Archives for category: For-Profit

Thousands of teachers in Florida are rallying at the state capitol today to demand higher wages and better working conditions. The Republican-dominated legislature has been handing out public monies to charter schools and for voucher programs, but ignoring the public schools that enroll 85% of the state’s students. Several of the key legislators are related to charter operators. Conflicts of interest are not a problem in Florida. The State Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran–former Speaker of the House–is married to a charter operator.

Bernie Sanders wrote a message of support to the teachers who are speaking out. It appeared in the Sun Sentinel. 

Every Democratic candidate should heed Senator Sanders’ advice (except, of course, billionaire Michael Bloomberg, who wants more privatization, merit pay, and larger class sizes).

This week, tens of thousands of teachers from across Florida are rallying outside the state capitol to demand real support for their public schools. They are taking this action despite the outrageous threats from Republican officials to fire them just for standing up for their students. These educators are part of a massive nationwide movement, from Maine to California, that’s fighting back against years of underfunding, privatization, and draconian high-stakes testing. I am proud to stand with them in this struggle.

Florida educators have good reason to be angry. Their pay is among the lowest in the nation and far too many support staff live below the poverty line. Gov. Ron DeSantis and his fellow Republicans have refused to increase pay for veteran teachers, and yet just last year, they gave corporations half a trillion dollars in tax breaks. As a result, large numbers of teachers are leaving the profession and this year, more than 300,000 children entered classrooms without a full-time teacher.

The indignities and stresses of high stakes testing are another reason teachers are quitting in droves. Like in other states, educators are being made to teach to the test and schools are being forced to sacrifice important subjects like arts education. But in Florida, children are required to take their first standardized test within 30 days of beginning kindergarten and Governor DeSantis wants to extend harsh accountability requirements to preschoolers. That’s not only absurd, it’s also pointless given that testing such young children in this way does not yield reliable results.

Florida’s Republican leaders are also forcing children with severe cognitive disabilities to take standardized tests. This is downright abusive. In one case, the state required the teacher of a critically ill boy with cerebral palsy to regularly document his medical condition. They did not stop even when he lay in a coma on his deathbed. Sadly, the list of such horror stories in the state of Florida goes on and on.

Florida is ground zero of a school privatization movement intent on destroying public education. It has the largest private school voucher program in the country, and each year almost $1 billion in state money goes to private instead of public schools. These private schools operate with little to no accountability and in many cases their students’ math and reading skills have declined.

Moreover, almost half of the charter schools in the state are run by for-profit corporations. These schools perform no better than traditional public schools, yet they still benefit from public support. Between 2006 and 2014, more than a third of the Florida charter schools that received federal funding — almost $35 million — have either closed or never opened to begin with.

It is long past time we put an end to these attacks on public education. Under my Thurgood Marshall Plan, taxpayer money will be used to invest in our teachers and students, and not in corporate welfare. We will establish a national minimum salary of $60,000 for educators; triple funding for Title I schools; and strengthen the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA) by ensuring that the federal government provides 50 percent of the support for students with special needs. We will combat privatization by eliminating school voucher programs and placing a moratorium on the expansion of charter schools. And we will put an end to high-stakes testing once and for all.

Betsy DeVos and her billionaire friends in the Walton and Koch families do not want any of this to happen. If it were up to them, we would continue to give corporations trillions of dollars in tax breaks and starve our public education system of the resources it needs to be the best in the world.

 

What happens when Florida’s biggest for-profit charter chain takes over three low-performing public schools? Follow the money. Ka-Ching!

Sue Legg of the Florida League of Women Voters guides you through a path paved with greenbacks. 

Here is her summary:

The whole sordid affair was orchestrated by the current Senate Ed. Committee Chair.  Millions of dollars were poured into the K12 consolidated school that were not available until the state took the school over. The political and financial maneuvers were beyond sad.  Problem students were given 45 day suspensions.  They were given laptops and access to online courses made available by the once bankrupt Doral College which the Ed Chair manages.  Most disappeared. The school grades rose the first year, and now the elementary students are back to a ‘D’ grade.  These racially and economically segregated schools are the result of choice policies. 

Remember when the three Jefferson County schools were closed and taken over by Academica, the largest for-profit charter management company in the state?  The story makes your hair curl.  Here is a report by WLRN news that details where the money came from and where it went.

New funding included a $2.5 million special appropriation from the Florida Legislature, $2 million from federal startup grant funds, and a $1.9 million interest free loan from Academica’s Somerset division.  This was funding denied unless it became a charter district. Academica received $327,000 in fees in 2017-18 to manage the fewer than 800 student K12 school.  The per student cost rose to $16,600 which school leaders recognize cannot be sustained.  The state pays much less.

The behind the scenes orchestrators for the takeover were Senators Manny Diaz and Anitere Flores, both of whom have close ties to Academica. Diaz is an administrator at Doral College and is Chair of the Senate Education Committee.  Flores is deputy Majority Leader for the Florida Senate and moved from being the head of Doral College to the Academica foundation.  The current Doral College president, Rodriquez,  was named to supervise the transition of the Jefferson County schools to Academica.

In previous posts, I reported on a series of misdeedsassociated with Diaz and Flores related to their association with Doral College.  The college was bankrupt and had no students or faculty when Academica took it on.  It now offers online courses to Academica students.  The credit was worthless because the college had no accreditation.  Diaz worked to get a private school accreditation agency to recognize the college.  Diaz’s personal interest is noted here.  

What is the result of the takeover?  Behavioral specialists were hired to help students, teacher salaries increased, and the physical facilities were improved. Initially, the school grades rose to a ‘C’, but the elementary school has now reverted to a ‘D’.  The increase in the percentage of students passing the FSA state examinations in order to raise the school grades may have had as much to do with discipline policies as with learning strategies.  The charter school policy created a 45 day suspension policy in which students were given a laptop and sent home.  They were to take online classes from Doral College.  Many students never returned.  It is one way to raise school grades…just limit which students take the tests.

How convenient when those who give and those who receive public funds are one and the same.

 

This is a book you will want to read if you are a parent, a teacher, a teacher educator.

Opting Out: The Story of the Parents’ Grassroots Movement to Achieve Whole-Child Schools is an essential addition to your bookshelf.

It was written by Professor David Hursh of the University of Rochester and parents leaders of the New York Opt Out movement Jeanette Deutermann, Lisa Rudley, and Hursh’s graduate students, Zhe Chen and Sarah McGinnis.

Together they explain the origins and development of the one of the most significant parent-led reactions against high-stakes testing and in favor of education that is devoted to the full development of children as healthy and happy human beings. The media liked to present the Opt Out movement as a “union-led” action, but that was always a false narrative. It was created and led by parent activists who volunteered their time and energy to save their children from test centric classrooms and wanted a “whole-child” education that helped their children become eager and engaged learners.

David Hursh has written and lectured about the assault on public education and the dangers of high-stakes testing.

https://www.waikato.ac.nz/wmier/news-events/prof-david-hursh-on-the-takeover-of-public-education

University of Rochester Meliora Address (2013): High-stakes testing and the decline of teaching. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GIQu2Hh_YkI

Keynote address: New York State as a cautionary tale (2014). New Zealand union of primary teachers and administrators. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hW4vZGsLiL4

The parent co-authors are leaders of the New York State Opt Out movement, primarily through their role in New York State Allies for Public Education, which has organized hundreds of thousands of parents to say no to excessive and pointless testing, whose only beneficiaries are the big testing corporations.

The parents of the Opt Out movement are a stellar example of the Resistance that is bringing an end to this current era of child abuse and test-driven miseducation.

I was happy to endorse the book and am pleased now to recommend it to you.

 

 

In this post, Peter Greene reviews Edspeak and Doubletalk, the glossary co-written by me and Nancy Bailey.

This is the book you need, the scorecard, to identify the players in the fast-moving world of reform propaganda and over-hyped programs.

This resulting book, Edspeak and Doubletalk: A Glossary to Decipher Hypocrisy and Save Public Schooling, is exceptionally useful as a quick-reference resource. If you are a regular reader of this or other education blogs, you know that there is a forest of acronyms, a Grand Canyon’s worth of program names and purposes, and enough different edu-focused organizations to pave a road to the moon and back. This book makes for a quick and easy reference for it all, and more. Chapters are organized by general topic, such as Charter Schools and Choice, English Language Learners, Technology, and Separation of Church and State. There are guides to the various players, both in the chapter on Groups Fighting Corporate “Reform” and School Reform Groups and Terms, or “Money Talks.”

Greene writes:
The book comes with an on-line supplement–an e-book– and the promise of online updates to come. It’s enlightening to browse the book– I’ve already encountered many terms and programs and policies that I had never heard of before (Paideia Program, anyone?)– but I’ve also already used it as a substitute for my usual research assistant (Dr. Google) to look up a couple of terms and organizations. 
 
Explanations are short, clear, and to the point, which is half the battle, since eduspeak relies on a cloud of smoke and fuzz to obscure what’s really going on. Well, Bailey and Ravitch know what’s really going on in debates that have become “highly politicized.” This book will be useful to the general reader, but I’d recommend it for every teacher. Keep a copy in your desk drawer and every time a communique comes across your desk that makes you think, “What the heck is this? Who are these people anyway, and what the heck are they talking about?” just pull out your copy and start translating. 

Stuart Egan is an National Board Certified Teacher in North Carolina. He writes here about the horrible policies imposed on public schools in North Carolina since Tea Party Republicans took over the state’s General Assembly.

North Carolina was once considered the most progressive state in the South, for its dedication to improving public schools and honoring fine teachers. It had the highest proportion of National Board Certified teachers in the nation.

But then the Tea Party arrived in 2010 with an ALEC agenda of disruption and destruction.

Egan writes:

When the GOP won control of both houses in the North Carolina General Assembly in the elections of 2010, it was the first time that the Republicans had that sort of power since 1896. Add to that the election of Pat McCrory as governor in 2012, and the GOP has been able to run through multiple pieces of legislation that have literally changed a once progressive state into one of regression. From the Voter ID law to HB2 to fast tracking fracking to neglecting coal ash pools, the powers that-now-be have furthered an agenda that has simply been exclusionary, discriminatory, and narrow-minded.

And nowhere is that more evident than the treatment of public education.

Make no mistake. The GOP-led General Assembly has been using a deliberate playbook that other states have seen implemented in various ways. Look at Ohio and New Orleans and their for-profit charter school implementation. Look at New York State and the Opt-Out Movement against standardized testing.  Look at Florida and its Jeb Bush school grading system. In fact, look anywhere in the country and you will see a variety of “reform” movements that are not really meant to “reform” public schools, but rather re-form public schools in an image of a profit making enterprise that excludes the very students, teachers, and communities that rely on the public schools to help as the Rev. William Barber would say “create the public.”

North Carolina’s situation may be no different than what other states are experiencing, but how our politicians have proceeded in their attempt to dismantle public education is worth exploring.

Specifically, the last nine-year period in North Carolina has been a calculated attempt at undermining public schools with over twenty different actions that have been deliberately crafted and executed along three different fronts: actions against teachers, actions against public schools, and actions to deceive the public.

Read on to learn about the calculated and vicious attack on public schools and their teachers. This is a record of shame that undermines the public good.

Last month, Betsy DeVos testified to Congress about her role in the student loan program. 

Her Department hounded students to pay back loans instead of canceling them because their for-profit college defrauded them. A federal judge ordered the Department to stop harassing the students, then fined the Department $100,000 for violating the court order.

Rep. Josh Harder of California grilled her for her failure to side with the students. He accused her of acting like a lobbyist for the for-profit colleges.

It’s a powerful segment. Worth watching to see her utter and callous indifference to the suffering of students who accumulated tens of thousands of dollars of debt for a worthless degree.

Rep. Harder said he understood why she didn’t care: a student’s debt of $40,000 represented a minuscule fraction of the cost of one of her 10 yachts.

 

Former superintendent Tom Dunn wrote a blistering critique of federal and state interventions into education that were lies, all lies.

And the promises and lies continue despite the failure of all the previous promises.

He writes:

As a former school superintendent, one of my most important, difficult, and frustrating responsibilities was trying to stay abreast of state and federal laws governing education. It was during this time that I had my eyes opened to how politics at the state and federal level really works. Suffice it to say that what I learned was disturbing.

First of all, to this day, the sheer number of proposed and/or passed bills makes the task of staying current nearly impossible. I imagine this is a political strategy meant to keep people as confused and overwhelmed as possible. The number of laws that made no sense and were sold to the public with misinformation and lies was staggering.

I felt perpetually conflicted about being forced to implement mandates that were, frankly, bad for kids. The irony is how often the very politicians who denounce bullying use their power to beat adults into submission with their ill-conceived laws. In education, they do this through threats of financial penalty against districts that dare disobey them, by threatening the professional licensure of educators who don’t do as they are told, and/or through character assassination of those who dare question them.

For at least three decades, politicians have claimed their goal has been to close the achievement gap between children who are successful in school and those who are not, and, by their own admission, their laws haven’t worked. They have failed while wasting billions of our tax dollars.

In the early 1990’s, politicians told us that if they could force all schools to follow the same academic standards, the achievement gap would be eliminated. But, the gap still exists.

Similarly, politicians promised us that forcing kids to take state approved tests, with schools, teachers, and principals being “held accountable” for their students’ performance, the achievement gap would be eliminated. But, the gap still exists.

The public was also assured that if laws were enacted “guaranteeing” that every child must achieve a politically determined level of achievement, all children would be successful. But, the gap still exists.

They lied, because none of these factors are primarily responsible for the gap.

One of their most egregious lies has been that the lack of competition in public education has been the culprit. People pushing this narrative actually pretended as if competition didn’t already exist. But, of course, it did through private and home school options, not to mention other opportunities, such as boarding schools. But, that fact interfered with their narrative, so they ignored it.

We were told that just a little more competition would generate new, more successful learning environments in which kids who were failing could flourish. It would also, we were assured, force the public schools to improve.

Early on, this expansion of competition was in the form of charter schools. Politicians told us kids deserved them, because they would no longer be “trapped” in poor public schools. Of course, they failed to mention that many of these charter schools were owned by large campaign contributors who were becoming quite wealthy on the backs of our neediest kids.

These same politicians remained strangely silent when the test data that they worship clearly showed that kids were often leaving higher performing public schools to attend lower performing charter schools. In other words, what they said would happen wasn’t happening.

But, ignoring that fact, politicians continued to expand school choice options to allow parents to use tax dollars to attend private schools. This was done through the Education Choice Scholarship (EdChoice) Program. The Ohio Department of Education web site claims that EdChoice “provides students from underperforming public schools the opportunity to attend participating private schools.”

The problem with this justification is that it isn’t true. The criteria for “underperforming” is written in such a way that even the highest performing public schools can be defined as such. In other words, the law allows parents to use tax dollars to fund their children’s private school education while “escaping” very high performing schools. This exact scenario has occurred in one of the top scoring school districts in the state, the Solon Schools.

At last, in Ohio, a fearless truth-teller, fed up with lies and empty promises.

Angie Sullivan teaches in a Title 1 elementary school in Carson County, Nevada. She teaches the children who were left behind.

She sent this post to every legislator in Nevada:

A small group of vocal teachers, parents, and activists have been publicly concerned about national public school privatization for two decades.  
 
Diane Ravitch is the leader of that pack.  
 
Her new book is coming out soon.  
 
Her last books included characters who are national culprits in destroying American Public Schools.  Some have come from my state of Nevada.  
 
Reform was meant to change a system of education that needed to change.  Still needs change. Admittedly we need to improve.  No one argues against that.  Teachers have always been willing to improve.  
 
This reform was not ever meant to improve.  
 
Change came.   The wrong kind.  
 
Big bad horrific and public school destroying change came.   
 
It was bad change bought by corporations who do not love children, will not love children, and seek money even if harm comes to children. 
 
Wrecking ball.  
 
National level well funded and crushing. 
 
Reformers will not use the data – they supposedly worshipped – to admit – they were wrong. 
 
Devastatingly wrong. 
 
Wrong in ways that were really destructive over two generations.   Destroying the central fabric of America – attacking our local public schools.  Kids were warehoused in experiments.  Kids without teachers.   Kids hooked up to innovations that made money but did not educated.  
Billions spent on reforms:  disruption, return on investment, testing, take over, turnaround, triggering, attacking teachers, standardization, score chasing has barely moved American Students on the NAEP Assessments.  
 
The data is back. 
Business reformers failed.   Return on investment was zero.  
 
Reform has been successful at systematically privatizing huge amounts of education cash.  It has segregated.  It has devastated.  It has destroyed public school communities.  And disenfranchised students are further behind than ever before. 
 
The teachers were crushed and millions left. 
 
This expensive business-type reform did not improve education.  
 
Unfortunately, the folks driving reform were not teachers – nor were they interested in authentic education.   Billionaires who were successful in business took over.  They bought the top levels of government and spread cash from the top down.  Both parties.   Anyone with power.   And policy makers and leadership sold out hard. Money taken from public schools to be spent on scams and fads. 
Billions wasted.   
 
Money and people who chase dollars should never be in charge of education policy.  Neoliberals and corporations who hide from liability will never create the synergy, caring, and community building that teachers can do in a school building. 
 
Now the billionaires know – public school teachers will fight.  Activists will engage.  Those who love children will activate. 
 
Take that Goliath.
 
A band of loud people who care – will fight with any small stone we can find. 
We are not scared – because we are right.  
 
Time for policy makers and leadership to buy a book.  
 
O God hear the words of my mouth – hold us in Your Hand because we are small against those seeking to harm kids.  
 
The Teacher,
Angie Sullivan. 

 

Perhaps you have been confused by the proliferation of organizations that claim to be all about fixing schools and teachers. Perhaps you can’t figure out who is who in the galaxy of billionaire-funded world of fake reformers.

Buy this reference book! It names names! It is the glossary you have been waiting for!

EDSPEAK AND DOUBLETALK: A Glossary to Decipher Hypocrisy and Save Public Schooling.

It was written by Nancy Bailey and me. It is published by Teachers College Press. Not only does it have a definitive deconstruction of reform blarney and baloney, but it will be continuously updated online as the billionaires spin out new AstroTurf groups and impose new fads and terrible ideas on the schools and the teaching profession.

Confession: Nancy and I have never met face to face. We met by reading each other’s commentaries about the fraudulent language now current in education. We emailed. I invited her to help me rewrite “Edspeak,” a now dated and obsolete glossary that I had published in 2006. She threw herself and her deep classroom experience into the task. I was the beneficiary of her wisdom and her keen eye for phoniness.

All of the royalties from the sale of the book will be donated to the Network for Public Education. Nancy and I look forward to meeting at the NPE conference in Philadelphia in late March.

Thomas Ultican, retired teacher of advanced mathematics and physics in California, has written the first review of my new book SLAYING GOLIATH: THE PASSIONATE RESISTANCE TO PRIVATIZATION AND THE FIGHT TO SAVE AMERICA’S SCHOOLS.

He liked it!

He calls it “spiritually uplifting” and describes it (accurately) as a “fight to save the commons.”

Enjoy!