predatory for-profit colleges are on their own. Shameful.


Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) reports on the New York Times’ consistently biased reporting about Bernie Sanders.

it seems fair to say that the New York Times wants to knock Senator Sanders outif the Race.



In this post, Jan Resseger surveys the war against public schools in Florida.

Sue Legg summarized the abject failure of Jeb Bush’s A+ Plan here.

The drive to privatize public schools was masterminded by Jeb Bush, with the help of Betsy DeVos, a compliant Republican Legislature (including some who own or operate charter schools), and a zest to give public money to entrepreneurs and grifters.

Asshe points out, recent legislation requires school districts to share their tax levies with charter schools over which they have no control.

Privatization and school choice are rooted in the desire for profit and segregation.

Despite Jeb Bush’s propaganda campaign, his A+ Plan deserves an F-.

Bush, that educational genius, invented the idea of labeling schools with a single letter.

Floridians now treat school grades as normal, but only 15 states require them, mostly low-performing. states. 

I have said it before and I was say it again: School grades are stupid. They are idiotic. Under Bloomberg as mayor, NYC had school grades for a few years. They were meaningless. The public school in my Brooklyn neighborhood was rated A one year; the Mayor and Joel Klein made a ceremonial visit to the school to congratulate the principal and staff. The next year it got a grade of F. Nothing had changed. Same principal, same staff.

If your child came home with a report card that had only one letter, you would be incensed. Why then should anyone accept a single letter grade for an institution with hundreds of staff and students and multiple programs?

School grades deserve an F. A truly dumb idea. No state should use them.

Education in Florida is a mess that is designed to benefit privateers and harm public schools.


Read this sad story. 

A billionaire with too much money and no vision buys the University of Tulsa.

His plan gutted the liberal arts, raised default teaching loads across the university from five courses per year to eight, eliminated all academic departments, created new divisions to house surviving programs (including one called “Humanities and Social Justice”), and established a “Professional Super College” consisting of the formerly independent colleges of law, health sciences, and business.

The author Jacob Howland is a professor of philosophy at UT.

Who needs philosophy these days?

Billionaires do the darnedest things.