Archives for category: DFER

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.

Jeanne Kaplan served two terms on the elected board of education in Denver. She has been an outspoken critic of the Disruption policies of the Michael Bennet-Tom Boasberg era, and she worked with other parents and activists in Denver against the monied interests that promoted Disruption, high-stakes testing, and charters in that city.

Miraculously, a new board was elected last fall which had a majority of advocates for public education. But they have implemented none of the changes they promised.

In this post, she wonders why the new, supposedly pro-public education board has been so passive.

Her post begins:

On November 5, 2019 Denver voters gave education reform an “F” which was reflected by the election of three new board members, none of whom was supported by the usual suspects in Denver’s education reform landscape: DFER (Democrats for Education Reform), SFER (Students for Education Reform), Stand for Children or as I recently heard referred to as STOMP ON CHILDREN. The three winners – Tay Anderson, Scott Baldermann, and Brad Laurvick, joined two other non-reform members to make what should have been an easy 5-2 majority. Taking action to undo the District’s business model of education reform should have been a gimme. It is now four months later, and while there are members who want to see the District go in a new direction, the sense of urgency is definitely not there. The new majority appears to be unwilling or stymied as how best to make essential change and how best to honor the voters’ desires. I have attended various DPS events these past few weeks, and I was struck by how easily it could have been 2009 or 2013 or 2017. Many of the same people are in charge, most of the same policies are being pursued, the same policy governance baloney is being pushed. Education reform continues to dominate the conversation and decision making. The window of opportunity for this board to act is closing rapidly and before we know it, a new election cycle will be upon us. Denver Board of Education – it is incumbent upon you to act now. If you continue to drag your feet, we will lose another generation to education reform and its portfolio model. Some possibilities as how to proceed and achieve change quickly follow:

The Board must begin a search for a new superintendent. Superintendent Susana Cordova and all of her senior team must be replaced. For a short while I believed Ms. Cordova could stay without her current senior staff, but it has become apparent that that would be an unworkable situation. All who are so deeply vested in the education reform direction the District has followed need to be replaced by qualified leaders who are not afraid to admit the failures of the last 15 years and who are willing to develop a bold, new direction for the District. The current leadership in DPS is wedded too heavily to the past (some might call it the status quo). Denverites want change and have said so clearly in the past two elections. The only way for that to happen is for a complete change in top leadership. In a recent post written specifically for Loving Community Schools Newsletter, The CURE, education historian and hero of the transformers’ movement Diane Ravitch said this:

“The new Denver school board should use this unique opportunity to repudiate the failed “reforms” of the past decade. They have not closed achievement gaps; they have not improved the opportunities of all children. They have failed.

“It is time for the school board to find new leadership willing to strike out in a new direction. That means leaders who do not define schooling by deeply flawed standardized tests and who understand that a great public education system benefits all children, not just a few.”

The Board must take back power it has ceded to the superintendent.

It must:

*decide what board meeting agendas should look like.
*direct the superintendent to direct the staff to follow up on Board Directors’ subjects of interest.
*consider returning to two public board meetings per month. That used to be the norm until the Bennet/Boasberg regimes. The reduction in meetings has resulted in less transparency and fewer meaningful public discussions.
*revise policies DJA and DJA-R so the threshold for Board approved purchases is lowered from the current $1 million.
*reduce the number and length of PowerPoint presentations. One thing DPS has improved over the past 15 years is its PowerPoint presentations. They are now very colorful, very long, and very, very obtuse. No more “Death by PowerPoint.”

The Board must change the budget and educational priorities from one based on reform-oriented tenets and expenditures to one that reflects priorities voted for in the elections of 2017 and 2019.
SPF – Accountability based on data, data, data which is based on testing, testing, testing. Why is the District continuing to pursue and spend taxpayer money on a flawed, racist, punitive, inequitable accountability system upon which most of its other educational decisions are based? While the SPF is being “re-imagined” and the possibility of using the state system is being considered, few board members seem willing to tackle real change which could result in a wholly different accountability system. Why is the Board not directing the staff to develop an entirely new accountability system focused on “school stories,” for example, based on things other than test scores? Why is the Board unwilling to make real change but instead seems satisfied to just nibble at the edges?

Choice – A complicated, expensive to operate, stressful system where the number of “choices” has increased from five schools to twelve schools per student. Who could really be satisfied with a number past even five? Is this just another way for DPS to pretend a reform is working by saying “XX% got one of their top choices. Look. It’s working!” And why is the Board majority allowing the District to continue to ignore focusing on most family’s first Choice, their neighborhood schools? What are the costs of Choice from implementation to transportation and everything in between? And how could that money not be better spent in the classroom?
Charter Schools – these “publicly funded, privately managed ‘public’ schools” seem to have it both ways; they are funded with taxpayer dollars, yet they are not overseen by our duly elected officials. The Board must work with the legislature to bring more transparency, oversight and accountability to charter schools in general. (See next section). Just last week in a 2 hour, 27 page PowerPoint presentation, DPS had a Focus on Achievement study session devoted to “Positive Culture Change for Educators of Color.” None of the data reflected Charter School recruitment, hiring, demographics, retention, turnover. Nothing. The head of Human Resources actually said, “We do not include charters in this data. Charters are not required to provide their employee data or demographic data to the District.” (minute 39) WHAAAT?? Sixty out of 200 schools are charters. 20%. No accountability to the Board. As for bond and mill levy monies? Same thing. DPS is touted for sharing these funds with its charters, yet once again there is no oversight and accountability for the charters.

Bonuses – Awarding bonuses is one of those business practices that works better in the private sector than the public sector. As DPS has plowed forward with all things reform, bonuses have become a huge part of its model. Teachers earn bonuses based on criteria established in the 2019 strike settlement. The dollar amount per year starts at $750 and can go as high $6000 a year. Administrators earn bonuses based on criteria established by, one assumes, by the superintendent. Denver’s Inter-Neighborhood Cooperation (INC) has engaged a financial analytics consultant to analyze salary and expenditure trends within the DPS budget. Detailed compensation data for the fiscal years ending 2014 – 2019 was provided by DPS to INC through a Colorado Open Records Act request.

From this data, DPS is showing that the largest beneficiaries of Bonus Compensation were those in the “Administrator” job classification. For the six-year period, Administrators received 82% ($3.8 million) of the total bonuses paid ($4.6 million). What’s more, the 20 highest bonused Administrators received 33%, or $1.4 million of the overall $4.6 million. Let that sink in – $1.4 million paid from 2014-2019 went to 20 Administrators. In a District strapped for cash. In a District that is asking teachers to make up a budgetary shortfall by increasing their pension contributions.

Please read the rest of the post. It is all sensible and reasonable. It is time for the board to represent the constituents who asked for a change in the status quo.

 

I am happy to endorse Scott Baldermann for District 1 on the Denver school board.

Scott is a native of Denver, a graduate of Aurora public schools, and a parent of children who attend Denver public schools.

He is an architect and software developer. He sold his small business and is now devoted to his children and their school. He is president of the PTA.

He has been endorsed by the Denver Classroom Teachers Association, the Colorado Education Association, and other professional groups, as well as by former Denver Mayor Wellington Webb.

Former Mayor Webb put the issue succinctly:

The Denver Public Schools philosophy of education reform has destroyed Cole Junior High and Manual High School, which houses three different schools. The current DPS Board of Education’s philosophy of education reform is not addressing these concerns and other issues. Therefore, I am endorsing a slate of three new candidates for the board supported by the Denver Classroom Teachers Association. They are: Tay Anderson for At-Large, Scott Baldermann for District 1, and Brad Laurvick for District 5.

Baldermann’s critics complain that he is funding his own campaign. This is the reverse of the usual scenario in Denver, where out-of-state groups like Democrats for Education Reform spend large sums to maintain control of the board by advocates for charters and testing.

If Scott can pay for his campaign, good for him!

Too often, the genuine supporters of public schools have been beaten by plutocrat money.

Scott Baldermann doesn’t need money from the Waltons, Charles Koch, Eli Broad, Reed Hastings, Michael Bloomberg or others who want to disrupt and privatize Denver’s public schools.

Scott is exactly the kind of public-spirited good citizen who should serve on the school board.

He is a true friend and supporter of Denver’s public schools.

I hope he is elected.

Another reason to vote for Scott Baldermann and the other grassroots candidates: Arne Duncan showed up in Denver to endorse their opponents and urge voters to continue supporting Obama’s “legacy” of charter schools, school closings, and high-stakes testing.

Vote for Scott Baldermann and vote for real public schools and a board led by public school parents, not NYC hedge funders or out-of-state billionaires.

 

 

 

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.

In this fall’s school board elections in Cincinnati, one of the candidates will be a TFA alum who is trying again after almost being kicked out of the Democratic Party three years ago.

Ben Lindy is the director of Teach for America in Cincinnati. He attended elite suburban schools, then graduated from Yale College and Yale Law School. After he taught in rural North Carolina, he tried to start his  political career by running for state representative in Ohio. He was nearly censured and booted from the Democratic Party at that time when union officials discovered that he had written a law journal article that was anti-union and that was cited in a Supreme Court case to hurt the cause of collective bargaining. In that paper, he argued that collective bargaining agreements raise the performance of high-achieving students and lower the performance of “poorly achieving students.” On the face of it, this claim is absurd, first, because there are many different variables that affect student performance, especially in the state he studied, New Mexico, which has one of the highest child poverty rates in the nation. Consider also that the highest performing states in the nation–Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New Jersey–have strong teachers’ unions, while the lowest performing states in the nation (mainly in the South) do not.

The 2016 effort to oust him from the Democratic Party failed by 26-21. When he was questioned about this stance on organized labor, he claimed to be pro-union but claimed that he hadn’t give much though to union issues.

Lindy showed a lack of knowledge about some labor issues. When asked his stance on prevailing wage, he said: “This is an issue I’d like to know more about.”

“I’m not hearing how you’ve evolved,” said Pat Bruns, a committee member who sits on the state board of education.

Lindy is a prodigious fund-raiser, which is enough to recommend him to some party leaders.

But party leaders should check where Lindy’s campaign cash is coming from. If it is coming from “Democrats for Education Reform,” bear in mind that these are hedge fund managers who are anti-union and anti-public schools, who favor TFA and merit pay. If it is coming from “Leadership for Educational Equity,” that is TFA’s political arm, which is anti-union and pro-charter school.

Be informed before you vote.

 

 

 

 

Our blog poet wrote a poem about DFER (Democrats for Education Reform). DFER is a group of wealthy hedge fund managers who may or may not be Democrats, but who are committed to charter schools, test-based evaluation of teachers, high-stakes testing, merit pay, and Teach for America.

The Dream DFERed (with apologies o Langston Hughes)

What happens to a dream DFERed?
Does it disrupt
Like a test in a school?
Or fester like a Common Core–
Or techy tool?
Does it stink like stale pee?
Or rust and fade away-
like Michelle Rhee?
Maybe it just doubles down
like a billionaire
Or does it drown?

 

This is good news!

The House Appropriations Committee issued its budget report. Betsy DeVos requested an increase for the federal Charter Schools Program, from $440 million a year to $500 million. But the education appropriations subcommittee cut the appropriation to $400 million. This is a program that is riddled with waste, fraud, and abuse, as the Department of Education’s own Inspector General pointed out in the past, and as the Network for Public Education pointed out in its recent report called “Asleep at the Wheel: How the Federal Charter Schools Program Recklessly Takes Taxpayers and Students for a Ride.”

Thank you to Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), chairperson of the education appropriations subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee. She is a deeply knowledgeable member of Congress who is committed to equity and works tirelessly to meet the needs of the American people for well-funded public schools

The NPE report found that one-third of the charter school funded by the federal government either never opened or closed soon after opening, costing taxpayers close to $1 billion in wasted funds.

Here is the report of the House Appropriations Committee. It increased the funding of well-respected programs that DeVos and Trump wanted to slash or kill, while cutting back on the Charter Schools Program (start reading at page 182).

Just in the last year, Secretary DeVos gave $116 million to a single charter chain, IDEA, which intends to flood the small El Paso district with charters; and she gave a grant of $86 million to KIPP. This concentration of funds in the hands of corporate charter chains was certainly not the intent of the program, which was meant to spur start-ups and innovation, not to enlarge established charter chains. KIPP, in particular, is amply funded by the Walton Family Foundation and a dozen other major foundations. It is hard to understand why this wealthy and powerful charter chain needs federal aid.

Charles Barone, the policy director of DFER (the hedge fund managers’ organization that pretends to be Democrats), expressed disappointment!

The Democratic state parties in California and Colorado have denounced DFER as a corporate front that should drop the word “Democrat” from its title.

Real Democrats support public schools, democratically governed and open to all, not corporate charter chains or private management.

By the way, the NPE report had no external funding. It was produced by the research of our brilliant staff and written by Carol Burris and Jeff Bryant.

 

 

Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) is an organization of faux Democrats. Some are Democrats, some are Republicans, all of them give generously to undermine public schools and the teaching profession.

D.C. parent blogger Valerie Jablow gives an overview of how DFER in pouring obscene sums of money into education races in D.C.

DFER was denounced formally by the Democratic party conventions in Colorado and California; both called on DFER to stop corrupting the term “Democrat” by using it in their title, since they are a front for Wall Street and corporate America.

She writes:

How much money have you–as a parent, teacher, or student in DC’s publicly funded schools–given to political causes around public education in 2018: $5? $50? $500? $5000?

How much money did your spouse/parents/children/relatives give?

How much money did any union at your public school give?

It is not easy to know all these answers–but chances are good the total is less than $522,393.74.

That amount–$522,393.74–is what I calculated was given between January 1, 2018 and October 26 to the independent expenditure committee (IEC) of the DC chapter of the education advocacy organization Democrats for Education Reform (DFER). If you add in what was given to DFER DC’s political action committee (PAC) in the same time–about $7,400–you get almost $530,000 donated in just 10 months in the name of education reform in DC. Most of those 2018 donors appear to be outside DC.

Some familiar names appear, like the Waltons (of course) and Reed Hastings’ wife, who lives in California. The Waltons were the single biggest funder of charter schools in D.C. The Waltons own Walmart, which does not pay its workers a living wage. I seriously doubt that they are Democrats.

After listing the donors and recipients of DFER money (which does not add up to over $500,000), Jablow writes:

If wealthy people giving to a cause to tilt public education away from the public seems deeply undemocratic, it’s helpful to recall two recent, undemocratic, actions in our public schools:

–No DC citizen voted to have charter schools in our city. While many DC families are happy with their charter school(s) and appreciate the horizons these schools have opened, it is well worth recalling that we did not get charter schools because of popular will or votes. We got them because Congress–a body in which no DC citizen has representation equal to that of the rest of the country–said we had to. (And charmingly decreed that we had to pay for them, too.)

–No unelected DC citizen voted for mayoral control of DCPS. (In fact, there were only 9 people in the entire world who voted for mayoral control of DCPS. They were all members of the city council.)

Through this lens, one could construe DFER DC’s 2018 wealth gathering and deployment not merely as success, but custom!

Too bad for taxpayers and democracy.

This article by Ross Barkan reminds us of why Andrew Cuomo never won the hearts of progressives and never will. He really is not a progressive, and he has many tricks up his sleeve to prevent unified Democratic control of the Legislature. He is now playing urban Democrats against suburban Democrats. He will pull any trick to foil his arch-enemy Bill de Blasio, the mayor of New York City. He persuaded suburban Democrats to pledge unity, based on the phony claim that the Big City doesn’t pay its “fair share” of the costs of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. As the article shows, NYC does pay a fair share, and Cuomo likes to pretend he is not in charge of the agency, which is currently struggling with an aging infrastructure and poor service. Fixing it is Cuomo’s job, but he is a shirker.

Correction: New York State teachers’ union did not endorse Cuomo or anyone else on the Democratic primary. However, it remains a fact that Cuomo has repeatedly insulted teachers and imposed a draconian (and failed) teacher evaluation plan. Cuomo still loves charter schools because they are the hobby of Wall Street, and their billionaire backers support Cuomo.

He periodically reminds us who he is and what he cares about.