Archives for category: For-Profit

The Education Commission of the States posted a lineup of the partisan divide among the states. Republicans have a commanding lead over Democrats.

Of 50 states, 33 have Republican governors. Republicans control 66 partisan chambers, compared to 30 held by Democrats.

Republicans pick up three legislative chambers. The Kentucky House, Iowa Senate and Minnesota Senate switched from Democratic to Republican control. Republicans made history in Kentucky when they took 17 seats from the Democrats to gain control of the chamber for the first time since 1922, and only the third time in state history. Republicans now control all 30 legislative chambers in southern states.

Democrats pick up four legislative chambers. The New Mexico House, both Nevada Assembly and Senate and Washington Senate switched from Republican to Democratic control.

Tied chamber. Republicans also made gains in Connecticut, a reliably blue state, where the Senate is tied 18R-18D.
Three states with split/tied chambers. Colorado and Maine continue to have spit legislative chamber party control. This down from seven states pre-election (Colorado, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Minnesota, New Mexico and Washington). The Connecticut Senate is tied with 18 Republicans and 18 Democrats.

This means that a large number of states will look favorably on school choice, which Trump has described as his highest priority. Many states already have some form of voucher program; most–thanks to Race to the Top–permit charters. School choice–charters and vouchers–means less money for public schools. As public schools lose funding, class sizes will grow, programs will be cut, and alternatives will become more attractive.

If Betsy DeVos is confirmed as Secretary of Education, be prepared for an all-out federal assault on public schools. The same could be said of almost anyone Trump might select in her place (Falwell, Rhee, Moskowitz, etc.) The model is Race to the Top. The Department of Education might bundle $20 billion and dangle it before states as a competition, with eligibility dependent on laws permitting vouchers to religious schools and for-profit charters, even home schooling.

Friends and allies of public education, a cornerstone of our democracy for nearly 200 years, will have to organize and resist.

Join the Network for Public Education as we fight to defend public schools against privatization. 

The DeVos family has had an outsize influence in Michigan, by its charitable contributions and its political contributions.

After the Detroit Free Press published a scathing series of articles about the corrupt, unaccountable practices in charter schools in the state, the legislature was shamed into drafting a law that would provide oversight of the charter sector.

The DeVos family gave out $1.5 million in campaign contributions to make sure that charter schools continued to be unregulated and unaccountable.

80% of the charter schools in Michigan operate for profit. No other state has so many for-profit operators.

Detroit is overrun with charters. It is at the very bottom of all urban districts tested by the National Assessment of Educational Progress, despite all its choice and competition. Or because of them.

Michigan doesn’t have vouchers, because the people of Michigan voted them down in 2000 when the DeVos family proposed an initiative to permit public funds to flow to nonpublic schools. The measure lost overwhelmingly, by 69-31%. No county in the state voted for it.

Milwaukee has had both charters and vouchers for more than 20 years, and it is among the lowest scoring urban districts in the nation, but ahead of Detroit.

Read what the New York Times wrote about charters in Detroit last June. DeVos now owns this mess.

Why should anyone open a charter school, get public money, and be free of oversight? Why should taxpayer dollars flow to religious schools when every state referendum on vouchers has gone down to inglorious defeat by large majorities?

Paul Krugman, the Nobel Prize winning columnist for the New York Times, predicts an unprecedented level of corruption during the Trump years, related to Trump’s refusal to separate himself from his business empire. Will foreign diplomats reserve the $20,000 a night suite at the Trump hotel in D.C. to impress the President? Will governments grant permits expeditiously to build new Trump hotels, casinos and golf courses to curry favor? Will the President appoint members of the National Labor Relations Board to prevent his hotels from being unionized (there is a labor dispute at a Trump hotel in Las Vegas before the NLRB right now).

He writes,

Self-dealing will be the norm throughout this administration. America has just entered an era of unprecedented corruption at the top.

The question you need to ask is why this matters. Hint: It’s not the money, it’s the incentives.

True, we could be talking about a lot of money — think billions, not millions, to Mr. Trump alone (which is why his promise not to take his salary is a sick joke). But America is a very rich country, whose government spends more than $4 trillion a year, so even large-scale looting amounts to rounding error. What’s important is not the money that sticks to the fingers of the inner circle, but what they do to get that money, and the bad policy that results.

Normally, policy reflects some combination of practicality — what works? — and ideology — what fits my preconceptions? And our usual complaint is that ideology all too often overrules the evidence.

But now we’re going to see a third factor powerfully at work: What policies can officials, very much including the man at the top, personally monetize? And the effect will be disastrous.

Let’s start relatively small, with the choice of Betsy DeVos as education secretary. Ms. DeVos has some obvious affinities with Mr. Trump: Her husband is an heir to the fortune created by Amway, a company that has been accused of being a fraudulent scheme and, in 2011, paid $150 million to settle a class-action suit. But what’s really striking is her signature issue, school vouchers, in which parents are given money rather than having their children receive a public education.

At this point there’s a lot of evidence on how well school vouchers actually work, and it’s basically damning. For example, Louisiana’s extensive voucher plan unambiguously reduced student achievement. But voucher advocates won’t take no for an answer. Part of this is ideology, but it’s also true that vouchers might eventually find their way to for-profit educational institutions.

And the track record of for-profit education is truly terrible; the Obama administration has been cracking down on the scams that infest the industry. But things will be different now: For-profit education stocks soared after the election. Two, three, many Trump Universities!

Moving on, I’ve already written about the Trump infrastructure plan, which for no obvious reason involves widespread privatization of public assets. No obvious reason, that is, except the huge opportunities for cronyism and profiteering that would be opened up.

Krugman previously wrote that Trump’s proposal to rebuild the nation’s infrastructure would privatize many of our public assets and become a goldmine for the private sector.

Buckle your seat belts. The next four years will make Teapot Dome look like a tea party.

An investment group in Portland, Oregon, paid $72 million for five charter schools in Florida. The investors paid nearly $18,000 per student.

Do you think these are public schools? Do you think they are community schools?

School’s out: Portland investors pay $72M for charter school portfolio in Florida

Charter School Capital, an academic investment group based in Portland, just scooped up five charter schools spread throughout Florida for $71.74 million. The sellers were MG3 Development Group and ESJ Capital Partners, a pair of local real estate companies.
The deal illustrates how investing in nontraditional real estate like schools can be lucrative, especially when other markets like residential and commercial properties appear to be cooling down.

According to a news release from Colliers International Education Services Group, which brokered the deal on behalf of the sellers, the portfolio encompasses 295,992 square feet split among five schools in Riverview, Vero Beach, Coral Springs, Davie and Plantation. Colliers’ Todd Noel and Achikam Yogev worked on the sale.

MG3 Principal Hernan Leonoff told The Real Deal that his firm developed the schools in Riverview, Davie and Plantation, plus renovated the facility in Coral Springs while ESJ acted as the lead company in building the portfolio. MG3 had no involvement with the Vero Beach charter school.

The ownership varied between properties: for most of the schools, MG3 had a minority interest while ESJ, led by principals Arnaud Sitbon and Gabriel Amiel, was the majority owner.

The sale breaks down to about $242 square feet, but Leonoff cautioned that a school’s capacity for students is a better gauge of pricing because common areas can skew square footage.

The five schools can house roughly 4,000 students, he said, bringing the price to about $17,935 per enrollee. That’s significantly more expensive than the $16,641 per student that tennis pro Andre Agassi and his partner Bobby Turner sold their Boynton Beach school for in August.

This is unbelievable!

 

The California Charter School Association pretends to be fighting for the civil rights of children by pushing school choice and undermining public schools.

 

Yet it wrote a note congratulating the Billionaire Queen of Vouchers, Betsy DeVos, on her nomination to be Secretary of Education:

 

The California Charter Schools Association congratulates Betsy DeVos, a longtime supporter of charter schools, on her appointment as Secretary of Education. Mrs. DeVos has long demonstrated a commitment to providing families with improved public school options and we look forward to working with the administration on proposals allowing all students in California to access their right to a high quality public education.

 

Let’s be clear. DeVos is first and foremost a supporter of vouchers. When vouchers are not available, because voters don’t approve them (as in her home state of Michigan), she supports charters. She doesn’t necessarily support “high-quality charters,” she supports low-quality charters, no-quality charters, and for-profit charters. Last spring, she and her husband spent nearly $1.5 million in campaign contributions to block legislative efforts to make charter schools accountable. Detroit is her petri dish; it is the lowest-performing urban district in the nation on NAEP measures. In addition, she and her family have also devoted large sums to anti-gay legislative campaigns.

 

How hypocritical can CCSA be?

 

I believe that charters should be created by districts to meet needs that the district itself can’t fill. Charters should not drain funding from public schools. They should not compete with public schools. Charters should be led by educators, not by corporate chains, entrepreneurs, celebrities, sports stars, or high-school dropouts.

 

Here is a charter that meets my criteria, described in a comment on the blog today:

 

I work at a nonprofit charter school for kids with autism. we only accept children who are diagnosed with autism first on their IEP. We range from preschool until high school and are in the process of building a second location to cater to students aging out of public school. We accommodate children on the spectrum whose needs may not be met at public schools. We stay open by raising money, having donors, and getting a small percentage of funding from the school district. We are not a for-profit charter which seems to be the problem with charter schools. When you have schools that are being regulated and the call is to profit instead of help the children you have a serious problem. I found this blog when I was looking for articles about for-profit charters and if they do meet the needs of children with special needs. From what I am able to find the only thing that for-profit charter schools do is take away federal funding from public schools and make money off of the education system. I happen to be in the car using talk to text so I don’t know if all my sentences are making sense but I hope my comment was helpful. We need to stop women like Betsy Devos before she privatizes education and stops thinking about children and only thinks about profit.

A. J. Wagner formally resigned as a member of the Ohio State Board of Education, due to family circumstances.

 

He wrote  this letter of advice to his colleagues.

 

He said that he “joined the Board with a hope of moving the needle on programming for children in poverty from ages zero to three. I leave the Board having accomplished nothing in that regard. So, I leave with one more articulation of recommendations for what can be done to improve education in Ohio.” He has a list of recommendations that are based on research and commonsense. Every state and local school board member should read his recommendations.

 

I hope his colleagues take his letter and proposals to heart. Ohio has wasted hundreds of millions of dollars on low-performing charters and disastrous cyber charters, allowing their public schools to be negatively impacted and underfunded. Mr. Wagner has sound ideas about how to improve education in Ohio.

Kevin Carey of the New America Foundation wrote an opinion piece in the New York Times, attempting to assuage fears that Betsy DeVos would privatize American schools. If she tries to promote privatization, she is likely to face “disappointment and frustration,” as Carey put it. He believes that the decentralization of American public education will prevent her from imposing privatization. I disagree with Carey, because we have seen state after state, district after district, where “reformers” have passed legislation for charters and vouchers, intended to undermine public schools without the consent of the governed. Massachusetts and Georgia, the only states that voted on whether to have more charters, decisively voted NO. The point of Carey’s article seems to be to persuade readers that charters are swell and vouchers will never happen, that DeVos can’t change much, so relax, privatization is not a threat. Can’t happen. Won’t happen. Trust me.

 

The New America Foundation, Carey’s employer, has received nearly $10 million from the Gates Foundation since 2009. Not surprisingly, it regularly defends charter schools and the Common Core standards. It  has even urged colleges to adopt the standards now.

 

 

Carey previously worked at Education Sector and Education Trust, both Gates-funded and charter-friendly. He tells us that “charter schools are public schools, open to all, accountable in varying degrees to public authorities, and usually run by nonprofit organizations.” Savvy readers of this blog know that charter schools declare that they are private organizations whenever they are sued or when their teachers try to form a union, but they are “public” when it is time to collect government money. They choose their students. They exclude children with severe disabilities and English-language-learners. They kick out troublesome students. In many states, charters are deregulated, unsupervised, and non-accountable. Carey has written favorably about the for-profit Alt-School chain of technology-based private schools (which would be eligible for Trump’s vouchers). Carey joined Eli Broad and every national “reform” group (including TFA, 50CAN, DFER, etc.) to endorse the Obama administration’s plan for “reforming” teacher education. After the 2008 election, he called on Democrats to embrace such “progressive” reforms as charter schools and test-based accountability.*

 

Carey says not to worry about DeVos’ passion for privatization because most states won’t be able to afford the cost of a universal voucher system. Trump says he will free up $20 billion from existing federal programs, but expects states to chip in another $110 billion. That won’t happen, Carey says, because “states don’t have that kind of money lying around.” Local school districts will resist the diversion of their property taxes. And besides, Betsy DeVos’ state laboratory of free-market reform–Michigan–is hardly a success. 80% of the charters there operate for profit, and Detroit is still a mess, despite a Wild West of charters and competition. Nor have vouchers proved to be a success.

 

Larded throughout the article is subtle praise for charters. He points out that expansion of charters was voted down in Massachusetts “despite strong evidence that the state’s well-supervised charters produce superior results for low-income and minority schoolchildren.” No mention of the reason that liberal Massachusetts rejected charters: the districts with charters did not want to sacrifice their public schools to the growth of charters, and the districts without charters wanted to protect their public schools. Organized groups of parents rang doorbells and told their friends and neighbors to support their public schools. The defenders of public education were outspent 2-1 by out-of-state billionaires like the Waltons and Michael Bloomberg, but they defeated the charter question by a vote of 62-38%.

 

Carey exemplifies the new line of “reformers”: charters run by private corporations and private boards are “public” but vouchers are a bad idea. The problem with this logic is that once you start down the road of school choice, it is hard to know when or how to stop. The Obama administration’s advocacy for charter schools greased the wheels for vouchers, some form of which now exist in about half the states.

 

Yes, we do have to worry about DeVos and Trump’s privatization agenda. If the state is a deep red state, with a Republican governor and a Tea Party legislature, like Indiana and many more, the state may grab whatever the feds offer and supply vouchers to anyone who wants them to use for any purpose, including home schooling and low-quality religious schools. DeVos may open the floodgates to unregulated, for-profit charters, allowing anyone to open a charter who wants to, regardless of their experience or qualifications (like Florida, Michigan, and Nevada). School choice does not have a record of success; charters get mixed results, at best, and vouchers have a record of failure. Even when they produce higher graduation rates, they simultaneously have astonishingly high attrition rates.

 

Join with the Network for Public Education to fight the DeVos nomination. Democrats, Republicans, and independents must stand together in opposition to this raid on public money. Separation of church and state is part of our heritage as Americans. Public schools that enroll all children–not just those they want–are part of our democracy.

 

When the federal government turns against public education, as the Trump administration promises to do, that is unprecedented. We don’t need to be soothed and promised that its threats to public education are not real. They are real. They build on the opening to school choice created by the Gates Foundation, the Broad Foundation, the Walton Foundation and the think tanks that they have underwritten as part of their “policy advocacy.”

 

Parents and educators and concerned citizens must mobilize to oppose the Trump privatization agenda.

 

*I had my own unfortunate brush with Carey in 2011; I didn’t realize he was a key player in the “reform” movement, and I agreed to an interview. He published a mean-spirited screed about me, taking pot shots at my scholarly works and claiming that I changed my philosophy of education because Joel Klein did not give my partner a job. At the time, I was closeted, and Carey managed to “out” me. My partner already had a high-level job at the Board of Education when Klein arrived and was not in need of a job. So long as she worked at the Board, I was constrained from criticizing Klein or Bloomberg, whose policies of disruption did little to improve education. Once she retired, I was free to write and speak my mind. Yes, they helped me to see the deep flaws of corporate reform, of putting non-educators in charge of schools, of intimidating experienced educators, of trying to run schools like a business, of making test scores the basis for all decisions, but not for the reason Carey and Klein asserted.

 

Mitchell Robinson is a professor of music education at Michigan State University. He writes here about the Betsy DeVos that the people of Michigan know, the one who wants to monetize education spending and voucherize the schools so that families can spend their education dollars wherever they want.

 

Robinson writes:

 

The news that Donald Trump has named Betsy DeVos as his choice for Secretary of Education is just another brick in the wall for Mr. Trump’s plan to turn the US into a giant flea market, selling off the bits and pieces of a once great nation for parts to the highest bidders.

 

I had to laugh in recent weeks as folks set off alarms at the rumors of Michelle Rhee or Eva Moskowitz being appointed to this position. The truth is Rhee and Moskowitz are mere amateurs at this school privatization scheme. For Pete’s sake, Ms. Moskowitz still spends her days actually stepping foot in to schools in NYC, terrorizing students and teachers. And Rhee, a former Teach for America recruit, whose “go to” classroom management technique was taping the mouths of her reluctant “scholars”, has been in hiding after a disastrous run as Superintendent of DC’s schools, an experiment that ended in failure for all concerned, and threatened to dim the rising star of the corporate reform movement–until recently, when she and her icky hubby reemerged for a photo op at Trump Tower.

 

Betsy DeVos, on the other hand, is a pro at this game. And unlike Rhee and Moskowitz, who depend on the kindness–and financial backing–of others, Betsy has the financial wherewithall to bankroll her own plans. Like her new boss, Ms. DeVos–allegedly–won’t be beholden to any “special interests” in her efforts to turn our public education system into a Sotheby’s auction.

 

Rest assured, also, that unlike Ms. Moskowitz, Betsy DeVos hasn’t been spending any of her valuable time in…”schools” lately, and certainly hasn’t been close enough to a real, live student to tape them up–even though I’m sure she approves of Ms. Rhee’s approach to building a safe and welcoming classroom learning environment. No, Ms. DeVos has been busy dreaming up new ways to capitalize on the billions of taxpayer dollars currently being wasted on children, teachers, and schools, and helping her puppet in the Michigan governor’s residence with his plan to destroy the state’s schools.

 

Remember, Michigan is the state where the Governor poisoned the water in one of the city’s largest cities, and more than 400 days later has still refused to replace a single water pipe. And the state whose lawyers recently claimed–and I swear I’m not making this up–that the state’s children had no “fundamental right to literacy.”

 

This is Betsy DeVos’ and Rick Snyder’s dream for how a state should govern–that a state and its elected officials have no responsibility to provide clean drinking water or a quality education for its children. It’s a dystopian vision of the future that absolves a state’s leaders and institutions from providing, maintaining, repairing, and supporting its schools, roads, water systems, and infrastructure, or protecting its most vulnerable citizens from the permanent damage caused by a poisoned water supply.

 

So, if you want to know what our new federal education policy is going to look like under Secretary DeVos, what has happened in Michigan under Gov. Snyder–and bankrolled and supported by the DeVos family–provides perhaps the best example of what to expect…

 

Robinson tells the story of the “skunk works,” which was a secret gathering of Snyder allies intent on turning public schools into “a virtual bonanza for profiteers.”

 

The idea behind the “skunk works” plan was to radically increase the use of technology (i.e., virtual charters, online classes) to dramatically reduce the number of teachers needed, and to decouple tax dollars from schools by providing every student in the state with an “education debit card” that could be used for a wide range of educational experiences (i.e., music lessons, art classes, sports teams).

 

The ultimate goal here was to create a new “value school” model in the state, delivering schooling at a per-student cost of roughly $5000, over $2000 less than the average reimbursement provided by the state for each child enrolled in a district’s schools–with “edupreneurs” pocketing the balance. For Snyder and DeVos, the purpose of education is not to help develop a more informed and educated citizenry, or to help children to become more fully human by providing a comprehensive, high quality curriculum, including music, art, and physical education in addition to the rest of the disciplines. The purpose of education under Snyder and DeVos is to turn the state’s once excellent system of public schools into an educational WalMart, boasting “low, low prices” in place of quality instruction….

 

Ms. DeVos is the perfect ideological mate for Mr. Trump: neither seems concerned with allowing petty little things like rules, regulations, or ethics get in the way of them pursuing their agendas. The Constitution only applies to the “little people,” not the billionaire “deciders” who will make the rules in the Trump administration.

 

Betsy DeVos was the absolute worst possible choice for Secretary of Education, so it’s no surprise that Trump chose her for this cabinet post. Her appointment is much closer to Trump’s choice of Steve Bannon as Chief Strategist than it is to his choice of Reince Preibus as Chief of Staff. One is a party insider who will make the “trains run on time”: the other is an arsonist who would happily burn the train station to the ground.

 

Betsy DeVos’ mission is no less than the total destruction of public education. Her apparent support for charters is merely a head fake to the right to distract us from for her ultimate goal of “decoupling” state and federal dollars from supporting schools of any type.

 

Under Secretary of Education DeVos we will see the emergence of a two-tiered educational system:

 

One, a system of elite private and religious schools for well-to-do, mostly White parents with the means to afford expensive tuition payments, staffed by qualified, certified teachers, with a rich curriculum based on face-to-face instruction in clean, safe, well-maintained schools…

 

The other, a parallel system of “fly by night” virtual and online “schools” that open and close seemingly at random, and for-profit charters operated by scam artists like Northern Michigan’s Dr. Steve Ingersoll, with little to no state or federal regulation or oversight, and a bare bones, “back to the basics” curriculum delivered by unqualified and uncertified “teachers”.

 

I’m guessing that the leadership at Teach for America is practically salivating today.

 

For the rest of us, welcome to the Hunger Games of public education….

 

Betsy DeVos needs to hear, loudly and clearly, that her cynical, selfish, profit-focused vision of public education isn’t constitutional; it’s predatory.

 

Her approach is not that of an educational leader; it’s that of a vandal.

 

Tell her that these are OUR public schools, and we value them and need them. And that we won’t let her, and her new Boss, destroy them.

 

North Carolina has two virtual charter schools, one operated by Pearson, the other by Michael Milken’s K12 Inc. Both have high attrition rates and poor student performance, as reported in state data.

“Students at one of the state’s two brand new virtual charter schools are dropping out at a rate that exceeds the maximum allowed by state law, according to a report authored by the North Carolina Office of Charter Schools.

“North Carolina Connections Academy, a virtual charter school backed by education technology giant Pearson, reported a student dropout rate of 31.3 percent for the 2015-16 academic year. State law says virtual charters can’t exceed dropout rates of 25 percent.

“Both of the two virtual charter schools’ dropout rates exceeded the statutory maximum when not considering “finite enrollees” in their calculations. It’s up to the virtual charters to select who they believe those enrollees are in accordance with state law, which says finite enrollees are students who indicate in advance that they wish to enroll for just a portion of the school year.
When K12, Inc.-backed NC Virtual Academy excluded finite enrollees from their calculations as the law allows, they then met the statutory maximum dropout rate at exactly 25 percent.

“Both schools demonstrated poor academic outcomes for their students this past academic year, each receiving F school performance grades in math and Cs in reading. They were also categorized as low performing schools, a designation that requires them to submit a strategic improvement plan. Both schools also received the lowest possible score for student academic growth, a 50 on a scale of 50-100….

“Virtual charter schools have not performed well on the whole. A recent study conducted by Stanford’s CREDO found that students attending virtual schools didn’t learn anything in math for the entire academic year, and poor performance by these schools even prompted the NCAA to announce it will no longer accept coursework in its initial eligibility certification process from 24 virtual schools that are affiliated with K12, Inc. Tennessee has sought to close the K12, Inc.-backed virtual charter school there.”

Despite the dismal performance of the virtual charters, which drain money away from public schools, lawmakers have rigged the formula to protect them from sanctions for dropouts in the future.

“Beginning with this academic school year, 2016-17, lawmakers enacted four additional exclusions to the withdrawal rate calculations. They are the following, as outlined in statute and in the charter report:

(1) Students who regularly failed to participate in courses who are withdrawn under the procedures adopted by the school.

(2) Students no longer qualified under State law to attend a North Carolina public school, including relocation to another state.

(3) Students who: (i) withdraw from school because of a family, personal, or medical reason, and (ii) notify the school of the reason for withdrawal.

(4) Students who withdraw from school within the first 30 days following the date of enrollment.
These new exclusions provide the virtual charter schools exceptional latitude in allowing them to exclude nearly anyone who drops out of the online schools from actually being counted in the withdrawal rates going forward. That means it’s possible that the virtual charters will demonstrate a significant drop in withdrawal rates after this first year—even though those figures may not be truly capturing the full scope of who is leaving the programs.”

Bottom line, legislators don’t want to hold virtual charter schools accountable for attendees, attrition, or performance. Someone should check the state records and review campaign contributions from employees and associates of these companies.