Archives for category: Accountability

Caitlin Emma, Benjamin Wermund, and Kimberly Hefling, staff writers at, took a close look at Michigan and answered the question, what hath Betsy DeVos’s obsession with choice done to the schools of Michigan?


Unless you are a choice fanatic like DeVos, the answer is not encouraging.


Despite two decades of charter-school growth, the state’s overall academic progress has failed to keep pace with other states: Michigan ranks near the bottom for fourth- and eighth-grade math and fourth-grade reading on a nationally representative test, nicknamed the “Nation’s Report Card.” Notably, the state’s charter schools scored worse on that test than their traditional public-school counterparts, according to an analysis of federal data.


Critics say Michigan’s laissez-faire attitude about charter-school regulation has led to marginal and, in some cases, terrible schools in the state’s poorest communities as part of a system dominated by for-profit operators. Charter-school growth has also weakened the finances and enrollment of traditional public-school districts like Detroit’s, at a time when many communities are still recovering from the economic downturn that hit Michigan’s auto industry particularly hard.


The results in Michigan are so disappointing that even some supporters of school choice are critical of the state’s policies.


“The bottom line should be, ‘Are kids achieving better or worse because of this expansion of choice?’” said Michigan State Board of Education President John Austin, a DeVos critic who also describes himself as a strong charter-school supporter. “It’s destroying learning outcomes … and the DeVoses were a principal agent of that.”


The links are in the article, as well as a puzzle. Check out the link to CREDO at Stanford (funded by the Walton Foundation), which issued a report on Michigan charters and praised them extensively. How does the CREDO finding make sense to Michigan’s low standing on the National Assessment of Education Progress? How does it make sense in light of the fact that Detroit is the worst-performing urban district tested by NAEP?



Andre Perry was one of the earliest charter school leaders in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and one of the few leaders of color. He became disillusioned with some parts of the reforms, especially the marginalization of local community voices.


In this article, he calls out reformers who feel they must distance themselves from Trump because of his comments that stirred racism. Perry said the same reformers are quietly pleased that the incoming administration will enlarge and enrich the charter sector.


He writes:


“Playing the politics of niceness has never been so convenient for the Dems of education reform. DeVos’s belief in limited state oversight, for-profit charter management and vouchers didn’t give Democrat proponents of charter schools any pause in the past. And for many it doesn’t now.
“As the chief architect of education reform in Michigan, DeVos should take blame for doing no favors to struggling public schools in Detroit and the rest of the state. Michigan is a prime example of what not to do in education reform. Her failing creation of a wide-open market is a case study in why there should be limits on school choice.


“However, the inability of reform-leaning Democrats to renounce DeVos and her policies in the past reveals a complicity in her nomination. Authentic Democratic notions of accountability simply don’t jibe with Republican ideals of choice. You also don’t have to be cozy with your opponents to accomplish your policy goals. But for the reward of charter schools, certain Democrats have abandoned their party’s principles and muzzled their opposition to Republican policies in education and beyond.


“Young people don’t live wholly in schools; they live in communities. If Democrat reformers want children to live in nurturing communities and not just charter schools, they must move beyond myopic quid pro quo politics.


“Democrats can no longer afford to wittingly miss the forest for the charter school trees.
“Will Dems fight voucher policies, which have been shown to be largely ineffective, and harmful in some cases, to an extent that makes the Secretary uncomfortable? Will Dems push for the kind of accountability that would put a moratorium on the loose and deleterious system of charters in DeVos’ home state of Michigan?
“I look forward to Democrats divorcing themselves from a relationship of convenience with Republicans, who have elevated what a school choice proponent really looks like in DeVos. Real dissent from Democrats should equate to aggressively limiting DeVos’s policies, which have included restricting state oversight, promoting for-profit charter management organizations and encouraging vouchers for private schools including those that are faith-based.
“Philosophically, Democrats shouldn’t believe in this kind of school choice.”


If anyone thought that the frequent scandals in the charter sector in Ohio would bring about a new era of accountability and oversight for charter schools, think again. The Ohio Department of Education has hired a charter school activist to run the state’s charter school office.


The Ohio Department of Education has hired charter school advocate RaShaun Holliman, the head of the Ohio Alliance for Public Charter Schools, to lead its charter school office.


He started Monday in the position once held by Joni Hoffman, a longtime employee of the department who was part of last year’s data-rigging controversy involving online schools.


Hoffman and Frank Stoy, another key official in the charter school office, are retiring.


Whether Holliman will just promote charter schools, as he has in previous jobs, or will force Ohio charters to have better quality is unclear. He did not return a call to the OAPCS office and biographical information provided by the state and by that organization does not show any previous enforcement work.


The former principal of the Focus Learning Academy charter school in Columbus worked for the Georgia Charter Schools Association, where he handled communications and outreach, before returning to Ohio in late summer to head OAPCS.


But that non-profit organization that was once the leading voice for charter schools in the state has lost members and officially announced this week that it will shut down at the end of the year.


The hiring drew a few objections, given the national ridicule of Ohio’s $1 billion charter school industry both from comedians and political commentators, as well as from national charter supporters.


“You don’t hire an industry insider to be a tough new sheriff for the industry they were just advocating for,” said former state representative Steve Dyer, a frequent critic of charter schools. “It’s certainly an image problem.”


The funniest line in the story is this one:


Chad Aldis of the Fordham Institute, an organization that promotes charter schools but also quality standards for them, understood that concern, but was less worried. Hirings of officials from traditional public schools happen all the time, he noted, without raising alarms of favoritism for those schools.


So, hiring an experienced superintendent to lead the state’s education department is equivalent to hiring an industry insider to police a scandal-ridden industry. The overwhelming majority of children in Ohio attend public schools, which consistently outperform charter schools. Will the new director of charter schools crack down on the frauds, grifters, thieves, and cheats in the charter sector? Or is this just another example of industry capture of the regulatory agency?


Robert Mann, professor of journalism at Louisiana State University, hopes that Donald Trump will pay attention to the disaster of former Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal’s failed voucher program. Open the article to read the links.


“This is where the disappointment of Jindal’s voucher program enters the picture, as policy makers and the media will inevitably examine its dismal performance. At Jindal’s urging, in 2008 lawmakers created the Louisiana Scholarship Program (LSP), enabling some disadvantaged students to leave public schools graded a C or lower and enroll in a participating private school. By 2014, more than 6,000 public school students attended one of 126 private schools.


“In 2015, Jindal bragged about his program. “For students attending private schools on public dollars, almost all of whom arrived several years behind, their lives are being turned around,” he wrote in a column on CNN’s website.


“If only that were true. In a paper published last year by the National Bureau for Economic Research, three scholars documented “the large negative effects” and the reduced academic achievements of scholarship program students in 2013, the first year after the program’s expansion.


“Our results show that LSP vouchers reduce academic achievement,” the researchers concluded, explaining, “attendance at an LSP-eligible private school is estimated to lower math scores” and “reduce reading, science and social studies scores.”


“Why? “We find evidence,” the researchers wrote, “that the negative effects of the LSP may be linked to selection of low-quality private schools into the program.”


“A comprehensive 2016 study of the program for the Education Research Alliance for New Orleans also concluded “an LSP scholarship user who was performing at roughly the 50th percentile at baseline fell 24 percentile points below their control group counterparts in math after one year. By year 2, they were 13 percentile points below.”


“Imagine that. Pluck kids from troubled public schools, put them into substandard private schools and — voila! — you’ve made their academic condition worse.”




Stephen Henderson, editorial page editor of the Detroit Free Press and a parent of children in a Detroit charter school, wrote a scathing critique of Betsy DeVos and her lack of qualifications to be Secretary of Education. He called his article “Betsy DeVos and the Twilight of Public Education.”


She is not an educator nor does she have relevant experience, he says. She is a lobbyist for school choice. The chaotic mess in Detroit is her handiwork. The city has many charter schools, and they are no better than public schools.


Thanks to her zealous lobbying, he says, Michigan tolerates more low-performing charters that just about any other state.


He writes:


“In Detroit, parents of school-age children have plenty of choices, thanks to the nation’s largest urban network of charter schools.


“What remains in short supply is quality.


“In Brightmoor, the only high school left is Detroit Community Schools, a charter boasting more than a decade of abysmal test scores and, until recently, a superintendent who earned $130,000 a year despite a dearth of educational experience or credentials.


“On the west side, another charter school, Hope Academy, has been serving the community around Grand River and Livernois for 20 years. Its test scores have been among the lowest in the state throughout those two decades; in 2013 the school ranked in the first percentile, the absolute bottom for academic performance. Two years later, its charter was renewed.


“Or if you live downtown, you could try Woodward Academy, a charter that has limped along near the bottom of school achievement since 1998, while its operator has been allowed to expand into other communities.


“For students enrolled in schools of choice — that is, schools in nearby districts who have opened their doors to children who live outside district boundaries — it’s not much better. Kids who depend on Detroit’s problematic public transit are are too far away from the state’s top-performing school districts — and most of those districts don’t participate in the schools of choice program, anyway.


“This deeply dysfunctional educational landscape — where failure is rewarded with opportunities for expansion and “choice” means the opposite for tens of thousands of children — is no accident. It was created by an ideological lobby that has zealously championed free-market education reform for decades, with little regard for the outcome.


“And at the center of that lobby is Betsy DeVos, the west Michigan advocate whose family has contributed millions of dollars to the cause of school choice and unregulated charter expansion throughout Michigan….


“The results of this free-for-all have been tragic for Michigan children, and especially for those in Detroit, where 79% of the state’s charters are located…


“The most accurate assessment is that charter schools have simply created a second, privately managed failing system. Yes, there are high-performing outliers — a little more than 10% of the charter schools perform in the top tier. But in Detroit, the best schools are as likely to be traditional public schools.


“DeVos and her family have not been daunted by these outcomes. It’s as if the reams of data showing just incremental progress or abysmal failure don’t matter. Their belief in charter schools is unshakable, their resistance to systematic reforms that would improve both public and charter schools unyielding.”

The Nevada state constitution contains this language:


Article 11, Section 10: “No public funds of any kind or character whatever, State, County or Municipal, shall be used for sectarian purpose.”


Mercedes Schneider explains how the Nevada Supreme Court did a fancy rhetorical two-step to conclude that the state constitution does not forbid vouchers, it just forbids funding them. Got that?


She then shows a video of Betsy DeVos, Trump’s pick for Secretary of Education, telling a Florida lawyer how corporate taxes can be used to provide vouchers for use in any school, including religious schools. This, despite the fact that the Florida state constitution explicitly says in Article 1, Section 3:


“There shall be no law respecting the establishment of religion or prohibiting or penalizing the free exercise thereof. Religious freedom shall not justify practices inconsistent with public morals, peace or safety. No revenue of the state or any political subdivision or agency thereof shall ever be taken from the public treasury directly or indirectly in aid of any church, sect, or religious denomination or in aid of any sectarian institution.”


This, despite the fact that the voters of Florida rejected an effort to change this portion of the Florida state constitution to allow vouchers for religious schools in 2012. The so-called “Religious Freedom Amendment” was voted down by 55-44%.


US Secretary of Education nominee and “true pioneer of the school choice movement across the country,” Betsy DeVos, explains how the educational tax credit enables what would be public money (collected in the form of corporate taxes) from becoming public money at minute 4:45 in the 2015 Youtube video below in which Edward Pozzuoli, the president of Florida-based Tripp Scott Law Firm, interviews then-American Federation for Children (AFC) Chair DeVos, about tax credits.


The entire 9-minute video is an eye opener; DeVos talks about how the AFC does it all: finds the school choice candidates (she’s particularly keen on private school choice); puts “political effort” behind electing/defeating candidates; “works on the policies… the actual legislation,” and “helps parents and kids to find schools and schools to find parents and kids.”


“Reformers” intent on replacing public schools with for-profit charters and religious schools don’t let a little thing like the state constitution get in their way. Conservatives used to call themselves “strict constructionists” when it came to the federal or state constitution. They insisted on abiding by the original intent of those who wrote the constitution. It turns out now that they believe quite the opposite and are ready to reinterpret the clear language of state constitutions to achieve their goal of privatization.

Bruce Baker is a professor of education at the Graduate School of Education at Rutgers; his area of specialization is school finance and the economics of education.


This new paper is a major analysis of the effects of charter schools on their host districts. Until now, there has been little attention paid to the ways that the expansion of charter schools affects the budget and policies of the district in which the charters open. Over the past twenty years, the United States has been developing a dual school system of public schools, open to all and responsible for all students who enroll, and charter schools, which are free of most state regulations and free to remove students they don’t want.


Baker is interested primarily in the fiscal impact of charters but he does consider the disciplinary policies of charters and also their segregating effects.


Here is his summary of his findings. I urge you to read the paper in its entirety to understand how charters are depleting the resources of public schools without necessarily providing a better quality of education.


Effects of charter expansion


District schools are surviving but under increased stress


In some urban districts, charter schools are serving 20 percent or more of the city or districtwide student population. These host districts have experienced the following effects in common:


*While total enrollment in district schools (the noncharter, traditional public schools) has dropped, districts have largely been able to achieve and maintain reasonable minimum school sizes, with only modest increases in the shares of children served in inefficiently small schools.
*While resources (total available revenues to district schools) have declined, districts have reduced overhead expenditures enough to avoid consuming disproportionate shares of operating spending and increasing pupil/teacher ratios.
*Despite expenditure cutting measures, districts simultaneously facing rapid student population decline and/or operating in states with particularly inequitable, under-resourced school finance systems have faced substantial annual deficits.
Charter expansion is not driven by well-known, high-profile operators


Most charter expansion in these cities has occurred among independently operated charter schools.
*High profile, frequently researched nonprofit charter school operators including the Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP) have relatively small shares of the charter school market in all cities except Newark.
*In many of these cities, some of the leading charter operators (those with the most market share) have been the subject of federal and state investigations and judicial orders regarding conflicts of interest (self-dealing) and financial malfeasance. These operators include Imagine Schools, Inc., White Hat Management, National Heritage Academies, and Concept Schools.
*The varied and often opaque financial practices across charter school management companies, while fitting with a competitive portfolio conception, leads to increased disparities across students, irregularities in the accumulation of additional public (publicly obligated) debt, and inequities and irregularities in the ownership and distribution of what were once commonly considered public assets—from buildings and vehicles right down to desks, chairs, and computers.


Charter schools are expanding in predominantly low-income, predominantly minority urban settings


Few are paying attention to the breaches of legal rights of students, parents, taxpayers, and employees under the increasingly opaque private governance and management structures associated with charter expansion.
Expansion of charter schooling is exacerbating inequities across schools and children because children are being increasingly segregated by economic status, race, language, and disabilities and further, because charter schools are raising and spending vastly different amounts, without regard for differences in student needs. Often, the charter schools serving the least needy populations also have the greatest resource advantages.
With the expansion of charter schooling, public districts are being left with legacy debts associated with capital plants and employee retirement systems in district schools while also accumulating higher risk and more costly debt in the form of charter school revenue bonds to support new capital development.
In many cases, the districts under investigation herein are large enough to be cut in half or thirds while still being financially viable, at least in terms of achieving economies of scale. In effect, charter expansion has already halved the size of many urban districts. Similar charter expansion in smaller districts, however, may lead the districts to enroll fewer than 2,000 pupils in district schools and suffer elevated costs. Given the literature on costs, productivity, and economies of scale, it makes little sense in population-dense areas to promote policies that cause district enrollments to fall below efficient-scale thresholds (around 2,000 pupils) or that introduce additional independent operators running below efficient-scale thresholds. It makes even less sense to introduce chartering to rural areas where schools and districts already operate below efficient scale.


Beyond issues of economies of scale, charter expansion can create inefficiencies and redundancies within district boundaries, from the organization and delivery of educational programs to student transportation, increasing the likelihood of budgetary stress on the system as a whole, and the host government in particular. In addition to increasing per pupil transportation expense, ill-planned (or unplanned) geographic dispersion may put more vehicles on already congested urban streets, contributing to traffic and air quality concerns, and significantly reduces the likelihood that children use active transportation (walking or biking) to school (Baker 2014b; Davison, Werder, and Lawson 2008; Evenson et al. 2012; Merom et al. 2006; Rosenberg et al. 2006; Wilson, Wilson, and Krizek 2007).


Here are a few excerpts that I found edifying:


While charter schooling was conceived as a way to spur innovation—try new things, evaluate them, and inform the larger system—studies of the structure and practices of charter schooling find the sector as a whole not to be particularly “innovative” (Preston et al. 2012). Analyses by charter advocates at the American Enterprise Institute find that the dominant form of specialized charter school is the “no excuses” model, a model that combines traditional curriculum and direct instruction with strict disciplinary policies and school uniforms, in some cases providing extended school days and years (McShane and Hatfield 2015). Further, charter schools raising substantial additional revenue through private giving tend to use that funding to a) provide smaller classes, and b) pay teachers higher salaries for working longer days and years (Baker, Libby, and Wiley 2012). For those spending less, total costs are held down, when necessary, through employing relatively inexperienced, low-wage staff and maintaining high staff turnover rates (Epple, Romano, and Zimmer 2015; Toma and Zimmer 2012). In other words, the most common innovations are not especially innovative or informative for systemic reform….


As early as the mid-1990s, authors including Paul Hill, James Guthrie, and Lawrence Pierce (1997) advocated that entire school districts should be reorganized into collections of privately managed contract schools (Hill, Pierce, and Guthrie 2009). This contract school proposal emerged despite the abject failure of Education Alternatives, Inc., in Baltimore and Hartford. This proposal provided a framework for renewed attempts at large-scale private management including the contracting of management for several Philadelphia public schools in the early 2000s. Philadelphia’s experiment in private contracting yielded mixed results, at best (Mac Iver and Mac Iver 2006).2 Notably, Hill and colleagues’ contract school model depended on a centralized authority to manage the contracts and maintain accountability, a precursor to what is now commonly referred to as a “portfolio” model. In the portfolio model, a centralized authority oversees a system of publicly financed schools, both traditional district-operated and independent, charter-operated, wherein either type of school might be privately managed (Hill 2006).3 The goal as phrased by former New York City schools’ chancellor Joel Klein is to replace school systems with systems of great schools (Patrino 2015).


A very different reality of charter school governance, however, has emerged under state charter school laws—one that presents at least equal likelihood that charters established within districts operate primarily in competition, not cooperation with their host, to serve a finite set of students and draw from a finite pool of resources. One might characterize this as a parasitic rather than portfolio model—one in which the condition of the host is of little concern to any single charter operator. Such a model emerges because under most state charter laws, locally elected officials—boards of education—have limited control over charter school expansion within their boundaries, or over the resources that must be dedicated to charter schools. Thus, there is no single, centralized authority managing the portfolio—the distributions of enrollments and/or resources—or protecting against irreparable damage to any one part of the system (be it the parasites or the host)….


Increased attention is being paid to the fiscal and enrollment effects of charter schooling on host districts. These concerns come at a time when municipal fiscal stress and the potential for large-scale municipal and school district bankruptcies are in the media spotlight (Governing 2015). Many high profile cases of municipal fiscal stress are in cities where the charter sector is thriving, for example Chester Upland, Pa., Detroit, and Philadelphia (Layton 2015; Graham 2015; Pierog 2015). Some charter advocates have gone so far as to assert that school district bankruptcy presents a “huge opportunity” to absolve the taxpaying public of existing debts and financial obligations and start fresh under new management, reallocating those funds to classrooms (Persson 2015). Of course, this strategy ignores the complexities of municipal bankruptcy proceedings, and the contractual, social, and moral obligations for the stewardship of publicly owned capital (and other) assets and responsibility to current and retired employees.


Advocates for charter expansion typically assert that charter expansion causes no financial harm to host districts. The logic goes, if charter schools serve typical students drawn from the host district’s population, and receive the same or less in public subsidy per pupil to educate those children, then the per pupil amount of resources left behind for children served in district schools either remains the same or increases. Thus, charter expansion causes no harm (and in fact yields benefits) to children remaining in district schools. The premise that charter schools are uniformly undersubsidized is grossly oversimplified and inaccurate in many charter operating contexts (Baker 2014c). In addition, numerous studies find that charter schools serve fewer students with costly special needs, leaving proportionately more of these children in district schools. Perhaps most important, the assumption that revenue reductions and enrollment shifts cause districts no measurable harm for host ignores the structure of operating costs and dynamics of cost and expenditure reduction.


Moody’s Investors Service opined in 2013 that “charter schools pose greatest credit challenge to school districts in economically weak urban areas.” Specifically, Moody’s identified the following four areas posing potential concerns for host urban districts with growing independent charter sectors:


Weak demographics and district financial stress, which detract from the ability to deliver competitive services and can prompt students to move to charter schools
Weak capacity to adjust operations in response to charter growth, which reduces management’s ability to redirect spending and institute program changes to better compete with charter schools
State policy frameworks that support charter school growth through relatively liberal approval processes for new charters, generous funding of charters, and few limits on charter growth
Lack of integration with a healthier local government that can insulate a school system from credit stress (D’Arcy and Richman 2013)
Moody’s reiterated these concerns in a follow-up report (Moody’s Investors Service 2015)…


Rarely if ever considered in policy discourse over charter school expansion is whether children and families should be required to trade constitutional or statutory rights for the promise of the possibility of a measurable test score gain. In fact, the public, including parents and children, is rarely if ever informed of these tradeoffs and does not become aware until an issue arises. Charter operators have shown time and time again that they are willing to push boundaries regarding student rights and discipline policies. An evaluation of New York City charter school disciplinary policies by Advocates for Children of New York (2015) found, among other things, that “107 of the 164 NYC charter school discipline policies we reviewed permit suspension or expulsion as a penalty for any of the infractions listed in the discipline policy, no matter how minor the infraction.”14 Further, these policies included numerous violations of rights to due process when disciplinary actions are taken. While the report asserts that these policies violate state and federal laws it remains unclear whether charter operators might successfully shield themselves by their “private” status. That is, in many state contexts, charter schools may simply not have to follow the same rules in the establishment and implementation of their rules for children, parents, and the public at large.


The loss of rights or the requirement to trade rights for the promise of marginal test score gains—is concerning from an equity perspective because chartering, in particular no-excuses15 charter models are not evenly distributed across communities and children. Table 2 shows that nearly 12 percent of large city student populations are in charter schools, where those populations are 57 percent low income and nearly 70 percent black or Hispanic on average. Suburbs of large cities, which have much lower minority and low-income shares, have charter market penetration less than one-third the rate of large urban centers.


I hope that municipal finance analysts across the nation read this report with care. Moody’s warned Massachusetts that if it expanded the number of charters, several urban districts would be financially distressed. Until now, the reformers have not paid attention to how charters affect the finances of the host district or have not listened to these concerns. Perhaps they thought that a fiscal crisis in the host district would lead to a collapse of the governing authority and thus to more charter schools. But “gimme” is not sound public policy. Sound public policy would be concerned about supplying  good schools to all children, not just to some children.

Jeff Bryant has written a stunning documentation of the damage done by the charter industry to public schools in North Carolina. It is worth your time to read it all. It is a preview of what lies ahead for public education in the Trump era, unless parents and educators and public-spirited citizens join to save their public schools. It is not a pretty picture.


The Tea Party Republicans in the legislature and Governor Pat McCrory in the state house set a course to undermine, underfund, and starve public schools while opening the state to charter schools, whether nonprofit or for-profit. Jeff Bryant shows how funding for the public schools is below 2008 levels, even though enrollment has grown by nearly 80,000. Public schools have had to make budget cuts, at the same time that charter schools and online charter schools take away students and funding. In North Carolina, as in many states, if a student leaves a charter school after October to return to the public school, the charter school gets to keep the full year of tuition and is not obliged to replace the student who left.


The board that oversees charter schools and decides which new charters to approve is filled with charter school advocates. As Donald Trump used to say, “It’s a rigged system, folks, it’s a rigged system.”


Bryant explains in detail how the for-profit charter management companies make money. He uses the example of National Heritage Academies, which is based in Grand Rapids, Michigan, the hometown of Donald Trump’s designated Secretary of Education. Half their teachers may be uncertified, which means they have lower salary costs. But the real money is in the real estate.


Bryant writes:


How do these schools make a profit? The best answer the reporter for the Charlotte Observer could find was in management fees for the EMOs [educational management organizations], which In North Carolina equal to 7 – 19 percent of total school operational costs.


But based on my inquiries, that figure represents a very small part of the profit these schools make.


Out Of Michigan And Florida


“North Carolina is one those states that is new to the charter game,” Ellen Lipton tells me in a phone call to her office in Michigan – home of National Heritage Academies. NHA is based in Grand Rapids, where Betsy DeVos also lives.


“The low per-student funding that tends to characterize Southern states generally kept charter school operators from moving into those states,” she contends. “But now states like Michigan are getting saturated” so the charter chains have decided to move south.

Lipton is a Michigan State Representative who has spoken out against the spread of charter schools through the state’s Education Achievement Authority, an appointed agency, similar to the Achievement School District North Carolina created last year, that takes over low-performing schools and turns them over to charter operators.


According to Lipton, NHA has “fine-tuned” the business of chartering to ensure they make a profit. She points me to a recent investigative report by the Detroit Free Press that finds, “It is difficult to know how charter management companies are spending money … Unlike traditional school districts, the management companies usually don’t disclose their vendors, contracts, and competitive bid documents.”


“NHA is a business model based on, not necessarily educating kids, but on being a facilities management company,” Casandra Ulbrich, another Michigan source, tells me.


Ulbrich is currently serving her second eight-year term on the Michigan State Board of Education and also works in education administration at a state community college.


She tells me how the NHA business model works: First, NHA forms a charter school board to “invite” NHA to manage a new school. The governing board is not independent of the management company, and members of the board can serve on multiple NHA charter boards across the state, thus creating a network of charter school boosters the work on promoting these schools.


After securing a contract to manage the new school, NHA purchases a building – it could be a storefront in a strip mall or an abandoned warehouse – and requests approval from an authorizer to open a school there. After the authorization, the charter board signs a lease agreement with Charter Development Company, LLC to take over ownership of the building. Charter Development Company, which has branches in all the states where NHA has schools, has its home office in Grand Rapids, Michigan, at the same address as the home office of NHA.


Now NHA and its related enterprises own the building and its contents, even if desks, computers, and equipment have been purchased with taxpayer money. It receives rent payments from the district. It owns the curriculum the school teaches. And if NHA is ever fired, the charter board – and by extension the district – is in the awkward position of having to buy back its own school.



Ten years ago, ASCD published a book that I compiled about education jargon and buzzwords. It is called EdSpeak. 


Recently, I became aware that Nancy Bailey, a teacher-blogger, was collecting jargon and buzzwords, and I started thinking that EdSpeak needs to be updated. It predated Race to the Top and many new fads and innovations of the past decade.


I wrote on a post that I would love to help Nancy’s help in revising the book, and she responded offering to be co-editor.


ASCD has given us the go-ahead to revise the book with new buzzwords, jargon, phrases, and terminology that have grown up in the past decade.


Last time, when I compiled the glossary of education language and terminology, I spent months scouring EdWeek and other publications to pick up on the latest words.


This time, I am asking you to send me your favorite buzzwords, terminology, and jargon. Just send them here as a comment, and Nancy and I will add them to our collection.


Thank  you for your help. This will be the first time I have ever crowd sourced a book, but I can’t think of a better way to gather all the current and latest language of our field.


Here is an example of a possible new entry:


“Reformer”: someone who wants to close local public schools and replace them with privately managed charter schools. Also known as a corporate education reformer. 



After a hard-fought election that produced a narrow margin of victory, State Attorney General Roy Cooper was elected the next Governor of North Carolina. Pat McCrory, current governor and Tea Party hero, conceded defeat.


Education was the leading issue for Roy Cooper. He railed against the actions of McCrory and the legislature, and he was elected even as the state voted for Trump. Maybe that’s a lesson for Democratic candidates in other states. Supporting public schools is wise and politically powerful.


This is what Governor-elect Cooper says on his website:


We need to make education a priority. Governor McCrory has prioritized huge tax giveaways to big corporations and those at the top while he cut teaching assistants and failed to provide the resources our children need and to pay our teachers what they deserve.


We have to give more pay and respect to teachers, and to treat them as the professionals they are. Among the top priorities are increasing teacher pay, reversing cuts to textbooks and school buses, and stopping teacher assistant lay-offs.


Teachers will ultimately know we respect them when our policy reflects our rhetoric. Reinstating a teaching fellows program to attract the best and brightest, providing opportunities for teachers to improve their skills as professionals, and making sure their kids are healthy and ready to learn in the classroom are vital.


North Carolina already ranks 46th in the country and last in the Southeast in per-pupil expenditures for public schools. Many good teachers are leaving for other states for better jobs, and class size has increased. That’s causing parents to lose faith in public schools and undermining North Carolina’s best jobs recruiting tool, our education system.


Similarly, I oppose vouchers that drain money from public schools. I support strong standards and openness for all schools, particularly charter schools. While some charters are strong, we see troubling trends, such as a re-segregation of the student population, or misuse of state funds without a way to make the wrongdoers reimburse taxpayers. We need to manage the number of charter schools to ensure we don’t damage public education and we need to better measure charter schools so we can utilize good ideas in all schools.


We must support early childhood education as well as our great universities and community colleges. Our approach to quality education must be comprehensive.


Here is his education agenda.