Archives for category: Budget Cuts

Three years ago, the pro-charter, pro-voucher Thomas B. Fordham Institute published a study of Ohio’s voucher program. The study, conducted by David Figlio and Krzysztof Karbownik of Northwestern University is called “Evaluation of Ohio’s EdChoice Scholarship Program: Selection, Competition, and Performance Effects.”

The study concluded that the voucher program was failing to improve student achievement.

It said in its conclusions:

There appears to be positive selection, as measured by prior academic performance and family advantage, among voucher-eligible students into private schools as part of the EdChoice program. Although a substantial majority of the students participating in the program, as well as their peers remaining in public schools, tend to be from low-income backgrounds, those students leaving for private schools under the program tend to be more advantaged and higher performing than their peers who were eligible to participate in the program but who remained in public schools…the evidence regarding the effects of EdChoice program suggests that while higher-performing students tend to leave public schools to attend private schools under the EdChoice program, the students who remain in the public schools—at least, those public schools that were comparatively high achieving—generally perform better on statewide tests as a consequence of EdChoice vouchers being available to students in a school. On the other hand, those students who leave these comparatively high-achieving public schools to go to private schools appear to perform worse than they would have had they remained in the public schools (which we estimate to have improved as a consequence of the introduction of EdChoice). Together, it appears that EdChoice has benefitted the majority of students, but the students who actually left the public schools—at least those on the margin of eligibility—perform worse on statewide tests. Although test performance is only one measure of educational success, these findings suggest that a detailed exploration of the possible causes of the negative test-score results (for instance, which private schools participate in the program, policies on school-grade retention, test-curriculum alignment, and the like) may be warranted.

Thus, the students eligible to leave with a voucher do better if they stay in public school; the students who use the voucher, who come from more advantaged backgrounds, do worse in school.

This is the only statewide evaluation of the Ohio EdChoice Program, and not what one would call a ringing endorsement since those who use the voucher do worse in school than those who stay in public school and don’t use the voucher.

Such research did not impress the Ohio legislature. Under the  prodding of State Senator Matt Huffman (R.-Lima), the state has expanded the voucher program, so that students in two-thirds of the districts across the state are now eligible to get state funding to attend a religious school.

The Cleveland Plain-Dealer wrote that the voucher expansion will hit the budgets of school districts hard, districts that in the past were not part of the voucher program.

A year ago, no students in the Parma school district used Ohio’s main tuition voucher program to attend private schools.

This year, thanks to changes in state law, 359 students are using vouchers.

For families paying tuition to send their kids to Parma-area private Catholic schools like Padua or Holy Name, a $6,000 tax-funded voucher toward tuition is a huge help.

For the district, it’s a $2.1 million hit to the budget that impacts teachers, books and supplies for its schools.

Parma isn’t alone in facing new or increased costs to help students attend private schools. Changes to state law, have more than tripled the number of districts declared part of the voucher program, from 40 in 2018-19 to 139 this school year.

Next year, the program meant to help students escape being stuck in failing schools will grow further, to more than 400 districts, which represents more than two-thirds of the districts in the state.

Even Solon, always at the top of state test score rankings, has a school considered failing and whose students are now eligible for vouchers. Next year, add a school in each of the high-scoring Brecksville-Broadview Heights and Mayfield districts.

The change has school officials protesting and gathering to find ways to seek relief…

The use of vouchers within school districts is also increasing. The Cleveland Heights-University Heights schools saw 500 more students use vouchers this year than last year, mostly to attend Jewish schools. The district’s voucher bill increased by $3 million.

That change, said district Treasurer Scott Gainer, has the school board seeking a higher tax increase than planned this spring.

Shaker Heights Superintendent David Glasner, whose district is seeing a small bill this year, but faces a larger one next year, complained to the state school board last week about the hit that school district budgets are taking.

“There are school districts that are now expecting to lose millions of dollars in the course of one year as a result of the EdChoice [voucher] expansion,” Glasner said. “These are losses for which districts were unable to forecast or prepare.”

State Sen. Matt Huffman, one of the strongest supporters of vouchers in Ohio, said some of the rules are subtle and have changed a few times. But districts should have known, he said, and should be blaming themselves for not improving their schools…

Ohio has four “scholarship” or voucher programs that provide tax dollars to pay tuition at private schools, almost all of which are Christian schools. There is one program just for Cleveland, which was started in 1996, so Cleveland is not affected by the current changes.

The biggest is called EdChoice. Created in 2005 for students attending “underperforming” schools or who would be assigned to them, EdChoice has a student’s home district pay $4,650 toward tuition for kindergarten through eighth grade and $6,000 for private high schools.

Stephen Dyer, a former legislator in Ohio who writes a blog about education, called “BS” on Huffman’s claim that school districts should have known and should have been prepared.

Dyer says that the state rigged the grades and school report cards to produce failure and make more schools voucher-eligible.

This is where I call BS.

How can I do that? Simple: Over the last decade, the state report card grades upon which these new voucher building designations are being based have been deliberately and artificially deflated for the state’s school districts. And I’m increasingly convinced it was for this sole purpose: to ensure more districts and buildings are deemed “failing” by the state so more public money can be poured into private, mostly religious schools.

Don’t believe me?

Look at school districts’ overall grade performance since the 2012-2013 school year — the first for the A-F state report card system.

Notice anything? Like a massive jump in D and F grades between 2013-2014 and 2014-2015?

Let me ask you a question: Does anyone — and I mean ANYONE — actually believe that between the 2013-2014 school year and the 2014-2015 school year school districts became more than twice as likely to “fail” kids?

Of course not.

This is a classic case of grade manipulation by state lawmakers. You’ll also notice a steady decline in the rate of Fs since the high point of 2015-2016. Why were these grades so much worse? Because the state kept changing standardized tests. So teachers and students had no idea what the testing expectations were. Since they’ve remained the same, you can see a steady and precipitous decline in the rate of F grades, though the percentages of D and F grades remain far higher than the 2012-2013 school year.

To add insult to injury, a study examing the test performance of students who take vouchers found they did worse on state tests after taking the voiucher than before … according to the pro-voucher Fordham Institute. But that doesn’t matter to Huffman, whose hero is apparently the Titanic captain who kept plowing ahead, damn the iceberg.

Anyway, here’s where Huffman struck gold for those who are taking a public subsidy to send their kids to private, mostly religious schools — only 2 out of the three years’ grades count to have your building designated “failing” from 2013-2014, 2017-2018 and 2018-2019. And once the building is eligible for vouchers, every student who gets a voucher gets to keep it forever, even if the public building becomes the highest-performing in the state…

But it’s all been a plan from the beginning:

1) Deliberately deflate district report card grades

2) Get as many buildings as possible eligible for vouchers

3) Market them like crazy to families in these districts so the rest of us taxpayers can subsidize their choices with our local tax dollars and/or fewer opportunities for our kids who remain in local school districts.

That’s not a district performance problem.

It’s Huffman’s plan.

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Last Saturday I was on Meryl Johnson’s radio show, based in Cleveland, where she was a teacher in the public schools for many years. Meryl is an elected member of the Ohio State Board of Education, and she is very concerned about the explosion of vouchers. She alerted me to this disaster. I pointed out that there is one possible silver lining. Until now, the suburban districts in Ohio could ignore vouchers and assume they affected only Ohio’s urban districts. Now the cost of vouchers will hit their school budgets and their taxes will  have to go up so that a few students can go to religious schools, where they are likely to get a worse education than the one offered in their local  public schools. Their own schools will now feel the pinch caused by vouchers. Maybe this is the wake-up call that is needed to create a statewide coalition to stop defunding the public schools that enroll the vast majority of students in the Buckeye State.

Meryl sent me a screen shot of the front page of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Will this wake up the citizens of Ohio? Will they realize that they must raise their taxes to pay for vouchers for the small number who leave their public schools? Do they know that the students who leave for religious schools will lose ground academically?

IMG_20191208_113121

 

 

 

Foxconn is the giant Taiwanese tech company that manufactures electronic products for major tech companies around the world. They are known for poor working conditions and long hours, also for employee suicides on the job. When Scott Walker was governor of Wisconsin, his great coup (or so he thought) was to woo Foxconn to open five “innovation centers” in the state. This was supposed to create jobs. Foxconn won billions in tax breaks and incentives. That was 2017. But not a single innovation center has opened, and according to this article, none is on track to open. While Walker made grandiose plans for Foxconn, he cut the budgets of schools and universities, which is the usual place to spur innovation.

Looks like he was hoaxed.

Electronics manufacturer Foxconn’s promised Wisconsin “innovation centers,” which are to employ hundreds of people in the state if they ever get built, are officially on hold after spending months empty and unused, as the company focuses on meeting revised deadlines on the LCD factory it promised would now open by next year. The news, reported earlier today by Wisconsin Public Radio, is another inexplicable twist in the nearly two-year train wreck that is Foxconn’s US manufacturing plans.

The company originally promised five so-called innovation centers throughout the state would that employ as many as 100 to 200 people each in high-skilled jobs, with the Milwaukee center promising as many as 500. Those jobs were to complement the more than 13,000 jobs Foxconn said its initial Wisconsin electronics manufacturing factory would bring to the US, in exchange for billions in tax breaks and incentives that Governor Scott Walker granted the company back in 2017.

 

Chicago Teachers Union

NEWS ADVISORY:
For Immediate Release| ctulocal1.org

CONTACT: Chris Geovanis, 312-329-6250, 312-446-4939 (m), ChrisGeovanis@ctulocal1.org

Half of 1% of CPS budget stands between CTU, CPS and tentative agreement

CHICAGO, Oct. 27, 2019—CTU President Jesse Sharkey issued the following statement this evening, as CPS CEO Janice Jackson made her first appearance at the bargaining table.

Right now at the bargaining table, CPS is refusing to invest barely half of one percent of its annual budget to give our students the equity and educational justice they were promised. Amazon was set to get billions of dollars in public subsidies from the city. Lincoln Yards and the 78 got billions of public dollars to bankroll their new neighborhoods for rich people—dollars that should have gone to our schools. But CPS has yet to yield to provide a paltry fraction of those funds to support what our students need.

CPS has $38 million to settle a contract in one of the richest cities in the richest countries in the world. Yet today, their misplaced priorities will put us on the picket lines again tomorrow.

We have been attempting to bargain with CPS for ten months for the equity and educational justice our students were promised. It took a strike to get the mayor and CPS to just to trade proposals to bring down exploding class sizes and alleviate desperate shortages of school nurses, social workers, counselors, librarians and more. We shouldn’t have to work this hard—and we shouldn’t have to strike—to get our students what they deserve.

In 1995, the Illinois legislature gave total power and control of CPS to the mayor of Chicago, forcing us to jump through insane obstacles to get to an agreement, from super majorities to authorize a strike to constant obstacles just to bargain to get a nurse in school every day. No other teacher or school worker in any other school district in the state confronts this kind of obstruction.

We’re not yielding on our demands for equity and educational justice—and CPS has a path on the table right now to make a real downpayment on those promises. Let’s get it done.

# # #

The Chicago Teachers Union represents nearly 25,000 teachers and educational support personnel working in schools funded by City of Chicago School District 299, and by extension, the nearly 400,000 students and families they serve. The CTU is an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers and the Illinois Federation of Teachers and is the third-largest teachers local in the United States. For more information, please visit the CTU website at www.ctulocal1.org.

The evidence is clear that privately managed charters can get higher test scores by culling, exclusion, and attrition. It’s equally clear that charters drain resources from the public schools that enroll most students. Most public officials seem to understand that it costs more to run parallel systems, one public, one private.

But not in Rhode Island, where Governor Gina Raimondo is a big fan of charters (she was a hedge fund manager before running for governor). She is eager to expand Achievement First, a no-excuses charter known for high test scores and harsh discipline.

This article by Linda Borg in the Providence Journal lays out the findings of two independent studies that warned about the negative fiscal impact of charters on public schools (one from Moody’s Investors, the other from the Brookings Institution, which is erroneously described as “left-leaning”).

https://www.providencejournal.com/news/20190822/providences-achievement-first-proposal-refuels-charter-debate

Borg should also have Gordon Lafer’s significant study of the fiscal drain of charters on the public schools of three districts in California.

https://www.inthepublicinterest.org/wp-content/uploads/ITPI_Breaking_Point_May2018FINAL.pdf

Supporters of expanding Achievement First cite a report funded by the Arnold Foundation, a rightwing foundation that zealously supports privatization and opposes public sector pensions. Billionaire John Arnold was an energy trader at Enron.

The recently appointed state commissioner, a member of Jeb Bush’s Chiefs for Change, dismissed the controversy as an “old conversation,” showing her indifference to stripping nearly $30 million from the needy public schools of Providence.

“State Education Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green, in an interview Wednesday, called this an “old conversation,” adding that the expansion plan was approved by the Rhode Island Council of Elementary and Secondary Education three years ago after a contentious debate between charter proponents and critics.”

Take five minutes and watch as Superintendent Joseph Roy of the Bethlehem Area School District explains how private charters are harming the public schools and the unfairness of the funding formula, which is rigged on behalf of the charters.

This year, private charters will subtract $1.8 billion from the budget of public schools in Pennsylvania.

Governor Tom Wolf has proposed revising the charter law to prevent the defunding of the state’s public schools, which enroll the vast majority of students.

Please take action and show support for Governor Wolf.

 

Jan Resseger describes the after-effects of former Kansas Governor Sam Brownback’s crash program to cut corporate and income taxes and expect an economic boom. The boom never came, but public services were strained to the breaking point.

Jan quotes liberally from Governing magazine:

Governing Magazine just published an extraordinary profile of Kansas state government—what was left of it after Sam Brownback’s tenure.  Last November when a Democrat, Laura Kelly, took office, the new governor found herself assessing the damage from two terms of total austerity. Reporter, Alan Greenblatt describes a state unable to serve the public:

“To students of state politics, the failed Kansas experiment with deep cuts to corporate and income tax rates—which GOP Gov. Sam Brownback promised would lead to an economic flowering, and which instead led to anemic growth and crippling deficits—is well known.  What is not as well understood, even within Kansas, is the degree to which years of underfunding and neglect have left many state departments and facilities hollowed out…. All around Kansas government, there are stories about inadequate staffing…. Staff turnover in social services in general and at the state prisons has led to dozens of missing foster children and a series of prison uprisings… During the Brownback administration, from 2011 to 2018, prison staff turnover doubled, to more than 40 percent per year, while the prison population increased by 1,400 inmates, or 15 percent.  Guards have been burned out by mandatory over time and by pay scales that have failed to keep pace with increased insurance premiums and copays, let alone inflation. With inadequate and inexperienced staff, the prisons began employing a technique known as ‘collapsing posts,’ meaning some areas were simply left unguarded.”

The consequences for other states that tried to cut their way to prosperity were equally calamitous.

Do you want to understand why Pennsylvania’s charter school law needs to be reformed?

Let Steven Singer explain.

Singer teaches in Pennsylvania. In this post, he describes the dangers that privatization poses to his school district.

I work in a little suburban school district just outside of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, that is slowly being destroyed by privatization.

Steel Valley Schools have a proud history.

We’re located (in part) in Homestead – the home of the historic steel strike of 1892.

But today it isn’t private security agents and industrial business magnates against whom we’re struggling.

It’s charter schools, voucher schools and the pro-corporate policies that enable them to pocket tax dollars meant to educate kids and then blame us for the shortfall.

Our middle school-high school complex is located at the top of a hill. At the bottom of the hill in our most impoverished neighborhood sits one of the Propel network of charter schools.

Our district is so poor we can’t even afford to bus our kids to school. So Propel tempts kids who don’t feel like making the long walk to our door.

Institutions like Propel are publicly funded but privately operated. That means they take our tax dollars but don’t have to be as accountable, transparent or sensible in how they spend them.

And like McDonalds, KFC or Walmart, they take in a lot of money.

Just three years ago, the Propel franchise siphoned away $3.5 million from our district annually. This year, they took $5 million, and next year they’re projected to get away with $6 million. That’s about 16% of our entire $37 million yearly budget.

Do we have a mass exodus of children from Steel Valley to the neighboring charter schools?

No.

Enrollment at Propel has stayed constant at about 260-270 students a year since 2015-16. It’s only the amount of money that we have to pay them that has increased.


The state funding formula is a mess. It gives charter schools almost the same amount per regular education student that my district spends but doesn’t require that all of that money actually be used to educate these children.

If you’re a charter school operator and you want to increase your salary, you can do that. Just make sure to cut student services an equal amount.

Want to buy a piece of property and pay yourself to lease it? Fine. Just take another slice of student funding.

Want to grab a handful of cash and put it in your briefcase, stuff it down your pants, hide it in your shoes? Go right ahead! It’s not like anyone’s actually looking over your shoulder. It’s not like your documents are routinely audited or you have to explain yourself at monthly school board meetings – all of which authentic public schools like mine have to do or else.

Read the rest of the post.

 

Three years ago, the Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale declared that the state’s charter law was the worst in the nation. The scandals and frauds were frequent, and many public school districts teetered on the brink of bankruptcy. But Republican Governor Tom Corbett and the Republican Legislature had no interest in reforming the charter law. A major charter owner was the single biggest contributor to Corbett’s re-election campaign and leader of his education transition team.

Democrat Josh Shapiro is now the state’s Attorney General, and the current Democratic Governor Tom Wolf announced that he intends to issue executive orders and propose legislation to reform the charter law to require accountability and transparency.

Unfortunately, the Legislature is still controlled by charter-friendly Republicans, who betray the families who elected them, whose children go to public schools.

Gov. Wolf announced a plan on Tuesday to improve financial accountability and academics among Pennsylvania’s charter schools, focusing on cyber charters and charter management companies, through executive actions and new legislation.

“Charter schools, like traditional public schools, should be high quality and they should be held accountable,” Wolf said. “But the laws currently don’t allow us to hold charter schools and their operators to the same standards as traditional public schools.”

Wolf called the state’s charter law “irresponsible” and “flawed.” He described the original intent of the law as “creating new and innovative educational opportunities” and said that some charter schools are doing this and doing it well.

“Unfortunately, this is not the case for all charter schools, especially among cyber charter schools,” he said.

On average, Pennsylvania charter schools have not improved student test scores in reading compared to public schools and have done worse in math, according to a study from Stanford University cited by Wolf. It also found that the academic situation was worse among the state’s cyber charters, which dramatically underperform compared to public schools.

The charter lobby was outraged! How dare the governor demand accountability! They think they should be unregulated and unaccountable. Their spokesperson said the governor’s efforts were nothing less than a “ blatant attack” on the charter industry. Never mind that the founder of the state’s biggest cyber charter is serving jail time for tax evasion on $8 million that were spent on personal luxuries. Never mind that the state’s cyber charters have never met academic standards.

Why reform failure and fraud?

You may recall that Laurene Powell Jobs decided to reinvent the American high school by creating a design competition for new models. In 2026, she offered prizes of $10 million each to the ten best plans. Over 700 proposals came in. She called it the XQ competition. She hired leading lights from the Obama administration, including Arne Duncan and Russlyn Ali, to advise her. She bought airtime on all three major networks to bring together celebrities to proclaim the failure of U.S. education and the need for Mrs. Jobs’ XQ Initiative.

The awards were announced. Earlier this year, an XQ school in Delaware closed. It was called the Design Thinking Academy.

About 5he same time, an XQ project in Somerville, Massachusetts, was killed by the School Committee, the Mayor, and the superintendent, who were once enthusiastic about it. 

The Boston Globe tells the story, which is behind a pay wall. I will try to summarize it briefly and hope to do it justice.

It begins like this:

ALEC RESNICK AND SHAUNALYNN DUFFY stood in Somerville City Hall at about 6:30 on March 18, a night they hoped would launch the next chapter of their lives. The two had spent nearly seven years designing a new kind of high school meant to address the needs of students who didn’t thrive in a traditional setting. They’d developed a projects-driven curriculum that would give students nearly unprecedented control over what they would learn in a small, supportive environment. Resnick and Duffy had spent countless hours shepherding this school through the political thickets that all new public schools face. Approval by the teachers union, which became the most time-consuming obstacle, had finally come through in early January. Tonight, the School Committee members would cast their votes.

Resnick had reason to be optimistic. Mayor Joseph Curtatone sat on the School Committee, and he had been the one to suggest Resnick and Duffy consider designing a new public school in the first place, back in 2012. Mary Skipper, Somerville schools superintendent, had been instrumental in keeping the approval process moving forward when prospects looked bleak. She wouldn’t be voting, but she planned to offer a recommendation to elected officials. And then there was the $10 million. Resnick and Duffy had won the money in a national competition to finish designing and ultimately open and run their high school, and the pair knew it had helped maintain interest in their idea. Voting against them would mean walking away from a lot of outside funding.

The two had met as students at MIT. THey became interested in how children learn. They began making plans and trying them on a small scale in 2012. They called their school Powderhouse Studios. At full capacity, it would enroll 160 students. They intended to match the diversity of the district. The heart of their plan was “ambitious, self-directed, interdisciplinary projects focused on computation, narrative, and design — unheard of in a typical high school. Their work would be driven by goals laid out in individualized learning plans geared toward real-world concepts and would be supported by faculty serving more as mentors than as teachers. The school day would last from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and the academic calendar would stretch year-round.”

In 2016, the pair had worked with middle-schoolers, trying out their project-based ideas. That year they applied to the XQ Project and had the support of the mayor and the superintendent. And they won. What could go wrong?

Finances. That’s what went wrong. Despite the initial enthusiasm of the school officials, they realized that the Somerville High School would lose $3.2 million each year to the new school when it had 160 students. The budget for the entire district is $73 million. The district’s comprehensive high school has 1,250 students. The new school planned to enroll about 13% of the existing high school’s students.

On the night of the decisive vote last March, the superintendent told the School Committee that “opening the new school would force the district to cut at least 20 teacher or counselor positions and to eliminate most before- and after-school programs districtwide. “As someone who believes in and has championed the power of new ideas my whole career, it pains me deeply to not be able to solve this problem,” she said. “In this case, the investment to create something that may only add an unknown amount of benefit to 2 to 3 percent of students, at the expense of the remaining 97 to 98 percent, is one I cannot recommend making at this time.

The School Committee voted unanimously not to open the school. The Jobs grant of $10 million was alluring, but when the startup money ran out, the district would have to absorb the ongoing costs.

And a second XQ project died.

 

What a payoff!

A principal in Florida doubled his salary when his public schools converted to a charter, which is what the rightwing governor and legislator want to happen.

Meanwhile teachers In the state are raising money to pay for basic school supplies for their students.

Lincoln Memorial Academy principal Eddie Hundley, the subject of a federal investigation, earned more than twice the average salary of middle school principals in Manatee last year.

Former Lincoln Memorial Academy principal Eddie Hundley, who is currently the subject of a federal investigation into fraud, bribery and embezzlement, earned roughly $204,000 last year, according to Manatee County School District general counsel Mitch Teitelbaum.

Hundley’s salary nearly doubled overnight when Lincoln converted from a traditional district middle school to a charter on June 30, 2018. Before the conversion, school district officials say Hundley was earning $105,560, but as of July 1, 2018, his base pay increased to $174,990 plus a supplement of $2,450 per month.

“This may not be the entire compensation received by Mr. Hundley,” Teitelbaum said in an email.

Hundley’s salary had been a mystery, as school district officials have sought more details about Lincoln’s finances. The school was declared in “dire financial condition” in May. Lincoln was found to have missed roughly $60,000 in payments to the Florida Retirement System, and the city of Palmetto has threatened to turn off the school’s water twice due to unpaid bills…

Hundley’s base salary and monthly supplement, not including benefits, puts his earnings well above middle school principals in Manatee, who on average earned $83,200 in 2018-19, according to the school district.

However, Hundley’s salary it is not out of the realm for charter school principals in the district. In 2017 the Herald Tribune compiled salaries of the highest paid employee at all charter schools in Sarasota and Manatee. At that point, Manatee School for the Arts principal Bill Jones earned roughly $184,000. Fred Spence, the founder of Bradenton’s Team Success, earned $237,000 in 2014, the last year of salary data available before management of the school was handed over to his management firm. The highest paid employee at a charter school in Sarasota in 2017 was Vickie Marble at the Student Leadership Academy, at $143,175.

Local officials said the school’s administrative costs had tripled beyond what was expected..