Archives for category: Detroit

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette is a wholly owned subsidiary of the DeVos family. They have given him about $140,000. That’s real friendship. Now he is running for Governor of Michigan, to lock in the damage that rightwingers have inflicted on what was once a union-friendly State but is now completely controlled by the Greed Industry. Trump has already endorsed Schuette.

Schuette just released a ruling that will please Billionaire Betsy DeVos. No surprise. He decided that it is okay to keep privatizing the public schools of Detroit. It doesn’t matter that the charter sector in Detroit has not performed better than the struggling public s hoops. Detroit may be the next New Orleans, a playground for TFA and charter entrepreneurs.

Anita Senkowski is a blogger in northern Michigan who has written numerous posts about a for-profit charter operator who ripped off taxpayers and is now serving a term in jail for his financial crimes. She read Mark Binelli’s piece in the New York Times about charter schools in Detroit and its surroundings and hopes that he will come to Northern Michigan to see how the fraudster mentality permeates the DeVos charter industry throughout the state.

She writes:

Binelli’s fine piece, focused primarily on districts south of Eight Mile Road, the northern border of Detroit made infamous by former Detroit Mayor Coleman Young in his 1973 inaugural address. Telling “rip-off artists and muggers” to “hit Eight Mile Road” and leave Detroit, Young made few friends in suburban Detroit, especially Oakland County.

As they say in Las Vegas, the house always wins.

And although Michigan gambled on charter schools and its children lost, there have been winners.

One, former optometrist Steven Ingersoll, (whose story I’ve beaten like a rented mule for three years), walked away with millions. Although he’s serving a 41-month federal prison term, no Michigan authority (state or local law enforcement) has expressed any interest in prosecuting Ingersoll for his admitted fraudulent conversion of approximately $5.0 million from the Grand Traverse Academy and another roughly $1.4 million from the Bay City Academy.

If Ingersoll had lived in Mississippi and not Michigan, John Grisham would have already written a not-very-fictitious-sounding novel about him.

In its theory of the case, the federal government asserted Ingersoll’s federal tax evasion case demonstrated the truth of the sayings that “money gives power” and “unchecked power corrupts”.

“Steven Ingersoll obtained control over millions of dollars by creating and running the public charter schools known as the Grand Traverse Academy. The power of that money enabled Steven Ingersoll to corrupt himself, his wife Deborah Ingersoll, his brother Gayle Ingersoll, Roy Bradley, Sr., and Tammy Bradley.

As the person who controlled the accounting books and public funds intended for the operation of the Grand Traverse Academy, Steven Ingersoll ignored his obligation to separate his personal finances from the finances of the Grand Traverse Academy.

Instead, Steven Ingersoll treated the tax dollars provided for public education as his personal piggy bank, ultimately diverting approximately $3.5 million from the Grand Traverse Academy to uses other than the operation of the Grand Traverse Academy.

Steven Ingersoll also manipulated the books of entities he controlled, including Smart Schools Management and Smart Schools Incorporated, to hide his diversion of the public money that had been entrusted to him.”

And Ingersoll, on who reported to FCI Duluth on February 2, 2017 to serve a 41 month sentence for his federal tax evasion and conspiracy convictions, filed a “pro se” motion to vacate on January 24, 2017, seeking “post-conviction relief” based on attorney Martin Crandall’s alleged “ineffective assistance of counsel” — an attorney who’d sued him for nonpayment of nearly $362,000 in outstanding legal fees.

Ingersoll’s motion was denied, and he’s sitting in stir until January 22, 2020 — ironic, since he was an optometrist.

Let’s hope Binelli takes a look back here in Michigan…about 250 miles north of Eight Mile Road.

More than any other state, Michigan placed its bets on charter schools. This article shows what happened. Republican Governor John Engler sold his party on the miracle of school choice. Betsy DeVos jumped on the Choice bandwagon and financed its grip on the legislature. Although the article doesn’t mention it, Betsy and her husband funded a voucher referendum in 2000 that was overwhelmingly defeated.

The author Mark Binelli describes the mess that choice and charters have made of the state’s education system. The state is overrun by unaccountable charters, most of which operate for profit.

The damage has fallen most heavily on black children, especially in Detroit and in the districts where the state installed emergency managers and gave the public schools to for-profit charter operators.

Rich districts still have public schools.

Binelli writes:

“Michigan’s aggressively free-market approach to schools has resulted in one of the most deregulated educational environments in the country, a laboratory in which consumer choice and a shifting landscape of supply and demand (and profit motive, in the case of many charters) were pitched as ways to improve life in the classroom for the state’s 1.5 million public-school students. But a Brookings Institution analysis done this year of national test scores ranked Michigan last among all states when it came to improvements in student proficiency. And a 2016 analysis by the Education Trust-Midwest, a nonpartisan education policy and research organization, found that 70 percent of Michigan charters were in the bottom half of the state’s rankings. Michigan has the most for-profit charter schools in the country and some of the least state oversight. Even staunch charter advocates have blanched at the Michigan model.

“The story of Carver is the story of Michigan’s grand educational experiment writ small. It spans more than two decades, three governors and, now, the United States Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, whose relentless advocacy for unchecked “school choice” in her home state might soon, her critics fear, be going national. But it’s important to understand that what happened to Michigan’s schools isn’t solely, or even primarily, an education story: It’s a business story. Today in Michigan, hundreds of nonprofit public charters have become potential financial assets to outside entities, inevitably complicating their broader social missions. In the case of Carver, interested parties have included a for-profit educational management organization, or E.M.O., in Georgia; an Indian tribe in a remote section of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula; and a financial firm in Minnesota. “That’s all it is now — it’s moneymaking,” Darrel Redrick, a charter-school proponent and an administrator at Carver at the time I visited, told me.”

Michigan Technical Academy in Detroit closed its doors. Teachers who had worked there on contract just learned that they would not be paid, because the school has other debts.

Teachers at the Michigan Technical Academy had contracts that required the school to pay them through the summer for work they did during the school year. But the school’s management company, Matchbook Learning, alerted teachers in an email Wednesday that the money would instead go to pay off the school’s debts.

Tough luck for teachers who counted on that income to pay their debts, feed their children, meet the mortgage or rent payment.

That’s why unions were created.

Good news from Detroit, the lowest performing urban district in the nation. After years of outsourcing students to privately managed charter schools, the new superintendent says he is considering no longer authorizing charters but focusing instead on improving traditional public schools.

Imagine asking a business to jumpstart competitors and you can see how wacky the current policy is.

I am very impressed by what I have heard about Superintendent Nikolai Vitti. Unlike his predecessors, who collaborated with the plan to destroy public education in Detroit, Vitti wants to fight for the public schools.

To seal his argument, Detroit’s much-maligned public schools outperform its charter schools.

The turbulence and instability in the charter industry continue.

Four charter schools in Detroit closed their doors. You know, Betsy DeVos’s home state.

Under the leadership of its aggressive new superintendent, Nikolai Vitti, Detroit Public Schools began a campaign to win back students from failing charter schools.

“With a slew of charter schools closing and thousands of Detroit families expecting to be displaced, Detroit’s main district is swooping in to pick up as many new students as it can.

“If that seems cut-throat for a district that narrowly averted the forced closure of 24 of its schools earlier this year and has endured scores of painful school closings, new district superintendent Nikolai Vitti is making no apologies.

“This is what competition looks like,” he said Tuesday. “We’re not going to be passive. We’re not going to be apologetic about celebrating our programs and our schools and our teachers and our principals.”

“Vitti personally visited an enrollment fair Tuesday at the closing Woodward Academy in hopes of drawing parents to the district.

“Lawn signs have popped up at city intersections asking parents: “Is your charter school closing?” with a phone number urging them to call the district.”

Vitti has announced that his priorities are to hire more teachers to reduce class sizes and to reduce testing.

Unless DeVos gets in the way with her failed and destructive policies, Detroit is coming back from the brink of extinction!

Professor TOm Pedroni of Wayne State University wrote the following letter after learning that Barbara Byrd-Bennett had been selected as the new Chicago superintendent. He and sent it to the Chicago newspapers. None would publish it.

“October 14, 2012

LETTER TO THE EDITOR:

“BARBARA BYRD-BENNETT FAILED OUR KIDS IN DETROIT

“Many of us in Detroit are shocked by Mayor Emanuel’s appointment of Byrd-Bennett to head CPS. Her abysmal record as Chief Academic and Accountability Auditor of Detroit Public Schools should alarm Chicago parents and educators.

“Byrd-Bennett created an academic plan for DPS that promised skyrocketing performance gains. To say the least, these gains never materialized. Her plan centered on the obstinate assertion that closing failing schools and offering parents a “marketplace of choices” would cause test scores to jump. Predictably, test scores actually declined or stagnated in DPS while they increased statewide. This has exacerbated Michigan’s statewide achievement gap.

“While Byrd-Bennett did not make her mark in academics, she did help engineer what many consider the largest textbook publisher contract in U.S. history—a $40 million partnership with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Byrd-Bennett had just resigned as Superintendent-in-Residence for Harcourt School Publishers. The Houghton Mifflin Harcourt deal necessitated a sweeping overhaul of the district’s academic program that was not vetted by any internal process.

“While we applaud the dialogue that Byrd-Bennett has initiated with CTU President Karen Lewis, Chicagoans should be concerned about her previous performance and demonstrated commitments.

“Dr. Thomas C. Pedroni, Wayne State University”


Dr. Thomas C. Pedroni  387 Education Bldg, Detroit, MI 48202  (313) 577-1730 pedroni@wayne.edu

Wendy Lecker is a civil rights attorney who writes often for Connecticut newspapers. I did not see this column when it first appeared, but think it is worth reading now. Locker was first to use the term “gateway drug” to describe charters, meaning that they are the seemingly benign but insidious first step towards privatization of public schools.

She writes:


Betsy DeVos’ nomination brings to the fore some important truths about charter schools. Charter schools are part of a larger strategy to privatize and eliminate public schools. The slogan that charters and choice are part of a “civil rights” agenda is propaganda originating from ultra-conservative white Christian activists disguising their true aims.

In reality, choice in the form of charters increases segregation and devastates community public schools in our most distressed cities. As charters have proliferated in predominately minority cities, children and parents of color bear the brunt of this destruction.

To describe the proliferation of charter schools and vouchers as “the civil rights issue of our time” is both hypocritical and cynical. To see the utter failure of charters to address the needs of children of color, one need look no further than Detroit, awash in charters that have been a diversion from the consequences of structural racism and deindustrialization. Promises aplenty, but no help for the city’s neediest families and students, whose public schools and communities have been gutted by competition with ineffective charter schools.

Betsy DeVos gave a speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), explaining that the programs created by George W. Bush and Barack Obama had failed, and she would replace them with her own ideas. She did not point out that her own ideas have failed too. Just look at the mess she has made of Michigan, where the state’s rankings on the federal test (NAEP) have plummeted, and where Detroit is a mess thanks to the miasma of school choice.


DeVos argued Thursday that education is failing too many students, pointing to “flatlined” test scores (presumably on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, also called the Nation’s Report Card) and more than 1.3 million youth who drop out of school each year. The Obama administration’s $7 billion investment in overhauling the worst schools, called the School Improvement Grant program, didn’t work, DeVos said, making reference to a study by the administration that found no increase in test scores or graduation rates at schools that got the money.

“They tested their model, and it failed miserably,” she said. She emphasized that she was not indicting teachers.

She has said that she wants to return as much authority over education as possible to states and districts, and intends to identify programs and initiatives to cut at the Education Department. She has also made clear that she intends to use her platform to expand alternatives to public schools, including charter schools, online schools and private schools that students attend with the help of public funds.

“We have a unique window of opportunity to make school choice a reality for millions of families,” she said. “Both the president and I believe that providing an equal opportunity for a quality education is an imperative that all students deserve.”

Her own model of vouchers has not a single success to its name: evaluations of voucher programs in Milwaukee, Cleveland, the District of Columbia, Louisiana, and Indiana have found no gains for the students enrolled in voucher schools. Parents are happier, but that’s not a good reason to destroy public schools.

The overwhelming majority of charter studies have found that charters perform no better than public schools unless they exclude children with disabilities, English language learners, and behavior problems. When the charters kick them out, they go back to the public school, which must take them.

Cybercharters have been proven to be disastrous failures in every state. In Tennessee, the Tennessee Virtual Academy is the lowest performing school in the state. Ohio boasts the cybercharter with the lowest graduation rate in the nation, called Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow.

DeVos does not have a single innovative idea. It is the same old retreads of the privatization movement.

I recommend that she read “Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools,” where I patiently demonstrated, using data from the U.S. Department of Education that American students as of 2013 had the highest test scores in our history–for all groups, white, black, Hispanic, and Asian; the highest graduation rates in history; the lowest dropout rates in history.

The scores flatlined from 2013 to 2015, and that may have been because of the application of the Common Core standards and the disruptions foisted upon the schools by Obama and Duncan for the past eight years.

DeVos has proven that she is unqualified to be Secretary of Education. She is not dumb, she is just ignorant. She should do some reading and break free of her ideological contempt for public schools.

Ms. DeVos:

The state of Michigan, as you know, plans to close 38 schools, most of them in Detroit.

Please watch this powerful documentary about school closings in Detroit, how they disproportionately affect black children, how they disproportionately affect children with special needs.

Detroit is littered with closed schools.

Don’t you realize that closing schools destroys communities and disrupts the lives of children who have high needs?

Please tell us what you intend to do to stop this madness.

The schools are not failing; our society is failing.