Archives for category: Education Industry

Ethan DeWitt of the New Hampshire Bulletin and NPR reported on the partisan divide surrounding vouchers. Republicans budgeted for 28 students but expect between 1,000-5,000 to enroll. Democrats worry that the cost of vouchers will spin out of control.

Both should worry that the evidence base for the efficacy of vouchers shows high attrition rates and meager or negative academic results. Furthermore, the voucher advocates repeat the big lie that a state grant of $5,000 will give poor kids the same opportunities as rich kids, whose families pay far more for private schools.

During a two-hour event sponsored by the conservative advocacy organization Club for Growth, DeVos and Pompeo applauded New Hampshire’s initiative. And they framed the effort to allow public money to help students attend private schools as essential to closing the country’s achievement gap when compared to other developed countries.

Here is a link to Pompeo’s speech.

“The same chance”? Not so. Saying it doesn’t make it so.

Representative Mel Myers, Democrat and ranking member of the NH House Education Committee, sent me the following comment:

You have to remember that this voucher policy was slipped into the budget with no public hearing on this bill version. Our House Education Committee heard a similar bill which was tabled after a rigorous challenge on the part of the Democratic members of the committee. During the remote hearing, over 1000 signed up and over 800 were in opposition. Our Governor Chris Sununu and Commissioner of Education Frank Edelblut continue their agenda to dismantle NH education which has always ranked in the top five in the nation.


Rep. Mel Myler

Ranking Dem

House Education Committee

Jeanne Diestch, a former Democratic state senator in New Hampshire, recently wrote about the attention showered on the state’s new voucher program by Republican conservatives like Mike Pompeo, a likely Presidential candidate, and Betsy DeVos. Republicans took control of the New Hampshire legislature until 2020; its Governor, Chris Sununu, is a Republican, and he appointed the state’s commissioner of education, Frank Edelblut, who homeschooled his children. Republicans wasted no time in passing a sweeping voucher bill.

US Conservatives Eyeing NH Vouchers

Diestch wrote in her newsletter:


Why the GOP hates the world’s top education models

When a former Secretary of Education and a future Presidential candidate come to New Hampshire for the rollout of a new state educational policy, you know something important is afoot. The candidate, Mike Pompeo, stated at the event that US schools are falling behind because we have a “public-school monopoly”; adopting NH’s “Education Freedom Accounts” [EFAs] would allow the “free market” to correct this problem. This change is so important to conservatives that the Koch-founded Americans for Prosperity is handing out supportive pamphlets door-to-door in Bedford. So let’s look at three questions:

  1. Why do conservatives want the free market to control education rather than local public-school districts?
  2. Why are so many outside the state so interested in a change inside New Hampshire?
  3. How will all this impact us, the people of the state?

WHY DO CONSERVATIVES WANT FREE-MARKET EDUCATION?
Nations with top education scores all rely on public schools. If the US followed their examples:

  • Teachers would be highly educated, well-paid and respected. In Finland, for example, acceptance for an education degree can be more competitive than medical school.
  • Schools would have shorter vacations, but also shorter school days. In China, elementary students take 90-minute lunch breaks. In Singapore, teachers use the additional time for planning lessons and collaborating on how to improve students’ performance.
  • After the regular school day, learning would continue at home or in tutoring sessions, especially for secondary students. Parents’ role in most successful nations is to ensure children do their three hours or so of assigned homework.

All these top-scoring countries rely on
public-education systems.

(Note that China is not really first; it only submits scores from 4 wealthy provinces.)Why don’t conservatives want to follow these successful models? More school days with highly qualified educators cost more. Companies want to sell high-margin educational software, supported by low-paid trainees, rather than pay education professionals’ salaries. New Hampshire’s EFAs potentially shift millions from public-school teachers and administrators to corporations seeking shareholder profits. In addition, church-based schools are seeking their share of EFAs. Then there is the fact that more-educated people tend to vote Democratic.

WHY SO MANY EYES ARE WATCHING NH EFAS
That is why so many outside New Hampshire are focused on EFAs here. National and international commercial and religious interests will be contributing to Mr. Pompeo and other conservative candidates. Donors hope that if a highly ranked state like New Hampshire can be convinced to hand their taxpayer dollars to unsupervised scholarship funds (see inset below), the rest of the nation will follow.EFAs hide spending detail from taxpayers

EFAs move millions in taxpayer funds from local school board oversight to an independent contractor. The contractor only has to report three things to the Department of Revenue
Administration: amount spent on administration, total number of scholarships, and average scholarship size. The state has no knowledge of who receives how much.
— NH RSA 77 G:5(g)HOW EFAS WILL CHANGE NH
EFAs impact far more than students. When EFAs substitute a $4600 payment for a year of public-school education, someone has to make up the difference. A religious school might charge only $2000 more per year in tuition, but how many low-income households can afford $2000 per child? The upshot is that poor neighborhoods will still need to rely on public schools, but those schools will have fewer per-student dollars to support them. Property taxpayers will have to make up the difference or close schools. The hit will be especially severe in Coos County, where thousands of educators comprise a significant segment of employees. When those schools are forced to close, most educators will move out, worsening Coos towns already dwindling populations and decreasing property values. Our most diverse populations in Manchester and Nashua are also more likely to suffer from the shift in funding caused by EFAs because they have lower incomes. In southern New Hampshire, the census showed that population did increase due to in-state migration. But what families will want to move into a state whose public schools are foundering? The answer is, those families for whom $4600 is enough to send their children to low-tuition religious schools, those families who can already afford expensive private school but would like taxpayers to subsidize them, and those families who want taxpayer funding for parent-guided home education programs. These differ from the workers attracted over the last decade to New Hampshire for its highly rated public schools. How will this affect companies struggling to find employees? No one knows, but the answer will certainly impact our economy.
EFAs will also impact New Hampshire society. Communities forced to close their schools will become less cohesive. Children educated only alongside others with similar backgrounds will have less understanding of the world and their place in it. They will be less able to succeed in the diverse demographics that will make up our nation’s future.
Perhaps conservatives have decided not to follow successful models for improving public education because they do not want the public to be educated. They would prefer people who let corporations and the wealthy take advantage of them, who have been taught to villainize a government that protects public interests.

Carol Burris, executive director of the Network for Public Education, reports the heartening news that support for school choice has declined in the latest poll by EdNext. EdNext is a pro-choice journal funded by the Hoover Institution and of there pro-choice organizations and individuals.

Support for Charters and Vouchers Has Dropped

Despite the myth that the pandemic resulted in an increased appetite for privatized alternatives to public schools, the opposite is true, according to a new poll just published by EdNext. Support for both charter schools and vouchers is down by substantial amounts. Only 33% of all Democrats now support charter schools–that’s an all-time low.  Less than half of all Americans (41%) now support them. Your constant advocacy for public schools and against privatized alternatives is paying off.

Democrats are beginning to see the pattern in the rug: Whatever is being pushed by Betsy DeVos, Charles Koch, the Walton family, and every rightwing foundation is not in the public interest.

Online charters have a history of poor performance: high attrition rates, low graduation rates, low test scores.

Will Huntsberry of the Voice of San Diego reports here that online charters were once again among the lowest performing schools in that city.

Huntsberry writes:

Virtual charter schools – as well as other charters that don’t use traditional brick-and-mortar classrooms – performed among the worst in San Diego County in a new analysis of test scores that took each school’s poverty level into account.

The analysis compared 632 schools across San Diego County. Out of 14 non-classroom-based charter schools, as they are called in education jargon, five scored among the 20 lowest-performing schools. Nine out of 14 schools scored among the bottom 15 percent.

California’s non-classroom-based schools have lived under a magnifying glass in recent years. State legislators placed a moratorium on new non-classroom schools, after executives from one online charter siphoned more than $80 million into their own private companies. Legislators also temporarily blocked the schools from receiving new funds.

The new analysis, performed by Voice of San Diego and the Center for Research and Evaluation at UC San Diego Extension, did not just look at a school’s test scores. It compared a school’s performance on standardized tests to other schools with similar poverty levels.

Brick-and-mortar charters performed in line with traditional public schools in the analysis. But non-classroom-based charters scored significantly worse.

These findings reenforce the statewide study of online charter schools in California, prepared by “In the Public Interest.” They have a long track record of failure nationally.

A coalition of organizations in St. Louis combined to promote a new vision of education. Even the superintendent of schools added his name.

But when the school board realized that the “new vision” was funded by Opportunity Trust, a pro-charter outfit, they insisted on a moratorium.

Once again, an astroturf group was planning to hasten the pace of privatization. The city currently has 18,000 students in its public schools, and 12,000 in charter schools. The charter industry is never satisfied. It always wants more.

Some members of the Los Angeles school board are proposing a stealth voucher plan. Unsurprisingly, the United Teachers of Los Angeles opposes the plan.

DeVos-funded consultant pushes internal voucher scheme in LAUSD

This fall UTLA members will be building a vision for how to use the historic infusion of funding to transform education for our students. The privatizers have their own game plan to drive more public dollars to charter operators, and it involves an internal voucher-like scheme connected to Betsy DeVos. Under Trump, Devos’s office funded a grant for an outside consultant to push a competition-based system called Student-Centered Funding in LAUSD.

Basically, funding would move with each student instead of being allocated centrally for staff and programs. It sounds like a good idea when you first hear about it — but in cities like Chicago and Denver, these formulas have led to racially disparate negative consequences, including the loss of libraries and the arts, school closures, and the undermining of school stability, particularly in Black and Brown communities.

The funding scheme was sold in Chicago as a way to achieve greater equity for Black and Brown students, but it’s done the opposite.
Former student Styles Avant-Pinkston lived through a similar scheme — called student-based budgeting in Chicago — that led to under-resourced schools being starved of support and then often shut down. Avant-Pinkston was forced to travel across town to attend a school outside of his neighborhood.


“I shouldn’t have to take a 50-minute bus ride — I should just be able to walk to a good school,” Avant-Pinkston says. “These funding schemes are an attack on kids of color and minority communities. You never hear about schools in wealthy neighborhoods shutting down — they invest in those schools. Schools can be turned around if they see value in doing that — some people just don’t see the value in communities of color. The message is clear: Student-based funding schemes shut down neighborhood schools.”

The LAUSD School Board has yet to vote on the internal voucher scheme, but a decision could come as early as this month. With a highly paid consultant leading the way, the district has fast-tracked the plan, and families and educators have been left out of the discussions and development. Even some Board members have been given little information about this monumental shift in funding.

This internal voucher scheme has destabilized community schools wherever it’s been tried and has not proven to improve student outcomes. If implemented the negative effects would be:

Marketing Over Student Needs: Students would be turned into “backpacks full of cash” and schools forced to compete for market share. With every year a hustle to protect enrollment, school principals would have to prioritize marketing over student needs.

Downward Spiral: Schools that are already struggling with inadequate resources and that serve under-resourced communities would be hit hardest. Every time a student leaves, the school would have even fewer resources to support the students who remain, triggering cuts to staff and essential programs and pushing out other families.

School Closures: Drops in enrollment lead to the closure of neighborhood schools and the destabilization of communities, particularly in Black and Brown neighborhoods. LAUSD has already been targeting small schools like Trinity Elementary in South LA for permanent closure, citing dropping enrollment figures. Closed schools are then handed over to a chapter operator. That trend will accelerate under this internal voucher scheme

Veteran Educators Pushed Aside: The scheme creates incentives to hire lower-salary educators and other staff. That’s what happened in Chicago, where principals are prioritizing hiring less expensive inexperienced teachers over the overwhelmingly Black veteran teaching staff.

Privatization on steroids: LAUSD has told the Department of Education that they plan to allow dollars to follow students to independent charter operators, a further threat to neighborhood schools and the stability of the public school system. The operational funding shift also lays the groundwork for money to eventually follow students to private or religious schools. This is why market reformers from both political parties — from Arne Duncan and Betsy DeVos to ALEC — support the formula: It is an important step down the road to achieving their longtime goal of dismantling our nation’s historic commitment to public education and freeing those dollars for the private sector.

Peter Greene writes in Forbes about the furor that erupted when House Democrats passed legislation to ban federal funding of charters managed by for-profit organizations. The charter industry and its lobbyists went bonkers, falsely claiming that the bill would prevent them from buying food from for-profit companies or hiring plumbers who work for profit.

He wrote:

The House Appropriations Committee has caused a stir with one tiny paragraph in its 198-page health, labor and education spending bill.

SEC. 314. None of the funds made available by this Act or any other Act may be awarded to a charter school that contracts with a for-profit entity to operate, oversee or manage the activities of the school.

The presence of for-profit operators in the charter school sector has long been a concern for critics, with almost all states outlawing a charter school strictly run for profit. But charter school operators have long worked a variety of loopholes, keeping the sector a highly profitable one, and most of those loopholes involve a non-profit charter school hiring a for-profit business. null

We are not talking about contracting services like school buses or cafeteria management; these kinds of side functions are frequently contracted out both in charter and public schools, but they are not the school’s primary activities.

The bill is clear and specific about targeting for-profit entities that “operate, oversee or manage the activities of the school.”

Sometimes the money comes from the real estate side of the charter business. There is such a thing as a business that specializes in charter schools and real estate. In some states, the government will help finance a real estate development if it’s a charter school, and in general developers have noted an abundance of cash. Though, as one charter real estate loan bond financier told the Wall Street Journal, “There’s a ton of capital coming into the industry. The question is: Does it know what it’s doing?” Many states have found a problem with charters that lease their buildings from their own owners as well. null

One example of a real estate operator making money from the real estate side was Carl Paladino of Buffalo. Paladino worked with charter operators via flipping properties and making “leaseback” deals, as detailed in a report from the Alliance for Quality Education. Paladino not only profited from the schools, but from investments in surrounding properties. He was not shy about any of it. On the question of making money from working with charters, the Buffalo City News quoted him: “If I didn’t, I’d be a friggin’ idiot.”

While many charters may contract out critical functions such as curriculum, the extreme cases are what are called “sweeps” contracts, in which the charter management organization (CMO) fully runs the school in exchange for as much as 95% of the revenue that comes in. A report that the Network for Public Education issued earlier this year details many of the creative ways that CMO’s turn a profit. CMO’s come in a variety of sizes, from chain operations running many schools all the way down to mom-and-pop CMOs that run a single school.

These arrangements can become convoluted. In Florida, one charter founder moved on and off the board of directors regularly to allow payments from his school to himself, and while the school was having trouble paying teachers, it was paying his company tens of thousands of dollars to license the school logo.

One could argue that outlawing for-profit charters actually made things worse, and that what would have been clear and open attempts to profit from a school are now hidden behind multiple operational layers.null

But all of this still leaves a simple question—what’s wrong with having charter schools managed, directly or indirectly, for profit?

In the rest of the article, he explains why for-profit charters are a terrrible idea.

William J. Gumbert has studied the performance of charter schools in the state, compared to public schools. He has consistently found that charter schools are lower-performing than public schools by every measure. And yet the Republicans who control the state insist on opening more low-performing charters and diverting money from the public schools attended by the vast majority of students. Texas first authorized charter schools in 1995 and has spent more than $30 billion to operate them. Gumbert says that the charters first promised to improve student test scores; having failed that goal, they now exist to turn public schools over to private corporations. I urge you to open the PDF file that is attached. It is mind-boggling!

He wrote the following message to me:

While a 12-minute read, I have condensed the primary findings into the 30-second summary below that demonstrates charters in Texas are performing BELOW the average Texas public school.


Due to unique challenges and circumstances, At-Risk students have the widest achievement gap as 44% fewer At-Risk students meet grade-level standards.  In this regard, charters enroll a lower percentage of At-Risk students than the average Texas public school and charters enroll 18% fewer At-Risk students than the primary school districts targeted for enrollment. 


A review of the academic performance of student populations reveals that charters have FEWER Non-At Risk, At-Risk (Non-ELL), Special Education, and All students meeting grade-level standards than the average Texas public school.  In particular, charters have 10% FEWER Non-At Risk students meeting grade-level standards than the average Texas public school.


27 of the 56 charters with over 1,000 students have FEWER Non-At Risk students and FEWER At-Risk students meeting grade-level standards than the average Texas public school.


“A” rated charters obviously represent the highest-performing charters.  Not surprisingly, such charters have a Non-At Risk student population that is higher than the state average at 62%.  That said, at “A” rated charters, 4% FEWER Non-At Risk students meet grade-level standards than the average Texas public scho


To paraphrase legendary coach John Wooden:  “Below average means you are closer to the bottom than the top.” As always, should any questions arise, additional information is preferred, or I can be of any assistance, please let me know.  I hope this is helpful!

Read the pdf here.

Matthew Thomas reports that charter-loving billionaires are funding critical race theory.

He quotes AOC, who asked:

“Why don’t you want our schools to teach anti-racism? Why don’t Republicans want their kids to know the tradition of anti-racism in the United States?”

And Thomas replies:

I can’t speak for Republicans, but how’s this for a reason: the models of anti-racism now dominant in the education sector are an outgrowth of the charter school industry, funded by billionaires, and deliberately minimize the importance of class analysis.

Charter advocates have long appealed to concern for black and brown students in underperforming public schools to legitimize their push for privatization. But as the power of identity has grown in liberal culture, the industry has become the locus of a growing network of consultancies, NGOs, and businesses sowing the politics of race reductionism throughout the professional class. Back in May, I reported on Dianne Morales’ deep connections to these segments of the charter industry, and how her particularly intense brand of identitarian rhetoric was a product of that milieu.

So yes, there really is an elite conspiracy to turn public schools into re-education camps for a poisonous racial ideology. But as usual, the right is too high on its own supply to grasp the true nature of this phenomenon. It isn’t the cultural Marxists who are behind it, working to the subvert the white imperium from within. It’s all the usual Draculas of the ruling class, looking to advance a goal the right itself has pursued for decades: the privatization of public education.

Please read the rest of the article. Thomas’s theory is that the billionaires prefer to get parents and the public focused on identity politics and ignore class analysis.

Samuel Abrams worked for many years as a teacher in a New York City public school. After earning his doctorate, he became executive director of the National Center for the Study of Privatization in Education at Teachers College, Columbia University. The Center consistently produces valuable reports about privatization. Consider joining its mailing list.

Here, Abrams reviews Joanne Golann’s recent book Scripting the Moves, a close analysis of “no excuses” charter schools. Open the link to read the full review and an excerpt from the book.

Abrams writes:

Few education initiatives have generated as much praise as well as philanthropic funding as the “no-excuses” charter school movement. Yet criticism of the movement has recently been growing, from both inside and out, so much so that KIPP (short for Knowledge Is Power Program), the movement’s standard-bearer, dropped its motto—“Work Hard. Be Nice.”—one year ago in acknowledgement of the conflict between the organization’s rigid code of conduct and its goal of fostering student independence.

No book captures the tension between these competing forces as well as Joanne W. Golann’s Scripting the Moves: Culture and Control in a “No-Excuses” Charter School (Princeton University Press, 2021). In this NCSPE excerpt, Golann lays the foundation for her analysis, a sociological case study based on 18 months of observations at a “no-excuses” charter middle school beginning in March 2012. In keeping with much case study research, Golann, an assistant professor of public policy and education at Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College, does not identify the school or its location, other than to note it is not part of a large network of charter schools and is situated in a medium-sized former industrial city in the northeast. Golann gives the school a pseudonym: Dream Academy.

As Golann recounts, the “no-excuses” movement began with the founding of one KIPP middle school serving low-income minority students in Houston in 1994. Another KIPP middle school serving low-income minority students in the Bronx opened in 1995. With students at both schools posting top scores on state reading and math exams, KIPP won acclaim. “For its first eight years, KIPP Academy Houston was recognized as a Texas Exemplary School,” Golann notes, “and KIPP Academy New York was rated the highest performing middle school in the Bronx for eight consecutive years.”

A segment on 60 Minutes in 1999 made that acclaim national and brought to the fore the school’s “no-excuses” pedagogical strategy: a much longer school day (running from 7:25 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.), strict behavioral expectations, and unyielding commitments by parents and teachers alike to student success, all in the name of guaranteeing that every student makes it to and through college.

Embodying KIPP’s unrelenting focus on deportment has been its ubiquitous prescriptive acronym, SLANT, standing for Sit up straight at one’s desk; Listen attentively to teachers and peers alike; Ask and answer questions; Nod in acknowledgment of instructions; and Track the speaker with one’s eyes.

In the wake of the segment on 60 Minutes, more positive coverage followed. In addition to a subsequent segment on 60 Minutes, laudatory articles appeared by David Grann in The New Republic, Bob Herbert and Thomas Friedman in The New York Times, Stanley Crouch in The New York Daily News, Leonard Pitts in The Miami Herald, and Jay Mathews in The Washington Post. Mathews built on those articles in his book about KIPP called Work Hard. Be Nice (Algonquin, 2009). The husband-and-wife team of historian Stephan Thernstrom and political scientist Abigail Thernstrom earlier praised KIPP for its resolve and methods in their book No Excuses: Closing the Racial Gap in Learning (Simon & Schuster, 2003). Malcolm Gladwell devoted a chapter of his book Outliers (Little Brown, 2008) to KIPP’s impressive academic outcomes and linked them to the extended hours required of both students and teachers. Paul Tough likewise commended KIPP for its dedication to character education in his book How Children Succeed (Houghton Mifflin, 2012).

In conjunction with this positive coverage, the philanthropic spigot opened up. Doris and Donald Fisher, founders and owners of The Gap, gave $15 million to KIPP in 2000 to start replicating and afterward continued to give the organization about $5 million a year to that same end. Other foundations, including those steered by the Waltons and Gates, have since contributed many millions more. And in 2010, the U.S. Department of Education gave KIPP an Investing in Innovation grant of $50 million to further replicate.

By 2020, Golann reports, KIPP served 110,000 students in 255 schools across the country. Of these students, 88 percent came from low-income families; 95 percent were Black or Latino. Thirteen similar “no-excuses” networks evolved in KIPP’s shadow. By 2020, these networks, from Achievement First and Aspire to Success Academy and YES Prep, together enrolled another 200,000 students in 433 schools across the country. The demographics of Dream Academy, in particular, reflected those of KIPP: over 80 percent came from low-income families; about 67 percent were Black; about 33 percent were Latino.

To Golann, the problem with these “no-excuses” schools is not scalability, though scaling up these networks is indeed difficult. These schools depend on a finite number of young teachers who can work such long hours. They also depend on a finite amount of philanthropic funding to cover the cost of after-school music programs, supplementary tutoring, field trips, and college visits. More fundamentally, these schools depend on students and families that can handle the steep behavioral and academic expectations.

This last constraint is indisputable. In this regard, Golann cites the failure of Tennessee’s Achievement School District (ASD). “In 2010, Tennessee created the ASD to take over and contract with charter management organizations (CMOs) to turn around the state’s lowest-performing schools,” Golann explains later in her book. “By 2014-15, eighteen of the twenty-three ASD schools were managed by CMOs, many operating from a ‘no-excuses’ framework. After five years of turnaround efforts, the ASD schools failed to show any significant gains in students’ academic outcomes.” The key difference between conventional “no-excuses” charter schools and those in the ASD, writes Golann, is that the former involve an application process as well as specific commitments from parents and students alike to follow a contract while the latter simply enrolled all students from the designated neighborhood.

As I document in “Education and the Commercial Mindset” (Harvard University Press, 2016), a similar story unfolded over the same time period in Houston, where the economist Roland Fryer applied the KIPP curriculum to nine district high schools and eleven middle schools in an undertaking called Apollo 20. Without the application process as well as student and parent contracts defining KIPP, Apollo 20, like Tennessee’s ASD, lacked the buy-in critical to the everyday operation of “no-excuses” schools.

Please open the link to complete the review and to read an excerpt from the book.