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For the education reformers of our day, Hurricane Katrina created an opportunity for disruption and privatization.

A chance to get rid of public education.

A chance to get rid of the union.

A chance to fire all the teachers, most of whom were African Americans.

A chance for education reform.

Mike Klonsky remembers and puts it into context.

Jonathan Pelto warns residents of Connecticut that their children will be forced to take the “new” SAT despite serious charges that the test is ill-designed and invalid.

The spark that set off this latest controversy about the SAT is a devastating critique by Manuel Alfaro, who until recently was Executive Director for Assessment at the College Board, which is responsible for the SAT. The SAT was redesigned at the direction of David Coleman, the architect of the Common Core standards. Alfaro became angered by what he saw and he became a whistle blower. Just last week, the FBI raided his home in search of evidence that he might have been the person who leaked 400 SAT questions.

Alfaro has been writing on Linked In, and he posted these statements on August 28.

The first is an Open Letter to David Coleman, letting him know that Alfaro is defiant and will see him in court. He accuses Coleman of perpetrating a “global fraud.”

Alfaro wrote to Coleman and said (in part):

You have done an excellent job discrediting me so far. You have stopped news organizations from investigating my statements and allegations of the global fraud you have committed against millions of students and their families, College Board members, state governments, and the federal government. You have convinced the heads of the Department of Education using the SAT for accountability that—to use the words of your Chief Administrative Officer and General Counsel—I’m “a disgruntled former employee who has expressed anger at the college Board in a very public way. Though his employment ended over a year ago, he has not “moved on.”” However, even with all your resources, I feel that you are still at a disadvantage. So, I’m going to show you one of my cards: in order to properly defend myself against any charges you level against me, criminal or otherwise, a court will have to grant my legal team access to College Board records.

I’ve tried to get help from parents, Senators, House Representatives, the White House, and the heads of the Department of Education of the states using the SAT for accountability without success. Thanks to you and the FBI, I will soon have a path to the College Board records I so desperately need to prove the global fraud you have committed.

The second denounces heads of state education departments for using the new SAT without telling the public that it is invalid.

It begins like this:

Residents of CO, CT, DE, IL, ME, MI, and NH, the heads of the Department of Education of your states have failed to protect the best interests of your students and your families, opting instead to protect their own interests and the interests of the College Board.

As these officials are elected (or appointed by an elected official), you can demand their immediate resignation or you can vote to replace them immediately to ensure that the department of Education in your state is headed by an individual willing to put the interests of your students and your family first.

In the paragraphs that follow, I will describe how the current heads of the Department of Education have failed you and why they lack the judgment (and common sense) to protect the best interests of your children.

On May 7, 2016, I wrote a letter to the heads of the Department of Education in CO, CT, DE, IL, ME, MI, and NH to let them know that the College Board has committed global fraud against their states and the federal government. In that letter, I offered to meet with their legal teams to expose the fraud. Instead of meeting with me (or asking me for additional information), they approached the College Board about my statements and allegations. According to a Reuter’s story, published on Friday August 26, 2016, here is what some of the states had to say about my statements and allegations:

A spokesman for the Michigan Department of Education, Bill DiSessa, said the state “checked with the College Board” and decided not to look into Alfaro’s claims. Jeremy Meyer of the Colorado Department of Education said the state discussed Alfaro’s email with the College Board and was “satisfied with the response we received.”

Kelly Donnelly, spokesperson for the Connecticut State Department of Education, said the state considered Alfaro’s email to be “replete with hyperbole, but scant on actual facts. We did not take further action.” Donnelly said the state hadn’t reviewed Alfaro’s detailed posts on LinkedIn.

Although I have not seen any of the explanations the College Board may have provided, I can assure you that none included the following critical fact: The College Board, ETS, and the Content Advisory Committee did not have time to review all the items prior to pretesting, as the College Board has repeatedly claimed they do.

It is very hard to be a whistle blower. It is difficult to walk away from a lucrative job. Manuel Alfaro did it. I name him to the blog’s honor roll for his courage and integrity.

I accidentally put the wrong date on a post that is supposed to run tomorrow at 9 am.

It tells the story of my meeting last night with Hillary.

I took it down and will repost tomorrow.

Carl Petersen, an education activist in Los Angeles, attended the school board meeting in Los Angeles where the plight of El Camino Real Charter High School and its ethics-challenged leaders was discussed. Peterson is running to defeat Monica Garcia, a charter cheerleader, in the next school board elections.

It is astonishing. Several defenders of the charter school spoke, and they said the board was picking on the school. No defense of the extravagant charges to the school’s credit car. Just attack the board for daring to investigate this school.

The El Camino Real Charter High School was a successful public high school; in 2011, it converted to charter status, and it is now a successful charter school.

But it has a big problem. Its principal and other top employees charged many thousands of dollars to the school’s credit card for expensive dinners, luxury hotels, and first-class air travel while moonlighting as a scout for a professional basketball team.

The school has been warned repeatedly, and now the school board is giving it one month to clean up the mess.

The case is one more example of tensions between the nation’s second-largest school system and its charter schools, which manage their own public funding and are free from some rules that govern traditional campuses. El Camino Real Charter High School was run by the district until 2011.

At last week’s meeting, board member Scott Schmerelson said El Camino as a charter remains “an excellent school.”

But it “is not a private school,” said Schmerelson, who represents the west San Fernando Valley area where the school is located. “It is a public school. They have to go by the same rules we do.”

The El Camino case could test the limits of that assertion. El Camino, for example, has declined to tell the district whether it has taken disciplinary action against Executive Director Dave Fehte, who has come under internal and external scrutiny. Such action could be considered a confidential personnel matter, to be kept even from L.A. Unified.

A report from the district’s charter school division accuses El Camino of demonstrating “an inability to determine how public funds are being used,” adding that “fatal flaws in judgment … call into serious question the organization’s ability to successfully implement the charter in accordance with applicable law and district requirements.”

According to L.A. Unified, a sampling of 425 credit card expenses from five El Camino employees, including Fehte, revealed that “countless expenses were incurred without adherence to any uniform procedure, and without verification of the necessary details.”

Apparently the charter school board thought that the school’s autonomy extended to its financial affairs. We will watch what happens.

Is it a public school or a publicly funded private school?

Mercedes Schneider here describes a new entity that has joined the corporate reform movement. It is called SEN, the School Empowerment Network. It seems to be funded by the Walton Family Foundation, the billionaires who want to privatize all of public education and get rid of teachers’ unions. It is based in Brooklyn, New York, but gained its first contract in Michigan.

Michigan is the state where 80% of the charters operate for-profit. It doesn’t really need more charters. It does need accountability and transparency. The Detroit Free Press published a week-long series in 2014 about taxpayers being fleeced by the charter industry, which gets $1 billion a year and is never held accountable.

Bill Phillis of the Ohio Coalition for Equity & Adequacy reports on efforts by the charter industry in Ohio to block any meaningful oversight or accountability:

Here we go again-Legislators halt charter accountability, although the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) may have been up to mischief

It appears that legislators on the Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review (JCARR) latched on to some technicalities regarding “retroactive dates” to stop rules promulgated to hold charter sponsors accountable. Jim Siegel’s August 23 Dispatch article gives a play-by-play account of the August 22 JCARR meeting. Those in control of the meeting brought in their junkyard dog to unleash on the ODE witness. But several charter advocates who testified were treated with kid gloves.

There is some speculation that ODE is angling to weaken charter accountability by intentionally creating an invitation for litigation within the rules.

One of the primary reasons for the failed charter school experiment is that sponsors (which have collected in the range of $270 million over the years in a non-transparent, unaccountable environment) set their own agenda which could amount to little or nothing in terms of providing assistance to the schools they sponsor. More than 200 charters have closed or failed to open. Tens of millions of dollars have been wasted primarily because charter sponsors have not done due diligence. Why? Because they didn’t have to.

The charterites were out in force to oppose the rules during the JCARR committee hearing. This should not have been a surprise. During the August 11 & 12 State Auditor’s Charter School Summit there was a great amount of whining about the proposed rules for sponsors. The Summit served as a springboard for the display of charter power at the JCARR meeting.

The charter industry and its legislative allies, once again, have thwarted charter accountability; thus, taxpayers and students are again left behind.

Here is the linked article, which is a podcast:

By Jim Siegel The Columbus Dispatch • Tuesday August 23, 2016 7:21 AM

Legislative Republicans blocked an agency rule today that is key to completing new charter sponsor evaluations designed to weed out poor performers.

Those first-ever sponsor evaluations, crafted to help bring more accountability to a charter system sharply criticized both in Ohio and nationally, are supposed to come in October but are now clouded with uncertainty. The move to block the new rule, which Republicans said largely hinged on the Department of Education trying to enact it retroactively back to Aug. 1, comes less than seven months after a sweeping charter school reform law took effect.

The acrimonious relationship between the Department of Education and GOP lawmakers was on full display before the Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review (JCARR). Sen. Bill Coley, R-West Chester, fired thorny questions at Diane Lease, the department’s chief legal counsel, for several minutes.

Coley, R-West Chester, was a replacement on the committee for another senator who said he was on a family vacation.

“Had the department had its act together, you could have complied with all the rules of JCARR…w ithout imposing rules that have a retroactive effect,” Coley told Lease.

Lease referred to a “compressed timeline” in getting rules together for the October evaluations. “We believe we are doing what is required under the legislation. We don’t believe it’s retroactive.”

Coley replied, “I’m a trial lawyer. Don’t do that to me.” Earlier, he said the rule “ demonstrates the height of arrogance.”

The new sponsor evaluations are based on three parts — academic performance, adhering to best practices and compliance with state laws and rules. The rule up for debate Monday related to the compliance with 319 laws.

Segments of the charter school community have been fighting various aspects of the new evaluations, including asking that sponsors get an extra year before consequences take hold.

“This is a clear case of Republican charter school industry allies doing everything in their power to derail, disrupt and delay new reforms that would help hold charter schools to a reasonable standard of achievement,” said Rep. Greta Johnson, D-Akron.

The rule isn’t dead, but it is going back to the Common Sense Initiative office, which determines if agency rules have an unusually detrimental impact on businesses. The CSI office had already issued a report on the rule, but critics said the sample of charter sponsors was too small, and they submitted estimates before knowing what the department required of them.

The CSI will spend up to 30 days reviewing the rule again. Then the clock restarts on the JCARR process, which takes at least another 30 days.

“We may be back here the next month with the same impasse,” said Sen. Joe Uecker, R-Loveland, chairman of JCARR, referring to the retroactive date. “There is a distinct unwillingness on (the department’s) part to work with us on this.”

Some suggested Gov. John Kasich could implement an emergency rule that takes effect for 120 days. A Kasich spokeswoman said the governor has not been approached about that.

Even without the rule, all but two charter sponsors submitted validations on July 25 that they are following state laws.

“Even if there wasn’t a question about the dates, many of the same players would still be here saying the process wasn’t correct for some reason,” said Chad Aldis of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a sponsor that has advocated for more accountability.

“If legislators are really concerned about retro-activity, then we should take action to quickly rectify that issue.”

David Cash, testifying on behalf of charter sponsor St. Aloysius, estimated the cost of compiling the information at $240,000 for the sponsor’s 43 schools.

“In the eyes of (the department), student education takes a back seat to redundant client’s work,” Cash said.

Reps. Mike Duffey, R-Worthington, and Cheryl Grossman, R-Grove City, voted to block the rule, while Sen. Charleta Tavares, D-Columbus, voted to allow it.

“The department has said this is an extension of existing law, therefore nothing has changed,” Duffey said. “But on its face, the rule is amplifying the law and creating new hoops people have to jump through.”

Mercedes Schneider does one of her trademark investigations of the finances of Students Matter, the organization that tried to declare teacher tenure unconstitutional.

It turns out that the organization is funded by the usual billionaires, has spent millions on legal fees, and is deep in debt. It exists to litigate. It wants to ruin teachers’ lives, assuming that’s the best way to help children of color.

Who is on the board?

“Board members include:

former StudentsMatter policy director and former Parent Revolution exec director Ben Austin;

former Chief of School Family and Parent/Community Services for Los Angeles Unified School District Maria Casillas;

former LAUSD superintendent John Deasy;

former California state senator Becky Morgan;

former chief of staff to VP Joe Biden and former chief domestic policy advisor to former Pres Bill Clinton, Bruce Reed;

investment banker and venture capitalist Arthur Rock, and

former chairman of the National Venture Capital Association and founding CEO of Fortify, a pioneer in the software security market, Ted Schlein.

StudentsMatter lists a single staffer, David Stanley:

David Stanley leads major gifts fundraising at Students Matter. He enlists philanthropists to serve as key partners to Students Matter and helps sustain the organization’s high-performing Board.

Prior to joining Students Matter in January 2014, David was Executive Director of Teach For America….”

What a close-knit little world the “reformers” inhabit! Bruce Reed is also CEO of the Broad Foundation that funds Students Matter. Arthur Rock is a major donor to TFA (he personally funds all the TFA interns who work on Capitol Hill and protect TFA).

The Georgia PTA, representing PTAs and a quarter million parents across the state, unanimously endorsed a resolution criticizing Governor Nathan Deal for deceptive language in a proposition that will be presented to voters in November.

A group that represents a quarter million Georgia parents says Gov. Nathan Deal and state lawmakers are being “deceptive” and even “intentionally misleading” with wording they have chosen for November’s constitutional amendment affecting schools. The amendment to the state constitution would eviscerate local control and create a statewide district modeled on Tennessee’s failed Achievement School District. In Georgia, the takeover district would be called the “opportunity school district.” The Governor says it would “increase community involvement” when it would actually supersede local control and tax districts to pay for schools no longer in their district.

It is a classic case of charter lies, and the Georgia PTA is irate.

Amendment 1 on the Nov. 8 ballot would create a statewide school district with a superintendent answering only to the governor. That superintendent would have the power to requisition local tax dollars and to take control of schools that perform poorly on a state report card based on measures such as test results, attendance and graduation rates.

Critics slammed the ballot measure itself as misleading when lawmakers and the governor authorized its two dozen words last year. Now, opponents of the proposed “Opportunity School District,” or OSD, are critical of 14 new words published this week, and are demanding what they feel would be clearer language.

The state leaders responsible, however, appear unwilling to change their wording.

This week, Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp publicized the “preamble” that will introduce voters to the ballot item. Since many will not have done their research, the language could be influential. It was written by Deal and the two leaders of the state House and Senate, who by law write ballot preambles. The words the three men approved at a meeting in Deal’s office on Aug. 2 introduce the measure this way: “Provides greater flexibility and state accountability to fix failing schools through increasing community involvement.”

That, says the Georgia PTA, is simply untrue.

“This deceptive language must not be allowed on the November ballot. … The preamble, and indeed, the entire amendment question, is intentionally misleading and disguises the true intentions of the OSD legislation,” the group said in a statement Friday. “Parental and community involvement is not increased by or required by the OSD enabling legislation.”

PTA delegates voted 633-0 in June against the ballot item itself because, the organization says, the resulting constitutional amendment would take funding from local districts and place their schools in the hands of a political appointee.

Lisa-Marie Haygood, president of the Georgia PTA, said in an interview that both the preamble and the ballot question mislead with “flowery language” that does not reveal what the legislation would actually do. The ballot question asks if the state should be able to “intervene” to improve failing schools, when the state would actually take them over.

Haygood fears the OSD will become a “profit hub” for charter school corporations, since the OSD superintendent would be able to convert OSD schools into charter schools. “There’s nothing in that legislation that improves schools,” she said. “It’s just about the money.”

Senate Bill 133, the legislation that would take effect if voters approve the constitutional amendment, lets the state take a school building and responsibility for its students while forcing the local district to pay for certain facility costs. The local district would also have to turn over local and state tax proceeds for the school’s operation and for the OSD administration.

The language is false, fraudulent, deceptive. It is ALEC-inspired. And it will turn children over to corporations.

EduShyster interviewed author Megan Tompkins-Stange about her new book “Policy Patrons,” which reports on the five years she spent working inside the big foundations that fund corporate-style reform: Gates and Broad, who pursue top-down reforms, and Ford and Kellogg, which are likelier to be “field-oriented.”

EduShyster says at the outset that the book shows the foundations to be “heavy with hubris,” certain that they have all the right answers. The Gates Foundation was giddy with joy to see how closely their goals meshed with those of the Obama administration.

EduShyster says, “We overhear the Broad folks reveling in their success in New Orleans and the failure of the opt out movement, and Team Gates crowing over, well, everything. But both have ended up getting some comeuppance of late—Gates over the Common Core and Broad over Eli Broad’s charter expansion plan in Los Angeles.

Tompkins-Stange responds:

I think what we’re seeing, with Gates and Broad in particular, is that they started from the point of view that *If you apply capital to X problem then Y solution will happen.* For example, if you make a vaccine available, disease will be eradicated. But that worldview hasn’t translated well to education, and the challenge for them now is how do they change their culture and their values in order to better operate within this context? Because what they’ve done up to this point is based on a very strategic, very technical way of looking at the world. You’re starting to see a real normative concern emerging in the field about not including people in public education reform, and not having the voices of these underrepresented groups that are going to be affected. Maybe now that we’re having this national conversation about power, race and oppression, that’s coming to the fore more as a topic of discussion within foundations.

One point that comes through loud and clear is that Gates and Broad find democracy to be a “hindrance,” an obstacle to the strategic plans that they have concocted with minimal interaction with those who will be affected.


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