Archives For author

This day honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., is an appropriate time to consider the widespread efforts to restrict the teaching of racism in America’s schools. In Tennessee, the notorious “Moms for Liberty” declared that a second-grade book called Martin Luther King, Jr. and the March on Washington was inappropriate, as was Ruby Bridges Goes to School, about the six-year-old who was the first African-American child to integrate an all-white school in New Orleans. The Central York School District in Pennsylvania banned books about Dr. King and Rosa Parks (parents, students, and teachers fought back against the ban in Central York); a Twitter account called Central York Banned Book Club (CYBannedBooks) reports on censorship in their own district and elsewhere. Young people today are not so easily bullied.

During the past couple of years, the nation’s public schools have been the object of savage attacks by politicians and ideologues who claim that the schools are teaching “critical race theory” and indoctrinating (white) children. CRT emphasizes the tenacity of systemic racism, and legislators in red states have passed laws mandating that teachers are not allowed to teach about systemic racism or to teach anything that might make some students (white) feel “uncomfortable.” At least 10 states have passed such laws, including Florida, Georgia, Texas, Oklahoma, Iowa, Idaho, Tennessee, South Carolina, New Hampshire, and North Dakota. Sometimes such laws are called “divisive concepts” laws, because they forbid the teaching of anything that is “divisive.” Teaching about racism is apparently divisive, as is any implication that the nation is or has been sexist or unwelcoming to specific racial or ethnic groups. So, no more teaching in history about race riots and massacres and lynching; no teaching in history about hostility to Irish immigrants; no teaching in history about anti-Catholicism and anti-Semitism.

Much of the uproar was provoked by the publication of Nikole Hannah-Jones’ “The 1619 Project,” originally published as an issue of The New York Times Magazine and bearing the imprimatur of America’s most respected newspaper. In September 2020, Trump spoke at the National Archives Museum, standing before the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, where he said that radicals and Marxists were responsible for “decades of left-wing indoctrination in our schools.” He singled out critical race theory and The 1619 Project as examples of left-wing indoctrination. He called for “patriotic education” He announced his intention to create the “1776 Commission,” which would “promote a ‘patriotic education’ and ‘encourage our educators to teach our children about the miracle of American history and make plans to honor the 250th anniversary of our founding.’”

The furor over critical race theory during 2021 has not subsided. Teachers in red states that have passed laws against CRT and divisive concepts are wary about teaching about racism. Is teaching about slavery, Jim Crow, and the persistence of segregation a violation of the law? Should teachers avoid any mention of the Ku Klux Klan or modern-day white supremacists?

In June 2021, more than 150 organizations–historians, educators, authors– signed a “Joint Statement on Legislative Efforts to Restrict Education about Racism in American History.” The joint statement forcefully criticized the laws that aimed to ban teaching about racism in a way that made “some” students uncomfortable. It said “these bills risk infringing on the right of faculty to teach and of students to learn…Purportedly, any examination of racism in this country’s classrooms might cause some students ‘discomfort’ because it is an uncomfortable and complicated subject. But the ideal of informed citizenship necessitates an informed public…Educators owe students a clear-eyed, nuanced, and frank delivery of history, so that they can learn, grow, and confront the issues of the day, not hew to some state-ordered ideology.”

The most puzzling aspect of this coordinated effort to suppress the teaching of accurate history is the silence of people who should have spoken up to defend the schools and their teachers.

The most prominent no-show on the ramparts is Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. Last June, he testified before a Congressional committee and was asked about critical race theory. He responded that his department would leave curriculum decisions to states and local districts. He reiterated that the “the federal government doesn’t get involved in curriculum.” According to Chalkbeat, Cardona “said he trusts educators to do their jobs, including teaching about the progress this country has made combatting racism. ‘But I think we can do that while also being honest about some of the things we’re not proud of.” Those comments might be called “leading from behind.” Other than a comment here or there, Cardona did not make a major effort of combatting the attacks on schools and teacher over teaching about racism. He did not give a major speech, as he should have to defend teaching truth.

Other prominent absentees from the CRT-censorship-book banning controversy were the billionaires who usually are verbose about what schools and teachers should be doing.

Where was Bill Gates? Although rightwing wing-nuts attacked Bill Gates for spreading CRT, Gates said nothing to defend schools and teachers against the attacks on them. He is not known for shyness. He uses his platform to declaim his views on every manner of subject. Why the silence about teaching the nation’s history with adherence to the truth? Why no support for courageous teachers who stand up for honesty in the curriculum?

One could list the many other philanthropists who remained silent as the critics were beating up on schools for teaching honest history to their students. None of them was heard from.

Who else failed to show up and be counted on behalf of academic integrity?

Steven Singer examines Dr. Martin Luther King’s view of education by quoting from a paper that he wrote as an 18-year-old student at Morehouse College. The young King said that the purpose of education was “intelligence plus character,” not just the academic learning (a necessary ingredient, obviously) but an understanding and appreciation for “the accumulated experience of social living.” In this statement, King sounds very much like John Dewey, whom he had probably never read at this point in his life. When King wrote, there were two kinds of schools: private and public. Now there are many kinds, including voucher schools, religious schools, charter schools, home-schools, and public schools.

Singer writes:

So which schools today are best equipped to meet King’s ideal?

Private schools are by their very nature exclusionary. They attract and accept only certain students. These may be those with the highest academics, parental legacies, religious beliefs, or – most often – families that can afford the high tuition. As such, their student bodies are mostly white and affluent.

That is not King’s ideal. That is not the best environment to form character, the best environment in which to learn about people who are different than you and to develop mutual understanding.

Voucher schools are the same. They are, in fact, nothing but private schools that are subsidized in part by public tax dollars.

Charter schools model themselves on private schools so they are likewise discriminatory. The businesses who run these institutions – often for a profit – don’t have to enroll whoever applies. Even though they are fully funded by public tax dollars, they can choose who to let in and who to turn away. Often this is done behind the cloak of a lottery, but with no transparency and no one checking to ensure it is done fairly, there is no reason to believe operators are doing anything but selecting the easiest (read: cheapest) students to educate.

Charter schools have been shown to increase segregation having student bodies that are more monochrome than those districts from which they cherry pick students. This is clearly not King’s ideal..

There are many public schools where children of different races, nationalities, religions, and creeds meet, interact and learn together side-by-side.

Students wearing hajibs learn next to those wearing yarmulkes. Students with black skin and white skin partner with each other to complete class projects. Students with parents who emigrated to this country as refugees become friends with those whose parents can trace their ancestors back to the Revolutionary War.

These schools are true melting pots where children learn to become adults who value each other because of their differences not fear each other due to them. These are children who not only learn their academics as well – if not often better – than those at competing kinds of schools, but they also learn the true face of America and they learn to cherish it.

This is the true purpose of education. This is the realization of King’s academic ideal and his civil rights dream.

But Singer realizes that many public schools do not meet this ideal. Segregation has intensified in recent years, due to judicial and political retrenchment. Some public schools are richly endowed with resources, while others are not. But public schools permit the possibility of change and improvement.

He adds:

If we want to reclaim what it means to be an American, if we want to redefine ourselves as those who celebrate difference and defend civil rights, that begins with understanding the purpose of education.

It demands we defend public schools against privatization. And it demands that we transform our public schools into the integrated, equitable institutions we dreamed they could all be.

Civil rights leader Jitu Brown wrote in an opinion article for The Chicago Tribune about the importance of using the schools to combat the school-to-prison pipeline. Brown is the national director of the Journey for Justice Alliance, which connects youth- and parent-led organizations across the nation.

Brown points out studies showing that schools with strict disciplinary policies produce high suspension rates for students of color, which in turn affects test scores and graduation rates.

He writes that schools attended by predominantly nonwhite students have fewer curricular resources than schools where white students predominate.

These environments are punctuated by so-called school resource officers — police stationed in school buildings. More than 1.5 million Black, brown and Indigenous K-12 students are attending schools that have a resource officer but no counselor, guaranteeing that many of these students will be left behind. The violence inflicted upon Black and brown children by school resource officers nationwide must stop. They don’t make our schools safer, and their presence means schools lose precious resources that could be used for counseling and social services.

White-majority schools have always offered much more in core curricular classes, Advanced Placement opportunities, after-school programs, guidance counselors and student supports. Some examples from the Journey for Justice Alliance’s “Failing: Brown v. Board” report elucidate what equity would mean for students of color:

At Marshall High School in Milwaukee, nonwhite students make up 94% of the student body. The school has basic English courses for only freshmen and sophomores and only two other classes. Menomonee Falls High School in a nearby suburb has 21% nonwhite students. It offers 10 English classes.

In Dallas, 39% of Centennial High’s students are nonwhite, compared with 100% of the students at South Oak Cliff High. Yet Centennial offers twice as many language classes, has three times the number of Advanced Placement courses and 23 career path offerings, compared to three at South Oak Cliff.

In Denver, 96% of Manuel High students are minorities. They can choose from fiveart classes, seven AP classes and only one foreign language, Spanish. At Cherry Creek High, 33% of the students are Black or students of color. They have 27 AP classes, six foreign languages and 21 classes in the arts.

The report concludes: “This is racism in action.”

The Equity or Else campaign’s major goal is sustainable community schools. The 2022 federal budget would allocate $440 million to establish such schools, reversing the trend of privatizing public education through charter schools. The movement for equity in public education aims to make American schools more welcoming and truly safe spaces for all children where they can look forward to learning.

Culturally relevant and challenging curriculum, supports for high-quality teaching, wraparound supports for every child, a student-centered school climate, and meaningful parent and community engagement make for the types of schools all children deserve.

Most of us are familiar with left wing sectarianism, the tendency to organize into a circular firing squad. In the 1930s, the U.S left splintered into Democrats, Socialists, Democratic Socialists, Communists, Bolsheviks, Mensheviks, Trotskyites, Cannonites, Schachtmanites, Lovestoneites, and many other factions. Most of their infighting was over ideological and doctrinal differences.

Now, as the Washington Post reports, our zany rightwingers are splitting into warring factions, not so much over ideology (which in their case is either nonexistent or incoherent), but over power and greed.

The far-right firebrands and conspiracy theorists of the pro-Trump Internet have a new enemy: each other.

QAnon devotees are livid at their former hero Michael Flynn for accurately calling their jumbled credo “total nonsense.” Donald Trump superfans have voiced a sense of betrayal because the former president, booed for getting a coronavirus immunization booster, has become a “vaccine salesman.” And attorney Lin Wood seems mad at pretty much everyone, including former allies on the scattered “elite strike-force team” investigating nonexistent mass voter fraud.

After months of failing to disprove the reality of Trump’s 2020 presidential election loss, some of the Internet’s most popular right-wing provocateurs are grappling with the pressures of restless audiences, saturated markets, ongoing investigations and millions of dollars in legal bills.
The result is a chaotic melodrama, playing out via secretly recorded phone calls, personal attacks in podcasts, and a seemingly endless stream of posts on Twitter, Gab and Telegram calling their rivals Satanists, communists, pedophiles or “pay-triots” — money-grubbing grifters exploiting the cause.
The infighting reflects the diminishing financial rewards for the merchants of right-wing disinformation, whose battles center not on policy or doctrine but on the treasures of online fame: viewer donations and subscriptions; paid appearances at rallies and conferences; and crowds of followers to buy their books and merchandise.

But it also reflects a broader confusion in the year since QAnon’s faceless nonsense-peddler, Q, went mysteriously silent….

The cage match kicked off late in November when Kyle Rittenhouse, acquitted of all charges after fatally shooting two men at a protest last year in Kenosha, Wis., told Fox News host Tucker Carlson that his former attorneys, including Wood, had exploited his jail time to boost their fundraising “for their own benefit, not trying to set me free.”

Wood has since snapped back at his 18-year-old former client, wondering aloud in recent messages on the chat service Telegram: Could his life be “literally under the supervision and control of a ‘director?’ Whoever ‘Kyle’ is, pray for him.”

The feud carved a major rift between Wood and his former compatriots in the pro-Trump “stop the steal” campaign, with an embattled Wood attacking Rittenhouse supporters including Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.); Flynn, a former national security adviser to Trump; Sidney Powell, Flynn’s attorney; and Patrick Byrne, the Overstock founder who became a major “stop the steal” financier….

Each faction has accused the opposing side of betraying the pro-Trump cause or misusing the millions of dollars in funds that have gone to groups such as Powell’s Defending the Republic.
Wood has posted recordings of his phone calls with Byrne, who can be heard saying that Wood is “a little kooky,” and Flynn, a QAnon icon who can be heard telling Wood that QAnon’s mix of extremist conspiracy theories was actually bogus “nonsense” or a “CIA operation.”

Beyond the infighting, both sides are also staring down the potential for major financial damage in court. A federal judge last month ordered Wood and Powell to pay roughly $175,000 in legal fees for their “historic and profound abuse of the judicial process” in suing to overturn the 2020 presidential election. And Powell and others face potentially billions of dollars in damages as a result of defamation lawsuits filed by Dominion Voting Systems, which they falsely accused of helping to rig the 2020 race.

To help cover their legal bills, the factions have set up online merchandise shops targeting their most loyal followers. Fans of Powell’s bogus conspiracy theory can, for instance, buy a four-pack set of “Release the Kraken: Defending the Republic” drink tumblers from her website for $80. On Flynn’s newly launched website, fans can buy “General Flynn: #FightLikeAFlynn” women’s racerback tank tops for $30. And Wood’s online store sells $64.99 “#FightBack” unisex hoodies; the fleece, a listing says, feels like “wearing a soft, fluffy cloud.”

It would be funny if it weren’t so sad. The Trump minions are showing their true colors as a clown car.

Cyber charters in Pennsylvania are a money pit because they are not subject to the same rules as public schools. Charter lobbyists must have written the charter laws as they have in other states. And they protect their freedom from scrutiny despite the fact that the founder of the first and biggest cyber charter operator in the state was sentenced to prison in 2018 for his failure to pay taxes on $8 million that he skimmed from the school’s funds. (Note that he was not jailed for embezzling funds but for not paying taxes on the money.)

Peter Greene discovered another way that the state’s cyber charters get favored treatment. Public schools are not allowed to sit on millions of dollars of rainy day funds. Cyber charters are.

I remember what charter advocates promised back in the late 1980s when the idea of charters was first being sold. Charters would be more “accountable” than regular public schools.

But now we know:

Accountability is for public schools, not for charter schools.

Perhaps you recall when Betsy DeVos testified at her Senate hearing about her worthiness to be Secretary of Education. Among her most memorable lines was her fulsome praise of virtual charter schools. This was both sad and hilarious, coming as it did more than a year after the Walton-funded CREDO at Stanford released a report finding that a year at a virtual charter school was akin to not going to school at all (students in these schools lost the equivalent of 72 days in reading and a full year in math).

Over the past few years, there have been several major virtual charter school scandals involving the loss of many millions of dollars (the EPIC scandal in Oklahoma, the Pennsylvania CyberCharter School scandal, the A3 scandal in California, the ECOT scandal in Ohio).

Now Steve Hinnefeld writes about a virtual charter school scandal in Ohio.

He writes:

A Hamilton County court hearing this week may determine whether Indiana taxpayers have a chance to recover $154 million from two virtual charter schools and their leaders and business partners.

The hearing, set for 1:30 p.m. Wednesday before Hamilton Superior Court Judge Michael Casati, concerns motions to dismiss a lawsuit to recover charter school funds that were allegedly obtained by fraud or improperly spent.

Attorney General Todd Rokita filed the suit in July 2021 on behalf of the state. Defendants include the schools — Indiana Virtual School and Indiana Virtual Pathways Academy — and several of their officers and employees. Also named are businesses that were affiliated with the schools.

The lawsuit relies on an investigation by the State Board of Accounts, the findings of which were released in early 2020. Auditors found that the online schools inflated their enrollment or failed to ensure students were being taught, resulting in overpayment of more than $68 million by the state. Auditors also identified more than $85 million in improper payments to vendors and businesses.

The schools closed in 2019 after their authorizer, Daleville School Corp. revoked their charter. The previous year, their claimed enrollment peaked at more than 7,000 students.

Problems with the schools came to light in 2017, when Chalkbeat Indiana revealed poor test scores, abysmal graduation rates and hefty payments to businesses connected to the school’s founder. Indiana Virtual School employed only one teacher per 200 students and spent just 10% of its funds on instruction, Chalkbeat found.

But the schools enjoyed political connections. They employed a state legislator as a consultant and had a retired state appeals court judge on the school board. Businesses affiliated with the schools gave $140,000 to Indiana Republican election campaigns. The schools paid a lobbying firm $300,000.

When will state legislators stop pumping money into these money pits?

SB 167 in the Indiana Legislature received national attention when its chief sponsor, Republican Scott Baldwin, proclaimed that teachers must not take sides when discussing Nazism, fascism, or Marxism. He later apologized for the statement but not until after he became a subject of ridicule on national news. Now it is dead, although a similar bill is moving in the House.

The Indiana bill that sparked national outrage will not move forward, Senate leadership confirmed on Friday. 

Members of the Senate continued to work on Senate Bill 167, but have determined there is no path forward for it and it will not be considered,” Senate President Pro Tempore Rodric Bray, R-Martinsville, said in a statement. 

Less clear is the fate of a similar bill moving through the Indiana House. That bill was passed out of committee, 8-5, and heads to the full House floor next. Should it pass the House, it will be sent to the Senate.

A spokesperson for Bray said Senate Republicans would review the bill, if it passes out of the House.

More on bill:Indiana Senate bill that spurred Nazism remarks stalls; similar proposal advances

Senate Bill 167 was originally scheduled for a vote in the Senate’s education committee Wednesday but was pulled from the calendar, IndyStar previously reported, signaling it faced a rocky path forward. Earlier in the week, Bray said it was so lawmakers could address concerns raised during public testimony on the bill the previous week. 

An exchange during that testimony between the bill’s author, Sen. Scott Baldwin, R-Noblesville, and a history teacher from Fishers set off a viral firestorm after Baldwin said it would require teachers to remain impartial, even when discussing concepts such as Marxism, Nazism and fascism. 

“Of course, we’re neutral on political issues of the day,” teacher Matt Bockenfeld said at the committee hearing Jan. 5. “We don’t stand up and say who we voted for or anything like that. But we’re not neutral on Nazism. We take a stand in the classroom against it, and it matters that we do.”

Baldwin responded that may be going too far and that teachers need to be impartial and stick to the facts. He later walked back the comments in a statement to IndyStar and condemned those ideologies.Your stories live here

More:Find out what’s in controversial 2022 education bills, read full text

A similar bill has continued to move through the House. House Bill 1134 contains the same ban on “divisive concepts,” but was amended this week to clarify that teachers may condemn Nazism and other concepts that run counter to the U.S. Constitution. 

Carol Burris, executive director of the Network for Public Education, wrote a stunning expose of for-profit charter operators in Ohio. It was published in Valerie Strauss’s blog The Answer Sheet.

Burris writes:

Buckeye Preparatory Academy opened its doors in September 2014, promising “rigorous academic standards” for the 117 students who enrolled. It was started by the for-profit management charter company the Cambridge Education Group, founded by Marcus May. In 2017, three years after Buckeye opened, Cambridge tried to sever all ties with May, who was indicted and later convicted of racketeering and fraud in connection with the charter schools he ran. Buckeye never received a grade from the Ohio Department of Education better than an F during its four-year existence. At the end of 2017, Buckeye Prep was more than $1 million in debt.

That enormous deficit, which equaled nearly all of the tax dollars the school took in, was due, in large part, to the astronomical management costs charged by Cambridge.

According to the 2018 audit, the for-profit took 18 percent of all revenue received by the charter to manage the school. Cambridge also collected $93,398 in overhead fees, pulling a total of $383,505 from the $1.26 million in operating aid that the school received. As debt accrued, Cambridge was charging the school 5 percent interest on money the school owed.

An additional $41,490 went out the door to the authorizing sponsor of the school, Buckeye Community Hope Foundation, whose related for-profit organization, Kent Properties, LLC, was the school’s landlord, receiving $162,000 a year in rental costs.

At the end of the school’s audit, an addendum said that the management of Buckeye Prep was transferred from Cambridge to another for-profit, ACCEL Schools of Ohio, LLC.

On the surface, that transfer might appear to be a lifeline for the students who attended Buckeye Prep. But the small charter school at 1414 Gault St. in Columbus was — and would continue to be — a big moneymaker for for-profit operators and their partners.

The orphanage with no orphans

Some states, such as New Jersey, have only one state entity that authorizes charter schools. In Ohio, there are 20 active authorizers, called sponsors. Sponsors provide oversight, deciding whether a school opens and, later, whether its charter is renewed.

For Buckeye Prep’s sponsor, the Buckeye Community Hope Foundation (BCHF), charter sponsorship is a lucrative business. According to BCHF’s 2017 audit, the foundation, involved with low-income housing, received over $3.1 million for sponsorship and services provided to 50 charter schools that year. Its related for-profit corporation owned the Buckeye Prep building and collected more than $162,000 in building and furniture lease payments during 2017, its final year.

[Biden promised to end federal funding of for-profit charter schools. A new report explains how they operate.]

As the failing school approached the date for charter renewal, its new operator, ACCEL, chose a sponsor that already managed many of its schools — St. Aloysius Orphanage. Despite its name, St. Al’s, as it is called, has not provided a home for orphans since the 1970s. It is a mental health service provider that also sponsors charter schools.

Compared with its other funding streams, charter school sponsorship provides the most income — over $3.6 million in 2019. However, while St. Aloysius collects the fees, it does none of the work. Instead, it hired a for-profit corporation, Charter School Specialists, paying out $2.3 million a year to the for-profit.

The relationship between sponsor and for-profit was so tight that in 2020, the state auditor had to remind schools that their sponsor was St. Aloysius, not Charter Schools Specialists, after several listed the for-profit as their sponsor.

In 2019, the Cleveland Transformation Alliance recommended — to no avail — that St. Al’s no longer sponsor charter schools based on its record of keeping failing schools open. Two years earlier, the same committee raised conflict of interest concerns because some school treasurers were employed by both the charter board and Charter Schools Specialists. That conflict of interest while overseeing the expenditure of millions of dollars in public funds was allowed to continue. In 2021, eight school treasurers were employees of the for-profit overseer and the charter schools’ boards, including Capital Collegiate Preparatory Academy, according to information obtained from the Ohio Education Department.

For-profit operators run more than 62 percent of the schools sponsored by St. Aloysius; many of them are other ACCEL schools.

ACCEL schools

In 2014, the online for-profit charter chain K12 Inc. announced a new, yet-to-be-named company financed by Safanad Limited, a Dubai investment company. Pansophic Learning was launched later that year as the Safanad/K12 joint venture. The name of its American-based charter school company is ACCEL Schools.

The CEO of both Pansophic and ACCEL is Ron Packard, formerly of K12 Inc., now known as Stride. Packard’s background is in finance, and he compounded the revenue of K12 by 80 percent — (a far higher percentage than its 2019-2020 graduation rate of 56.3 percent).

ACCEL’s primary strategy is to pluck schools from established for-profit chains that failed or are folding, including Mosaica, White Hat Management, and I CAN Schools.

With no shortage of failing charter schools to buy, ACCEL’s growth has been fast-paced. It now manages 73 charter schools (brick and mortar or online) in Arizona, California, Colorado, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, and Washington, and it is attempting to open schools in West Virginia.
[Yes, charter schools can be bought and sold]
Global School Properties, located at the same address as ACCEL and Pansophic in Virginia, is the real estate arm of ACCEL, which allows it to acquire properties and then basically rent their own buildings to themselves — with public funds — through the schools they manage.

ACCEL’s largest portfolio is in Ohio. Forty-six schools list ACCEL as their operator. However, we also found an additional 17 schools run by a superintendent with an ACCEL email address, all but two under the Constellation Schools brand. And in 2018, ACCEL bought out White Hat’s failing online charter school, OHDELA, resulting in a total of 64 schools in that state.

ACCEL and Capital Collegiate Prep

When ACCEL took over Buckeye Prep in 2018, it operated the school as Buckeye for one year — before shutting it down to put another in its place. The for-profit needed to find a board to act as the nonprofit face for the new for-profit-run school. ACCEL’s then vice president, Mark Comaduci, introduced community member Leslie Eaves to Amy Goodson and Carlena Hart, attorneys for Buckeye Prep, via email. Eaves was told to form a board, for which she served as president. She found three educators — Malcolm Cash, Renita Porter and Said Adam — and forensic accountant Rhonda Whitfield.

By January 2019, the new board was formed. In June 2019, Buckeye voluntarily requested contract nonrenewal (see closed community schools). The following day, July 1, Kent School, LLC, sold the school building to Global School Properties for $1,380,635, records show. St. Al’s would be the new sponsor, and the school would now be called Capital Collegiate Preparatory Academy (CCPA).

From the start, the relationship between the charter school’s board and ACCEL was rocky. Unlike many of the boards recruited by for-profit operators, this board included seasoned educators who took their duties of governance seriously. According to emails between Eaves and ACCEL officials, including Ron Packard, the first problems arose with the terms of the management and lease agreements between the school and ACCEL.

Buckeye’s lease agreement was for $12,500 a month or 10.5 percent of state funds received, whichever was greater. ACCEL wanted to increase the lease by $5,500 a month, according to internal emails. In the end, the agreement was for 14 percent of revenue — state funding as well as additional federal entitlements if the grant application was prepared by ACCEL.

In 2020, the school that served only 135 students paid ACCEL’s related real estate company $145,006 in rent, with ACCEL projecting a rent payment of $319,840 for the very same building in 2025. At that rate, ACCEL would recoup what it paid in six years — precisely the length of the school’s charter. If the charter failed and closed, ACCEL would walk away with a million-dollar-plus building largely paid for by the taxpayers of Ohio.

The management contract charges the charter school 15 percent of all revenue received, with a few exceptions. But that is not where payments would end. A read of the management contract clarifies that ACCEL was in charge of, and would be compensated for, all of the school’s day-to-day operations — from the curriculum to student records to all personnel services.

The school was allowed to go into unlimited debt on which it would pay interest to ACCEL, making it nearly impossible for the school to leave the for-profit management company in the future. Financial records from 2020 show the school operating at a loss of over $420,000, with a 2021 projected loss of over $845,000.

Conflicts between the board and ACCEL ignite
The change in school management came with a wave of staff turnover, with just two teachers opting to stick with the new school, where many of the students were behaviorally challenged. ACCEL hired new and inexperienced teachers, and for the first two months, according to former board treasurer Whitfield, the campus didn’t have any pencils or paper in the classrooms. The situation was so dire that an organization that had performed an independent review of the charter school donated paper and pencils.

To get a grasp on student progress, the board authorized the use of I-Ready Assessment. However, ACCEL preferred to use its own assessment product called “Dr. Carr’s Scrimmages” to measure student progress. Carr, who became a vice president of ACCEL, previously worked for the defunct for-profit charter chain Mosaica. Student progress, and lack thereof, was discussed at length during the board meeting of February 2021, which can be found here.

The school’s principal, a former real estate agent, seemed unsure as to why the Scrimmages were being used. I-Ready results showed that most sixth-grade students were performing at two to three years below grade level in reading and math. That led to a discussion as to whether, given the poor progress made by sixth-graders, the school should expand to grade 7 or focus instead on expanding its kindergarten program. Board members expressed worry regarding a seventh-grade addition.

But the principal and the ACCEL superintendent, Ashley Ferguson argued in favor of adding a grade as being in the best interest of students and the school. Ferguson added, “We need to be up by 200 kids to eliminate our deficit. Two kindergartens would not do it.” [ Ferguson, a vice president of ACCEL Schools, attended board meetings as ACCEL’s “superintendent,” even though Shannon Metcalf is listed as superintendent on the state website.]

Board members resign

To get a better understanding of the school’s day-to-day operations, the board hired Tisha Brady in 2020 to serve as a compliance officer. What Brady observed appalled her.

Brady, a former lobbyist for School Choice Ohio and longtime supporter of charter schools, has soured on charter management organizations running schools. During a December 2021 interview with me [ Carol Burris, the author of this post], Brady expressed her concerns regarding where Ohio’s charter schools were going. “[For-profit management] is absolutely not in line with the supposed principles of school choice programs,” she said. “This is simply a cash grab using disadvantaged students as ATMs to launder public funds into the pockets of a private corporation.”

Meanwhile, the concerns of the board grew. It was difficult for the board to get a handle on expenditures and purchases, even with Brady’s assistance. During the June 14, 2021, meeting, the board objected to the $53,000 spent by ACCEL for smartboards for the school. During classroom visits, board members noticed that the smartboards were generic dry erase boards. The meeting minutes noted a prior concern regarding a large expenditure for a curriculum that was missing, as well as a refrigerator that was removed by a vendor. Eaves, the board president, objected to the lack of inventory control of school purchases, according to the minutes.

When Brady and Whitfield entered the school to inventory the items and see how they were being used, they both said, an ACCEL teacher assaulted Whitfield with a cart. Whitfield filed a complaint with the police department and the professional conduct division of the Ohio Department of Education, as well as with ACCEL.

“My concern was for the students in the classroom. I worried about what the kids had witnessed,” Whitfield said. Whitfield resigned from the board a month later. Eaves had previously resigned in October. The school’s website now lists only four board members, still including Whitfield, who is gone — a violation of law that requires five board members, which ironically St. Al’s had used to put the board on probation in the past.

Capital Collegiate Preparatory Academy expands

Despite worry over student performance, a slim majority of the board decided to add the seventh grade. According to Whitfield and Brady, one teacher teaches all subjects on a rotating basis and out of certification. But, those seventh-graders, no matter how poorly prepared, increased the head count, which in turn increased ACCEL’s fees for both rent and management. The school goes further into debt, and ACCEL collects interest.

And so, it will continue until the school’s charter is up in 2025. ACCEL could walk away from the failing school, sell the building to another for-profit, and move on to another failing school.
Right now, nearly half of all charter schools in Ohio are run by for-profits. Most of these charter schools are located in some of the poorest neighborhoods in the United States. The state of Ohio has known about the cycle of for-profits repeatedly preying on failing charter schools for years.

There is more: Capital Collegiate Preparatory Academy, which was no more than the retread of a failing school, received a $250,000 Federal Charter Schools Program (CSP) implementation grant.
Half of all of the grants distributed by Ohio from its 2015 CSP State Entities grant were given to schools run by Ron Packard’s ACCEL.

The article contains many links to sources. To see them all, open the article.

Gary Rubinstein has been following the sad career of Tennessee’s Achievement School District for a decade. The ASD was created with $100 million in Race to the Top funding, a portion of the $500 million won by the state in Arne Duncan’s competition.

The ASD was launched in 2012, when advocates of privatization earnestly believed that charter schools performed miracles. The mere act of turning a low-scoring public school over to a private operator would free the school from regulation and bad teachers and inevitably produce high test scores. Over the years, this assumption has been proven untrue, and the ASD is a leading example of great promises that produced failure.

Gary has tracked the failure of the ASD to transform low-scoring public schools into high-performing charter schools. The irony, as he notes in this overview, is that many states have copied the Tennessee ASD despite its failure to achieve its goals.

Gary writes:

The mission of the ASD was to take schools in the bottom 5% and within 5 years ‘catapult’ them into the top 25%. They started with six schools and over a period of about five years expanded into around 30 schools. The plan was to turn the schools over to charter operators and then after the schools had been successfully catapulted, they would return to the original school district.

After five years, it was clear that at least five of the original six school were still in the bottom 5%. The other one had maybe risen into the bottom 10%. Barbic resigned, Huffman resigned, the ASD changed their mission to something a lot more vague.

Now, ten years after the takeover of the original 6 schools, we learn from Chalkbeat, TN that some of those original 6 schools are returning to their district. I’ve been tracking those six schools for the past 10 years: Brick Church College Prep, Cornerstone Prep — Lester Campus, Corning Achievement Elementary School, Frayser Achievement Elementary School, Humes Preparatory Academy — Upper School, and Westside Achievement Middle School. Year after year, despite having been turned into charter schools, these schools barely budged in the rankings. One of the six, Humes, was already closed down and now, as reported by Chalkbeat, TN, two of them, Frayser and Corning are being returned to their districts even though they did not improve. Ironically, eight years ago Frayser was hailed as a miracle success story proving the effectiveness of the ASD.

There is no reason to celebrate the failure of a school, especially one enrolling vulnerable children. But there is every reason to point to the P.T. Barnum School of Charter School Propaganda. in did not achieve its goals. It disrupted the lives of children, parents, and teachers.

How shallow are the promoters of these grand plans that tear apart communities, then move on to another gig.

Catherine Truitt, the Republican Superintendent of Public Instruction in North Carolina sneered at critical thinking, as she put forth her own definition of what education is for.

North Carolina teacher Stuart Egan wrote:

A Little Soma Made in 1984 Cooked At F451 Degrees For You? Why Every Teacher Should Be Insulted By State Superintendent Truitt’s Words

“Cram them full of noncombustible data, chock them so full of ‘facts’ they feel stuffed, but absolutely ‘brilliant’ with information. Then they’ll feel they’re thinking, they’ll get a sense of motion without moving. And they’ll be happy, because facts of that sort don’t change.”

– FAHRENHEIT 451

“A really efficient totalitarian state would be one in which [leaders] control a population of slaves who do not have to be coerced, because they love their servitude.”

– ALDOUS HUXLEY, AUTHOR OF BRAVE NEW WORLD

“The ideal set up by the Party was something huge, terrible, and glittering—a world of steel and concrete, of monstrous machines and terrifying weapons—a nation of warriors and fanatics, marching forward in perfect unity, all thinking the same thoughts and shouting the same slogans, perpetually working, fighting, triumphing, persecuting—three hundred million people all with the same face.”

– 1984

“We’ve got to redefine what the purpose of K-12 education is. Some would say it’s to produce critical thinkers. But my team and I believe that the purpose of a public K-12 education is to prepare students for post-secondary plans of their choice so that they can be a functioning member of the workforce.”

– STATE SUPERINTENDENT CATHERINE TRUITT, JANUARY 6TH, 2022

That last statement is a hell of a statement from the top ranking official for public education in the state – especially that part about free thinking.

In her short tenure as state super, Truitt has said many things to insult teachers, demean advocacy for public schools, and belittle the profession.

This is the most insulting – not just because as a teacher my job is to help students become critical thinkers, but as a parent of young lady who has graduated from public schools and a son about to enter high school, I don’t want the person who makes the biggest decisions about our schools to think of my children (and others’ children) as “functional members of the workforce.”

It’s almost like saying that our job as public school teachers is to create good workers for those who can profit from them.

Writing in “PoliticsNC,” Alexander H. Jones was incredulous. He wrote:

In my years of following state politics, I have heard North Carolina Republicans say stupid, outrageous, incomprehensible and otherwise foolish things. Pat McCrory said Caitlin Jenner would have to use the men’s shower if she ran track at UNC-Chapel Hill. Larry Pittman and others declared that the State of North Carolina has a right to nullify U.S. Supreme Court decisions within its borders. And so forth. But nothing I have heard echoing out of right-wing avenue was more utterly discrediting to a public servant than what DPI leader Catherine Truitt recently said about the purpose of K-12 education. Read on, if you can stomach it.

““We’ve got to redefine what the purpose of K-12 education is,” she declared. “Some would say it’s to produce critical thinkers. But my team and I believe that the purpose of a public K-12 education is to prepare students for the post-secondary plans of their choice so that they can be a functioning member of the workforce.” In one quick stroke, the leader of public education in North Carolina discounted and disparaged critical thinking, the foundation of an enlightened citizenry. In saying this she definitively sided with the forces of political authoritarianism and capitalist plunder, the two great foes of the American experiment that have always fought against liberal education.

Open the link and read the rest of his post.