Archives for category: Corporate Reformers

Thomas Ultican, who retired last year as a teacher of advanced math and physics in California, has studied school reform in many districts. He concludes that charter schools, created supposedly to improve education, especially for the neediest children, is a failed experiment.

He reviews the origins of the charter school idea and shows how AFT leader Albert Shanker became disillusioned. The premise of charters, he writes, was based on an illusion. Reagan’s “Nation at Risk” report unleashed a long era of handwringing about public school failure, but as he points out, NPR reporter Anya Kamenetz documented that the conclusions of that report were predetermined.

He writes:

Some powerful evidence points in the opposite direction and indicates that the results from US public schools in the 60s and 70s were actually a great success story.

One measuring stick demonstrating that success is Nobel Prize winners. Since 1949, America has had 383 laureates; the second place country, Great Britain, had 132. In the same period, India had 12 laureates and China 8.

Stanford’s Center for Education Policy Analysis report on education achievement gaps states, “The gaps narrowed sharply in the 1970s and the first half of the 1980s, but then progress stalled.”

The digital revolution and the booming biotech industry were both created by students mostly from the supposedly “soft public schools” of the 60s and 70s.

Ultican then reviews the study by the Network for Public Education of charter school instability and closings.

Broken Promises” looked at cohorts of newly opened charter schools between 1998 and 2017. Ryan Pfleger, Ph.D. led the analysis of charter schools closures utilizing the Department of Education’s Common Core of Data (CCD).

Before 1998, the massive government data base did not uniquely identify charter schools and the last complete data set available for all schools in American was 2017.

Startup charter school cohorts were identified by year and the cohort closure rates were tracked at 3, 5, 10 and 15 years after opening. The overall failure rates discovered were 18% by year-3, 25% by year-5, 40% by year-10 and 50% by year-15.

The NPE team discovered that half of all charter schools in America close their doors within fifteen years.

Many new charters do not survive their first year of operation.

It makes no sense to continue to expand a 30-year “experiment” whose results are so meager.

Control of the Los Angeles Unified School District is up for grabs in the 2020 election.

You can be sure that the LAUSD prioritizes public schools by voting for incumbent Scott Schmerelson and newcomer Patricia Castellanos.

The issue now is the same issue that has drawn a sharp divide on the school board for the past decade. Will the schools be controlled by a cabal of billionaires who favor privatization by charter schools or will it be controlled by people who are dedicated to the public schools of Los Angeles, which enroll 80 percent of the district’s children?

The charter lobby supports privatization and high-stakes testing for students and teachers.

California state law defines charter schools as “public schools” because the law was written by charter lobbyists. They have private management, private boards, and they are almost entirely free from scrutiny by public agencies; due to lack of oversight, several charter executives in California have been arrested and convicted of embezzlement from school funds. Lack of oversight explains why so many charters felt empowered to apply for and receive federal Paycheck Protection Program money as “small businesses.” They are charter schools when it is time to collect money available only to public schools, then they shape shift into “small businesses” or “non-profits” when it is time to collect money that is not available to public schools. That is called “double dipping.” It is wrong. It is unethical.

The charter industry is powerful in California due to the support of billionaires such as Eli Broad, Reed Hastings (Netflix), the Fischer Family (owners of The Gap and Old Navy), and Republican Bill Bloomfield. The candidates supported by California billionaires enjoy funding from out-of-state billionaires like Michael Bloomberg, former Mayor of New York City. The fact that these billionaires are supporting the privatization agenda of Betsy DeVos and Donald Trump doesn’t seem to bother them at all or make them think twice.

They want more privately managed charter schools, period, even though the vast majority of the district’s charter schools have empty seats (Schmerelson posted on his Facebook page that more than 80% of LA charter schools have vacancies). Once again, the billionaires are pouring money into a school board election. This one will be held on November 3, but early balloting will begin in a matter of weeks.

In the November election, there are two seats on the school board that will determine the near-term destiny of the district: Scott Schmerelson is up for re-election. He has served one term with great distinction. There is also an open seat, and one candidate stands out as a strong supporter of public schools, Patty Castellanos.

Scott is a career educator, who rose through the ranks in LAUSD as a teacher, assistant principal and principal. He has literally devoted his life to the students of LAUSD.

Patricia Castellanos is the parent of a child in the Los Angeles public schools and a community activist.

Both deserve a seat on the board of the second largest school district in the nation.

Peter Greene turns his attention to Rhode Island and finds that it has been subject to a corporate education reform takeover.
Not only is the governor a former venture capitalist who made her reputation by taking an axe to teachers’ pensions, but her husband Andy Moffitt is a TFA alum who moved on to McKinsey. Not only that, he co-authored a book with Michael Barber of Pearson about “Deliverology,” a philosophy that turns education into data analytics.

Governor Gina Raimondo hired a TFA alum to lead the State Education Department; the new Commissioner immediately joined Jen Bush’s far-rightwing Chiefs for Change and led a state takeover of Providence schools. There is no template for a successful state takeover, so we will see how that goes. Think Tennessee’s failed Achievement School District, funded with $100 million from Duncan’s Race to the Top. Think Michigan’s Education Achievement Authority, which closed after six of boasts but consistent failure.

Read Greene’s incisive review of the First Couple of Rhode Island and remember that Governor Gina Raimondo is a Democrat, though it’s hard to differentiate her views from those of Betsy DeVos.

Maurice Cunningham is a dogged researcher into Dark Money and its role in the pursuit of privatizing public education. Cunningham is a political science professor at the University of Massachusetts. Open the link and read in full.

In his latest post, he reports that Koch money as well as Walton money, Zuckerberg money, Gates money, and Dell money, is supporting the “National Parents Union,” a front for the billionaires.

He writes:

There’s millions of dollars sloshing around Massachusetts Parents United and National Parents Union these days. Some of it is from Charles Koch…

The Koch connection was apparent when Charles Koch put a proxy on the board of National Parents Union. Now we know for sure Koch has money invested in NPU. Others holding stakes in NPU (housed in the same shop as Massachusetts Parents Union and run by the same team) include Bill Gates, Steve Ballmer, Michael Dell, Reed Hoffman, John Arnold, Eli Broad, etc.

It’s not just Koch, the Waltons are tossing even more money at NPU.

NPU is also feasting on big bucks from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s philanthropic arm.

Cunningham reminds us to “follow the noney. Dark Money never sleeps.”

And he adds:

We must make our choice. We may have democracy, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.” – Louis Brandeis

Anette Carlisle, public education advocate in Texas, describes how State Commissioner Mike Morath, a non-educator, bought into the anti-democratic strategy of killing local school boards and privatizing public schools. He swallowed whole the disruption program of the Center for Reinventing Public Education, one of the Gates-funded think tanks that call for the abandonment of public schools.

Despite a full decade of failure, phony “reformers” claim that education will improve if private corporations and entrepreneurs take over from elected school boards. It hasn’t worked anywhere, and it won’t work in Texas.

Carlisle writes:

Texas has chosen to abandon our local public schools, locally elected school boards, superintendents and our 5.4 million schoolchildren in favor of a “my way or the highway” single system directive by Texas Education Agency Commissioner Mike Morath. That’s why I’m standing up to say, “Whoa! Hold your horses, please, Mr. Commissioner.”

It’s an effort that’s been building for years, right under our noses. People said, “Surely not,” but here we are.

Look back to 2019 and the Center for Reinventing Public Education’s (CRPE) report centered around the System of Great Schools (SGS) concept. The System of Great Schools “starts from the premise that local school districts are ill-positioned to improve schools directly,” and local districts should “get out of the business of managing instruction in schools.”

Morath, according to the CRPE, “prioritized the SGS initiative as a signature project” and even “smoothed the path for the SGS team to work inside the agency” when other TEA staff disapproved.

It’s just one example of the state telling school district leaders to take a hike and locally elected boards to get out of the way.

Earlier this year, The Texas Tribune interviewed Commissioner Morath, and his thoughts on local control came more clearly into focus. Asked about the state’s takeover of Houston ISD, Morath said, “This is basically a grand, philosophical question that is a right for state legislatures around the country to try to answer. Why do we have schools? Do we have schools to teach children, or do we have schools to have elected school boards?”

The takeaway? Local communities don’t know what’s best for kids. The state does.

Who knew that a conservative Republican Governor and his ignorant State Commissioner would launch a state takeover of public schools?

Thomas Ultican continues his investigation of the tentacles of billionaire reformers, this time focusing on the tumultuous career of John Deasy, who resigned as superintendent of the Stockton, California, school district.

Ultican shows how Deasy rose to become superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District, how Justin tenure there was marked by controversy as he walked in lockstep with the Eli Broad-Bill Gates agenda of charter school expansion, high-stakes testing, and huge investments in technology. His controversial decision to spend $1.3 billion on iPads and tech curriculum led to the end of his tenure in L.A.

On to Stockton, where the Mayor and three school board members were closely allied with the billionaire agenda.

A sad and cautionary tale about the destructive billionaire-funded movement to gut public schools.

Democrats for Education Reform is a group of Wall Street hedge fund executives that decided that schools would improve if they were privatized and adhered to business principles, like pay for performance, no unions, testing, accountability, and private management. DFER likes mayoral control and state takeovers, not elected school boards. Above all, it is mad for charter schools, which honor the principles of business management. DFER has not been dissuaded by the failure of charters to produce better results than public schools. It has not been moved by the charters’ practices of skimming, exclusion, and attrition. It ignores the cascade of charter scandals.

Peter Greene explains the origins of DFER here. The billionaires who founded DFER knew it did not have to win converts within the Republican Party, which embraced privatization. Its target was the Democratic Party, which had a long history of support for public schools.

Peter wrote:

DFER is no more Democratic than my dog. There’s not enough space between their positions and the positions of the conservative Fordham Institute (though I think, on balance, Fordham is generally more respectful of teachers). But for the privatizers to be effective, they need to work both sides of the aisle. Also, RFER would sound too much like a pot advocacy group.

So they’re not really Democrats. And they don’t want to reform education– they just want to privatize it and reduce teachers to easily replaced widgets. And they aren’t particularly interested in education other than as a sector of the economy. I suppose I have no beef with their use of the word “for,” as long as they put it with the things that they are really for– privatization and profit. So, Apoliticals Supporting Privatization and Profit. ASPP. Much better.

To learn more about DFER, read the BadAss Teachers report.

Campaign cash changes minds, DFER knew. And it soon had an impressive stable of Democratic electeds on board. When Andrew Cuomo first ran for governor of New York, he quickly learned that the path to Wall Street required a commitment to charter schools, which meant a visit to DFER offices. He has been a faithful ally ever since.

Most people thought that the Paycheck Protection Program would help small businesses survive the economic crisis caused by the pandemic. They were surprised to learn that charter schools, which never lost government funding, scooped up some of the $660 billion.

Guy Brandenburg posted the list of D.C. charter schools that picked up some dough from the PPP.

Many of the D.C. charters are backed by the billionaire Walton family.

Emily Hoefling was principal of Leadership Prep Canarsie in Brooklyn, which is part of the Uncommon Schools charter chain. She was fired because she dared to express views that ran counter to the authoritarian culture of the chain.

Yes, she writes, it is an authoritarian regime, and it always was.

When she led a professional development session, she encouraged teachers to express their views. That was her first mistake. Their views conflicted with the company line, and she did no5 correct them. She was marched away, lectured, yelled at, and fired.

She writes:

Make no mistake about it, Uncommon Schools is an authoritarian organization from top to bottom. And dissent is dangerous for everyone — no matter your age and no matter your position.

As an Uncommon principal, I developed a reputation for being ‘unaligned to the mission’ of Uncommon Schools. And the iron fist that deals with ‘disobedient’ students and ‘difficult’ teachers is the same iron fist that deals with rebellious leaders.

Brett Peiser and Julie Jackson have not only designed and maintained the culture of Uncommon Schools, they have also created a system that will step on, silence, and erase anyone who dares to step out of line or tarnish the Uncommon brand.

Even after she was fired, she was threatened with legal action if she dared to write about what happened to her.

She did, so you should read what she wrote.

I had two recent contacts with Andre Perry, and I fell in love with him. I’m no threat to his wife because I’m 82 and married.

We met for the first time on this Zoom conversation.

As you will see, he is candid, honest, open, smart, and charming. I don’t always fall for guys just because they have a great smile, but Andre surprised me.

I thought he would be super-serious but he wasn’t.

He talked about his childhood. He talked about his life as a charter leader in New Orleans. He talked about his disaffection with the white reformers and philanthropists who thought that what the schools of New Orleans needed most was to fire black teachers and staff.

The second contact I had with Andre was reading his new book, Know Your Price.

I got to know Andre by reading his book.

More important, I got Andre’s message about seeing the world through a different lens.

We grew up in very different circumstances. I had two parents and a nuclear family. He had a different kind of family, a loving family.

What you will learn from his book is to see the world differently.

That’s a gift.

What you will see is a man who thinks for himself, without regard to orthodoxy.

Watch our conversation. Watch me become charmed by this brilliant young man.

Buy his book and you too will be transformed.