Archives for category: Charter Schools

Here is a great article in The New Republic by staff writer Graham Vyse, asking the crucial question, “Can Democrats Save Public Education from Trump and DeVos?” It acknowledges that the Democrats paved the way for the school choice agenda of the far-right by touting privately managed charter schools for the past eight years.

 

So the question now is whether Democrats will really fight for public education or will they continue the pretense that privately managed charter schools are “public?” Will they continue to endorse charters and oppose vouchers? Can you be half-pregnant?

 

As the Democrats aped the Republicans on key social issues, like education, they lost their unique identity. Now there are only 14 states with Democratic governors. If they keep pretending to be Republicans, there will be even fewer.

 

Andrew Cuomo of New York has used the same language as Trump, referring to community public schools as a “government monopoly,” and he endorsed legislation to compel the city of New York to give free space to charters, even those that are able to pay rent, like Eva Moskowitz’s fabulously wealthy charter chain. Dannell Molloy has been a champion for charter schools in Connecticut and gives them preference over public schools. Jerry Brown in California opened two charter schools when he was mayor of Oakland, and he recently vetoed legislation to ban for-profit charter schools.

 

Will they fight the privatization agenda, now that it is the Trump agenda?

Jeff Bryant has written a stunning documentation of the damage done by the charter industry to public schools in North Carolina. It is worth your time to read it all. It is a preview of what lies ahead for public education in the Trump era, unless parents and educators and public-spirited citizens join to save their public schools. It is not a pretty picture.

 

The Tea Party Republicans in the legislature and Governor Pat McCrory in the state house set a course to undermine, underfund, and starve public schools while opening the state to charter schools, whether nonprofit or for-profit. Jeff Bryant shows how funding for the public schools is below 2008 levels, even though enrollment has grown by nearly 80,000. Public schools have had to make budget cuts, at the same time that charter schools and online charter schools take away students and funding. In North Carolina, as in many states, if a student leaves a charter school after October to return to the public school, the charter school gets to keep the full year of tuition and is not obliged to replace the student who left.

 

The board that oversees charter schools and decides which new charters to approve is filled with charter school advocates. As Donald Trump used to say, “It’s a rigged system, folks, it’s a rigged system.”

 

Bryant explains in detail how the for-profit charter management companies make money. He uses the example of National Heritage Academies, which is based in Grand Rapids, Michigan, the hometown of Donald Trump’s designated Secretary of Education. Half their teachers may be uncertified, which means they have lower salary costs. But the real money is in the real estate.

 

Bryant writes:

 

How do these schools make a profit? The best answer the reporter for the Charlotte Observer could find was in management fees for the EMOs [educational management organizations], which In North Carolina equal to 7 – 19 percent of total school operational costs.

 

But based on my inquiries, that figure represents a very small part of the profit these schools make.

 

Out Of Michigan And Florida

 

“North Carolina is one those states that is new to the charter game,” Ellen Lipton tells me in a phone call to her office in Michigan – home of National Heritage Academies. NHA is based in Grand Rapids, where Betsy DeVos also lives.

 

“The low per-student funding that tends to characterize Southern states generally kept charter school operators from moving into those states,” she contends. “But now states like Michigan are getting saturated” so the charter chains have decided to move south.

Lipton is a Michigan State Representative who has spoken out against the spread of charter schools through the state’s Education Achievement Authority, an appointed agency, similar to the Achievement School District North Carolina created last year, that takes over low-performing schools and turns them over to charter operators.

 

According to Lipton, NHA has “fine-tuned” the business of chartering to ensure they make a profit. She points me to a recent investigative report by the Detroit Free Press that finds, “It is difficult to know how charter management companies are spending money … Unlike traditional school districts, the management companies usually don’t disclose their vendors, contracts, and competitive bid documents.”

 

“NHA is a business model based on, not necessarily educating kids, but on being a facilities management company,” Casandra Ulbrich, another Michigan source, tells me.

 

Ulbrich is currently serving her second eight-year term on the Michigan State Board of Education and also works in education administration at a state community college.

 

She tells me how the NHA business model works: First, NHA forms a charter school board to “invite” NHA to manage a new school. The governing board is not independent of the management company, and members of the board can serve on multiple NHA charter boards across the state, thus creating a network of charter school boosters the work on promoting these schools.

 

After securing a contract to manage the new school, NHA purchases a building – it could be a storefront in a strip mall or an abandoned warehouse – and requests approval from an authorizer to open a school there. After the authorization, the charter board signs a lease agreement with Charter Development Company, LLC to take over ownership of the building. Charter Development Company, which has branches in all the states where NHA has schools, has its home office in Grand Rapids, Michigan, at the same address as the home office of NHA.

 

Now NHA and its related enterprises own the building and its contents, even if desks, computers, and equipment have been purchased with taxpayer money. It receives rent payments from the district. It owns the curriculum the school teaches. And if NHA is ever fired, the charter board – and by extension the district – is in the awkward position of having to buy back its own school.

 

 

 

 

In one of the closest elections in the country, Governor Pat McCrory conceded at last to State Attorney General Roy Cooper in the race for governor.

 

McCrory came to office as the formerly moderate mayor of Charlotte. Once in office, he joined the far-right wing Tea Party majority in the General Assembly to pass legislation for charters and vouchers, to eliminate the respected North Carolina Teaching Fellows program (which required a five-year education commitment and produced career teachers) and replaced it with a $6 million grant to Teach for America, and enacted law after law to reduce the status of the teaching profession.

 

To understand the damage that McCrory and his cronies did to the state read this summary of five years of political wrecking imposed on the state.

Something amazing happened in Nevada in the 2016 election. Democrats won control of both houses of the legislature. There is still a Republican governor.

 

Angie Sullivan is a second-grade teacher in Nevada who often writes letters to legislators and journalists, to keep them grounded in the reality of the classroom. Nevada has what is very likely the worst performing charter sector in the nation; most of the state’s lowest performing schools are charter schools. It also has a voucher program with no income limits, that is utilized by affluent families to underwrite private school tuition. It is starting an “achievement school district,” modeled on the one that failed in Tennessee and the one that voters in Georgia just rejected, where state officials may take over public schools with low scores and hand them over to charter operators.

Here is Angie with her good-sense newsletter:

Read this:

http://m.reviewjournal.com/opinion/lawmakers-must-work-together-fund-schools

Educators have been forced to become issue based in our state. We can no longer afford to depend wholly on either party. We have to get things done and work with any ally.

We have to get things done.

We will not get everything we want but we have to make headway.

Last session I was proud of the leadership in my state.

Teachers are used to compromise – we do it everyday to make headway for kids. Please be willing to do the same again this session.

These are my asks.

_______________

First Ask: A real teacher in every classroom –

In the recent past, politicians, administrators and businessmen have scape-goated Nevada’s education problems onto those working directly with students – the teachers.

This has lead to unfunded mandates, witch-hunt type behavior, firing professionals, and driving off good teachers in our state. This never made sense – since the classroom teacher is directed by many others and very little is in our control at any level. My day is outlined and many classrooms are micromanaged to the point of damaging students. And the supplies are very limited. Teachers were blamed none-the-less.

These attacks on professional teachers occurred on both sides of the aisle.

Less productive.

We are the front line. We never were the enemy.

Now we have at-risk schools filled with under-prepared people struggling to become an educator. It is the poor, the disenfranchised, and the needy who do not have a teacher for several years in a row. If a child has an IEP and a special education need, they probably do not have a prepared professional to implement the plan.

This is reform?

We need to step back from attacks on collective bargaining, whittling teacher due process, and proclamations that skilled teachers are the problem. Filling our schools with temporary labor is damaging a generation of students – mainly students of color.

Spending all our time looking for the “lemon” instead of retaining the “good guys” is costly in more ways than one.

_______________________

Second Ask: Stop funding scams and craziness.

In an effort to produce quick results, Nevada grabs ideas from other states. These ideas have not proven themselves and flaunt questionable research. None have proven effective with populations as diverse as ours. These Nevada legislative ideas are failing on epic levels and need to be cleaned up.

– Charters are a disaster in Nevada. The amount of fraud, embezzlement, and criminal type behavior occurring in Nevada’s charters is astounding. The bipartisan legislature who supported and implemented reform by charter needs to put some teeth into laws to clean this mess up. I’m adding up the cost and it is millions and millions.

– Read-by-Three which is grant based will fund programs in the north. 75% of the students in need are in the south but the way the language was built – only a drizzle of funding will help students who are most likely to be punished by this legislation in Vegas. Again Nevada demands rigor without giving students and teachers resources to get the job done. Punishing 8 year olds without giving them adequate opportunity is a violation of civil rights. Read-by-Three has only been successful in states willing to fully fund early intervention. And that costs a significant amount of money. States which implement Read-By-Three as Nevada is doing without funding – fail miserably. This is not tough love – it is a crime.

-ASD [Achievement School District] is scary. Due to our lack of per pupil funding, Nevada cannot attract viable charter operators. We spent $10 million on a harbor master, Allison Serafin, to attract charters to Nevada. What a waste. We will now replace 6 failing public schools with charters who have failed elsewhere. To be watched over by the same system that allows the charter systems in Nevada to fail on an epic level already. Just how much are we spending on the Charter Authority and other groups responsible for overseeing charters? Do we continue to ask public schools to be accountable while ignoring the atrocious failure of charters? And we force charters on communities of color with the ASD – in the name of school choice. Force is not choice.

– ESA [Education Savings Accounts–or vouchers] is scary. A treasurer will determine education curriculum and spot check for fraud. Parents will “police themselves”. Blank checks will be given to mainly white affluent parents to take wherever they like or allow children to lay on the couch. And those checks will go to 8,000 applicants in the amount of $40 million in tax payer money. While lack of regulation sounds like a great idea, in Nevada education it leads to waste and fraud. This is a nightmare of waste ready to happen.

We have little money for real research based best practice but have spent millions on unproven and failing reform.

Ten years of reform and limited gains. Some reform may have damaged a generator. Of learners. Time for a return to the steady growth produced by funding best practice. It’s not fancy or flashy but it works.

____________________

Third Ask: Funding Fairness.

The Southern Caucus needs to advocate for our children.

In a bipartisan manner, the southern caucus needs to work and make progress for our children. Teachers and students need our legislators to do the heavy lift for the kids in our area. Frankly we need money.

The south generates most of the revenue for the state. 80% of the DSA (Distributive Schools Account) is funding put there from Clark County.

Clark County receives 50% in return. This is the antiquated Nevada Plan.

Also the south does not have access to mining proceeds which many rural communities can also tap for school funds.

I am not advocating a grab from other schools. I am advocating for restructuring that is fair to all students wherever they reside.

The south serves students who traditionally need more financial support to be successful.

CCSD [Clark County School District: Las Vegas] has huge numbers of children in poverty.

Our students cannot continue to endure class sizes of 40 plus.

We cannot continue to ignore early intervention so vital to future success.

We have to continue to fund and expand Victory and ZOOM schools.

CCSD was considering an ELL plan which is necessary. The cost would be $1 billion to fund at a level appropriate for our learners in Clark County.

We cannot continue to train educators who leave for greener pastures. We need committed and permanent educators to see a return in teacher development investment. We need to invest in teacher pipelines and retention of excellent and fully qualified professionals. We also need teachers who reflect the faces we see in our community. It is very expensive to endure teacher churn as skilled labor looks for a better deal.

__________________________

Final Ask:

Listen up both sides of the aisle . . .

Everything costs.

Unfunded mandates that may be easily implemented in a tiny rural district, can cost multiple millions to implement in CCSD with 380,000 students and 36,000 educators.

That great idea a random legislator has – needs to have a price tag on it. Just one thing – can rob a classroom of supplies. A great idea – can mean my students do not have books. The pot is limited. The budget is already stretched thin. We have to prioritize and necessities need to come first.

We cannot continue to do more with less.

Unfunded mandates are killing public schools. Do not send that idea without cash.

Just don’t do it.

I’m looking at everyone here because I have seen it non-stop. Most returning law makers are guilty.

If we are running at a deficit of $300-$400 million, please know unfunded mandates will rob from another need.

If there is zero money. There is zero money. No money – no reform. No money – no new ideas. No money – no change. It is not that different from a budget at your house. It is not that we do not want things, we just cannot afford it right now.

Whipping teachers like we are going to row faster on a Viking ship – just leaves us too whipped to teach.

Unfunded mandates are usually implemented by teachers from our own pockets – we pull from our personal bank accounts, our families, and our time to implement that great idea. Many unfunded mandates are half implemented and just waste time and money because they are impossible. It is a burden.

Ideas cost money.

____________

Listen to me.

I am without guile.

My hands are clean as I work to teach seven year olds to read.

These are my asks.

I have spent a lifetime educating children. I am from Nevada where we used to fund near the top and achieve results near the top too. I have watched my state’s educational success plummet as our per pupil spending has declined. That is a fact proven with real data.

Educating students costs.

Competition has not and will not improve Nevada’s system.

Tough love, fads and gimmicks are draining precious resources.

Teachers will fail if we do not have what we need to do the job.

Some things are more important than winning and losing a political game.

Please work together for kids this session in a well thought out way that makes progress.

You expect a lot from teachers.

Teachers need resources spent the right way to make progress.

Mercedes Schneider turns her well-honed investigative talents to exploring the history and funding of Campbell Brown’s website, The 74.

 

Betsy DeVos, Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Education, has given generously to The 74. Brown sits on the board of DeVos’s American Federation for Children, which advocates for vouchers. Both share an interest in attacking teachers’ unions, teacher tenure, and public schools. DeVos gave Brown’s 74 a gift of $2.4 million in 2014. A token of friendship, I suppose. That’s what friends are for. We should all have friends like that.

 

Mercedes has done a phenomenal job of analyzing the tax records of The 74 to decipher its funders and its evolution.

 

Much information remains undisclosed. She urges its disclosure.

Julie Vassilatos, an activist parent of children in the Chicago public schools, writes here about Betsy DeVos.

She begins by offering a round up of some of the best posts about DeVos. We all must get up to speed on who she is.

In addition to being a fervent advocate for vouchers and charters, she has given generously to anti-gay organizations and organizations that promote creationism. I am trying to imagine what the U.S. Department of Education will do under her leadership backwards.

Julie points out that Arne Duncan paved the way for DeVos. Duncan and his Department made school choice a priority, leaving an opening for the next step, which is vouchers.

She would not have been able to accomplish what she did in Michigan without the federal government’s encouragement of privatization efforts for the past 8 years. She would not now be poised to bring full privatization to the nation if the field had not been tilled for this for the past 8 years. Duncan’s Department of Ed absolutely created the conditions for Betsy DeVos. She may be different in emphasis, but not in kind from Arne Duncan. She touts charters, choice, and competition; Duncan’s Department of Ed touted charters, choice, and competition. She likes vouchers; the Department of Ed never definitively closed the door on vouchers. She has given millions to unregulated charters; so did the Department of Ed. Federal visa policy and the New Market Tax Credit created the conditions to make charters very big–global–business.

All that was settled years ago. Now corporate ed control is poised to succeed in a totalizing way; all that was needed was a billionaire secretary of education who knows absolutely nothing about public education, is purely ideology-driven, and is well-practiced at controlling legislators with her cash.

Don’t fool yourselves–DeVos isn’t the sudden end of the world for public education, like a bomb being dropped. She’s more like the result of a slow-traveling virus or a zombie invasion. Our schools have been in peril for years. Now I think we will be able to see it more clearly. It’s time to get to work.

You can start here, by signing your name to the Network for Public Education’s letter to legislators insisting they not confirm her.

The Education Commission of the States posted a lineup of the partisan divide among the states. Republicans have a commanding lead over Democrats.

Of 50 states, 33 have Republican governors. Republicans control 66 partisan chambers, compared to 30 held by Democrats.

Republicans pick up three legislative chambers. The Kentucky House, Iowa Senate and Minnesota Senate switched from Democratic to Republican control. Republicans made history in Kentucky when they took 17 seats from the Democrats to gain control of the chamber for the first time since 1922, and only the third time in state history. Republicans now control all 30 legislative chambers in southern states.

Democrats pick up four legislative chambers. The New Mexico House, both Nevada Assembly and Senate and Washington Senate switched from Republican to Democratic control.

Tied chamber. Republicans also made gains in Connecticut, a reliably blue state, where the Senate is tied 18R-18D.
Three states with split/tied chambers. Colorado and Maine continue to have spit legislative chamber party control. This down from seven states pre-election (Colorado, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Minnesota, New Mexico and Washington). The Connecticut Senate is tied with 18 Republicans and 18 Democrats.

This means that a large number of states will look favorably on school choice, which Trump has described as his highest priority. Many states already have some form of voucher program; most–thanks to Race to the Top–permit charters. School choice–charters and vouchers–means less money for public schools. As public schools lose funding, class sizes will grow, programs will be cut, and alternatives will become more attractive.

If Betsy DeVos is confirmed as Secretary of Education, be prepared for an all-out federal assault on public schools. The same could be said of almost anyone Trump might select in her place (Falwell, Rhee, Moskowitz, etc.) The model is Race to the Top. The Department of Education might bundle $20 billion and dangle it before states as a competition, with eligibility dependent on laws permitting vouchers to religious schools and for-profit charters, even home schooling.

Friends and allies of public education, a cornerstone of our democracy for nearly 200 years, will have to organize and resist.

Join the Network for Public Education as we fight to defend public schools against privatization. 

As noted on this blog, the leader of the El Camino Real Charter High School in Los Angeles used the school’s credit card to charge exorbitant personal expenses while moonlighting as a scout for a professional basketball team. First class air tickets, luxury hotels, fabulous meals.

He repaid $6,000, which must have been a fraction of what he spent. And he agreed to resign, reluctantly. He leaves with a payout of $215,000 (apparently a one-year salary minus $6,000). Not exactly a golden parachute but surprising because he might well have been prosecuted for misappropriating school funds.

For the past eight years, we collectively have had to figure out how to cope with lovers of privatization who claimed that they were reformers. They wanted to “save poor kids from failing schools” by opening privately managed charters that were all too often academically weak and financially unaccountable. They liked to fire the entire staff of struggling schools and hail their courage for daring to disrupt the lives of students and teachers. They praised high-stakes testing as part of their civil rights activism. They loved first-year teacher far more than those who made teaching a career. They also claimed that their disruption was done in the name of civil rights, and that they were progressives.

But now they have a problem. Trump has adopted their agenda of replacing public schools with charter schools. Shall they show Trump some reformer love or shall they express revulsion for his bigotry? Or both?

Historian and teacher John Thompson reviews the reformers’ dilemma:

The press release for Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) on the appointment of Amway heiress, Betsy DeVos, as Secretary of Education illustrates the moral and practical dilemmas faced by corporate school reform in the wake of the Trump election. DFER “applaud(s) Mrs. DeVos’s commitment to growing the number of high-quality public charter schools.” However, DFER claims to be “deeply concerned by much of the President-elect’s education agenda, which proposes to cut money from Title I and to eliminate the federal role on accountability.”
DFER Statement on President-elect Trump’s Nomination of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education – Democrats for Education Reform

Notably absent is a condemnation of DeVos’s devotion to vouchers, for-profit, private charters, and accountability-free virtual schools. Neither does DFER mention that 80% of the charters in her state of Michigan are for-profit.

DFER also protests that “our children are threatened by many of the President-elect’s proposals, such as kicking 20 million families off of healthcare, deporting millions of Dreamers, and accelerating stop-and-frisk practices.” It criticizes “Trump’s bigoted and offensive rhetoric [which] has assaulted our racial, ethnic, and religious minorities, causing millions of American children to perceive that they are less than full members of our communities.” The corporate reform think tank gives little indication, however, as to how much it will cooperate with DeVos’s rightwing agenda and the bigotry of Trumpism.

The reformers’ dilemma is not new, but now there is a new urgency to their need to look at themselves in the mirror. DFER isn’t likely to ask whether years of reformers’ attacks on loyal Democrats made a difference in Trump carrying Florida, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin. Neither are they likely to question their faith in data-driven accountability even if they reckon with the finding that DeVos’s American Federation for Children reported to the Wisconsin elections board it spent only $345,000 on state legislative races in 2012. It bragged in another document that it spent $2.4 million in helping elect nine pro-privatization legislators.

But, what will happen if reformers cooperate with the “co-founder and current chair of the boards at the anti-teachers-union state advocacy groups Alliance for School Choice and American Federation for Children (AFC) and a close friend of teachers union opponent Campbell Brown?”

Oh, yeah, DFER and other reformers have already teamed with Campbell Brown, The 74, and an alphabet soup of hedge fund entrepreneurs in their legal assault on the due process rights of teachers. They have also collaborated with others, such as Michelle Rhee and Eva Moskowitz, who promise to work with Trump. But, what happens if reformers go along with for-profit charters and online schools in order to advance their scaling up of “public school charters,” and Trump’s overreach in domestic and foreign policies is so extreme that it brings their new allies and agenda down?

Or worse, what if they help Trump and his racist, sexist, and xenophobic policies are implemented?

Corporate reformers haven’t been shy about their funding from the Gates and Broad foundations, which is worrisome enough. One would think that they would have at least been squeamish about support from the Walton, Arnold, Bradley, and DeVose families. They should consider a 2014 analysis of the DeVos family’s rightwing agenda which concluded that they “sit alongside the Kochs, the Bradleys, and the Coorses as founding families of the modern conservative movement.” Richard DeVos Sr. “was an early member and funder of the Council for National Policy, a secretive network of hardline conservative leaders founded by Left Behind author Tim LaHaye.” Betsy’s father was a founder of the conservative Christian, anti-choice Family Research Council. Her brother founded the infamous Blackwater private security company.

Amway heir Dick DeVos beat Big Labor in its own backyard. Next up: your state.

Disgraced Texas congressman Tom DeLay advanced their agenda under the informal name of the “Amway caucus.” Other DeVos allies include gambling tycoon Sheldon Adelson, Texas investor Harold Simmons, Jim Boop, general counsel for the National Right to Life Committee,” who also was the chief architect behind the controversial 2010 Citizens United case” and, of course, Vice President-elect Mike Pence.

I’ve long tried to communicate with reformers. Despite their demonizing teachers, unions, education schools, school boards, and Democrats who see high-stakes testing and charters differently, many speak privately about the mixed feelings they felt when uniting with rightwing reformers. They did so, I’m often told, because they believed it was necessary for Democrats to prove their toughness by battling unions and other loyal party members. The Obama administration, for instance, supposedly adopted an ALEC-lite, Scott Walker-lite, and Betsy DeVos-lite education agenda in an effort to keep the far Right from completely destroying public schools. In doing so, they helped open the door to mass charterization, and electing a President with strong support from the Alt-Right.

Reformers must finally look in the mirror and contemplate the fact that they and their allies have common links to intertwined, mostly hidden, corporate funding networks that have choreographed an extremist, anti-government campaign. Media Matters explains about DeVos’s American Federation for Children (AFC):

AFC’s website also directs readers to visit websites for its “national allied organizations,” which include the State Policy Network of conservative think tanks (of which the Alliance for School Choice is listed as an associate member), the American Center for School Choice, the American Enterprise Institute, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the Black Alliance for Educational Options, the Cato Institute, the Center for Education Reform, Education Next, the Foundation for Excellence in Education, the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, the Heartland Institute, the Heritage Foundation, the Hispanic Council for Reform and Educational Options (HCREO), the Institute for Justice, K12 Inc., National School Choice Week (NSCW), Stand for Children, StudentsFirst, and the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. The AFC website also lists “state allies,” many of which are also members of the State Policy Network.

Here Are The Corporations And Right-Wing Funders Backing The Education Reform Movement

DFER claims that it aims “to return the Democratic Party to its rightful place as a champion of children, first and foremost, in America’s public education systems.” To do so, however, it embraced the edu-politics of destruction. It used the Billionaires Boys Club’s money to help pioneer a new type of public relations spin that has culminated in what is now called “post-fact.” DFER shared a false “bad teacher,” pro-charter narrative throughout a web of like-minded think tanks and interest groups. Now it must decide how much it will collaborate with a President of the United States who might even owe his victory to the Russian propaganda machine, spreading its fake news across the digital social networks that reformers also used to share their intellectually dishonest soundbites.

And that brings us closer to the real danger which DeVos represents for schools, and the nation. She is not just a run-of-the-mill corporate school reformer who pushes reckless market-driven policies in order to bring disruptive innovation to public schools. Contrary to her otherwise universal commitment to “choice,” DeVos vigorously campaigns against women’s right to choose. She brings the same zealotry to the Right to Life movement as she does to the promotion of vouchers and for-profit education ventures, and her financing of so-called Right to Work union-basting.

For DFER to honestly claim that it is working with DeVos and Trump in order to help children, it would have to believe that privatized jails and prisons, privatized water systems, and expanded Blackwater’s mercenaries were scaled up for the benefit of nonviolent offenders, the citizens of Flint, Michigan, and Iraqi noncombatants (and the American soldiers who faced the retaliation sparked by Blackwater’s abuses.)

Nikhil Goyal is a prodigy who wrote his first book when he was only a teenager in public high school. Happily, he uses his considerable skills as a researcher to analyze the Trump “billionaire wrecking crew” that is planning to tear down our nation’s public schools.

Donald Trump, a self-described billionaire, wants billionaire heiress Betsy DeVos to take over the Department of Education. These two ultra-rich people have never attended public schools. Nor have they sent their kids to them. Yet they will likely accelerate the bipartisan dismantling of public education as we know it.

Private foundations, billionaires and Wall Street hedge fund managers have funneled billions of dollars either directly into the education system or the political process to influence policy. These groups are often staunch advocates of pro-market policies such as charter schools and school vouchers, which allows parents to send their kids to private schools using public money. DeVos has been described as “the four-star general of the voucher movement”…

Over the past two decades, as members of the ultra-wealthy rightwing DeVos family, Betsy and her husband, Dick, have been discreetly using their immense fortune to underwrite many of the major local and state crusades to privatize public education.

They helped pass Michigan’s first charter school law, pushed a failed Michigan school voucher referendum, helped get hundreds of pro-voucher and charter candidates for public office elected, proliferated charters, weakened teachers unions by advocating for right-to-work legislation in Michigan and warded off a proposed Detroit charter oversight commission in a state where 80% are run for profit with minimal accountability.
There are several flaws with vouchers. Their logic is based on empowering the individual over the state, rather than making systemic changes to funding, curriculum, assessment and teaching to achieve a high-quality, humane and equitable public system for all. Vouchers also siphon funds away from a cash-starved public system.

What’s more, studies have shown that school choice experiments in Chile and Sweden exacerbated existing inequalities. If we are to improve educational outcomes for all children, decades of research show that we must address the miserable social and economic conditions that profoundly affect schools: poverty, homelessness, inadequate healthcare, unsafe drinking water, food insecurity and gun violence. Reformers such as DeVos are not keen on the state redistributing their wealth to cure those ills…

The problem with this is that many charters are deeply segregated, push out low-performing and misbehaving students, and have been accused of “financial fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement” totaling more than $200m in a single 12-month span. Moreover, the Obama administration preserved and expanded Washington DC’s private school voucher program, which was originally launched by former president George W Bush.

DeVos will find many allies across the aisle in Washington, from Senator Cory Booker (who served on the board of the Alliance for School Choice, of which she was chairman) to the Center for American Progress to Democrats for Education Reform. At least she is forthright about gutting public education, as she wrote in an editorial urging to abolish and replace Detroit’s public schools with a free-market system, whereas Democrats hide behind the guise of “civil rights” and “educational opportunity”.

Unfortunately, the Obama years sowed the seeds for DeVos to finish the task. Without well-organized resistance, it will happen.