Archives for category: Education Industry

 

Stephen Henderson, editorial page editor of the Detroit Free Press and a parent of children in a Detroit charter school, wrote a scathing critique of Betsy DeVos and her lack of qualifications to be Secretary of Education. He called his article “Betsy DeVos and the Twilight of Public Education.”

 

She is not an educator nor does she have relevant experience, he says. She is a lobbyist for school choice. The chaotic mess in Detroit is her handiwork. The city has many charter schools, and they are no better than public schools.

 

Thanks to her zealous lobbying, he says, Michigan tolerates more low-performing charters that just about any other state.

 

He writes:

 

“In Detroit, parents of school-age children have plenty of choices, thanks to the nation’s largest urban network of charter schools.

 

“What remains in short supply is quality.

 

“In Brightmoor, the only high school left is Detroit Community Schools, a charter boasting more than a decade of abysmal test scores and, until recently, a superintendent who earned $130,000 a year despite a dearth of educational experience or credentials.

 

“On the west side, another charter school, Hope Academy, has been serving the community around Grand River and Livernois for 20 years. Its test scores have been among the lowest in the state throughout those two decades; in 2013 the school ranked in the first percentile, the absolute bottom for academic performance. Two years later, its charter was renewed.

 

“Or if you live downtown, you could try Woodward Academy, a charter that has limped along near the bottom of school achievement since 1998, while its operator has been allowed to expand into other communities.

 

“For students enrolled in schools of choice — that is, schools in nearby districts who have opened their doors to children who live outside district boundaries — it’s not much better. Kids who depend on Detroit’s problematic public transit are are too far away from the state’s top-performing school districts — and most of those districts don’t participate in the schools of choice program, anyway.

 

“This deeply dysfunctional educational landscape — where failure is rewarded with opportunities for expansion and “choice” means the opposite for tens of thousands of children — is no accident. It was created by an ideological lobby that has zealously championed free-market education reform for decades, with little regard for the outcome.

 

“And at the center of that lobby is Betsy DeVos, the west Michigan advocate whose family has contributed millions of dollars to the cause of school choice and unregulated charter expansion throughout Michigan….

 

“The results of this free-for-all have been tragic for Michigan children, and especially for those in Detroit, where 79% of the state’s charters are located…

 

“The most accurate assessment is that charter schools have simply created a second, privately managed failing system. Yes, there are high-performing outliers — a little more than 10% of the charter schools perform in the top tier. But in Detroit, the best schools are as likely to be traditional public schools.

 

“DeVos and her family have not been daunted by these outcomes. It’s as if the reams of data showing just incremental progress or abysmal failure don’t matter. Their belief in charter schools is unshakable, their resistance to systematic reforms that would improve both public and charter schools unyielding.”

Indiana has one of the most expansive voucher programs in the nation, even though the state constitution explicitly forbids spending public money for religious schools. The state courts decided that the constitution doesn’t mean what it says. Former Governor Mitch Daniels initiated the voucher program and Mike Pence expanded it. Although born a Catholic, Pence is now an evangelical Christian.

 

Mother Jones investigated the Indiana voucher program and found that it has been a boon for religious schools, including many that teach creationism. Student performance in the voucher schools is poor; maybe someday the state will realize that it has to save kids who are failing to learn in mediocre voucher schools.

 

“One of Vice President-elect Mike Pence’s pet projects as governor of Indiana was expanding school choice vouchers, which allow public money to pay for private school tuition. President-elect Donald Trump has said he’d like to expand such vouchers in the rest of the country, but what happened in Indiana should serve as a cautionary tale for Trump and his administration.

 

“Pence’s voucher program ballooned into a $135 million annual bonanza almost exclusively benefiting private religious schools—ranging from those teaching the Koran to Christian schools teaching creationism and the Bible as literal truth—at the expense of regular and usually better-performing public schools. Indeed, one of the schools was a madrasa, an Islamic religious school, briefly attended by a young man arrested this summer for trying to join ISIS—just the kind of place Trump’s coalition would find abhorrent.

 

“In Indiana, Pence created one of the largest publicly funded voucher programs in the country. Initially launched in 2011 under Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels, it was sold as a way to give poor, minority children trapped in bad public schools a way out. “Social justice has come to Indiana education,” Daniels declared after the voucher legislation passed. It was supposed to be a small program, initially capped at 7,500 vouchers. Full vouchers, worth 90 percent of the per-pupil spending in a school district, were reserved for families with incomes up to 100 percent of the cutoff for free or reduced-price school lunch, about $45,000 a year for a family of four.

 

“But in 2013, Pence and the state’s GOP-controlled Legislature raised the income limits on the program so that a family of four with up to $90,000 in annual income became eligible for vouchers covering half their private school tuition. They also removed most requirements that students come from a public school to access the vouchers, making families already attending private school eligible for tuition subsidies, thus removing any pretense that the vouchers were a tool to help poor children escape failing schools.

 

“Pence’s school choice experiment demonstrates that vouchers can create a host of thorny political problems and potential church- and-state issues.

 
“By the 2015-16 school year, the number of students using state-funded vouchers had shot up to more than 32,000 in 316 private schools. But Pence’s school choice experiment demonstrates that vouchers can create a host of thorny political problems and potential church-and-state issues. Almost every single one of these voucher schools is religious. The state Department of Education can’t tell parents which or even whether any of the voucher schools are secular. (A state spokeswoman told me Indiana doesn’t collect data on the school’s religious affiliation.) Out of the list of more than 300 schools, I could find only four that weren’t overtly religious and, of those, one was solely for students with Asperger’s syndrome and other autism spectrum disorders, and the other is an alternative school for at-risk students.

 

“Opponents, including public school teachers and local clergy, sued the state to try to block the voucher program in 2011, arguing that it clearly violated the state constitutional provisions that protect taxpayers from having to support religion. They were also concerned that the money going to the religious schools was coming directly from local public school systems, draining them of critical funding in violation of the state constitution. But the Indiana state Supreme Court ruled in 2013 that the voucher program was constitutional because public money was going to the students and not to religious institutions directly….

 

“Perhaps not surprisingly, the kids in these schools aren’t performing very well on the state’s standardized tests, putting voucher schools among the state’s worst-performing schools. The three campuses of Horizon Christian Academy rank near the bottom. Two of its schools were once for-profit charter schools that lost their charters because they were badly underperforming. They reconstituted as private religious schools and now take taxpayer-funded vouchers. In 2015, less than 9 percent of the students at one of the Horizon campuses passed the state standardized tests in math and English, a rate worse than most of the state’s public schools from which the vouchers were supposed to provide an escape.

 

“A study by researchers at Notre Dame University published last year shows that in the first three years of the program, Indiana kids who left public schools to attend voucher schools saw their math scores decline in comparison with their peers who remained in regular public schools. The public school students saw improvements in their English skills, but the voucher kids’ results stayed flat. The voucher schools can’t necessarily blame low test scores on poverty, either. According to data from the state, today more than 60 percent of the voucher students in Indiana are white, and more than half of them have never even attended any public school, much less a failing one. Some of the fastest growth in voucher use has occurred in some of the state’s most affluent suburbs. The Center for Tax and Budget Accountability, a Chicago-based think tank, recently concluded that because white children’s participation in the voucher program dwarfed the next largest racial group by 44 points, the vouchers were effectively helping to resegregate public schools.”

 

This is what is in store for the nation in the Trump-Pence era.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bruce Baker is a professor of education at the Graduate School of Education at Rutgers; his area of specialization is school finance and the economics of education.

 

This new paper is a major analysis of the effects of charter schools on their host districts. Until now, there has been little attention paid to the ways that the expansion of charter schools affects the budget and policies of the district in which the charters open. Over the past twenty years, the United States has been developing a dual school system of public schools, open to all and responsible for all students who enroll, and charter schools, which are free of most state regulations and free to remove students they don’t want.

 

Baker is interested primarily in the fiscal impact of charters but he does consider the disciplinary policies of charters and also their segregating effects.

 

Here is his summary of his findings. I urge you to read the paper in its entirety to understand how charters are depleting the resources of public schools without necessarily providing a better quality of education.

 

Effects of charter expansion

 

District schools are surviving but under increased stress

 

In some urban districts, charter schools are serving 20 percent or more of the city or districtwide student population. These host districts have experienced the following effects in common:

 

*While total enrollment in district schools (the noncharter, traditional public schools) has dropped, districts have largely been able to achieve and maintain reasonable minimum school sizes, with only modest increases in the shares of children served in inefficiently small schools.
*While resources (total available revenues to district schools) have declined, districts have reduced overhead expenditures enough to avoid consuming disproportionate shares of operating spending and increasing pupil/teacher ratios.
*Despite expenditure cutting measures, districts simultaneously facing rapid student population decline and/or operating in states with particularly inequitable, under-resourced school finance systems have faced substantial annual deficits.
Charter expansion is not driven by well-known, high-profile operators

 

Most charter expansion in these cities has occurred among independently operated charter schools.
*High profile, frequently researched nonprofit charter school operators including the Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP) have relatively small shares of the charter school market in all cities except Newark.
*In many of these cities, some of the leading charter operators (those with the most market share) have been the subject of federal and state investigations and judicial orders regarding conflicts of interest (self-dealing) and financial malfeasance. These operators include Imagine Schools, Inc., White Hat Management, National Heritage Academies, and Concept Schools.
*The varied and often opaque financial practices across charter school management companies, while fitting with a competitive portfolio conception, leads to increased disparities across students, irregularities in the accumulation of additional public (publicly obligated) debt, and inequities and irregularities in the ownership and distribution of what were once commonly considered public assets—from buildings and vehicles right down to desks, chairs, and computers.

 

Charter schools are expanding in predominantly low-income, predominantly minority urban settings

 

Few are paying attention to the breaches of legal rights of students, parents, taxpayers, and employees under the increasingly opaque private governance and management structures associated with charter expansion.
Expansion of charter schooling is exacerbating inequities across schools and children because children are being increasingly segregated by economic status, race, language, and disabilities and further, because charter schools are raising and spending vastly different amounts, without regard for differences in student needs. Often, the charter schools serving the least needy populations also have the greatest resource advantages.
With the expansion of charter schooling, public districts are being left with legacy debts associated with capital plants and employee retirement systems in district schools while also accumulating higher risk and more costly debt in the form of charter school revenue bonds to support new capital development.
In many cases, the districts under investigation herein are large enough to be cut in half or thirds while still being financially viable, at least in terms of achieving economies of scale. In effect, charter expansion has already halved the size of many urban districts. Similar charter expansion in smaller districts, however, may lead the districts to enroll fewer than 2,000 pupils in district schools and suffer elevated costs. Given the literature on costs, productivity, and economies of scale, it makes little sense in population-dense areas to promote policies that cause district enrollments to fall below efficient-scale thresholds (around 2,000 pupils) or that introduce additional independent operators running below efficient-scale thresholds. It makes even less sense to introduce chartering to rural areas where schools and districts already operate below efficient scale.

 

Beyond issues of economies of scale, charter expansion can create inefficiencies and redundancies within district boundaries, from the organization and delivery of educational programs to student transportation, increasing the likelihood of budgetary stress on the system as a whole, and the host government in particular. In addition to increasing per pupil transportation expense, ill-planned (or unplanned) geographic dispersion may put more vehicles on already congested urban streets, contributing to traffic and air quality concerns, and significantly reduces the likelihood that children use active transportation (walking or biking) to school (Baker 2014b; Davison, Werder, and Lawson 2008; Evenson et al. 2012; Merom et al. 2006; Rosenberg et al. 2006; Wilson, Wilson, and Krizek 2007).

 

Here are a few excerpts that I found edifying:

 

While charter schooling was conceived as a way to spur innovation—try new things, evaluate them, and inform the larger system—studies of the structure and practices of charter schooling find the sector as a whole not to be particularly “innovative” (Preston et al. 2012). Analyses by charter advocates at the American Enterprise Institute find that the dominant form of specialized charter school is the “no excuses” model, a model that combines traditional curriculum and direct instruction with strict disciplinary policies and school uniforms, in some cases providing extended school days and years (McShane and Hatfield 2015). Further, charter schools raising substantial additional revenue through private giving tend to use that funding to a) provide smaller classes, and b) pay teachers higher salaries for working longer days and years (Baker, Libby, and Wiley 2012). For those spending less, total costs are held down, when necessary, through employing relatively inexperienced, low-wage staff and maintaining high staff turnover rates (Epple, Romano, and Zimmer 2015; Toma and Zimmer 2012). In other words, the most common innovations are not especially innovative or informative for systemic reform….

 

As early as the mid-1990s, authors including Paul Hill, James Guthrie, and Lawrence Pierce (1997) advocated that entire school districts should be reorganized into collections of privately managed contract schools (Hill, Pierce, and Guthrie 2009). This contract school proposal emerged despite the abject failure of Education Alternatives, Inc., in Baltimore and Hartford. This proposal provided a framework for renewed attempts at large-scale private management including the contracting of management for several Philadelphia public schools in the early 2000s. Philadelphia’s experiment in private contracting yielded mixed results, at best (Mac Iver and Mac Iver 2006).2 Notably, Hill and colleagues’ contract school model depended on a centralized authority to manage the contracts and maintain accountability, a precursor to what is now commonly referred to as a “portfolio” model. In the portfolio model, a centralized authority oversees a system of publicly financed schools, both traditional district-operated and independent, charter-operated, wherein either type of school might be privately managed (Hill 2006).3 The goal as phrased by former New York City schools’ chancellor Joel Klein is to replace school systems with systems of great schools (Patrino 2015).

 

A very different reality of charter school governance, however, has emerged under state charter school laws—one that presents at least equal likelihood that charters established within districts operate primarily in competition, not cooperation with their host, to serve a finite set of students and draw from a finite pool of resources. One might characterize this as a parasitic rather than portfolio model—one in which the condition of the host is of little concern to any single charter operator. Such a model emerges because under most state charter laws, locally elected officials—boards of education—have limited control over charter school expansion within their boundaries, or over the resources that must be dedicated to charter schools. Thus, there is no single, centralized authority managing the portfolio—the distributions of enrollments and/or resources—or protecting against irreparable damage to any one part of the system (be it the parasites or the host)….

 

Increased attention is being paid to the fiscal and enrollment effects of charter schooling on host districts. These concerns come at a time when municipal fiscal stress and the potential for large-scale municipal and school district bankruptcies are in the media spotlight (Governing 2015). Many high profile cases of municipal fiscal stress are in cities where the charter sector is thriving, for example Chester Upland, Pa., Detroit, and Philadelphia (Layton 2015; Graham 2015; Pierog 2015). Some charter advocates have gone so far as to assert that school district bankruptcy presents a “huge opportunity” to absolve the taxpaying public of existing debts and financial obligations and start fresh under new management, reallocating those funds to classrooms (Persson 2015). Of course, this strategy ignores the complexities of municipal bankruptcy proceedings, and the contractual, social, and moral obligations for the stewardship of publicly owned capital (and other) assets and responsibility to current and retired employees.

 

Advocates for charter expansion typically assert that charter expansion causes no financial harm to host districts. The logic goes, if charter schools serve typical students drawn from the host district’s population, and receive the same or less in public subsidy per pupil to educate those children, then the per pupil amount of resources left behind for children served in district schools either remains the same or increases. Thus, charter expansion causes no harm (and in fact yields benefits) to children remaining in district schools. The premise that charter schools are uniformly undersubsidized is grossly oversimplified and inaccurate in many charter operating contexts (Baker 2014c). In addition, numerous studies find that charter schools serve fewer students with costly special needs, leaving proportionately more of these children in district schools. Perhaps most important, the assumption that revenue reductions and enrollment shifts cause districts no measurable harm for host ignores the structure of operating costs and dynamics of cost and expenditure reduction.

 

Moody’s Investors Service opined in 2013 that “charter schools pose greatest credit challenge to school districts in economically weak urban areas.” Specifically, Moody’s identified the following four areas posing potential concerns for host urban districts with growing independent charter sectors:

 

Weak demographics and district financial stress, which detract from the ability to deliver competitive services and can prompt students to move to charter schools
Weak capacity to adjust operations in response to charter growth, which reduces management’s ability to redirect spending and institute program changes to better compete with charter schools
State policy frameworks that support charter school growth through relatively liberal approval processes for new charters, generous funding of charters, and few limits on charter growth
Lack of integration with a healthier local government that can insulate a school system from credit stress (D’Arcy and Richman 2013)
Moody’s reiterated these concerns in a follow-up report (Moody’s Investors Service 2015)…

 

Rarely if ever considered in policy discourse over charter school expansion is whether children and families should be required to trade constitutional or statutory rights for the promise of the possibility of a measurable test score gain. In fact, the public, including parents and children, is rarely if ever informed of these tradeoffs and does not become aware until an issue arises. Charter operators have shown time and time again that they are willing to push boundaries regarding student rights and discipline policies. An evaluation of New York City charter school disciplinary policies by Advocates for Children of New York (2015) found, among other things, that “107 of the 164 NYC charter school discipline policies we reviewed permit suspension or expulsion as a penalty for any of the infractions listed in the discipline policy, no matter how minor the infraction.”14 Further, these policies included numerous violations of rights to due process when disciplinary actions are taken. While the report asserts that these policies violate state and federal laws it remains unclear whether charter operators might successfully shield themselves by their “private” status. That is, in many state contexts, charter schools may simply not have to follow the same rules in the establishment and implementation of their rules for children, parents, and the public at large.

 

The loss of rights or the requirement to trade rights for the promise of marginal test score gains—is concerning from an equity perspective because chartering, in particular no-excuses15 charter models are not evenly distributed across communities and children. Table 2 shows that nearly 12 percent of large city student populations are in charter schools, where those populations are 57 percent low income and nearly 70 percent black or Hispanic on average. Suburbs of large cities, which have much lower minority and low-income shares, have charter market penetration less than one-third the rate of large urban centers.

 

I hope that municipal finance analysts across the nation read this report with care. Moody’s warned Massachusetts that if it expanded the number of charters, several urban districts would be financially distressed. Until now, the reformers have not paid attention to how charters affect the finances of the host district or have not listened to these concerns. Perhaps they thought that a fiscal crisis in the host district would lead to a collapse of the governing authority and thus to more charter schools. But “gimme” is not sound public policy. Sound public policy would be concerned about supplying  good schools to all children, not just to some children.

In this post, Mitchell Robinson lays out the strategy of Betsy and Dick DeVos in Michigan, which they have since exported to other states in their well-funded campaign to destroy public education and substitute for it a marketplace of for-profit charters and publicly-funded religious schools.

 

Robinson, a professor of music education at Michigan State, writes:

 

 

“As Michiganders know, Betsy and Dick DeVos are religious and school privatization/choice/voucher zealots. They were humiliated by the twin failures of voucher legislation in 2000 and Dick’s loss in the Michigan governor’s race to Jennifer Granholm in 2006, and these dual humiliations resulted in the development of the DeVos’ “long-game” strategy to achieve their goals of privatizing public education:

 

*destroy the Democrats’ biggest single source of financial support by gutting teacher unions via Right to Work legislation
*capitalize on the elimination of the charter school “cap” to explode the number of non-regulated and for-profit charter schools in the state
*use charter schools as the mechanism to “blur the lines” between public and private/religious schools
use this “blurring” of boundaries between church and state to build public support for the redistribution of public funds to religious and private schools”

 

In the timeline that Robinson created, he includes the infamous secret video of Dick DeVos speaking at the Heritage Foundation in 2002.

 

He writes:

 

“One of my first encounters with the DeVos ideology of education was stumbling upon this video of a speech that Amway heir Dick DeVos (husband of Betsy, brother-in-law of Blackwater private mercenary army founder Eric Prince, Betsy’s brother), gave on December 3, 2002, at the Heritage Foundation (which is funded generously by the DeVos family foundations). The gist of this speech was Mr. DeVos’ argument that school privatization was an issue that was deeply divisive, and not at all popular with the public; so in order to get vouchers and privatization through the legislature a “stealth approach” was necessary: “We need to be cautious about talking too much about these activities.”

 

At least we know where she stands. She is not neutral among the different sectors of K-12 education. She doesn’t like public schools. She wants unregulated competition among charters and religious schools, all funded by taxpayers.

 

A few years back, I visited Michigan and spoke to a group of district superintendents who collectively represented about half the students in the state. They described Michigan’s public school choice program, which obliterated district lines. Students could go to any public school, taking their dollars with them. Every district competed with every other district to lure students because total revenues rose or fell based on enrollments. Each district spent about $100,000 a year on radio and TV advertising, trying to “poach” students from neighboring districts. No one liked this approach. No one thought it was educationally sound. It was a colossal waste of money. Add to this the competition with charters, most of which operate for profit, and you have a state school system focused on dollars as the bottom line, not students or education.

 

 

 

Jennifer Berkshire (aka EduShyster) is a funny, affable, charming person who often visits reformer gatherings, to learn more, get to understand the reformer ideas, and engage reformers face to face. Not in a hostile way, but as an interested observer who listens and learns.

 

In this remarkable post, she explains what Betsy DeVos wants. She first encountered Betsy DeVos at a Republican candidates’ parley in the summer of 2015. The candidates spoke, each outlining their bipartisan views on school choice, and DeVos spoke, and Berkshire wondered:

 

Could the education reform coalition’s major selling point, its bipartisan-ness, really stretch to incorporate the extreme right-wing views of DeVos?”

 

Some reformers are less than thrilled with DeVos, says Berkshire, especially because of her personal role in torpedoing efforts to bring some order and accountability to the charters in Detroit. Other reformers did not appreciate the “outsized role she has played in shaping Detroit as an, um, education laboratory in which an out-of-control lab fire now burns.” Detroit is hardly an advertisement for educational reform via school choice.

 

For a brief moment in time, there was a genuinely broad-based coalition that wanted to save Detroit. It formed in 2014, and it seemed to be heading towards a hopeful conclusion. But the effort collapsed in the summer of 2016:

 

The feel-good story screeched to a halt last summer thanks to a wall of GOP opposition. Except that *wall* and *opposition* make it sound as though there were a whole bunch of people involved in the kneecapping that went down. There was a single family: Betsy and Dick DeVos. The bill that ultimately passed, with the DeVos’ blessing and with the aid of the lawmakers they bankroll, did virtually nothing to regulate Detroit’s *wild west* charter school sector, and will likely hasten the demise of the Detroit Public Schools. While Michigan’s burgeoning charter lobby was well represented in the final negotiations, elected representatives from Detroit were missing; in a clear violation of House rules, they weren’t even allowed to speak on the bill. And in a final twist of the shiv, the legislation that emerged lets uncertified teachers teach in Detroit, something not allowed anywhere else in Michigan. Oh, and don’t forget the new punishments for teachers who engage in *sick outs* to call attention to the appalling conditions in the city’s schools.

 

There is a queasy, racialized undertone to much of the education reform debate, with its constant implication that students of color fare best in schools over which their communities have little say. In Michigan, though, that argument has been taken by reform advocates, Betsy DeVos chief among them, to its extreme conclusion. The official message of DeVos’ organization, the Great Lakes Education Project, during last summer’s legislative battle was that dissolving the Detroit Public Schools would *protect kids and empower parents,* a cause that came with its own hashtag: #EndDPS. But what GLEP really meant was hard to miss. Detroit is a tax-hoovering abyss whose residents are too corrupt and incompetent to oversee their own schools.

 

After the GOP took control of Michigan in 2010, the charter cap was lifted, then eliminated. The state, once home to the nation’s industrial unions, became a right-to-work state. The legislature passed a law allowing “emergency managers” to take control of financially stressed districts, with unlimited powers. Voters passed a refendum eliminating the emergency managers, but the legislature revived it in a budget bill.

 

Guess whose districts and and schools were taken over by emergency managers and turned over to charter operators?

 

You’ve heard about Detroit, and Flint, with its poisoned water, but there are other less well known cases—like Benton Harbor, Muskegon, and Highland Park, which at last count was down to a single public school. Within a few years of Public Act IV’s enactment, half of Michigan’s Black population was living under some form of emergency management. *The municipalities and school districts that have been taken over are predominantly African American and poor,* David Arsen, an economist at Michigan State University, told me when I interviewed him last summer. *The optics are not good, especially in the context of the long civil rights struggle for voting rights.*

 

Berkshire realized that the real danger of the Trump era is that he is “moldable clay,” amenable to the plans of others.

 

The terrifying thing about the dawning of the Trumpian era isn’t just the specific awfulness of the President-elect’s policies. It’s that Trump is what the long gamers think of as *moldable clay,* receptive to whatever plots and plans they’ve spent years dreaming and scheming up. In Michigan, the long game has long been about making over the state’s schools: breaking up the government monopoly over education and getting rid of that pesky prohibition that keeps public monies from following kids to private schools, especially private schools of the religious variety. When Detroit-based writer Allie Gross set out this summer to document the long history of the efforts of the DeVos family and its allies to remake Detroit’s schools, she dug up an archival piece that a reporter at her paper, the Metro Times, wrote in 1995. Gross’ predecessor described a *relentless attack* on Michigan’s public education system, and a *Trojan horse* meant to blur the distinction between public and private schools en route to realizing the real goal: public funding for parochial schools.

 

Betsy DeVos is playing the long game, and she knows what she wants. What others want is irrelevant.

 

 

 

 

Here is a great article in The New Republic by staff writer Graham Vyse, asking the crucial question, “Can Democrats Save Public Education from Trump and DeVos?” It acknowledges that the Democrats paved the way for the school choice agenda of the far-right by touting privately managed charter schools for the past eight years.

 

So the question now is whether Democrats will really fight for public education or will they continue the pretense that privately managed charter schools are “public?” Will they continue to endorse charters and oppose vouchers? Can you be half-pregnant?

 

As the Democrats aped the Republicans on key social issues, like education, they lost their unique identity. Now there are only 14 states with Democratic governors. If they keep pretending to be Republicans, there will be even fewer.

 

Andrew Cuomo of New York has used the same language as Trump, referring to community public schools as a “government monopoly,” and he endorsed legislation to compel the city of New York to give free space to charters, even those that are able to pay rent, like Eva Moskowitz’s fabulously wealthy charter chain. Dannell Molloy has been a champion for charter schools in Connecticut and gives them preference over public schools. Jerry Brown in California opened two charter schools when he was mayor of Oakland, and he recently vetoed legislation to ban for-profit charter schools.

 

Will they fight the privatization agenda, now that it is the Trump agenda?

Jeff Bryant has written a stunning documentation of the damage done by the charter industry to public schools in North Carolina. It is worth your time to read it all. It is a preview of what lies ahead for public education in the Trump era, unless parents and educators and public-spirited citizens join to save their public schools. It is not a pretty picture.

 

The Tea Party Republicans in the legislature and Governor Pat McCrory in the state house set a course to undermine, underfund, and starve public schools while opening the state to charter schools, whether nonprofit or for-profit. Jeff Bryant shows how funding for the public schools is below 2008 levels, even though enrollment has grown by nearly 80,000. Public schools have had to make budget cuts, at the same time that charter schools and online charter schools take away students and funding. In North Carolina, as in many states, if a student leaves a charter school after October to return to the public school, the charter school gets to keep the full year of tuition and is not obliged to replace the student who left.

 

The board that oversees charter schools and decides which new charters to approve is filled with charter school advocates. As Donald Trump used to say, “It’s a rigged system, folks, it’s a rigged system.”

 

Bryant explains in detail how the for-profit charter management companies make money. He uses the example of National Heritage Academies, which is based in Grand Rapids, Michigan, the hometown of Donald Trump’s designated Secretary of Education. Half their teachers may be uncertified, which means they have lower salary costs. But the real money is in the real estate.

 

Bryant writes:

 

How do these schools make a profit? The best answer the reporter for the Charlotte Observer could find was in management fees for the EMOs [educational management organizations], which In North Carolina equal to 7 – 19 percent of total school operational costs.

 

But based on my inquiries, that figure represents a very small part of the profit these schools make.

 

Out Of Michigan And Florida

 

“North Carolina is one those states that is new to the charter game,” Ellen Lipton tells me in a phone call to her office in Michigan – home of National Heritage Academies. NHA is based in Grand Rapids, where Betsy DeVos also lives.

 

“The low per-student funding that tends to characterize Southern states generally kept charter school operators from moving into those states,” she contends. “But now states like Michigan are getting saturated” so the charter chains have decided to move south.

Lipton is a Michigan State Representative who has spoken out against the spread of charter schools through the state’s Education Achievement Authority, an appointed agency, similar to the Achievement School District North Carolina created last year, that takes over low-performing schools and turns them over to charter operators.

 

According to Lipton, NHA has “fine-tuned” the business of chartering to ensure they make a profit. She points me to a recent investigative report by the Detroit Free Press that finds, “It is difficult to know how charter management companies are spending money … Unlike traditional school districts, the management companies usually don’t disclose their vendors, contracts, and competitive bid documents.”

 

“NHA is a business model based on, not necessarily educating kids, but on being a facilities management company,” Casandra Ulbrich, another Michigan source, tells me.

 

Ulbrich is currently serving her second eight-year term on the Michigan State Board of Education and also works in education administration at a state community college.

 

She tells me how the NHA business model works: First, NHA forms a charter school board to “invite” NHA to manage a new school. The governing board is not independent of the management company, and members of the board can serve on multiple NHA charter boards across the state, thus creating a network of charter school boosters the work on promoting these schools.

 

After securing a contract to manage the new school, NHA purchases a building – it could be a storefront in a strip mall or an abandoned warehouse – and requests approval from an authorizer to open a school there. After the authorization, the charter board signs a lease agreement with Charter Development Company, LLC to take over ownership of the building. Charter Development Company, which has branches in all the states where NHA has schools, has its home office in Grand Rapids, Michigan, at the same address as the home office of NHA.

 

Now NHA and its related enterprises own the building and its contents, even if desks, computers, and equipment have been purchased with taxpayer money. It receives rent payments from the district. It owns the curriculum the school teaches. And if NHA is ever fired, the charter board – and by extension the district – is in the awkward position of having to buy back its own school.

 

 

Ten years ago, ASCD published a book that I compiled about education jargon and buzzwords. It is called EdSpeak. 

 

Recently, I became aware that Nancy Bailey, a teacher-blogger, was collecting jargon and buzzwords, and I started thinking that EdSpeak needs to be updated. It predated Race to the Top and many new fads and innovations of the past decade.

 

I wrote on a post that I would love to help Nancy’s help in revising the book, and she responded offering to be co-editor.

 

ASCD has given us the go-ahead to revise the book with new buzzwords, jargon, phrases, and terminology that have grown up in the past decade.

 

Last time, when I compiled the glossary of education language and terminology, I spent months scouring EdWeek and other publications to pick up on the latest words.

 

This time, I am asking you to send me your favorite buzzwords, terminology, and jargon. Just send them here as a comment, and Nancy and I will add them to our collection.

 

Thank  you for your help. This will be the first time I have ever crowd sourced a book, but I can’t think of a better way to gather all the current and latest language of our field.

 

Here is an example of a possible new entry:

 

“Reformer”: someone who wants to close local public schools and replace them with privately managed charter schools. Also known as a corporate education reformer. 

 

 

 

 

In one of the closest elections in the country, Governor Pat McCrory conceded at last to State Attorney General Roy Cooper in the race for governor.

 

McCrory came to office as the formerly moderate mayor of Charlotte. Once in office, he joined the far-right wing Tea Party majority in the General Assembly to pass legislation for charters and vouchers, to eliminate the respected North Carolina Teaching Fellows program (which required a five-year education commitment and produced career teachers) and replaced it with a $6 million grant to Teach for America, and enacted law after law to reduce the status of the teaching profession.

 

To understand the damage that McCrory and his cronies did to the state read this summary of five years of political wrecking imposed on the state.

Something amazing happened in Nevada in the 2016 election. Democrats won control of both houses of the legislature. There is still a Republican governor.

 

Angie Sullivan is a second-grade teacher in Nevada who often writes letters to legislators and journalists, to keep them grounded in the reality of the classroom. Nevada has what is very likely the worst performing charter sector in the nation; most of the state’s lowest performing schools are charter schools. It also has a voucher program with no income limits, that is utilized by affluent families to underwrite private school tuition. It is starting an “achievement school district,” modeled on the one that failed in Tennessee and the one that voters in Georgia just rejected, where state officials may take over public schools with low scores and hand them over to charter operators.

Here is Angie with her good-sense newsletter:

Read this:

http://m.reviewjournal.com/opinion/lawmakers-must-work-together-fund-schools

Educators have been forced to become issue based in our state. We can no longer afford to depend wholly on either party. We have to get things done and work with any ally.

We have to get things done.

We will not get everything we want but we have to make headway.

Last session I was proud of the leadership in my state.

Teachers are used to compromise – we do it everyday to make headway for kids. Please be willing to do the same again this session.

These are my asks.

_______________

First Ask: A real teacher in every classroom –

In the recent past, politicians, administrators and businessmen have scape-goated Nevada’s education problems onto those working directly with students – the teachers.

This has lead to unfunded mandates, witch-hunt type behavior, firing professionals, and driving off good teachers in our state. This never made sense – since the classroom teacher is directed by many others and very little is in our control at any level. My day is outlined and many classrooms are micromanaged to the point of damaging students. And the supplies are very limited. Teachers were blamed none-the-less.

These attacks on professional teachers occurred on both sides of the aisle.

Less productive.

We are the front line. We never were the enemy.

Now we have at-risk schools filled with under-prepared people struggling to become an educator. It is the poor, the disenfranchised, and the needy who do not have a teacher for several years in a row. If a child has an IEP and a special education need, they probably do not have a prepared professional to implement the plan.

This is reform?

We need to step back from attacks on collective bargaining, whittling teacher due process, and proclamations that skilled teachers are the problem. Filling our schools with temporary labor is damaging a generation of students – mainly students of color.

Spending all our time looking for the “lemon” instead of retaining the “good guys” is costly in more ways than one.

_______________________

Second Ask: Stop funding scams and craziness.

In an effort to produce quick results, Nevada grabs ideas from other states. These ideas have not proven themselves and flaunt questionable research. None have proven effective with populations as diverse as ours. These Nevada legislative ideas are failing on epic levels and need to be cleaned up.

– Charters are a disaster in Nevada. The amount of fraud, embezzlement, and criminal type behavior occurring in Nevada’s charters is astounding. The bipartisan legislature who supported and implemented reform by charter needs to put some teeth into laws to clean this mess up. I’m adding up the cost and it is millions and millions.

– Read-by-Three which is grant based will fund programs in the north. 75% of the students in need are in the south but the way the language was built – only a drizzle of funding will help students who are most likely to be punished by this legislation in Vegas. Again Nevada demands rigor without giving students and teachers resources to get the job done. Punishing 8 year olds without giving them adequate opportunity is a violation of civil rights. Read-by-Three has only been successful in states willing to fully fund early intervention. And that costs a significant amount of money. States which implement Read-By-Three as Nevada is doing without funding – fail miserably. This is not tough love – it is a crime.

-ASD [Achievement School District] is scary. Due to our lack of per pupil funding, Nevada cannot attract viable charter operators. We spent $10 million on a harbor master, Allison Serafin, to attract charters to Nevada. What a waste. We will now replace 6 failing public schools with charters who have failed elsewhere. To be watched over by the same system that allows the charter systems in Nevada to fail on an epic level already. Just how much are we spending on the Charter Authority and other groups responsible for overseeing charters? Do we continue to ask public schools to be accountable while ignoring the atrocious failure of charters? And we force charters on communities of color with the ASD – in the name of school choice. Force is not choice.

– ESA [Education Savings Accounts–or vouchers] is scary. A treasurer will determine education curriculum and spot check for fraud. Parents will “police themselves”. Blank checks will be given to mainly white affluent parents to take wherever they like or allow children to lay on the couch. And those checks will go to 8,000 applicants in the amount of $40 million in tax payer money. While lack of regulation sounds like a great idea, in Nevada education it leads to waste and fraud. This is a nightmare of waste ready to happen.

We have little money for real research based best practice but have spent millions on unproven and failing reform.

Ten years of reform and limited gains. Some reform may have damaged a generator. Of learners. Time for a return to the steady growth produced by funding best practice. It’s not fancy or flashy but it works.

____________________

Third Ask: Funding Fairness.

The Southern Caucus needs to advocate for our children.

In a bipartisan manner, the southern caucus needs to work and make progress for our children. Teachers and students need our legislators to do the heavy lift for the kids in our area. Frankly we need money.

The south generates most of the revenue for the state. 80% of the DSA (Distributive Schools Account) is funding put there from Clark County.

Clark County receives 50% in return. This is the antiquated Nevada Plan.

Also the south does not have access to mining proceeds which many rural communities can also tap for school funds.

I am not advocating a grab from other schools. I am advocating for restructuring that is fair to all students wherever they reside.

The south serves students who traditionally need more financial support to be successful.

CCSD [Clark County School District: Las Vegas] has huge numbers of children in poverty.

Our students cannot continue to endure class sizes of 40 plus.

We cannot continue to ignore early intervention so vital to future success.

We have to continue to fund and expand Victory and ZOOM schools.

CCSD was considering an ELL plan which is necessary. The cost would be $1 billion to fund at a level appropriate for our learners in Clark County.

We cannot continue to train educators who leave for greener pastures. We need committed and permanent educators to see a return in teacher development investment. We need to invest in teacher pipelines and retention of excellent and fully qualified professionals. We also need teachers who reflect the faces we see in our community. It is very expensive to endure teacher churn as skilled labor looks for a better deal.

__________________________

Final Ask:

Listen up both sides of the aisle . . .

Everything costs.

Unfunded mandates that may be easily implemented in a tiny rural district, can cost multiple millions to implement in CCSD with 380,000 students and 36,000 educators.

That great idea a random legislator has – needs to have a price tag on it. Just one thing – can rob a classroom of supplies. A great idea – can mean my students do not have books. The pot is limited. The budget is already stretched thin. We have to prioritize and necessities need to come first.

We cannot continue to do more with less.

Unfunded mandates are killing public schools. Do not send that idea without cash.

Just don’t do it.

I’m looking at everyone here because I have seen it non-stop. Most returning law makers are guilty.

If we are running at a deficit of $300-$400 million, please know unfunded mandates will rob from another need.

If there is zero money. There is zero money. No money – no reform. No money – no new ideas. No money – no change. It is not that different from a budget at your house. It is not that we do not want things, we just cannot afford it right now.

Whipping teachers like we are going to row faster on a Viking ship – just leaves us too whipped to teach.

Unfunded mandates are usually implemented by teachers from our own pockets – we pull from our personal bank accounts, our families, and our time to implement that great idea. Many unfunded mandates are half implemented and just waste time and money because they are impossible. It is a burden.

Ideas cost money.

____________

Listen to me.

I am without guile.

My hands are clean as I work to teach seven year olds to read.

These are my asks.

I have spent a lifetime educating children. I am from Nevada where we used to fund near the top and achieve results near the top too. I have watched my state’s educational success plummet as our per pupil spending has declined. That is a fact proven with real data.

Educating students costs.

Competition has not and will not improve Nevada’s system.

Tough love, fads and gimmicks are draining precious resources.

Teachers will fail if we do not have what we need to do the job.

Some things are more important than winning and losing a political game.

Please work together for kids this session in a well thought out way that makes progress.

You expect a lot from teachers.

Teachers need resources spent the right way to make progress.