Archives for the month of: August, 2019

The bill to revise the California charter law has not yet been finalized, but the agreement between the charter lobby and the public school allies will allow districts to take into account the fiscal impact of adding new charters. The financial stability and survival of public schools can be grounds for denying a charter application. At present, charters can expand at will, with no oversight or accountability.

Governor, lawmakers agree on new controls on California charter schools

This revision is the first effort to rein in wildfire charters since the law was passed in 1992. Since then, the charter lobby has grown very rich and powerful (income over $20 million a year) and has blocked all efforts to curb their growth or their frauds.

John Fensterwald writes in EdSource:

School districts for the first time would be able to consider the financial and academic impact on the district or neighborhood of a new charter school or a charter school that wants to expand. Districts like Oakland Unified that could show they are under fiscal distress will be able to deny any proposed charter from opening. “The presumption in those districts will be that new charters will not open,” said a statement from the governor’s office.

The changes mark a victory for school districts and the teachers unions that have been clamoring for tighter restrictions and more local control. They argued that legislators who approved the 1992 charter school envisioned a small number of taxpayer-funded charter schools created by teachers and parents, not a sector that has grown to more than 1,300 schools – the most in the nation – often run by nonprofit management organizations with additional funding from wealthy donors. Charter schools serve more than 10 percent of California’s 6.2 million public school students.

Leading charter school advocates have expressed fears that allowing school districts to take financial impact into account would give districts an excuse to reject a charter petition – and bring charter school growth to a halt.

The new version of Assembly Bill 1505 builds on an initial compromise that Newsom’s aides presented in July. It includes revisions to all key aspects of the charter law: the approval and renewal of charter schools; the appeals process for charter denials; and the credentialing requirements for charter school teachers.

The language of the final version may not be in print until after the Senate Appropriations Committee votes on Friday to forward the bill to the Senate for approval. It will then be sent back to the Assembly with the final amendments. The Legislature must pass all bills before Sept. 13.

Please take note of this crucial sentence:

They argued that legislators who approved the 1992 charter school envisioned a small number of taxpayer-funded charter schools created by teachers and parents, not a sector that has grown to more than 1,300 schools – the most in the nation

Charters in California have turned into a parasite that wants to utterly consume its host.

Tom Ultican, retired teacher of advanced mathematics and physics in California, has written a well-documented critique of the Broad Academy.

He describes its origins and purposes. Its primary purpose is to privatize public education. The Broad Academy, he writes, is the powerful force driving the Destroy Public Education movement. Including the current cohort, 568 people have learned the disruptive and destructive philosophy of billionaire Eli Broad.

Their track record is deplorable:

Broad trained Superintendents have a history of bloated staffs leading to financial problems like John Deasy in Los Angeles (Ipad fiasco) or Antwan Wilson in Oakland. They also are notorious for top down management that alienates teachers and parents. Jean-Claude Brizard was given a 98% no confidence vote in Rochester, New York before Rahm Emanuel brought him to Chicago where the teachers union ran him out of town. Maria Goodloe-Johnson became Seattle’s superintendent in 2007. She was soon seen as a disruptive demon by teachers and parents. There was great glee when a financial mismanagement brought her down.

He warns:

No school district trying to improve and provide high quality education should even consider hiring a candidate with Broad training on their resume. Neither the Residency nor the academy are legitimate institutions working to improve public education. Their primary agenda has always been the privatization and ending democratic control of schools by local communities. That is why the founding billionaire, Eli Broad, is one of America’s most prolific financers of Charter Schools and organizations like Teach For America. He believes in markets and thinks schools should be privately run like businesses.

Earlier this year, Peter Greene wrote two major posts about the state takeover of Lorain, Ohio, under HB 70

Greene started his teaching career in Lorain.

The takeover meant that local democratic control was abolished and all authority was vested in one person, the CEO, David Hardy Jr.

Greene wrote:

The law is nuts; it establishes the CEO as an unchecked tsar of the district with all the powers of both the superintendent and the school board. The only job requirement under the law is “high-level management experience in the public or private sector.” So he could be an education amateur. But that’s not all.

The ADC must also expand “high-quality” school choice options in the district. They may appoint a “high-quality school accelerator” as an independent entity to oversee the non-district schools, including getting underperforming schools up to speed, recruiting “high-quality” sponsors, attracting new “high-quality” schools to the district and increasing the overall capacity of these schools to deliver “high-quality” education. Please note the the “high-quality” quotes are not mine, but come from the state’s write-up of the law. That write-up also notes that “high-quality” is not defined by the act.

And if a building in the district keeps producing low scores within two years, the CEO can convert it to a charter.

Hardy is an alum of Teach for America. He has golden Reformer credentials. He is a member of Jeb Bush’s Future Chiefs for Change and the Pahara Institute. He was a principal of a no-excuses Achievement First charter school. He has worked in other takeover districts.

Greene followed up with another post about Lorain. Hardy swiftly surrounded himself with other TFA alums, then told all teachers at the Lorain High School that they had to reapply for their jobs. This was the Big Purge.

Hardy’s argument is that LHS has to break “patterns of low academic achievement stretching back many years,” but he’s not going to evaluate teachers based on their academic strength, their teaching skills, their content knowledge– they are going to be judged on whether they have the right commitment and belief, whether they are, in fact, team players. Is this about the “no confidence” vote that 98% of the staff made public last week? The board vice-president and the teacher union president both think so.

With his top-down, non-collaborative management style, Hardy did not endear himself to teachers.

This past week, the Academic Distress Commission of Lorain, Ohio, formally evaluated the district’s CEO David Hardy Jr. and rated him ineffective.

Hardy earned a 1.6 for the 2018-19 school year and a 2.6 for the 2017-18 school year. The evaluation levels were based on teacher evaluation standards defined by the state: 1 is ineffective; 2 is developing; 3 is skilled and 4 is accomplished. Ineffective is the lowest score possible.

It is unclear what this means for Hardy’s employment with the district. His current contract runs through Aug. 8, 2020

The local union president Jap Pickering said that if he were a teacher with such a poor score, he would be fired.

School Board President Mark Ballard said:

Other than spending a bunch of money, calling people chiefs, there’s been nothing accomplished under him since he’s been here, in my opinion,” he said. “Other than destruction, deterioration and unrest in our district.”

Blogger Michael Kohlhaas received a huge trove of leaked emails from the Green Dot Charter School organization in Los Angeles.

He has been releasing them as he reviews them.

No one has disputed their accuracy.

Yesterday, Kohlhaas released one of the most startling of these documents, in which the charter lobby reveals its ultimate goal: by 2030, every student in the state of California will attend a charter school or a “charter-like public school.”

He writes:

It’s not clear at all what they mean by “charter-like public school[s]”. It’s especially unclear given the amount of time they spend ranting about how charter schools are in fact public schools, so presumably charter schools are the most charter-like public schools of all, but whatever. The point is that this is an acknowledgement by the CCSA that they are in fact trying to destroy public education in California by removing ALL students from it or, if that’s not possible, making public schools be so much like their private charters that there might as well be no public education. In any case, please read the whole document. It is a revelation.

And they’re not just trying to destroy all public schools in California by taking away their students and, with them, their funding. They’re also trying to take away all their land. On a local level they have been working with LAUSD Board Member Nick Melvoin on a proposal to take facilities away from putatively low-performing schools and hand them over to putatively high-performing schools. And before facilities can be confiscated on the basis of performance, a ranking system is necessary. Melvoin’s recent school performance ranking proposal is step one in this playbook.

And the CCSA and its member schools don’t just want control or ownership of the property to help them educate children. Real estate is a key element of the private charter school investment market. The more real estate charter schools control the more money the private investors can make. This is a huge business.

Thank you, Michael Kohlhaas, for performing a public service.

And thank you, also, to the anonymous leaker who provided this frightening insight into the nefarious machinations and goals of the charter school lobby.

Glenn Sacks is a teacher in Los Angeles and co-chair of the UTLA at James Monroe High School. The title of the article is “Charter Schools’ Success Is an Illusion.” The following article appeared in the Wall Street Journal. This is remarkable because the WSJ is relentlessly pro-charter, pro-voucher, anti-union, and anti-public school. It publishes article after article celebrating the successes of school choice. For it to open its pages to a teacher critical of charters is amazing. Thanks to the relentless Sara Stevenson, former librarian at the O. Henry Middle School in Austin for bringing this article to my attention. Congratulations, Glenn Sacks!

I teach at James Monroe High, a public school in the Los Angeles Unified School District. More than 80% of my students passed the 2019 Advanced Placement U.S. Government and Politics exam. This far exceeds the national (55%) and California average (52%). All my students are minorities, most are low-income, and few of their parents are educated. Almost all come from immigrant families, some here illegally.

I’m proud of them. Their success is my success. But my success is an illusion.

The reason my scores are higher this year is because I moved from Monroe’s residential school—a traditional public school—to its magnet school. I didn’t get better; the academic ability of my cohort of students got better. Research shows that throughout the district magnet students’ performance was better than those at other types of schools, and better than the state average.

Our magnet accepts everybody, as any public school does, but its students outperform residential students in practically all areas, including standardized tests, participation in extracurricular activities, and college admissions and scholarships. What separates them from the residential school’s students is self-selection—they applied to a magnet.

Yet that’s a big difference. The pursuit of a school of choice is evidence of a student’s and a family’s commitment to education. Parents understand how important this is. A recent study of New York City’s public high-school system found parents were more concerned about the quality of a school’s students than the quality of the school itself.

The selection effect that makes me appear more successful than I am also makes charter schools appear more successful than they are. Charter proponents’ claims that they “outperform” traditional public schools are based almost entirely on their test scores and college admissions rates.

Each spring, pro-charter websites are filled with standardized-test-score and college-acceptance hype, contrasting charters’ “success” with traditional public schools’ scores and rates, as if they were competing on a level playing field. KIPP, the largest nonprofit charter network in the country, boasts: “Our alumni enroll in college at rates above the national average. They graduate from college . . . at three times the rate of their peers from similar socioeconomic backgrounds.”

Some charter advocates acknowledge the selection effect. “There’s a level of institutional hypocrisy here,” Frederick Hess of the American Enterprise Institute said in 2013. “Charter advocates say, ‘No, no, no, we don’t believe in [selective admissions],’ but when you see a successful charter school, it’s filled with families who are a good fit and who want to be there, and that’s not possible when you have a random assortment of kids.”

Gordon Lafer of the University of Oregon, who conducted an extensive study of charter schools, found that charters also benefit because they “exercise recruitment, admission, and expulsion policies that often screen out the students who would be the neediest and most expensive to serve—who then turn to district schools.” An American Civil Liberties Union study of California charters and a nationwide Reuters investigation found widespread admission policies helping charters to exclude low-performing students.

Charter skimming is apparent in the public school classroom. Each year in the residential school, I lost a few students because they had been accepted to charters. Almost all of them were top-tier students.

At the same time, we received students midyear who struggled in charters and were bounced back to public schools. Yet students who flunk out of a public school midyear rarely can go to a charter school. If a charter decides to replace a student at all, it will be with someone from its waiting list.

I don’t blame charter parents for wanting to do what they feel is best for their children. And I’m sure many charter advocates mean well. Every teacher has daydreamed about having classes filled with motivated, high-performing students. Charters are that daydream come to life.

If charters aren’t the solution, what is? Our schools are understaffed and underfunded, and teachers are stretched very thin. We could do much more for our students if we had sufficient support staff and smaller classes.

Moreover, funding issues have cost schools many programs that were successful in connecting with students who were otherwise disinterested and disengaged. My principal wistfully recounts them, including an airline-mechanics program we had with the local airport, where our students repaired actual aircraft and trained to become airline mechanics. Teachers who run surviving programs are always in a struggle for funding.

The real solution to America’s educational problems lies not in expanding charters or other educational fads, but in properly supporting the schools we already have.

After months of debate and disagreements, the charter lobby and its critics have reached an agreement to reform the current charter law, the first time it has been reformed in 25 years. Both Governors Schwarzenegger and Brown protected the charter industry. Gavin Newsom took an active role in bringing the two sides together.

According to the LA Times, both sides gave up ground.

The deal, announced Wednesday, gives public school districts more authority to reject petitions for new charter campuses, phases in stricter credentialing requirements for charter school teachers and places a two-year moratorium on new virtual charter schools…

Charter schools in California are publicly funded and independently operated. Originally authorized in 1992 legislation to promote educational innovation, charter schools have evolved from an experiment to a system that enrolls more than 600,000 students across the state. California ties education funding to enrollment, and charters have often been pitted against traditional neighborhood schools in a competition for students…

Under the bill, local school boards would be allowed to reject new charter petitions based on the school’s potential fiscal effects on the district and whether the charter seeks to offers programs that the district already provides, according to the governor’s office.

The deal would require all new charter school teachers to hold the same credentials as traditional public schools next year and phase in requirements for existing teachers over five years, the governor’s office said.

The proposal would also eliminate the state board’s role as a chartering authority, allowing it only to weigh appeals to determine whether a school district abused its discretion in denying the petition….

In a concession described as a bonus for charters by people involved in the deal, the legislation would allow county boards of education to retain their role in reviewing appeals for denied charter petitions. The two-year moratorium on virtual and other non-classroom-based charter schools also falls short of calls by unions for a statewide freeze on all new charters.

Additional provisions of the agreement would require charter schools to meet the same performance standards as traditional public schools, the governor’s office said. The law would build on legislation passed this year to ensure charters reflect the demographics of special education students, English language learners and other groups in the communities in which they are located, according to the governor’s office.

The Washington Post published this excerpt from the new book by former Defense Secretary James Mattis, which was originally published in the Wall Street Journal:

In the excerpt, published Wednesday by the Wall Street Journal, Mattis writes about the need for leaders to appreciate the value of allies without explicitly mentioning Trump, who has made a slogan of “America First.”

“Nations with allies thrive, and those without them wither,” Mattis writes. “Alone, America cannot protect our people and our economy. At this time, we can see storm clouds gathering. A polemicist’s role is not sufficient for a leader. A leader must display strategic acumen that incorporates respect for those nations that have stood with us when trouble loomed.”

Mattis argues for “returning to a strategic stance that includes the interests of as many nations as we can make common cause with.”

“Absent this,” he says, “we will occupy an increasingly lonely position, one that puts us at increasing risk in the world.”

The excerpt follows Trump’s attendance at last week’s Group of Seven summit in France, marked by his rejection of fellow global leaders’ climate change concerns, his call for Russian President Vladimir Putin to be readmitted to the G-7 despite the annexation of Crimea in Ukraine, and his erratic behavior toward trade negotiations with China.

I don’t understand why Mattis was afraid to speak out directly and name the man who appointed him, whose policies he is now criticizing.

Mattis was a Marine general. Is he afraid of Trump? I mean, really, everyone knows who he is talking about. Why a disquisition about what leaders should do without mentioning the name: TRUMP.


A reader who goes by the sobriquet “speduktr” wrote:


I have never really understood the choice mantra. My taxes were not tuition for my children, and they certainly are not intended for someone’s individual use now that I have no children in the system. They were and are meant to support the education of every child in my community. Parents are not entitled to a chunk of that money to be used how they see fit. That money is for the common good. For me, I don’t even have to get into the discussion of charter machinations. They are beside the point.


Caprice Young is a star of the charter industry in California. She was a member and president of the board of the Los Angeles Unified School District. She was founder of the California Charter Schools Association, the well-heeled lobbyists for the private charter sector, which fights off accountability and transparency with the help of billionaires like Reed Hastings and Eli Broad. She is a graduate of the unaccredited Broad Academy. She led an embattled chain of Gulen charter schools in Los Angeles called Magnolia.

And now she will serve as superintendent of California’s floundering “Learn4Life” Centers.

The press release from Learn4Life says the chain enrolls 20,000 students in California, Ohio, and Michigan, but the Broad Center says it enrolls 40,000, in those states.

The Learn4Life charter schools are basically operated in malls and storefronts. Students drop in once a week to pick up their assignments. The schools collect huge sums from the state for low-quality “education,” if you can call it “education.”

Investigative reporter Will Huntsberry of the Voice of San Diego has written a series of blistering exposes of Learn4Life. See here and here and here.

Carol Burris wrote about the “Learn4Life” Centers in her report called Charters and Consequences.

Bryan Juan was falling behind in high school credits. Desperate to graduate on time, he left his public high school and enrolled in Desert Sands Charter High School. “I started off ok,” he said. “But even though I went almost every day and worked hard, I could not catch up and do all the paper packets—especially on my own. I got discouraged. I left and went back to my public school.”

Bryan was not alone in his failure at Desert Sands. The 2015 four-year graduation rate of the charter was a dismal 11.5%. Even worse, over 42% of the students who should have graduated that year dropped out of school altogether.

Desert Sands Charter High School enrolls nearly 2000 students; almost all are Latino. It is part of the Antelope Valley School District, but you will not find it listed on Antelope’s website. Nor will you find Desert Sands at the Lancaster, California address given on its own website. Bryan’s classroom was located in an office building across from a Walmart, nearly 100 miles away from both Antelope Valley Schools and the Desert Sand’s address.

Desert Sands is one of 15 independent learning center charter schools, which are defined as non-classroom based independent study sites, connected to Learn4Life, a network of schools that claim to provide personalized learning. On its website, Learn4Life tells prospective families that it connects students to resource centers so that they can receive one on one instruction because “no two students are alike.”

Bryan’s classmates, Mayra and Edith, who also returned to the public school from Desert Sands, found their experience at the charter to be anything but “personalized.” They described education at Desert Sands as no more than a continuous cycle of paper packets, optional tutor appointments and tests that students continue to take until they pass.

Three calls to three different Learn4Life charter schools confirmed that the instructional program was driven by paper-packets that students pick up and complete. After packet completion, students take a test to earn credit. Although students can make an appointment for help with the packet, they are required to come by only once a week.

Of the 15 charters authorized to Learn4Life operated corporations, 13 are required to operate high-school grade levels. Each school has its own name, principal
and sponsoring district, but uniqueness ends there. The schools are in reality a web of resource centers sprinkled in office buildings, strip malls and even former liquor stores. They advertise themselves with nearly identical websites with the same pictures, quotes, descriptions of program, principal letters and a common phone number andaddress. The homepage of the Desert Sands High School is indistinguishable from the homepage of Diego Valley, as well as the homepages of 11 other high schools that are part of the chain. All that differs is the name of the school.

Diego Plus is one of the many corporations operated by Learn4Life. Diego Plus and its three Learn4 Life charter schools (Diego Valley, Diego Hills and Diego Springs), are defendants in a lawsuit filed by Grossmont Union High School District, San Diego Unified School District, and Sweetwater Union High School District. The three charters opened their resource centers in the three complaining districts without notifying them. They were authorized by and are the responsibility of the Julian, Dehesa and Borrego Springs school districts, each of which receives considerable income for supervising these charters located far beyond their boundaries.

In total, the three Learn4Life Diego Plus charters enroll almost 2000 students. Their respective four-year 2015 graduation rates are 10.8%, 19.3%, and 0%. 45% of the students in that Diego Valley cohort dropped out of the charter school. It does not appear that long distance supervision of storefront schools is working out well for kids.

Transparency and accountability, as well as legal efforts to force legal compliance, have been stymied and complicated by the continual changes in Learn4Life corporate names and addresses. A recent petition to the court on behalf of the Grossmont Union High School District lists 13 corporate names located at the same Learn4Life address. In 2014, there were no less than eight not-for-profit corporations listed at that Lancaster address that filed tax returns.

Each of those eight corporations received funding from the state of California. During the 2013-14 school year, the sum of all government grants given to those eight related corporations was a whopping $61,476,306. About 11,000 students are enrolled in the 15 Learn4Life schools.

Officers of the Learn4Life corporations play musical chairs with titles, often receiving compensation from several different corporations. For example, Steve Gocke is listed as the Superintendent of Desert Sands Charter. In 2014, Gocke received $139,750 for serving as the secretary for the two different Learn4Life charter schools. Dante Simi served as the CEO of six different Learn4Life related corporations, and the CFO of two others. According to the organizations’ 990s, his
2014 compensation was $270,200. Dante’s son-in-law, Skip Hansen, serves as a Senior Vice President, and received a six- figure salary for his services. Simi’s wife Linda is also listed as a key employee of one of the corporations.

Perhaps all of the above attempts at obfuscation might be forgiven if the schools were actually getting the job done. But they are not. The average 2015 graduation rate for the schools was 13.73%. Two of the schools had graduation rates of 0%. Dropout rates for cohorts ranged from 27.6% to 53.9%.

Are these alarming rates solely a result of serving at-risk students? Although Learn4Life advertises that its mission is to serve students who dropped out or are at risk of dropping out, its schools take students as early as ninth-grade, including those who simply want a quick and easy way to graduate early. There is no requirement for prior failure before entering the schools.

Last May, there was a school shooting in the STEM Academy charter school in Douglas County, Colorado, one of the most affluent districts in the state, and a student was killed by another student.

Now there is a debate between the school district leadership and another charter school about arming teachers.

On the one side of the argument is Superintendent Thomas Tucker, who says guns have no place in the classroom.

“Teachers are not armed,” Tucker said. “We will fight tooth and nail of any school whether it’s a neighborhood school or a charter school.”

On the other side of the debate is Derec Shuler, the executive director of Ascent Classical Academies. The charter school currently operates within the Douglas County School District. However, for more than a year staff at Ascent have been training to carry and use, if necessary, firearms inside the school.

“We have staff who volunteer,” Shuler said. “They’re screened and they undergo pretty rigorous training. That’s on-going as well to be able to carry concealed firearms at school to protect kids.”

The Douglas County School District recently had to deal with a school shooting. An 18-year-old student was killed and eight others were hurt during a shooting on May 7 at the STEM Academy.

The superintendent insists that only security personnel will carry guns.

He has told the charter that it can leave the district if it insists on arming teachers. The charter may take him up on his offer.

Superintendent Tucker arrived in Douglas County after the defeat of a board led by rightwing zealots who controlled the school board and wanted to offer vouchers. Tucker had to take charge and restore confidence in the public schools. He looks like he is a take-charge guy. No doubt he has read the stories about the teachers who misplace their guns, drop their guns, forget their guns in the restroom, accidentally discharge their guns.