Archives for category: Budget Cuts

Pennsylvania became an ATM for the charter industry under Republican Governor Tom Corbett. He is gone now, but the legislature remains indebted to the fat, happy charter owners. Many public school districts are on the brink of bankruptcy due to the rapacious charters that snare their students with deceptive advertising. Pennsylvania has more virtual charter schools than any other state, despite the fact that study after study (including one by CREDO, funded by the Daltons) has shown that virtual charters are educational disaster zones. Students who enroll in them don’t learn anything, but the virtual charter industry is rolling in dough. Two different virtual charter leaders have been indicted for theft in Pennsylvania; one admitted stealing millions of dollars, the other saw her trial dismissed because of age and infirmity but was indicted for theft of millions.

Into this land of struggling public schools and thriving charters comes a new legislative plot to privatize and monetize public school funding. It is called HB530. Under the (usual) guise of “reform,” the bill would open the door to the vaults that hold taxpayer money meant for children and welcome the charters to help themselves.

HB530 is a blank check for a rapacious, greedy industry.

Lawrence Feinberg of the Keystone State Education Coalition wrote this post, “20 Reasons to Vote No on PA HB530.”

Here are a few of his reasons:

Pennsylvania taxpayers now spend more than $1.4 billion on charter and cyber charter schools annually, in addition to funding the state’s traditional public schools. The current “rob from public school Peter to pay charter school Paul” system drains money from traditional public schools, forcing districts to cut programs and services for the students who remain. In 2011, the charter reimbursement line was eliminated from the state budget. It provided state funding to districts for the costs and financial exposure resulting from the addition of charter schools.

Legislators are now considering House Bill 530, which would bring much-needed reform to the charter school law that was written in 1997. The bill has several helpful provisions, but the harm that it does far outweighs the good. Here are 20 reasons that the legislature should vote against this measure.

#HB530 does not provide significant accountability to taxpayers for payments made to charter school entities.

#HB530 would create a Charter School Funding Commission that would consider establishing an independent state-level board to authorize charter school entities, bypassing any local decision-making by school boards and their communities.

#HB530 further limits the ability of communities to negotiate the role of charters locally. The decisions about how, when, and where to expand them should be made by those who have the information and expertise to do so in ways that improve education.

#HB530 is an entirely unwarranted intervention in the local governance of school districts. It would remove local control of tax dollars from Pennsylvania taxpayers and their elected school directors.

#HB530 sets no limits to money that charters can drain from local school districts, eliminating districts’ capability to plan and budget.

#HB530 is a vehicle for the Pennsylvania legislature to have local taxpayers pay for unlimited charter expansion.

#HB530 would let charter operators expand and add grades without any local input or authorization, regardless of performance.

#HB530 would let charters expand by enrolling students from outside of the district in which it is located.

If you want to save public education in Pennsylvania, contact your legislators now.

In the battle over Question 2–whether to expand the number of charter schools by a dozen a year indefinitely into the future–sentiment is running against the proposal, despite the millions of dollars spent on television ads by the pro-charter groups. In western and central Massachusetts, according to this article, a majority of voters are against Question 2 once they hear from a volunteer about the fiscal impact on their public schools.

In Worcester, meanwhile, school officials want to see Question 2 defeated….

“To have the possibility of losing additional funding from our budget – it would be devastating,” said Molly O. McCullough, a member of the Worcester School Committee, which was among the first school boards in the state to officially oppose the ballot question in January.

Brian E. Allen, the Worcester schools’ chief financial and operations officer, said the public schools are already losing critical funding – $24.5 million this year – to the two existing charter schools in the city. If the district were to absorb all 2,000 of Abby Kelley Foster Charter Public School and Seven Hills Charter Public School’s students back into its population, for example, the money it would get back would be enough not only to hire the necessary teachers to instruct those students but also an additional 150 teachers to use elsewhere in the system, he said.

On the flip side, if Worcester were to add 2,000 more charter school seats – the equivalent of two new schools – “now we’re talking about significant financial impacts,” he said, to a district that cut staff last year because of a budget deficit.

In essentially the same boat as Worcester, as far as the financial impact a charter school would have on them, the majority of other school districts in Central Massachusetts have also taken official stances against Question 2. Two other school systems besides Worcester – Fitchburg and Marlboro – already share their city with charter schools. Fitchburg and other districts have also seen recent proposals from local groups to start new ones.

As school boards consider the fiscal impact of the existing public schools, they take a stand against the resolution.

What all this demonstrates is the utter callousness of the pro-charter advocates. Massachusetts has the most successful public school system in the state, yet “reformer-billionaires” think it should be disrupted. Worcester, as the article points out, had a third charter school that lasted only three years. What is the logic of disrupting and defunding the nation’s most successful state public school system by adding a dozen new transient schools every year and causing budget cuts to the public schools that remain?

The number of towns saying NO to Question 2 now exceeds 200 in Massachusetts.

Out-of-state billionaires have poured $20 million into the campaign to pass Question 2, which would cause budget cuts to the state’s public schools so that the charter industry could grow by 12 a year indefinitely.

School districts say no.

Mayor Walsh of Boston says no.

Senator Elizabeth Warren says no.

Save your schools: Vote NO.

Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, former talk show host, really wants vouchers for the millions of students in Texas. Fortunately, he has been defeated year after year by a coalition of rural Tepublicans and urban Democrats.

The battle is on again this year. Patrick and his fellow ideological zealots are headed for a showdown on the issue. There is no evidence that vouchers “work,” and much evidence that they don’t. In a state like Texas, the voucher proposal is strongly opposed by a brave group called Pastors for Texas Children. (Make a donation if you can to help them.)

Supporters of vouchers insist that the schools that receive public funds should be exempt from state tests or any other accountability measures, which might limit their “freedom.”

“A bipartisan group of state representatives hammered private school choice proponents at a heated legislative hearing on Monday, signaling an enduring uphill battle in the Texas House for proposals that would use taxpayer dollars to help parents send their kids to private or parochial schools, or educate them at home.

“Rural Republicans and Democrats in the lower chamber have long blocked such programs — often referred to in sweeping terms as “private school vouchers,” although there are variations. Passing one has emerged as a top priority in the Texas Senate for Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who unsuccessfully pushed a private school choice program when he was a Republican state senator from Houston and chairman of the Senate Education Committee.”

Of course, the proposal for vouchers is a pathetic excuse for failing to restore the $5 billion cut to the public schools in 2011.

The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities documents how states are disinvesting in K-12 education.

This report shows the dramatic contradiction between political rhetoric and economic reality. The state’s that are cutting education spending are also demanding higher test scores, and many have launched charters and vouchers, which further diminish funding for public schools.

It begins:

“Public investment in K-12 schools — crucial for communities to thrive and the U.S. economy to offer broad opportunity — has declined dramatically in a number of states over the last decade. PUBLIC INVESTMENT IN K-12 SCHOOLS HAS DECLINED DRAMATICALLY IN A NUMBER OF STATES OVER THE LAST DECADE.Worse, most of the deepest-cutting states have also cut income tax rates, weakening their main revenue source for supporting schools.

“At least 23 states will provide less “general” or “formula” funding — the primary form of state support for elementary and secondary schools — in the current school year (2017) than when the Great Recession took hold in 2008, our survey of state budget documents finds. Eight states have cut general funding per student by about 10 percent or more over this period. Five of those eight — Arizona, Kansas, North Carolina, Oklahoma, and Wisconsin — enacted income tax rate cuts costing tens or hundreds of millions of dollars each year rather than restore education funding.

“Most states raised general funding per student this year, but 19 states imposed new cuts, even as the national economy continues to improve. Some of these states, including Oklahoma, Kansas, and North Carolina, already were among the deepest-cutting states since the recession hit.

“Our country’s future depends heavily on the quality of its schools. Increasing financial support can help K-12 schools implement proven reforms such as hiring and retaining excellent teachers, reducing class sizes, and expanding the availability of high-quality early education. So it’s problematic that so many states have headed in the opposite direction over the last decade. These cuts risk undermining schools’ capacity to develop the intelligence and creativity of the next generation of workers and entrepreneurs.

“Our survey, the most up-to-date data available on state and local funding for schools, also indicates that, after adjusting for inflation:

“Thirty-five states provided less overall state funding per student in the 2014 school year (the most recent year available) than in the 2008 school year, before the recession took hold.
In 27 states, local government funding per student fell over the same period, adding to the damage from state funding cuts. In states where local funding rose, those increases rarely made up for cuts in state support.”

This helps to explain the lure of school choice. It is a thinly-veiled way to divert attention from a state’s failure to fund its public schools. It offers a cheap alternative.

If you live anywhere near Philadelphia, you should not miss the premiere of the stunning documentary “Backpack Full of Cash.” It is an expose of the corporate education reform movement. It has the potential to inform the public about the billionaire-funded effort to privatize our public schools.

The producers and director are the same team from Stone Lantern Films that created the award-winning PBS series called “School” a decade ago.

“Backpack” is narrated by Matt Damon.

The producers found it far harder to raise funding for this film than for their “School” series. Try to see the film but also consider a contribution to their crowd-sourcing fund. They need our help to tell the story of an unprecedented assault on American public education. They have started a Kickstarter campaign to get your assistance in telling the story of the efforts to privatize public education. Please give whatever you can. This is a very professionally made film and it will help to educate the public about the dangers of corporate education “reform.”




Dear Friends and Supporters, 

We are very happy to announce the world premiere of our 95-minute documentary BACKPACK FULL OF CASH at the Philadelphia Film Festival with screenings to be held on two Saturdays, October 22 and October 29, 2016. BACKPACK producers Sarah Mondale and Vera Aronow will present the film and participate in a Q&A session after the screenings.

The film examines major threats to public education from the movement for market based reform, including the rapid growth of privately-run charter schools, vouchers and tax credit “scholarships”, cyber charter schools, standardized testing, and the attack on teachers. 


BACKPACK follows students, parents, teachers and activists through the tumultuous 2013-14 school year in Philadelphia and other cities, giving viewers an inside look at what happens to public schools when scarce taxpayer dollars are shifted into private hands. 

Key participants include children whose lives were upended by the dramatic events that rocked the Philadelphia school district in 2013-14, as well as local leaders including City Council member Helen Gym, Philadelphia’s Chief Education Officer Otis Hackney (former Principal of South Philadelphia High) and School Superintendent William Hite. The film also features interviews with historian Diane Ravitch, policy analyst Linda Darling Hammond, and journalist David Kirp, among other national figures.  One of our goals, as filmmakers, is to emphasize the importance of just, fair public schools that are places of hope for children of all backgrounds.

We are especially happy to be premiering BACKPACK FULL OF CASH  in the city where we spent so much time filming with the support and cooperation of so many wonderful people. Please join us at one of the festival screenings. We hope to see you there.


PFF25 Festival Screenings

Saturday, October 22, 2016 at 5:10PM

Prince Theater, Philadelphia, PA


Saturday, October 29, 2016 at 4:10PM

Prince Theater, Philadelphia, PA 

View the full program guide here.

Purchase your tickets here!

Thank you for supporting our work.  


Sarah Mondale – Stone Lantern Films and Vera Aronow – Turnstone Productions


Christopher Martell, a professor of social studies education at Boston University, wrote a thoughtful explanation of why he would note NO on Question 2 in November. Question 2 would allow the state to open 12 new charter schools every year forever.

Christopher Martell gives five reasons for his decision.

Here the first three reasons:

“This is not a post about the merits of charter schools. Just like their public school peers, some charter schools provide an excellent education, while others are failing their students. The reality is that charter school students perform equal or worse on standardized tests than their peers in the public schools. In Boston, while charter school students perform better on state standardized tests, their public school peers are more likely to graduate college. Overall, Massachusetts has the nation’s best public education system, which is something we should be very proud of, but also something we must carefully protect.

“Instead, this post is focused specifically on the upcoming Ballot Question 2 in Massachusetts. If this question passes, it would remove the current statewide cap on charter schools and allow up to 12 new Massachusetts charter schools every year. If it does not pass, the state legislature will continue to decide how many new charter schools can open in the future. Considering all of the negative consequences of the ballot question at hand, I am using this post to discuss the five reasons why I will be voting NO on Question 2 during this November’s election.

“1. This ballot question will decrease funding for traditional public schools. Despite the “Yes on 1” campaign’s claims in television commercials that voting yes will result in “more funding for public education,” there is no evidence that this is true, especially since communities continue to receive less state educational aid. Even the ballot question’s most vocal supporter, Governor Charlie Baker has stated that Questions 2 will not change the current school funding formula. Currently, more than $450 million is being drawn from public school districts and with an increase of 12 charter schools per year (which according to this ballot question can happen indefinitely), it could cost local school districts close to $1 billion by the end of the decade.

“While charter schools are approved by the state, their funding comes largely from charter school tuition reimbursements from public school districts (see here, for more on charter school funding). Boston had a $158 million charter school tuition assessment, which was 5% of the entire city budget. If this question passes, it could lead to almost all of Boston’s state education aid being diverted to charter schools. Moreover, there are other costs that local districts incur related to charter schools, including transportation. Last year, Boston spent $12 million on charter school busing, while the district has been dramatically cutting its own students’ transportation (middle school students now use public transportation instead of buses and the school assignment policy was changed so more students would attend schools closer to their homes. Boston charter schools also get first pick of school start times).

“2. This ballot question will contribute to growing educational inequity in Massachusetts. In Massachusetts (and nationwide), there is strong evidence that charter schools do not serve all students. They typically have higher student attrition rates (which some attribute to charter schools “pushing” or consulting out students) than public school districts. They serve smaller numbers of English language learners and special needs students. They are more likely to use “no excuses” discipline procedures that can be harmful to children (to understand what this looks like, consider this in-district charter school in Boston or these two charter schools in New York). They are also contributing to an alarming trend of racial resegregation in schools nationwide. It makes sense to correct these inequities before any major expansion of charter schools occurs in Massachusetts.

“3. This is about privatizing public education. This ballot question is being pushed by well-funded special interest groups (who do not have to reveal their donors and many are from outside Massachusetts with no previous advocacy work for public education), who would like to see more private entities running public schools. Many of these special interest groups are supported by wealthy families (who do not typically have children in the public schools) and investors (who profit from investments in charter school companies and other attempts to privatize public education). If you believe that public education is essential for democracy, then this should raise serious concerns.”

EduShyster (aka Jennifer Berkshire) interviews Yawu Miller, editor of Boston’s Bay State Banner, about charters and Question 2, the November referendum on lifting the cap.

Miller is not anti-charter. Nor is he pro-charter. He has applied to charters for his own children. But he understands the widespread concern that charters will weaken public schools.

Yawu Miller: What I’ve noticed in the debate in Boston is that people are not against charter schools. They think that there is a place for them. They think that charter schools work well for some people, maybe for their own children. But they don’t want to see the kind of expansion that’s being proposed now. They think there’s a threat to the district school system if that happens. You hear a lot of people saying *I’m not anti-charter. I’m against this ballot question.* I think the funding issue has caused a lot of people who pay attention to the schools to come out strongly against this.

The Journey for Justice is working with other civil rights groups to bring thousands of people to demonstrate at Hofstra University on Long Island, New York, where the first Presidential debate will take place on September 26. Details are below.

For Immediate Release 773-317-6343
September 15, 2016

​Thousands expected to demonstrate @ Sept. 26th presidential debate in protest of public education cuts in African American and Latino communities across the nation
“It matters to me who becomes the next U.S. Education Secretary…”

CHICAGO – A national coalition of parents, students, teachers and activists have vowed to travel to Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, on Monday, September 26th, and join with thousands of other people who will protest the first presidential debate due to cuts in public education and the impact on students of color. Activists, led by the Journey for Justice Alliance, have demanded Democratic nominee Sec. Hillary Clinton and Republican nominee Donald Trump release their respective K-thru-12 education platforms and meet with school leaders prior squaring off.

A coalition led by the Journey for Justice Alliance (J4JA) with more than 40,000 members from 24 cities across the US is galvanizing. Organizers say they will release a seven-point platform that tackles school privatization, the school-to-prison pipeline, standardized testing and a myriad of other failed education interventions that have led to massive school closings, charter proliferation and other schemes that have not improved education outcomes in urban communities.

“Our voices have been locked out of any discussion about public education during the race to the White House,” said Jitu Brown, national director J4JA. “Both Clinton and Trump have closed their ears to those of us who have protested, boycotted, waged hunger and teacher strikes demanding an end to corporate education interventions that have devastated students and schools.”

“Clinton, Trump and (Green Party candidate) Jill Stein have all been eerily silent on the impact of these bad policies and school-based cuts that have harmed African American and Latino students the most—yet they continue to campaign in our neighborhoods in search of our support,” said Brown. The award-winning activist gained national attention as the organizer and participant in a 34-day hunger strike to save Dyett High School in Chicago which forced Mayor Rahm Emanuel to abandon his plans to destroy the school.

Added Natasha Capers, public school parent from the New York City Coalition for Education Justice, “We intend to gather that morning in a national forum on what’s been happening to us in our respective communities,” she said. “There is massive charter proliferation in New York despite the fact that research shows charters do not improve education outcomes. It matters to me who becomes the next U.S. Education Secretary.”

The Alliance will release a national public education platform in a forum called “Public Education Nation” co-sponsored by the Network for Public Education Action, which calls for a moratorium on school privatization; federal funding for 10,000 sustainable community schools; an end to zero tolerance policies; national equity in assessments; an end to the attack Black educators who are being terminated from urban school districts in record numbers; an end of state takeovers of trouble school districts where there is only mayoral control and appointed school boards; and, an elimination of the over reliance on standardized tests in public schools.

Parents and teachers have repeatedly lobbied law makers in their opposition to the destruction of community schools at the expense of publicly-funded, privately operated charter schools and over testing.

​“Where do the candidates stand on standardized testing and how those scores are tied to teacher evaluation,” said Nikkisha Napoleon, a public school parent in New Orleans. “Children in New Orleans have been devastated by racist education experimentation—and we’ve also seen a loss of African-American teachers in our city. Why is this happening in places like Chicago, Philadelphia and Detroit? I’m angry that people who live in our neighborhoods, have a history with our children and understand our culture are being driving out of our schools. Where do the candidates stand on the loss of veteran Black and Latino teachers?”

Added, Hiram Rivera, a public school parent and director of the Philadelphia Student Union. “This is a movement for justice and equity in this country. Black and Brown people are united in fighting to make our schools matter, our lives matter and to have our voices heard. We are tired of handshakes and photo ops. We are tired of school closings, privatization schemes and the disinvestment in our neighborhoods. Clinton and Trump need to be held accountable—before they take the oath of office. I’m going to Hempstead because we have to make our voices heard.”


The Journey for Justice Alliance (J4J) ( is a national network of inter-generational, grassroots community organizations led primarily by Black and Brown people in 24 U.S. cities. With more than 40,000 active members, we assert that the lack of equity is one of the major failures of the American education system. Current U.S. education policies have led to states’ policies that lead to school privatization through school closings and charter school expansion which has energized school segregation, the school-to-prison pipeline; and has subjected children to mediocre education interventions that over the past 15 years have not resulted in sustained, improved education outcomes in urban communities.

Xian Franzinger Barrett is a passionate teacher of middle school students in Chicago. He just received his layoff notice, the third in six years. He is one of more than 1,000 educators who were laid off. As a teacher, he does his best, but the people who run the school system–namely, Mayor Rahm Emanuel–seem to be incapable of stabilizing its finances. This doesn’t happen in affluent suburbs. It happens all too often in big-city districts, where the kids are mostly black and brown, and their parents lack political power.

Xian is a member of the board of the Network for Public Education, and I have gotten to know him since we launched in 2012. I can attest to his love for his profession and his students. Mayor Emanuel wants to put a stop to that.

Friends tried to console him but Xian writes:

But oppression is not an accident; it is a centuries-long design.

That is the only explanation for a Chicago where my students who have already lost parents to Immigration and Customs Enforcement have to persevere through more cuts in school funding, and the mayor who covered up the murder of one of their peers before he was re-elected sits comfortably in office. It’s the only way to explain a Chicago where an eighteen-year-old lies dead and those who were paid to protect him revel in paid administrative leave.

Oppression is the only way to describe the reason why I sit jobless, surrounded by piles of published student work from brilliant teaching and learning in a class I was asked to teach, while those who mismanaged the funds of the district collect their checks and continue to wield power over our students. We can’t shrug this off and persevere. To paraphrase Angela Davis, we cannot continue to accept what we cannot change, we must change what we cannot accept.

Xian is a fighter. He won’t quit. He will be there long after Rahm Emanuel has gone and been forgotten.