Archives for category: Democrats for Education Reform

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.

The Providence Journal published a scathing editorial about Governor Gina Raimondo’s dereliction of duty in demanding the full opening of schools next month while failing to provide sensible plans to do so.

It is titled “Rhode Island’s Education System Goes from Mediocre to Just Plain Chaotic.”

Raimondo is a former venture capitalist who redesigned the state’s pension system by cutting them. She is also a “reformer” who welcomes charter schools and is a favorite of DFER. And she is chair of the Democratic Governors Association.

The editorial begins:

On June 10, Governor Gina Raimondo asserted that all students would be back in the classroom on August 31.
This was after her confusing narrative that Rhode Island was “#1 in online learning,” a claim that sends chills through frustrated parents, educators, and students who knew another reality this spring.

Raimondo nearly every day proclaims Rhode Island is #1 at something, but the reality is that Rhode Island may only be #1 in ridiculous claims of being #1.

No state is #1 in this pandemic and certainly, neither this state nor any other are winning anything — it is all different degrees of losing.

Raimondo is not responsible for the disease and she has made a number of solid decisions, but also some major errors. The decision to return infected hospitalized nursing home patients to nursing homes caused the additional unnecessary spread and deaths. This helped drive Rhode Islands’s per capita death rate to be the 5th highest in the United States.

As part of her Trump-like doctrine to return to schools, she ordered all of the school districts to develop “their own” plan for returning to the classroom.

This chaotic approach of asking beaten down administrators and faculty to develop their own plans with little support has been an exercise in futility and frustration. Doesn’t the state have the expertise on the disease?

One would hope the state’s consultants – paid millions via a no-bid contract – would have more expertise on best practices than a principal in Exeter-West Greenwich does on how to design a safe school environment to protect children and faculty.

The Center for American Progress is identified by the mainstream media as a “liberal think tank” and as the think tank of the Democratic establishment. It protects the Obama legacy, including the toxic legacy of Arne Duncan’s failed Race to the Top. Billions were squandered for a program that was built on the foundation of George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind. Twenty years have been wasted by investing in high-stakes testing and charter schools. CAP refuses to acknowledge this education disaster and continues to peddle the same tired Bush-Obama remedies.

Our reader Laura Chapman writes here about CAP’s May 27 event, featuring charter school leaders, even the executive director of the hedge funders’ charter advocacy lobby, DFER.

Please read! Take her advice and send in your questions. Ask them why they support the DeVos agenda. Let’s hope that CAP and its neonservative allies do not influence Joe Biden.

Laura writes:

“DeVos has a long and notorious record of using agency guidance and regulatory action to undermine equity.”

Yes. And this power is why, in addition to getting rid of Trump and DeVos, voters who care about public education must pay attention to Biden and who he is courting for advice. We need to let him know that more attention must be paid to public schools, not charter schools

Charter schools have a non-stop campaign for money, with a major pitch that they are the only schools that care about black and brown children. That is non-sense. Charter schools originated in and perpetuate racially segregated schools.

Here is an example of that campaign pitch, from Center for American Progress, founded by Hillary Clinton’s John Podesta, and an outfit that also gets money from both teacher unions. It is not a supporter of public schools. It is an apologist and promoter of them,

If you have nothing better to do, submit some questions for CAP’s May 27 event, staged with speakers who love charter schools. The title is “Beyond the Talking Points: Charter School Policy and Equity. Ensuring a Quality Education for Every Child Web Series.”

Here is the pitch
“Charter schools have been the source of some contentious debates in the education policy space, often centered on the growth of charters and their impact on traditional public school systems. Yet beyond these debates are a number of issues and policy choices that have deep impacts on the equity effects of charter schools.”

“This interactive conversation will cover a range of issues, with a focus on less commonly discussed topics in charter school policy such as
–enrollment issues around student backfill policies,
–lottery systems, and
–the perceived notion that charters are able to self-select students for attendance.”(This in not merely a perception. )

“Additionally, the discussion will explore operations issues that affect equity in charter schools, such as
–transportation for students to and from school,
–participation in meal programs, and
–how schools receive and use funding for facilities and resources.
(Operations issues are those wherein charter schools want to raid public schools fund even though they are supported by billionaires and have been gifted special federal funds from ten-yacht Betsy DeVos).

Finally, the panelists will discuss the ability of charters to serve all populations of students, particularly those who need additional services such as students with disabilities, English learners, and foster or homeless youth.” (This is just shy of an admission that charter schools, unlike public schools, may choose not to serve students with special needs).

“Please join the Center for American Progress to discuss charter policy in a broader context than the often debated talking points. This discussion aims to step back and examine the current state of the charter debate and where we might go from here, with an emphasis on how equity can be infused more holistically into charter policy.

“We would love to hear your questions.
Please submit any questions you have for our panelists using the hashtag #QualityEdChat on Twitter or via email to CAPeventquestions@americanprogress.org.

There certainly are issues with charter schools, a whole bunch. The CAP sponsors seem to think those listed above are “less commonly discussed.” If so, the sponsors are too much involved in cheerleading for charters and repeating talking points from the billionaire-funded 74Million news. They may also be indifferent to scholarship about charter schools especially the evidence-based criticisms in Diane Ravitch’s latest book Slaying Goliath: The Passionate Resistance to Privatization and the Fight to Save America’s Public Schools, or her earlier Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement, the Danger to America’s Public Schools, and then another, The Death and Life of the Great American School System.

The discussants in this affair are cheerleaders for charter schools who seem to have some mental inventory of criticisms of charter schools, are floundering, and also pondering “how equity can be infused more holistically into charter policy.” Informed critics will see through this promotional exercise with participants who claim to be MORE concerned with “equity” and in greater measure than supporters of traditional public schools.

Panelists:
Sharhonda Bossier. Deputy Director, Education Leaders of Color (EdLoc), prior work with Education Cities, a national promoter of charter schools
Laina Cox. Principal, Capital City Public Charter Middle School (for about 8 years). Holds a Master in Education in Teaching and Curriculum from Harvard University.
Shavar Jeffries. National President, Democrats for Education Reform, a PAC that promotes charter schools and stricter teacher evaluations. Lawyer, board member fro KIPP, ran unsuccessfully for mayor of Newark, NJ.
Joshua P. Starr. CEO of PDK International former Superintendent of Schools in Montgomery County, MD; Stamford CN. Also worked briefly for NYC Department of Education, served one month on Board of Directors, Center for Teacher Quality.
Moderator:
Neil Campbell, Director of Innovation, K-12 Education Policy, Center for American Progress, former director of Jeb Bush’s FEE–Foundation for Excellence in Education, Broad resident 2009-2011 while serving as Education Program Analyst with USDE.

Beyond the Talking Points: Charter School Policy and Equity

I hope that readers of this blog will submit a generous supply of questions. I will submit one: Why is there so much documented fraud, waste, and abuse in the charter school industry?

In response to challenges from Elizabeth Warren about his funders, Mayor Pete Buttigieg released a list of his major donors, including his “bundlers,” the people who raise money from others for him.

The list included some interesting names.

One of them was Wall Street hedge fund manager John Pertry, who serves on the board of Eva Moskowitz’s Success Academy charter chain in New York City.

Petry was one of the original founders of DFER (Democrats for Education Reform), the organization of hedge fund managers that funds charter supporters across the nation.

While Buttigieg published a list of bundlers on his website last week, the campaign privately circulated the names of people in its “Investors Circle” — fundraisers who had raised at least $25,000 — in a finance update this summer. The 20 people and couples on that document who weren’t on Buttigieg’s public bundler list last week are: Andrew Tobias of New York; Barbara and Rodge Cohen of Irvington, N.Y.; David Winter of New York; Didem Nisanci of Washington; Eli Cohen of Chevy Chase, Md.; Eric Schieber of Chicago; Freddy Balsera of Miami; Genevieve and Robert Lynch of New York; Hamilton South of Cornwall, Conn.; Jack Connors of Boston; John Petry of New York; John Phillips of Washington; Jordan Horowitz of Los Angeles; Kelly Bavor of Atherton, Calif.; Kyle Keyser of Atlanta; Nicole Avant of Los Angeles; Stephen Patton of Chicago; Ted Dintersmith of Charleston, S.C.; Tom Gearen of Chicago; and William Rahm of New York.

Buttigieg has combined the power of low-dollar online fundraising and big events with wealthy supporters to become one of the most successful fundraisers in the Democratic field. He has raised $51 million in his bid for president as of Sept. 30, the most recent fundraising deadline, with 47 percent of the contributions coming from donors who gave less than $200.

But as Buttigieg’s poll numbers have risen in Iowa and New Hampshire, critics on the left are accusing the South Bend, Ind., mayor of failing to live up to Democratic Party ideals. Protesters picketed outside a Buttigieg fundraiser in New York last week, chanting “Wall Street Pete.” Warren, who is competing with Buttigieg for the top spot in February’s Iowa caucuses, has been particularly critical, calling out Buttigieg for offering donors “regular phone calls and special access.”

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Buttigieg recently began allowing media access to his campaign fundraisers in response to some of that criticism.

Buttigieg, who like other candidates is racing to bank millions of dollars to spend on television and field staff in Iowa and other early voting states, has continued hitting high-dollar fundraisers at breakneck speed between his campaign stops. On Monday morning, the families of several of Silicon Valley’s biggest executives — including spouses and relatives of Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, Google co-founder Sergey Brin, former Google CEO Eric Schmidt and Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg — assembled in Palo Alto, Calif., for an event supporting Buttigieg.

The night before, Buttigieg was in Napa Valley, where Buttigieg and donors dined under a chandelier adorned with 1,500 Swarovski crystals in cavernous room known as a “wine cave.” “Needless to say, we will never have a fundraiser at a wine cave,” Sanders’ campaign wrote Monday in a fundraising email to supporters.

Speaking to the crowd in Napa, Buttigieg urged his donors to redouble their work.

“I’m asking to you to work to share whatever it is that brought you here to those that may have gotten a little more cynical about the whole thing,” Buttigieg told the donors. “If we do that, as bleak as things are in our country circa December 2019, my hope and my faith is that, in a few years, we’ll be able to look back on 2020 with pride.”

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.

 

Twitter lit up this morning with news of a disruption of an Elizabeth Warren rally by charter school “parents” in matching T-shirts. Hovering in the background was Howard Fuller, whose Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO) received millions during its lifetime of advocating for vouchers from billionaire foundations such as Bradley, Walton, and Gates.

Peter Greene has gathered the story of the funders of the “parent” disruption of the Warren rally. 

The usual billionaire-funded suspects. The disrupters came from Walton-funded organizations, representatives of DFER, and other pro-charter groups, whose purpose was to embarrass Warren for having the audacity to propose a massive increase in funding for poor kids and kids with disabilities and a cutoff of Betsy DeVos’s slush fund for corporate charters known as the federal Charter Schools Program (which currently spends $440 million annually).

He writes:

As [Ryan] Grim [of The Intercept] tweeted, “A group funded by some of the richest people in the world, the Waltons, just disrupted an @ewarren speech on the 1881 Atlanta washerwoman strike. Can’t make this stuff up.” It’s not a new game; charter advocates have often loaded up parents and students, made them some t-shirts, and deployed them as citizen lobbyists.

There’s a lot of money and power behind the charter school movement. Expect more of these shenanigans if Warren continues to lead the Democratic pack. The charter industry is not gong to let her go without a fight.

 

Politico Morning Education reports that charter advocates are furious in response to Warren’s K-12 education plan , especially her intention to cut off federal funding for charters. They are especially frustrated because she is not accepting corporate donations for her campaign, and they can’t buy her support.

CHARTER ADVOCATES BLAST WARREN’S PLAN: While drawing praise from teachers unions, Warren’s hard-line approach to charter schools in a new K-12 plan is under fire from a Democratic group that says her stance is “out of touch” with voters and will hinder opportunities for black and brown students.

— The plan, which would cost some $800 billion over 10 years, would ban for-profit charter schools, end the main source of federal funding for all types of charter schools, and end federal funding for their expansion.

— “While we agree with the Senator that for-profit charters should be banned and that public charter schools should be held to high standards, limiting high-quality options that have been proven to increase equity within the public school system is the wrong plan for Democrats,” said Shavar Jeffries, Democrats for Education Reform’s national president, in a statement

In case anyone from Politico reads this, the Network for Public Education isnot funded by unions and is not a union front. DFER is funded by Wall Street and should be identified as such.

 

Hedge fund managers decided in 2005 that the best way to advance the charter school idea was to create a faux organization called Democrats for Education Reform (DFER), then to funnel campaign cash to Democratic candidates who promised to support charter schools. This worked for a time. Senator Barack Obama spoke at the inaugural meeting of DFER at a penthouse in Manhattan filled with Wall Street types. When Obama was elected, DFER recommended Arne Duncan to be Secretary of Education, and Obama picked him over the highly qualified Linda Darling-Hammond, who had been his spokesperson during the campaign.

But some Democrats realized that DFER was a wolf in sheep’s clothing. The Democratic Party of California passed a resolution demanding that DFER drop the D because it was a front for corporate interests. The Democratic party of Colorado also passed a resolution denouncing DFER.

In 2016, DFER supported a referendum in Massachusetts to expand the number of charter schools, in company with the Waltons and big Republican donors. The charter campaign went down to a crashing defeat, after charters were denounced by the state Democratic Party and almost every school district committee in the state. The only demographic that supported the expansion of charters was members of the Republican Party.

Today, the loudest champion of charter schools is Betsy DeVos. The biggest allies of the charter movement are Republican governors and legislatures.

Sensing the change in the air, recognizing that charter schools now belong to ALEC and DeVos, almost every  Democratic candidate for President has steered clear of charter schools. Bernie Sanders endorsed the NAACP call for a moratorium on new charters.

But wait! DFER has commissioned a poll to demonstrate that Democrats actually favor charters!

Peter Greene says the poll is baloney. He explains it here. His advice: Ignore it.

 

Every year since 2014, Democrats who fervently support the privatization of public schools have gathered at a conference they pretentiously call “Camp Philos.”

https://campphilos.org/

Check the agenda of meetings present and past.

There you will see the lineup of Democrats who sneer at public schools and look on public school teachers with contempt.

These are the Democrats who support the DeVos agenda of disrupting and privatizing public schools.

They are meeting again this year, and they will slap each other on the back for supporting school closures, charter schools, high-stakes testing, evaluating teachers by the test scores of their students, and hiring inexperienced teachers.

They have the chutzpah to call themselves “stakeholders,” although none of them are teachers, parents of public school students, or have any stake in the public schools that enroll 85-90% of all American students. Exactly what do they have a “stake” in?

 

The Denver school Board is up for grabs, and a battle looms between progressives supporting public schools and a slate controlled by Stand for Children, Democrats for Education Reform, and groups controlled by Wall Street and billionaires. The “reformers” support school closures, disruption, charter schools, and high-stakes testing. The powerful, who control the board, say that any challenge to their total power is “divisive.”

Denver Public Schools at a crossroads: 3 new board members will help decide district’s direction

The Denver Public Schools board will welcome three new members next year, but voters will have to decide whether it also has a new direction.

Board president Anne Rowe, who represents District 1, and at-large member Allegra “Happy” Haynes are term-limited, and District 5 representative Lisa Flores opted not to run again. Each of the three open seats seat has attracted three candidates.

A vocal group of teachers and activists are looking to “flip” the board, putting the majority that has favored tactics such as closing poor-performing schools and opening new charters into the minority. Two current members of the nine-person board have been skeptical of the so-called “reform” movement, though votes don’t always break down along ideological lines.

Fundraising numbers suggests that candidates aligned with the current majority on the reform side may not go easily, however.

Wendy Howell, deputy director of the Colorado Working Families Party, said the overriding issue is reducing corporate influence in education. The party hasn’t released its endorsements yet, but Howell is been active in the online Flip the Board community, which is attempting to turn energy from February’s DPS teachers strike into a political force.

Charter schools started with good intentions, but they’ve become a way to privatize public education services without improving students’ results, Howell said. Districts also have had to add extra administrative staff to deal with compliance issues for different types of schools, which diverts money from classrooms, she said.

“We want to get Wall Street out of our school board,” she said.

The flip community supports candidates who want to pause the development of new charter schools and to examine other ways of improving education, Howell said. They also want to see new board members take a critical look at DPS’ finances, she said.

“This experiment (with reform) has gotten out of control,” she said.

The Denver Classroom Teachers Association has endorsed candidates who aligned themselves with the Flip the Board movement: Tay Anderson, Scott Baldermann and Brad Laurvick. Students for Education Reform and Stand for Children have backed candidates who gravitate toward the reform side: Alexis Menocal Harrigan, Diana Romero Campbell and Tony Curcio.

Now look at the rhetoric of the privatizers. Only they care about children. They have been in total control for years and accomplished nothing other than disruption of schools, communities, and families. But they will call upon their billionaire funders to keep the disruption gang in power. Questioning their failure is “divisive.”

Krista Spurgin, executive director of Colorado Stand for Children, said the emphasis on flip versus reform candidates is “divisive,” and that the focus should be on working together to improve education. The parent volunteer committee that made the endorsement decisions wasn’t focused on ideology, but on whether candidates had a record of commitment to have students reading by third grade and on-track to graduate high school, she said.

“It’s about them having the experience and the knowledge to make improvements for families,” she said. “They also have the ability to push the district to improve.”

The candidates they endorsed also support school choice, which is valuable to parents, and giving schools autonomy to figure out what will work for their kids, Spurgin said.

Christian Esperias, national director of campaign strategy of Students for Education Reform, said the questions their student leaders considered when making their endorsement decisions weren’t focused on issues like charter schools and school closures, but on how candidates would close the opportunity gap for underserved groups like students of color and low-income kids. They also looked for candidates who support higher pay for teachers, he said.

“I would frame it as putting kids first versus focusing on the bureaucracy and the special interests,” he said.

Krista Spurgin, executive director of Colorado Stand for Children, said the emphasis on flip versus reform candidates is “divisive,” and that the focus should be on working together to improve education. The parent volunteer committee that made the endorsement decisions wasn’t focused on ideology, but on whether candidates had a record of commitment to have students reading by third grade and on-track to graduate high school, she said.

“It’s about them having the experience and the knowledge to make improvements for families,” she said. “They also have the ability to push the district to improve.”

The candidates they endorsed also support school choice, which is valuable to parents, and giving schools autonomy to figure out what will work for their kids, Spurgin said.

Christian Esperias, national director of campaign strategy of Students for Education Reform, said the questions their student leaders considered when making their endorsement decisions weren’t focused on issues like charter schools and school closures, but on how candidates would close the opportunity gap for underserved groups like students of color and low-income kids. They also looked for candidates who support higher pay for teachers, he said.

“I would frame it as putting kids first versus focusing on the bureaucracy and the special interests,” he said.