Archives for category: ALEC

Jack Hassard, professor emeritus of science education at Georgia State University, notes that Georgians will vote in November on whether to create a special district for low-performing schools, modeled on Tennessee’s failed Achievement School District.

If it passes (and who is against “opportunity”?), that means the state will gather together its lowest-performing schools and hand them over to charter operators, most from out of state. The charter operators will have years to demonstrate their stuff. If (and when) they don’t, the schools can be given to other charter operators.

In November when we vote to pick a new president (topic for a future post), citizens in Georgia will vote on a ballot amendment to the state constitution. If passed, this amendment (Senate Bill 133) will create a school district (Opportunity School District) that would authorize the Governor’s office to supervise, manage, and run a new school district made up of schools from across the state that have been determined to be failing, based on scores on standardized tests.

The state calls it the “Opportunity School District.” Hassard calls it the “Misfortunate School District.”

In what sane world would policymakers choose a model that has been tried and failed?

Public Schools First NC reports here on the actions of the state legislature in its closing hours. It enacted as much as possible of the ALEC privatization agenda, inviting out-of-state charter operators to take over public schools, creating an “achievement school district” like the one that failed in Tennessee, and reducing oversight of charters.

Go to the website of http://www.publicschoolsfirstnc.org to see the full report and open the links.

The $22.34 billion conference budget (and money report) was released Monday evening, June 27. The Senate passed the budget Wednesday, and the House passed it on Friday, July 1. The spending plan for the next fiscal year obviously affects our public schools in many ways:

Average 4.7% salary increase for teachers. The teacher salary schedule will restore annual step increases for teachers in years 0-14, at year 15 salary will stay the same for next 10 years.

Raises average teacher salaries to over $50,000 in 2016-17 and $55,000 over the next three years.

School administrators receive step increase and a 1.5% increase to base salaries
Noncertified school personnel receive a 1.5% salary increase.

School administrators and noncertified personnel will also receive a one-time 0.5% bonus.

Starts a pilot program for rewarding third grade teachers. Teachers who are in the top 25% in the state for EVAAS student growth index scores in reading will share $5 million. Teachers who are in the top 25% of their LEAs for the same score will share $5 million, and teachers who fall in both categories will receive both bonuses.

Expanding the voucher program by an extra $10 million and 2,000 students every year until 2026-2027 when spending will plateau at $134.8 million per year. The budget also expands the percentage of money that can go to Kindergarten and 1st grade recipients, from 35% to 40% of what remains after prior recipients are enrolled.

Keeping the school performance grade formula at 80% test scores, 20% growth and the 15-point scale will remain for the next three years.

Requiring maximum class size ratios are: Kindergarten 1:18; 1st grade 1:16; and 2nd and 3rd grade 1:17. The budget also eliminates districts’ flexibility around those caps.
Funding 260 new pre-K slots at a cost of $1.325 million. This is far less than the more than 7,000 children on the state’s pre-K waiting list and contrasts with both the governor’s and the House plans to spend $4 million on 800 spots.

Changing requirements for virtual charter schools, including reducing the percentage of teachers who must live in state from 90% to 80%, and changing the way students who withdraw are counted under the withdrawal rate cap of 25% by creating four new exceptions. For instance a student who withdraws for “a family, personal, or medical reason” and who notifies the school would not count as a withdrawal under the cap.

Reducing central office budgets by $2.5 million, bringing funding down to mid-90’s levels.

The House passed the omnibus charter school measure HB 242, which changes many aspects of charter reviews and renewals, despite the opposition of a national charter school group. The National Association of Charter School Authorizers criticized the bill in a letter because the changes leave little way for the State Board to close low-performing charters while also making reviews too infrequent for high-performing charters to be eligible for federal grants. The measure was sent to Governor McCrory to be signed on Wednesday, June 29.

In addition to the budget, the Senate amended and passed the ASD bill HB 1080 this week, over the objections of several Democratic members. Sen. Chad Barefoot amended the bill to require the chosen school operators be experienced in turning underperforming schools around, to allow the extension of the charter operators’ contracts, and to allow Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools to create an innovation zone with their existing Project Lift schools. The House quickly concurred with the coercive takeover measure and sent it to the governor along with its li’l buddy, HB 242. Is it a coincidence that a measure forcing communities to surrender schools to out-of-state charter operators was put before the governor on the same exact day as a measure shredding accountability for charter operators? I can raise one eyebrow at a time, and I’m doing it now. For real.

These bills and many others are on the governor’s desk now. No surprise vetoes are expected, but all that signing is a hand cramp waiting to happen. Keep hope alive!

Follow us on Facebook and the web for the latest on the massive voucher expansion contained in the budget. Refresh yourself on the differences between public and private schools in order to scrutinize the growing Opportunity Scholarship program.

Be sure to visit our LEGISLATIVE UPDATE page for information, including our Week In Review summary and our weekly video review.

Over the next few weeks, we will provide more in-depth analysis of the bills that impacted K-12 public education in North Carolina.

The parent-led Public Schools First NC calls on the public to speak out against legislation to create an “achievement school district,” modeled on Tennessee’s failed ASD. The goal of the law is to invite charter takeovers of low-scoring schools.

 

 

“An Achievement School District is a bad idea for North Carolina. Taking over failing schools and giving them to out-of-town charter operators does not help students or communities. Yet the House is ready to take up a bill (HB1080) that would create an ASD with five of our most vulnerable elementary schools. Tell your representatives you DO NOT SUPPORT this unproven and unaccountable strategy when state transformation teams working closely with local schools and districts are beginning to succeed. They deserve more staff and funding, not an expensive state takeover!
Tell your legislators to REJECT HB1080! (click here and sign the petition

 

 

http://www.publicschoolsfirstnc.org/engage/petitions/achievement-school-district-petition/?platform=hootsuite

 
HERE IS the calendar in the house tomorrow.

 

http://www.ncleg.net/Calendars/CurrentCalendars/CurrentHouseCalendar.pdf

 

HERE is the calendar in the senate tomorrow.
http://www.ncga.state.nc.us/Calendars/CurrentCalendars/CurrentsenateCalendar.pdf

 

HERE is the House Education Budget
http://www.publicschoolsfirstnc.org/resources/education-budget/”

Art Pope is a major political figure in North Carolina. I don’t know whether he is a billionaire or only a multi-millionaire. Jane Mayer wrote in the New Yorker a few years ago that he bought the state of North Carolina.

 

Art Pope made his fortune by owning a large chain of discount variety stores around the state. He is a libertarian to the extreme. He used his political contributions to help Tea Party Republicans defeat moderate Republicans. His investments in political campaigns paid off big time in 2010, when his faction won control of the state legislature. Then in 2012, a Republican was elected governor, and for the first time in a century or more, North Carolina had an all-Republican leadership, free to impose its will.

 

Governor McCrory appointed Art Pope as state budget director, giving him the power to implement his extreme ideology. (In Pope’s only try for elected office, he failed.) On Pope’s watch, the state legislature enacted charters, cyber charters, and vouchers. And cut the public schools’ budget. And reduced environmental regulations. And did whatever they could think of to reduce government and give corporations free reign. ALEC must point to North Carolina as its model state.

 

The best source of information on the damage wrought by these modern-day vandals is NC Policy Watch’s Altered State: How Five Years of Conservative Rule Have Redefined North Carolina, which sums up the depredations of the past five years.

 

Pope funded the extremely conservative libertarian Locke Institute, which acts as an advocacy group for his ideology. One of the directors of the Locke Institute started his own charter chain (he is not an educator) and has made millions of dollars on leases.

 

Know who owns your state.

Jan Resseger, who lives in Ohio, has written s useful summary of ALEC’s direction of state legislation to privatize schools and eliminate the teaching profession. She explains succinctly that ALEC is funded by the Koch brothers, the DeVos family, and other wealthy friends of privatization. Legislators introduce ALEC model laws in state after state.

 

ALEC is considered non-political by the IRS. Strange.

 

It is a force for undermining democracy.

“Cashing in On Kids” reports that ALEC education legislation is quietly spreading across the nation. ALEC is the American Legislative Exchange Council, a secretive far-right organization that is funded by major corporations and whose members are state legislators. Its goal is privatization and deregulation. It writes model laws, then its members introduce them into their state legislature as their own. To learn all about ALEC, go to Alec Exposed.

 

Despite widespread public opposition to the corporate-driven education privatization agenda, at least 172 measures reflecting American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) model bills were introduced in 42 states in 2015, according to an analysis by the Center for Media and Democracy, publishers of ALECexposed.org and PRWatch.org. (A PDF version of this report may be downloaded here.)

 

One of ALEC’s biggest funders is Koch Industries and the Koch brothers’ fortune. The Kochs have had a seat at the table – where the private sector votes as equals with legislators – on ALEC’s education task force via their “grassroots” group Americans for Prosperity and their Freedom Partners group, which was described as the Kochs’ “secret bank.”

 

The Kochs also have a voice on ALEC’s Education Task Force through multiple state-based think tanks of the State Policy Network, ALEC’s sister organization, which is funded by many of the same corporations and foundations and donor entities.

 

ALEC’s Education Task Force is also funded by the billionaire DeVos family, which bankrolls a privatization operation called “American Federation of Children,” and by for-profit corporations like K12 Inc., which was founded by junk-bond king Michael Milliken.

 

ALEC’s education task force has pushed legislation for decades to privatize public schools, weaken teacher’s unions, and lower teaching standards.

 

ALEC’s agenda would transform public education from a public and accountable institution that serves the public into one that serves private, for-profit interests. ALEC model bills divert taxpayer money from public to private schools through a variety of “voucher” and “tuition tax credit” programs. They promote unaccountable charter schools and shift power away from democratically elected local school boards….

 

Although ALEC and other school privatizers today frame “vouchers” – taxpayer-funded tuition for private, and often religious, schools – in terms of “opportunity” for low-income students and giving parents the “choice” to send their children to public or private schools, the group was less judicious in its earlier years.

 

The commentary to ALEC’s original 1984 voucher bill states that its purpose is “to introduce normal market forces” into education, and to “dismantle the control and power of” teachers’ unions by directing money from public institutions to private ones that were less likely to be unionized.

 

Friedman was more explicit when addressing ALEC’s 2006 meeting. He explained that vouchers are really a step towards “abolishing the public school system.”

 

“How do we get from where we are to where we want to be?” Friedman asked the ALEC crowd.

 

“Of course, the ideal way would be to abolish the public school system and eliminate all the taxes that pay for it. Then parents would have enough money to pay for private schools, but you’re not gonna do that.”

 

Of course, in order to believe in the idea of “opportunity scholarships” to “save poor kids from failing schools,” you have to believe that the big corporations and the billionaires are civil rights crusaders for the poor and needy. My imagination is not big enough to do that.

Jonathan Pelto, a former legislator in Connecticut, warns about proposed legislation that would allow the state to take control of local schools, without regard to wishes of local school board.

 

He writes:

 

“A new piece of legislation before the Connecticut General Assembly (H.B. 5551) would be the most far-reaching power grab in state history – a direct attack local control of schools, our democracy and Connecticut’s students, parents, teachers, local school officials and public school.

 

“The legislation would enable Malloy’s political appointees on the State Board of Education to takeover individual schools in a district, remove the control of the elected board of education, “suspend laws” and eliminate the role of school governance councils which are the parent’s voice in school “turnaround plans.

 

“The bill is nothing short of an authoritarian maneuver by grossly expanding the Commissioner of Education’s powers under the Commissioner’s Network. The bill destroys the fundamental role of local control because it allows the state to indefinitely take over schools and even entire districts, without a vote of local citizens.

 

“The bill removes any time limit on Commissioner’s Network Schools. It removes the cap on how many Commissioner’s Network schools can be taken over by the state. It removes the right of the local community to appoint their own turnaround committee. It eliminates the requirement that local parents, through their school governance council are included in the process.”

 

Governor Dannell Malloy is chairman of the Democratic Governors’ Association, but the proposed legislation comes from the rightwing group ALEC.

 

 

PublicSchoolsFirst in North Carolina–a parent-led organization– has produced a short video urging the public and the legislature to reject an “achievement school district” modeled on the ones in New Orleans, Tennessee, and Michigan. The video accurately says that none of these models has succeeded. New Orleans is controversial; the one in Tennessee has produced negligible or no gains in test scores; the one in Michigan was an abject failure.

 

The legislature is considering a bill that would select the lowest performing schools in the state and put them into a non-contiguous district, where they would then be turned over to charter operators, some of them for-profit charter chains from out of state. This model has no record of success. The goal of this model, which is promoted by ALEC, is to privatize public schools and eliminate local control.

 

The video recommends that North Carolina continue to implement its home-grown turnaround model, which has shown promising results, protects local schools, and keeps out for-profit charter operators.

 

 

A reader in Arizona reports that a State Senate committee just passed legislation that would lift all limits on vouchers by 2020. Every Democrat and one Republican opposed the bill. Why destroy public education? Since when did radicalism get confused with “reform”? True reformers want to improve institutions, not blow them up. True conservatives conserve community institutions that serve our democracy. The promoters of this scheme are radicals, not conservatives.

This is unfiltered rightwing ideology. No high-performing nation in the world has replaced its public schools with school choice. No voucher program in this country has produced impressive results. Every little church in the state will open or expand its school and hire uncertified teachers. This is not progress. This is stupidity.

Our reader adds:

“It is likely to pass given the makeup of our legislature and its connections to ALEC. The only hope is that Governor Ducey will veto it. He is pro-privatization and under normal circumstances would likely sign the bill but his own proposed funding plan might be in jeopardy if he did so. That means that there’ a chance that he’ll veto it!”

This is a sad story. From 1981 to 2009, nearly 30 years, Checker Finn was one of my closest friends. He was like a brother. Our families were close, and we almost telecommunicated about issues. We wrote article and reports together. we wrote a book together. We cofounded the Educational Excellence Network, and I was a founding member of Checker’s Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, as well as a colleague on the Koret Task Force of the Hoover Foundation.

 

But when I turned against testing and choice, our friendship deteriorated. I asked him if he would write a blurb for my book “The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Undermines Education,” but he said it was impossible. That book announced my break with the corporate reform movement. Or as I now know it, the privatization movement. He never forgave me for breaking ranks.

 

Readers of this blog have never read criticism of Checker here. I could not bring myself to speak personally against those who were once close friends, even though our disagreements are philosophically and politically profound.

 

 

Checker, however, has finally expressed his anger towards me in print. He slammed David Denby, who has written for the New Yorker for many years, for having written a tribute to teachers. He thinks Denby has turned into a defender of the status quo, which is apparently the worst insult a “reformer” can imagine.

 

 

But the privatizers ARE the status quo. How else to describe a “movement” that includes the President of the US, the Department of Education, the Council of Chief State School Officers, ALEC (which Fordham joined), all the red-state governors plus Governor Cuomo of New York, and Governor Malloy of Connecticut, the Gates Foundation, the Broad Foundation, the Walton Family Foundation, the Bloomberg Foundation, about a score of other foundations, and dozens of hedge fund managers who can raise a million dollars in a few hours. If this is not the status quo, I don’t know what is. They are actually quite few in number, but their wealth and political power are immense.

 

 

Checker trashed David Denby’s paean to teachers because Checker holds teachers in low regard, especially if they belong to a union and work on a public school.

 

 

I suspect this is the paragraph that Denby wrote that most angered Checker:

 

 

““A necessary commonplace: Almost everyone we know has been turned around, or at least seriously shaken, by a teacher—in college, maybe, but often in high school, often by a man or a woman who drove home a point or two about physics, literature, or ethics, and looked at us sternly and said, in effect, You could be more than what you are. At their best, teachers are everyday gods, standing at the entryway to the world. If they are fair and good, they are possibly the most morally impressive adults that their students will ever know. For a while, they are the law, they are knowledge, they are justice….”

 

 

But there was something else that unsettled Checker. He suspected that Denby had turned against “reform,” and it was my fault!

 

 

He writes:

 

 

“If he had stuck with his abiding affection for great literature and his analysis of the difficulties of teaching it to contemporary young people, I’d have nothing but positive feelings. But along the way, besides deploring kids’ addiction to video games, cell phones, television, and ear-bud music, he’s turned into an anti-reformer. This turned up first (to my knowledge) in his loving word portrait of (the new) Diane Ravitch, published in the New Yorker in 2012. Now he’s back in the same publication with a denunciation of what he sees as the teacher-bashing ways, false allegations, and misguided ideas of education reformers. Here’s a sample:

 

 

[Denby writes]:

 

 

“Our view of American public education in general has been warped by our knowledge of these failing kids in inner-city and rural schools. In particular, the system as a whole has been described by “reformers” as approaching breakdown. But this is nonsense. There are actually many good schools in the United States—in cities, in suburbs, in rural areas. Pathologizing the system as a whole, reformers insist on drastic reorganization, on drastic methods of teacher accountability. In the past dozen or so years, we’ve seen the efforts, often led by billionaires and hedge fund managers and supported by elected officials, to infuse K–12 education with models and methods derived from the business world—for instance, the drive to privatize education as much as possible with charter schools, which receive public money but are independently run and often financed by entrepreneurs. This drive is accompanied by a stream of venom aimed at unions, as if they were the problem in American education.”

 

 

Finn resumes:

 

 

“On reading this, a colleague speculated that perhaps Ravitch had written it for him as a kind of reward for his earlier tribute to her. The more important point is that he has now lent his talented pen to the anti-reform movement, which (of course) it took Ravitch just minutes to note: “David Denby,” she blogged on Valentine’s Day, “has joined our movement to restore common sense to education.”

 

 

“And a movement of sorts it has become, including not just teacher unions, polemicists, and high-powered (if, in my view, sorely misguided) intellectuals, but also opting-out parents, unrelenting education progressivists, and a bunch of folks whose latest cause célèbre is that kids are under too much stress.”

 

 

A quick rebuttal:

 

 

No, I did not ghostwrite David Denby’s tribute to teachers. He did it all by himself. He is quite a prolific writer, and he doesn’t need my help to think or write.

 

 

Yes, Denby does admire teachers. Many people-including those at the Fordham Institute, ALEC, and other outposts of corporate reform—don’t. They think they are lazy and self-serving. They can’t understand why anyone would want to be a teacher when they don’t make much money, ever.

 

 

Yes, as Denby writes, there are many good schools in America. There are many excellent public schools in America. The privatizers and public school bashers seem to have mostly gone to Exeter (like Checker) or Lakeside Academy or Andover or some other elite private school. They feel sorry for those of us who had to go to public schools.

 

 

Although I am now diametrically opposed to everything Checker believes about education, teachers, and children, I have an abiding fondness for him and his family.

 

 

I will continue fighting the terrible policies that he espouses because I know they have proven to be failures. He was and is a promoter of every imaginable alternative to public schools. So far, none of those alternatives has been successful. There comes a time to recognize that the theories you have been promoting since the early 1980s have been tried and have failed. I had that realization about 2005 or 2006 as I saw the damage done by NCLB.

 

 

I don’t think Checker will ever admit that he was wrong. But some day, maybe after we are gone, wiser heads will review this era and judge us all. I am glad I shook myself free of the delusion that schools could operate in a free market, that teachers could be treated as interchangeable widgets, and that students learn best in a culture of fear of failure. I will continue to hope that someday Checker and Mike Petrilli will see the light.