Archives for category: Corporate Reform

John Thompson is a historian and a retired teacher, who blogs often, here and on other blogs. He has keen insight into what’s happening in Oklahoma.

He writes:

Since 2015, the Tulsa Public Schools have cut $22 million from its budget, even dipping into its reserve fund to balance the books. Now it must cut another $20 million.

Given the huge support for the TPS by local and national edu-philanthropists, patrons should ask why it faces such a crisis, even after the state has started to restore funding. Despite the assistance of the outcome-driven Billionaires Boys Club, the TPS has lost 5,000 students, especially to the suburbs and online charters. But that raises the question of why Chief for Change Superintendent Deborah Gist and her staff of Broad Academy administrators have produced such awful outcomes.

https://www.gkff.org/what-we-do/parent-engagement-early-education/prek-12-education/

After a series of community meeting, Gist recommended school closures designed to save $2 to 3 million. Gist also seeks $3 million in saving by increasing class sizes. Then, Gist proposed $13 to 14 million in cuts to district office administrators.

It’s great that most of the burden will be carried by the central office. But that raises the question why the district has such a well-funded administration.

Even though the Oklahoma press wouldn’t dare ask what the corporate reform-subsidized administration has accomplished, Tulsans should ask why the district in near the nation’s bottom in student performance from 3rd to 8th grades. Why does it have more emergency certified and inexperienced teachers than other districts after being awarded Gates Foundation “teacher quality” grants?

https://www.tulsaworld.com/news/local/education/tulsa-public-schools-patrons-weigh-in-on-million-budget-cut/article_fecdcb9d-f914-578c-913a-433ecb90d7b7.html

Participants in the recent community engagement process “were most willing to make budget reductions related to student transportation and bell times, teacher leadership opportunities, building utilization and district office services.” Perhaps as a repudiation of the Gates Foundation’s experiment, cutting teacher coaches was the recommendation that received the most votes. Tulsans were most protective of teacher pay, class sizes, and social-emotional learning and behavioral supports.

The fear is that closures and increased class sizes will result in more patrons leaving the district. Community participants also expressed concerns that closures will lead to more charter schools. The Tulsa World’s report on community meetings noted the worries of a parent, Wanda Coggburn:

Many shared Coggburn’s suspicion of a charter school taking over Jones or the other targeted elementary school buildings. But Gist said the needs of the six TPS-sponsored charter schools did not factor into the recommendation to close the schools.

The World also reported the fears of parents with disabilities. The parents of a child who has cerebral palsy and a developmental delay that causes behavioral issues say he was moved from a special education to a general education class against their wishes, and “they worry that adding more students would hinder his progress even further.”

Betty Casey of TulsaKids also describes the protests of parents whose deaf children attend Wright Elementary, which the superintendent wants to close. She talked with a mom who said of Wright:

She fears that it will be given to Collegiate Hall Academy, a charter school which currently shares space with Marshall Elementary. She wants her child to continue at Wright, not a charter school. She pointed out that Marshall has two gyms and a swimming pool currently not being used that could be put to use by public school students. Why not close College Bound Academy and put those students in Wright and Marshall? Closing a small charter school without a building would be much less disruptive.

https://www.tulsaworld.com/news/local/education/tulsa-s-jones-elementary-school-was-closed-once-before-and/article_2a08579f-2236-5bb8-b2a5-feb9db156682.html
https://www.tulsakids.com/where-does-tps-find-20-million/

Why would patrons have such fears? Maybe it’s because Gist responded to a question about a closed building saying “she’s confident the growing TPS-sponsored charter schools are interested in the potential space and are closely watching this process.”

I previously said that the traditional press hasn’t dared to investigate the results of corporate reform in Tulsa. However, Ms. Casey’s TulsaKids is a parents’ magazine that asks the questions that journalists have ducked. She recently wrote:

Why is it that when public schools are starved, and resources are stretched to the breaking point, that TPS is supporting a parallel school system of charters that drain more resources from the public schools? … The savings in closing schools is a drop in the bucket, but once the school is closed, it’s very difficult to go backward. Didn’t the superintendent say she was going to try to draw families back to TPS? Where will those returning families put their children? If Wright becomes a College Bound Charter, the families who wish to remain at a neighborhood school will have only one “choice” of a charter school.

Casey further explains:

I’m glad that Superintendent Gist has vowed to interview all the families leaving TPS. But, it seems a little late to wonder why people are leaving as they walk out the door. Why not work to create public schools that families love right now? …

Maybe it’s time to look at the “reforms” being implemented by the superintendent, and prior to that, Dr. Ballard’s acceptance of Gate’s Foundation money (MAP testing), and admit that those changes aren’t working for our kids, and families are leaving as a result.

https://www.tulsakids.com/where-does-tps-find-20-million/

Perhaps you have been confused by the proliferation of organizations that claim to be all about fixing schools and teachers. Perhaps you can’t figure out who is who in the galaxy of billionaire-funded world of fake reformers.

Buy this reference book! It names names! It is the glossary you have been waiting for!

EDSPEAK AND DOUBLETALK: A Glossary to Decipher Hypocrisy and Save Public Schooling.

It was written by Nancy Bailey and me. It is published by Teachers College Press. Not only does it have a definitive deconstruction of reform blarney and baloney, but it will be continuously updated online as the billionaires spin out new AstroTurf groups and impose new fads and terrible ideas on the schools and the teaching profession.

Confession: Nancy and I have never met face to face. We met by reading each other’s commentaries about the fraudulent language now current in education. We emailed. I invited her to help me rewrite “Edspeak,” a now dated and obsolete glossary that I had published in 2006. She threw herself and her deep classroom experience into the task. I was the beneficiary of her wisdom and her keen eye for phoniness.

All of the royalties from the sale of the book will be donated to the Network for Public Education. Nancy and I look forward to meeting at the NPE conference in Philadelphia in late March.

The New York Times reports that the Sackler family, one of the nation’s wealthiest families, busily transferred assets to themselves as the opioid crisis worsened

The Sacklers derived most of their billions from Purdue Pharma, prominent manufacturer and marketer of Oxycontin.

Jonathan Sackler is a major supporter of charter schools. He underwrote charter schools in Connecticut, created ConnCAN, then 50CAN, and the many state affiliates of that group. At this very moment, GeorgiaCAN is pushing charters on the receptive Atlanta school board (whose president is ex-TFA).

The Times reports:

As scrutiny of Purdue Pharma’s role in the opioid epidemic intensified during the past dozen years, its owners, members of the Sackler family, withdrew more than $10 billion from the company, distributing it among trusts and overseas holding companies, according to a new audit commissioned by Purdue.

The amount is more than eight times what the family took out of the company in the 13 years after OxyContin, its signature product, was approved in 1995. The audit is likely to renew questions about how much the Sacklers should pay to resolve more than 2,800 lawsuits that seek to hold Purdue accountable for the opioid crisis.

The family has offered to contribute at least $3 billion in cash as part of a settlement to resolve thousands of lawsuits brought by state and local governments against Purdue. But 24 states, led by Massachusetts and New York, have refused to sign onto the agreement, arguing that the Sacklers should pay more.

The new report, a 350-page forensic accounting prepared by Alix Partners, a consulting firm that Purdue has hired to help guide the company through Chapter 11 restructuring, was filed in bankruptcy court in White Plains, N.Y., Monday evening.

Sarah Darer Littman wrote about Jonathan Sackler’s long involvement in the charter school movement.

She says he brought his knowledge of marketing opioids to the charter school industry.

He is on the Board of Directors of the Achievement First charter school network. Until recently, Sackler served on the board of the New Schools Venture Fund, which invests in charter schools and advocates for their expansion. He was also on the board of the pro-charter advocacy group Students for Education Reform.

Through his personal charity, the Bouncer Foundation, Sackler donates to the abovementioned organizations, and an ecosystem of other charter school promoting entities, such as Families for Excellent Schools ($1,083,333 in 2014, $300,000 in 2015according to the Foundation’s Form 990s) Northeast Charter School Network ($150,000 per year in 2013, 2014 and 2015) and $275,000 to Education Reform Now (2015) and $200,000 (2015) to the Partnership for Educational Justice, the group founded by Campbell Brown which uses “impact litigation” to go after teacher tenure laws. Earlier this year, the Partnership for Educational Justice joined 50CAN, which Sackler also funds ($300,000 in 2014 and 2015), giving him a leadership role in the controversial—and so far failing cause—of weakening worker protections for teachers via the courts.

Just as Arthur Sackler founded the weekly Medical Tribune, to promote Purdue products to the medical professional who would prescribe them, Jon Sackler helps to fund the74million.org, the “nonpartisan” education news website founded by Campbell Brown. The site, which received startup funding from Betsy DeVos, decries the fact that “the education debate is dominated by misinformation and political spin,” yet is uniformly upbeat about charter schools while remarkably devoid of anything positive to say about district schools or teachers unions.

Charter chains are known for their lavish rallies, paid organizers, and “swag.”

These are techniques learned from the Sacklers and Purdue, writes Littman.

The description of “lavish swag” will sound familiar to anyone who has witnessed one of the no-expenses-spared charter school rallies that are a specialty of Sackler-funded organizations like Families for Excellent schools. Then there is the dizzying array of astroturf front groups all created for the purpose of demanding more charter schools. Just in Connecticut, we’ve had the Coalition for Every Child, A Better Connecticut, Fight for Fairness CT, Excel Bridgeport, and the Real Reform Now Network. All of these groups ostensibly claim to be fighting for better public schools for all children. In reality, they have been lobbying to promote charter schools, often running afoul of ethics laws in the process.

Take Families for Excellent Schools, a “grassroots” group that claims to be about parent engagement, yet was founded by major Wall Street players. In Connecticut, the group failed to register its Coalition for Every Child as a lobbying entity and report a multimillion-dollar ad buy expenditure and the costs of a rally in New Haven. 

In Massachusetts, Families for Excellent Schools-Advocacy (FESA) recently had to cough up more than $425,000 to the Massachusetts general fund as part of a legal settlement with the Office of Campaign and Political Finance, the largest civil forfeiture in the agency’s 44-year history. Massachusetts officials concluded that FESA violated the campaign finance law by receiving contributions from individuals and then contributing those funds to the Great Schools Massachusetts Ballot Question Committee, which sought to lift the cap on the number of charter schools in the state, in a manner intended to disguise the true source of the money. As part of the settlement, the group was ordered to reveal the names of its secret donors. Jonathan Sackler was one of them.

In addition, Purdue heiress Madeleine Sackler directed the pro-charter film “The Lottery” about Eva Moskowitz and her Success Academy charter chain.

The Sacklers have used their vast wealth, derived from the opioid crisis, to burnish their family reputation and to destroy public schools.

As the Times reports, they are doing their best to get their money out of the company before it is bankrupted by lawsuits.

 

 

 

Every blogger who has written about MSNBC’s Public Education Forum expressed gratitude that a big cable network paid attention to our most important democratic institution.

Nancy Bailey is angry about the issues that were ignored, the ones that threaten the future of students, teachers, and public education.

She is also streamed that the program was not on live TV. Public education not important enough for live TV? 50 million children are in public schools. They have parents. Quite an audience to overlook.

Good work, Nancy!

She writes (in part, read it all):

Candidates talked about making the wealthy pay their fair share of taxes to help schools, but no one mentioned Bill Gates, the Waltons, Eli Broad, Mark Zuckerberg or any of the corporate reformers who are taking control of public schools.

They didn’t mention Common Core or the failure of the initiatives funded by the Gates Foundation and taxpayers. Nor did they speak about portfolio schools, the latest corporate endeavor to push choice and charters.

No one mentioned using Social Impact Bonds or Pay for Success to profit off of public schools. See: “Wall Street’s new way of making money from public education — and why it’s a problem” by Valerie Strauss.

CEO Tom Steyer mentioned corporate influence towards the end, but it was brief, and no moderator attempted to explore what he said.

Ed-Tech

No one mentioned what might be the biggest threat to public education, the replacement of teachers and brick-and-mortar schools with technology.

Disruption was initially described by Clayton Christensen and Michael Horn in their book Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns. This is seen as the revolution by those in business and the tech industry and is being played out in online charter schools like Summit and Rocketship. Summit also has an online virtual school.

Many students across the country get school vouchers to be used for substandard online instruction like K12 and Connections Academy.Preschoolers are subjected to unproven Waterford UPSTART.

The candidates might want to review Tultican’s “Ed Tech About Profits NOT Education.”

Wrench in the Gears is another blog good at describing the threat of technology.

Teach for America

Teach for America corps members with little training have taken over classrooms, and they run state departments of education!

Do Democratic candidates have Teach for America corps members as consultants on their campaigns? It’s troubling if they do. They should not be wooing teachers with professional degrees and experience while relying on TFA behind the scenes.

Other insidious reform groups are also about replacing education professionals. Relay Graduate School, The New Teacher Project, New Leaders are a few.

This needs to be addressed, sooner, not later.

Betsy DeVos et al.

I don’t know anyone who doesn’t enjoy hearing Democratic candidates say they’re going to boot Education Secretary Betsy DeVos out.

But President Obama had individuals from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and other corporate reform groups, working in the U.S. Department of Education. Arne Duncan was no friend to teachers or public schools.

So, while applause against DeVos are justifiable, now’s the time to address the role Democrats have played (and continue to play) in corporate school reform.

The fact is, many groups and individuals are working to end public education, who wear Democratic name tags. It’s imperative that Democratic candidates address this.

 

Bill Phillis posted this powerful letter on his blog for the Ohio Coalition for Equity and Adequacy of School Funding.

The Honorable Michael DeWine

77 S. High Street, Suite 30

Columbus, OH 43215


Dear Governor DeWine,

The headline of an article in the October 27, 2019 ​Youngstown Vindicator ​reads: “DeWine Says HB70 Must Be Replaced.”


We are happy to learn that you want to maintain local control of public schools, and that you are not a supporter of House Bill 70, the state legislation allowing state takeover of public schools with failing grades, as Youngstown, Lorain, and East Cleveland have experienced. However, we are concerned with your statement that a “remedial plan” or “outside consultants” may be needed, as stated in the ​Vindicator ​article.


We are the Northeastern Ohio AFT retiree chapter, NEO-AFT #279-R. We have over 1,000 members in our group, and are members of the state and national affiliates, the Ohio Federation of Teachers and the American Federation of Teachers. Our membership includes retired teachers, administrators, speech/language therapists, school psychologists, guidance counselors, librarians, and paraprofessionals from all over northeastern Ohio.


We–educators and related-service personnel–are the experts you can rely on. ​We represent a rich range of educational training, knowledge, and experience.


We know from research and experience that:


Parental income is the single most influential factor in a child’s academic performance.


Let us repeat:


The single most important influence on a child’s academic performance is their parents’ income.


Therefore, it is understandable that most children in high-income suburbs get higher test scores and better grades, and more children in poor districts get lower scores and lower grades. This is the case for the Youngstown, Lorain, and East Cleveland School Districts, where ​100% of the children enrolled are living at or below the State Poverty Level. ​However, the children’s low performance on standardized tests is not due to bad teachers, bad schools, or bad local Boards of Education.


Many children living in poor neighborhoods start school handicapped on their very first day. Poverty is a major contributing cause of frequent absenteeism, psychological trauma, health problems including mental health issues, poor nutrition, limited social skills, and much more.


What is needed to combat the effects of poverty are wrap-around school programs including tutoring, and social services including medical, dental, visual, psychological/counseling services, 
during and after the school day.

The Cincinnati Public Schools are an excellent model. They have successfully created Community Learning Centers (CLC) in all their schools. Since launching their program in 2002, their CLC model has drawn national attention for successfully engaging community partnerships in school buildings.


Another model is the Say Yes to Education program. The Cleveland Metropolitan School District is in its first year of Say Yes to Education Cleveland. This dual-approach program provides the incentive of last-dollar post-high school scholarships for students, along with the essential wrap- around social supports for students and their families from preschool through graduation.


Providing these services to struggling districts like Youngstown, Lorain, and East Cleveland would require additional school funding from the state and/or other entities, but would pay off in significant academic and social gains for these communities.


Educators can and should be involved in developing any remedial plans. They are the experts, and they know what their students and families need.


We recommend:


• End HB 70 completely;
• Add additional health and social services, such as medical, dental, vision, counseling;
• Add additional academic support services;
• Add wrap-around programs, such as robust after-school programs including tutoring and physical activities.


Our public schools are one of the last democratic institutions in America, and we do not want to lose this valuable part of our nation. Most American Nobel prize winners are graduates of their local public schools. In 1835, Alexis de Tocqueville, the French diplomat, political scientist, historian, and author, wrote in his famous book, ​Democracy in America, ​about the wisdom of local community decision-making as a unique characteristic of American towns.


We hope you use this information as a guide to ending HB70.


Sincerely,


Lois Romanoff, M.Eds., Ed.S. Retired School Psychologist, Cleveland Metropolitan School District and NEO-AFT 279-R Member
Teresa Green, President, and the Executive Council of the NEO-AFT 279-R

 

Will Bunch, regular opinion writer for the Philadelphia Inquirer, excoriates McKinsey in this column. 

He writes:

In the last few years, McKinsey & Co.’s image as a go-to high-paying job option for the Ivy League’s best and brightest has morphed into something uniquely dark and sinister, as outstanding journalism from the New York Times and others has shed a light on arguably the world’s most secretive company, which never reveals its client list.

Nonetheless, the various scandals swirling around McKinsey have largely registered under the radar screen before last week, when journalists from ProPublica, publishing in the Times, exposed McKinsey’s work on behalf of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE. Two important things to note: a) it was the administration of Barack Obama that hired McKinsey for this task in 2015 and b) ICE officials under the Trump administration, justifiably pilloried for their cruel treatment of migrants, actually thought some of McKinsey’s ideas were inhumane.

 

Nancy Bailey writes here about the long-term damage that corporate reformers (the Disruption movement) have inflicted on two generations of students.

If only students could sue them for ruining their schools! If only teachers could sue them for ruining their profession! If only the public could sue them to disruption their schools and communities!

She begins:

Frustrated by public schools? Look no further than the corporate education reformers and what they have done to public education.

Education Secretary DeVos and her corporate billionaire friends have been chipping away at the fabric of democratic public schools for over thirty years!

The problems we see in public schools today are largely a result of what they did to schools, the high-stakes testing and school closures, intentional defunding, ugly treatment of teachers, lack of support staff, segregated charter schools, vouchers that benefit the wealthy, Common Core State Standards, intrusive online data collection, and diminishing special education services.

Big business waged a battle on teachers and their schools years ago. The drive was to create a business model to profit from tax dollars. Now they want to blame teachers for their corporate-misguided blunders! It’s part of their plan to make schools so unpleasant, parents will have no choice but to leave.

Tom Ultican shares a delightful and very satisfying story of what happened in Denver, where voters chose three non-corporate reformers to fill out a majority of five on the district’s seven-member school board.

Denver has had a solid decade of corporate reform (or as I call it, Disruption) control.

Schools opened and closed; charter schools opened; students shuffled around.

Apparently, the voters decided that enough was enough.

The Disruption candidates were backed by billionaires Phillip Anschutz (the evangelical producer of “Waiting for ‘Superman'”) and Emma Bloomberg (daughter of billionaire Michael Bloomberg). Others of the usual suspects showed up to funnel money to the supporters of the “reform” status quo.

But the Disruption candidates lost. All three seats up for grabs were captured by supporters of stability and public schools.

The victory of 21-year-old Tay Anderson was the most dramatic:

The board of directors’ at-large seat is voted on by the entire city. There were three candidates vying for the at-large seat: Tay Anderson, Alexis Menocal Harrigan and Natela Alexandrovna Manuntseva. Anna DeWitt filed for the seat and raised some money but was not on the ballot. Manuntseva did not have enough resources or organizational support to compete. The race was essentially between Anderson and Harrigan.

Harrigan was the most politically connected of the nine school board candidates. A Denver Post biography noted,

“Menocal Harrigan currently works in advocacy for expanding computer science education. She previously was an education adviser to then-Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Denver City Council aide and a staff member for Sen. Michael Bennet, who helped launch DPS’s current reform agenda during his time as superintendent.”

Anderson’s biography on the other hand looks anything but formidable. The Denver Post reported,

“Anderson, a Manual High School graduate, ran unsuccessfully for the District 4 seat in 2017, when he was 18. He currently works as restorative practices coordinator at North High School.”

Tay is now 21-years-old.

Harrigan received large contributions from Colorado billionaire, Phillip Anschutz, and from a billionaire daughter living in New York Emma Bloomberg and from a billionaire Teach For America champion from Silicon Valley, Arthur Rock. In total, she had over $350,000 supporting her campaign. Three independent expenditure committees spent more than $190,000 dollars in her support including $127,000 from Students for Education Reform (SFER).

It should be noted that Phillip Anschutz has a billion-dollar foundation located in Denver and owns Walden Publishing. Walden Publishing  was behind the school privatization movies ‘Won’t Back Down’ and ‘Waiting for Superman.’

Surprisingly, Tay Anderson had more than $125,000 supporting his election including $40,000 from the Denver Classroom Teachers Association (DCTA). Committees that bundle many individual contributions are allowed to make large direct donations.

At-Large Votes

 

Tay Anderson was outspent by $350,000 to $125,000, but he won anyway.

Read the rest of the article.

It is a great reminder that the Resistance can win despite big money if it persists and persists and educates the public.

It is a new day in Denver.

Candidates for Public office endorsed by NPE Action won big. 

We didn’t give them money.

We gave them our valued Seal of Approval, demonstrating that they are the real deal, genuine supporters of public schools.

We also celebrate the apparent victory in Kentucky of Andy Bashear and the apparent defeat of Governor Matt Bevin, who mistreated teachers and sought Betsy DeVos’s approval. Kentucky has a charter law but no funding for charters.

And we congratulate the brave Democrats in Virginia, who won control of the legislature.

And salutations to the new school board members who won control of the Denver school board. Aloha   to Senator MIchael Bennett and other pseudo reformers.

November 5 was a great day for public schools and teachers!

Jan Resseger explains the history and context of the truly historic teachers’ strike in Chicago that recently ended. She explains it with clarity, as only Jan can do.

This was not a strike for higher salaries. The mayor offered a 16% increase before the strike began, and that is what the Chicago Teachers Union accepted.

This was a strike for students. This was a strike to reverse a quarter-century of disinvestment by Mayors Richard Daley and Rahm Emanuel.

This was a strike against 25 years of austerity in a booming city that had billions for developers but nothing for students and schools.

This was a strike against corporate reform, which starved the public schools for the benefit of charter schools.

This was a historic strike. To understand why, read this post.