Archives for category: Chiefs for Change

Feeling the backlash in a big way, Jeb Bush’s “Chiefs for Change” issued a call to end the “Toxic Rhetoric” about school choice, especially charters. 

Chiefs for Change are strong proponents of privatization. Here are the current members. Is your superintendent a “Chief for Change” who wants to divert money from public schools to the Betsy DeVos agenda of school choice?

They say:

Recent attempts to halt or severely limit school choice—including legislative debates over caps or moratoriums for charter schools—are misguided at best. Effective mechanisms of school choice—those that ensure quality, accountability, equitable access, and equitable funding—provide opportunities that our students need and deserve. 

Families with financial means in America have always been able to choose the school that is best for their child, by moving to a certain part of town or by sending their children to private schools. But most American families do not have that opportunity. The school in their neighborhood may fall short in meeting their child’s needs in any number of ways—but they’re stuck. 

Our nation’s history of redlining to separate both housing and schooling based on race and income, along with local zoning ordinances that restrict and confine affordable housing, alongside the recent wave of “school district secessions” by higher-income neighborhoods, have compounded the problem. Our nation’s children often live in neighborhoods just a short distance from each other but worlds apart in terms of school quality. This is unacceptable. Every child deserves school options where they will learn and thrive. 

That is why today we are calling on policymakers across the nation to end the destructive debates over public charter schools. Proposed caps and moratoriums allow policymakers to abdicate their responsibility to thoughtfully regulate new and innovative public school options: like banning cars rather than mandating seatbelts. They are a false solution to a solvable problem. 

The backlash against school choice, the demand to halt charter expansion, comes from an outraged public that supports their community public schools.

Only 6% of the students in the U.S. attend charter schools, most of which perform no better than or much worse than public schools. An even smaller number of students use vouchers, even when they are easily available, and the research increasingly converges on the conclusion that students who use vouchers are harmed by attending voucher schools.

The claim that poor kids should get “the same” access to elite private schools as rich kids is absurd. Rich parents pay $40,000-50,000 or more for schools like Lakeside in Seattle or Sidwell Friends in D.C. The typical voucher is worth about $5,000, maybe as much as $7,000, which gets poor kids into religious schools that lack certified teachers, not into Lakeside or Sidwell or their equivalent.

Perhaps Chiefs for Change should advocate for for housing vouchers worth $1 million or more so that poor families can afford to live in the best suburban neighborhoods where “families with financial means” live.

But don’t hold your breath waiting for that to happen.

What this press release really means is that the advocates of privatization know that the public is turning against them.

That’s good news.

The public wants to invest its tax dollars in strong, equitable public schools that meet the needs of all students, not in ineffective charters or vouchers that divert money from community public schools.

 

Jan Resseger writes here about the difference between Superintendents who understand the importance of collaborating with and respecting the community they serve, and the Superintendents connected to Jeb Bush’s Chiefs for Change, who believe in state takeovers and imposing their views on their communities. She might have added the Brodie’s to the latter category, those who are “graduates” of the Broad Superintendents Academy. The BS Academy teaches Eli Broad’s corporate-style of Top-Down management.

She writes:

There is an ongoing battle of values and language that shapes the way we think about and talk about education.  The current threats across several states of state takeover of school districts are perhaps the best example of this conflict.  According to the Chiefs for Change model, the school district in Providence has recently been taken over by the state of Rhode Island.  Texas now threatens to take over the public schools in Houston. In Ohio, four years of state takeover has created chaos in Lorain and dissatisfaction in Youngstown.  East Cleveland is now in the process of being taken over, and the Legislature has instituted a one-year moratorium while lawmakers figure out whether to proceed with threatened takeovers of the public school districts in Columbus, Dayton, Toledo, Canton, Ashtabula, Lima, Mansfield, Painesville, Euclid, and North College Hill.

Among the most painful situations this summer is the threatened closure of the high school or the state takeover of the school district in Benton Harbor, Michigan, a segregated African American community and one of the poorest in the state.  Michigan has actively expanded school choice with charter schools and an inter-district open enrollment program in which students carry away their school funding. The statewide expansion of charters and inter-district school choice has undermined the most vulnerable school districts and triggered a number of state takeover actions.  Michigan State University’s David Arnsen explains: “In Michigan, all the money moves with the students. So it doesn’t take account of the impact on the districts and students who are not active choosers… When the child leaves, all the state and local funding moves with that student. The revenue moves immediately and that drops faster than the costs… In every case they (districts losing students to Schools of Choice) are districts that are predominantly African American and poor children and they suffered terrific losses of enrollment and revenue….”

Benton Harbor—heavily in debt and struggling academically—has been threatened with state intervention like Inkster, Buena Vista, Highland Park, and Muskegon Heights—whole school districts which were closed, charterized, or put under emergency manager control by former governor Rick Snyder.  Now the new Governor Gretchen Whitmer has threatened to close the high school in Benton Harbor or eventually close the district.

If your superintendent supports state takeovers, mass firings, replacing public schools with charter schools, or other corporate management strategies, he is not on the side of your community.

 

 

Governor Gina Raimondo is a bona fide neoliberal  who is part of the DFER clique, having been a hedge fund manager herself.

She recently selected Angelina Infante-Green as State Commissioner of Education. Infante-Green is a member of Jeb Bush’s cohort of Future Chiefs for Change. Now that she is a State Commissioner, she will qualify to join the big boys and girls as a full-fledged member of Jeb’s Club.

Chiefs for Change support privatization and high-stakes testing. It is Jeb’s vehicle to spread Florida’s failed model, whose ultimate goal is the elimination of public schools, unions, and professional teachers.

This article by Tom Ultican tells the sordid story of rich elites who have cynically decided to destroy public education in San Antonio.

They have cumulatively raised at least $200 million to attract charter operators to San Antonio, a figure which includes funding by the U.S. Department of Education and local plutocrats. The lead figure is a very wealthy woman named Victoria Rico, who sits on the boards of multiple charter chains. Rico and her friends have decided to re-engineer and privatize public education in San Antonio. Rico is working closely with Dan Patrick, the State’s lieutenant governor, who loves vouchers, hates public schools, and was the Rush Limbaugh of Texas before winning election to the State Senate.

Was there a vote taken in San Antonio? No. Was the public asked whether they wanted to abandon public education? Of course not. The titans don’t believe in democracy. They know what’s best for other people’s children.

They have hired a superintendent, Pedro Martinez, who was “trained” by the unaccredited Broad Superintendents Academy, which encourages school closures, privatization, and top-down management. Martinez has worked in school districts but was never a teacher or a principal and apparently knows nothing about pedagogy. Martinez is a member of Jeb Bush’s Chiefs for Change, which promotes privatization and technology in the classroom. He is also a big fan of the faux Relay “Graduate School of Education,” which specializes in charter teachers training new teachers for charter schools and has no professors or research programs.

As a native Texan, this whole deal made me physically ill. It stinks to high heaven. Everyone facilitating this private takeover of public schools should be ashamed of themselves.

They are not “doing it for the children.” They are doing it for their own egos. There are more failing charter schools than failing public schools. What right do they have to destroy the public schools of San Antonio? Who elected them? They have won plaudits from Betsy DeVos, the Koch brothers, and ALEC. They should be held accountable for their assault on democracy. I noticed that the Texas philanthropist Charles Butt refused to participate in this unholy cabal; he prefers to invest his fortune in supporting public schools.

I take this opportunity to name Victoria Rico, Pedro Martinez, and all their rightwing enablers to the Wall of Shame.

 

John Thompson, teacher and historian in Oklahoma, writes here about Deborah Gist, now superintendent in Tulsa, formerly State Superintendent in Rhode Island during the infamous mass firing of the staff at Central Falls High School in 2010.

He writes:


What’s the Matter with Deborah Gist’s Tulsa?

As explained previously, teacher walkouts started in Oklahoma and other “red” states are primarily caused by the rightwing agenda described in Thomas Frank’s What’s the Matter with Kansas? And so far, the teachers’ rebellions are mostly coming from places where corporate school reform was imposed. But as Jeff Bryant notes, teacher resistance is growing in the “purple” state of Colorado and other regions. Bryant explains:

“The sad truth is financial austerity that has driven governments at all levels to skimp on education has had plenty of compliance, if not downright support, from centrist Democrats who’ve spent most of their political capital on pressing an agenda of “school reform” and “choice” rather than pressing for increased funding and support that schools and teachers need.”

https://dianeravitch.net/2018/04/18/john-thompson-the-oklahoma-teachers-walkout-what-we-learned/

http://nepc.colorado.edu/blog/why-teacher-uprisings

Data-driven, charter-driven reforms incentivized by the Race to the Top and edu-philanthropy likely contributed to recent walkouts by weakening unions and the professional autonomy of educators. This undermined both the political power required to fight budget cuts, and the joy of teaching and learning.

And that brings us to the question of What’s the Matter with the Tulsa Public Schools?

Whether its Dana Goldstein writing in the New York Times, Mike Elk writing for the Guardian, or Oklahoma reporters, the coverage cites disproportionate numbers of Tulsa teachers. Their complaints start with budget cuts but often mention the ways that the TPS is robbing teachers and principals of their professional autonomy.

http://www.tulsaworld.com/news/education/my-idea-was-to-start-the-conversation-rank-and-file/article_5972c78f-30a2-52fc-9ef8-a03c961c1878.html

Goldstein notes that Deborah Gist is now allied with the Oklahoma Education Association in advocating for increased teacher salaries, even though she was “the hard-charging education commissioner in Rhode Island [who] tried to weaken teachers’ seniority protections and often clashed with their union.” I wonder, however, whether Gist’s policies have contributed to the anger and exhaustion that prompted the walkout. After all, Gist is a member of the corporate reform “Chiefs for Change,” and a Broad Academy graduate in a system with nine other Broadies, and who is now expanding charter and “partnership schools.”

http://www.tulsaworld.com/news/education/my-idea-was-to-start-the-conversation-rank-and-file/article_5972c78f-30a2-52fc-9ef8-a03c961c1878.html

Tulsa started down a dubious policy path of “exiting” teachers around the time when Gist was attacking Rhode Island teachers. It accepted a Gates Foundation “teacher quality” grant. A Tulsa World analysis of turnover data showed that the Gates effort was followed by “a significant uptick … when it suddenly went from about 200-250 exits in any given year and jumped in 2011 to about 360-400 per year. That’s when the district began using its then-new teacher evaluation for ‘forced exits’ of teachers for performance reasons.”

From 2012 through 2014, “some 260 ‘forced exits’ were reported by TPS leaders.”

The World reports that teacher turnover grew even more after Gist arrived. Over the last two years, there has been an “exodus of 1,057, or 35 percent, of all 3,000 school-based certified staff.” The district’s average turnover rate was 21% in 2016-17, with turnover reaching 47% in one school.

And what happened to student performance? Tulsa’s test score gains are now among the lowest in the nation, with 3rd graders growing only 3.8 years during their next 5 years of schooling.

The World’s data shows that the exodus is not merely due to low salaries. About 28% of former teachers “are not in higher-paying states but in other Oklahoma school districts with comparable pay.”

The World quotes a former Tulsa teacher criticizing the implementation of “personalized learning.” He could understand how standardized laptop technology “could help bad or inexperienced teachers, but for him, it made him feel like little more than a computer lab attendant.” The teacher said the TPS “standardized it so we’re all at the low-rung of the totem pole. … That’s like a huge slap in the face for a teacher. That’s the best part of teaching for most people is to be able to design and use your creativity.”

http://www.tulsaworld.com/news/education/tulsa-public-schools-loses-percent-of-its-teachers-in-two/article_c714f36d-f8cb-5447-9dfa-2b2c0cfc0dd9.html

Earlier this year, Tulsa teacher resistance began in Edison Preparatory School, a high-performing school with a five-year teacher turnover rate of 62%. An Advanced Placement teacher, Larry Cagle, has been quoted extensively by the national press. Cagle recounted how “year after year, high-quality teachers retire early.” So, he and fellow teachers started to address both the deterioration of school climate and the increase in turnover.

Even though Cagle has sympathy for the administration which has to face serious budget challenges, he challenges its Broad-style, top-down policies. Despite the teacher shortage, the administration is incentivizing the retirements of older teachers. It is also using philanthropic donations to fund the Education Service Center (ESC), which sounds to me like a misnomer. Its highly-paid administrators have disempowered rather than served administrators and teachers.

Cagle says, “We would like the ESC to stop lobbying philanthropists,” and start lobbying legislators.

http://www.tulsakids.com/Editors-Blog/Web-2018/Edison-Teacher-Talks-Money/

A detailed analysis by Tulsa Kids shows that the Tulsa micromanaging is consistent with that of other failed Broad-run districts. And its comments by TPS teachers is especially revealing. A teacher who worked with the Broad-laden administrative team wrote that they identified themselves as the “Super Team.”

http://www.tulsakids.com/Editors-Blog/Web-2018/Its-Not-Just-Edison/

And that helps explain why so many Tulsa teachers walked out of their classrooms before the statewide walkout. If the reign of Gist is not stopped, even the $6,100 pay increase will not be enough to start rebuilding its schools. What happens, however, if Oklahoma’s reenergized teachers fight back against the Billionaires Boys Club’s mandates? Maybe Colorado teachers will do the same with its corporate reforms that were choreographed by the Democrats for Education Reform, as Arizona teachers resist their state’s mass privatization, and Kentucky teachers challenge last year’s attacks on their state’s profession.

This is not a new article but it remains timely and worthy of your attention.

Jeb Bush runs an organization called the Foundation for Educational Excellence. Betsy DeVos was a member of his board. FEE receives corporate contributions. It works closely with ALEC, the rightwing corporate-sponsored organization that lobbies for charters, vouchers, and against teachers’ unions and tenure.

In the Public Interest was able to obtain a trove of emails that revealed the influence of FEE in several states, including Florida, New Mexico, Maine, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Rhode Island.

The e-mails are between the Foundation for Excellence in Education (FEE) and a group Bush set up called Chiefs for Change, whose members are current and former state education commissioners who support Bush’s agenda of school reform, which includes school choice, online education, retention of third-graders who can’t read and school accountability systems based on standardized tests. That includes evaluating teachers based on student test scores and grading schools A-F based on test scores. John White of Louisiana is a current member, as is Tony Bennett, the new commissioner of Florida who got the job after Indiana voters rejected his Bush-style reforms last November and tossed him out of office.

Donald Cohen, chair of the nonprofit In the Public Interest, a resource center on privatization and responsible for contracting in the public sector, said the e-mails show how education companies that have been known to contribute to the foundation are using the organization “to move an education agenda that may or not be in our interests but are in theirs.”

He said companies ask the foundation to help state officials pass laws and regulations that make it easier to expand charter schools, require students to take online education courses, and do other things that could result in business and profits for them. The e-mails show, Cohen said, that Bush’s foundation would often do this with the help of Chiefs for Change and other affiliated groups.

It is very instructive to scan the long list of organizations that are funded by the Walton Family Foundation. Some will surprise you. Some will not. Here is what we know about this foundation. The Walton Family (beneficiaries of Walmart) is the richest family in America. There are many billionaires in the family. Like Betsy DeVos, they don’t like public education. They don’t like regulation. They love the free market. They don’t like unions. Individual family members have spent millions on political campaigns to support charters and vouchers. The Foundation also supports charters and school choice.

In 2015, the Walton Family Foundation spent $179 million on K-12 education grants. They are in the midst of a pledge to spend $1 billion to open more charters, and they have targeted certain cities for their beneficence (Atlanta, Boston, Camden, Denver, Houston, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, Memphis, New Orleans, New York, Oakland, San Antonio and Washington, D.C.) Their goal is to undermine public education by creating a competitive marketplace of choices. They and DeVos are on the same page.

I suggest you scan the list to see which organizations have their hand out for funding from one of the nation’s most anti-public school, anti-union, rightwing foundations.

Here are a few of their grantees:

Black Alliance for Education Options (BAEO), run by Howard Fuller to spread the gospel of school choice: $2.78 million

Brookings Institution (no doubt, to buy the annual report that grades cities on school choice): $242,000

California Charter Schools Association: $5 million

Center for American Progress (theoretically a “centrist Democratic” think tank): $500,000

Charter Fund, Inc. (never heard of this one): $14 million

Chiefs for Change (Jeb Bush’s group): $500,000

College Board (to push Common Core?): $225,000

Colorado League of Charter Schools: $1,050,000

Editorial Projects in Education (Education Week): $70,000

Education Reform Now: $4.2 million

Education Trust, Inc. (supposed a “left-leaning advocacy group”): $359,000

Education Writers Association: $175,000

Educators for Excellence (anti-union teachers, usually from TFA): $925,000

Families for Excellent Schools (hedge fund managers who lobby for charter schools in New York City and Massachusetts): $6.4 million

Foundation for Excellence in Education (Jeb Bush’s organization): $3 million

High Tech High Graduate School of Education (this one stumped me; how can a high school run a graduate school of education?): $780,000

KIPP Foundation: $6.9 million

Leadership for Education Equity Foundation (this is TFA’s political organization that trains TFA to run for office): $5 million

Massachusetts Charter Public School Association (this funding preceded the referendum where the citizens of Massachusetts voted “no mas” to new charters): $850,000

National Public Radio: $1.1 million

National Urban League: $300,000

Pahara Institute: $832,000

Parent Revolution: $500,000

Relay Graduate School of Education (that pseudo-grad school with no professors, just charter teachers): $1 million

Schools That Can Milwaukee (Tough luck, the Working Families Party just swept the school board): $1.6 million

StudentsFirst Institute: $2.8 million

Teach for America (to supply scabs): $8 million

The New York Times: $350,000

Thomas B. Fordham Institute: $700,000

Urban Institute (supposedly an independent think tank in D.C.): $350,000

To be fair, in another part of the grants report, called Special Projects, the Walton Family Foundation donated $112,404 to the Bentonville Public Schools and $25,000 to the Bentonville Public Schools Foundation, in the town where the Waltons are located. Compare that to the $179 million for charters and choice, and you get the picture of what matters most.

Four new members joined the “Chiefs for Change,” which was established by Jeb Bush to promote school choice, charters, vouchers, online charter schools, the Common Core, and high-stakes testing. School choice has been shown to promote segregation, but that probably will not be a topic of discussion at the next meeting or any future meeting. Nor is there likely to be much attention to the many reports about the poor results obtained by virtual charters. Perhaps they might discuss the continuing lack of any evidence for the success of vouchers. Or the many charters that are low-performing and how they should be held accountable.

 

The new members include Carey Wright, state superintendent of Mississippi; Malika Anderson, Superintendent of the Achievement School District in Tennessee; Steve Canavero, Superintendent of Public Instruction in Nevada; and Lewis D. Ferebee, Superintendent of Indianapolis Public Schools.

Politico.com reports that the Council of Chief State School Officers is partnering with Chiefs for Change, the group created by Jeb Bush to promote school choice, digital learning, and high-stakes testing, as well as Achieve, one of the groups that created the Common Core standards, to help states make the transition to ESSA. I can’t confirm which state superintendents belong to Chiefs for Change because its website is down.

 

Mercedes Schneider wrote that the Gates Foundation recently gave $15.4 million to CCSSO, so you can see where this “assistance” is going.

 

 

FIRST LOOK: GROUPS TO HELP WITH ESSA TRANSITION: The Council of Chief State School Officers is partnering up with a number of groups in a new initiative this year to help states transition to the Every Student Succeeds Act. The group is teaming up with Chiefs for Change, Achieve and Ed Counsel to help states design new accountability systems, for example. A working group of state chiefs and district leaders will do a deep dive into the accountability design process, looking at “their vision for school improvement in their state, the systems they need to achieve that and the strategies they need to do it,” Chiefs for Change CEO Mike Magee told Morning Education. Former Tennessee Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman has also been tapped as a consultant for the new initiative. CCSSO said the groups hope to provide sample accountability models and best practices for states. And they’ll be holding meetings and conference calls with states in the coming months to provide guidance and feedback as states develop new accountability frameworks.

 

 

– CCSSO will also work with states in its Innovation Lab Network [http://bit.ly/1m4RI8C ] – like California, Kentucky and New Hampshire – to share ideas and best practices to help states that may be looking to participate in new innovative assessment pilots under ESSA. And CCSSO hopes to work with states as they refine – and possibly look to change – teacher evaluation systems under the new law.

Eli Broad has recruited Paul Pastorek, former state superintendent in Louisiana, to lead his effort to privatize the schools of 50% of the children now in public schools in Los Angeles.

Pastorek oversaw the elimination of public education in Néw Orleans. He was also a member of Jeb Bush’s far-right “Chiefs for Change,” a group dedicated to high-stakes testing and privatization.

In his new post, he will press for the elimination of many public schools.

“Few issues have roiled the LA Unified community more than the foundation’s plan to expand the number of charter schools in the district. An early report by the foundation said the goal is to serve as many as half the students in the district in 230 newly-created charter schools within the next eight years, an effort that would cost nearly half a billion dollars.

“It’s also a plan that district officials have said would eviscerate public education as it is now delivered by LA Unified. The LA teachers union, UTLA, has also attacked the plan as part of the Broads’ latest effort to “privatize” public education at the cost of union teaching jobs.”