Archives for the month of: January, 2020

I heard from Sarah Jonas, executive director of New York City’s Office of Community Schools, about the good work of community schools. Note that the results refer to engagement in school, not test scores. That’s good news!

I asked Jonas for a brief description of the community schools model. She wrote:

The principal and his/her leadership team (i.e. SLT) formally partner with a community-based organization (aka Lead CBO) through a contract to do three things: 1) collaborate with families to develop a vision for and co-lead the community school; 2) provide services that meet the needs of the community and the whole child (i.e. social-emotional, physical, and cognitive); 3) hire a community school director to coordinate services to ensure that the right services support the right child at the right time.”

To learn more about them, open the link to the RAND report:

Dear Diane,

I am reaching out to share exciting news about our Community Schools work in NYC.  As you may know, we hired the RAND Corporation early in the launch of NYC’s Community Schools initiative to study implementation and impact of the work.

Today, RAND will release the impact study entitled “Illustrating the Promise of Community Schools: An Assessment of the Impact of the NYC Community Schools Initiative” that will offer incredibly encouraging news.  Mayor de Blasio will hold a press conference about the report at PS 67, a Community School near Fort Greene.

According to the report, NYC is implementing Community Schools  on a scale that has not been seen before in the United States.  RAND found that “the Community Schools strategy is having tangible and significant impact on a variety of student outcomes.”  Specifically:

Students in Community Schools are more likely to graduate on time.  In 2017-18, graduation rates in community schools were 7.2 percentage points higher than comparison schools.

• Students miss fewer days of school.  Chronic absenteeism was 7.3 percentage points lower in community elementary and middle schools, and 8.3 points lower in high schools.

• Disciplinary incidents declined sharply in elementary and middle schools compared to non-community schools.  For every 100 students in elementary and middle community schools, community schools had 10 fewer disciplinary incidents per year.

It is encouraging to see significant impact across a range of domains including academic, attendance and behavior.    Attached is a two-page summary with more details. The full report can be viewed at this link on RAND’s website.

The Washington Post ran a story about the report this morning, and we expect more media coverage after the press conference.  Please help spread the good news to your networks on social media –  #CommunitySchools!!

Arthur Camins warns us against the prophets of doom and gloom, the pundits who say that we can’t hope for anything better, who try to persuade us not to fight for a better future.

He begins:

Beware the apostles of dystopia. They come to destroy your hope.  There are two sects. One preaches survival-of-the-fittest disdain for any social responsibility.  The other preaches defeatism and accommodation in the face of wealth and power. They are all hope, destroyers.

The necessity of hope struck me hard on Saturday, January 25. In the morning, I read two provocative op-eds in the NY Times.

Trump-disdaining conservative columnist, Bret Stevens, cautions, “Anyone but Trump? Not So Fast. Let’s not exchange one reckless president for another.” Essentially he argues that Trump, while personally reprehensible, hasn’t changed life for most Americans.  He goes on to plant fear of radical progressives: Too much hope for a more equitable future is dangerously destabilizing.

Historian David Motadel warns us about, “The Myth of Middle-Class Liberalism. The bourgeois are supposed to ensure open, democratic societies. In fact, they rarely have.” Historically, he argues, “the middle classes have frequently sided with illiberal forms of government when they feared for their privileges and social stability.”

In the evening, my wife and I watched the movie Just Mercy.  It dramatizes the relentless efforts of Bryan Stevenson, founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, to exonerate death row victims of racial injustice and fear.  Freed from jail after many years wrongful imprisonment, Walter McMillan tells Stevenson, “We’ve all been through a lot, Bryan, all of us. I know that some have been through more than others. But if we don’t expect more from each other, hope better for one another, and recover from the hurt we experience, we are surely doomed.”

Between now and the 2020 presidential primary and general election, apologists for and defenders of our inequitable, livable climate-destroying status quo will try to scare hope out of middle-class voters into selecting anyone but the dangerous progressives in the race, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. Every fear-based, divisive scare tactic will be employed.  In fact, they are our best hope. Some will allude to, but not explicitly advocate, exclusionary authoritarianism as the only viable path for America.  Others will plead with voters to take the safe “moderate” path.

Progressives need to heed Motadel’s and McMillan’s warning.  Anyone who gets the dire threat of Trumpism needs to heed the warning.  Anyone with a mind to sit out the election or vote for third party candidate needs to heed the warning.  Things always can and often do get worse long before they get better. When it does, innocent people suffer and die. However, the solution is not to bend to the illusion of a safe moderate. It is to vote for hope.

Carol Burris reviews here the five biggest charter scandals of 2019. 

There were many to choose from.

Numero uno, of course, was the giant charter scam in California:

1. A3 Education: Eleven are indicted over their involvement in a charter scheme that defrauded California taxpayers of more than $50 million.

In May, the California Superior Court for the County of San Diego indicted 11 people on charges that they helped defraud California taxpayers out of $50 million via an elaborate scheme to create phony attendance records to increase revenue to an online charter chain known as A3. You can find a summary of the story with its elaborate kickbacks and fraud schemes here.

The alleged theft took place over the course of several years. In 2016, Jason Schrock and Sean McManus reportedly purchased Mosaica Online learning, which got its start with a $100,000 grant from the federal Charter Schools Program (CSP). They eventually renamed the online schools Valiant. Schrock and McManus managed the schools through the nonprofit Academic, Arts and Action (A3) Charter Academy. Eli Johnson would reportedly approach small, cash-strapped school districts to enlist them as authorizers, for which they would receive an authorizer fee.

In addition to Valiant Academy charter schools, A3 expanded by starting CA STEAM Academies throughout the state. Using the 19 resulting charter schools that enrolled thousands of students, they put their scheme in place. Thousands of summer school students would enroll, some unwittingly, and never take any classes. Meanwhile, according to the indictment, the money flowed into Schrock and McManus’s real estate ventures, bank accounts and the kitty they created for payoffs.

In 2016, I exposed the mysterious growth of the CA STEAM Academies and other charters in which Johnson and McManus were involved here on The Answer Sheet. As part of my investigation, I spoke with Johnson on the phone. He claimed he did not know the name of the company he worked for or who signed his paycheck.

The CA STEAM empire extended into Ohio. Whether it has been investigated in that state is unknown. The A3 investigation and prosecutions continue as they hunt for McManus, who has disappeared.

Read on to learn about the other four members of the Dishonor Roll.

I had the odd experience of meeting McManus a year ago. I happened to be at breakfast in a hotel in Newport Beach, California. My companion and I were seated next to a table where a man was in harmonious discussion with two or three others. He spoke in a loud voice and I heard references to “schools,” “sports,” “$5 a head,” etc.

When their party broke up, I stopped and asked him I’m if he was “in the charter industry.” Yes, he answered, and told me proudly he owned many corporations.

That was Sean McManus, now on the lam.

In case the story is behind a paywall, number 2 was the decision by the board of Texas-based IDEA charter chain IDEA to lease a private jet for $2 million a year. The board reversed the decision in response to public reaction. Now the executives and their wives fly first class.

Number 3 is a small California Charter Chain whose owners somehow became multimillionaires, although their charters are “nonprofit.”

”4. A nonprofit operator of migrant shelters, Southwest Key, coordinated with its for-profit organizations to bleed its charter schools into rat-infested classrooms.

A Texas charter school named East Austin College Prep made national news in 2019 when the New York Times reported complaints of raccoons and rats invading classrooms, rain pouring in through a leaky roof, and furniture occasionally falling through rickety floors. Yet, according to the story, the charter high school pays almost $900,000 in annual rent to its landlord, Southwest Key Programs.

The school, which received a CSP grant of $450,900, is owned by Southwest Key Programs, the nation’s largest provider of shelters for migrant children who’ve been separated from their families at the border….

5.The North Jersey Record uncovered hundreds of millions in taxpayer funds going to buildings owned by private interests, with charter schools paying inflated rents that far exceed building debt.

A 2019 five-part series written by a team of reporters from the North Jersey Record exposed the shady dealings hidden from the public eye that allow developers to cash in on public money and tax breaks by providing real estate to charter schools. The reporters found that information was buried so deeply in documents, it was difficult in many cases to find out who was making the profit.

The report resulted in a federal grand jury subpoena issued to the Thomas P. Marion Charter School in Newark. Its nonprofit “Friends of” organization purchased two public school buildings and flipped them for a profit of nearly $10 million.

I left out the details. Burris’ article includes them. Read it in full if you can. The details are shocking.

 

 

 

My new book SLAYING GOLIATH was launched in Park Slope, Brooklyn, on January 21. It was a delightful event, with Carol Burris and I discussing the book, talking about the national picture, and explaining the role of the Network for Public Education in pushing back against the Billionaire Combine. It was a lively and engaged crowd, including Lisa Rudley of New York State Allies for Public Education, one of the heroes of my book.

On Friday, Mary and I flew to Fort Lauderdale, where one of my nephews was getting married. It was a good time to catch up with family whom I don’t see often and to eat vast quantities of food (blowing away one of my New Year’s resolutions).

After the wedding festivities concluded, we moved to the apartment of New York friends who spend every winter in Fort Lauderdale.

Monday night was an event at one of America’s best independent bookstores: Books and Books in Coral Gables. And what a bookstore it is! I’m glad I got there early, with time to browse the shelves of this beautiful store, which has a vast supply of unusual books of literature and history. I could have spent hours there.

I met the owner, Mitchel Kaplan, who graduated from Miami public schools, spent three years as a high schoolEnglish teacher, then opened Books and Books. We did a podcast, and he was wonderfully enthusiastic about the book and had read it carefully (I have been interviewed in the past by people who had read nothing but the flap copy). After our conversation, which I will post here in a few days, we talked about our families and discovered that our grandparents came from the same place in Poland, called LOMZA (NOT Lombardi). My paternal grandparents emigrated in the 19th Century. His came to the U.S. at the end of World War 1. All the Jews of LOMZA were killed by the Nazis during the Second World War.

After the podcast, I hurried to a gathering of the leadership of United Teachers of Dade County at a nearby restaurant. Their president, Karla Hernandez Mats, is a very impressive, dynamic leader. She is also beautiful and enthusiastic. I couldn’t help but notice that she had a copy of the galleys of my book, filled with post-its. She read it!

We all went to the bookstore, which had a packed house, about 250 people, many of them teachers. Karla and I had a public discussion. I love this format. She raised the questions most important to Dade County, and I responded, riffing off into whatever else occurred to me.

The audience asked questions. Towards the end, a woman rose to speak and said ominously that all the schools in America were teaching Satanism, and they had to be stopped. She would have gone on and on, but I was able to pause her and told her I had visited many schools but had never seen any that taught Satanism.

A few more questions, and I started signing books. The line was long, and near the end, I realized I had to take a bathroom break, and I excused myself. I rushed to the WC, where I proceeded to drop my cell phone in the toilet (clean water) but it miraculously survived the ordeal. (A few years ago, my cell melted down after getting one drip of water on it at the bottom of my handbag…so, progress).

The evening over, I hugged my new lontzman, Mitchel Kaplan, and went with my friends back to Fort Lauderdale, an hour’s drive. This morning, off to DC. I will speak at Politics and Prose tomorrow night.

Andy Stern was once a powerful labor leader as head of the SEIU (Service Employees International Union). Since stepping down, however, he has turned against the movement he once led and is an outspoken foe of teachers’ unions. He even joined the board of the Broad Foundation, which is anti-union and anti-public school. I don’t know Stern, but I have seen one article that describes his change of views.

Stern developed a reputation as a business-friendly union leader, known for striking deals with companies that were often seen as too weak by many in the labor movement. Under the guise of modernization and growth, Stern seemed to lose his connection to the grassroots, radical, people-powered aspects of the union world. In 2010, The Nation quoted one union leader as saying, “Andy Stern leaves pretty much without a friend in the labor movement.”

His post-SEIU years have only intensified this feeling. Stern has spent the past decade serving on corporate boards, touting the idea of a universal basic incomeas an economic solution superior to building labor power, and further ingratiating himself to corporate America as a sort of post-union ambassador to the Aspen Institute world. He also took a seat on the board of the Broad Foundation, a billionaire-funded group that pushed charter schools—raising eyebrows from teacher’s unions, who are often cast as the villain by wealthy reformers seeking to build alternatives to America’s public education system.

Of course, he is not the only labor leader who flipped to the other side. George Parker was president of the Washington, D.C., teachers union at the time when Michelle Rhee became chancellor and started her famous campaign to crack down on teachers. At the end of his term in 2011, he teamed up with Rhee and spoke out against the same issues he had once championed. He went to work for Rhee’s StudentsFirst and joined her campaign for charters, vouchers, merit pay, and test-based evaluation. Now he works with the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

Paul Toner was vice-president, then president of the Massachusetts Teachers Union from 2006 to 2014. After his term ended, he joined the “reform” movement, as a Pahara-Aspen Institute Fellow, a graduate of the Broad Academy,  and currently executive director of the Gates-funded Teach Plus, which is generally pro-testing and anti-union (its CEO is John B. King Jr. and its board includes DFER favorite, former Congressman George Miller). For criticism, see here and here.

In 2011, Sam Dillon of the New York Times called out TeachPlus for its role in pushing through policies in state legislatures that Gates favored, but unions did not. Dillon was one of the first journalists to realize that Gates was creating Astroturf groups to advance his agenda:

INDIANAPOLIS — A handful of outspoken teachers helped persuade state lawmakers this spring to eliminate seniority-based layoff policies. They testified before the legislature, wrote briefing papers and published an op-ed article in The Indianapolis Star.

They described themselves simply as local teachers who favored school reform — one sympathetic state representative, Mary Ann Sullivan, said, “They seemed like genuine, real people versus the teachers’ union lobbyists.” They were, but they were also recruits in a national organization, Teach Plus, financed significantly by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

For years, Bill Gates focused his education philanthropy on overhauling large schools and opening small ones. His new strategy is more ambitious: overhauling the nation’s education policies. To that end, the foundation is financing educators to pose alternatives to union orthodoxies on issues like the seniority system and the use of student test scores to evaluate teachers.

In some cases, Mr. Gates is creating entirely new advocacy groups. The foundation is also paying Harvard-trained data specialists to work inside school districts, not only to crunch numbers but also to change practices. It is bankrolling many of the Washington analysts who interpret education issues for journalists and giving grants to some media organizations.

Toner was succeeded at the Massachusetts Teachers Association by firebrand Barbara Madeloni, who led the successful fight to block a Walton-funded referendum in Massachusetts in 2016 to stop charter school expansion.

Just last year, Madeloni wrote an article about Toner’s switching sides. She writes that as soon as someone becomes a union president, he or she is offered the “soft handshake” by corporate and political leaders who want to woo them to the other side. She wrote:

As an elected leader of the largest union in Massachusetts, I found myself with many invitations to meet and cut deals with the very people whose policies the members opposed.

I wasn’t elected to get a better bad deal. I was elected to refuse their deals and reestablish the power of educators, students, and families.

Everyone has a right to change his or her mind. I did it myself. Still, I was not the leader of an organization; I was an individual who said, “I was wrong.” I admit that I don’t entirely understand how someone goes from being the president of a labor union to opposing the people they previously represented. 

 

Shawgi Tell is a professor of education at Nazareth University in New York. He has taken note of states where charter schools are given ownership of public property, where they buy property and supplies with public money but keep title to their purchases if their charter should close. He has seen states that require districts to hand over empty buildings to charter owners for $1, which then becomes their private property. He thinks these transfers of public assets to private ownership are wrong.

He bases his argument on the belief that public property belongs to taxpayers, but charter schools are privately owned.

He writes:

Public facilities and infrastructure are produced by the working class and people and belong to the public. They exist in order to serve the common good and to contribute to the extended reproduction of society.

This collectively-produced wealth must not be handed over to competing owners of capital who are only concerned with maximizing profit as fast as possible, regardless of the damage caused to society and the environment. Socially-produced wealth must be off limits to narrow private interests. The aims and purposes of the private sector and public sector are not the same.

Non-profit and for-profit charter schools are not public entities. It does not matter how often they are called public, the fact remains that they are inherently privatized arrangements owned-operated by unelected individuals and companies. Yet they siphon billions of dollars a year from public schools and seize billions more in public facilities and assets. Most state charter school laws are deliberately set up to facilitate this massive transfer of pubic wealth to narrow private interests. Charter schools have long functioned as pay-the-rich schemes masquerading as “schools” that “benefit kids.”

Charter school owners-operators have never stopped piously demanding that public school facilities worth millions of dollars be freely and automatically handed over to them. They righteously declare that they have an inherent right to public facilities produced by the working class. The consequences, of course, are disastrous for public schools and the public interest. For example, a new report shows that in 2018 more than $100 million was spent by New York City alone on charter school facilities.1 This is wealth and property that no longer belongs to the public that produced it; it is now in private hands, essentially for free.2 Even worse, existing institutions and arrangements provide the public with no recourse for effective redress.

One of the most recent surges in antisocial demands from charter school promoters for more public property comes from Washington D.C. where charter schools have a long record of serious problems. Charter school promoters in D.C. have launched an intense effort in recent months to lay claim to “vacant” or “unused” public school facilities worth millions of dollars. They have even cynically claimed that efforts to block them from seizing public facilities that belong to the public is tantamount to denying parents “school choice” and undermining “opportunity.”

But whether public school facilities are vacant or not, whether they are being used or not, they still belong to the public, not private sector actors who own-operate segregated and de-unionized contract schools plagued by racketeering, poor performance, low accountability, discriminatory enrollment practices, high employee turnover rates, inflated administrator pay, large advertising budgets, and frequent closures. How does any of this benefit the public?

It is amazing that private entrepreneurs have situated themselves to demand free public property, but they are doing it “for the kids.”

The Resistance grows!

Press Advisory: Thirty Regional School Superintendents To Come Together to Defend Public Education, Joining Public District Leaders from Across the State to Urge Reform of Pennsylvania’s Charter School Law

When: Monday, January 27, 2020 10 a.m.

Where: Whitehall Elementary, 399 North Whitehall Road Norristown, PA 19403

Leaders Form Coalition and Support a Moratorium on New Charter Enrollment Until Laws Can be Reformed

Leaders from public school districts in the five-county Greater Philadelphia region are joining with others from across the state in calling for meaningful, substantive reform of Pennsylvania’s charter school laws. They also support a moratorium on new charter school applications and a freeze on additional seats for students at existing charters until reform is enacted. Public school superintendents and other top school administrators recently formed LEARN, Leaders for Educational Accountability and Reform Network, as a way to coalesce around urgent issues impacting public schools, such as charter reform. They are calling for reform to the way charters are funded, as well as an improvement in accountability and oversight. Citing an extremely inequitable funding system, LEARN says charter schools, which are often among the worst performing schools in the state, are straining public systems. Extreme increases in charter costs are sending an increasingly greater amount of public tax dollars to charters, over which locally elected school boards have little-to-no authority or oversight. LEARN wants to bring charter tuition payments in line with actual school district costs and provide more accountability.

Contact: Dr. Frank Gallagher, Superintendent in the Souderton Area School District

 

“School choice advocates argue that every child learns differently, and parents have a right to choose the kind of school best suited to their child’s needs. But the public education system was designed as a public benefit, with a different purpose in mind: to provide education to every person, despite their special or specific needs and limitations. Those advocates aren’t wrong in demanding better options for public education and its current failures. We all should be demanding that. Schools supported by all should work for all. Parents can make a different choice, but shouldn’t rely on the rest of us to pay for it.”

Craig Harris, investigative reporter for the Arizona Republic, wrote about the abysmal record of online charter schools. Despite their poor outcomes, they continue to be very profitable.

The biggest of the online charter companies is K12 Inc., whose schools regularly get bad results but whose revenue this year topped $1 billion for the first time.

State regulators mouth complaints about the low quality of online charters yet they are renewed again and again. As Harris points out, even school choice advocates (except for Betsy DeVos) believe that the online charters should be regulated, yet they continue to operate unimpeded.

Harris writes:

SAN DIEGO — By the time authorities brought charges against the owners of A3 Education earlier this year, the online charter school company had bilked California taxpayers out of $50 million, according to indictments handed up in May. 

The state would have lost another $200 million if authorities had not detected the scheme to inflate enrollment in the virtual charter school using names gleaned from youth sports league rosters, said San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan. League owners are alleged to have received kickbacks for providing names, according to the indictments.

A3 Education, a nonprofit management company that enrolled tens of thousands of California students at its peak, had sought out small school districts to authorize its online schools, knowing the districts would provide little oversight, authorities said.

The California case is the latest in a string of allegations of fraud and educational malpractice against virtual charter schools. These have included, among others, multimillion dollar scams in Ohio, Oklahoma and Indiana, and academic or financial problems that shuttered online charter schools in Georgia, Nevada and South Carolina.

California last year banned for-profit charter schools and this year adopted a two-year moratorium on new virtual charter schools. Neither law, however, would have affected A3 Education or its schools.

The Arizona Republic visited seven states to investigate the successes and challenges surrounding charter schools — the publicly funded but privately operated schools that many believed would revolutionize American public education through competition and innovation…

In Arizona, which has the most charter school students out of the states, no online charter school meets the state Charter Board’s academic standards. And Arizona’s largest virtual charter school, Primavera Online, earned the board’s lowest academic ranking and posted declining graduation rates for the last decade. That hasn’t stopped Primavera founder and CEO Damian Creamer from paying himself a combined $10.1 million in 2017 and 2018.

Primavera, which has a total enrollment of 22,000, reported a $10 million profit this year, while spending $6.9 million on teacher salaries. 

“These guys are definitely in it for the profit,” said Macke Raymond, director of the nonpartisan Center for Research on Education Outcomes, or CREDO, at Stanford University.

Negative headlines have, however, prompted prominent charter school leaders to call on regulators to clamp down on virtual charters, and for the industry to cut ties with the schools.

Todd Ziebarth, a senior vice president of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, said poor academic performance at virtual charter schools gives ammunition to teachers unions and others who oppose school choice, hurting high-quality charter schools and the broader school-choice movement.

“They make up a small percentage of charter schools, but a huge percentage of negative publicity,” said Tom Torkelson, chief executive of Texas-based IDEA Public Schools, one of the nation’s largest charter school operators. “They add no value. I would never send my kids to one.”

Torkelson argues that it’s time for online charter schools to go out of business.

But few states have enacted reforms, experts note, because when such proposals arise, virtual charter operators — flush with cash — have flooded key lawmakers with campaign contributions.

This proves that when a big charter corporation buys legislators, they stay bought.

Despite poor academic performance, virtual charter schools likely are here to stay because parents want that choice, said Raymond, the CREDO director.

However, CREDO notes in a study, low-performing online charter schools are not keeping their end of the educational “grand bargain” struck about 25 years ago, during the early charter movement.

That deal gave charter operators the freedom to teach kids in innovative ways with minimal red tape. By being allowed to run a school like a business, operators promised they would allow regulators to shut down poor performing schools. 

To fix the problems, Stanford researchers concluded that charter school authorizers “must step up their responsibilities and demand online charter providers improve outcomes for students.” And, states should examine the progress of existing online programs before approving any expansions.

Raymond said she still believes in a “cost-efficient and effective education through online” schools but the system “doesn’t seem to deliver on that.”

University of Colorado researchers agreed that states should slow or halt the growth of virtual and blended schools until their performance has improved, and student-to-teacher ratios are lowered.

But Miron, the Western Michigan professor, said changes are unlikely.

Even when prosecutors, like the San Diego County district attorney, crack down on one virtual school another will quickly pop up because the business is so lucrative, he said. 

“Even if a charter board fires them, it doesn’t affect them. They are not losing a building,” Miron said. “They don’t get punished for risky behavior. It’s a very different model for brick-and-mortar schools.”

 

 

Grassroots Arkansas is calling on friends of public education to wear black on January 28 to mark the death of democratic control—of, by, and for all the children of Little Rock, which has been under state control for five years.

***Call to Action***

• Wear black wherever you are and whatever you’re doing on January 28 – and tell people you meet why you’re wearing black today: “It’s the 5th anniversary of the State’s takeover of the Little Rock School District. It’s been 1,827 days since Little Rock had a democratically elected school board.” Tie a black ribbon around a tree, car, or mailbox.

• Post pics of yourself and others wearing black with the hashtag: #oneLRSD and #AsaFreeLRSD and voice your support online and in person on the 28th for a no-strings attached, democratically elected school board in Little Rock – now!

• Email Asa Hutchinson asa.hutchinson@governor.arkansas.gov with this subject line: “Asa Free LRSD”. In the body of the email simply sign your name and indicate any and all connections you have to the LRSD, e.g.: Jane Doe, LRSD student OR John Doe, LRSD parent OR Jane Doe, Little Rock business owner and taxpayer, etc.

It’s School Board Recognition month – and Little Rock still doesn’t have one. We believe that a school board election is possible in May 2020 as opposed to November 2020 when the State “says” it intends to allow an election. We believe for any elected school board to be legitimate it must come with no-strings attached, no limitations on the school board’s governing powers by the State

Bill Phillis is a public education activist in Ohio. He retired as Deputy State Superintendent of Education in Ohio several years ago.

He writes:

December 1, Columbus Dispatch Capitol Insider: Remember ECOT?
As the article indicates, most people have forgotten the ECOT debacle. The ECOT Man, William Lager, siphoned one billion dollars from school district budgets for a business plan that was designed to collect funds for tens of thousands of students that were not being served and tens of thousands of students that were underserved. Lager’s campaign funds-driven relationship with hundreds of state and federal officials over a couple decades allowed him to steal public money in public view. When citizens began asking questions about the thievery, some public officials scrambled to give the appearance of holding Lager accountable.
School districts will never receive back the millions and millions Lager illegally took from them.
Remember ECOT?
Most Ohioans have probably forgotten that the state is still trying to pry money from leaders of the now-defunct ECOT, the online charter school that shut down almost three years ago.
Even though the state started pursuing the money in 2018, a trial might not happen until 2021 under a recent timetable developed by lawyers for the state and those associated with the former Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow.
The attorney general is seeking to recover millions from ECOT founder William Lager; his companies, Altair Management and IQ Innovations; and several former ECOT officials. The lawsuit says Lager had a fiduciary duty to ECOT that was violated by the contracts signed to funnel money to his companies.
The delay is needed because Lager and his companies dumped 50,000 pages of new documents on the state in mid-October, on top of 50,000 already provided, a joint court filing from both sides said.
“The state needs time to review this latest, massive document production,” the filing in Franklin County Common Pleas Court said.
The modified schedule calls for a status conference Sept. 15, 2020, with a trial to be scheduled afterward.
Bill Phillis, longtime head of the Ohio Coalition for Equity & Adequacy of School Funding, remarked, “Although Lager amassed a lot of wealth on the backs of schoolchildren, it is doubtful that much, if any, will be recovered.”
William L. Phillis | Ohio Coalition for Equity & Adequacy of School Funding | 614.228.6540ohioeanda@sbcglobal.net| www.ohiocoalition.org