Archives for category: Billionaires

Bill Radin writes in California-based “Capital & Main” about Eli Broad’s decision to spend $100 million to buy his leadership training program a place at the Yale School of Management.

As Radin notes, Broadies left some notable messes behind.

Broad’s philosophy is that educational problems are really management problems. Never having taught, he is projecting his life experience onto a sector with which he is totally unfamiliar, where the lives of children are at stake. Surely you would send a management consultant to design or fly airplanes or to perform surgeries. Broad has never understood that the business techniques he used to become rich have no application in the classroom or in schools.

Most of his graduates are notable for the mistakes they made by imposing bad ideas that they learned at the Broad Academy.

Radin writes:

Say goodbye to the Broad Academy. The Eli Broad-founded and funded superintendent’s program that since 2002 has trained “aspiring urban school system leaders” in the blunt art of disrupting communities, undermining school boards and alienating teachers through top-down district privatization techniques is pulling up its L.A. stakes and leaving California. Its destination? The Yale School of Management, which this week welcomedBA’s Broad Center umbrella org and the $100 million jackpot from the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation that comes with it. The ivy-covered facelift will transform BA’s market-based ed reform fellowship — which Diane Ravitch notes has been unencumbered by either education academicians or scholars — into a now establishment-countenanced, one-year master’s degree in education management. Also on tap will be “advanced executive training” for laissez faire-leaning district superintendents and CFOs.

Broadies,” as graduates are known, have left their mark on Golden State public schools. Oakland Unified is still digging itself out of the mess left by three politically appointed grads that managed the district during its 2003-2009 state receivership. Ten years later, their legacy includes mass school closures, charter oversaturation, crippling debt and an even deeper fiscal crisis (exacerbated by profligate spending by Oakland’s Broad-trained ex-supe Antwan Wilson) that has put 24 more district schools on the chopping block and turned school board meetings into civic battlegrounds. Los Angeles is still traumatized by Broad alumnus John Deasy, remembered as the LAUSD supe who habitually testified against the district in lawsuits targeting its teachers and for masterminding the conflict of interest-tainted, $1.3 billion iPad procurement debacle that finally sent him packing.

What the Broadies do best is disruption. That is their talent.

Andre Perry led a charter chain in New Orleans. He became disillusioned. As a black scholar, he questions the Walton-funded effort to portray black support for charters as monolithic, which it is not. 

Perry wrote in response to the controversy that occurred when pro-charter demonstrators disrupted a speech by Elizabeth Warren in Atlanta. He is aware of the white Republican money behind the demand for more charters.

He wrote:

Warren needs to learn from black voices — but the charter school movement is not ours to defend.

Organizations such as the charter school advocacy group Families for Excellent Schools have orchestrated statewide campaigns using dark money to influence state ballots to increase the number of charter schools, hiding who’s actually behind the movement. The Associated Press reported in December 2018 that an advocacy group that received $1.5 million from the Walton Family Foundation, one of the biggest funders of education reform, paid for 150, mostly black parents from Memphis to travel to Cincinnati two years prior to protest at a meeting of the NAACP. The parents sought to lobby against an NAACP proposal — which the organization passed despite the protests — to call for a moratorium on charter schools. They denied that the Walton Family Foundation asked them to carry out the protest.

This political season, black people cannot afford to be human shields for white leaders who don’t have the legitimacy to enter black communities on their own.

Perry notes that most Democratic candidates, notably Sanders and Warren, have abandoned charters.

He writes:

This reversal of position by Democrats is a sign that members of the party are listening to black communities….

Over the course of more than two decades, charter school expansion resulted in a significant loss in black-held jobs and a reduction in black political power in several black-majority cities. Black teachers were fired en masse in New Orleans, Washington D.C., and Newark, N.J., decimating the black middle class there.

Hundreds of millions of dollars directed towards electing pro-charter candidates ultimately empowered Republicans in many states. The pro-charter group Students First realized that its funding of Republican candidates had backfired. The association of the charter cause with the Republic party lead to the defeat of pro-charter proposals. Democratic voters showed they will not support movements that bolster the Republican Party — the same party that refuses to check Trump’s blatant racism. Democrats who support the idea of charter schools should make it clear to Republicansthat they will not tolerate a charter system that offers improved academic performance for some black students only by harming the communities in which those students live.

However, Democrat reformers developed a bad habit of accepting this Faustian bargain, and staying silent in red states on issues like jail expansion, cuts to higher education and attacks on organized labor because dissent ran the risk of slowing the proliferation of charters. Yes, black families want and need choice, but the current charter school movement is too tightly braided with Republican causes; a defense of one is a defense of the other.

To embrace charter schools in 2020 is to embrace Betsy DeVos, Donald Trump and other Republicans who stand to gain more politically from charter support than black communities have gained in jobs and educational benefits. Black kids lose when Democratic educational reformers act like Republicans.

Perry quotes the EdNext poll, noting that the publication is “pro-reform.” It is more accurate to acknowledge that EdNext (on whose board I once served) is a very conservative, pro-charter, pro-voucher publication funded by rightwing foundations. Frankly, polls about charters are worthless because most people admit when asked that they aren’t sure what a “charter school” is. If they don’t know what a charter school is, how can their view—positive or negative—signify anything?

Perry is right to point out that the Dark Money behind charters has a different agenda than most black parents. The Waltons and DeVos and their allies in ALEC want to bust teachers’ unions and privatize public schools. Perry is right to peer behind the curtain and see whose interest is served by the well-funded attacks on public schools.

He writes:

The funders of charter schools continuously put black parents and teachers in the position of fighting against their own interests. White-led philanthropy and education groups will eventually abandon public policy experiments when it is no longer popular, politically expedient or, in some cases, lucrative. For-profit charters are in education ostensibly for the money.

Some black charter leaders feel they must defend the schools because black children attend them. But we don’t need to fall into that trap. We can defend black children and workers without defending charter schools. Black people need systemic change. We can’t allow the cry for charters to drown out the demands for school financing reform, better work conditions, higher teacher pay, universal pre-K, free college, teachers’ training and recruitment programs, stronger labor protections and workforce housing initiatives.

 

Social scientists have repeatedly documented the close correlation between child poverty and academic achievement. You don’t have to be a social scientist to look at any graph that displays both test scores and family income: the kids from the richest families are at the top, and the kids from the poorest family are at the bottom. It is not surprising, because those with the least income have the least access to food security, medical care, decent housing, and all the other basics of living that affluent families take for granted.

In this blog post, Marc Tucker reviewed the data on child poverty and its relationship to education outcomes. He cites a feature in the Economist magazine about poverty in the United States. He includes a graph showing the dramatic increase in child poverty from 2000-2016. Tucker goes back even further, to 1960, to note that income inequality was not as great then as it is now. Those at the top had “more,” of course, but were not billionaires inhabiting a totally different universe than those at the bottom or those in the middle. Something is terribly wrong with hundreds of people are billionaires, some of them with assets of more than $100 billion, at the same time that more and more families and children live in poverty.

Both the standard measure of poverty and the Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM), which takes benefits and cost of living into account, show that about one in six children in the U.S. is poor. (The current official poverty level is $25,750 for a family of four.) While there are poor families all over the country, the averages are misleading, because the poor are usually concentrated in clusters.

When educators think about poverty among their students, the measure that comes first to mind is the percentage of public school students eligible for free and reduced-price lunch, which is available to children in households with incomes at or below 185 percent of the federal poverty level. In the 2000-01 school year, 38.3 percent of public school students were eligible.  That figure climbed to 48.1 percent in the 2010-11 school year, 51.8 percent in the 2014-15 school year and 52.1 percent in the 2015-16 school year. But these figures, like those for poverty overall, are often far higher where poverty is concentrated and its effects far worse and much longer lasting there.

Percent of US students who qualify for free and reduced price lunch keeps growing 

The Economist points out that, when Jack Kennedy was President and Lyndon Johnson became President, it was different. Then, the poorest among us were the elderly. Now, with the growth in Medicare and Social Security, the elderly are doing much better and the young much worse.  The experience of the elderly, however, is instructive. Policy changed the outcomes for them dramatically. There is no reason why that should not be equally true for the young. What is most interesting about The Economist’s article on child poverty is not the statistics, which are well known. It is their comments on the policy options for dealing with the problem of child poverty in the U.S.

The simplest solution is cash transfers. The Economist refers to the work of Stanford professor David Grusky, who calculates that California could end child poverty in that state by spending only $2.8 billion a year, one quarter of what it spends annually on its prisons. Conservatives often oppose cash transfers to poor people on the grounds that they stifle initiative. But we could probably all agree that transfers for young children will not destroy their initiative. Many first-world countries in Asia, North America and Europe award means-tested and non-means-tested allotments to families with young children, especially countries where the domestic fertility rate is falling below the birth rate. The Economist quotes Jane Waldfogel, a Columbia economist, saying that a relatively small universal child credit could cut the U.S. child poverty rate in half all by itself.

But, says The Economist, the problem cannot be dealt with solely with a transfer program, because poverty in the U.S. is so concentrated. Researchers have shown that young children who are doing very poorly in schools serving students in concentrated poverty do much better if they can go to schools serving families in wealthier communities. Those other communities don’t necessarily have more money per student, but they provide much more support to the student in the form of higher expectations, a wider range of experiences and more rigorous schooling. While this strategy is not fully scalable, it could certainly be ramped up.

In this vein, we note that Howard County, Maryland, recently redistricted its schools to allow many more children whose schools were made up of large numbers of students in concentrated poverty to go to schools with wealthier children and spread the number of children in poverty more equitably across that district. They did this because their own research showed that earlier efforts to do this same thing worked to lift performance in students who come from impoverished backgrounds. 

Many of the schools that are economically segregated are also racially segregated. The Economist points to data showing that moving students from racially segregated schools to unsegregated schools can, over five years, improve student incomes by 30 percent and greatly reduce the likelihood of incarceration. But, just as poverty is rising among school children, our schools are becoming more, not less, segregated.

In the early days of desegregation, inner-city predominantly African-American school districts were merged with predominantly white ones into a single district. But, in recent years, white, relatively well-to-do areas within large urban districts have been applying to their state legislatures for the right to form their own school districts, or, failing that, their own cities or towns (which would enable them to get their own school district), thereby contributing to the isolation and concentration of low-income, often minority, families in communities where hope for a better future is dying.

The Economist article ends with a reminder of Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s warnings, back in the Nixon administration, about trouble in the African American family. Around a quarter of African Americans then were born out of wedlock. That proportion is now 70 percent for African Americans, 50 percent for Hispanic children and 30 percent for whites. The proportion for poor whites living in poverty is, of course, much higher. Research shows that households with single parents are more likely to live in poverty and the children in those families are more likely to experience lower academic achievement than households with two parents. When critics insist that American teachers need to be held accountable for the poor performance of American school children, the teachers shoot back that they are being held accountable for the failure of American parents and taxpayers to take care of their children. 

When some of us point out that there has been no improvement in the performance of all high school students or of protected subgroups of students in the United States on NAEP measures of reading and mathematics in 30 years, they tell us we should consider ourselves lucky that we have teachers who have been able to hold student performance steady while the American people have been sending them students who get poorer and more isolated every year.

I think they have a point.  Don’t you?

 

 

In case you didn’t know, a murmuration is the sound of lots of birds flapping their little wings.

Mercedes Schneider defines it here:

The name, “murmuration,” refers to “hundreds, sometimes thousands, of starlings fly in swooping, intricately coordinated patterns through the sky.”

Why does it matter?

Because Emma Bloomberg, daughter of multibillionaire Michael Bloomberg, has created a new “ed reform” organization that uses that term as its name.

Schneider has scoured the websites and also the tax forms of this new group.

What they do is not obvious, but they do have millions of dollars, probably from Pappa Bloomberg.

They apparently spend it on data technology, technology integration, and, of course, it is all about the children.

As Schneider writes:

Our focus is on driving change and accelerating progress toward a future where every child in America has the opportunity to benefit from a high-quality public education.

And how do the unnamed, Murmuration change-drivers propose to drive said change?

We provide sophisticated data and analytics, proprietary technology, strategic guidance, and programmatic support to help our partners build political power and marshal support so necessary changes are made to improve our public schools.

Our precise, predictive intelligence and easy-to-use tools are used by practitioners and funders, on their own and working together, to make informed decisions about who they need to reach, what they need to say, and how to achieve and sustain impact.

Of course, in typical ed-reform fashion, its *for the kids*:

We envision a public school system that ensures every child across our nation – regardless of race, income, background, or the zip code where they live – receives an education that prepares them to lead productive, fulfilling, and happy lives.

We believe public servants must recognize that providing a great education to every child is necessary to our prosperity, and be willing to invest in real, systemic and sustainable change which may come at a political cost.

We want our political systems to function and benefit from a rich discussion of the important role of public schools.  We want everyone who is impacted by public education to participate (or be represented) in the discussion and decision-making process.  And, we want the voices of those most reliant on our public education system to be heard.

What all this adds up to is hard to say, other than providing another honey tree for practitioners of disruption to shake.

I am trying to imagine how “those most reliant on our public education system to be heard” when the loudest voices are those with the most money.

Billionaires usually don’t send their own children to public schools and do not have a habit of listening to those who do, but they have plenty of dough to spread around to those who agree with their agenda to privatize the schools, monetize the data, and make technology our master.

The one thing that is clear from Schneider’s post is that Murmuration has plenty of money to spend. What it intends to to is not yet clear. Maybe they plan to visit public schools and listen to parents. Ya’ think?

Thomas Ultican writes here about the Walton-funded effort to control the public schools of Little Rock. Given the Walton love of charter schools, we can safely assume that they hope to eliminate democratic control of the citizenry and impose charter schools. Ultican follows the money, where it comes from, where it goes.

He writes:

In an apparent reaction to the 2014 school board election, new Republican Governor Asa Hutchinson and the state of Arkansas assumed stewardship of Little Rock School District (LRSD). A law passed January 28, 2015 authorizing the takeover requires the state to give control back to Little Rock voters by January, 2020. New racially motivated proposals hearkening back to the days of openly racist governor, Orville Faubus, ensure minority residents lose their democratic rights. Big money from the Waltons – The world’s wealthiest family – is driving privatization and segregation within LRSD.

A leading Little Rock community activist, Reverend Anika Whitfield, said in an interview, “The Governor, the Attorney General and the state legislature are all controlled by the Walton family.” In 2016 when new Superintendent Mike Poore came to Little Rock from Bentonville, Arkansas (headquarter of the Walton family), Whitfield was suspicious and asked him about his relationship with Walmart’s owners. He replied, “I know you all are apprehensive; I don’t even know Jim Walton.”

Driving Corporate Education Reform in Little Rock

Littls Sis Map Attacking Little Rock Schools

Little Sis Map Showing Leaders of the Attack on LRSD

Bear in mind that the point of corporate reform (as practiced by the Waltons, Bill Gates, Eli Broad, and other of their ilk) is disruption, not school improvement. Their efforts seldom lead to better schools, but always produce disruption.

SLAYING GOLIATH will be published on January 21. Please consider giving a pre-order for Xmas to your friends.

On that date, I will appear in conversation with Carol Burris to discuss the book and the issues it raises. That event will be sponsored by the Community Bookstore at Congregation Beth Elohim at 274 Garfield Place (Eighth Avenue) in Park Slope, Brooklyn at 6:30 pm on January 21. The bookstore or synagogue charges a $10 admission fee.

SAVE THE DATE!

All are welcome.

This review in Library Journal goes out to libraries across the nation. It is a starred review, which is a kudo.

Knopf. Jan. 2020. 352p. ISBN 9780525655374. $27.95. ED
COPY ISBN

In this incisive, meticulously researched book, Ravitch (education, New York Univ.; The Death and Life of the Great American School) argues persuasively that the U.S. school privatization movement has resulted in poor test scores, the closure of public schools, and attacks on the teaching profession. Ravitch blames the so-called school reformers, whom she renames the disruptors, such as Bill Gates, Alice Walton, Michelle Rhee, Mark Zuckerberg, and Eli Broad, who spend millions to replace public schools with charter schools and private institutions that are run like businesses. Though disruptors view themselves as opposing the status quo, Ravitch contends that they are doing everything they can to maintain it. She devotes most of her book to the resisters, or the teachers, parents, and union leaders who have taken on the disruptors and are working to keep their local public schools open. Through this lens, Ravitch discusses the Common Core teaching standards, standardized testing, the Obama administration’s Race to the Top grant program, and Teach for America.

VERDICT This extensive analysis is required reading for anyone concerned about American education. [See Prepub Alert, 7/8/19.]

On November 26, the New York Times published an article that had this headline: ‘Minority Voters Chafe As Democratic Candidates Abandon Charter Schools.’

The point of the article was that many black and Latino families are very disappointed that all the Democratic candidates have turned their backs on charter schools, excepting Cory Booker, currently polling around 1-2%. The article was especially critical of Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, who have, as the article put it, “vowed to curb charter school growth.”

The article implied that the shift was due to the candidates’ pursuit of the support of the teachers’ unions, and charter schools are mostly non-union. Thus, if you want the union vote, you oppose non-union charters. (In my experience, neither the AFT nor the NEA is anti-charter, since they seek to organize charters to join their unions and have had some modest success; still, about 90% of charters are non-union.)

The article was prompted by an organized disruption of a speech in Atlanta by Elizabeth Warren, who was talking about a washerwomen’s strike in Atlanta in 1881, led by black women. The disruption was led by Howard Fuller, who, as the article notes, has received many millions from rightwing foundations, not only the Waltons but the Bradley Foundation in Milwaukee, to sell vouchers and charters to black families.

Not until paragraph 25 does the article mention that the national NAACP, the nation’s largest organization representing black families, called for a charter moratorium in 2016. That fact alone should raise the question of how representative the protestors are.

I wrote this post about the article. The gist of my complaint was that the Times’ article gave the impression that black and Latino families are clamoring for more charters, when in reality there are many cities in which black and Hispanic families are protesting the destruction of their public schools and the loss of democratic control of their schools.

I questioned why the article relied on a five-year-old press release from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools as evidence for its claim that the “wait list” for charter schools was in the “hundreds of thousands.” Actually, the 2014 press release from the charter advocacy group said the “wait list” topped one million students. My comment was that “wait lists” have never been audited or verified and that a claim by a lobbying group is not evidence.

I added to my post a commentary by Robert Kuttner, the editor of the American Prospect,  who was also critical of the article.

Both Kuttner and I heard from a reporter from the New York Times. In the response posted below, he acknowledges he made an error in citing poll data in the article, without reading the underlying poll.

I heard from one of the writers of the Times article. She said my post had many inaccuracies. I invited her to write a response and promised I would post it in full. I pleaded with her to identify any inaccuracies in my post and said I would issue a correction. She did not send a response that I could post nor a list of my “inaccuracies.”

The Times posted an article last July about the growing backlash against charter schools. But I do not think the Times has exhausted the question of why the charter “movement” is in decline.  It would surely be interesting if the Times wrote a story about why the NAACP took a strong stand against charter expansion, despite the funding behind charters. Or why Black Lives Matter opposes privatization and supports democratic control of schools. Or why black families in Little Rock, Chicago, Houston, and other cities are fighting charter expansion. None of those families are funded by the Waltons, Bill Gates, Eli Broad, Charles Koch, or Michael Bloomberg, so they don’t organize buses to take hundreds or thousands of people to demonstrations.

The Times should take note of the fact that white Southern Republicans have made the charter issue their own, and they are using it to recreate segregated schools. Indeed, the Republican party has made charter schools and vouchers the centerpiece of their education agenda, and Democrats in most state legislatures have resisted that agenda and support public schools. There is also the fact that DeVos and Trump are pushing charters and school choice even as they dismantle civil rights protections.

I wish the Times had noticed a court decision in Mississippi a few months ago that upheld the right of the state to take tax money away from the predominantly black public schools of Jackson, Mississippi (which are 96-97% black), and give it to charter schools authorized by the state, not the district. They might note that the sole black justice on the Mississippi Supreme Court, Justice Leslie King, dissented from that decision. The district, under black leadership, fought that decision and lost. The black parents of Jackson, Mississippi, are fighting for adequate funding of their public schools, while the white Republicans in state government are imposing charter schools.

In Justice Leslie King’s dissenting opinion, which Justice James Kitchens joined, he wrote “This Court should not be a rubber stamp for Legislative policies it agrees with when those policies are unconstitutional.”

Public school districts in Mississippi receive local funding from ad valorem tax receipts. When a student enrolls in a charter school, which is a free public school, money that would have gone to the district follows the student to the charter school instead.

My view is that we need a great public school in every neighborhood, with experienced teachers, a full curriculum, a vibrant arts program, a nurse, and all the resources they need for the students they enroll. I think that charter schools should be authorized by districts to meet their needs and supervised by district officials to be sure that there is full transparency and accountability for the academic program, the discipline policies, and the finances. Charter schools should complement public schools, not compete with them or supplant them.

Here is Robert Kuttner’s second commentary on the article:

americanprospect

 

DECEMBER 2, 2019

Kuttner on TAP

Charter Schools and the Times: a Correction and Further Reflections. I made an error in my On Tap post last week on the New York Times feature piece on black public opinion and charter schools.

My post criticized the Times for publishing a page-one story with an exaggerated headline, “Minority Voters Feel Betrayed Over Schools.”

The Times piece cited a poll showing black support for charter schools at 47 percent. My mistake was to infer from this figure that black support and opposition were about equally divided. As one of the story’s authors pointed out in an email, the actual poll showed support at 47 percent, opposition at 29 percent, and no opinion or similar for the rest.

That 29 percent opposed figure was not mentioned in the Times piece. Nonetheless, I should have pursued the underlying poll and reported it, and not just made assumptions. I regret the error.

That said, polling results vary widely depending on the wording and framing of the question, the sponsor of the poll, and the context. For instance, a poll by the Public Policy Institute of California, in a state that has more charters than any other, reverses the finding of the Education Next poll cited by the Times. In California, blacks, with just 36 percent support, were far less likely to support charters than whites.

One of the two polls that the Times linked to used the phrase “public charter schools.” Most charter schools are public only in their taxpayer funding; their actual accountability to public systems varies widely. Many are for-profit, or nominally nonprofit but managed by for-profit management companies.

Another poll, which my post cited, by Peter Hart Associates (for the American Federation of Teachers), finds that black parents are strongly opposed to the idea of reducing funds for public schools and redirecting them to charters, which is often the practical impact of increased spending on charters. As this study shows, the practical effect of charters, in a climate of fiscal scarcity, is often precisely to divert funds from public schools.

I owe our readers a much deeper look at the charter school controversy, as well as error-free reading of polls. Both will be forthcoming. ~ ROBERT KUTTNER

Robert Kuttners new book is The Stakes: 2020 and the Survival of American Democracy.

Follow Robert Kuttner on Twitter

Many people have written to me to complain about an article that appeared Wednesday on the front page of the New York Times, saying it was pro-charter propaganda. The article claims that black and brown parents are offended that the Democratic candidates (with the exception of Cory Booker, now polling at 1%) have turned their backs on charter schools.

This is not true. Black parents in Little Rock, Arkansas, are fighting at this very moment to stop the Walton-controlled state government from controlling their district and re-segregating it with charter schools. Jitu Brown and his allies fought to keep Rahm Emanuel from closing Walter Dyett High School, the last open enrollment public high school on the South Side of Chicago; they launched a 34-day hunger strike, and Rahm backed down. Jitu Brown’s Journey for Justice Alliance has organized black parents in 25 cities to fight to improve their neighborhood public schools rather than let them be taken over by corporate charter chains. Black parents in many other districts–think  Detroit–are disillusioned with the failed promises of charter schools. Eve Ewing wrote a terrific book (Ghosts in the Schoolyard: Racism and School Closings on Chicago’s South Side) about resistance by parents, grandparents, students, and teachers in the black community to Rahm Emanuel’s mass closings of public schools to make way for charter schools; Ewing called their response “institutional mourning.” When Puerto Rico teetered on the verge of bankruptcy, parents, teachers, and students rallied against efforts to turn the Island’s public schools over to charter chains.

The article’s claim that “hundreds of thousands” of students are on “waiting lists” to enroll in charters links to a five-year-old press release by a charter advocacy group, the National Alliance for Charter Schools. In fact, there has never been verification of any “wait list” for charters. Although there are surely charters that do have wait lists, just as there are public schools that have long wait lists, there is no evidence that hundreds of thousands of students are clamoring to gain admission to charters. That claim appears to be a marketing ploy. Earlier this year, a member of the Los Angeles school board revealed that 80% of the charters in that city have empty seats. Just this past week, a well-established Boston charter announced that it was closing one campus and consolidating its other two because of declining enrollments. Four of Bill Gates’ charter schools in Washington State have closed due to low enrollments. The only effort to verify the claim of “waiting lists” was carried out by Isaiah Thompson, a public radio reporter in Boston; his review showed that the list contained many duplications, even triplications, since many students applied to more than one school, and the same lists held the names of students who had already enrolled in a charter school or a public school.

Perhaps the Times will now interview Dr./Rev. Anika Whitfield in Little Rock to learn about the struggles of Grassroots Arkansas to block the Walton campaign to destroy their public schools. Perhaps its reporters will interview Jitu Brown to hear from a genuine civil rights leader who is not funded by the Waltons or the Bradley Foundation or Betsy DeVos. Perhaps they will dig into the data in Ohio, where 2/3 of the state’s charter schools were rated either D or F by the state in 2018, and where the state’s biggest cyber charter went into bankruptcy earlier this year after draining away over $1 billion from public schools’ coffers. Perhaps they will cover the news from New Orleans, the only all-charter district in the nation, where the state just posted its school scores and reported that 49% of the charters in New Orleans are rated either D or F. Perhaps they will cover the numerous real estate scandals that have enabled unscrupulous charter operators to fleece taxpayers.

Fairness requires that the New York Times take a closer look at this issue, not by interviewing advocates for the charter industry but by trying to understand why so many Democrats, especially progressives, have abandoned the charter crusade. Why, as the Times asked in July, have charter schools lost their luster?  (I asked the same question last April.) [Editor’s note: I added these two links to refer to use of the term “lost their luster.”] Why have the number of new charters plummeted nationally despite the expenditure of $440 million a year by the federal government and even more by foundations like Gates, Broad, DeVos, Bloomberg, Koch, and Walton. Maybe it was disappointment in their lackluster, often very poor, academic performance. Or maybe it was the almost daily revelations of waste, fraud, and abuse that occurs when public money is handed to entrepreneurs without any accountability of oversight.

The question that must be answered is whether it is just and sensible to create two publicly funded school systems, instead of appropriately funding the public schools that enroll 47 million students, almost 90% of all students. It serves the interests of billionaires to keep people fighting about governance and structure, but it serves the interest of our society to invest in great public schools for everyone.

 

ON TAP Today from the American Prospect

NOVEMBER 27, 2019

Kuttner on TAP

The Times: In the Tank on Charter Schools. The Times ran an overwrought and overwritten front-page story Wednesday under the breathless headline, “Minority Voters Feel Betrayed Over Schools.” Betrayed? The headline on the jump page where the story continues is even more exaggerated: “Minority Voters Chafe as Democrats’ Charter School Support Wanes.”

The piece reads as if it were dictated by the charter school lobby. Read the story very carefully, if you bother to read to the end, and you will learn that some black and Hispanic voters see charters as a good alternative to public schools, while others are concerned that charters, which serve only a fraction of minority kids, drain resources from the larger number of kids in public schools, as the Prospecthas documented.

And if you read all the way to paragraph 38 (!), you will learn that according to a poll by Education Next, a journal that supports charters, black opinion on charter schools is in fact evenly divided, 47 percent supportive to 47 percent opposed. But that kind of nuance doesn’t get your story on the front page, while quoting fervent charter school activists and making unsupported generalizations does.

Other 2017 polling by Peter Hart Associates showed that large majorities of voters, black and white, oppose shifting funds from public schools to charters. Black parents were opposed, 64 to 36. Hart’s Guy Molyneux says there’s no evidence that these views have changed.

Does the Times have fact-checkers? Editors? Do they hold writers accountable?

Back to school!

Robert Kuttner’s new book is The Stakes: 2020 and the Survival of American Democracy.

If anyone doubts that big money is buying our democracy, read Mercedes Schneider’s post about the recent election in Louisiana.

Anyone who doubts that ueber-wealthy ed reformers are purchasing elections in other states need only consider this November 10, 2019, campaign finance reportfor the Louisiana Federation for Children (LFC) Action Fund PAC. Even so, as one quickly realizes when following ed reform money, the connections readily become numerous and complicated.

Let’s see how concise I can keep this this post centered on a single, LFC campaign finance report.

LFC is a state-level tentacle of the American Federation for Children (AFC), the school choice vehicle formerly chaired by US ed sec, Betsy DeVos. Louisiana gubernatorial challenger, Eddie Rispone is the former LFC chair. and also the former treasurer of the LFC Action Fund PAC.

According to LFC Action Fund PAC’s November 10, 2019, filing, three out-of-state donors (two individuals and one PAC), donated a combined $825K in October 2019. The same three donated a combined $2.6M in 2019 alone. They are Arkansas billonaire and Walmart heir, Jim Walton; California billionaire William Oberndorf, who succeeded DeVos as AFC chair, and a school choice PAC, Public School Allies:

  • William Oberndorf (CA): $275K in 10/19; $550K YTD (year to date).
  • Jim Walton (AR): $350K in 10/19; $912K YTD.
  • Public School Allies (VA): $200K in 10/19; $1.2M YTD.

Public School Allies lists as its address “6312 Seven Corners Center #354
Falls Church, VA 22044,” which is a UPS drop box. However, the October 24, 2019, Chlakbeat reports that Public School, Allies is the “political arm” of the City Fund, created in 2018 to spread school choice by three individuals, including former New Schools for New Orleans (NSNO) CEO, Neerav Kingsland. From Chalkbeat:

The political arm of The City Fund, the organization with ambitions to spread charter schools and the “portfolio model” of school reform across the country, plans to spend $15 million to influence state and local elections over the next three years.

That political group, known as Public School Allies, has already directed money toward to school board races in Atlanta, Camden, Newark, and St. Louis, and state elections in Louisiana, Georgia, and New Jersey. Donations have ranged from $1 million to as little as $1,500.

The information was shared by Public School Allies and, in a number of cases, confirmed by campaign finance records. The $15 million comes from Netflix founder Reed Hastings and former hedge-fund manager John Arnold, the organization said.

According to his Linkedin bio, Kingsland worked for both Hastings and Arnold “leading education giving” immediately prior to establishing the City Fund.

Sure makes it read like the City Fund “belongs” to billionaires Hastings and Arnold.

But they are not alone. In 2018, billionaire Bill Gates gave the City Fund $10M “to increase the number of high-quality public schools in Oakland.” Of course, to the City Fund, a “public school” is a charter school.

Those complex ed-reform funding paths always seem to end with a few millionaires and billionaires, tossing their cash and puppeting the strings of American K12 education.

Open the link to read the list of officials who were elected by out-of-state billionaires.

Here is the thing: They can buy the seats, but once they have bought them, they have no plans that will actually improve anything. They love power. They buy elections.

Big money is a malignant force in our democracy.

Ouch!

New Orleans is the nation’s first all-charter district.

New Orleans is supposed to be the shining star of the charter movement, proving the value of school choice and market-based reforms, closing schools and replacing them with new schools, then closing failing schools, ad infinitum.

But newly released state grades reveal that nearly half of the district’s charter schools (49%) received a grade of D or F, meaning failing or near failing.

Della Hasselle writes in the New Orleans Advocate:

The release of the state’s closely watched school performance scores earlier this month offered an overall update on New Orleans schools that seemed benign enough: A slight increase in overall student performance meant another C grade for the district.

But a closer look reveals a startling fact. A whopping 35 of the 72 schools in the all-charter district scored a D or F, meaning nearly half of local public schools were considered failing, or close to it, in the school year ending in 2019. Since then, six of the 35 have closed.

While New Orleans has long been home to struggling schools, the data released this month are concerning. There was an increase of nearly 11% percentage points in the number of schools that received the state’s lowest grades from the 2017-18 school year to 2018-19.

Someone, please let Betsy DeVos know.

Let Cory Booker and Democrats for Education Reform know.

Let Michael Bloomberg, Reed Hastings, Bill Gates, and Eli Broad know.

Let the Mind Trust and City Fund know.

Tell the Walton Foundation, which has poured over $1 billion into charter school proliferation.

Wow. Some model for the nation to follow!