Archives for category: Education Industry

This is the scariest article of the week or month, not counting the violent rampage of Trump allies on January 6.

Dominik Dresel writes in Edsurge about Jeff Bezos’ entry into the education “market.”

He begins:

Bezos, more than any other tech entrepreneur, is known to play the long game, masterfully. In a now-famous 1997 interview, he candidly explained why Amazon started out by selling books. (Hint: It had nothing to do with Bezos’ love for literature. Books were simply a stepping stone, the “best first thing” to sell.) Less than three decades later, Amazon has become not just the world’s largest online retailer, but also a global leader in areas as diverse as cloud computing, home security and digital content production. And we’ve only seen the beginning—within the next few years, the company is poised to disrupt the healthcare market, become the market leader in online advertising, establish itself as a competitor to USPS, FedX and UPS, and provide global access to broadband internet through a network of satellites orbiting the planet… to name but a few examples.

It would be easy to think that Amazon’s rapid expansion into industry after industry is just the natural, opportunistic path of a cash-flush company seeking to invest in new, lucrative markets. But Jeff Bezos, himself a graduate of a Montessori preschool, doesn’t think in short-term opportunities. His early annual shareholder letters bear titles such as “It‘s All About the Long Term” (1997), “Building for the Long Term” (1999) and “Taking the Long View” (2000), and they are testimony to the fact that every strategic decision he makes is part of a larger, long-term plan.

Becoming a driving force in public education may, at first, seem like a long shot for Amazon. While Google, Microsoft and Apple have been pursuing their ambitions in K-12 and higher education for more than a decade, Amazon has mostly remained at the sidelines.

But foraying into the complex sphere that is public education is a matter of when, not if, for Jeff Bezos. To understand why, it is worthwhile to consider three principles that have guided Amazon’s strategic investment and growth decisions since its founding days.

Read the article to understand Bezos’ three principles and why he might see public schools as ripe for disruption, like the other billionaires before him. As I explained in my recent book Slaying Goliath, the tech billionaires love to disrupt the lives of other people’s children. They have had no success, only failure. But that doesn’t stop them.

Ann Cronin, retired teacher in Connecticut, posted a letter on her blog written by another Connecticut teacher and addressed to Secretary of Education-Designate Miguel Cardona:

Jeannette C. Faber writes to tell Dr. Cardona that it is time to end standardized testing, now!

Dear Commissioner Cardona:

Connecticut is proud that you, our Commissioner of Education, was chosen as the Biden/Harris administration’s Secretary of Education. 

Educators support your dedication to: increasing graduation rates, closing the achievement gap, and ensuring equity for all students. All educators should be committed to making these goals a reality. America’s children need and deserve this. 

However, educators also know that the regime of profit-driven standardized testing will not improve teaching and learning. They never have.

  • If educators are forced to teach to a test in order to increase graduation rates, students are merely learning how to take a test. This is antithetical to what 21st-century learning should look like: problem-solving, critical thinking, collaboration, project-based learning, capstone projects, creativity, and more. 
  • If schools are pressured to close the achievement gap, but their only tools are computer programs that hold students hostage to rote “learning”, then students are not experiencing rich and meaningful learning. Only 21st-century learning experiences will increase graduation rates that are credible and that actually prepare students for a growingly complex world.
  • If equity means giving students in impoverished areas less rich and meaningful learning, by continuing the standardized testing regime, the equity gap will only increase. What students in impoverished areas need is much more of what students in more affluent areas already have. Connecticut’s discriminatory per-pupil expenditure disparity tells the whole, sad story. 

Dr. Cardona, what holds schools back from making meaningful progress are ill-conceived federal mandates. These mandates have never improved the quality of teaching and learning. They never will. Test scores may have increased. As well as graduation rates. However, those are meaningless if they are not products of rich and meaningful teaching and learning. 

No standardized test can measure 21st-century skills. Hence, standardized tests cannot cultivate the acquisition of those skills.

We ask you, Dr. Cardona, to recommit yourself to the vital goals you have set by shifting the paradigm. Shift how we achieve those goals. That requires ending the testing regime started with George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind (2002 – 2015) and continued with Barack Obama’s “Race to the Top” (2012 – 2016).

We, Dr. Cardona, are asking Connecticut’s teachers, parents, and students to send a strong message to you by refusing the standardized testing planned for this spring.  

We are also asking all who oppose the standardized-testing regime to sign this petition, which will be delivered to you, Dr. Cardona.

We are all trying to survive a global pandemic. In my 25 years in the classroom, I have never seen my students so stressed, depressed, and anxious. It is unnecessary and insensitive to add to the weight of their mental health struggles by adding the stress of standardized testing. Also, when thousands of stressed, depressed, and anxious students are forced to take a standardized test, will the results be accurate? Were they ever really accurate? Able to capture what students know and can do? Teachers know the answer: No!

Now is the time to end standardized testing

#RefuseTheTest 

#DoNotTakeTestingToDC. 

A faithful teacher,

Jeannette C. Faber – MS, MALS, EdD

John Thompson, historian and retired teacher in Oklahoma, reviews historian Jack Schneider and journalist Jennifer Berkshire’s A Wolf at the Schoolhouse Door. Schneider and Berkshire have collaborated on podcasts called “Have You Heard.”

Thompson writes:

The first 2/3rds of A Wolf at the Schoolhouse Door, by Jack Schneider and Jennifer Berkshire, is an excellent history of attacks on public education. It taught me a lot; the first lesson I learned is that I was too stuck in the 2010s and was wrong to accept the common view of Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos as a “joke” and a “political naif.” The last 1/3rd left me breathless as Schneider’s and Berkshire’s warnings sunk in.

A Wolf at the Schoolhouse Door starts with an acknowledgement that DeVos isn’t the architect of the emerging school privatization tactics. That “radical agenda” has been decades in the making. But she represents a new assault on public education values. As Schneider and Berkshire note, accountability-driven, charter-driven, corporate reform were bad enough but they wanted to transform, not destroy public education. They wanted “some form” of public schools. DeVos’ wrecking ball treats all public schools as targets for commercialization. 

Schneider and Berkshire do not minimize the long history of attacks on our education system which took off after the Reagan administration’s A Nation at Risk blamed schools for “a rising tide of mediocrity that threatens our very future as a Nation.” They stress, however, that it was a part of Reagan’s belief that our public schools and government, overall, were failing, and how it propelled a larger attack on public institutions.

Forty years later, free marketers are driving a four-point assault. They contend that “Education is a personal good, not a collective one,” and “schools belong in the domain of the Free Market, not the Government.” According to this anti-union philosophy, it is the “consumers” who should pay for schooling.

The roots of this agenda lie in the use of private school vouchers that began as an anti-desegregation tool. Because of “consumer psychology,” the scarcity of private schools sent the message that they were more valuable than neighborhood schools. But, neither private schools nor charter schools made good on their promise to deliver more value to families. Similarly, Right to Work legislation and the Janus vs AFSCME ruling have damaged but not destroyed collective bargaining.

Neither did online instruction allow the for-profit Edison schools or, more recently, for-profit virtual education charter chains to defeat traditional schools. Despite their huge investments in advertising spin, these chains produced disappointing outputs. For instance, DeVos claimed that virtual schools in Ohio, Nevada, and Oklahoma had grad rates approaching 100%. In reality, their results were “abysmal.”

To take one example, the Oklahoma Virtual Charter Academy had a 40 percent cohort graduation rate, not the 91 percent DeVos claimed. It received a D on the Oklahoma A-to-F Report Card for 2015-16. Also, in 2015, a Stanford study of 200 online charters found that students lost 72 days per year of learning in reading and 180 in math in a 180-day year.

Such dismal results prompted more calls for regulations for choice schools. Rather than accept more oversight, free marketers doubled down on the position that parents are the only regulators. To meet that goal, they borrowed the roadmap for Higher Education for-profits, adopting the tactics that failed educationally but made them a lot of money.

So, Schneider and Berkshire borrow the phrase “Lower Ed” from Tressie Cottom  as they explain how privatizers patterned their movement after Higher Ed where 10 percent of students attended for-profit institutions. Their profits came from the only part of public or Higher Education that could produce big savings, reducing expenditures on teaching. This meant that since the mid-1970s tenure-track faculty dropped by ½, as tenured faculty dropped by 26 percent. Consequently, part-time teachers increased by 70 percent.

Moreover, by 2010, for-profit colleges and universities employed 35,000 persons. They spent $4.2 billion or 22.7 percent of all revenue on marketing and recruiting. 

In other words, the market principles of the “gig economy” are starting to drive the radical “personalized” education model that would replace “government schools.” Savings would begin with the “Uberization” of teaching.  A glimpse of the future, where the value of a teaching career is undermined, can be found on the “Shared Economy Jobs” section of JobMonkey where education has its own “niche.” Teachers could expect to be paid about $15 per hour.

And that leads the system of “Education, a la Carte,” which affluent families need not embrace but that could become a norm for disadvantaged students. What is advertised as “personalization” is actually “unbundling” of curriculum. Algorithms would help students choose courses or information or skills and teachers (who “could be downsized to tech support”) that students think they need.

Worse, this “edvertising” is full of “emotional appeals, questionable claims, and lofty promises.” Its “Brand Pioneers” started with elite schools’ self-promotion and it led to charters adopting the “Borrowing Prestige” dynamic where the implicit message is that charters share the supposed excellence of private schools. And then, charters like Success Academy took the “brand identity” promotions a step further, spent $1,000 per student on marketing SA logo on You-Tube, Twitter, Instagram, baby onesies, and headphones.

Schneider and Berkshire also described the KIPP “Brand Guidelines” video which compares the charter chain to Target, which wouldn’t represent its business differently in different cities. So, it says that every conversation a KIPP teacher has about the school is “a touch point for KIPP’s brand.”

Similar edvertising techniques include the exaggerated size of waiting lists for enrolling in charter chains. Their marketing role is sending the message, “Look how many people can’t get in.”  Charters have even engaged in “market cannibalism,” for instance issuing gift cards for enrolling children in the school.

Worse, demographic trends mean that the competition between choice schools and traditional schools will become even more intense as the percentage of school age children declines, For instance, 80 percent of new households in Denver since 2009 didn’t have children. And even though corporate reformers and DeVos-style free marketers have failed to improve education, their marketing experts have shown an amazing ability to win consumers over.

So, here’s Schneider’s and Berkshire’s “Future Forecast:”

The Future Will Be Ad-Filled;

The Future Will Be Emotionally Manipulated;

The Future Will Be Micro-Targeted;

The Future Will Have Deep Pockets;

The Future Will Tell You What You Want.

The nonpartisan, independent organization called “In the Public Interest” reports on efforts to privatize public services. Its education newsletter is called “Cashing In on Kids.”

Here is its latest updates on the DeVos education agenda:

Welcome to Cashing in on Kids, an email newsletter for people fed up with the privatization of America’s public schools—produced by In the Public Interest.

Not a subscriber? Sign up. And make sure to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Sure, Betsy DeVos resigned. But, as Marianna Islam, director of programs and advocacy for the Schott Foundation, says, “Betsy Devos has not really left until all of her harmful policies are overturned and policies that advance racial equity are put into place.” Retweet this

And now other news…

Which federal agency has funded more charter school facilities than any other? The U.S. Department of Agriculture. At least according to Chicago-based Wert-Berater, LLC, the self-described “leading” company in facilitating the charter school industry’s lucrative real estate sector by providing “feasibility studies.” WBOC

Is the charter school industry on the skids? Journalist Jeff Bryant looks at the charter school industry’s rate, particularly in North Carolina. “Much of the rationale for the perceived need for charter schools often seems to boil down to marketing.” AlterNet

Pro-charter money goes to California governor recall effort. The right-wing charter school backer, John Kruger, has given $500,000 to an effort to recall California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D). GV Wire

Georgia lawmakers eye vouchers. Georgia state lawmakers will be taking up the issue of private school vouchers in their new session. “Proponents could limit efforts to expanding Georgia’s current special needs scholarship program benefitting students with disabilities. A similar bill passed the Senate last year but failed in the House.” AP

Texas too. A voucher bill has been introduced into the Texas legislature. “Do we really have time to rehash this?” tweeted Charles Luke of the Coalition for Public Schools. “The legislature has only voted vouchers down repeatedly for 25 years!”

New Hampshire takes the money. New Hampshire’s governor and executive council have accepted controversial funding for the expansion of charter schools in the state. In Depth NH

Following the money. Pennsylvania’s online charter schools have used federal COVID-19 relief funds to purchase technology and cleaning supplies and send Target gift cards and phones to families. The Times-Tribune

And the good news…

Local Indiana council supports charter school ban. Indiana’s Gary City Council has unanimously backed a resolution calling for a moratorium on new charter schools in support of state legislation being introduced by a local lawmaker. Chicago Tribune

Pennsylvania school district speaks out. School district officials in Pennsylvania’s Schuylkill County have spoken out on charter school funding. “Recently the United States Department of Education awarded a five-year $30 million grant to Pennsylvania Brick and Mortar Charter Schools to increase their academic success. All the while, many Pennsylvania Public Schools are cutting programs in order to continue to pay for charter school costs, some even becoming financially distressed due to this burden.” Skook News

Ed Johnson, fearless advocate for public schools in Atlanta, obtained a list of the charter schools in that city that received Paycheck Protection Program funding from the first CARES Act. Public schools were not allowed to apply for PPP funding. But charters were, because…they are not public schools!

After reviewing the millions in CARES money that went to Atlanta charters, Ed Johnson wrote to members of the Atlanta Board of Education:

Atlanta Board of Education members:

Some of you are, of course, pro-school choice and pro-charter school, thus serving contrary to your sworn Oath of Office vis-à-vis the Charter of the Atlanta Independent School System.

Nonetheless, hopefully all of you now know and understand the truth that charter schools in Atlanta are not Atlanta public schools, to wit:

https://mailchi.mp/4c303dcdd2b5/updated-aps-charter-school-businesses-rake-in-millions-of-ppp-loan-dollars

Thus:

·         Public schools must be spoken truthfully of as public schools, and as public goods.

·         Charter schools must be spoken truthfully of as charter schools, and as private businesses and corporations.

·         Partner schools must be spoken truthfully of as partner schools, and as public schools the Board outsourced to private businesses and corporations.

Just three types of school, thank you.

Ed Johnson

Advocate for Quality in Public Education

Atlanta GA | (404) 505-8176 | edwjohnson@aol.com

As noted in the link in Mr. Johnson’s letter, here are a few of the big winners of federal dollars (they also received a proportionate share of the meager dollars allotted to public schools, so they were double-dipping in both funds):

  • Purpose Built Schools Atlanta, Inc., received a PPP loan in the amount of $4,822,200.00, based on the business needing to protect 408 reported jobs, which figures to $11,819.12 per reported job.  SBA reported the business as being located at 1670 Benjamin Weldon Bickers Drive SE, Atlanta, GA 30315.
  • The Kindezi Schools Atlanta, LLC, received a PPP loan in the amount of $3,855,982.00, based on the business needing to protect 300 reported jobs, which figures to $12,853.27 per reported job.  SBA reported the business as being located at 950 Joseph E Lowery Blvd, Atlanta, GA 30318.
  • Atlanta Neighborhood Charter School, Inc., received a PPP loan in the amount of $1,850,000.00, based on the business needing to protect 120 reported jobs, which figures to $15,416.67 per reported job.  SBA reported the business as being located at 688 Grant St SE, Atlanta, GA 30315.

Unlike small businesses which lost revenue and were forced to lay off employees or close their doors, charter schools never lost revenue during the pandemic. Their stream of government revenue never was cut off. Meanwhile, as they sucked up CARES dollars, hundreds of thousands of small businesses that needed the money went bankrupt and closed forever.

No public school received this large amount of money. The average public school received $134,500 in federal aid in the first CARES Act.

Valerie Strauss writes in her Washington Post blog called “The Answer Sheet” about the growing number of states that want waivers from the federal requirement for annual testing. DeVos granted waivers last year but said she would not do it again. But she will be gone. Now it is up to Joe Biden and Miguel Cardona to decide whether it is wise to subject students to high-stakes standardized tests in a year where schools have repeatedly opened and closed, beloved teachers have died, family members have fallen ill, and many families are without food or a secure home.

I am sorry that the Secretary of Education-in-waiting describes the standardized tests as “an accurate tool,” because the only thing they accurately measure is family income, disability status, and English language proficiency. There are cheaper ways to get this information than to subject millions of children to useless standardized tests of reading and mathematics The tests are completely useless and provide no information to teachers about student progress: None. As Strauss points out, the results come in months after the tests were given, the students have different teachers, the teachers seldom see the questions and are not allowed to discuss them, and they never discover how their students answered any given question.

Let me repeat: The tests benefit no one other than the testing corporations, who collects hundreds of millions of dollars. Whatever we want to know about test scores and “achievement gaps” could have been gleaned at far less cost and inconvenience from the biennial National Assessment for Educational Progress (NAEP), which was canceled this spring. The annual tests for individual students in grades 3-8 should have been canceled instead. No high-performing nation gives a standardized test to every student every year as we do.

Strauss writes:

There are growing calls from across the political spectrum for the federal government to allow states to skip giving students federally mandated standardized tests in spring 2021 — but the man that President-elect Joe Biden tapped to be education secretary has indicated support for giving them.

The issue will be an early test for Miguel Cardona, the state superintendent of education in Connecticut whom Biden picked for education secretary, and his relationship with teachers and others critical of giving the exams during the coronavirus-caused chaos of the 2020-2021 school year.

The current education secretary, Betsy DeVos, approved waivers to states allowing them not to administer the annual exams last spring as the coronavirus pandemic led schools to close. She said recently she wouldn’t do it again, but Biden’s triumph in November’s elections means the decision is no longer hers. It’s up to Cardona — assuming he is confirmed by the Senate, as expected — and the Biden administration to decide whether to provide states flexibility from the federal law.

The annual spring testing regime — complete with sometimes extensive test preparation in class and even testing “pep rallies” — has become a flash point in the two-decade-old school reform movement that has centered on using standardized tests to hold schools and teachers accountable. First under the 2002 No Child Left Behind law and now under its successor, the 2015 Every Student Succeeds Act, public schools are required to give most students tests each year in math and English language arts and to use the results in accountability formulas. Districts evaluate teachers and states evaluate schools and districts — at least in part — on test scores.

But just how much the scores from the spring tests ever reveal about student progress, even in a non-pandemic year, is a major source of contention in the education world.

Supporters say that they are important to determine whether students are making progress and that two straight years of having no data from these tests would stunt student academic progress because teachers would not have critical information on how well their students are doing.

Critics say that the results have no value to teachers because the scores come after the school year has ended and that they are not allowed to see test questions or know which ones their students got wrong. There are also concerns that some tests used for accountability purposes are not well-aligned to what students learn in school — and that the results only show what is already known: students from poor families do worse than students from families with more resources.

Enter Cardona into this testing thicket. Biden last week surprised the education establishment by naming Cardona, who less than two years ago was an assistant superintendent of a 9,000-student school district. One big factor in his favor for the Biden team was that he has not been a partisan in the education reform wars of the past two decades. Yet he won’t be able to avoid it over this issue.

Last spring, Connecticut, like other states, did not administer spring standardized tests after receiving waivers to the federal law from DeVos.

Cardona has said he wants students to take the exams this spring but with a caveat: He doesn’t want the results used to hold individual teachers, schools and districts accountable for student progress on the scores. (DeVos, too, had said she would have granted that kind of flexibility to states in 2021.)

“This [academic] year, we want to provide some opportunity for them [students] to tell us what they learned or what gaps exist so we can target resources,” Cardona said at a recent news conference before he was tapped by Biden, according to the Connecticut Post.

The education department he heads in Connecticut released a memo in October calling state assessments “important guideposts to our promise of equity.” It said: “They are the most accurate tool available to tell us if all students — regardless of race/ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic status, English proficiency, disability, or zip code — are growing and achieving at the highest levels.”

Cardona’s press secretary, Peter Yazbak, said the Biden transition team was answering all questions about his role as education secretary. The Biden team did not immediately comment about whether the new administration would consider providing waivers from the tests.

Cardona is already facing a growing chorus of voices who are demanding some flexibility from the federal law, including some that say forcing students to take the tests for any reason is a waste of money and time.

The Council of Chief State School Officers, a nonprofit that represents state education chiefs, released a statement this month calling for unspecified flexibility around the spring testing requirements. While its members are “committed to knowing where students are academically,” it said, “states need flexibility in the way they collect and report such data.” The CCSSO said it wants to work with the Biden administration “on a streamlined, consistent process that gives states the flexibility they need on accountability measures in the coming year.”

Others were more direct, including the two major teachers unions, the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers. In a letter to the Biden transition team, Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, wrote:

“We know there are concerns that not having this data will make student achievement during covid-19 and particularly deeply troubling equity gaps less visible, that this will mean two years of lost data. However, there is no way that the data that would come out of a spring 2021 testing cycle would accurately reflect anything, and certainly not accurate enough to hold school systems accountable for results. But curriculum-linked diagnostic assessment is what will most aid covid-19 academic recovery, not testing for testing’s sake.

Another issue is whether the tests can be administered to all students safely this spring. Millions of students are still learning remotely from home as the pandemic continues to infect and kill Americans. Though Biden has called for the safe reopening of most schools within 100 days of his inauguration, it is not clear whether that will happen or whether the tests can be securely administered online.

Bob Schaeffer, interim director of a nonprofit called the National Center for Fair & Open Testing, which works to stop the misuse of standardized tests, noted that DeVos recently sought the cancellation of the 2021 administration of the national test known as the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) because it could not be administered effectively and securely.

“IF NAEP is cancelled for 2021 due to pandemic-related concerns, how can federal and state mandated exams be administered safely and accurately this academic year?” Schaeffer said. Meanwhile, his group, FairTest, has launched a national effort for a suspension of all high-stakes standardized tests scheduled for spring 2021.

This is why a waiver strategy is so necessary,” it says.

It’s not only state superintendents, teachers unions and testing critics who are looking for flexibility from the federal testing mandate.

As early as June, officials in Georgia said they would seek a waiver from the spring 2021 tests. DeVos’s Education Department denied the request, so this month, state officials agreed to dramatically reduce the importance of end-of-course exam grades for the 2020-2021 school year. They will have virtually no weight on students’ course grades.

In South Carolina, SCNOW.com reported, Sen. Lindsey O. Graham, a Republican who is among Trump’s strongest supporters, signed onto a letter calling for a testing waiver for spring 2021, as did Rep. Tom Rice (R).

Scores of Texas state representatives from both sides of the political aisle have joined to ask State Commissioner of Education Mike Morath to seek necessary federal waivers to allow the Texas Education Agency to cancel the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, or STAAR, test in the 2020-2021 school year.

A letter, sent by the office of Democratic Rep. Diego Bernal said: “The covid slide, an academic deficit that the agency has widely recognized, has resulted in students, across the state, being behind grade-level in nearly every subject. Instead of proceeding with the administration of the STAAR as planned, the agency, along with our districts and campuses, should be focused on providing high-quality public education with an emphasis on ensuring the health and safety of students and educators.”

In Ohio, Dayton schools Superintendent Elizabeth Lolli recently said that that state should seek a federal waiver from the spring standardized testing, WHIO-TV reported. “Using the standardized testing as we typically have done is inappropriate and ineffective,” Lolli said.

“The only thing it does is it rates poverty,” she said. “We know that the lowest scoring schools across this country are schools that have high numbers of children who live in poverty. That’s the only thing we’re doing [by testing] is identifying those locations once again.”

In North Carolina, the State Board of Education in early December tentatively approved a proposal that would have students take the exams but that would ask the federal government if it can have flexibility in how it uses the scores of the tests.

In Colorado, advocates for English-language learners have asked the state Board of Education to cancel ACCESS, the test these students take annually, or to make sure parents know that they can opt their children out without penalty.

Other actions are being taken in other states to persuade officials to seek and lobby for federal waivers, and that is likely to pick up in pace as spring approaches.

As you probably know by now, charter schools took federal money from two different pots in the CARES Act passed last spring. They got a share of the money allocated for public schools, then had the privilege of getting more money from the Paycheck Protection Program, which was intended to save small businesses in danger of shuttering their doors.

Now there is new relief Act, which is far more generous to public schools, but still allows charter schools to count as both public schools and not-public schools.

Carol Burris did research on the new CARES Act (which she calls CARES2) and found that once again charters will be allowed to double-dip.

On December 21, Congress passed the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2021.

CARES 2 (which I am dubbing the Act for simplicity) includes $54.3 billion for K-12 schools, which is about four times more than the last bill. It will be allocated to states to give out as subgrants to Local Education Agencies (LEAs). LEAs are school districts as well as the majority of charter schools. Those charter schools that are not independent of a school district will receive their funding in the same manner as district schools.

According to the law firm Arnold and Porter, which has an excellent summary of the Cares 2 here,  “Like the requirements in the CARES Act, the Secretary of Education must allocate ESSERF (Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund) funding based on the state’s share of Title I, Part A funds under ESEA, and states will allocate at least 90 percent of funds as subgrants to Title I schools.”

There is also more leeway on how funds can be used—practically, schools can use it for any activity allowed under federal law.

There is an additional pot of money ($4 billion) that the Secretary of Education will distribute. $1.3 billion can be used by the Governors for public schools and higher ed institutions that were the hardest hit by the pandemic. $2.75 billion can be distributed by governors to private schools. Congress expressly prohibits in the Act the use of any of that money to fund vouchers or tax credits for tuition. The funds must be used to keep the school going, and private schools with high-needs students get priority. 

Can private schools and charter schools dip into the SBA’s Payroll Protection Plan (PPP) funding again? 

Private schools that get money from the $2.75 billion cannot. The CARES2 specifically says they cannot double-dip.

However, there is nothing to prevent a charter school from double-dipping, that is, getting both the ESSERFand PPP2. PPP2 will allow charter schools that are first-time borrowers to apply without stipulation. Suppose the charter received PPP in the first round. In that case, they could apply again if they show a 25% decline in revenue. 

In the first round, charter schools received at least $1.5 billion dollars in PPP. Once again, public schools get the short end of the stick. 

A few days ago, I posted Nancy Bailey’s critique of McKinsey & Company’s report claiming that it’s time for schools to get tough on students. As Bailey points out, when I worked in the Department of Education, the White House was crawling with McKinsey consultants, smart young things who knew everything about education but were seldom old enough to have been in the classroom for long.

Our faithful reader and meticulous researcher Laura Chapman (a retired arts educator) responded to Nancy’s post as follows, describing the mastermind of the McKinsey report:

Nancy Bailey probably knows that the author of the McKinsey report, Jimmy Sarakatsannis jumped straight to McKinsey as an expert in everything about K-12 and teacher education from his job as a science teacher for three years at Sousa Middle School, a charter school with “scholars” in DC.

Sarakatsannis has held exactly one job in education and there is every reason to believe that he left Sousa Middle School in 2008, in the midst of a major meltdown at that charter school. A tyrannical principal created chaos there. http://thewashingtonteacher.blogspot.com/2010/07/tyranny-of-dcs-sousa-middle-school.html

ABOUT JIMMY FROM THE REPORT’S WEBSITE: “Jimmy is a partner in McKinsey’s Washington, DC office and a leader in our Education and Private Equity Practices.
Jimmy’s work in education straddles the public, private, and non-profit sectors, and spans every stage from pre-K-12 education to higher education and workforce development. He serves school systems, educational services providers, technology companies, and educational non-profits, as well as private-equity firms and philanthropic foundations that invest in education.

Much of Jimmy’s work focuses on how technology can be used to transform teaching and learning both within and beyond formal education. He also has deep expertise in the improvement of human capital within education systems, investment in education, and the development of successful organizational and business models for companies working across the public and private sectors.
Among his recent client projects, Jimmy has:
• advised an online learning company on developing a strategy to raise its student success rates
• supported professional development for teachers in some 20 US school districts
• helped a major technology company define a strategy to enter education, including product development, team building, and a go-to-market strategy for the new business
• led our support of a new non-profit in K-12 education, helping to design and set up the organization with an independent sales force and operations team
• worked with a national system of technical and vocational colleges to create online and hybrid programs to expand access and provide better educational experiences, reaching more than 50,000 students to date

Before joining McKinsey, Jimmy taught middle school science in the District of Columbia Public Schools. He is the author of a number of papers on educational topics and a regular contributor to our knowledge building in this field.”

That is a perfect example of corporate gibberish too easily sold to school districts.

I looked up Jimmy’s publications in Google Scholar. In those five entries he is never a solo author. All publications are from McKinsey, including COVID-19 and Student Learning in the United States – The hurt could last a lifetime.

Do not believe hype about the wisdom of McKinsey, least of all in education. Arne Duncan was a friend of McKinsey and by 2008 had engaged USDE with an “uplift” education campaign conjured by McKinsey. The project, was called R.E.S.P.E.C.T. an the acronym for “Recognizing Educational Success, Professional Excellence and Collaborative Teaching.”

The project was nothing more than another scheme to make pay-for-performance the norm, get rid of collective bargaining, set up tiers of qualifications for teachers. Each teaching tier was offered an initial contract. In order to get a continuing contract you had produce more than a year’s worth of gains in test scores year-to-year for multiple years.

There are still records about this scheme. It was reportedly inspired by a 2010 McKinsey report: Closing the Talent Gap: Attracting and Retaining Top-Third Graduates to Careers in Teaching: An International and Market Research-Based Perspective. That report called for recruiting the “best and brightest talent” into teaching because they could produce the highest test scores and those high tests scores could predict economic outcomes (with Chetty and others treated as experts). I wrote about some of these schemes on Diane’s blog back, in May of 2016. Diane has also devoted some blogs to the McKinsey’s corporate follies.

Jake Jacobs is a middle school art teacher in New York. He is the co-administrator of the New York BadAss Teachers Association, an organization of militant activist teachers.

He writes:

Joe Biden’s recent nomination of Miguel Cardona as a relatively lesser-known, less controversial selection for Secretary of Education was telling. It shows the incoming administration’s reticence to take a side in the ongoing battle over school choice and standardized testing, just like most members of Congress and the major U.S. media.

On the campaign trail, Biden drew cheers from teachers for his promise to end standardized testing, but he noticeably never added any such policy to his website. As was well known by teachers in those audiences, federally mandated tests provide no educational benefit but are the fuel in the engine driving charter school expansion.


President-Elect Biden did vow to cut federal funding to for-profit charter schools, however this affects only about 12% of charters (who could easily change their model while still enriching their for-profit management arms). Biden has acknowledged charter schools siphon money away from public schools, agreeing to new language in the (non-binding) DNC platform to discourage charters from discriminating against high-need students but as we know well, Democrats for many years have bent to pressure from deep-pocketed industrialists seeking ever more charter schools


Not much has changed since the same billionaires threatened to fund other candidates if Hillary Clinton didn’t continue to signal support for charters. Remember Eli Broad’s explicit ultimatum to withhold campaign cash if Hillary sided with teachers against charter schools? We do. 


But Broad also donated money to then-senator Kamala Harris, and like many ultra-wealthy education reformers, Broad made good use of the “revolving door”, hiring Biden’s former chief of staff Bruce Reed (2011-2013) to run his foundation. 


AS THE DOOR REVOLVES: The same day he revealed Cardona as his education nominee, it was announcedBiden rehired Reed as deputy chief of staff, despite pre-emptive protest from progressives like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the Squad who objected to Reed’s past hostility to safety net programs like Social Security. A former top advisor to President Bill Clinton, Reed’s own bio touts his oversight of the 1996 welfare reform law, the 1994 crime bill, and the Clinton education agenda.


Starting in 2015, Reed was a senior advisor for Emerson Collective, the “social change” LLC founded by billionaire Laurene Powell Jobs who is also close to Vice President-Elect Harris. Though it’s not clear how Reed might influence Biden’s decision-making on K-12 education, he is expected to have a “major role” as Biden’s Deputy Chief of Staff particularly shaping technology and data privacy policy. And echoing Trump, Reed calls for the elimination of Section 230 which protects internet companies from lawsuits over user postings.
In 2014, while serving as CEO of the Broad Foundation, Reed made worrisome comments to Hillary’s education advisors, suggesting in private that whole cities could be mass-charterized in the wake of natural disasters, calling New Orleans an “amazing story”. Reed also voiced support for personalized digital learning using the Summit Charters model.


TAX BREAKS LINKED TO CHARTERS: It’s great to see watchdog groups expose significant waste and fraud in the charter school industry, but because U.S. media is so silent about the political influence of pro-charter billionaires, hardly any attention is paid to the generous federal tax credits enriching investors through “nonprofit” charter school construction and financing as public schools struggle for resources. One such program, the New Markets Tax Credit (NMTC), did make it onto Biden’s web page, showing he wants to expand the credit to $5 billion per year and make it permanent.


It might not be controversial to use a seven year, 39% tax refund to incentivize wealthy investors to start caring about economically disadvantaged neighborhoods in dire need of manufacturing plants and low-income housing, but why does the NMTC favor charter schools over traditional public schools which are literally crumbling on our heads? 


I tried to find whose idea it was to include charter school construction, financing and leasing deals in the NMTC. 
The program itself traces back to 1998 when a “membership organization” called NMTC Coalitioncomprised mostly of banks, investment funds, developers, LLPs and LLCs came together under the management of Rapoza Associates, a large DC lobbying and government relations firm who supplies policy briefs and “comprehensive legislative and support services to community development organizations, associations and public agencies”. Sound a lot like ALEC?


Legislation was championed by then-Speaker Denny Hastert and Texas Rep. William Archer, both Republicans. The program was signed into law by President Clinton and went live as past of the Community Renewal Tax Relief Act of 2000, but it appears charter schools weren’t included until 2004. The California charter nonprofit ExEd claims to have “pioneered” NMTC charter financing deals, boasting of dozens under their belt. By 2017, more than $2.2 billion in NMTC allocations were deployed to expand charter schools nationally.


The contention was that although charter schools receive operational funding for enrolled students, they must procure and finance their own space, thus they needed a helping hand from Uncle Sam. Today however, 27 states have enacted legislation granting some level of access to district facilities, suggesting some re-examination is in order.


Operators also contended that their charter renewal terms, usually five years, are shorter than typical mortgage terms which range from 10 to 30 years. Thus the need for charters to quickly show results introduced a perverse incentive, driving all-out obsession for good scores on standardized tests so the school can not only guarantee their charter renewal, but demonstrate to lenders they are a safe bet (or attract even more expansion capital). 
STAKES RAISED FOR TEST SCORES: Because the NMTC tax credit and a host of other federal programs give charters significant fundraising advantages over public schools, it provides financial impetus to target nearby public schools for closure. Anything that can be done to raise scores – or lower the competition’s scores – will help their chances. This not only gives rise to round-the-clock test prep, but the notorious practice of cherrypicking students. 


The shiny new facilities help attract the best test-takers, while rigid “zero tolerance” discipline policies are employed to dump “troublesome” kids back on the public schools. Even though the deck is stacked, superior test scores create the “secret sauce” narrative used to sell politicians on charters and drum up support for more tax breaks.


Over the decades, poverty-stricken areas have been repeatedly carved up and designated as “Enterprise Communities”, “Empowerment Zones”, “Renewal Communities” or “Promise Neighborhoods”. In 2004, President Bush announced the “Opportunity Zones” program which Donald Trump renewed in his 2017 tax reform law, with support from Democrats like Cory Booker. This program could potentially dwarf the NMTC because it allows tax credits and deferments for trillions in untapped capital gains income. 


Although Opportunity Zone deals are available to public schools, they would need to first sign over their property to investors. But it’s not clear these programs even work. Besides being rife with cases of abuse like the Steven Mnuchin or Rick Scott front-page patronage scandals, a University of Iowa study of 75 enterprise zones in 13 states found little to no economic benefit and noted other harmful impacts such as displacement, gentrification, or giveaways for development in up-and-coming areas that would have happened anyway. 


As chronicled by Network for Public Education and noted by Congress, the array of creative charter school flim-flams has been incalculable – from exorbitant CEO salaries, predatory leases and consulting fees to management firms charging taxpayers to buy out a school’s name and logo. Even school districts got into the act, authorizing charters schools so as to generate oversight fees that help plug budget gaps. But there’s a marked difference between sketchy charter operators and multi-billion dollar programs designed to help charters replace existing schools.


SWEETENING THE POT: The tax credits, designed by the rich for the rich, are only the first layer of the subsidy onion for charter schools though. Linked to the tax breaks are tax-exempt charter school financing bonds traded in investment markets, and then even more inducement via a secondary tranche of bonds leveraged by government subsidies to backstop the first set of bonds against default. One such program, administered through the infamous No Child Left Behind Act is the Credit Enhancement for Charter School Facilities Program, which not only assumes downside risk, it artificially buoys bond ratings and lowers interest rates for the borrower. 
These credit enhancements can be backed by federal or state funds, banks or private investors but again, the guarantees may be tied to academic performance benchmarks which precipitate discrimination against high-need students. 


To lure developers into distressed neighborhoods, enormous bond guarantee and credit enhancement funds (starting at $100 million) were created under the Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) program, enacted as part of the 2010 Small Business Jobs Act. Charter school developers were among those offered access to long-term credit at below-market rates. In 2012, twelve of these CDFI fund management groups came together to form the Charter School Lenders Coalition, underwritten by usual suspects the Gates and Walton Foundations. The collaborative melded together ALL of the aforementioned programs with a stated goal of lobbying congressional reps to support more charters. 


Earlier this year, high-profile Democrats including Senators Sanders, Warren and Van Hollen co-sponsored legislation that would automatically deploy CDFIs in areas impacted by natural disasters or economic crises. 
If all these financial instruments are starting to sound complicated, it’s no accident – I’ve spared readers most of the dizzying acronyms like CDEs, CMOs, UDAGs and QALICBs, but the less everyday people understand, the greater the chance this all flies under the radar. Even the developers – be they charter operators or wealthy financial backers – require a lot of hand-holding by intermediaries to guide them through the maze of policy intricacies and applications. 


This is where yet another funding stream comes in, namely the federal Charter Schools Program, or CSP, which since 1994 has grown to into a $440 million annual slush fund for discretionary grants found to be so wasteful a third of 2006-2014 grantees never opened or quickly folded. Other recipients were found to be buying skyboxes or private jets, or unscrupulously charging themselves rent in cities and towns where local authorities are ill-equipped for oversight.


PULLING OUT THE STOPS: By the time Betsy DeVos took the helm, the U.S. Dept. of Education wasn’t just awarding start-up money to school-level charter developers but to all manner of other financial intermediaries including charter associations, nonprofits, state educational agencies, charter authorizers, and credit enhancement funds. The DeVoses know well that raining money on these entities will enrich real estate and banking interests, trickling down onto pro-charter candidates, local PACs and friendly media outlets. A week before the 2020 election, DeVos shamelessly announced the Trump Administration will start ignoring the crystal-clear prohibition on federal funds for charters affiliated with religious organizations, rupturing the separation of church and state. 


The NMTC technically expires on Dec. 31, 2020 but proposals for renewal have been very popular – the 2019 bill in the Senate had 37 bipartisan co-sponsors including Minority Leader Schumer, Amy Klobuchar and center-left Senators Jeff Merkeley and Sherrod Brown. The House version had 130 co-sponsors including Karen Bass and 22 other members of the Progressive Caucus. 


If there was an amendment to remove the exclusive carve-out for charter schools from the NMTC, it would allow the community investment to continue (for better or worse) but take the finger off the scale in the competition for educational resources. 


Such an amendment may not deter anti-union oligarchs like the Koch family bent on undermining public education. It may not deter data-mining tech billionaires seeking lucrative contracts or access to captive student audiences. It may not deter neoliberal social engineers who think their wealth ordains them to rejigger education as they see fit. It may not deter Betsy DeVos and her ilk from crusading for taxpayer-funding of religious schools.


But it could deter the garden-variety investor just looking to turn a buck, and it could bring attention to the little-understood giveaways to charter school investors. Also, it will flush out members of Congress afraid to go on record either for-or-against charters. As the battles over public education funding rage on, we hope incoming House members will infuse new energy into the fight, showing Biden, Harris and other policymakers the real-world harms and inequity built into charter school tax credits.

The New York Times published an editorial correctly blasting Betsy DeVos as the worst Secretary of Education in the 40-year history of the Department of Education. Unfortunately, the balance of the editorial was a plea to administer tests to find out how far the nation’s children had fallen behind because of the pandemic.

This is a misguided proposal, as I have explained many times on this blog. See here.

The Times wrote in this editorial:

Given a shortage of testing data for Black, Hispanic and poor children, it could well be that these groups have fared worse in the pandemic than their white or more affluent peers. The country needs specific information on how these subgroups are doing so that it can allocate educational resources strategically.

Beyond that, parents need to know where their children stand after such a sustained period without much face-to-face instruction. Given these realities, the new education secretary — whoever he or she turns out to be — should resist calls to put off annual student testing.

The annual federally mandated testing will not answer these questions, at a cost of $1 billion or more.

The information the Times wants could have been efficiently collected by the National Assessment of Educational Progress, which tests scientific samples of students in reading and mathematics every other year. The cost would have been substantially less than testing every single student in grades 3-8.

But DeVos canceled the 2021 administration of NAEP. NAEP would have provided voluminous amounts of data about student progress, disaggregated by race, gender, English learner status, and disability status. Everything the Times’ editorial board wants to know would have been reported by NAEP, with no stakes for students, teachers, and schools. No student takes the entire test. The sampling is designed to establish an accurate snapshot of every defined group, and there is a timeline stretching back over decades.

So now, as the editorial demonstrates, the pressure is on to give the annual tests to every single student. The results will be useless. The teachers are usually not allowed to see the questions, never allowed to discuss them, and never allowed to learn how individual students performed on specific questions. The results will be reported 4-6 months after students take the test. The students will have a new teacher. The students will get a score, but no one will get any information about what students do or don’t know.

The tests will show that students in affluent districts have higher scores than students who live in poor districts. Students who are English language learners and students with disabilities, on a average, will have lower scores than students who are fluent in English and those without disabilities. This is not a surprise. This is what the tests show every year.

If Secretary-designate Cardona needs to know how to allocate resources, he doesn’t need the annual tests for direction. He already knows what the tests will tell him. Federal funds should go where the needs are greatest, where low-income students are concentrated, where the numbers of English learners and students with disabilities are concentrated. The nation doesn’t need to spend $1 billion, more or less, to confirm the obvious.

Anyone who thinks that it is necessary or fair to give standardized tests this spring is out of touch with the realities of schooling. More important than test scores right now is the health and safety of students, teachers, and staff.

Advice to the New York Times editorial board: Talk to teachers.