Archives for category: Bloomberg, Michael

Leonie Haimson assesses Bill de Blasio’s record on education after eight years as Maor of New York City. He succeeded Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who served for 12 years and completely upended the schools, first, by getting the state legislature to give the mayor total control of the city’s public schools, then by closing scores of schools and replacing them with hundreds of small schools and charter schools. De Blasio had served on a local school board and offered the hope of restoring stability and ending Bloomberg’s era of constant disruption. (New York City has a two-term limit for its mayor but Bloomberg persuaded the City Council to make an exception for him and themselves).

Leonie Haimson, executive director of Class Size Matters, reviews de Blasio’s record here.

She begins:

When he first ran for Mayor, Bill de Blasio portrayed himself as a leader who would make a host of progressive changes in our schools. He promised to be a far different leader than Michael Bloomberg, who had expanded high-stakes testing, proceeded to grade teachers and schools primarily via test scores, closed dozens of public schools displacing thousands of students, and helped charter schools expand in their place.

Bloomberg and his schools chancellors had done all this by ignoring community opposition, and despite any tangible evidence that this was the right way to improve education, particularly for disadvantaged students. Though Bloomberg had promised during his campaign to lower New York City schools’ excessive class sizes, they increased sharply during his administration, and by the time he left office he said he would “double the class size” if he could, and that would be “a good deal for the students.”

De Blasio said he would do things differently: to listen to and be responsive to parent and community concerns, de-emphasize test scores, and focus on improving public schools rather than providing space and funding to help charter schools expand. Instead of closing schools, he pledged to increase equity and strengthen learning conditions, including by lowering class sizes.

And yet his record on each of these issues was decidedly mixed. He did attain his primary goal in education – to provide universal, publicly-funded pre-kindergarten to every four-year-old, but in a manner that could have been better achieved, as will be discussed later.

There were some bright spots in the de Blasio record, including the Community Schools initiative, begun in the fall of 2014, in which schools partnered with community-based organizations to provide after-school programs, mental health supports, and other resources. By 2018, more than 200 community schools had been established. An independent study found that in these schools, there were lower rates of chronic absenteeism, more students graduating on time, and in elementary and middle schools, higher math scores and fewer disciplinary referrals.

Open the link to read the rest of this important article.

Donald Cohen is the executive director of “In the Public Interest” and co-author of an important new book The Privatization of Everything. He titled this column, which originally appeared in the Washington Post.

He writes:

Reforming public education with market-based reform is “like using a hammer to cook an omelet”

Trying to fix public education with market-based reform is like using a hammer to cook an omelet. It’s just the wrong tool.

That’s one of the main points in The Privatization of Everything, a new book that I co-authored with Allen Mikaelian, which explains why market rules don’t apply to every single aspect of human activity—including education.

The recent announcement by former New York mayor Mike Bloomberg that he’s investing $750 million to expand student enrollment in charter schools was a harsh reminder that the decades-long experiment with market-based education reform isn’t working. Charter schools have been in existence for decades, but they haven’t proved to be the panacea their supporters claimed.

To the contrary, many communities see charter schools (and voucher programs) as harming district schools that educate most American schoolchildren.

That’s why what a growing number of public schools are doing to actually improve educational outcomes—and create strong ties among families, students, educators, and communities along the way—is so promising and refreshing.

Over the past few years, public schools from places as diverse as the suburbs of Tampa and Los Angeles have been implementing what’s called the “community school” approach.

Community schools bring together local nonprofits, businesses and public services to offer a range of support and opportunities to students, families and nearby residents. Their goal is to support the entirety of a student’s well-being to ensure they are healthy, safe and in a better position to learn.

These benefits then extend to the surrounding community—which has been especially crucial during the pandemic.

Like, Florida’s Gibsonton Elementary, which organized an effort to have the local government install new streetlights near campus, immediately increasing attendance—which, among other things, helped improve test scores.

And Texas’s Reagan High School, which doubled enrollment, increased graduation rates, and avoided closure by launching mobile health clinics and parenting classes, changing its approach to discipline, and expanding after-school activities.

And so many more community schools around the country.

Many of these schools are succeeding because the community school approach treats public education as the public good that it is. Like with coronavirus vaccines and other public health measures, no child should be excluded—there should be no winners and losers.

In his recent op-ed for the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg concludes, “We need a new, stronger model of public education that is based on evidence, centered on children, and built around achievement, excellence and accountability for all.” I agree.

Read the full version of this article in the Washington Post.

You can buy The Privatization of Everything: How the Plunder of Public Goods Transformed America and How We Can Fight Back at your local independent bookstore or from Bookshop.org.

Stay in touch,

Donald Cohen
Executive Director
In the Public Interest

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!)

The following article by Diane Ravitch and Carol Burris of the Netwotk for Public Education appeared this morning at Valerie Strauss’s “The Answer Sheet” blog at the Washington Post:

Mike Bloomberg recently announced his plan to revive American public education, which he says is “broken.” His fix for a system that enrolls more than 50 million students? He will spend $750 million to expand charter schools to 150,000 students in 20 cities over the next five years.

The former New York mayor is a smart businessman. He must know that moving 150,000 students into charter schools won’t transform the public schools that enroll the overwhelming majority of students. The likeliest effect of his gift will be to drain resources and students from the public schools still struggling to recover from covid-19. This would make matters worse for the 50 million students who don’t receive his beneficence, and it’s unlikely to help most of the 150,000 who do.

Bloomberg tells us that he will not fund just any charter school. He announced that his donation would fund only high-quality charters — the same promise made by the federal Charter Schools Program that has wasted about $1 billion on charters that never opened or failed.

New York’s Success Academy is his example of a charter chain that “works.” Citing the chain’s high test scores, he ignores the dozens of news reports that have exposed Success Academy’s practices that include violations of students’ civil rights and privacy; complaints of racist and abusive practices by present and former staff; push-out practices that include dropping misbehaving students off at police stations; “got to go” lists that discriminate against students with disabilities; and repeated suspensions of students for minor infractions.

Success’s “success” rests on harsh discipline codes that push noncompliant children out the door. But remember that Bloomberg once bragged about his police policy of throwing minority youth against the wall and frisking them.

Bloomberg’s own school reforms included sort-and-select policies, such as screened middle schools and test-in gifted programs that dramatically reduced access for students of color. When the NAACP — the oldest civil rights group in the country — filed a discrimination complaint against the city and its eight specialized high schools, Bloomberg’s response was “life isn’t always fair.

Bloomberg has claimed that students of color made great equity gains under his mayoral leadership. He boasted to Congress that the achievement gaps between White and Asian students on one hand, and Black and Hispanic students on the other had been cut in half.Story continues below advertisementnull

But data from the respected National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) disproved those claims. And what about state test scores? According to the New York City Independent Budget Office (IBO), the gaps widened.

Bloomberg’s legacy was one of chaos by design, as he imposed one reform after another in an attempt to disrupt his way to success. The New York City school system was reorganized four times during the mayor’s 12 years in office, depending on which adviser from the corporate world had the ear of the mayor or the chancellor.

Bloomberg applied the same philosophy of “weed them out” (championed by GE CEO Jack Welch, who was a frequent adviser to the city’s Department of Education) to the system as a whole. He shut down scores of struggling schools and large high schools that enrolled the students with the greatest needs. He replaced the closed schools with hundreds of new small schools and charter schools. As large high schools were shuttered, programs for advanced students, bilingual students, and students in need of special education were often cast aside.

The mayor and his schools chancellor, Joel Klein, applied corporate thinking, surrounding themselves with management consultants and business school graduates who knew as little about education as they did. Their efforts demoralized educators in the system, who felt disrespected by Klein and Bloomberg.

Now, eight years after his last term as mayor ended, Bloomberg again has inserted himself into the education reform debate to fund one of his favorite ideas — charter schools.

The unaudited “wait lists” he uses as justification for his charter ardor have been debunked repeatedly. Some of those lists have duplicate or triplicate names; others have students who have moved away or enrolled already in another school. In 2020-21, Texas charter schools had over 100,000 more empty charter seats than filled seats. Eighty-five percent of the charter schools in Los Angeles have open spots. According to charter advocate Robert Pondiscio, only about half of the families accepted by Success Academy enroll their child.

And the recent uptick in enrollment Bloomberg cites? Much of the pandemic increases were in the for-profit online sector he says he will not support — increases that are already disappearing.

Nor has Bloomberg been swayed by the preponderance of research studies (not a few cherry-picked) that shows charter schools do no better than public schools, Even though, as scholarly studies demonstrate, charter policies attract and retain more motivated and better-supported students. NAEP tests show there is no difference in the academic performance of students in public schools and charter schools. In fact, as NAEP shows, when students reach grade 12, public schools significantly outperform charter schools.Story continues below advertisementnull

Even as Bloomberg promises to pour money in charters, the federal government continues to spend nearly a half-billion dollars a year to start and expand charters. More than one in four charter schools fails by year five, and halfare gone by year 15, according to research by our Network for Public Education. The hundreds of charter scandals that occur each year have not modified his rhetoric of school accountability.

If charter schools do no better on the whole than public schools; if many of them fail for financial or academic reasons only a few years after opening; if their lack of oversight and accountability makes them targets for grifters; perhaps it is the charter idea that is “broken,” not America’s public schools, which have been central instruments in advancing our nation’s unfulfilled dreams of equal opportunity and a well-informed citizenry.

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By Valerie StraussValerie Strauss is an education writer who authors The Answer Sheet blog. She came to The Washington Post as an assistant foreign editor for Asia in 1987 and weekend foreign desk editor after working for Reuters as national security editor and a military/foreign affairs reporter on Capitol Hill. She also previously worked at UPI and the LA Times.  Twitter

Michael Bloomberg, former mayor of New York City, announced yesterday that Bloomberg Philanthropies will spend $750 million to expand the charter school sector. Declaring that “the American public education system is tragically broken,” Bloomberg pledged to add 150,000 seats in “high-quality charter schools” over five years, with the intention of “closing the achievement gap.”

As mayor, Bloomberg had total control of the New York City public school system, which he reorganized and disrupted repeatedly. His first pick for chancellor of the schools was antitrust corporate lawyer Joel Klein, who distrusted experienced educators and turned to McKinsey and Goldman Sachs for advice. Bloomberg’s second pick for chancellor was a magazine publisher with no experience in education; she lasted just 90 days.

Bloomberg apparently decided that he couldn’t achieve sweeping change in the public schools, so he became a champion for outsourcing students to privately managed charter schools. As his press release shows, he continues to believe his own puffery. The NYC public schools continue to be plagued with crowded classrooms, while charter schools enjoy privileged status, such as co-locations inside public schools, depriving them of facilities, and rent in private spaces paid by the city.

Although the press release claims that Bloomberg’s decision is based on “evidence,” it completely ignores the large number of charter schools that close every year, the high attrition rates of charter students and teachers, and the multiple studies showing that charter schools are outperformed by public schools, except when the charters curate their enrollment to exclude students who are unlikely to succeed or conform.

One of the richest men in the world, Bloomberg loves market solutions to public problems. In his 12 years as mayor, he did not transform the public school system that he controlled. Evidently he has learned nothing about education in the eight years since he left office.

How does it help the 85-90% of students in public schools to invest in a privately run sector that, contrary to his claims, has not demonstrated success in closing the achievement gap and that poaches students and resources from public schools?

How will it “close the achievement gap” to spend $750 million to add 150,000 seats to the charter sector?

Gary Rubinstein revisits the past decade of failed reforms and notes how frequently the “reformers” made promises and then failed to keep them. Michelle Rhee came on the national scene, appearing on the cover of TIME, then disappeared after helping to sink the mayor of D.C. who hired her. Michael Bloomberg and Joel Klein claimed that under their leadership, there was a “miracle” in New York City, but the miracle disappeared when they and their public relations team left office. Jeb Bush touted a Florida “miracle,” but Florida remains mired in the depths of mediocrity when assessed by NAEP. Laurene Powell Jobs promised to “reinvent” the high school and handed out $100 millions to the schools she chose; many failed soon after. We await the “miracle.” Even Betsy DeVos claimed to be “rethinking” school, wondering why we needed public schools at all; now she is busy spreading millions to charter and voucher advocates in the red states.

Gary concluded his review of all the rethinking, reinventing, and rebranding by taking a close look at a school hyped by TFA. He looked at the numbers, and lo and behold, no miracle there.

In this “model” school, the kids are faring poorly:

OK, “So what,” you say, “only 1.1% of their 10th graders passed the science test and 2.7% of their 10th graders passed the math test. What matters is ‘growth.” Well in that department they didn’t fare so well either.

He concludes:

Usually it’s a lot harder than this. They often pick a school that has artificially inflated test scores due to attrition. Keep in mind, this is the school Villanueva Beard chose to highlight. One of the lowest performing schools in test scores and growth in the state of Indiana.

Whether they are ‘rethinkers,’ ‘reinventers,’ or ‘reimaginers’, a reformer by any other name still doesn’t know anything about schools.

The burning question is: When will the billionaires who fund “reform” and “reinvention” decide to stop funding failure?

Arthur Goldstein has taught ESL for decades in New York City. He is tired of being lectured by billionaires like Michael Bloomberg about how to teach or what a slacker he is.

He writes in The New York Daily News:

There’s lots of talk about whether or not school buildings should be open. European school buildings recently shut over concerns that children do indeed spread the virus. Yet former Mayor Mike Bloomberg now says, “It’s time for Joe Biden to stand up and to say, the kids are the most important things and important players here. And the teachers just are going to have to suck it up and stand up and provide an education.”

In fact we’ve never stopped doing that, but Bloomberg seems not to have received the memo. Bloomberg says kids are most important. Twelve years of working in New York City schools under Mike Bloomberg tell me to him, that really means adults are not important at all.

It’s particularly galling, after having devoted your life to help children, to be told you don’t care about them because you question the wisdom of risking your life, the lives of the children, and the lives of all our families.

In fact, here in New York City, elementary and middle-school buildings are open. A distinct minority of students can come in, masked and socially distanced, and get tested regularly in order to ensure safety. I can’t read Bloomberg’s mind, but if he actually wants buildings to be safe, I have no idea how he wants to change that.

Regardless, Bloomberg’s views, shared by many in media and elsewhere, reflect an utter lack of respect for those of us who work in schools. This is beneficial to neither teachers nor students. Who is going to fight for better conditions in schools? Is it people like Bloomberg, who cavalierly threaten teacher layoffs in a city with exploding class sizes,  unreduced in 50 years? Do people really think young people would get the attention they need, or benefit in any viable fashion from the classes of up to 70 he proposed?

It doesn’t really matter. Mike Bloomberg, like Donald Trump, has more money than most and he knows things. When you have that much money, many accept your opinions. Publications of all stripes mirror them. And years of such treatment has had a distinct effect on those of us who work in schools. Many of us are afraid to speak out. It took an awful lot for the red-state strikes to happen. We’re more fortunate and better organized here, but we still face dire and deadly consequences of ill treatment. Many of us simply will not speak not speak out. It’s too risky.

Please open the link and read the rest of the article.

PARTY’S OVER: 14 men arrested, eight guns seized from NYC birthday bus rolling through Brooklyn

New York City has a form of education governance called mayoral control, initiated by billionaire Mayor Michael Bloomberg in 2002, in which the mayor appoints most of the school board members and selects the chancellor of the system. Bloomberg claimed at the time that he knew how to solve all the problems of education, and he appointed an attorney with no education experience (Joel Klein) as his chancellor. Klein brought in McKinsey and a host of business consultants to reorganize the school system repeatedly. On the one occasion in 2004 when the city’s school board voted to oppose a decision by the mayor (who wanted to end social promotion for third graders, an idea championed by Jeb Bush), he (and the borough president of Staten Island) fired three dissenting members of the panel on the spot.

‘This is what mayoral control is all about,” Mr. Bloomberg said last night. ”In the olden days, we had a board that was answerable to nobody. And the Legislature said it was just not working, and they gave the mayor control. Mayoral control means mayoral control, thank you very much. They are my representatives, and they are going to vote for things that I believe in.”

In light of the mayor’s control of education, it came as a shock when the city’s “Panel on Educational Policy” voted 8-7 to oppose the mayor’s plan to continue testing 4-year-olds for admission to the highly coveted “gifted and talented program.” Both the mayor and the chancellor admitted that the testing program was a terrible idea, but insisted that it should be given just one year more. A majority of the panel thought that it made no sense to do the wrong thing “just one more time.” Children in the gifted program get extra enrichment that should be available to all students.

Chalkbeat reports:

In an extraordinary rebuke to Mayor Bill de Blasio, a New York City education panel early Thursday morning rejected a testing contract — halting, for now, the controversial practice of testing incoming kindergartners for admission to gifted programs.

With testing originally scheduled for this spring, it’s unclear how admissions to the city’s gifted and talented programs will move ahead. 

The rejection was an unusual flex for a panel that has little formal authority, is mostly appointed by the mayor, and has acted largely as a rubber stamp for his education policies. Approval seemed like a forgone conclusion when Mayor Bill de Blasio announced earlier this month that the entrance test would continue for one more year. But that required the Panel for Educational Policy to approve an extension of the city’s contract with the company that provides the entrance exams, at a cost of $1.7 million.

Instead, the vote failed 8-7, despite City Hall’s intense lobbying behind the scenes and the appointment of a new panel member just a day earlier. The rejection came even after Deputy Mayor Dean Fuleihan appeared at the virtual meeting, promising future significant reforms to the gifted program. In the meantime, the city proposed several admissions tweaks aimed at creating more diversity for the incoming kindergarten class. 

New York City is one of the only school districts in the nation that uses a test given to preschoolers to determine admission to elementary school gifted programs. Mayor de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza have both criticized the exam, but intended to use it this year while pursuing long-term changes. 

“This is a very challenging topic. As a pedagogue, as a principal, as a parent, I can say with certainty that there is a better way to serve our learners than a test given to 4-year-olds,” Carranza said at Wednesday’s meeting. “That’s why we want this to be the last year this test is administered.”

Ken Rice was an elected member of the Oakland Unified School District from 1997-2000. That was before the billionaire disrupters decided to take control of Oakland and turn it into their own petri dish for “reform” (i.e., privatization). Rice wrote the following description of the recent school board election, in which grassroots organizations stood together and beat the candidates of the out-of-district/out-of-state billionaires. He is a member of Educators for Democratic Schools (EDS), an Oakland-based organization composed primarily of retired public school teachers, administrators and school board members. When Ken Rice ran for school board, his race cost $12,000. Due to the intrusion of big money, grassroots groups are always outspent and usually overwhelmed. But Rice explains here how Oakland parents and educators fought back and won.

He writes:

Apparently Money Isn’t Always Everything–$300,000 Beats $900,000 In The Oakland School Board Elections!

In nearly 20 years of privatization push into Oakland, this is the first time since 2003 that Oakland schools will be returned to local control by a school board that values and embraces authentic public education. Remaining hopeful for the future, and look forward to strengthening and improving Oakland’s schools.” ~ Diane Ravitch 

The Oakland Unified School District (OUSD), the petri dish for school privatization for the past two decades, might have an answer.  I ran and was elected to the Oakland school board and served one term (1997-2000).  I raised $12,000.  My opponent raised about the same amount.  In those days the school board elections were neighborhood races funded by local supporters. There was no out of state money or PACs involved. 

That began to change about ten years ago:  huge donations from individuals and foundations began to pour into Oakland school board races.  The money was funneled through the California Charter School Association and GO (Great Oakland Public Schools), a pro-charter organization.  The money also came from Michael Bloomberg, the Walton Foundation, Eli Broad, Laurene Jobs (Steve Jobs’ widow), and several more.  The goal was to elect a pro-charter, Board of Education. Unsurprisingly, the pro-charter organizations were successful.  

The Oakland school board has approved about 65 charter school applications over the last twenty years–many of them in the last 12 years.   Of those charters, about twenty have closed their doors—in some cases during the academic year, causing great dislocation to families who had to find another school for their children mid-year.  OUSD now has 30% of its 50,000 students in charter schools—the highest percentage of students in charters of any school district in California. 

What is surprising is what happened in the 2020 election.  For the first time in memory no incumbents were running for any of the four of the seven school board seats up for election.  Thus, there was a possibility of greatly changing the make-up of the school board, whose majority has opted for policies of charter school approval, school closures and lack of responsiveness to the greater Oakland educational community.  This was an opportunity to flip the board . . . and flip it did!

The charter community recognized this opportunity, and poured almost $900,000 into electing their candidates for the four open seats! Yet when the votes were counted, three of their four candidates lost.

Trying to understand how and why this happened can provide an insight into the educational landscape of not only Oakland, but urban cities nationally.  While it might be early to know for certain why the charter candidates were defeated, we can make some educated guesses.

Strong Local Candidates

Two of the three candidates who won had deep Oakland roots.  Two had been teachers (one in Oakland, one in San Francisco) and the other had worked in Oakland’s after school programs.   Two had been community activists around school issues for years.  

Oakland elections are calculated by ranked choice voting (RCV).  When the RCV was tabulated, Sam Davis, the candidate in District 1 received 62% of the vote.  Sam built a stellar campaign focused around school communities. He held zoom meetings with each school community in his district hosted by a combination of parents and teachers who worked in those schools.  VanCedric Williams, in District 3, got 61%.  VanCedric, a public school teacher for almost twenty years, had strong support from the teacher’s union as well as other unions. Mike Hutchinson in District 5 got 56%.  Mike had run for the Board previously, networked with other education activists nationwide, and had built a reputation of challenging Board policies by going to Board meetings for years and reaching out on social media. 

Backing of the Teacher’s Union

Last year, teachers in Oakland led a successful strike. The union’s ability to drum up enthusiasm with their members was one contributor to that success.  Teachers recognized that if their future demands were to be met, they needed to have a responsive Board.  Specifically, the current Board was considering a plan that would close up to 24 schools in Oakland, mostly in Brown and Black communities.  At the same time, none of the 44 charter schools in Oakland were under threat of closure.  Teachers made the connection between a charter friendly board and school closures of the public schools and were determined to change the direction of the district’s “blueprint”.

Teachers phone banked, texted, walked to drop off literature, and held zoom meetings in support of the three candidates who won.  As Sam Davis noted, many voters tend to rely on their friends and neighbors who know something about the schools.  The friends and neighbors were telling each other to vote for the candidates they trusted.

Backing of Other Groups:  Building a Coalition

The three candidates were endorsed by the Democratic Party.  This wasn’t an accident.  Educational activists pushed the local democratic clubs to endorse candidates who would not be friendly to charters and wouldn’t owe their election to big money.  These clubs, in turn, pushed the local Democratic party.  In California the state Democratic party has taken a critical stance towards charter schools, and this was replicated locally.  Organizers noticed that as people walked to the polls on election day, many of them carried the Democratic Party door hanger with them. Some of these candidates were also endorsed by :

  • The Alameda Central Labor Council
  • SEIU 1021
  • State Assemblyperson Rob Bonta
  • State Superintendent of Schools Tony Thurmond
  • Network for Public Education

Also, other community organizations like Educators for Democratic Schools, Democratic Socialists of America, and Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club helped to call, text, and walk precincts.

The Word is Out

You can fool some of the people all of the time but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time, or so Lincoln believed.  Over time, the general public has begun to understand that there is an attempt to buy their votes.  As I dropped off a flier at one home, a parent came to the door and asked, with hostility, “This isn’t the candidate who is getting all that money from Bloomberg, is it?”  Several media sources reported on money from Bloomberg ($500,000 from Bloomberg alone!) and others pouring into Oakland.  

After recovering from the astonishment that anyone would spend that kind of money for a school board election, voters became leery of candidates receiving those huge amounts of money.  In District 1 where I live–and the charter candidate received nearly $300,000!–I found glossy fliers in my mailboxes more times than I could keep track of.

It is profoundly disturbing and a huge threat to our democracy that this big money trend has filtered down to local school board races. The Oakland community fought back against the billionaires’ spending advantage, and when the new board is seated in January, it will have a clear pro-public school majority.  With appealing candidates and strong ground games, Oakland voters have shown that big money can be defeated. While Oakland will never go back to the days when a local neighborhood candidate spent only $12,000 to be elected, this recent victory over out of state billionaire bucks and their agenda sends a clear signal that our community will not be bought.

(Ken Rice is former OUSD board member, a member of Educators for Democratic Schools and currently has a daughter attending an OUSD school.) 

Tom Ultican writes here about three major school board elections: Oakland, Los Angeles, and Indianapolis. These are districts that are in the crosshairs of the billionaire privatizers. No one can explain why billionaires want to privatize the public schools in these three districts (as well as dozens more). We now have nearly 30 years of evidence that neither charters nor vouchers produce educational miracles. New Orleans is not a national model: Last year, half the charter schools in this all-charter district were identified by the state as D or F-rated schools. Assignment to anyone: Why do the billionaires keep funding failure?

Ultican reports that the pro-privatization candidates vastly outspent the pro-public education candidates. In Oakland, the pro-public education slate won all but one seat (in that race, the pro-public education groups were divided, or they would have had a clean sweep).

In Los Angeles, the billionaires won one seat, enough to give them a single-seat majority of the school board.

In Indianapolis, the billionaires swamped the pro-public education candidates with their vast spending power.

It is an attack on democracy when billionaires from out-of-state (or from in-state) can drop a few million into a local school board race and make it impossible for ordinary citizens to compete. The individuals and the groups funding this assault on democracy–Michael Bloomberg, William Bloomfield, Stacey Schusterman, Arthur Rock, the Walton family, Reed Hastings, Doris Fisher, and other billionaires should hang their heads in shame. So should Stand for Children (which funnels billionaire money into races against public school advocates) and The Mind Trust.

For their ceaseless efforts to dismantle public schools and replace them with privately managed charters, I hereby place the following billionaires on this blog’s “Wall of Shame”: Michael Bloomberg, the Walton family, Reed Hastings, William Bloomfield, Doris Fisher, Arthur Rock, and Stacy Schusterman.

The same richly deserved dishonor goes to the infamous servant of the billionaires, Stand for Children.