Archives for category: Failure

The fact that anyone is discussing the possibility of martial law demonstrates how much Trump has degraded our democracy. When Hillary Clinton lost the election in the Electoral College in 2016, she graciously conceded; she didn’t demand endless recounts. Trump continues to whine about a “rigged” election, although historically it is the party in power that has the opportunity to “rig” any election. Although he lost more than 50 lawsuits in state and federal courts, his campaign is still litigating his loss, trying to throw out the vote in Pennsylvania. Since he apparently has no legal way to overturn the election, he is trying to dirty Biden’s clear victory over him, and at the same time, undermine the integrity of our electoral process, which is the basis of our democracy. He is a vengeful, spiteful baby, whining all the way out the door.

Amber Phillips wrote in the Washington Post about Trump’s desperate search for a way to overturn the electoral results, including martial law:

He’s thought about it. He’s hosted political and legal outcasts at the White House to talk about it.

Could President Trump declare martial law, or seize voting machines, or try to otherwise steal the election by force in his last month in office? Any of those would be an extreme escalation of Trump’s already unprecedented strong-arm tactics in his effort to overturn the election results.

The answer is no, he can’t do this stuff, say various national security and election law experts.

But even if these maneuvers aren’t in the president’s tool kit, it’s dangerous for him to talk about them in a way that risks normalizing them — let alone in Oval Office meetings, said nearly every expert The Fix spoke with.

“This is really dangerous stuff to start playing with,” said Rachel Kleinfeld, a national security expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “You cannot normalize extrajudicial action outside the rule of law and believe democracy will hold. Democracies are fragile, even ours.”

But even if Trump could do any of the things he might be entertaining, they wouldn’t actually change the election results: Here’s what he’s mulling, according to Washington Post reporting, and why experts say these efforts won’t get him what he wants.

1. Declare martial law 

What this would do: Trump would put the military in charge. It would implement and enforce curfews, keep people in their homes. Former Trump national security adviser Michael T. Flynn has suggested the military could force states to rerun elections. It could even stop members of Congress from coming to work on Jan. 6 to certify President-elect Joe Biden’s win.

Could it happen? No, experts say. There’s absolutely no legal or political precedent for it. “Can the president invade the Congress of the United States? No, he cannot,” said Adav Noti, an election law expert with the Campaign Legal Center.

Some experts were skeptical the president could actually declare martial law in the first place. Governors have that power in their states, but the president doesn’t, Kleinfeld said. (The Post’s Gillian Brockell reports the Supreme Court has never ruled on whether a president can declare martial law without congressional approval.)

If you have martial law,” Kleinfeld said, “you have total suspension of the Constitution. So that’s a coup, and a coup in this country is not going to happen.”

Trump would also need military buy-in, and military leaders have said they’re not interested in entertaining any of these ideas. Experts were heartened that military leaders expressed regret for participating in a clearing of peaceful protesters outside the White House this summer so the president could pose for a photo he used for political purposes.

Also, declaring martial law wouldn’t do anything to change votes. What is a curfew in December going to do to change an election in November? States aren’t going to redo elections. And even if Congress were unable to certify results, on Jan. 20, the political and legal and military establishment would almost certainly recognize Biden as president. Biden has said he’s confident law enforcement would escort Trump out of the White House on that day if he refused to leave.

After reporting over the weekend that he was briefed on this idea by fringe advisers, Trump tweeted this, throwing cold water on the idea.

Trump has called plenty of accurate reporting “fake news” before, so it’s not the same as an outright denial.

2. Use the Insurrection Act to somehow get control

What this would do: This is slightly different from martial law in that it’s an actual legal tool the president has that allows him to use the military in extreme ways. The Insurrection Act allows the president to call in troops for domestic law enforcement, not unlike what he did this summer in Portland, Ore., during Black Lives Matter protests. It’s supposed to be used only in times of emergency.

But what emergency is there right now that would warrant the military taking to the streets? There is none. Trump could try to gin one up by encouraging protests across the nation on Jan. 6 as Congress certifies results, said Meredith McGehee, an expert in ethics in politics and the director of Issue One.

To that end, Trump allies are planning a rally in Washington that day. Trump is encouraging them: “Big protest in D.C. on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!” he tweeted last week.

That’s scary language, said McGehee, who wondered whether Trump might try to do this in several cities to create the pretense of insurrection and chaos. “Now we have a president who is playing with the notion that we are going to solve conflict with violence,” she said. “That puts us up there truly with the banana republics.”

But this tactic would almost certainly face legal challenges and political blowback. “Talk about an idiotic idea,” Republican strategist Karl Rove recently said on Fox News. “There’s no ability for any president to invoke the Insurrection Act of 1803, claiming that the issue has got to do with the hubbub around the election.”

And just like declaring martial law, it wouldn’t actually change Trump’s results. The Insurrection Act “says nothing about: ‘Therefore the president can stay in power after he’s been voted out in a legitimate election,’” Kleinfeld said.

3. Seize voting machines from states

What this would do: It’s unclear, honestly. It’s an idea that’s been floated to the president on the basis he could somehow try to prove baseless claims that voting machines counted votes incorrectly, or that they were somehow hacked by communist countries.

But those claims been disproved. In Georgia, the Republican secretary of state has presided over three recounts, including one by hand, that confirmed the machines counted votes correctly. An Arizona judge allowed Republicans to view 100 ballots to search for fraud or miscounting, and they found nothing.

“We’re at a point where the votes have been counted,” Noti said. “The machines are done. There was no fraud.”

Also, this is illegal without states’ permission. The Constitution gives states the authority to run their own elections as they see fit. Taking the voting machines would fall to the Department of Homeland Security, and its head, Chad Wolf, has told the White House he’s doesn’t have the authority, according to Post reporting.

4. Set up a special counsel to investigate voter fraud

Trump has toyed with putting one of the most conspiracy-theory-minded lawyers in his orbit, Sidney Powell, into an official position to “investigate” whether there was fraud that led to his loss.

What this would do: Not much.

For one, it doesn’t seem like she’ll find anything. In six states he lost, officials have found just a handful of incidents worth investigating — nowhere near the tens of thousand of votes Trump would need to overturn his loss. The courts have nearly universally rejected his claims as well.

Two, she wouldn’t have much time. A special counsel can’t be removed by the next president, but a Biden Justice Department could just silo her and give her zero resources.

Three, the Justice Department would need to implement this, and it’s not clear Trump has that support. Attorney General William P. Barr said on his way out the door this week that he saw no need. His replacement, Jeffrey A. Rosen, hasn’t commented on this…

Of all the ideas floated out there, this one is the flimsiest, experts said. (But they stressed that they are all infeasible.) “Like all the post-election litigation by the president’s team, it’s all half-baked ideas that don’t have a basis in law and don’t have a basis in fact and don’t have any chance of success,” Noti said, “however success is defined other than whipping some portion of the American public into a frenzy.”

5. Have Congress protest the election 

What this would do: Again, nothing to change the election results. But this is one of the only ideas Trump has considered that he could legally do.

Well, not himself.

When Congress meets Jan. 6 to confirm Biden’s win, Trump has lined up several House Republican lawmakers to challenge as many as half a dozen states he lost. But they won’t actually succeed in changing the outcome. They don’t have support yet from a Republican senator, and without that, their objections die immediately.

If a Republican senator does join in — potentials include incoming senator Tommy Tuberville of Alabama or Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky — Congress has to debate and vote on their challenges. Lawmakers will almost certainly vote them down, even the Republican-controlled Senate. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), the No. 2 Senate Republican, has said these challenges are “going down like a shot dog.” There’s no legal basis not to accept state’s electors that, taken together, make Biden president.

So all of this talk about possible actions is just that: talk. And Trump will probably continue to talk, and tweet, about the election up to noon on Jan. 20, at which point he will be the former president.

I recently received a letter from a teacher in Chester-Upland, Pennsylvania. I have written about this district many times, as a large charter company owned by a Philadelphia lawyer is draining it of resources and students for his low-performing charter school. The district is like a lamb led to slaughter, with rapacious wolves ready to gobble it up. See here and here and here and here. See Carol Burris on the takeover of the district here. See Peter Greene on the evisceration of the Chester-Upland schools here (also posted on the blog here).

In case you think that Chester Community Charter School is “helping save poor students from failing public schools,” consider that only 7% of the charter’s students were proficient in math, compared to a state average of 45%, and only 17% of its students were proficient in reading/language arts, compared to a state average of 63%.

Why would state and county officials permit a failing for-profit charter school to take over an entire public school district? Is it because the district is overwhelmingly low-income and black and no one cares?

The teacher asked to remain anonymous for obvious reasons.

He wrote:

My name is XXXXXXXXXX, and I’m a teacher in the Chester Upland School District, which is located in Chester, Pa. Chester is a predominately black, low income, high crime area. We have had 3 students murdered this year, and several others shot. Even though it is a dangerous area, I wouldn’t want to work anywhere else because I love the kids, and I want them to succeed. But our leaders are greedy, and our district is going to be sold off to charter schools if we don’t receive some sort of help.

Here is an overview of what has been taking place:

The city and school district are in a financial crisis. Because of the financial situation, the owner of a for-profit charter school in Chester asked a judge to give his charter, Chester Community Charter, permission to take over all of the elementary schools in the district. Here is the article: https://www.inquirer.com/education/chester-upland-charter-schools-expansion-community-gureghian-20191118.html   

The judge denied the request, but this past spring the Republican judge approved outside management for all grades in the district. Here is the article:  https://www.delcotimes.com/news/chester-upland-ordered-to-open-its-doors-to-charters/article_70e92906-9707-11ea-b5f8-3383e996854a.html

It seems that the entire district is going to be run by one or several different charter schools which would dissolve all public schools in the city. Besides New Orleans, this is almost unheard of in our country.

A few months ago, the district hired a new superintendent with a checkered past. She was recently fired from her position in New Haven, Conn., which you can read about here:

https://www.newhavenindependent.org/index.php/archives/entry/superintendent_birks_buyout/

It seems that it is quite a coincidence that Dr. Birks is also a supporter of charter schools. She also became one of the highest paid superintendents in the state which is surprising considering her history and the financial state of the district.

Our school board is being paid by charter schools; there doesn’t seem to be any other explanation. One school board member put out a flyer last December, recruiting community members to come to the courthouse to support the charter schools. Those community members that agreed to show up were provided dinner afterwards, and had their names put into a raffle to receive free TV’s and other devices. It’s hard to see this as anything other than a conflict of interest. 

On January 14th, 2021 RFP’s (Request for Proposals) will be held for charter schools to show why they should take over schools in the district. Unfortunately the review board for the RFs is filled with charter school supporters. The community hasn’t had any input about this process. Here are the board members:

Anthony Johnson the board president, receiver Dr. Juan BaughnFred Green (who is a board member that rarely attend meetings, and charter advocate for CCCS), Lamont Popley (during the board meeting on December 17th, Baughn said Mr. Lamont Popley was a member of the review board, he’s the principal at Toby Farms. His staff members asked him about this and he said this was the first he heard about being on the review board. He said he hadn’t spoken to Baughn since the spring), 2 other board members, plus Leroy Nunery (former consultant for the school district of Philadelphia’s charter school office), and Jack Pund (he sits on the board of several charter schools, including Agora.)

This would not happen in a white school district. This is racially motivated. This poor community is being taken advantage of, and being sold to the highest bidder, and no one cares. If this community wasn’t poor, and black, people would be outraged with what is going on. But no one is helping. We need help.  

Thank you.

So you thought the election was over after Joe Biden won the vote of the Electoral College on December 14, as predicted, by 306-232. And perhaps you thought it was over when Mitch McConnell finally congratulated Biden after the Electoral College voted and called him the President-Elect.

But: Trump is continuing his hapless campaign to reverse the election, despite the fact that his claims of fraud were rejected more than 50 times in state and federal courts and twice by the Supreme Court. Stephen Miller said that the election was not finished, that several states had prepared their own slates of Trump electors who would take their case to Congress, and that the decision about the presidency would not be finished until January 20, Inauguration Day. George Conway of the Lincoln Project told Anderson Cooper on CNN that Trump was behaving as he is for three reasons: 1) he is delusional; 2) he is scamming his followers by raising money for himself (whoever heard of a billionaire appealing for $5?); 3) he is malevolent.

Michael Gerson wrote in the Washington Post about the hypocrisy of certain rightwing “leaders” who support Trump’s ridiculous claim that the election was “stolen.”

Gerson wrote about the assault on democracy by conservative leaders, who are enabling Trump’s delusional behavior:

“It was stolen,” said conservative luminary William Bennett on a recent podcast. “The election was stolen.”


In a Dec. 10 open letter, a group of conservative stalwarts — including activist Gary Bauer, former senator and former president of the Heritage Foundation James DeMint, and head of the Family Research Council Tony Perkins — alleged that “President Donald J. Trump is the lawful winner of the presidential election.” They called on state legislators in battleground states to “appoint clean slates of electors to the Electoral College to support President Trump” and urged the House and Senate to reject competing slates reflecting the actual vote.


For some of us, watching prominent conservatives turn against rationality and democracy is not just disappointing; it is disorienting...

The intellectual bankruptcy and moral hypocrisy of many conservative leaders is stunning. People who claimed to favor limited government now applaud Trump’s use of the executive branch to undermine an election. A similar attempt by Barack Obama would have brought comparisons to Fidel Castro. People who talked endlessly about respecting the Constitution affirm absurd slanders against the constitutional order. People who claimed to be patriots now spread false claims about their country’s fundamental corruption. People who talked of honoring the rule of law now jerk and gyrate according to the whims of a lawless leader.

These conservative leaders no longer deserve the assumption of sincerity. They are spreading conspiratorial lies so unlikely and irrational, they must know them to be lies.

Gerson questions their motives for their immoral claims. Is it cynicism? Fear? A will to power? Why accept blatant lies? Why attack the foundation of democracy, which is free and fair elections? Why defend a would-be tyrant?

Perhaps these conservative leaders view democracy as a secondary concern, compared with the broader crisis of Western civilization. Maybe resisting the impending arrival of cultural and economic Marxism requires conservatives to use whatever means are necessary — including the invalidation of a valid election.
This justification — “by any means necessary” — may be the least conservative arrangement of letters in the English language.

Traditional conservatives have regarded such ideas as the path to tyranny, the highway to the guillotine. This approach assumes an emergency that does not actually exist. Are the barbarian hordes really arriving under the brutal, pitiless direction of . . . Joe Biden? Will the rescue of civilization from decadence really be accomplished under the courageous moral leadership of . . . Donald Trump?


Conservatism is supposed to produce the best of citizens — lawful, loyal and respectful of the Constitution. In some quarters, it is now producing the worst — fractious, resentful and cynical. A large portion of the responsibility rests on conservative leaders, who have sold their convictions cheap.

Per Kornhall is a widely published Swedish scholar of education. He wrote this post for the blog. Sweden and Chile are the two nations that decided to introduce privatization into significant parts of their national school system. The results are alarming. Since the same free-market forces are at work in the United States, it is important to follow events and trends in those nations.

The school experiment that split Sweden

Sweden is often seen in the United States as part of a homogeneous Nordic sphere; small cold countries with midnight sun, fair-skinned population, small social democratic idylls with equal free healthcare, good schools and a high standard of living. The reality is never as simple as our prejudices and one of the things that now characterizes Sweden is that we in important areas of society have left the common Nordic tradition of a cohesive school.

The Swedish school was built on a liberal and social democratic basis, starting with an elementary school reform in 1878 and then with careful and scientific work to design a “School for all”. The unit school that would serve the entire population was launched in the 1960s and all pieces were in place in the late 1970s. It was a building where thorough investigations, researchers and politicians were used and collaborated. One of the countries that looked at Sweden and tried to emulate the system that was built was Finland. But because Finland, unlike Sweden, had a poor economy after World War II, it took them a little longer to build a similar system. We will return to them.

When a Swedish school minister, Göran Persson, in a reform proposal in 1990 wanted to summarize the Swedish school’s situation, he wrote that it was a world leader in knowledge and above all in equivalence. He brags that in Sweden it does not matter which school you go to. The quality of education was the same all over the country, in all schools, and he believed that it was the strong central control of the school that had had this effect.

But the strange thing about this text is that it is part of a reform proposal that begins the great Swedish school experiment. This is the text where this successful Swedish equivalent school begins to be dismantled. The first step was that the state backed away and handed over responsibility for the teachers ‘and principals’ appointments, and salaries to the country’s 290 municipalities.

At the same time, a change was made in the school’s control system. New Public Management had begun to spread around the world and the Swedish school’s rigid rule management was to be replaced by goal management and the teachers would go from a well-paid collective with predictable salary development to individualized salaries. Governance and collective was to be replaced by competition and individuality. And it did not stop at teachers’ salaries.

In 1992, due to the municipalization, the school was in somewhat of a limbo state. The decentralization was carried out (despite strong protests from teachers), and the state authority that had so far managed the school system was dismantled. At that time Sweden got a prime minister, Carl Bildt, with strong connections to the United States. Among other things, he had been educated in the United States on an American scholarship. (He collaborated early in his career with US authorities so that they had access to otherwise secret information about talks before a government was formed in Sweden, for example). He now led a government with a clear ambition for a system change and a revolutionary neoliberal agenda. An agenda that stipulated that citizens should become customers in a welfare market system.

The new government was taking advantage of the vacuum in the school area and quickly implemented a private school reform that was taken directly from Rose and Milton Friedman’s book “Freedom to Chose”. It was a reform that stood in stark contrast to previous reforms in the school area in Sweden. It was not preceded by any investigation and does not contain any calculations of consequences. It was a system change they wanted, and they did not want to waste time on details and investigations (as can be seen in this interesting document from the time: http://kornhall.net/resources/Odd/OECD-1992.pdf).

School systems are large and slow systems. The consequences of the changes in the regulation first began to become visible only on a small scale and have since grown to become very powerful in the last decades. In addition to a small increase in the last two times of the PISA survey, Sweden, for example, between 2000 and 2012 was the country that fell the most of all countries in results. This created a PISA shock in Sweden which led mostly to the teaching staff being blamed for this.

But really, it was obvious in the OECD analyses what had happened, namely that what had been the Swedish school’s great pride: equality, had begun to deteriorate. What drove the fall in Swedish results in PISA was that the low-achieving students had started to perform much worse. It became clear that the school–that was based on the basic values ​​of both the French Revolution, Protestantism and Social Democracy on the equal value of all human beings–no longer existed. The differences between schools have increased dramatically. This at the same time as the status of the teaching profession declined and an increasingly serious shortage of teachers was established. 

But, an interesting thing about the Swedish market experiment is that we have a control group. Finland, which I mentioned earlier, more or less copied the Swedish system but did not follow Sweden’s into the neoliberal agenda. In recent decades, Finland has also dazzled the world with its results in PISA and other surveys, both in terms of results and not least in terms of equivalence. It really doesn’t matter which school you go to in Finland. In all schools, you are met by qualitative teaching delivered by a skilled and motivated teaching staff. So we have a control group. We know that the Swedish reforms led to an overall worse system. Yet so far there are no real attempts to turn back the clock in Sweden. I will come back to why at the end of this post.

What were the decisions that were made in the early 1990s and what were their consequences? I have already mentioned the municipalization, the abolition of regulations in favor of goal management, and the individualization of the teaching staff. What the neoliberal government led by Carl Bildt added to this was that it opened up state funding of schools for private schools, also such that were run for profit. In the case of establishment of private schools, the responsibility was moved away from the municipalities so that whoever wanted to start a school could do that wherever they wanted without local authorities being able to say anything about it. It was the principles of the free market that should apply. The private schools get paid as much per pupil as the pupils of the municipal schools in that municipality receive on average. Instead of placing students in the nearest school, school choice was also introduced.

So what has happened to the national school system in Sweden is that from being a societal commitment to ensuring that every child has a good school in their vicinity, it became a school market. Parents “buy” an education through their school choice and the school vouchers that follow the student. This voucher is the only funding a school in a typical municipality in Sweden has as income. You do not balance at all according to class size, fixed costs or any such variable. The only mechanism that remains to ensure that the school’s compensatory mission is not too compromised is a writing in the national Educational Act that the municipalities should weight school fees so that children with tougher conditions have a higher one. But there is no national control over what such a distribution should look like.

It may be important to say this again. Sweden thus went from a nationally equivalent and high-performing school system to a mediocre and unequal school market. A market where it is important for everyone, public as well as private, to relate to the fact that parents and students are customers.

This has for example led to extensive grade inflation. Since grades become something you can compete with, there is pressure on teachers to set high grades. This had, for example, the consequence that during the period in which the fall in knowledge results was shown by the OECD in PISA surveys, the average grade rose in Sweden. 

Two other important consequences of the market are the shortage of teachers and a galloping segregation. In a typical Swedish city today, children from well-educated parents gather in for profit private schools, while working class children and immigrants attend the schools of the public school system.

In fact, this division is also what gives rise to the profits of the large private school groups. Tuition fees have become a lucrative asset. Take in many students, hire a few cheap teachers and you have money ticking into your account. But the equation is based on the fact that you attract children to your school who are relatively easy to teach, i.e. children of highly educated people. These children do not need as many resources. Which enables you to make a profit in schools.

And we’re talking about a lot of money. We are talking about tens of millions of dollars per school group in pure profit per year. The incentive to make money in schools is so strong that it is expected that for the capital Stockholm, the majority of students will soon go to such groups’ schools rather than to public ones. Then the school system in Stockholm will no longer be public but be mainly privately owned.

In addition to a shortage of teachers (30% of those who teach Swedish K1-9 are now not trained teachers), reduced knowledge results, inequality and segregation, the market model has also led to another consequence that strikes at the heart of Swedish public culture and self-image. Sweden has traditionally had very little corruption at the state level. It is a country that is usually among the least corrupt when comparing different countries. One of the reasons, and something that Swedes are usually very proud of, is what is called the principle of openness. That is, everything that is paid for by tax money must be fully transparent. Both as a journalist and as a citizen, you must be able to request the documents you want to see from a municipal or state authority at any time. It should be possible to hold the administration accountable quite simply. But this completely disappeared from the school sector a few months ago.

The Swedish statistical authority suddenly realized that Swedish school statistics should be regarded as trade secrets and thus could not be disclosed or made available. This means that grades and other results from Swedish schools, the institution central to democracy, are now secret. This has upset many, but we do not yet see that this will lead to any major change in the system. Sweden is right now trading transparency for the right to make money on schools.

The contrast to Finland could not be greater, but instead the situation begins to resemble a completely different country. There is only one country that went down the same path as Sweden and that was Chile. Also introduced in Chile, albeit 10 years earlier, and as a result of the US-backed coup d’etat where a school system based on Milton Friedman’s ideas and directed by the so-called Chicago boys (University of Chicago, where Professor Friedman was based). Over time, the school system has also passed into private hands. School choice and school fees and a school market were also introduced there. Here, too, the gaps in the school system grew to finally explode a few years ago in student revolts that forced changes. The consequences of the neoliberal reforms simply became too serious and central elements of the market model are now reversed in Chile, such as the profit motive for running a school.

Despite all the consequences in Sweden which are clearly described also in Swedish governments’ own investigations, in PISA data, in other reports from the OECD and in research, and despite the fact that all teachers’ unions as well as school leaders’ unions agree that the system is not good, there is no real political will to create a change. A majority of parties in the Swedish parliament is for the current system. Why?

One of the answers is a bit up in this text. There are millions of reasons for the companies that make big money on the Swedish model to try to keep the system intact. What has been done in Sweden has not only created a school market but has also let in a completely different driving force in the debate about the school. The school has become an important place for the actors’ lobby organizations, think tanks and networking. They are not prepared to give up their golden calf without a fight. And as long as you have the children of the most influential parents in your schools, you also have no pressure from parents for change in a system that serves the majority worse than it did before.

For our Nordic neighbors, the Swedish situation is now a clear warning signal as to why market and school are not a good combination. In the control group, Finland, just a short boat ride away from Stockholm, children continue to mix in the same schools, being taught by motivated and well-trained teachers. For them, Sweden has become the deterrent example. The outside world needs to be aware that the companies that make money at Swedish schools want to see similar systems in other countries.

In the dark picture I drew, one must remember that Sweden is a relatively rich country. That all children are allowed to go to school, that there is a well-developed preschool, that very many children go on to higher education and so on. Compared to many school systems in the world, it works well, but compared to our Nordic neighbors, we are on a journey towards inequality, larger gaps and polarization, which worries me, teachers, school leaders and a large part of the population. Just recently, a lively debate is also taking place, where the priority of profit interests in the debate is questioned in editorials of right-wing newspapers. 

But it took a long time before we got there. The development, both in Sweden and Chile, is a strong warning to other countries not to go the same way.

For more information on how a Swedish school market was established, see Chapter 4 in Frank Adamson et al. (2016). Global Education Reform. How Privatization and Public Investment Influence Education Outcomes. New York. Routledge.

Per Kornhall, per@kornhall.sehttp://kornhall.net/styled-8/

Jeff Bryant writes that while we were all celebrating the pending departure of Betsy DeVos, the usual suspects were buying control of local school board elections. We are all aware of her efforts to direct federal funding to private schools and charter schools. But, he warns, we should pay attention to the “threat to democratically governed schools that preceded DeVos and will continue when she is long gone.”

In midsized metropolitan areas like Indianapolis and Stockton, California, parents, teachers, and public school advocates warn of huge sums of money coming from outside their communities to influence local politics and bankroll school board candidates who support school privatization. In phone conversations, emails, and texts, they point to a national agenda, backed by deep-pocketed organizations and individuals who intend to disrupt local school governance in order to impose forms of schools that operate like private contractors rather than public agencies—an agenda not dissimilar from that of DeVos.

In the 2020 school board election in Indianapolis, local teachers and grassroots groups the Indiana Coalition for Public Education and the IPS Community Coalition backed four candidates against a slate of opponents whom locals accuse of representing outside interests. At stake, according to WFYI, was “an ideological tilt” over whether the district would continue to “collaborate with outside groups and charter organizations” or “return to more traditional methods of improving struggling schools.”

Both sides raise the banner of “improving struggling schools,” but locals say what’s really at stake is whether voters retain democratic control of their public schools or see them turned over to private, unelected boards and their corporate supporters and funders.

Similarly, in Stockton, the clash between opposing slates of candidates in the 2020 school board election included controversies over charter school expansion and the influence of outside money in the district.

The controversy broke into public view in July 2020 when 209 Times reportedthat “[p]aid operatives” connected to Stockton’s outgoing mayor Michael Tubbs and three school board members were engaged in “a coordinated campaign of undue influence from outside of the city whose aim is… charter school expansion” into the district.

In both elections, candidates backed by outside organizations and individuals massively outspent candidates supported by local teachers and public school advocates.

In Indianapolis, WFYI reported that political action committees supporting the candidates aligned with charter school interests had contributed more than $200,000 into the election by October 9, while the “[f]our candidates backed by the IPS Community Coalition… [had by then] raised less than $20,000 in total.”

In Stockton, 209 Politics reported independent expenditure committees supporting candidates favoring charter school expansion outspent their opponents 25 to 1.

While the language used by these outside organizations and their benefactors is different from the rhetoric DeVos wields—substituting a message of rescuing struggling schools for DeVos’s calls for libertarian autonomy—the result is much the same: local citizens see democratic governance of their schools being swept aside as private actors get more control to do what they want.

This effort to squelch local democracy is funded by the usual billionaires:  the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; the Walton Family Foundation, of Walmart fame; Arnold Ventures, the private foundation of former hedge fund manager and Enron trader John Arnold; and the City Fund, a nationwide organization providing financial support for city-level charter school expansions.

The City Fund is a relatively new organization of experienced charter school promoters that started on day one with $200 million from billionaires John Arnold and Reed Hastings. Its mission: to use the money to undermine democratic control of local school boards and to see that charter-friendly candidates are elected.

The other organization used by the billionaires to funnel money into the Indianapolis school board election was the notorious Stand for Children, which has played the same role in other districts. “Stand” worked closely with the Mind Trust, a local cheerleader for privatization, also funded by billionaires who don’t like local control or democracy.

Bryant reports that another PAC, aligned with Stand for Children, entered the race on behalf of the Alice Walton and Michael Bloomberg, neither of whom lives in Indianapolis or in Indiana.

Bryant relies on the careful research of Thomas Ultican, who has been documenting the billionaires’ determination to take control of urban districts. Their strategy is to promote the “portfolio model” of schools. This is basically a rightwing business agenda that aligns with a corporate model of governance. Outsource management and control. Close low-performing schools, open new schools; repeat.

In the Indianapolis contest, the billionaire-backed candidates outspent the teacher union-backed candidates by a margin of 11-1. All four of the charter-friendly candidates won.

In Stockton, the teacher- and community-backed candidates won.

Please read the article. There is much to learn from it as a cautionary tale.

Here’s the question that lingers: Charter schools are no longer an innovation. The first charter school opened in 1992, almost three decades ago. There is no evidence that charters as such have produced miraculous improvement. Some get high test scores, but typically because they can choose their students and kick out the ones they don’t want. Some are far worse than the public schools they replaced. Some close mid-year, either for financial or academic reasons or low enrollment.

Why are these billionaires so devoted to imposing their ideas on local communities without regard to results? Is it because they disdain democracy?

In 2012, Tennessee created the “Achievement School District” (ASD) and promised that it would catapult the state’s lowest performing schools into high-performing schools. So confident were state leaders that they hired Chris Barbic, who ran a celebrated charter chain in Houston, and he was confident that the state’s weakest schools could be transformed within five years by handing them over to charter operators. Other states were excited by the idea and created their own state takeover districts.

The ASD failed, even though it was funded by $100 million in Race to the Top money. But Tennessee refuses to accept that taking over struggling schools and giving them to charter operators is a bad idea.

The North Carolina Policy Watch reported on Tennessee’s insistence on protecting failure. North Carolina created an “Innovative School District,” modeled on the ASD.

Greg Childress writes:

The state-run school district in Tennessee, the one on which this state’s Innovative School District (ISD) is modeled, has failed.

According to reports out of Tennessee, the Achievement School District (ASD), is working on a plan to return 30 ASD schools in Memphis and Nashville to their local districts by 2022.

State officials in Tennessee contend the district, which was established in 2012 to improve achievement in low-performing schools, “grew too quickly” and that “demand outpaced supply and capacity.”

Still, Tennessee officials aren’t giving up on the ASD. They’re billing the new proposal as a “reset” of the district, which has fallen short of its goals to move low-performing schools from the bottom 5 percent and into the top 25 percent.

Most ASD schools were handed over to charter school operators after being pulled from local districts.

“The Achievement School District remains a necessary intervention in Tennessee’s school framework when other local interventions have proven to be unsuccessful in improving outcomes for students,” officials said in a presentation obtained by Chalkbeat.

“The Commercial Appeal” in Memphis reports that most of the schools remain in the bottom 5 percent and that several have closed due to low enrollment. Teacher retention has also been a major challenge, the paper reports.

Tennessee school officials plan to stand by their Big Idea, even though its failure is clear even to them.

North Carolina’s “Innovative School District” has not fared any better. Although the state wanted the ISD to be a major reform effort, like the ASD, only one school entered the new district. NC had other low-performing schools, but whenever one was told to join the ISD, its leaders ran to their elected officials and got exempted.

To put it mildly, NC’s ISD has “struggled to get off the ground.”

Childress writes:

After only one year, state officials made wholesale leadership changes at ISD. The ISD got a new superintendent, the lone ISD school got a new principal and a new president was hired to lead the private firm that manages the school.

James Ellerbe, the ISD superintendent hired in July, reported this week that there are 69 schools on the state’s 2019 qualifying list, meaning the low-performing schools are at risk of being swept into the ISD.

The ISD will bring only one school into the state-run district next year. The school with the lowest performance score among Title I schools in the bottom 5 percent will be brought into the ISD.

The ISD was approved in 2016 by state lawmakers even though the ASD had showed little signs of success after being in business four years.

Not only is the NC ISD based on a failed model, its one school has both a principal and a superintendent!

All of which leaves unanswered question, why do failed reforms never die?


Bob Shepherd, a frequent commenter here, has been a curriculum writer, as assessment developer, a publisher, and a classroom tea her. As frequent readers of this log know, he is also a polymath, with a broad, nearly encyclopedic range of knowledge.

In this essential post, he explains why standardized testing is invalid and useless for accountability purposes.
They do not measure what they claim to measure.

Here is a brief excerpt from a brilliant explanation:

Nothing that students do on these exams even remotely resembles what real readers and writers do with real texts in the real world. Ipso facto, the tests cannot be valid tests of actual reading and writing. People read for one of two reasons—to find out what an author thinks or knows about a subject or to have an interesting, engaging, significant vicarious experience. The tests, and the curricula based on them, don’t help students to do either. Imagine, for example, that you wish to respond to this post, but instead of agreeing or disagreeing with what I’ve said and explaining why, you are limited to explaining how my use of figurative language (the tests are a miasma) affected the tone and mood of my post. See what I mean? But that’s precisely the kind of thing that the writing prompts on the Common [sic] Core [sic] ELA tests do and the kind of thing that one finds, now, in ELA courseware. This whole testing enterprise has trivialized responding to texts and therefore education in the English language arts generally. The modeling of curricula on the all-important tests has replaced normal interaction with texts with such freakish, contorted, scholastic fiddle faddle. English teachers should long ago have called BS on this.

Open the link and read it all.

Carol Burris, executive director of the Network for Public Education (NPE), keeps close watch on the federal Charter Schools Program. Two reports by NPE (linked in the article below) have demonstrated that the program, with an annual budget of $440 million, is rife with waste, fraud, and abuse. Nearly 40% of the charters it has funded either never opened or closed soon after opening.

In this article, which appeared in Valerie Strauss’s blog in the Washington Post, Burris describes an unusually ridiculous grant of $1.2 million in federal funds to a soccer club to open a charter school. The federal Charter Schools Program is the single largest source of funding for new charter schools. For the past four years, it has been Betsy DeVos’s personal slush fund, which she has used to undermine and disrupt public schools. The new Biden administration should give serious thought to zeroing out this waste of federal funds.

Burris writes:

In late September 2020, amid the covid-19 pandemic, the U.S. Department of Education awarded nearly $6 million to five organizations to open new charter schools. One of the five awardees was “The All Football Club, Lancaster Lions Corporation,” located in Lancaster, Pa. The club had no experience running either a private school or a charter school, yet nevertheless pitched the AFCLL Academy Charter School for a grant from the federal Charter School Program (CSP).


The CSP awarded the football club $1,260,750 to be spent within its first five years, even though their submitted application only received 70 of 115 possible points by reviewers — a failing grade of 61 percent. And the club did not have permission from the local school board to actually open the school.


That award of tax dollars to an unauthorized charter school shines a light on how the federal CSP is driven by an ideology with only one aim — to push taxpayer dollars into the hands of would-be private charter operators, even if the school appears doomed to fail from the start.


As the Network for Public Education explained in two recent reports on the CSP program, the application reviewers, who are all connected to charter schools, assign points based on the submitted application alone. Here’s the description of the prospective school’s mission, verbatim:


“The goal of the program was to ultimately to increase the attitudes of inner-city, at risk youth toward post-secondary education; as well as to inculcate values and skills that are necessary for success in a college environment. We are constant communication on the progress of AFCLL Academy and they are valuable resource for AFCLL Academy.”


The application lists the founding team members of the prospective school. In addition to Brian Ombiji, a former professional soccer player and chief executive officer of the city’s soccer club, other members include Dean Kline, a local venture capitalist, and Daniel Perry, the deputy regional director for the for-profit online school K12, Inc.


Kline is the senior manager of Rossier EdVentures. Perry, in addition to working for K12, is described as — again, verbatim from the application — “the Founder and Lead Consultant Daniel Education Group, where they, Provide leadership development and support for new school leaders. consulting for schools and districts in the areas of instructional leadership, assessment, student and staff culture, and special education. Provide consulting for organization in the areas of leadership development, role identification, team development, and strategic planning.”


Reading the entire application and comparing it to how it was rated provides insight into how frivolous the granting of a CSP award of over $1 million can be. Some of the application is nearly incoherent and fraught with grammatical errors, as illustrated above. Other parts appear to be written by a different author who is familiar with education jargon and the state laws that would be relevant to school operations. Raters are not allowed to probe any deeper than the application itself. So as long as an applicant knows the right things to say, it is likely to be approved.


Nevertheless, significant flaws were found by the CSP reviewers, including a lack of letters of support from the community. That lack of documentation is unsurprising. The school is not a community-led effort, which became evident at the Lancaster school board’s hearing to decide whether the charter school should be authorized.


According to a Sept. 1, 2020, local news report of that evening’s meeting, the All Football Club did not bring any letters of support from community groups. Residents, representatives of a local charter school, and the NAACP spoke out against the new charter school.
The Rev. Al Williams, speaking on behalf of the Lancaster NAACP, said his organization doubted that the proposed school would provide equitable opportunity for the city’s students, especially its English language learners. The school district’s attorney asked, “Why not just have an independent soccer club? It almost sounds like this is a soccer club in search of a charter school as opposed to a charter school itself.”


The Football Club did not provide a list of prospective students or a site for the school. Its application projected a deficit of $5 million in five years.


When Ombiji returned to the Board on Oct. 7, he had three letters of support — two from local businesses, whose names he would not share, and one from a parent. And he announced he had gotten the federal CSP grant, although he did not share the amount. The school board was unmoved. On Oct. 20, 2020, the members unanimously voted to decline to authorize the school.


Will that be the end of the AFCLL Academy Charter School and the $1.26 million CSP grant? Not necessarily.
Ombiji can appeal to the state charter board or go to another district with his proposal. Meanwhile, he will likely have access to CSP planning funds. That is because having the approval to open a charter school is not required to turn on the spigot of federal money.


The revelation that millions of federal tax dollars go to charter schools that never educate even one student shocked readers of our Network for Public Education 2019 reports, “Asleep at the Wheel” and “Still Asleep at the Wheel.” In those studies, we provided evidence that between 2006-07 and 2013-14, there were 537 proposed charter schools that never opened received, or were due to receive when data collection ended, a total of $45,546,552 million. In Michigan, for example, those funds were generally in the order of $100,000, with large amounts going into the pockets of the operators and their preferred vendors.


[Report: U.S. government wasted up to $1 billion on charter schools and still fails to adequately monitor grants]
[Report: Federal government wasted millions of dollars on charter schools that never opened]


In the state of Pennsylvania, where the proposed charter school would be located, we identified 41 charter schools that got federal money but never opened for even one day. And yet, the day after the announcement of the grant to the Lancaster Football Club, DeVos gave the Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools $30 million to open new charters in the Commonwealth. In 2018, this organization reported that it spent in excess of $74,000 of its income on “government relations” (translate lobbying) — a substantial amount, given that its total income that year was only $457,065.


Thanks to the CSP program, the Pennsylvania Coalition’s half-million dollar-a-year income will be boosted by an additional $3.67 million in the first year of the grant alone. Of that amount, the charter advocacy organization will be allowed to keep approximately $367,000 for administration and technical assistance to charter schools. By the end of the grant period, the administrative/assistance amount will rise to a total of $3 million — a boost in money and power for a charter advocacy organization that defends online charter schools, including those run by for-profit management companies. Meanwhile, Pennsylvania’s cash-strapped public school districts have begged for relief from the excessive tuition bills they must pay to the online schools.


In the 2020 cycle, other nonprofit charter advocacy organizations received multi-million dollar grants to disburse to prospective charters. Charter advocacy organizations in New Jersey and Nevada got tens of millions each; the New Jersey Public Charter Schools Association received a $63,232,945 five-year grant, which means that over $6 million will go to the organization itself.


The ability of private charter advocacy organizations to receive and disburse millions of CSP dollars is a recent change.


Before 2017, only state education departments were eligible for these mega-grants. But due to pro-charter lobbying efforts, the 2015 federal K-12 Every Students Succeeds Act — the successor law to the 2001 No Child Left Behind — increased the total amount that the applicant could retain for services and to allow private charter support organizations to apply for grants.


A consequence of that change is the pressure that state education departments now feel to apply for these grants themselves, even if they have no need or desire to expand charter schools in their states.
Insiders in both the California and Michigan State Education Departments told me they applied for and received CSP grants in order to keep private organizations from obtaining the funds during the year their state was eligible. As one official told me, “At least we can maintain some quality control on charter expansion.”

Businessman William Lager launched “The Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow” in 2000. Over nearly 20 years, he collected $1 billion from the taxpayers of Ohio, despite the fact that ECOT had the lowest graduation rate in the nation, high attrition, and low scores. Lager created related businesses to which he gave contracts for services. In 2019, he declared bankruptcy rather than pay multimillion dollar fines to the state because of inflated enrollments. Jeb Bush was a commencement speaker one year, Governor Kasich another year. It was great while it lasted: for Lager.

Bill Phillis of the Ohio Coalition for Equity and Inadequacy writes:

The ECOT Man: no fiduciary responsibility and no conflict of interest.

William Lager, the ECOT Man, is being sued by the state for recovery of funds ECOT gained illegally. Lager created Altair Learning Management to manage ECOT along with IQ Innovation support services. He also engaged a company owned by his daughter for public relations purposes.

In a recent filing with the court, Mr. Lager argues that no conflict of interest existed in this arrangement.


He founded ECOT, Altair and IQ Innovation. Lager’s daughter’s PR firm provided services for marketing and PR. No conflict of interest here!
Mr. Lager also argues that in his role in the operation of ECOT, he had no fiduciary responsibility. He says he had no access to or authority over the public funds ECOT received.


Right!

Lager did make some legitimate points in his filing that should be of interest to taxpayers. He indicates that ECOT had received awards for excellence from the State Auditor and that State Auditor had been a graduation speaker at ECOT.


That state officials have been negligent in holding charter operators accountable is well known.

Those of you who have followed this blog for many years know that I don’t put much stock in twelfth grade NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress) scores. Having served for seven years on the NAEP governing board (the National Assessment Governing Board), I know that twelfth graders are a perennial problem. Unlike students in fourth and eighth grades, the seniors know the test doesn’t count. They are not motivated.

Bearing that in mind, it is nonetheless surprising that the recently released NAEP 12th grade reading and math scores have barely budged since 2005.

Even if kids aren’t trying hard, their scores should have gone up if they were actually better educated.

I argued in Slaying Goliath that NAEP scores for fourth and eighth grade have been flat for the past decade. And these kids are doing their best.

NAEP scores show the abject failure of “education reform” inflicted on students and educators since passage of No Child Left Behind. NCLB, Race to the Top, VAM, charter schools, vouchers, merit pay, Common Core: a massive failure.

It’s time to throw out the status quo. It’s time for a new vision. It’s time to respect educators and stop tying their hands and giving them scripts. It’s time to end the regime of test and publish.

Are you listening, Joe Biden?