Archives for category: Closing schools

President-Elect announced that Bruce Reed will be his Deputy Chief of Staff. This is alarming news, though not surprising. Reed previously served as Biden’s chief of staff when he was vice president. The toxic Broad Foundation gave grants to some of Betsy DeVos’s favorite causes.

This report from TYT (The Young Turks) describes why we should keep a close watch on Reed. He is not a friend of public schools. The Broad Foundation has spent many millions of dollars underwriting charter schools and funding campaigns for candidates who oppose public schools. Eli Broad has tried to buy control of LAUSD to replace more public schools with charters.

Reed has been an outspoken proponent of charter schools for decades, championing their rise inside the Clinton White House, where he led the Domestic Policy Council. But although Reed has publicly drawn the line at for-profit charter schools and vouchers, the Broad Foundation funded organizations that support both. 

Reed also frowned on community, or “mom-and-pop” charter schools, telling the Los Angeles Times in 2014, “There are high-quality charter management organizations that do extraordinary work.” He said, “School districts have made the mistake of thinking they know best.”

Pressed about Eli Broad’s controversial donations to pro-charter candidates for Los Angeles school boards, Reed said, “My general experience with political elected bodies is that the odds of them being thoughtful and well informed are never very good.”

It’s not clear how involved Reed was in directing the foundation’s funds, but in his L.A. Times interview, Reed named some of his allies. “We’re looking to partner with other like-minded foundations — Bloomberg, Gates, Walton, the Emerson Collective,” he said. (The Emerson Collective is a project of Laurene Powell Jobs.)

Reed did not name Dick and Betsy DeVos, but they had spent years building alliances with Democrats interested in education reform. Eli Broad, a Democrat, had sat alongside Dick DeVos on the Children’s Scholarship Fund advisory board co-chaired by John Walton. And although Broad in 2017 publicly opposed DeVos’s nomination to lead the Dept. of Education under Trump, he and Reed were backing her groups just a couple years before. 

DeVos Connections

The Broad Foundation had already been funding groups tied to the DeVos family when Reed came on board in November 2013. 

The Alliance for School Choice, for instance, was an early proponent of charter schools, including for-profits. A partner of Betsy DeVos’s American Federation for Children, the Alliance’s founding board included both her and Walton.

According to In These Times, the two groups were “at the center of the pro-privatization movement.” One of the Alliance’s first project directors, James Blew, is now DeVos’s assistant secretary for planning, evaluation, and policy development.

Soon after the Alliance launched, the DeVoses reached out to Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), who was then a Newark City Council member. Booker joined the group and found common cause with the DeVoses. The board has also included Carrie Walton Penner, the Walton Family Foundation chair who was reportedly close to Hillary Clinton.

Rob Schofield of North Carolina Policy Watch lives in a state taken over by the Tea Party, who are intent on selling off whatever they can to private industry.

We have fallen victim to corporate propaganda and allowed the corporate foxes into our henhouses.

He has written a brilliant article about what we are losing as our public sector is diminished and privatized. Americans who are concerned about our culture and our society should join the fight against the privatization of everything.

Something strange happened in my neighborhood the other day. It was a warm and pleasant Thursday – the day on which a city sanitation truck arrives each week to empty the trash bins.

The truck just didn’t come.

A couple of days later, another equally strange thing occurred: Our postal carrier didn’t make it to our neighborhood.

There were no holidays that I’d missed and no readily discoverable public explanations for the lapses.

Of course, neither of these developments was completely unprecedented. In the past, during hurricanes and snowstorms, such services have occasionally been interrupted. And neither was a life and death matter. The trash truck finally arrived a few days later and our mailbox was fairly stuffed the next day.

My guess/fear was that COVID might have taken a toll on the local sanitation team. And we all know of the struggles the U.S. Postal Service has been enduring.

But, in both instances – modest and unexplained failures in two core public services that have been utterly reliable for decades – there was something disquieting and noteworthy.

There was a time in our country – not that long ago – in which top-notch public services and structures were not just taken for granted, but widely accepted as points of common civic pride. Almost all Americans knew of the U.S. Postal Service motto: “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.”

Public schools and city halls often featured architecturally impressive buildings that served as important community hubs and gathering places. And public service employment – as a teacher, an employee of a state administrative agency, or yes, a postal worker or a trash truck driver – was widely viewed as an honorable and respectable middle-class career.

Today, it seems, our attitudes and expectations have been altered by a half-century of relentless and cynical messaging from conservative politicians, media outlets and think tanks that has helped set in motion a kind of vicious cycle.

First, government services and structures are demonized as inherently corrupt, inefficient and “the problem.”

Next, politicians demand that these structures and services operate “more efficiently” – “like a business” – so that taxes can be reduced.

After that – not surprisingly given the fact that most private businesses in a capitalist economy fail – numerous public structures and services (like schools, transportation, parks and even mail delivery and trash services) struggle to fulfill their missions.

After that, the whole cycle is repeated again and again until, at some point – especially in moments of crisis and extra stress like, say, a health pandemic – structures and services simply start to crumble and even fade away.

We’re witnessing this phenomenon play out right now in our public schools in North Carolina – particularly in some smaller and mid-sized counties, where the relentless pressure brought on by a decade of budget cuts, privatization (i.e. competition from voucher and charter schools that’s siphoning off families of means), and now the pandemic, is posing what amounts to an existential threat.

Last week, a former school board member in Granville County told Policy Watch education reporter Greg Childress that the public school system there has entered something akin to a death spiral in response to these pressures.

Reports from other counties sound disturbingly similar.

Meanwhile, in New Hanover County, a recent story in the Port City Daily paints a sobering, if familiar, portrait of how performance in that county’s system has been badly damaged by the resegregation that has followed in the wake of the county’s decision to, in effect, heed “market forces” – in this case, the demand of more affluent, mostly white families for “neighborhood schools.”

And so it goes for many other public structures and services as well.

From our torn and threadbare mental health system to our eviscerated environmental protection structures to our frequently overwhelmed courts, prisons and jails to our dog-eared parks and highway rest stops, the destructive cycle of reduced services and disinvestment continues to repeat itself.

All we lack right at present is the awareness, imagination and will to make it happen.

Carol Burris wrote the following post. Marla Kilfoyle provided assistance. They asked me to add that there are dozens more exceptionally well qualified people who should be considered for this important post: they are career educators who believe in public education, not closing schools or privatization.

The media has been filled with speculation regarding Joe Biden’s pick for Secretary of Education. Given the attention that position received with Betsy De Vos at the helm, that is not a surprise. 

In 2008, Linda Darling Hammond was pushed aside by DFER (Democrats for Education Reform) for Arne Duncan, with disastrous consequences for our public schools. Race to the Top was a disaster. New Orleans’ parents now have no choice but unstable charter schools. Too many of Chicago’s children no longer have a neighborhood school from the Race to the Top era when it was believed that you improved a school by closing it.

But the troubling, ineffective policies of the past have not gone away. Their banner is still being carried by deep-pocketed ed reformers who believe the best way to improve a school is to close it or turn it over to a private charter board. 

Recently, DFER named its three preferred candidates for the U.S. Secretary of Education. DFER is a political action committee (PAC) associated with Education Reform Now, which, as Mercedes Schneider has shown, has ties to Betsy De Vos. DFER congratulated Betsy DeVos and her commitment to charter schools when Donald Trump appointed her.  They are pro-testing and anti-union. DFER is no friend to public schools.

The DFER candidates belong to Jeb Bush’s Chiefs for Change, an organization that promotes Bush/Duncan education reform, as Jan Resseger describes here. “Chiefs for Change,” you support school choice, even if it drains resources from the public schools in your district, of which you are the steward. In their recent letter to President BidenChiefs for Change specifically asked for a continuance of the Federal Charter School Program, which has wasted approximately one billion dollars on charters that either never open or open and close. They also asked for the continuance of accountability systems (translate close schools based on test results) even as the pandemic rages.

We must chart a new course. We cannot afford to take a chance on another Secretary of Education who believes in the DFER/Chiefs for Change playbook. 

We don’t have to settle. The bench of pro-public education talent is deep. Here are just a few of the outstanding leaders that come to mind who could lead the U.S. Department of Education. Marla Kilfoyle and I came up with the following list. There are many more. 

Tony Thurmond is the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, California. Tony deeply believes in public schools. Prior to becoming his state’s education leader, he was a public school educator, social worker, and a public school parent. His personal story is both moving and compelling. 

Betty Rosa dedicated most of her adult life to the students of New York City.  She began her career as a bi-lingual paraprofessional in NYC schools, became a teacher, assistant principal, principal, superintendent, state chancellor, and now New York State’s interim commissioner. 

Other outstanding superintendents include Joylynn Pruitt -Adams, the Superintendent of Oak Park and River Forest in Illinois, who is relentlessly determined to provide an excellent education to the district’s Black and Latinx high school students by eliminating low track classes, Mike Matsuda, Superintendent of Anaheim High School District and Cindy Marten, the superintendent of San Diego.  

Two remarkable teachers with legislative experience who are strong advocates for public schools and public school students are former Teacher of the Year Congresswoman Jahana Hayes and former Arkansas state senator Joyce Elliot

There is also outstanding talent in our public colleges. There are teachers and leaders like University of Kentucky College of Education Dean, Julian Vasquez Heilig, who would use research to inform policy decisions.  

These are but a few of the dedicated public school advocates who would lead the Department in a new direction away from test and punish policies and school privatization. They are talented and experienced leaders who are dedicated to improving and keeping our public schools public and who realize that you don’t improve schools by shutting them down. Any DFER endorsed member of Chiefs for Change is steeped in the failed school reform movement and will further public school privatization through choice. They had their chance. That time has passed. 

 

 

With the upsurge in the coronavirus, the U.S. and Europe are facing new shutdowns to stop the disease. But there is one big difference. European nations are keeping their schools open, as schools in the U.S. close.

London (CNN) Late last month, Ireland entered a strict, six-week lockdown against the spread of Covid-19, under which social gatherings are prohibited, exercise permitted only within five kilometers of the home, and bars and restaurants closed.

But as he announced the new restrictions, Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Micheál Martin emphasized that schools and childcare facilities should stay open. “This is necessary because we cannot and will not allow our children and young people’s futures to be another victim of his disease. They need their education,” Martin said.

There has been a similar story in many European countries including Germany, France and England, which made it their mission to keep in-person learning going, even as they imposed strict measures to combat the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic.

 In contrast, major cities in the United States, including Detroit, Boston and Philadelphia, are shutting schools and moving classes online in a bid to stave off rising infection rates.

New York City schools may close as soon as Monday.

“There are rates of infection at which is too dangerous to keep schools open, and that has happened in a number of places in Europe,” Anthony Staines, professor of Health Systems at Dublin City University, told CNN.But he said that the major response should be “effective, highly resourced public health.”

“Schools do spread this virus, but they’re not a major route of spread,” he added.

Staines said it was appropriate for different places to employ different measures “because their economic situation is different, the spread of the virus is different.” Israel, for example, faced major outbreaks linked to schools.

School closures “may be part of a response for a period of time” but “with appropriate knowledge, information and understanding, closing schools is not required,” he added.”European countries have made a choice, I suppose, that trying to keep schools open is very important…”

France and England entered month-long second national lockdowns on October 28 and November 4 respectively. In both countries, non-essential businesses, restaurants and bars have closed, with residents only allowed to leave home for work, medical reasons, exercise or grocery shopping.

One key difference from the spring lockdowns in these two countries is that they have chosen to keep schools open.

Amanda Spielman, chief education inspector at UK education watchdog Ofsted, said in a report published this week that the decision to keep schools open during England’s second lockdown was “very good news indeed.” 

“The impact of school closures in the summer will be felt for some time to come — and not just in terms of education, but in all the ways they impact on the lives of young people,” she said.

The Ofsted report, published on Tuesday, found that some children had seriously regressed because of school closures earlier in the year and restricted movement.

It found that younsters without good support structures had in some cases lost key skills in numeracy, reading and writing. Some had even forgotten how to use a knife and fork, the report said. Some older children had lost physical fitness or were displaying signs of mental distress, with an increase in self-harm and eating disorders, while younger children had lapsed back into using diapers, it found.

Some children in Europe, the US and across the world have been missing schooling during the pandemic because of a lack of access to technology — and it’s hitting low-income students much harder.

Jeff Bryant warns parents not to be tempted by the advertisements or lures of charter schools.

He cites the report by the Network for Public Education showing that the shelf life of many charter schools is limited, and their futures are uncertain.

The report crunched nearly two decades of data and discovered that more than one in four charter schools closed after just five years. That’s less than the number of years it takes for a typical kindergartner to complete elementary school.

After 10 years, 40% of charter schools were shuttered; after 15 years, that rate rose to about 50%.

And the number of students impacted by charter school closures is considerable. According to the report, from 1999 to 2017, more than 867,000 students were displaced when their charter school closed. That figure is likely closer to 1 million students, if data from charter school closures between 1995 and 1998, as well as 2017 to 2019, were added to the analysis.

Privately managed charters are a market mechanism, like shoe stores and restaurants. Some succeed, some don’t. Buyer, beware.

The Economist Magazine has a feature that calculates the likely outcome of the American presidential election. After a week of theTrump Convention, studded with lies and boasts, this was a quick picker-upper.

In this article that appeared in Forbes, Peter Greene reviews the implications of the Network for Public Education’s report of charter school closures.

When parents choose a charter school for their child, they are gambling that the school will be around for another three or four years or longer. The odds are not good.

He writes:

Within the first three years, 18% of charters had closed, with many of those closures occurring within the first year. By the end of five years, 25% of charters had closed. By the ten year mark, 40% of charters had closed. Of the 17 cohorts, five had been around for fifteen years; within those, roughly half of all charter schools had closed (anywhere from 47% to 54%). Looked at side by side, the cohort results are fairly steady; the failure rates have not been increasing or decreasing over the years.

Charter advocates have often argued that charter churn is a feature, not a bug, simply a sign that market forces are working and that weaker schools are being sloughed off. But the NPE report notes that these closures represent at least 867,000 students who “found themselves emptying their lockers for the last time—sometimes in the middle of a school year—as their school shutters its door for good…

Charter supporters may argue that this is all just the market working itself out, but that’s hardly a comfort to parents who must go through shopping, application, enrollment and adjustment to the new school yet again. As the report acknowledges, there are charter schools doing some excellent work out there, but for parents, enrolling a child in a charter school—particularly a new one—is a bit of a risk. It’s one thing to see market forces work in a sector such as restaurants, where new businesses come and go and very few go the distance; if you discover that your new favorite eatery has suddenly closed, it’s a minor inconvenience. It’s another things to see such instability in a sector that is supposed to provide stability and education for our youngest and most vulnerable citizens.

Josh Bell is a New York City public schools parent. He wrote this article for the New York Daily News. The article reminded me that New York City public school officials in the early 20th century conducted outdoor classes for students with tuberculosis.

He writes:

Last weekend, the city started closing down sections of dozens of busy streets for several blocks in all five boroughs so that restaurants could set up more tables outside. If the city can do this for dining, surely it can do the same for learning. Schoolyards and athletic fields, of which there are hundreds, could be repurposed as well.

It’s really not that complicated. Put up tents — the big ones used for weddings, with sides that roll down for bad weather — add desks, chairs and a whiteboard, and boom: you just made a classroom. The bonus is that air circulation would be much better than indoor classrooms, a major concern for teachers and parents alike.

For schools with already adjacent outdoor space, and there are many, a big part of the solution is already on their doorsteps. And just think of how much street space there is on one block with no parked cars: It’s thousands of square feet. The classrooms could be separated with simple dividers.

In parks and elsewhere, we had field hospitals when we thought we needed them to treat a coronavirus surge. Why not field schools?

Brilliant.

Outdoor classrooms would be a snap in regions with mild weather. As Josh Bell points out, they would work anywhere.

The healthiest place to be is in the open air.

David Pettiette is a CPA who volunteered at a KIPP elementary school in Memphis. He was shocked when two KIPP schools suddenly closed their doors and left their families scrambling for a new school.

He wrote:

In April, it was announced that KIPP Memphis Preparatory Elementary and KIPP Memphis Preparatory Middle on Corry Road would be permanently closing without notice. Between the two schools, over 650 students have been displaced without so much as a plan or opportunity to rebut the decision.

The decision to close a school in an underserved community is not uncommon. It is however a decision that is typically given six months to a year’s notice, not April of the current school year. The Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP) is the largest network of public charter schools in the nation, with several schools in Memphis. With that size apparently comes unprecedented autonomy considering the schools’ primary funding is local and state money.

In an effort to limit bad press, KIPP offered a Q&A conference call to address the school closures so that the community’s voices could be heard. However, this session, which did not provide any A’s or responses from KIPP, was yet another unthoughtful decision made by the organization and proved to be an unsuitable forum.

Many families had trouble accessing the call due to technical difficulties generated from the third-party conferencing system used. The call itself went just about as you’d expect. It opened with two pre-recorded statements from KIPP’s board of directors and regional team, which were both vague and painfully insincere.

The comments from parents and staff were anxious, frustrated and morose –a wide variety of emotions. While listening to the call, I couldn’t help but think that the occasion warranted a more personal approach.

In reality, KIPP gave up. They gave up on their students, families, faculty and staff after only a few years of operation. Make no mistake, this was a financial decision that is inequitable to the historic Alcy Ball community in South Memphis.

KIPP cited a “failure to fulfill academic promise” which resulted in the closures, and the only excuse provided for the late notice was that they did not want to mislead the schools’ key stakeholders regarding their future.

This was a cheap and inaccurate shot at the integrity of the teachers and faculty, who spent money out of their own pockets to make sure that their students were adequately clothed, fed and supplied.

At the end of the day this decision is not what is best for the kids, who should have been KIPP’s only focus throughout this whole process. The situation is awful, but the approach was worse. If there is anyone looking for a textbook example of institutional racism, look no further.

The Network for Public Education has sponsored a series of weekly ZOOM conversations in which I interview someone who has important things to say.

On Wednesday, I interviewed Jitu Brown, a prominent community organizer in Chicago and leader of the Journey for Justice Alliance, which has organizations in thirty cities.

When we set up the discussion, we thought we would talk mostly about privatization and Jitu Brown’s successful fight to save the Walter H. Dyett High School in Chicago. Jitu Brown is one of the heroes of my new book SLAYING GOLIATH, for his success in stopping Rahm Emanuel from closing Dyett.

These topics were discussed but the main focus was on the murder of George Floyd and racism in America. Jitu Brown has quite a lot to say about racism, in large part because of his experiences. We also talked about a Rahm Emanuel, and his disastrous role in running the public schools as mayor of Chicago.

Listeners said it was a “riveting” conversation.

Listen and see for yourself.

Next week, I will talk with Amy Frogge, a great leader of the resistance to privatization in Metro Nashville. She is a member of the Metro Nashville public school board, as well as a parent of public school students and a lawyer.

She too is a hero of SLAYING GOLIATH for her leadership in defending public schools.

We will talk about “The Fight for Better Public Schools in Tennessee.” The billionaires and their puppet organizations have poured many millions into school board races in an effort to capture control of the district. Amy has fought valiantly against proponents of charters and vouchers.

This is a battle that is being played out in urban districts across the nation.

Join us on Zoom on June 10 at 7:30 pm, EST.