Archives for category: Disruption

Arthur Camins wrote a beautiful review of SLAYING GOLIATH at The Daily Kos. 

In light of Camins’ experience as an educator and his passion for justice, I am most grateful for his close and sympathetic reading of this book. Until recently, he was Director of the Center for Innovation in Engineering and Science Education at Stevens Institute of Technology.

He writes, in this excerpt:

Ravitch’s first chapters, Disruption is Not Reform! and the Odious Status Quo, set the context for a thorough repudiation of the state of education in the United States: Endemic historic inequality made worse by decades of focused effort to disrupt a bedrock of American democracy, public education; Support for standardization linked to punishment of students, teachers, and schools by test scores; and, A determined effort to shift essential financial support from democratically governed public education to a competing private sector that includes privately governed charter schools and vouchers for private schools. The perpetrators call themselves reformers. Ravitch calls them disrupters. In her telling, that is a descriptive accusation, not a complement.

“No one likes the status quo,” she writes. “Disrupters claim to oppose the status quo, but they are the status quo.  After all, they control the levers of power in federal and state governments. They write the laws and mandates. They define the status quo. They own it.”  They are a somewhat disparate collective of market ideologues, self-regarding billionaires, technology titans, hedge fund managers, and entrepreneurs out to make (or steal) a fortune at the public trough.  What unites them in an unwavering faith (ideas not supported by evidence) in the power of competition to drive human behavior.  

Slaying Goliath upends the myths of declining achievement and the lies that teachers unions and incompetent teachers are responsible for poor children’s failure to rise to their potential (or do well on standardized tests.  Instead, Ravitch centers blame where it belongs, on our systemic failure to address the systemic- and personally debilitating effects of poverty.

I hope you will open the link and read the review in its entirety.

The book’s official publication date is TODAY! January 21!

Valerie Strauss, veteran education writer at the Washington Post, interviewed me about my new book SLAYING GOLIATH. 

Her questions get to the heart of the book. I hope you will read the exchange.

Larry Lee, native Alabaman, follows the charter confusion in his home state, where the law describes precisely how charter schools should be authorized.

But, as Lee notes, the actual process of creating new charters has proceeded with complete disregard for the law, and no one seems to care.

Public schools in Montgomery will be replaced by charter schools, but the local board did not agree (the law said it should).

The charter mess has created disruption and chaos in Montgomery.

Count on it: charters will open and close. Public schools will founder as students “choose” to go to a flailing charter.

Staff will turnover. Principals will come and go.

Disruption.

That is the  point, isn’t it?

 

Michael Kohlhaas, the blogger who has used the California Public Records Act to obtain emails among charter leaders, the California Charter Schools Association, and their enablers, reveals here what happened when protestors shut down a charter board meeting last March, accusing the charter school of taking money from the nefarious Eli Broad and the Waltons. Broad and Walton have a shell takeover corporation deceptively titled “Great Public Schools Now,” whose goal is to turn public schools into privately managed charter schools. The leader of the Extera Charter School did not directly answer the question, but Kohlhaas answers it now. Yes, the charter did take money from the Waltons and Broad.

The public is getting wise to the deceptive tactics of the charter lobby. Public schools are accountable and transparent. Charter schools are not. Public schools are audited and overseen by public officials. Charter schools answer to no one but their self-selected private boards.

Kohlhaas writes:

So you probably heard about how activists from Centro CSO and the United Teachers of Los Angeles and Eastside Padres Unidos Contra la Privatizacion protested vigorously and shut down the March 19, 2019 meeting of the Extera Charter Conspiracy Board of Directors to express their opposition to Extera’s colonial co-location at Eastman Avenue Elementary School in Boyle Heights.

And one of the key exchanges was between a protester, whose name I don’t know, and self-proclaimed doctor and supreme Extera commander Jim Kennedy, and you can watch it here.1 The backstory is that Corri Ravare had been talking previously about how Extera was getting some money from famous Walton/Broad privatizing front organization Great Public Schools Now, which, as the protester notes, is extraordinarily revealing with respect to which team Extera plays for.2

The protester called Dr. Jim Kennedy out on this and he denied that they had taken any money from GPSN: “At this point we have not …” But the truth, as the protester said, is that Corri Ravare had already “said we pretty much have the money.” And the problem with this? Well, clearly, it is that “Great Public Schools Now have declared themselves an enemy of public education. Those are the people we have to work against because they are selling out our public schools to Eli Broad and the Walton Foundation.”

She’s absolutely right about that, of course, and Doctor Jim Kennedy seems to understand that, or at least to realize that Extera’s association with GPSN doesn’t look so good. No doubt this is why he went on to tell her straight out that “[Extera has] not yet accepted that money.” But, as you may already have guessed, Doctor JK is being extraordinarily deceptive here with his mumbled half-denials. In fact Extera had been actively pursuing money from GPSN since December 2018, four months before the date of this meeting.

And the money they were pursuing was not innocuous. Not meant for important things like supplies, textbooks, instructional materials, anything at all to be used to actually educate actual children. They were seeking money from GPSN’s charter school expansion funding program for a planning grant to support their continued colonial charter conspiracy expansion, this time into the majority-Latino Montebello Unified School District. In other words, the protester’s criticism was right on target.

Things are going badly for the charter industry when their mask of beneficence is stripped away and behind it are the same voracious billionaires, eager to strip democratic control away and privatize public schools.

Nancy Bailey is an experienced classroom teacher who is now retired. She and I co-authored a glossary to explain the duplicity of today’s phony school “reforms,” called Edspeak and Doublespeak. We discovered that we shared the same disdain for hypocrisy and hype.

Nancy posted a letter here by a teacher in a suburban school about how corporate reform is ruining education in her district.

Here is an excerpt from her essay.

Who remembers when elementary age children’s schedules included daily periods of recess, English, social studies, science & math, with a rotation of daily enriching specials, such as art, music, gym, library, etc.?

Who remembers when change was slow and steady in school districts, because they knew children needed stability and predictability?

Who remembers when there were no charter schools siphoning public school money away from public schools?

Who remembers when public schools were a valued public service for the greater good of the country?

Who remembers school before corporate education reform? Not sure what that is?

She goes on to e plain how the misguided and failed ideas of “corporate reform” have changed schools for the worse, even on the best districts.

The ever-present theme of corporate reform is DISRUPTION. Not better education: disruption. That’s why in my new book SLAYING GOLIATH, I refer to the faux reformers as DISRUPTERS. I don’t allow them to corrupt and appropriate the honorable term “reform” or to call themselves “reformers.” They are not. They are DISRUPTERS.

John Thompson, historian and retired teacher in Oklahoma, writes here about the use and misuse of NAEP scores to advance disruption in the schools.

 

A new wave of “misnaepery” is heading towards Oklahoma and other states. After most or all of the corporate reform agenda became law in about 90 percent of states, reading scores dropped so much that even a reform true believer dubbed NAEP as “National Assessment of Educational Stagnation and/or Decline.”

https://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2013/07/24/37naep.h32.html
https://podcasts.google.com/?feed=aHR0cDovL2VkdWNhdGlvbmdhZGZseXNob3cubGlic3luLmNvbS9yc3M%3D&episode=NzEzNTA2MzJjMDI0NDA0YmJmMjM4NjVhNzAwODE4NzE%3D&hl=en

After test-driven, market-driven reform was implemented, from 2013 to 2019, the nation’s 8th grade math scores for African-Americans dropped by five points. But I would argue that 8th grade NAEP reading scores are the most important and reliable metric, and they dropped seven points in six years for African-American 8th graders.

Today, Oklahoma’s 4th grade NAEP reading scores have dropped to four points below the 1990s pre-HB1017 tax increase level. And since accountability-driven, competition-driven reforms were supposed to improve outcomes for our poorest children of color, it is shocking that from 2013 to 2019 black student 8th grade scores dropped 15 points!

https://www.educationnext.org/make-2019-results-nations-report-card/

https://fordhaminstitute.org/national/commentary/worst-news-naep?utm_source=Fordham+Institute+Newsletters+%26+Announcements&utm_campaign=f22e67acec-20160918_LateLateBell9_16_2016_COPY_01&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_5fa2df08a3-f22e67acec-71894457&mc_cid=f22e67acec&mc_eid=3095764e3b

Rather than admit their mistakes, reformers have retained their original meme that was used to justify hurried and risky reforms to blow up the education “status quo,” so that “disruptive innovation” can spark “transformative change.”

Two contradictory misnaepery themes are being rushed into the breach by the Fordham Institute. The smiley-faced meme is that teachers and students will naturally rise to meet far more “rigorous” standards. On the other hand, the conservative Fordham Institute has been blaming states like Oklahoma for supposedly hurting student performance by ending high school graduation exams. It is also arguing that we should return to the punitive policies of the former Chief for Change State Superintendent Janet Baressi and retain even more 3rd graders based on reading tests. 

First, ignoring the damage done by their experiments, accountability-driven, competition-driven reformers argue that radically higher testing standards will produce transformative improvements. State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister was a leader in the reaction against Baressi’s privatization agenda, so I can’t be too critical when she has to adopt some policies pushed by Education Next and other “astroturf” think tanks. Rightly or wrongly, she revised the state’s standards and assessments. There are no stakes attached to these metrics, and they allow the State Department of Education to say, “Oklahoma’s new standards [are] one of only 17 ‘A’ grades in the nation, up from the previous rank of 47th and a grade of ‘D.’”

So, for instance, Oklahoma’s 2017 8th grade math tests set a proficiency level which is at the NAEP proficiency level, basically comparable to around a 300 on that rigorous standard. The only groups in the United States were average scores reach that level are white and economically advantaged students in Massachusetts, a state where per capita income is nearly 50 percent greater. Oklahoma’s NAEP scores currently correlate with a level just above Kazakhstan.  Advantaged students in Massachusetts perform at the level of the counterparts on PISA and TMMS in the top performing states and nations, except for South Korea.

https://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/studies/naep_timss/profiles.aspx
https://www.oecd.org/pisa/PISA-2015-United-States-MA.pdf
https://www.epi.org/publication/bringing-it-back-home-why-state-comparisons-are-more-useful-than-international-comparisons-for-improving-u-s-education-policy/#_note11

Of course, now that we listened to conservative reformers at the Fordham Institute and raised our expectations, Oklahoma students will soon join students at the top of the world’s education systems …

Fordham and other national reformers are also launching a second round misnaepery memes.  The 2015 NAEP was its first test of 4th graders after Oklahoma’s Reading Sufficiency Act required the retention of 3rd graders who don’t pass a reading test. Once Chief for Change Baressi was defeated by a pragmatic Republican, Hofmeister, educators were allowed more judgment in deciding whether to retain students. Until last year, however, little funding was available for interventions to assist struggling readers, much less adequate training and supports for inexperienced and emergency teachers in early elementary grades. (Oklahoma has hired more than 3,000 emergency certified teachers in a year.)

The 2015, 4th grade test scores increased by 2-1/2 percent. A conservative Republican reformer claimed they “were attributed to the 2014 implementation of a law that barred students from being promoted to the fourth grade if they read at lower than a second-grade level.” Those gains disappeared during the next two NAEPs. So, it is argued that more teeth needs to be restored to the retention policy.

But we also need to ask what really prompted the one-year jump in test scores. As in other states, the retention of low-performing readers can provide a temporary boost in NAEP scores. If you add up the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd graders who would have been in 4th grade during 2015, but who were retained, the total comes to about 9,000. Before the RSA, the more typical number of retentions was about 4,000. That means that about 5,000 more of the lowest performing students were missing from the 2015 4th grade class of about 47,000. The retention of more than 10 percent of the tested class could explain the one-time test score boost. As those students subsequently entered 4th grade, test scores dropped back to normative levels.

https://ocrdata.ed.gov/DistrictSchoolSearch#
https://oklahomawatch.org/2018/12/14/oklahoma-nearly-tops-nation-in-holding-back-early-grade-students/
https://journalrecord.com/2019/11/07/free-market-friday-student-results-continue-to-decline/

And what happened to that year’s economically disadvantaged students when they took 8th grade tests in 2019? Their scores were down by 2-½ percent in comparison to their 2015 8th grade peers.

Who knows what will be Fordham’s next misnaepery-driven attack on public education. After all, they were one of the think tanks who argued that the No Child Left Behind Act, which was enacted in 2002 deserved credit for the NAEP gains of the late-1990s! And now it is proclaiming an “Agincourt-level disaster” is the result of weakening NCLB accountability. The thing we know is that the Fordham spin will be picked up, amplified, and used by rightwing lobbyists throughout the nation to slander public schools.

Thomas Ultican writes here about the Walton-funded effort to control the public schools of Little Rock. Given the Walton love of charter schools, we can safely assume that they hope to eliminate democratic control of the citizenry and impose charter schools. Ultican follows the money, where it comes from, where it goes.

He writes:

In an apparent reaction to the 2014 school board election, new Republican Governor Asa Hutchinson and the state of Arkansas assumed stewardship of Little Rock School District (LRSD). A law passed January 28, 2015 authorizing the takeover requires the state to give control back to Little Rock voters by January, 2020. New racially motivated proposals hearkening back to the days of openly racist governor, Orville Faubus, ensure minority residents lose their democratic rights. Big money from the Waltons – The world’s wealthiest family – is driving privatization and segregation within LRSD.

A leading Little Rock community activist, Reverend Anika Whitfield, said in an interview, “The Governor, the Attorney General and the state legislature are all controlled by the Walton family.” In 2016 when new Superintendent Mike Poore came to Little Rock from Bentonville, Arkansas (headquarter of the Walton family), Whitfield was suspicious and asked him about his relationship with Walmart’s owners. He replied, “I know you all are apprehensive; I don’t even know Jim Walton.”

Driving Corporate Education Reform in Little Rock

Littls Sis Map Attacking Little Rock Schools

Little Sis Map Showing Leaders of the Attack on LRSD

Bear in mind that the point of corporate reform (as practiced by the Waltons, Bill Gates, Eli Broad, and other of their ilk) is disruption, not school improvement. Their efforts seldom lead to better schools, but always produce disruption.

The Walton Family Foundation and the Charles Koch Foundation are joining forces to fund disruptive innovations. Both foundations are hostile to democratically governed public schools. Both have supported charter schools and vouchers.

Philanthropic groups associated with billionaire businessman and activist Charles Koch have announced two initiatives to deepen their involvement in K-12 education. 

One initiative is Yes Every Kid, a group that intends to find common ground between groups that typically have disagreed vehemently over issues such as labor protections and school funding. It’s a social-welfare organization—a 501(c)4 in the language of the Internal Revenue Service—that will be able to take part in lobbying and political campaign work such as promoting ballot measures and committees. It will operate under the umbrella of Stand Together, a nonprofit group backed by Koch that promotes anti-poverty efforts.

The other initiative is an agreement between the Charles Koch Foundation and the Walton Family Foundation for each group to donate $5 million to what’s essentially a Silicon Valley-style incubator for education called 4.0 Schools. This group will use that $10 million donation, and another $5 million from other donors, to seed “500 new schools, programs and education tools across the country,” according to a statement from the Koch and Walton foundations. Among its activities, the Walton Family Foundation supports charter schools and private school choice programs. (The Walton Family Foundation provides grant support for coverage of parent-engagement issues, including charters and school choice, in Education Week.)

Charles Koch, along with his brother David, have long been associated with conservative political causes through groups such as Americans for Prosperity. And for some time, the Koch brothers have been some of the biggest antagonists for Democrats and liberal groups, including teachers’ unions. In January, the Koch donor network announced plans to get more involved in K-12 education. At that meeting of the Seminar Network, a Koch-backed organization, the group said it was interested in promoting personalized learning, improving schools, and working “alongside” teachers. 

The billionaires are restless. They are worried. Nothing they have done or funded has succeeded. The Red4Ed movement has put them on the defensive. The backlash against charters has shocked them (the billionaire Waltons claim credit for launching one of every four charters in the nation). The all-charter New Orleans District, where half the schools were rated D or F by the state, is a disappointment. The Koch Network was walloped last year by parent and teacher activists in Arizona, who blocked voucher expansion.

All the billionaires have is money. Endless money. The Waltons increase their wealth by $4 million AN HOUR. so they are putting up about 2 and 1/2 hours of revenue for this new venture. They can’t be serious. They are just producing disruption, sowing chaos, creating jobs for their followers. Keep your eyes on them and Mr. Koch.

SLAYING GOLIATH will be published on January 21. Please consider giving a pre-order for Xmas to your friends.

On that date, I will appear in conversation with Carol Burris to discuss the book and the issues it raises. That event will be sponsored by the Community Bookstore at Congregation Beth Elohim at 274 Garfield Place (Eighth Avenue) in Park Slope, Brooklyn at 6:30 pm on January 21. The bookstore or synagogue charges a $10 admission fee.

SAVE THE DATE!

All are welcome.

This review in Library Journal goes out to libraries across the nation. It is a starred review, which is a kudo.

Knopf. Jan. 2020. 352p. ISBN 9780525655374. $27.95. ED
COPY ISBN

In this incisive, meticulously researched book, Ravitch (education, New York Univ.; The Death and Life of the Great American School) argues persuasively that the U.S. school privatization movement has resulted in poor test scores, the closure of public schools, and attacks on the teaching profession. Ravitch blames the so-called school reformers, whom she renames the disruptors, such as Bill Gates, Alice Walton, Michelle Rhee, Mark Zuckerberg, and Eli Broad, who spend millions to replace public schools with charter schools and private institutions that are run like businesses. Though disruptors view themselves as opposing the status quo, Ravitch contends that they are doing everything they can to maintain it. She devotes most of her book to the resisters, or the teachers, parents, and union leaders who have taken on the disruptors and are working to keep their local public schools open. Through this lens, Ravitch discusses the Common Core teaching standards, standardized testing, the Obama administration’s Race to the Top grant program, and Teach for America.

VERDICT This extensive analysis is required reading for anyone concerned about American education. [See Prepub Alert, 7/8/19.]

Chris Whittle is the Uber entrepreneur of for-profit education. Back in the 1990s, he launched the Edison Project, assuming that George H.W. Bush would be re-elected and would get a voucher plan through Congress. That didn’t happen, so Edison sought contracts to run low-performing schools. Lots of push back from districts and parents. The share price plummeted. To learn th3 story of Edison, read Samuel Abrams’ excellent book, Education and the Commercial Mindset.

After the failure of the Edison Project, Whittle raised many millions to start a for-profit private school called avenues that was to have locations around the world. He hired educators with long experience in elite private schools and had splashy openings in Manhattan and in China. tuition was over $50,000 a year. In 2015, he and the board had differences, and he moved on.

Now Whittle is opening a new international for-profit chain, and openings are planned in multiple locations, including the District of Columbia, Brooklyn, and international locations. As the roll out of the new chain proceeds, with glitz and glamour, the board of Avenues is suing Whittle for $5.8 million that he allegedly owes them.

 

Leslie Brody of the Wall Street Journal wrote:

As he wooed hundreds of guests with cocktails, mini lobster rolls and goat cheese bonbons at a reception in Brooklyn, entrepreneur Chris Whittle made an audacious claim: There are no world-class K-12 schools, anywhere.

And he intends to change that.

“Our mission is to actually create the first modern school,” Mr. Whittle told a crowd last week at the launch of a downtown site of Whittle School & Studios. His new for-profit enterprise aims to create one school with 36 campuses world-wide in a decade, with a shared curriculum and “a collective intelligence,” according to its stylish 118-page brochure.

At 72 years old, Mr. Whittle is known for marketing prowess, bold visions and major setbacks in his quest to build educational empires. He says he has raised more than $1 billion for Whittle School, including funds from investors and real-estate expenses borne by firms that construct and own its campuses. Its first sites started operating this fall in Washington, D.C., and Shenzhen, China. The Brooklyn venue, to open next fall, will be the third.

“It’s an ambitious, risky venture,” said Thomas Toch, director of FutureEd, a think tank at Georgetown University. “It’s classic Chris Whittle, to throw a long pass and attempt to run under it for a touchdown.”

Mr. Whittle, a former publisher of Esquire magazine, co-founded Edison Schools, a company that aimed to bring private-sector efficiencies to managing taxpayer-funded schools in the 1990s. The company helped usher in the charter school movement, but ran into financial problems.

In 2002, Edison Schools was investigated by the Securities and Exchange Commission, which said it inaccurately described aspects of its business in SEC filings. The company settled, saying it would add an internal audit function, without admitting or denying the SEC findings. It was taken private and renamed, and Mr. Whittle left.

Mr. Whittle’s first attempt at launching a global school in New York fizzled in the 2008 financial crisis. Then he co-founded Avenues: The World School, a for-profit institution in Manhattan, in 2012 with a pitch of 15 campuses world-wide by 2021. But he left Avenues in 2015. So far, the school has only three sites, including São Paulo and Shenzhen, China, plus a new online program with 20 students…

Whittle School plans capacity for 90,000 students in 15 countries, with much of its leadership from China, India and the U.S. “We were building from scratch an organization that was very intentionally bi- and tri-cultural,” Mr. Whittle said. “It’s been very challenging.”

His team includes such high-profile educators as Benno Schmidt, the former Yale president who worked with him at Edison Schools and Avenues; Nicholas Dirks, former chancellor of the University of California, Berkeley; and Jim Hawkins, former head of the elite Harrow School in London. Designing the schools is Renzo Piano, architect of the Whitney Museum.

Such big-ticket staff and glossy marketing are expensive, said Jonathan Knee, a Columbia Business School professor who called Whittle the “Wizard of Ed” in his book “Class Clowns: How the Smartest Investors Lost Billions in Education.” Mr. Knee questioned whether the school will be sustainable, given Mr. Whittle’s lavish spending.

“This is a startup that is going to be losing money for a long time,” Mr. Knee said. “It’s sort of breathtaking, given the track record, that he could get away with using his name as the brand.”

Mr. Whittle says his investors take the long view: “This is what I would call patient and long-term capital.”

Thomas Franco, an early investor, said he was drawn by Mr. Whittle’s expertise and deep networks in education. “Chris is a catalyst for constructive change in an industry that is very ripe for disruption,” he said. “The obvious challenges are the execution risks but so far the team has demonstrated an ability to manage these.”

Mr. Whittle puts the price of launching the Brooklyn site at more than $300 million, including the developers’ costs. It involves renovating 10 floors of the old Macy’sbuilding on Livingston Street, with a roof terrace, theater, boarding facilities and 16-foot ceilings to inspire creativity.

It advertises hands-on, personalized learning and Mandarin lessons from age 3 to help children compete in a fast-changing global economy. In an echo of Avenues, it promises students will be able to hop among campuses to study abroad. New York already has several established for-profit schools with sister sites in other countries.

With its first open house for parents on Thursday, Whittle School is soliciting applications for preschool and kindergarten next fall. Tuition and fees cost $49,500. Mr. Whittle says the bill for older grades, to start in fall 2021, will reflect the city’s other independent schools, which can top $56,000 yearly.

Some parents are leery of the model. Samuel Abrams, director of the National Center for the Study of Privatization in Education at Teachers College, Columbia University, cautions that seeking profit from tuition doesn’t fit with an educational mission, or putting as much money as possible into instruction.

“There is a lot of opacity” in the business operations, Mr. Abrams said. “You have to trust, in the case of a complex service, that the provider is going to do what was promised.”

Mr. Whittle says parents care about innovation far more than nonprofit status. “There is no way we could assemble these resources philanthropically,” he said.

The new head of the Brooklyn site, Larry Weiss, has led two nonprofit private schools, Brooklyn Friends and Saint Ann’s. He says Whittle School’s resources will liberate him from the onerous job of raising donations. “It’s an enormous relief for parents, who end up besieged by fundraising” at nonprofits, Mr. Weiss said. “People get angry with each other. People get disappointed.”

Joyce Szuflita, admissions consultant at NYC School Help, says she will watch how the school fares before recommending it. Parents “occasionally grumble that a for-profit school will be less choosy because they have to fill seats,” she said. “Any new school, for profit or not-for-profit, will have this problem.”

Another consultant, Victoria Goldman, says she is happy a new school is coming to Brooklyn, which lacks enough options. “This may not be for everybody,” she said, “but it will be on everybody’s list” to check out.

Some parents are curious. Ari Goldstein, a real-estate executive with a baby and a 3-year-old in Brooklyn Heights, wants to explore public schools nearby as well as Whittle School. He says he likes that it has “the capacity to step back and think about what is the best educational environment, and create something from scratch.”

 

In a follow up article, Brody of the Wall Street Journal described the legal battle between Whittle’s previous venture, Avenues, and Whittle. The board is prepared to force Whittle to sell his lavish East Hampton estate on Long Island, valued at more than $100 million, to settle his debt.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/schools-entrepreneur-chris-whittle-still-owes-5-8-million-to-avenues-11574289768?mod=searchresults&page=1&pos=1

Chris Whittle, the education entrepreneur who is launching a new for-profit global school in New York City, has been mired in a legal battle over his multimillion-dollar personal debt to his previous local startup, Avenues.

Legal filings by the school’s company, Avenues Global Holdings, say it lent its co-founder, Mr. Whittle, a sum in 2013 that grew to more than $13 million in 2017. He didn’t repay it on time, and the dispute landed in state Supreme Court in Manhattan in 2018.

Officials at Avenues and Mr. Whittle agreed this month that he still owed it roughly $5.8 million, records show. Avenues is one of the city’s biggest independent schools, with annual tuition topping $56,000.

Avenues officials said Wednesday that Mr. Whittle still hadn’t paid the debt and that they are seeking to force a sale of his estate in Long Island’s East Hampton, which they say was appraised at more than $100 million. It sits near the Atlantic Ocean with a view of Georgica Pond.

“Chris has failed to meet his commitments to Avenues,” said Jeff Clark, president of Avenues: The World School, by email. “Despite giving him many chances and time to cure this, we are now pursuing other remedies because of his track record of unkept promises.”

A representative for Mr. Whittle said Wednesday that “Chris anticipates paying the final $5.8 million due over the next couple of weeks.”

Mr. Whittle is known for his bold visions and major setbacks in a series of educational projects. His new business is Whittle School & Studios, which he says will become a single private school with 36 campuses world-wide in a decade. One site is scheduled to open in Brooklyn next autumn.

In a 2017 arbitration filing, Avenues Global Holdings said it lent him about $10.8 million in 2013 “to ameliorate his dire personal financial situation so he could focus on his work for Avenues.” The filing was included as an exhibit in Avenues’ 2018 legal action against Mr. Whittle. He resigned in 2015 because of disagreements with the company’s leadership, and his outstanding loan grew to more than $13 million in 2017, the arbitration filing said.

In his separation agreement, he promised he wouldn’t engage in school operations in New York City and other major cities until November 2018, according to the arbitration filing. Avenues accused him of violating that noncompete clause and his confidentiality agreement by working on the Whittle School before the clause allowed. Some Chinese officials mistook Whittle School representatives for those of Avenues, the arbitration filing said.

Whittle School’s business plan reflects Mr. Whittle’s “effort to copy wholesale the Avenues model in direct violation of his covenants,” the arbitration filing said.

Mr. Whittle vehemently denied violating the noncompete and confidentiality clauses, his representative said Wednesday, noting that the settlement agreement required that he pay only the loan amount due, and no additional damages. The representative said the allegation that Chinese officials mistook anyone from Whittle School as being part of Avenues was never substantiated.

Mr. Whittle has said he has raised more than $1 billion for Whittle School, including funds from investors and real-estate expenses borne by firms that construct and own its campuses.

Mr. Whittle is a former publisher of Esquire magazine and co-founded Edison Schools, a company that helped usher in the charter-school movement in the 1990s but ran into financial problems.

He went on to help start Avenues, which opened in the city’s Chelsea neighborhood in 2012.

Benson Lu, a Whittle School board member, said he was aware of Mr. Whittle’s dispute with his former company. “I don’t think this will be important to parents,” Mr. Lu said. “Parents care more about the quality of education and faculty members.”