Archives for category: ALEC

Colorado is a blue state where the privatizers have poured in millions of dollars to win school board seats. It’s the rare blue state that has gone all-in for privatization, led by Senator Michael Bennett (who served as Superintendent of Schools in Denver, although he was never an educator). Colorado’s Governor is Jared Polis, who is super-wealthy and founded two charter schools. Betsy DeVos hailed Denver as an exemplar of school choice.

Our friend Jeanne Kaplan served two terms on the elected Denver School Board and is a passionate advocate for public schools and civil rights. She has observed the bipartisan consensus around the DeVos-ALEC agenda with despair.

In this post, she brings good news. The “reformers” (aka privatizers) encountered a setback in the state legislature.

She begins:

At 9:23 p.m. MDT on May 11, 2022 Education Reformers in Colorado suffered their first serious setback in the Colorado legislature. While SB 22-197, the so-called Innovation and Alternative Governance Bill passed both houses of the legislature, the resulting legislation was actually a defeat for reformers/privatizers in Colorado, a first such legislative stumble in many years. At the very least the adopted Bill placed a roadblock in the previously unobstructed march to privatization. At the most it was a sign of the weakening of privatization. We can only hope.

While education reformers/privatizers will try to convince you they got a victory in the fight for the soul of public education, that is not the truth. The Bill that passed and will likely be touted as a great success has little substance. In fact, one could say, “There is no THERE THERE,” for the final version neutered the original intent of the legislation and codified:

  • No third party governance with binding arbitration.
  • Retention of decision-making powers for duly elected school
  • An advisory non decision-making role for the State Board of Education should any disputes reach it.

After much ado SB 22-197 ended up being a nothing burger with very few of the original ingredients in place.

The Bill’s original purpose was to install an alternative, third governance model with binding arbitration for disputes between a school district (read DPS) and an Innovation Zone (read City Fund’s RootEd/Gates Family Foundation funded Denver Innovation Zone Schools.) Reformers took this inequitable, highly divisive idea very seriously. Simply put, they wanted special treatment for 12 (!) Innovation Zone schools. The Bill was sponsored by two Denver Democrats Senators, James Coleman and Chris Hansen, both of whom have been highly subsidized by various local and national reform organizations. In real time this bill was crafted specifically for for 12 out of about 1800 public schools in Colorado. After garnering no sponsorship in the House, Jen Bacon, Denver Democrat and former DPS school board member stepped in to co-sponsor the bill. With her leadership and knowledge of the importance of local control for school boards she was able steer the conference committee into producing a more palatable Bill. It must have been very awkward for Senator Chris Hansen to have to admit to his colleagues, the difference between his original bill and the one they were now voting on was the loss of binding arbitration. There were of course other changes but binding arbitration was the big one, for it would have undermined local school boards’ authority by allowing for the appointment of a “third party” to resolve disputes.

The privatizers are constantly on the hunt for new ways to undermine public schools. in this instance, they were thwarted. That’s good news.

The current Republican Party has reverted to the ace card it held in the 1950s: its followers refer to every government program as socialism. SOCIALISM!! This one word is supposed to terrify everyone into fearing that government is about to take away their freedoms. Those politicians who do this should be asked if they are willing to abandon their own right to Social Security and Medicare. One of their favorite targets in recent years is public education. They are trying to persuade the public that their local public schools are socialism. This is nonsense. The following opinion piece by Janet Ward appeared in the Concord Monitor.

A few years ago at a gathering in my town, a fiery speaker said that our government is reaching into our pockets through taxation in order to steal our hard-earned money to pay for programs that are simply giveaways to growing numbers of the “undeserving.” This is not true.

This lie has been created because the former president, the moneyed interests who support him, and the inventors and funders of the “Big Lie” regarding our free and fair 2021 election are painfully aware that the people they wrongly label as the “undeserving” have the right and the power to vote.

Let us be clear. The former president and his supporters are convinced that our democracy itself poses an existential threat to their way of life. They would prefer a plutocracy, a government controlled by the wealthy.

In our democracy, we, you and I, govern ourselves through representation by legitimately elected legislators. Social programs exist because we the people believe that these programs are necessary and appropriate and that such programs, like our public schools, contribute to the common good, to the well-being of our entire society. But an insidious revolution, decades in the making, is bearing terrible fruit.

The long-standing belief that public schools benefit our entire society has been intentionally and successfully undermined through a decades-long strategy organized and executed by such entities as the State Policy Network and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) which provides templates of legislation to Republican lawmakers in every state to achieve such things as the dismantling of public education. But why target public schools?

Last year the Republican majority in our New Hampshire Legislature voted to approve a school voucher program. It is now legal for public tax dollars to be used to pay for private, religious or home-schooling programs over which we taxpayers have virtually no oversight. When asked why they supported school vouchers, Republican legislators, most of whom had been educated in public schools, said that they believed New Hampshire public school students were being brainwashed by teachers’ unions to believe in socialism. This is not true.

Good government is not socialism. Socialism is a system of government in which the government owns the means of production. Our country is not socialist. It is a capitalist country where individuals or corporations own the means of production and where decisions regarding prices, production and the distribution of goods are based on competition in a free market….

What will happen if Big Lies are allowed to prevail? Our democracy will be destroyed. The perpetrators of these lies will become the governors of our nation, and the dreams of Americans like Jefferson, Madison and Lincoln will die.

The death of our democracy will happen soon, on our watch, unless each of us uses the powerful weapon that our democracy has provided to us — our vote. Remove the liars and manipulators from office. Vote to restore our democracy.

Last week, I posted my thoughts on “Who Demoralized the Nation’s Teachers?” I sought to identify the people and organizations that spread the lie that America’s public schools were “broken” and that public school teachers were the cause. The critics slandered teachers repeatedly, claiming that teachers were dragging down student test scores. They said that today’s teachers were not bright enough; they said teachers had low SAT scores; and they were no longer “the best and the brightest.”

The “corporate reform” movement (the disruption movement) was driven in large part by the “reformers'” belief that public schools were obsolete and their teachers were the bottom of the barrel. So the “reformers” promoted school choice, especially charter schools, and Teach for America, to provide the labor supply for charter schools. TFA promised to bring smart college graduates for at least two years to staff public schools and charter schools, replacing the public school teachers whom TFA believed had low expectations. TFA would have high expectations, and these newcomers with their high SAT scores would turn around the nation’s schools. The “reformers” also promoted the spurious, ineffective and harmful idea that teachers could be evaluated by the test scores of their students, although this method repeatedly, consistently showed that those who taught affluent children were excellent, while those who taught children with special needs or limited-English proficiency or high poverty were unsatisfactory. “Value-added” methodology ranked teachers by the income and background of their students’ families, not by the teachers’ effectiveness.

All of these claims were propaganda that was skillfully utilized by people who wanted to privatize the funding of public education, eliminate unions, and crush the teaching profession.

The response to the post was immediate and sizable. Some thought the list of names and groups I posted was dated, others thought it needed additions. The comments of readers were so interesting that I present them here as a supplement to my original post. My list identified No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, and Common Core as causes of demoralization that tied teachers to a standards-and-testing regime that reduced their autonomy as professionals. One reader said that the real beginning of the war on teachers was the Reagan-era report called “A Nation at Risk,” which asserted that American public schools were mired in mediocrity and needed dramatic changes. I agree that the “Nation at Risk” report launched the era of public-school bashing. But it was NCLB and the other “solutions” that launched teacher-bashing, blaming teachers for low test scores and judging teachers by their test scores. It should be noted that the crest of “reform” was 2010, when “Waiting for Superman” was released, Common Core was put into place, value-added test scores for teachers were published, and “reformers” like Arne Duncan, Bill Gates, Michelle Rhee, Joel Klein, and other became media stars, with their constant teacher-bashing. For what it’s worth, the National Assessment of Educational Progress flatlined from 2010 onwards. Test score gains, which were supposedly the point of all this “reform” activity, were non-existent on the nation’s most consequential test (no stakes attached).

Readers also blamed demoralization on teachers’ loss of autonomy, caused by federal laws and the testing imposed by them, and by the weakness of principals and administrators who did not protect teachers from the anti-education climate caused by NCLB, RTTT, ESSA, and the test-and-punish mindset that gripped the minds of the nation’s legislators and school leaders.

Readers said that my list left off important names of those responsible for demoralizing the nation’s teachers.

Here are readers’ additions, paraphrased by me:

Michelle Rhee, who was pictured on the cover of TIME magazine as the person who knew “How to Fix American Education” and lionized in a story by Amanda Ripley. Rhee was shown holding a broom, preparing to sweep “bad teachers” and “bad principals” out of the schools. During her brief tenure as Chancellor of D.C., she fired scores of teachers and added to her ruthless reputation by firing a principal on national television. For doing so, she was the Queen of “education reform” in the eyes of the national media until USA Today broke a major cheating scandal in the D.C. schools.

Joel Klein, antitrust lawyer who was chosen by Mayor Bloomberg to become the Chancellor of the New York City public schools, where he closed scores of schools because of their low test scores, embraced test-based evaluation of schools and teachers, and opened hundreds of small specialized schools and charter schools. He frequently derided teachers and blamed them for lagging test scores. He frequently reorganized the entire, vast school system, surrounding himself with aides with Business School graduates and Wall Street credentials. Under his leadership, NYC was the epitome of corporate reform, which inherently disrespected career educators.

Michael Bloomberg, former Mayor of New York City, billionaire funder of charter schools and of candidates running for state or local offices who supported privatization of public schools. He claimed that under his leadership, the test-score gap between different racial gaps had been cut in half or even closed, but it wasn’t true. He stated his desire to fire teachers who couldn’t “produce” high test scores, while doubling the size of the classes of teachers who could. His huge public relations staff circulated the story of a “New York City Miracle,” but it didn’t exist and evaporated as soon as he left office.

Reed Hastings, billionaire funder of charter schools and founder of Netflix. He expressed the wish that all school boards would be eliminated. The charter school was his ideal, managed privately without public oversight.

John King, charter school leader who was appointed New York Commissioner of Education. He was a cheerleader for the Common Core and high-stakes testing. He made parents so angry by his policies that he stopped appearing at public events. He was named U.S. Secretary of Education, following Arne Duncan, in the last year of the Obama administration and continued to advocate for the same ill-fated policies as Duncan.

Betsy DeVos, Trump’s Secretary of Education despised public schools, unions, and teachers. She never had a good word to say about public schools. She wanted every student to attend religious schools at public expense.

Eli Broad and the “academy” he created to train superintendents with his ideas about top-down management and the alleged value of closing schools with low test scores

ALEC (the American Legislative Exchange Council), which writes model legislation for privatizing public schools by opening charters and vouchers and lowering standards for teachers and crushing unions. More than 2,000 rightwing state legislators belong to ALEC and get their ideas directly from ALEC about privatization and other ways to crush public schools and their teachers.

Rupert Murdoch, the media, Time, Newsweek, NY Times, Washington Post for their hostility towards public schools and their warm, breathless reporting about charter schools and Teach for America. The Washington Post editorialist is a devotee of charter schools and loved Michelle Rhee’s cut-throat style. TIME ran two cover stories endorsing the “reform” movement; the one featuring Michelle Rhee, and the other referring to one of every four public school teachers as a “rotten apple.” The second cover lauded the idea that teachers were the cause of low test scores, and one of every four should be weeded out. Newsweek also had a Rhee cover, and another that declared in a sentence repeated on a chalkboard, “We Must Fire Bad Teachers,” as though the public schools were overrun with miscreant teachers.

David Coleman, the architect of the Common Core, which undermined the autonomy of teachers and ironically removed teachers’ focus on content and replaced it with empty skills. The Common Core valued “informational text” over literature and urged teachers to reduce time spent teaching literature.

Margaret Raymond, of the Walton-funded CREDO, which evaluates charter schools.

Hanna Skandera, who was Secretary of Education in New Mexico and tried to import the Florida model of testing, accountability, and choice to New Mexico. That state has one of the highest rates of child poverty in the nation, and the Florida model didn’t make any difference.

Governors who bashed teachers and public schools, like Chris Christie of New Jersey, Andrew Cuomo of New York, and Gregg Abbott of Texas

“Researchers” like those from the Fordham Institute, who saw nothing good in public schools or their teaching

Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado, who turned Denver into a model of “reform,” with everything DFER wanted: charter schools and high-stakes testing.

Poorly behaving students and parents who won’t hold kids accountable for bad behavior

Campbell Brown and the 74

The U.S. Department of Education, for foisting terrible ideas on the nation’s schools and teachers, and state education departments and state superintendents for going along with these bad ideas. Not one state chief stood up and said, “We won’t do what is clearly wrong for our students and their teachers.”

The two big national unions, for going along with these bad ideas instead of fighting them tooth and nail.

And now I will quote readers’ comments exactly as they wrote them, without identifying their authors (they know who they are):

*Rightwing organizations like the American Enterprise Institute, (AEI), the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, the Heritage Foundation, even the allegedly Democratic-leaning Center for American Progress (CAP) for publishing white papers masquerading as education research that promotes privatization.

*Wall St moguls who invented Social Impact Bonds (SIBs) to gamble on & profit from preK student test scores.

*Rogues Gallery. One body blow after another. A systematic 💦 water boarding with no respite. And then we add the Broad Foundation who sent Broad-trained “leadership” so drunk on arrogance and ignorance that the term “School Yard Bully” just doesn’t capture it.
Operating with the Imprimatur and thin veneer of venture capital, plutocratic philanthropy, these haughty thugs devastated every good program they laid eyes on. Sinking their claws instinctively into the intelligent, effective and cultured faculty FIRST.A well orchestrated, heavily scripted Saturday Night Massacre.

*Congress and the Presidents set the stage, but the US Department of Education was instrumental in making it all happen. They effectively implemented a coherent program to attack, smear and otherwise demoralize teachers. And make no mistake, it was quite purposeful

*This list is incomplete without members of Democrats for Education Reform. Add in Senator Ted Kennedy, whose role in the passage of No Child Left Behind was critical. Same for then Congressman and future Speaker of the House, John Boehner, who noted (bragged!) in his recent autobiography that he was essential in keeping President George W. Bush on track with NCLB.

*Let’s not forget Senate Chair Patty Murray. She has been an important player in keeping the worse of Ed Reform legislation alive.

*You have presented a rogue’s gallery of failed “reformers” that have worked against the common good. In addition to those mentioned, there has also been an ancillary group of promoters and enablers that have undermined public education including billionaire think tanks, foundations and members of both political parties. These people continue to spread lies and misinformation, and no amount of facts or research is able to diminish the drive to privatize. While so called reformers often hide behind an ideological shield, they are mostly about the greedy pursuit of appropriating the education that belongs to the people and transferring its billions in value into the pockets of the already wealthy. So called education reform is class warfare.

*The Clintons, whose 1994 reauthorization of ESEA set the stage for NCLB

*Don’t forget the so called ‘liberal’ media, publications such as the New York Times and the Boston Globe who have published pro charter piece after pro charter piece, while simultaneously dumping all over public schools

*I’d like to include a cast of editorialists like George Will, Bill Rhoden, and many others, who have parroted the plutocratic-backed Ed Reform line. Armstrong Williams would certainly be part of this.

*Going back even further into the origins of this madness, I would add to Diane’s excellent rogues gallery those unknown bureaucrats in state departments of education who replaced broad, general frameworks/overall strategic objectives with bullet lists of almost entirely content-free “standards” that served as the archetype of the Common [sic] Core [sic] based on the absurd theory that we should “teach skills” independent of content, all of which led, ironically, to trivialization of and aimlessnessness in ELA pedagogy and curricula and to a whole generation of young English teachers who themselves NOW KNOW NEXT TO NOTHING OF THE CONTENT OF THEIR SUBJECT, typified by the English teacher who told one of the parents who regularly contributes comments to this blog, “I’m an English teacher, so I don’t teach content.” So, today, instead of teaching, say, Robert Frost’s “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” as part of a coherent and cumulative unit on common structures and techniques and genres of poetry, one gets idiotic test-practice exercises on “inferencing” and “finding the main idea,” with any random piece of writing as the “text.”

*It’s driven by how teachers have been treated the past 4-5 years, especially during the pandemic. Teachers are first responders. We should have been on the list of first-to-be-vaccinated. Schools should have strict mask and vaccine mandates. Teachers are professional educators. We should not be told what and how to teach by ignorant, conspiracy-driven MAGA parents. Public education is a cornerstone of democracy, and we teachers are motivated by a sense of civic duty. We are demoralized by attempts to destroy public education, led by anti-education bible-thumping “leaders” like Betsy DeVos and (in my home state) Frank Edelblut. Public education is being dismantled by gleeful right-wingers, while naive, well-intentioned moderates wring their hands and do little to defend it. It’s tiring to be under constant attack on the front lines, with no support. That’s why teachers are leaving today.

*One tiny example of a routine phenomenon. Teachers got the message pretty clearly: They were at the bottom of the pecking order. The absolute bottom. Micromanaged and undercut at every turn.Excellent points. The heavy handed top-down, bureaucratic demands for “data,” basically serve one goal, to justify the existence of administration.Don’t forget the voracious appetite of publishing companies…We had a district administrator prance around in our “professional; development days” tell use could not read novels or other picture books to the students…ONLY USE PEARSON.”And then 7 or so years later, the district made us THROW OUT every book from Pearson, and they bought new crap curriculum…that program was written by testing industry, not educators, I think it was “Benchmark,” real junk.

*I’d like to mention how I often lose my student teachers when they see the edTPA requirement. They switch majors, and the teaching pool gets even smaller.

*After Skamdera in NM came the TFA VAM sweetheart Christopher Ruszkowski. At least he had 3 years in a classroom, Skammy had none, but the Florida model, you know?

*Children’s behavior is in large part in response to the drill and kill curriculum and endless testing and teaching to the test that has been driving public education since NCLB and the back-to-basics movement that ushered it in. No room for creativity, no room for self expression, no room for innovation. Highly scripted Curriculum like Open Court turned children into little automatons, barking their answers like well trained dogs and turned teachers into task masters. It was a drive to dummy down the curriculum for fear of teaching too much free thinking. And a drive to turn teachers into testing machines and teacher technicians, easily replaced by anyone who can walk in a classroom and pick up the manual. Only it doesn’t work. It was and is developmentally inappropriate and the resulting rebellion in the classrooms if proof of that. No wonder teachers are leaving in droves!

*Under threat of closure of the MA school board in the mid 1800s, Horace Mann turned to the cheapest labor he could find, literate northern females, and deployed the Protestant ethic “teacher as a calling” trope to institute state free-riding on teachers (as opposed to the free-riding of which teachers are accused). Everything in this piece is correct except for the “almost” in the final paragraph. There’s no “almost” about it … free-riding on teachers is an operational feature of a system imported from Prussia, designed to produce cheap, obedient labor by underpaying women. As of 2012, teachers would need to make around 1/3 higher salaries to be paid on the same level as their professional peers. Everyone mentioned in the article is simply this generation’s enactment of the long-standing, systemic class war that preys on gender and race to continue and exacerbate inequity. While naming the current situation is very important, we also need to discuss, address, and shift these deep issues.

*It’s the boiled frog effect over the last 50 years that began as a response to mini-courses, sixties curriculum, obsession over college attendance, professors and teachers walking out to protest with their students, Viet Nam… and the Civil Rights Act. Since 1964, Intentional segregation influenced Local, state, and federal decision making on transportation, health care, insurance, zoning, housing, education funding, hiring, and more. When whites fled the cities and insured two sides of the tracks in towns and two systems evolved, quick fixes became that accumulation of bad decisions and leadership – and slowly, slowly, deterioration became acceptable.

*The list is not dated. It’s illustrative of the accumulation of negativity, quick-fix seeking, acronym-filled, snake-oil salesmen, desperate mayors and governors, obsession with rankings, publisher fixation on common core, NCLB votes hidden under the shadow of 9/11, and keep-everyone-happy state and national professional organizations.

*At the end of 2021 it is far right and left of politics and their rhetoric like CRT and homophobic slurs. So much for especially the “Christian Right.” In their god’s (yes lower case since not The Lord Jesus Christ’s New Testament words of love) name they exclude instead of include to share the good news/word.

*Data, data, data. Yesterday, I commented that I feel sympathetic toward the anti-CRT petitioners. I do. They’re not bad people. They’re just afraid of changing social rules. Their actions are demoralizing, but not dehumanizing. Wealthy corporations and individuals on the other hand , through their untaxed foundations, gave carrots to governments the world over to give the stick to education so that greater profits could be made through privatization and data monetizing. I was once called a 2. I was once labeled the color grey. I was numbered, dehumanized by test score data in an attempt to make education like Uber or Yelp. Not just demoralized, dehumanized. It’s not just who but what dehumanized teachers. It was the wrongheaded idea that education can be measured and sold by the unit. That idea was insidious. The marketing ploy to make my students into consumers who consider their efforts junk unless they are labeled with the right number or dashboard color was insidious. I have no sympathy for the investor class. They are not people with whom I disagree about social issues; they are hostile, corporate takeover wolves out to tear the flesh of the formerly middle and deeply impoverished classes for profit. Not one of the investors in education “reform” or any of their revolving door bureaucrats is any friend of mine. The list of who is long. The list of what is short.

*Jonah Edelman (Founder, Stand on Children); brother Josh Edelman (Gates Foundation: Empowering-?!–Effective Teaching; SEED Charter Schools); Charles & David Koch. Pear$on Publishing monopoly&, of course, ALEC (interfering in our business for FIFTY long years!)

Tom Ultican, retired teacher of physics and advanced mathematics, has written an incisive analysis of the libertarian attack on democracy and public education, funded by billionaires and advanced by rightwing think tanks. He “follows the money,” and it leads him to Charles Koch, the Bradley Foundation, the Scaife Foundation, the Walton Family Foundation, ALEC, the Manhattan Institute— and other oligarchs and their tools.

He pulls no punches as he weaves together the contrived panics over “critical race theory” and anti-maskers. “Parents Defending Education” and “Moms for Liberty” are but a few of the astroturf groups who have been mobilized to terrorize school boards and other parents. Funded by Dark Money.

Ultican writes:

Nancy MacLean observed that Buchanan and Koch had concluded, “There was no glossing over it anymore; democracy was inimical to economic liberty.” (Democracy in Chains page 152)

The anti-democratic impulse of the oligarch must be contained. There is an underlying wisdom to democratic decision making. It is a wisdom that bends toward equity and humanism. Public education is the soil from which that wisdom can flower. For the past five decades, an autocratic businessman has been pushing our country in the direction of widespread suffering and discrimination.

Neither capitalism nor socialism is a perfect guide for society. Education, medicine, prisons and policing are not well suited to a strict capitalist approach. A strict socialist approach does not function well in manufacturing, farming and entertainment. Ideologues demanding one of these two economic methods to the exclusion of the other are a problem. The guide to balancing these competing ideologies is humanism. In other words ponder, “The policy best serving the majority of the people while maintaining a keen eye to insure that the minority is not abused.”

The best way to move society forward toward a more perfect union is to make democracy ever more inclusive. And the best way to improve democracy is to protect and fund public education.

An important read.

The following post by Bill Phillis of the Ohio Coalition for Equity and Adequacy details the outsized role that Ron Packard’s for-profit charter chain will have in starting charter schools in West Virginia. Packard was one of the founders of the low-performing but highly profitable K12 Inc. virtual charter chain (where he was paid $5 million a year). He left to start another charter chain, called Pansophic, of which Accel is a part. His background is not in education, although his online bio describes him(self) as an “educator and entrepreneur.” In fact, his work experience prior to K12 Inc. was at Goldman Sachs and McKinsey. Learn more about Ron Packard at Sourcewatch, which keeps tabs on rightwingers and privatizers (www.sourcewatch.org). The selection of charter chains which have demonstrated poor academic performance in other states shows that the decisions in West Virginia are driven by politics, not concern for students or their education.

Bill Phillis posted this notice:

Ron Packard’s Accel For-Profit Charter School Operation May Run Half of West Virginia’s First Charter Schools
The Ohio D-ranked Accel charter school operator is in line to run half of West Virginia’s first charter schools. Ron Packard, former CEO of the publicly traded K12 company, left K12 Inc. to start Pansophic Learning, of which Accel is a part. Accel has a huge presence in Ohio, with less than a stellar record of performance.

It is of at least passing interest that Packard’s former employer (K12 Inc.) is in line to run the West Virginia charter school Virtual Academy.


One company could run half of WV’s first charter schools. Ohio doesn’t rank it highly.

By Ryan Quinn ryan.quinn@hdmediallc.comNov 4, 2021

CHARLES TOWN — Accel Schools says it serves schools in seven states. West Virginia could be the eighth.
The fast-expanding charter school management company’s name is on half the six applications to open charters here. Lawmakers tout charters as a way to improve Mountain State education.

In neighboring Ohio, 17 of 30 Accel schools were graded D’s and five others were graded F’s in 2018-19 by the state Department of Education. Accel says it serves more than 50 schools.

Ron Packard, founder of K12 Inc., an online charter school business traded on the New York Stock Exchange, left that company in 2014 and started Pansophic Learning. Accel is part of that private, international firm. 

Since 2014, Accel has virtually expanded to the Pacific, with online charters in California and Washington state. It has become the largest school management company in Ohio, home to most of the brick-and-mortar charters Accel runs.

It has yet to go farther east. West Virginia has put out an invitation.

In this year’s regular legislative session, Republicans fast-tracked a law allowing charters to expand faster, teach almost solely online and apply for approval from a new, unelected West Virginia Professional Charter School Board.

A month after Gov. Jim Justice signed the law, Accel hired two lobbyists, according to the state Ethics Commission. One is Larry Puccio, who represents prominent businesses, including the governor’s Greenbrier resort.

Now Accel is trying to reach the tip of the Eastern Panhandle with a brick-and-mortar, 650-student maximum charter in Jefferson County. On Oct. 18, Accel’s Chad Carr spoke to a mostly receptive audience in Charles Town, the county seat.

A second Accel brick-and-mortar charter, Nitro Preparatory Academy, would be located at the edge of the state’s most populous county and enroll up to 600 students.

Accel’s Virtual Preparatory Academy would enable it to reach all of West Virginia. Or, at least, the parts in the hills and hollows that can get online. The school would provide laptops, and max out at 2,000 students.

The Professional Charter School Board could approve all three Accel schools Wednesday during an online meeting scheduled to start at 8 a.m.

The Nitro, Eastern Panhandle and Virtual Preparatory academies are overseen by separate boards, save for one shared member. The Nitro and Eastern Panhandle applications are almost identical.

The Ohio Department of Education rated Accel a “D” operator in 2018-19, the last school year before the pandemic. Ohio hasn’t graded operators or schools since.

The agency graded a half-dozen Accel schools as C’s, two as B’s and none as A’s. More than two-thirds of Accel’s schools in the Buckeye State received the lowest two letter grades. Rapidly expanding Accel’s recent takeover of some schools might have been a factor in the grades, an official said.

“With regards to the Ohio academic records,” Accel spokeswoman Courtney Harritt wrote in an email, “it is a complex analysis because Accel has a specialty in turning schools around academically and financially. The majority of the schools we manage are going through the academic turnaround process.”

The Ohio letter grades are composed of multiple measures, including students’ overall achievement on state tests and their rate of improvement.

Acceleration

Carr said he was swept up in the company’s expansion when Accel took over the charter chain for which he worked.

“Accel is made up of different, uh, organizations that have tried to do charter schools and not done ’em very well,” Carr told the Charles Town crowd. He said his own school excelled academically, but not financially.

“In Ohio, we run schools on a third of what the traditional public schools run ‘ern on,” Carr said of Accel.

Education service provider companies like Accel can’t turn a profit from per-student state funding if they don’t keep down expenses.

The Nitro and Eastern Panhandle Preparatory academies set a goal of maintaining “a grade of C or higher on the West Virginia School Report Card.”

West Virginia ditched its letter-grade system for schools in 2017. Nitro and Eastern Panhandle Preparatory set academic goals, but those don’t take into account scores on state standardized tests by which public schools are judged.

State law gives charter applicants the chance to correct “identified deficiencies” in applications before the charter board decides.

Answering questions now is “premature,” Harritt wrote in an email “because we haven’t yet received application feedback from the charter board. We are still working through the iterative process.”

The Virtual Preparatory Academy application includes a goal to meet or exceed the statewide average for student proficiency in math, English language arts and science.

“Each year, the school will strive for a 2% improvement from the prior year,” the application says.

The only non-Accel brick-and-mortar charter proposed in this state, West Virginia Academy near Morgantown, isn’t planning to use a management company like Accel to run its daily operations.

But the boards of the other two incipient charters are planning to use service providers. The online West Virginia Connections Academy plans to use Pearson, the international education company that also sells textbooks to public schools.

West Virginia Virtual Academy plans to use Stride Inc., the new name for K12 Inc.

Lawmakers allowed up to 10 charters to open, but only two statewide virtual charters. So Accel’s Virtual Preparatory Academy might not open if the Charter School Board instead approves other schools’ applications.

This means Packard’s old company is competing with his new one, which includes five other executive leaders originally from K12 Inc.

At the Charles Town public forum, Carr explained Accel’s approach, telling the more than 30 people there the strategy includes tests assessing only the past two weeks of learning.

“It’s small, six questions, but it has to cover exactly what you just taught,” said Carr, who wore boots and Dallas Cowboys cuff links with his suit.

“You give it to the students. If they know it and they do well on it, move on. But if they don’t know it, you need to go back and reteach it,” Carr said of teachers. “And that’s when somebody like me steps in and says, ‘Hey, here’s a couple of ways that you need to fix this.’ And it works.”

Joanne Curran, an attendee, was open to the pitch.

“Why wouldn’t everybody want to go?” she asked. “And — I literally can’t understand a downside, so it’s a serious question.”

“I don’t know,” Carr said. “It’s, it’s really hard, it’s really hard to answer.”

Ryan Quinn covers education. He can be reached at 304-348-1254 or ryan.quinn@hdmediallc.com. Ryan QuinnEducation Reporter

https://www.wygazettemail.com/news/education/one-company-could-run-half-of-wys-first-charter-schools-ohio-doesnt-rank-it-highly/article_7010ca95-2a1b-55b8-b16e-81af3c757c42.html

The profiteers are lining their pockets with public funds that should be used in the classrooms.

By WSAZ News StaffPublished: Nov. 10, 2021 at 8:32 AM EST|Updated: 6 hours ago

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) – The West Virginia Professional Charter School Board approved West Virginia’s first charter schools during a virtual meeting Wednesday morning.

The Board met to consider seven applications from companies looking to open new virtual and in-person education options.

Three in-person schools were approved Wednesday morning: West Virginia Academy, Eastern Panhandle Academy and Nitro Preparatory Academy.

Two of those learning proposals, the Eastern Panhandle Academy and Nitro Preparatory Academy, were submitted by the company ACCEL Schools.

ACCEL wants to open the first in-person charter school in our region.

The Nitro Prep Academy, which would be located in the former Nitro High School building, hopes to attract up to 600 students in kindergarten through eighth grade from Kanawha and Putnam counties, according to its application. That would including pulling students from Nitro Elementary School, which will share a parking lot with the new charter school, and Rock Branch Elementary School, which is one of West Virginia’s three National Blue Ribbon Schools and is located less than a 10-minute drive from the proposed charter school.

Nitro Prep said in its application to the state, “there is a need in this area for a high-quality charter school because neither county is excelling academically.” The application goes on to state it hopes to create an individualized learning environment as “an alternative to traditional public schools that have been ineffective in meeting certain family and student learning needs, or cost-prohibitive private schools.”

In addition to the in-person charter school, ACCEL wants to add a statewide virtual option. The West Virginia Professional Charter School Board is set to consider applications for virtual learning next week.

This is a developing story.

West Virginia’s first charter schools gain approval by board members (wsaz.com)

Follow the link to read the 8 Lies About Private School Vouchers

https://vouchershurtohio.com/8-lies-about-private-school-vouchers/

Like us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/OhioEandA

The No Child Left Behind Act Has Put The Nation At RiskVouchers Hurt Ohio
William L. Phillis | Ohio Coalition for Equity & Adequacy of School Funding | 614.228.6540 |ohioeanda@sbcglobal.nethttp://ohiocoalition.org

If you have a few minutes to do some research, you might wonder about the connections among these three links:

First is from the extreme rightwing group called the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), funded by DeVos, Charles Koch, and major corporations. ALEC has 2,000 members who are state legislators. They get a free trip every year to a posh resort, where ALEC gives them model legislation to introduce in their state to promote the libertarian, anti-regulation, anti-government agenda.

Second is an article in the conservative journal Education Next about “reimagining civic education for the digital age.” It promotes the organization iCivics, a digital platform to teach civics.

Third, read about the award by the Trump Administration’s National Endowment for the Humanities and Betsy DeVos’s U.S. Department of Education of $650,000 to the curriculum and advocacy group iCivics and several university partners, to design a “roadmap” to guide teachers, publishers, and state officials on how to create integrated history and civics content.

The Trump administration, we know, is very concerned about instilling patriotism. Here is their ALEC-approved program for teaching civics. Frankly, I had forgotten that the NEH still existed.

In this post, Bill Moyers conducts an important interview with investigative journalist Anne Nelson, who talks about her new book, SHADOW NETWORK: MEDIA, MONEY, AND THE SECRET HUB OF THE RADICAL RIGHT.

Read this and you will understand the dark forces that are undermining our democracy and our democratic institutions, including our public schools.

BILL MOYERS: Let me begin with the most current part of the story, which comes just a little bit after your book is published when the conservative movement is facing a very decisive encounter with the very forces it’s been trying to defeat now for 40 years. How do you think the shadow network reads the confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court? What are they making of it?

ANNE NELSON: Well, I think that they consider it a great triumph and a kind of culmination of 40 years of effort. And I demure a bit at the term conservative because this is, for me, the radical right. It is so far to the right of mainstream American public opinion that I feel that it’s in a different category both in terms of its ideology and its tactics. But they decided way back in the day of Paul Weyrich, one of the architects of the movement that they–

BILL MOYERS: In the early 1970s, right?

ANNE NELSON: We’re going back to the ’70s and even earlier, because he was active on the Barry Goldwater campaign. And he was frustrated time and again by moderates in the Republican Party and people who were willing to work with Democrats to advance policy and solutions to public problems. And he created organizations and tactics that he openly declared should destroy the regime, as he called it, which would be the U.S. government as we’ve known it for the last century.

BILL MOYERS: Paul Weyrich is the man I remember saying–

PAUL WEYRICH: I don’t want everybody to vote. Elections are not won by a majority of people. They never have been from the beginning of our country and they are not now. As a matter of fact, our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populous goes down.

BILL MOYERS: He was essentially saying, as a newly anointed leader of the religious right, what their philosophy was. The fewer people vote, the better their chance.

ANNE NELSON: That’s right. And from the beginning, in terms of their electoral tactics, it has been a matter of weaponizing certain churches and pastors and really exerting tremendous pressure on them to use churches as instruments of a radical right ideology. And then using similar tactics to suppress votes for Democrats, especially in key battleground states.

BILL MOYERS: So that’s why you conclude in your book they were to the right of the Republican Party. They were not just an offshoot of the Republican Party. They were not just fundraisers for the Republican Party, but they were ideologically and organizationally taking the Republican Party far to the right.

ANNE NELSON: Absolutely, and somewhat to my surprise, I found that their prototype was the Southern Baptist Convention, where they decided that in order to move it to the right, they had to use questionable tactics to elevate their supporters to key positions of influence and purge the Southern Baptist Convention of moderates in the seminaries and in the colleges and among the pastors. And it was a fairly ruthless process, and once these tactics were developed, they applied it to the Republican Party. And you had the same kind of tactics going on of purging moderates, some of whom had been in office for years.

BILL MOYERS: I should point out to some of our younger listeners and readers that the Southern Baptist Convention at the time and still today was the largest Protestant denomination in America. You know, something like it eventually reached 16 and a half million members scattered throughout the South and the West. We’ll come back to them in a moment. What do you think about the NEW YORK TIMES’ assessment that Amy Coney Barrett represents a new conservativism rooted in faith. That’s how their headline described a three-page portrait of her life and career. Does that make sense to you?

ANNE NELSON: Not entirely, because as a conservative Catholic, she follows in the footsteps of others such as Brett Kavanaugh and Antonin Scalia. So that’s not very new. And what I look at in my book SHADOW NETWORK is how these interlocking organizations support each other. The book is about the Council for National Policy– a radical right-wing organization that is very secretive, and it brings together big donors like the DeVos family and oil interests from Texas and Oklahoma and political operatives. And, for example, members include the leadership of the Federalist Society. Well, Amy Coney Barrett was a member of the Federalist Society for a number of years and is still a speaker at their events. It includes the head of Hillsdale College, which is one of their campus partners. Amy Coney Barrett was commencement speaker for Hillsdale College this year. So, there are all of these organizations that have been turning their wheels to promote her really for several years going back. She appeared on previous lists of potential nominees for the Supreme Court, and I don’t believe she would have been included in those lists had she not confirmed to their traditional idea of an activist judge.

BILL MOYERS: They knew what they were looking for.

ANNE NELSON: And I should add that one of the most powerful components in the Council for National Policy is the anti-abortion movement. Organizations such as the Susan B. Anthony List and Concerned Women for America and other interests, which are anti-environmentalist interests from the fossil fuels industry. So, I think that we’ve seen a roadmap of what to expect moving forward.

BILL MOYERS: Tell me, who does make up the Council for National Policy?

ANNE NELSON: So, the Council for National Policy has traditionally been around 400 members. From the beginning, it’s included people with big money, a lot of them from the Texas and Oklahoma oil industries, but also the DeVos family of Michigan from the Amway fortune, and Betsy DeVos, of course. So, it has the big money to pay for things. It’s got the leaders of so-called grassroots organizations. Now, I say so-called, because they do not spring from the grassroots the way that you would expect from the name. They are organized with a great deal of money from the top down. So, for example, the National Rifle Association– their leadership is part of the CNP. They get money from the donors, they organize their millions of members, and you combine these with the strategists and the media owners. And I spend a lot of time in my book talking about the power of fundamentalist and conservative radio in swing states. Things that people on the East Coast overlook to a terrible degree. And the same thing with fundamentalist broadcasting, which has really several of these broadcasters — the Christian Broadcasting Network, the Trinity Broadcasting Network have really turned into outlets replicating the messaging from this organization. So, you have them interlocking and interacting and each supporting each other’s function. And I should explain something here, which is that they represent historically a white, Protestant, I’m sorry, but male-dominated patriarchy–

BILL MOYERS: No, that’s okay.

ANNE NELSON: And I have to say that demographically its time has passed. The United States has become more diverse religiously, ethnically, and racially. And they recognize that their core positions are not supported by the majority of Americans. So, they went to the limit, pulled out all the stops to get Trump elected by a tiny margin, but they doubt that they can do that again. The signs are not good. What they can do is make their hold on the federal courts concrete through the Supreme Court, and therefore, get majorities in cases like gerrymandering, voter suppression, and their political activation of the churches with tax-exempt status. And further their hold on power through the courts.

BILL MOYERS: So which part of the shadow network do you think chose, mentored, and groomed Amy Coney Barrett for this moment?

ANNE NELSON: Well, I have to speculate here. But I would see a fairly straight line from her position to Leonard Leo’s. Now, Leonard Leo is a very conservative Catholic. He was the operational figure of the Federalist Society for a number of years, and recently he shifted from that position to an even more activist position. Amy Coney Barrett was already a member of the Federalist Society. The Federalist Society has a pipeline through the lower federal courts, which she benefited from. So, in terms of this Catholic interaction they would be quite close to each other. Another key figure is Carrie Severino, who is from the Judicial Crisis Network, which was co-founded by Leonard Leo. And again, very right-wing Catholics who have tended to be overlooked while people focus on the fundamentalist Protestants. But Ralph Reed, who has been somebody who’s been active with the fundamentalist politicization for decades declared openly years ago that the next step to their campaign was to enlist the Catholic vote. And they’ve been aggressively doing that in recent years.

BILL MOYERS: And then there’s Don McGahn who was for three years Donald Trump’s chief White House counsel, graduate of Notre Dame, admirer of Amy Coney Barrett, who was scouting himself for recruits to bring up, train, groom, and put into the mix for potential Supreme Court justices. And I read that he was highly enthusiastic about her, had talked to Leo and that they had you had both these White House and legal forces behind her, knowing that she was one of them.

[The interview continues. I urge you to open the link and read it in full to understand the secret network that is currently running the federal government and selecting justices for the Supreme Court.]

I have posted many times about the corruption embedded in the for-profit virtual charter industry. The founder of Pennsylvania’s largest virtual charter school was sentenced to prison for misappropriating $8 million. The single biggest scam in U.S. history involved an online charter chain in California called A3, whose owners managed to make $50 million in state funding disappear. The Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT) in Ohio collected $1 billion over its nearly two decades, its owner paid his companies for supplying services, he made generous gifts to elected officials, but ECOT declared bankruptcy in 2018 to avoid repaying the state for phantom students. The stories of corruption, embezzlement, and scamming go on and on.

Therefore I was delighted to find this excellent summary by journalist Florina Rodov, who gathers many of the scandals and research reports in one place to demonstrate the woeful failure of virtual charters. As she points out, the virtual charter industry has beefed up its already massive marketing budget to take advantage of the pandemic and try to gather market share.

One detail that I found fascinating was the link to executive compensation for K12 Inc., the for-profit virtual chain that has the largest enrollment in the nation. The top five executives receive a total of $28 million in compensation. Beats teaching!

She begins:

“Instead of going to school every morning, what if school could come to you?” an ad asks enticingly, promising students “online personalized learning” tailored to their specific needs. It’s one of hundreds of active Facebook ads run by K12 Inc., the largest for-profit virtual charter school provider in the United States. As public schools rose to the challenge of educating students online during the pandemic, corporations like K12 Inc., whose stock price has been climbing since mid-March, were licking their chops at the prospect of moving kids online permanently. Though virtual charter schools perform dismally academically and are plagued by scandal, the goal is for them to replace traditional brick-and-mortar public schools in an effort to privatize education. While this would harm students, it would most egregiously damage Black and Latino children, who’ve already been disproportionately impacted by the coronavirus, due to structural inequities such as lack of access to computers and internet service, as well as inconsistent health care and crowded housing.

The article has many important links and I urge you to read it in full. The virtual charter industry has the full-throated support of Betsy DeVos, who lied about their results at her confirmation hearings in 2017, claiming they had 100% graduation rates, when their graduation rates are abysmal.

Tom Ultican, retired teacher of physics and advanced mathematics in California, writes frequently about school “reform,” aka school choice, as a substitute for adequate funding.

In this post, he explains the fraud of school choice and why billionaires and rightwing zealots promote it. To read it in full,as well as his kinks, open the full post.

He begins:

Birthed in the bowels of the 1950’s segregationist south, school choice has never been about improving education. It is about white supremacy, profiting off taxpayers, cutting taxes, selling market based solutions and financing religion. School choice ideology has a long dark history of dealing significant harm to public education.

Market Based Ideology

Milton Friedman first recommended school vouchers in a 1955 essay. In 2006, he was asked by a conservative group of legislators what he envisioned back then. PRWatch reports that he said, “It had nothing whatsoever to do with helping ‘indigent’ children; no, he explained to thunderous applause, vouchers were all about ‘abolishing the public school system.”’ [Emphasis added]

Market based ideologues are convinced that business is the superior model for school management. Starting with the infamous Regan era polemic, “A Nation at Risk,” the claim that “private business management is superior” has been a consistent theory of education reform promoted by corporate leaders like IBM’s Louis Gerstner, Microsoft’s Bill Gates, Wal-Mart’s Walton family, Bloomberg LP’s founder, Michael Bloomberg and SunAmerica’s Eli Broad. It is a central tenet of both neoliberal and libertarian philosophy.

Charles Koch and his late brother David have spent lavishly promoting their libertarian beliefs. Inspired by Friedman’s doyen, Austrian Economist Friedrich Hayek, the brothers agreed that public education must be abolished.

To this and other ends like defeating climate change legislation, the Kochs created the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). This lobbying organization has contributing members from throughout corporate America. ALEC writes model legislation and financially supports state politicians who promote their libertarian principles.

Like the Walton family and Betsy DeVos, Charles Koch promotes private school vouchers.

Floridians, and everyone else, want to know the answer to this question. Some believe that keeping schools open during a pandemic will destroy them; some fear that opening them during a pandemic will destroy them. Take your pick.

Thanks to Peter Greene, I discovered a Florida blog called Accountabaloney, written by two savvy Floridians who are fed-up with their state’s absurd education policies. Sue and Suzette, welcome!

They write here about a podcast by Jennifer Berkshire and Jack Schneider, questioning whether Betsy DeVos’s newfound enthusiasm for opening real public schools is another front in her war to destroy them.

Listening to the “In the Weeds” podcast, they realized that another con was happening:

Some will read the title and dismiss it as a conspiracy theory. That is exactly what we used to hear if we equated “ed reform” with privatization five or so years ago, when the education reformers were still hiding their desire to privatize public education. In Florida, they now make few attempts to conceal their mission. We hope you will read this summary, subscribe at Patreon, listen to the entire “In the Weeds” segment, and draw your own conclusions. Will the Covid pandemic be used fundamentally alter public education in Florida?…

Keep in mind, the Commissioner Corcoran is a strong proponent of “school choice” and privatization, pushing as both a legislator and as the commissioner for the expansion of charter schools and private school voucher programs. Shortly after he was appointed as commissioner, he was reported saying his goal was to move 2/3rd of Florida’s 2.7 million public school students into private options, envisioning a system where most students attended charter and private schools.

After calling for the campus closures of Florida’s public schools in response to the pandemic in March, at the April 1st State Board of Education meeting, Commissioner Corcoran praised Florida Virtual School (FLVS) for re-allocating $4.3 million of its reserve funding to purchase the servers necessary to expand its capacity be capable of serving the entire Florida student population (2.72 million). He suggested that, should the closures remain necessary, FLVS could serve the entire state’s virtual needs…

Shortly after his inauguration, Governor Ron DeSantis redefined public education saying “if it’s public dollars, it’s public education,” an idea celebrated by DeVos.

I’m so glad to read this post. Florida is very likely the worst, most corrupt state in the nation when it comes to education policy.