Archives for category: Education Industry

The following parody was written by Sara Stevenson, a retired middle school teacher and librarian in Austin, Texas. She usually writes about the dangers of vouchers, but here she takes a new tack. She calls it “My Modest Proposal.”

She writes:

Randan Steinhauser of Young Americans for Liberty at the February 16 Texas Tribune Panel on School Choice:

“… things the Texas Association of School Boards or other entities are proposing, such as gender pronouns, or Marxist curriculum, there are things that are happening that are causing parents to react… (Laughter)”

After attending the above panel discussion, I read the following excellent parody from master teacher, Liz Meitl, in Kansas. I wished I’d thought of something so clever, so with full credit to Liz, I’ve written my own parody, Texas style.

As a former Texas educator, I read with interest Mayes Middleton’s (R Galveston) 33-page S.B. 176, which outlines the Texas Parent Empowerment Program, offering an ESA (Educational Savings Accounts) of $10,000 of taxpayer money for parents to pay towards tuition to any private or religious school. At a recent Texas Tribune panel on School Choice, Randan Steinhauser’s words (above) resonated so strongly that I’ve made an important decision about my future.

I am the new founder of Austin Marxist Academy. Surely, in what my dad called “The People’s Republic of Austin,” I can find 15 students willing to join my micro-school academy. At $10,000 per student, I can make $150,000 a year.

As a public school teacher with 25 years of experience and a Masters degree, the most I ever made was $55,000. This will almost triple what I made before. And to think of all the poor suckers at my former middle school who still have to teach six classes a day with up to thirty kids per class for a total 180 vs my 15.

Furthermore, I’m elated at all the things I won’t have to do or worry about. No state curriculum, TEKS, to follow; no benchmarks or STAAR tests; no discipline problems or ARDs because I don’t have to accept those students. And if any Special Ed students decide to enroll, I won’t have to follow any accommodations or services required by federal and state law because, upon accepting an ESA, students waive those rights under IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Act) passed in 1975.

As a former librarian, I’m so happy to provide my students with any “pornographic” books they might want to read. Governor Abbott proposes School Choice as a way for parents to escape their children’s “indoctrination” in public schools, but I will be completely free, as will all other private and religious schools, including madrasas, to indoctrinate all I want.

At some point I’ll have to seek some kind of accreditation, but there are so many ways to go about it, and on average, the process takes at least three years. Plus, I’m certain after Texas gives tax breaks to the 305,000 children who already attend private schools, the state will have $3 billion fewer dollars to spend on any oversight of all the new schools popping up in strip malls to take the people’s money.

I’m just so excited to finally be free of all the rules, regulations, and scrutiny of working in a public school. No differentiating lessons or accommodating students with learning differences. I won’t even have to give grades if I don’t want to. And the repetitive, poorly-written pledge of allegiance to the Texas flag we’re required to recite every day? No more.

Come to think of it, S.B. 176 makes no mention of required classroom hours, so my school could just meet half days and take Fridays off. And since I won’t be subjected to the scrutiny of daily attendance measures, upon which per student allotment in Texas public schools is based, my students don’t even have to show up.

I’m so thankful to Governor Abbott, Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, and state Senator Mayes Middleton for prioritizing the Texas Parent Empowerment Program. I can’t wait to put into practice the (slightly revised) Texas TEACHER Empowerment Program. I can be free to discriminate at last.

I had a conversation with Tim Slekar on his program, “Busted Pencils,” about the Rightwing attack on teaching history honestly and accurately.

We had fun, and you might enjoy listening:

#BustEDPencils Pod.
It’s not an attack on history. It’s an attack on #democracy.

Guest: Diane Ravitch.

Listen here:

Jeff Yass is the richest man in Pennsylvania.

Jeff Yass is a billionaire. The Bloomberg Billionaire Index says he has $33 billion.

Jeff Yass created a Wall Street firm with partners called the Susquehanna International Group.

Jeff Yass is a huge supporter of charter schools. He created the annual Yass Prize, which is administered by the anti-public school organization called “The Center for Education Reform.” CER supports every kind of choice (charters, vouchers, online charters, for-profit charters, homeschooling) while vehemently denouncing public schools. CER is opposed to any regulation or accountability of “choice” schools. CER distributes millions in prizes to charter schools, thanks to the Yass family.

ProPublica says there’s something else you don’t know about Jeff Yass.

He funds Republican candidates and election deniers.

He opposes abortion.

He funds candidates who oppose critical race theory.

His top priority is to defund public schools.

According to ProPublica:

The firm he and his friends founded, Susquehanna International Group, is a sprawling global company that makes billions of dollars. Yass and his team used their numerical expertise to make rapid-fire computer-driven trades in options and other securities, eventually becoming a giant middleman in the markets for stocks and other securities. If you have bought stock or options on an app like Robinhood or E-Trade, there’s a good chance you traded with Susquehanna without knowing it. Today, Yass, 63, is one of the richest and most powerful financiers in the country.

But one crucial aspect of his ascent to stratospheric wealth has transpired out of public view. Using the same prowess that he’s applied to race tracks and options markets, Yass has taken aim at another target: his tax bill.

There, too, the winnings have been immense: at least $1 billion in tax savings over six recent years, according to ProPublica’s analysis of a trove of IRS data. During that time, Yass paid an average federal income tax rate of just 19%, far below that of comparable Wall Street traders.

Yass has devised trading strategies that reduce his tax burden but push legal boundaries. He has repeatedly drawn IRS audits, yet has continued to test the limits. Susquehanna has often gone to court to fight the government, with one multiyear audit battle ending in a costly defeat. The firm has maintained in court filings that it complied with the law.

Yass’ low rate is particularly notable because Susquehanna, by its own description, specializes in short-term trading. Money made from such rapid trades is typically taxed at rates around 40%.

In recent years, however, Yass’ annual income has, with uncanny consistency, been made up almost entirely of income taxed at the roughly 20% rate reserved for longer-term investments.

Congress long ago tried to stamp out widely used techniques that seek to transform profits taxed at the high rate into profits taxed at the low rate. But Yass and his colleagues have managed to avoid higher taxes anyway.

The tax savings have contributed to an explosion in wealth for Yass, who has increasingly poured that fortune into candidates and causes on the political right. He has spent more than $100 million on election campaigns in recent years. The money has gone to everything from anti-tax advocacy and charter schools to campaigns against so-called critical race theory and for candidates who falsely say the 2020 election was stolen and seek to ban abortion.

Grassroots groups, led by the Working Families Party, held a protest in front of his offices to protest his funding of groups that undermine democracy.

The LittleSis Project, which tracks the connections among rightwing funders and organizations, has more information about Yass. He is the money man behind Pennsylvania’s rightwing political machine. His top priority is school privatization. He wants to dismantle public schools. Read the article.

Yass’s influence over state politics doesn’t stop after elections are over. His money gets distributed throughout the right-wing network in the state and influences legislation and the conservative agenda year round. The right-wing organizations that spend Yass’s money consistently and successfully lobby to cut corporate taxes, bust unions, block climate solutions, ban abortion, target trans youth, and prevent what the right calls “critical race theory” from being taught in schools.

The Pennsylvania Capital Star worries about what Yass is doing to our democracy.

Yass is a threat to democracy in Pennsylvania. Our organizations were in the trenches during the 2020 election organizing on the frontline against MAGA Republicans, white nationalists, and conspiracy-riddled extremists. Yass was funding them. Despite Yass trying to back away from those associations publicly and in the press, this year he quietly continued to fund those same organizations like the Club for Growth – a right-wing front group that backed nearly 50 election deniers across the country.

What a guy. Does Senator Corey Booker know? Does Senator Michael Bennett know? Does Representative Hakeem Jeffries know? Does the Center for American Progress know?

Jeff Yass’s enthusiastic support of charter schools is another reason why charter schools should not get federal funding. Why should the US Department of Education spend $440 million a year to open new charter schools (half of which never open), when Jeff Yass and his partners could easily foot the bill, along with other billionaires like the Waltons, Michael Bloomberg, Charles Koch, and Betsy DeVos?

For billionaires like Yass, that amount is pocket change. Or, as the saying goes, chump change.

I had the pleasure of speaking by Zoom to a meeting of the Pastors for Florida Children. The event was reported by Baptist Global News.

The morning session was also addressed by Baptist minister and retired Arkansas Judge Wendell Griffen. Although we have never met, our messages were in synch: Do not let the authoritarian Governor Ron DeSantis intimidate you!

Baptist minister and retired Arkansas judge Wendell Griffen stood before an audience of faith leaders and education advocates in Tallahassee, Fla., March 9, pointed to his lapel and dared Gov. Ron DeSantis to have him apprehended for being politically and racially aware.

“I wore a ‘woke’ button on purpose. I want to get arrested for being woke. I plead guilty to being woke. I want to be convicted of being woke,” Griffen said during a prayer breakfast sponsored by Pastors for Florida Children.

Wendell Griffen

Griffen, a BNG columnist and pastor of New Millennium Church in Little Rock, urged the in-person and virtual interfaith and multiracial audience to be equally defiant of Florida’s political leaders. “Be a community of prophets but teach as one and correct, confront, organize, interact, defy, dissent, disrupt.”

Jewish, Christian and Muslim participants who prayed ahead of the speeches by Griffen and education historian Diane Ravitch focused on DeSantis’ prohibition of books that teach about racial injustice and inclusion….

Please open the link and read his bold, wise, and brave advice.

Ravitch opened with a double-barreled barrage at DeSantis’ efforts to dismantle freedom of inquiry in public schools.

“I write a daily blog, and I find that it’s being overwhelmed by the bad news from Florida,” she said. “There doesn’t seem to be anything good coming from your elected officials. If anything, it seems to be building a more and more authoritarian empire to control the thinking of everybody in the state.”

She said DeSantis seems to be going out of his way to disprove Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous saying that “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

“Your governor and your legislature are trying to flatten that arc so that it does not bend
towards justice,” she declared.

Current political events in Florida do not impact public schools alone, Ravitch said. “Florida today is at the very apex of a movement to turn the clock back a century, to turn the clock back on religious freedom, on racial justice and on all the evolution we have experienced over this past century to make ours a more just society. Your governor is creating a model of thought control and calling it freedom. Every time I see him standing in front of a banner that says ‘freedom,’ I’m reminded of George Orwell’s 1984, where freedom equals slavery.”

The conservative attack on the concept of “woke” is another sign of burgeoning authoritarianism, she said.

“We have to redeem that word. It means being awake — awake to injustice, awake to history, awake to all the things that are wrong in our society and that have been wrong over the centuries. And his (DeSantis’) idea of woke is simply to eliminate critical thinking about history and even knowledge of history. And this is very dangerous.”

And that’s only the beginning.

The Arizona Republic reported that Republican legislators are focused on imposing new demands on the public schools, reflecting the rightwing cultural agenda. This is somewhat ironic since they previously used their power, when the Governor was Republican, to create a universal voucher program so that students can use public money to attend private schools that are entirely unregulated by the state.

Arizona lawmakers are seeking to reach deep into classroom operations with proposals to require the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance, to designate which students can use which bathrooms and, once again, to limit how race and ethnicity are taught.

Those are in addition to proposals that would require gun safety training at schools and mandate that instructional materials and teacher lesson plans get posted online. Another bill would have the state Department of Education create a list of books banned from classroom use.

To some, these bills, among others, are a replay of recent legislative sessions, where the public school system became the turf for battles over hot-button cultural issues.

That ignores the changed political reality at the Capitol, with the arrival of a Democratic governor after more than a decade of unified GOP control, said Marisol Garcia, president of the Arizona Education Association.

If the GOP actually cares about these issues, why don’t they put the same requirements on voucher schools? It appears that if you want to escape the GOP mandates, the way to do it to open a private school, where you are free to teach about race and gender, free of testing, free of any accountability.

A reader named JCGrim posted an important fact about vouchers: Voucher schools are not required to comply with the federal law that protects the rights of students with disabilities.

Vouchers are a backdoor scheme to make kids with disabilities disappear. Move them off the books & into unaccountable, unstable, non-transparent places.

The Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) oppose vouchers on the grounds that voucher & voucher-like programs fail to comply with IDEA’s provision of a free, appropriate, public education (FAPE).

Position on Use of Public Education Dollars to Fund
School Vouchers and Other Voucher-Type Programs
Approved July 2020 CEC opposes school vouchers and voucher-type programs for all children and youth including those with disabilities. Such programs are contrary to the best interests of all children and youth and their families, the public-school system, local communities, and taxpayers.

Here the link to the full position paper.

Click to access Public%20Funds%20-%202020.pdf

As you probably know, there have been many layoffs across the tech sector in recent months. At the same time, unemployment is close to a 50-year low, at 3.2%. Employers are raising wages to attract employees for low-wage jobs. Why is the tech sector in trouble? I’m no financial or corporate expert, so I can’t explain what is going on.

But something caught my eye as I read a story about Salesforce, which was both very successful and yet laying off 10% of its employees.

The company has been dogged by five activist investors in recent months, and is being pressured to cut costs, but the layoffs continue in spite of a stellar quarter. In fact, Benioff bragged to Swisher in bombastic fashion: “We had a great quarter. Yeah, it’s probably I think, it’s probably the best quarter of a software company ever.”

I clicked the link to see who those five activist investors who were demanding more cost cutting, no matter how it hurt morale at the company.

The first was Elliott Management. It rang a bell, but at first I didn’t remember why. More googling and soon I see the name Paul Singer.

Singer is a billionaire. Singer is a big supporter of charter schools. Singer is a rightwing Republican. Singer loves Eva Moskowitz’s Success Academy charter chain; in addition to giving SA millions, he served on its board.

An article in Mother Jones a decade ago called Singer a “vulture capitalist” and a “fundraising terrorist.”

A few years back, the U.K. Independent said that Singer had destroyed Peru’s economy and was threatening Argentina’s. Again, “vulture capitalist.”

Singer has been called a “doomsday investor.” When he takes over, he sucks out the lifeblood.

This guide to “vulture funds” was published only a month ago.

I have been trying to understand the connection between vulture investing and the aggressive charters that suck the lifeblood out of their host, the public school system.

What do you think?

Texas Governor Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick have been pushing voucher legislation hard this year. Texas is one of the few red states that has not adopted voucher legislation for religious and private school tuition. The big stumbling block in the past has been a sturdy coalition of urban Democrats and rural Republicans.

Writing for ReformAustin, Jovanka Palacios explains here what Governor Abbott does not understand about rural schools.

Gov. Greg Abbott believes that touring rural areas where Republican members of the Texas House or Senate are against vouchers is enough to get them and their constituents on board with the “school choice” idea. But he seems to be overlooking one small detail: “rural public schools are the lifeblood of their communities.”

Keith Bryant, Superintendent of Schools in Lubbock-Cooper ISD, illustrates the effect of a voucher program in rural public schools best:

“They are unifiers, gathering places, and information providers. Many times they are the largest employers in their communities, and, often, school events are the largest draw of visitors to their towns. Disruptions to funding for rural schools are disruptions to the fabric of life in rural communities.”

In a state where the money follows the child, students dropping out of public schools would inevitably affect – an already scarce – budget. Those who oppose a “school choice” program argue that the Legislature should focus on increasing public school education funding, instead of diverting those dollars into a system that holds no accountability.

School funding isn’t that complex, Bryant told RA News, who explains school funding as a pie that everyone in public schools in Texas is sharing.

“Every public school in Texas is sharing this pie. If someone takes a slice out of the pie to fund vouchers for private schools or homeschooling, there is less pie remaining for Texas public schools.”

Open up the link at the Network for Public Education blog, where you will see the article as well as a link to the original.

Consider subscribing to the Network for Public Education blog, which is able to cover many more stories about education across the nation than I do. The blog is curated by the wonderful Peter Greene, who has an eye for great stories.

In the late 1980s, the charter idea was brand new. AFT President Albert Shanker thought that charter schools would develop innovative ways to help the students who struggled the most in schools. He envisioned charter schools as “research and development schools” that would learn new ways of reaching the most disaffected and turned off students. He saw them as laboratories created by teachers that would first get the permission of the entire school staff at a regular public school, then get the endorsement of the local school board. In his vision, charter schools would be part of the public school system, cooperating with public schools to share whatever they learned. He also saw them as unionized schools. He imagined them getting a charter for 3-5 years, showing what they learned, then being reabsorbed into the regular public schools if they had finished their mission.

His vision did not include for-profit charter schools. He imagined collaboration between public schools and charter schools, not competition. He did not imagine charter schools run by private corporations. He did not imagine charter schools as privately managed schools run by corporations, chains, or non-educators.

When he realized that the charter idea had been corrupted by privatizers and that they had become a means of breaking teachers’ unions, he turned against charters and concluded that they were no different from vouchers. To Al Shanker, they had turned into a first step on the road to privatizing public education.

Back before the disillusionment set in, the Clinton administration authorized a federal Charter Schools Program to fund the opening of new charter schools; federal dollars were needed to jumpstart more charter schools. At its inception in 1994, the new program had a few million dollars. At the time, there were only a few hundred charter schools in the nation.

Since 1994, the federal Charter Schools Program has grown to a yearly expenditure of $440 million under the astute encouragement of the charter lobby, but between one-third and 40% of the charters funded by the federal government either never open at all or close within a couple of years. The number of failed federally funded charters has grown even larger in the past few years, as Carol Burris’s letter below documents (also see here and here.)

According to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, there are now nearly 8,000 charter schools in the nation, enrolling 7.5% of all public school students. (Of course, opinions are sharply divided about whether charter schools are “public” schools, since they are not overseen by elected school boards and court decisions usually rule that charters, unlike public schools, are “not state actors.”)

The time has come to ask, why is the federal government still paying to launch new charter schools? The charter sector seems to be multiplying quite well without federal aid. It is now typical for charter schools to accept not the neediest students, but the most promising ones. They drain students and resources from the public schools, which enroll nearly 90% of students. With so many deep-pocketed backers in the philanthropic sector and on Wall Stree (Walton, Gates, Bloomberg, and a never of hedge funders)t, why do new charters need federal aid?

Carol Burris, executive director of the Network for Public Education, recently wrote a letter to Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona, Deputy Secretary Cindy Marten, and Deputy Assistant Adam Schott, calling on the US. Department of Education to stop funding the federal Charter Schools Program.

I ask you, dear readers, to send a similar letter to urge the end to funding a failed federal program that is no longer necessary, if it ever was.

Here is Carol Burris’s letter:

Secretary Miguel Cardona (

Deputy Secretary Cindy Marten (

Deputy Assistant Adam Schott (

Dear Secretary Cardona, Deputy Secretary Marten, and Deputy Assistant Schott:

On behalf of the 350,000 Network for Public Education members, I am writing to ask that you do not fund the Federal Charter School Programs in the FY 2024 budget. Here are the reasons why.

First, enrollment in charter schools between 2020-2021 and 2021-2022 declined by 5,323 students. That decline was identified using NCES data. The “surge” in charter enrollment was predominantly in low-quality online schools during the prior year. The need for more charter schools is not there. 

Second, a recent program audit by the Department’s Office of the Inspector General report found that of the grants issued between 2013 and 2016, only 51% of the schools promised by CSP recipients opened or expanded. 

Third, there has not been an opportunity to find out whether or not the new regulations are, in fact, being properly implemented by the State Entities and the CMOs. 

The nearly half-billion dollars saved can be used to reduce the budget deficit or, better yet, to fund our public schools.

Thank you for taking the time to read this email, for the courage to withstand the pressures to back down on the new regulations, and for all that you do for our children every day.

Carol Burris

Executive Director

The Network for Public Education

Steve Dyer is a veteran analyst of Ohio education issues, as a former legislator and think tank budget expert. He writes here about the latest expansion of Ohio’s failed voucher program. When an independent evaluation of the Ohio voucher program was previously carried out, it concluded that kids who leave public school to use a voucher lose ground academically. The evaluation was sponsored by the Fordham Institute. Do not be fooled by the misleading summary written by Fordham staff.

In this post, he shows where the money is coming from and where it’s going:

Now that the Ohio Legislative Service Commission has officially costed out the so-called “Backpack Bill”, we know for certain that this bill has nothing to do with “rescuing” kids from “failed” public schools. It’s all about publicly subsidizing the adults who can already afford to send their kids to private school.

The LSC analysis proves definitively that the bill would instantly provide public funding to about 90,000 Ohio students who do not currently receive it. It would be through vouchers, education savings accounts, homeschoolers (including those being taught Nazi ideology) and other various devices all adding up to an additional $1.13 billion. All while the legislature is talking about massive tax cuts and continues to short-change the needs of the 90% of students in Ohio’s public schools.

These are not students who are leaving public schools. These are students who are already in private schools, whose parents can already afford private schools and who attend schools that are not audited by the state to ensure they are actually educating a single student we’re paying them to educate.

Sounds like a great idea to me! I mean, Ohio’s never had an issue with privately run schools billing the state for millions of dollars to educate kids they never actually had, right? Oh yeah, except for the ECOT scandal that was about 40% bigger than the biggest public bribery case ever brought in the state.

It would be one thing if Ohio’s private schools were doing an awesome job. However, we know that about 90% of the time, kids in Ohio’s public schools test better than students attending private schools in the same cities. We also know that the students taking vouchers are significantly more white than the communities they are from.

At this point on the post, Dyer adds the data from different counties.

This Universal Voucher bill would put an additional $1.13 billion into a program that would provide taxpayer subsidies to adults who send their kids to unaccountable schools that perform markedly worse than Ohio’s public schools all while further segregating our kids and communities by race.

Open the link to finish the post and see the data.