Archives for category: Education Industry

T.C. Weber, a public school parent in Nashville, can’t understand why voters in Georgia would vote to create a state takeover of low-scoring schools to turn them over to charter operators. It hasn’t worked in Tennessee, despite the propaganda, and there’s no reason to believe that it will work anywhere else. What’s worse, it defunds public schools so that the charters get whatever they want.

“On November 8, Georgia residents will head to the polls, and, along with their presidential vote, will decide on whether or not to give the state the power to take over so-called failing schools. As a parent of two children who attend a school that sits right outside the periphery of the priority school list, I urge you reject this idea. No matter what they try to tell you, the Achievement School District in Tennessee has been an unmitigated failure. The only thing the ASD has been successful at is creating another government entity rife with financial mismanagement and becoming an endless source of debate as they constantly change goals.

“As I said earlier, I’ve got two children in a school that for all intents and purposes is a “priority school,” and I hate that term. First of all, I believe all schools should be “Priority Schools,” meaning that we should make it a priority that all schools have the resources they need. Taking schools and ranking them while ignoring their resource shortfalls gives us an inaccurate portrait of our educational system and allows us to ignore societal issues that need addressing. The focus becomes not on actual learning, but rather on standardized test results. I know the two should be the same, but unfortunately we all know they are not. Ranking schools in this manner further exacerbates an inequitable education experience for children because the emphasis becomes getting off the list versus providing the best possible well-rounded educational experience for all children.

“Let’s look at Nashville, for example. Currently, we have 11 schools on the state’s priority list. At a recent school board meeting, the newest plan was unveiled to rescue these priority schools. One of the elements of the plan was that we were no longer going to call underperforming schools “priority schools.” We were now going to refer to them as “innovation schools” because “priority” conveyed a sense of failure and punishment. That’s fine, you can change the language – something the reform movement is particularly adept at – but the state will still refer to these schools as priority schools. And if they fail to improve, the state will reassign them to the state’s innovation zone, the Achievement School District, which has proven to be not so innovative after all. Their idea of innovation has more to do with growing the charter sector than with their stated goal of moving the bottom 5% of schools to the top 25%. Any local action is potentially neutered by the vulture on its perch waiting to pounce.

“So if an ASD-type program gets approved in your state, what follows is a plan of action that focuses on getting these schools to show growth in the only measurement that matters to the state, the standardized test. Want to take a class on a field trip to the state museum? Well, that’s great, but how’s that going to improve literacy scores? Want to teach a novel to your class? Yeah, that’s nice, but we have other strategies that’ll have a bigger impact on test scores and we’d prefer you utilize that time for them. Thank God there are still teachers willing to buck the system or it would be test prep all the time, which is basically already happening in a lot of places.”

Laura Chapman lives in Cincinnati, Ohio, where the national board of the NAACP held its annual meeting and approved a resolution calling for a moratorium on new charter schools. The resolution was first proposed by the annual national convention of NAACP members from across the nation. Protestors arrived from Memphis to protest any moratorium on new charters.

Laura, a retired arts educators and an inveterate researcher, wrote about why people came from Memphis to Cincinnati:

“Cincinnati was the site of protests against the NAACP resolution to put a moratorium on charter schools. About 150 protesters, who wore coordinated t-shirts, were bussed to Cincinnati from the infamous “Achievement School District” (ASD) in Memphis, TN, specifically by a group called Memphis Lift.

“Who actually paid for the trip and why did protesters against the NAACP resolution come to Cincinnati from Memphis? I do not final have answers, but there can be no doubt that the charter industry is organized to protest against any cuts in charter expansion. Here are some things worth noting.

“Three persons from Memphis are on NAACP’s 63-member national board: Jesse H. Turner Jr., the organization’s treasurer and the president of Tri-State Bank of Memphis; Rabbi Micah Greenstein of Temple Israel of Memphis; and Bishop William Graves of Christian Methodist Episcopal Church.
No doubt the pro-charter group, Memphis Lift, hoped to influence their vote.

“Memphis Lift was created in 2015 in order to organize black parents as vocal supporters of school choice. Memphis Lift has close ties to the wife of Chris Barbic, the founding superintendent of the scandalous Memphis “Achievement School District (ASD)”

“Why scandalous? An August 2016 audit of the ASD indicated that for school year 2016-2017, ASD added 4 more charter schools to its Memphis portfolio, for a total of 33 under the charter management organizations (CMOs) in charge of running day-to-day operations. This first ever audit revealed frauds on a grand scale in just one year. Among them, the liberal issuance of purchasing cards combined with records of purchases totaling $14,895 for which the cardholders did not obtain advanced approval as required by ASD policy. (p. 44). Six transactions were for a dental insurance premium, donation, coffee supplies, and “accrual calculations” totaling $131,637. Three travel claims were for one flight and CMO expenses, totaling $4,734 with no supporting documentation (p. 43). For more examples of this free spending, including luxury transportation and the bar charges at parties, see the report.

“Participants in Memphis Lift are not grassroots volunteers. They are employed-parents who received paid training channeled through Education Reform Now. Education Reform Now is supported by Democrats for Education Reform’s Political Action Committee. Chris Barbic’s wife, Natasha Kamrani, works as the Director of Democrats for Education Reform in Tennessee. She would certainly know about the training program and the political action funding channeled to it.

“How was the training financed? Memphis Lift is a fairly expensive operation. Initially, it was organized around 19 parent-employees who received $1800 for attending a 10-week training program. The training included help on public speaking, canvassing parents, and the use of a laptop, a perk given to participants in the program. The parent-employees, paid $12 to $15/hour, worked for about 25 hours per week. They were sent to canvas parents in Memphis neighborhoods where the public schools had been given the lowest performance rating by the state. In addition to providing these parents with information about the low performance of these schools, they discussed charters as an option for the parents. This paid “voice group” for parents successfully canvassed about 1,100 parents, and simultaneously created a roster of prospective contacts for marketing charter schools.
Who provided the training? The Parent Leadership and Advocacy Institute (PLAI). PLAI, the local affiliate of Democrats for Education Reform. Successive cohorts of participants in Memphis Lift were trained by Dr. Ian P. Buchanan, Deputy Director of the Parent Leadership Advocacy Institute/Democrats for Education Reform in Memphis TN.

“Dr. Buchanan’s work for Memphis Lift was aided by co-director Johnnie M. Hatten, a conspicuous supporter of charter expansion and member of the ASD Advisory Council, who ran for the state legislature in 2016 (as a Democrat), but lost the contest to Antonio Parkinson, a vocal critic of the state-run school turnaround district. Hatten’s campaign coffers were filled by charter-supporting groups: Tennessee Federation for Children PAC ($11, 501), along with Education Reform Now, Students First Tennessee, and Campaign for School Equity (each contributing $5,000). Support for charters in Memphis is clearly threatened, another reason for hoping to get help from the NAACP.

“Political connections still supply money to Memphis Lift. In January 2016, Memphis Lift sent 21 members to Washington, D.C. for Teach For America’s 25th anniversary celebration. “Natasha Kamrani, director of Tennessee’s branch of Democrats For Education Reform and wife of founding ASD superintendent Chris Barbic, introduced the group to attendees of the TFA reunion, stating she was lucky to work with them.”

“Follow the money to Teach for America and Democrats for Education Reform and to the many states across the country where “voice groups” like the parents in Memphis are paid for recruiting other parents to charter schools while carefully avoiding the truths about the rip-offs from charter operators.

“For a really eye-opening and well-documented report on Democrats for Education Reform and who is guiding its activities, go to this website

“And do look for the quote from one of the founders of DER, hedge fund manager, Whitney Tilson

Pennsylvania became an ATM for the charter industry under Republican Governor Tom Corbett. He is gone now, but the legislature remains indebted to the fat, happy charter owners. Many public school districts are on the brink of bankruptcy due to the rapacious charters that snare their students with deceptive advertising. Pennsylvania has more virtual charter schools than any other state, despite the fact that study after study (including one by CREDO, funded by the Daltons) has shown that virtual charters are educational disaster zones. Students who enroll in them don’t learn anything, but the virtual charter industry is rolling in dough. Two different virtual charter leaders have been indicted for theft in Pennsylvania; one admitted stealing millions of dollars, the other saw her trial dismissed because of age and infirmity but was indicted for theft of millions.

Into this land of struggling public schools and thriving charters comes a new legislative plot to privatize and monetize public school funding. It is called HB530. Under the (usual) guise of “reform,” the bill would open the door to the vaults that hold taxpayer money meant for children and welcome the charters to help themselves.

HB530 is a blank check for a rapacious, greedy industry.

Lawrence Feinberg of the Keystone State Education Coalition wrote this post, “20 Reasons to Vote No on PA HB530.”

Here are a few of his reasons:

Pennsylvania taxpayers now spend more than $1.4 billion on charter and cyber charter schools annually, in addition to funding the state’s traditional public schools. The current “rob from public school Peter to pay charter school Paul” system drains money from traditional public schools, forcing districts to cut programs and services for the students who remain. In 2011, the charter reimbursement line was eliminated from the state budget. It provided state funding to districts for the costs and financial exposure resulting from the addition of charter schools.

Legislators are now considering House Bill 530, which would bring much-needed reform to the charter school law that was written in 1997. The bill has several helpful provisions, but the harm that it does far outweighs the good. Here are 20 reasons that the legislature should vote against this measure.

#HB530 does not provide significant accountability to taxpayers for payments made to charter school entities.

#HB530 would create a Charter School Funding Commission that would consider establishing an independent state-level board to authorize charter school entities, bypassing any local decision-making by school boards and their communities.

#HB530 further limits the ability of communities to negotiate the role of charters locally. The decisions about how, when, and where to expand them should be made by those who have the information and expertise to do so in ways that improve education.

#HB530 is an entirely unwarranted intervention in the local governance of school districts. It would remove local control of tax dollars from Pennsylvania taxpayers and their elected school directors.

#HB530 sets no limits to money that charters can drain from local school districts, eliminating districts’ capability to plan and budget.

#HB530 is a vehicle for the Pennsylvania legislature to have local taxpayers pay for unlimited charter expansion.

#HB530 would let charter operators expand and add grades without any local input or authorization, regardless of performance.

#HB530 would let charters expand by enrolling students from outside of the district in which it is located.

If you want to save public education in Pennsylvania, contact your legislators now.

It is always hard to explain complicated issues to voters, especially when you don’t have much money.

Take Georgia, for example. Governor Nathan Deal wants to change the State Constitution to allow the state to take over low-scoring public schools and hand them over to charter operators. It hasn’t worked anywhere else, but no matter. The amendment is being sold as a way to help kids and improve schools, when it is a transfer of public schools to private management. It is privatization of public schools and squelching of democracy.

How do you reach voters?

Here is one way: Someone hired an airplane to fly over a University of Georgia football game flying a banner that said:

“No School Takeover. Vote NO on Amendment 1.”

In the battle over Question 2–whether to expand the number of charter schools by a dozen a year indefinitely into the future–sentiment is running against the proposal, despite the millions of dollars spent on television ads by the pro-charter groups. In western and central Massachusetts, according to this article, a majority of voters are against Question 2 once they hear from a volunteer about the fiscal impact on their public schools.

In Worcester, meanwhile, school officials want to see Question 2 defeated….

“To have the possibility of losing additional funding from our budget – it would be devastating,” said Molly O. McCullough, a member of the Worcester School Committee, which was among the first school boards in the state to officially oppose the ballot question in January.

Brian E. Allen, the Worcester schools’ chief financial and operations officer, said the public schools are already losing critical funding – $24.5 million this year – to the two existing charter schools in the city. If the district were to absorb all 2,000 of Abby Kelley Foster Charter Public School and Seven Hills Charter Public School’s students back into its population, for example, the money it would get back would be enough not only to hire the necessary teachers to instruct those students but also an additional 150 teachers to use elsewhere in the system, he said.

On the flip side, if Worcester were to add 2,000 more charter school seats – the equivalent of two new schools – “now we’re talking about significant financial impacts,” he said, to a district that cut staff last year because of a budget deficit.

In essentially the same boat as Worcester, as far as the financial impact a charter school would have on them, the majority of other school districts in Central Massachusetts have also taken official stances against Question 2. Two other school systems besides Worcester – Fitchburg and Marlboro – already share their city with charter schools. Fitchburg and other districts have also seen recent proposals from local groups to start new ones.

As school boards consider the fiscal impact of the existing public schools, they take a stand against the resolution.

What all this demonstrates is the utter callousness of the pro-charter advocates. Massachusetts has the most successful public school system in the state, yet “reformer-billionaires” think it should be disrupted. Worcester, as the article points out, had a third charter school that lasted only three years. What is the logic of disrupting and defunding the nation’s most successful state public school system by adding a dozen new transient schools every year and causing budget cuts to the public schools that remain?

The number of towns saying NO to Question 2 now exceeds 200 in Massachusetts.

Out-of-state billionaires have poured $20 million into the campaign to pass Question 2, which would cause budget cuts to the state’s public schools so that the charter industry could grow by 12 a year indefinitely.

School districts say no.

Mayor Walsh of Boston says no.

Senator Elizabeth Warren says no.

Save your schools: Vote NO.

I recently posted Carol Burris’s analysis of a court decision in California that blocked the sneaky expansion of charters into districts outside the one where they were authorized; the new charters called themselves “resource centers” and were infiltrating districts that did not want them.

Here is a report by the San Diego Union-Tribune on the same decision.

California’s booming satellite charter school industry that has persevered through lawsuits, scandals and turf wars suffered a blow this past week when a state appellate court ruled hundreds of the campuses are illegally operating outside their districts.

At issue now is how 150,000 California students — including 25,000 in San Diego County — will continue their education. The court decision also puts at stake millions of dollars in revenue generated by the charters for privately run organizations.

The 3rd District Court of Appeal overturned a lower court decision in a lawsuit filed by the Anderson Union High School District near Redding claiming the Shasta Secondary Home School (now Shasta Charter Academy) illegally opened satellite charter campus, which are officially called resource centers, in its jurisdiction.

Filed Monday and set to go into effect Nov. 16, the appellate decision reverses the lower court ruling, which sided with the charter that was authorized by the nearby Shasta Union High School District. The lower court said it was legal to operate a resource center, as such schools are officially called, in the neighboring Anderson district to give its independent-study students who live there a chance to use computers, receive tutoring and work on assignments in a classroom setting.

Of the state’s 1,200 charter schools, 275 are “resource centers,” many of them storefronts where students show up from time to time. That means that unless this decision is overturned by the state’s Supreme Court, more than 20% of California’s charter schools will cease to operate or seek some other option to survive.

San Diego public schools will welcome the return of the students in these “non-classroom-based” charters:

Andra Donovan, general counsel for the San Diego Unified School District, offers another option: Returning to district and its expanded catalog of independent-study programs.

San Diego Unified “is fully prepared and has sufficient capacity to absorb those students currently attending these charter schools, with fully robust, higher quality independent study and online learning programs as well as traditional and blended programs,” Donovan said. “Our graduation rate far exceeds that of many of these them and our district provides integrated support not available from these charters.”

These “resource centers” are locations intended to coordinate online instruction, which has repeatedly been shown to be a farce, educationally, an easy way to collect credits without getting an education.

Some districts opened resource centers because it was easy money.

Online instruction offers flexibility to students who want an alternative to traditional schools, and big revenue to charter organizations and authorizers. Districts that approve the charters receive up to 3 percent of their revenue for oversight and other services.

The Julian Union district opened its first charter in 1999, and now enrolls some 4,000 students in its charter resource centers across the region. Fewer then 400 local students attend Julian’s district schools.

The tiny rural two-campus district earned nearly $800,000 in revenue from its Julian and Diego Valley charters in the 2014-15 year, when its total revenue was $6.2 million.

Former Julian Superintendent Kevin Ogden helped establish the district’s first charter school, which took in $18 million in revenue last year, and operates 14 programs in eleven facilities.

Ogden helped usher in Diego Valley and Harbor Springs charters, both of which operate resource centers in other districts through independent study programs that offer as much as four days a week of classroom instruction or as little as a few teacher meetings. The Grossmont lawsuit targets Diego Valley.

Ogden retired about two years ago to take a top job at the Lancaster-based Learn4Life, an organization that includes Diego Valley, its Diego Plus Education Corporation and other charters throughout the state.

Following Julian’s lead, dozens of far-flung charters and resource centers have been authorized by other small East County districts, including some that acknowledged the arrangements were forged mostly for the money.

Does anyone seriously believe that the students who receive diplomas from these sham institutions are getting a high-quality education? Is this the way the U.S. will compete in the global economy? Hey, reformers, this is a farce.

Lawrence Feinberg, a veteran school board member and head of the Keystone State Education Coalition, warns here that the charter industry is trying to slip a bill through the legislature that would vastly expand charters while reducing accountability.

Pennsylvania currently has one of the most corrupt charter sectors in the nation. The number of prosecutions for theft and misappropriation of funds is rivaled only by the rapacious charter industry in Ohio.

But the charter industry wants more charters and less regulation.

Feinberg warns that HB 530 is a trick on the public and a treat for the charter lobby.

“With only a few days left on the legislative calendar, lawmakers are trying to push through charter expansion with HB 530. Those in favor are dressing it up in the best costume they have and passing it off as charter school reform. It is anything but. The state’s most recent School Performance Profile scores show that only 22 percent of charters achieved a score of 70 or higher, the level that state education officials view as acceptable. So why are legislators so quick to allow unchecked expansion of these schools, wasting of tax dollars?

“There are many good charter schools out there. They serve as a valuable piece of the education puzzle in our state. But the lack of accountability and transparency is something that taxpayers should not tolerate. If HB 530 becomes law, charters would be able to ignore enrollment caps, hold higher fund balances than their traditional school counterparts, open schools in more than one location without permission from the authorizing entity, and avoid participating in the state evaluation system for teachers and principals required of other schools.

“Authors of HB 530 also made sure to stack the decks in favor of charters through a new Charter School Funding Advisory Commission that the bill creates. The purpose of the commission is to explore issues related to charter schools and make recommendations. Its members include representatives from charter schools, the secretary of education, legislators and members chosen by legislators, and school business managers. Oddly, school directors who are charged with authorizing charter schools (and who are responsible for raising local revenue from their neighbors to support education) have no seat on the commission. Also, the current six-member Charter School Appeal Board is expanded to nine. Two of the three new positions are reserved for charter school administrators and trustees.

“As schools consolidate and populations continue to drop, many schools are finding that they need to shut down school buildings. Currently, schools can work within certain parameters to sell or lease these buildings. HB 530 requires schools to first offer these buildings to charters on first right of refusal, simply ignoring the wishes of the local taxpayers who paid for these buildings and may have other desired uses for them.

“One final concern I wish to mention is a new performance matrix created by HB 530 that would be used to measure the academic performance of charter schools and to assess renewal terms. This matrix is the only measure that may be used by school boards for evaluating charter schools. In current law, charters can be revoked for poor academic performance. Additionally, under case law, if a charter school does not meet specific, measurable academic benchmarks required under federal law, it may be subject to charter revocation if the sending school districts are performing better. House Bill 530 eliminates the ability to compare charter schools and their sending school districts and undermines the original intent of the Charter School Law to create schools that provide something above and beyond what is provided by traditional public schools. Oh, and guess who creates this matrix? The previously mentioned commission that is weighted in favor of charter school representatives.”

Call your representative. Stop HB 530.

The Washington Post has an interesting article about a curious phenomenon: Deaths caused by opiod abuse are rising, while prosecution of those involved in the supply line by the Drug Enforcement Administration has been ebbing.

The story begins:

“A decade ago, the Drug ­Enforcement Administration launched an aggressive campaign to curb a rising opioid epidemic that was claiming thousands of American lives each year. The DEA began to target wholesale companies that distributed hundreds of millions of highly addictive pills to the corrupt pharmacies and pill mills that illegally sold the drugs for street use.

Leading the campaign was the agency’s Office of Diversion Control, whose investigators around the country began filing civil cases against the distributors, issuing orders to immediately suspend the flow of drugs and generating large fines.

But the industry fought back. Former DEA and Justice Department officials hired by drug companies began pressing for a softer approach. In early 2012, the deputy attorney general summoned the DEA’s diversion chief to an unusual meeting over a case against two major drug companies.

“That meeting was to chastise me for going after industry, and that’s all that meeting was about,” recalled Joseph T. Rannazzisi, who ran the diversion office for a decade before he was removed from his position and retired in 2015.

Rannazzisi vowed after that meeting to continue the campaign. But soon officials at DEA headquarters began delaying and blocking enforcement actions, and the number of cases plummeted, according to on-the-record interviews with five former agency supervisors and internal records obtained by The Washington Post.”

What gives?

It is always useful to follow the money trail. The article mentions Purdue Pharmaceuticals, one of the biggest manufacturers of opioids.

Purdue has made one family into billionaires: the Sackler family of Connecticut, who made Forbes list of the nation’s richest families in 2015, with a family valuation of $13.5 billion. By some estimates, more than 2 million people are addicted to OxyContin is the US. Purdue has paid out hundreds of millions in fine, and the state of Kentucky is suing the company for nearly $1 billion. Not to put to fine a point on the matter, one article blamed the opiod epidemic on one company, with its aggressive marketing: “How the American opiate epidemic was started by one pharmaceutical company.” That company: Purdue, owned by the Sackler family.

What does this have to do with education?

Jonathan Sackler of the billionaire Sacklers is a big supporter of charters and privatization. Jonathan Pelto pointed this out in this post.

Charters? Check.

50CAN? Check.

StudentsFirst? Check.

Teach for America? Check.

Students for Educational Reform? Check.

And let us not forget daughter Madeline Sackler’s worshipful film about Eva Moskowitz called “The Lottery.”

It is ironic that people who fight for the public good must turn to crowd-sourcing and GoFundMe and Kickstarter campaigns, while those who push privatization of public schools can count on fortunes created by drug abuse, death, and addiction.

Mike Klonsky reports on the Trump plan to get rid of public education, as described by Carl Paladino, a Trump surrogate and far-right extremist who owns charter schools in Buffalo, New York.

“If there was any doubt, Trump surrogate Carl Paladino made it perfectly clear that if his boss is elected his goal will be nothing less than the elimination of public education and complete liquidation of the nation’s teacher unions.

Paladino ran for governor against Cuomo and lost. He is the Trump of upstate New York.

Buffalo, NY | WNYmedia Network | Live Video | Video News

Klonsky writes:

“Paladino, Trump’s N.Y State co-chairman told a group of urban school superintendents yesterday, that Trump would seek to do away with “corrupted, incompetent” public school systems in America’s cities, replacing them with charter schools and vouchers for private schools.”

Clinton may or may not continue Obama’s disastrous education policies, but she will listen when we push back.