Archives for category: Closing schools

Deborah Meier, one of the great education thinkers of our time, says we were duped.

The corporate reformers stole the good words like “reform” and “choice,” to cover their intentions. They borrowed language from the civil rights movement but not its noble goals.

What do they want?

Bust the unions.

Make money.

Their favorite vehicle: charter schools.

She writes:

“However, the idea of Charter Schools opened the eyes and ears of folks with quite different intentions. They saw that there was money to be made right and left and center. Buildings were “sold off” for nothing or nearly nothing. Public funds were used to start schools whose principals and leaders were paid a half million and more for being the principal” or “superintendent.” Publishing companies and private tech companies saw $$$$$ everywhere. By the time we wake up to what is happening we will no longer have a public education system in reality. Some charters will be legit—truly serving public purposes with public money and boards made up of educators, community members, etc. But most will be in the hands of folks with no other connection to the schools they “serve” than they have to anything else stockholders have—how much money can be made off of this! Meanwhile… that their revolutionary ideas will have demonstrated no significant improvement in the situation facing America’s poor children in terms of test scores is just fine without them.

“They did this with language resonating with the valiant words of “borrowed” from the civil rights movement. Except they seemed to have left out terms like “equal funding” or “integration.” They did it despite the cost to teachers of color, to public unions which Martin Luther King Jr. died defending. And on and on. They did this by adopting noble words (mea culpa) like choice and autonomy and self-governance and small scale and on and on. They did this by playing with data to confuse our judgment.

“Shame on us for being duped.”

Parents in Newark have rallied to save their schools from the hostile corporate takeover planned by the Chris Christie administration and (typically) given the deceptive name “One Newark.”

Parents in equally beleaguered Camden, New Jersey, know that they are next in the line of fire.

This post, by a Camden resident, expresses their fear, frustration, and outrage as the state lays the groundwork to privatize their schools.

Their only hope at this point is legislative intervention to stop the assault on their community.

Veteran journalist Bob Braun cites a report by New Jersey’s Education Law Center that the planned school closings in Newark may well be illegal.

Superintendent Cami Anderson, appointed by the Chris Christie Administration, plans to close as many as half the city’s public schools and turn the students over to charter corporations.

The Education Law Center cites the lack of compliance with state laws governing facilities planning as reason to believe that Anderson’s proposal is illegal.

Furthermore, a law to block school closings without local approval is moving through the state senate.

Corporate reform just hit another obstacle in Newark.

From a New Jersey public school activist:

“I am very happy to report that the Stop Forced Public School Closures legislation sailed through the Senate Ed Committee with 4 yes votes and 1 abstention. This is no small feat. But we had a lot of grass-roots support and it worked!

Here’s a bit of the coverage.”

The Indiana State Teachers Association reports on a bill to privatize more public schools in Indianapolis. Privatization is not new. It is the theme song of the Obama administration in collaboration with libertarian think tanks and far-right governors.

What is new here is that the legislature is passing this plan with no evidence that it will benefit children or improve education. No, wait, there IS. Evidence. The evidence shows that all such turnovers have failed. This is faith-based policy.

The House Education Committee passed HB 1321 (Rep. Bob Behning, R-Indianapolis) 9-4 along party lines.

The bill gives the IPS School Board power to enter into contracts with “special management teams” (i.e. outside vendors) to create “innovation schools,” formerly called under the bill “portfolio schools.” These terms are simply euphemisms for takeover schools.

HB 1321 is being pushed and supported by the IPS Superintendent Lewis Ferebee and IPS school board, Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard, Stand for Children, and the Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce.

It is being promoted as an opportunity for collaboration between the school board and charter schools in exchange for “flexibility” with IPS schools earning a grade of D or F. However, the chief bit of flexibility the bill focuses in on is the elimination of teacher rights and input. The superintendent talked about best practices and teacher buy-in, yet his bill models neither.

The main talking points against this bill are:

The IPS School Board was elected and the IPS Superintendent was hired to operate the schools in their school district—not pay middlemen to do their work.

The performance record of these outside private companies taking over schools in this state has been a failure—all 5 schools that have been taken over (now in their 3rd year of operation) remain “F” schools (4 in IPS, 1 in Gary). Taxpayers have paid millions of dollars so far to these companies with no discernible return.

Blaming teachers and their unions is a cop-out and indefensible: in 2011, the General Assembly narrowed bargaining and discussion topics and timelines and created new teacher evaluation and due process laws heavily favoring school employers. It is clear that the intent is to make these teachers “at will” employees.

HB 1321 is an insult to teachers working in some of the most challenging schools in the state and “giving away” students and teachers in these schools is shameful.

David Sciarra of the Education Law Center in Néw Jersey wrote this description of a legislative proposal that would slow or stop school closings in state-controlled districts such as Newark. The key change is that schools may not be closed without the approval of the local board.

Sciarra writes:

NJ Parents Push New Bill to Regulate School Closings

The wave of school closings continues to sweep across the nation, primarily in low income communities. In New Jersey, the State-operated Newark district closed schools last year and has proposed another round for 2014. Camden, another State-operated district, is likely to follow suit. In Newark, one shuttered school was sold to the KIPP charter group, and the State wants to let charters operate other Newark public schools after they’re shut down.

With support from parents and advocates, a bill to regulate school closings was recently introduced in the NJ Legislature, sponsored by Senator Ron Rice (D-Newark) and Assemblywomen Bonnie Watson-Coleman (D-Trenton).

The bill codifies and strengthens existing NJ Education Department rules requiring the State Commissioner of Education sign off before a district can close a school. To obtain State approval under the bill, a district has to demonstrate:

1) The closing is consistent with the district’s State-mandated facilities plan and will not result in overcrowding or the use of temporary space in the remaining schools

2) If the school is being closed to make way for constructing a new school, the benefits of new construction outweigh rehabilitating the school slated for closure

3) The reassignment of students to other schools will not “produce, sustain, or contribute to the unlawful segregation of student populations on the basis of race, socio-economic status, disability or English-language proficiency” and does not impose unreasonable transportation burdens on students and families.

4) The district’s school board approves the closing, including the school boards in State-operated districts

Board approval in State-run districts is crucial, since school closings and charter school expansion have emerged as a key strategy in Newark, Camden and Paterson under Governor Chris Christie and Commissioner Chris Cerf. Under existing law, the school boards of these districts, while elected, are advisory, with no binding voting power. This bill creates an exception, authorizing boards in these communities to decide whether to close neighborhood public schools.

The bill is pending in the NJ Legislature. Parents and public school advocates are pressing to have the legislation move forward.

Closing a neighborhood school is a dramatic step, one that has serious short and long term impacts on students, families and neighborhoods. School closings can shred the very fabric of the public education system in disadvantaged communities. This legislation provides critical safeguards to ensure these decisions are based on sound reasons, with community support, and only as a last resort.

David G. Sciarra, Executive Director
Education Law Center
60 Park Place, Suite 300
Newark, NJ 07102
973-624-1815, ext. 16
973-624-7339 (fax)

The five Newark principals who were suspended for daring to question Superintendent Cami Anderson’s plan to close their schools have sued her for violating their First Amendment rights. They were joined by a Parent-TeCher organization whose president was barred from his child’s school.

Anderson was appointed by Governor Chris Christie’s administration.

Newark has an elected school board but has been under state control since 1995.

Mark NAISON writes here about the Obama administration’s determination to destroy public education in urban centers.

In city after city, public education is dying, replaced by privately-managed schools that do not get higher test scores except by excluding or kicking out low-scoring students. Many urban schools have been taken over by for-profit chains.

In education, this will be the legacy of Arne Duncan and the Obama administration: the death of public schools in Detroit, Philadelphia, Kansas City, Indianapolis, and many other cities.

The greatest hope for the survival of public education is the election of Bill de Blasio in New York City, who will quietly reverse the damaging policies imposed by Bloomberg and favored by Duncan, and the election of a new school board in Pittsburgh, which canceled a contract to bring in inexperienced temps as teachers (TFA).

Bob Braun reports that three of the Newark principals who spoke against school closings were reinstated, and two were assigned to the central office.

The national reaction to Anderson’s “indefinite suspension” of the five may have led to the reinstatement of the three. It seems they did nothing worse than disagree with the plan to close down public education in a substantial part of Newark, which violated their principles.

The state-appointed superintendent for Newark, Cami Anderson, plans to privatize one-third of Newark’s public schools. The public, which has had no voice in school policy since 1995, reacted with outrage.

Legislation was introduced in the state legislature to stop the school closings.

The mayoral candidate leading the fight against the closings, Ras Baraka, is ahead in the polls.

Chris Christie’s efforts to hand the public schools over to private charter operators has hit some speed bumps and may eventually run into a brick wall if the state legislature supports the people of Newark.

EduShyster tells a sad story of the utter irresponsibility and–oh, I can’t think of a better word than “idiocy”–of Massachsetts officials.

Local and state officials are “turning around” Néw Bedford High School by firing half the teachers.

“Ahoy, matey! That great looming specter in the distance is not a mighty white whale but New Bedford High School being turned upside down and shaken till 50% of its teachers fall out. School turnaround time has come to this scenic, hard-scrabble seaport and our trusty state education captains have launched a full sail operation to convince New Bedford residents that throwing half of the high school’s teachers overboard is the only way to reach the distant shores of Excellence. But are the captains on a fool’s errand that could end up capsizing the ship of public education in the Whaling City?”

What they do not admit is that such actions have failed everywhere else. What they do not admit is that the most successful turnaround was Brockton High School, where no one was fired but the school instead collaborated on literacy across all subjects.

So what gives?

Faddishness. Bad policy. Slavish devotion to Race to the Top’s failed remedies. Maybe some consultants making a bundle to “turnaround” the school by firing everyone, whether it makes sense or not.

When will we see an end to this nonsensical charade?


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