Archives for category: Funding

This post appeared on the Network for Public Education website.

Paul Huang and Olivia Peebles: It’s time to pass a Fair School Funding Plan

This op-ed from Cleveland.com was written by a pair of students from Shaker Heights High School. Paul Huang is a senior; Olivia Peebles in a junior. Both are members of the Shaker Heights High School Student Group on Race Relations. In this op-ed, they lay out a defense of their high school against Ohio’s flawed school rating system.

In Shaker, we are fortunate to have educational opportunities ranging from honors courses and AP/IB classes to vocational training. We are also fortunate to have an administration and staff that strives to close achievement, opportunity and wealth gaps that stem from systemic racism.

Yet the Shaker Heights City School District has three so-called “failing” schools and received an overall “C” average on the Ohio Department of Education’s annual report card.

The school report card is based heavily on standardized achievement data, which is linked to socioeconomic status. Standardized tests do not consider the specific challenges some districts have, such as high poverty.

Schools with larger numbers of Black and brown students or children whose families have low incomes are more likely to be deemed “failing.”

The report card also grades districts on closing a “racial achievement gap,” without considering the opportunity barriers communities of color face due to years of segregation, discrimination and exploitation.

When the state considers a school to be “failing,” it can send the district’s funding to private schools via vouchers. This gap-closing metric actually widens achievement gaps by underfunding the schools that need extra resources to close them.

Read the complete op-ed here.

You can view the post at this link : https://networkforpubliceducation.org/blog-content/paul-huang-and-olivia-peebles-its-time-to-pass-a-fair-school-funding-plan/

In recent decades, states have reduced their subsidies to institutions of high education, shifting the financial burden to students and families. After World War II, the federal government recognized that investing in higher education would benefit society as a whole. The rise of libertarianism in the past forty years has promoted the view that the consumer, not society, should pay for what is now seen as a personal benefit. This attitude exacerbates inequality, since those at the top can more readily pay for their children’s education than those with less money. It’s worth mentioning here that all higher education in Finland is tuition-free. The Finns consider education to be a human right, which people should not be required to purchase.

Making college free for all creates problems, to be sure. What about students and families already deeply in debt? Shouldn’t their debts be forgiven? What about those who already sacrificed to pay staggering debt?

Two Connecticut professors—Stephen Adair of Central Connecticut State University and Colena Susankreed1 of Gateway Community College— review some of the issues here, in an article that appeared in the New York Times.

The last 40 years have seen an ever-widening income gap between those with college degrees and those without. Over that interval, incomes have soared for those with advanced degrees and declined for those with high-school diplomas or less. As a result, the route to economic security for young people depends increasingly on access to higher education. Yet it keeps getting more expensive.

Since the Great Recession, the public portion of the operating costs for state universities and colleges in Connecticut, where we teach, has declined 20 percent; since the 1980s, it has declined by nearly half. In the 1960s, tuition for a Connecticut state university was $100 a year, which could be earned by working fewer than 100 hours at minimum wage. Today, a student needs to work nearly 1,000 hours at the state minimum of $12 an hour to pay the $11,462 required for tuition at the least expensive state university in Connecticut.

Our state is hardly unique in abdicating its responsibilities to the next generation. By 2018, only four states had returned to prerecession funding levels at public two- and four-year institutions. In Arizona the decline has been especially acute: 2018 per-student higher-education funding was down 55.7 percent from 2008, and average student tuition costs at four-year institutions increased by 91 percent. In Louisiana, these figures were 40.6 and 105.4 percent, respectively.

The Biden administration has proposed reforms to ease the student-debt crisis. But a real solution must upend a system of cascading inequities. Restoring the dream of higher education as an equalizer requires a holistic solution that attacks all the sources of the problem: a lack of investment in common goods, growing tuition and student debt and exploitative labor practices that undermine the quality of education.

The rise in tuition costs, combined with the growing economic value of a college degree, fuels the crisis of student debt, which today totals $1.7 trillion. To pay for a year of school, three-quarters of American families pay at least 24 percent of their average family income, even after grants are distributed.

As students pay more, they often receive less. Nationwide, nearly 75 percent of all faculty positions are off the tenure track, often without benefits or long-term job prospects. Ironically, hundreds of thousands of some of the most educated people in the country now shuttle to and from campus, juggling gigs to try to eke out a living while unable to give students the attention they deserve.

While President Biden’s American Families Plan includes a provision for free community college, this is an incomplete solution.

The College for All Act of 2021, introduced by Senator Bernie Sanders and Representative Pramila Jayapal, would address the crisis in full. In addition to making community college tuition-free for all, it would make two- and four-year public colleges and minority-serving institutions free for poor and middle-class students and increase funding for programs that target students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Nationally, in 2016, the net average price of college attendance (the total cost minus all grants awarded) for students coming from the lowest family income quartile amounted to 94 percent of total family income. Unsurprisingly, poorer students are less present at higher levels of education nationwide. In Connecticut, students of color are overrepresented at the introductory levels and increasingly underrepresented at higher levels.

We stand to exacerbate racial and class divides if we create a dead end for poorer students by cutting off funding at the associate level, stunting their progress or requiring them to take on debt to continue. By including both two- and four-year institutions and by expanding Pell grants so they can be used to cover living and nontuition expenses, the College for All Act would help bridge the significant earning gap between those with some college education and those with bachelor’s degrees.

The measure would also address the labor precarity corroding learning conditions: It would require that at least 75 percent of courses be taught by tenured or tenure-track faculty members and help transition short-term and part-time faculty members to those positions.

To fund these reforms, the bill proposes a tax on trades of stocks, bonds and derivatives, to raise more than $600 billion over the next decade.

The College for All Act complements recent efforts in states like California, Connecticut, Georgia and New York to boost two- and four-year institutions. While these efforts are distinct, they all seek to facilitate the movement between two-year colleges and public universities and improve equity...

To the extent that higher education reinforces existing inequities, it contributes to the affliction it is supposed to ease. Solving this problem will expand opportunities for individuals, grow the middle class, improve the skills of America’s work force and strengthen democracy. But this won’t happen on its own; it needs a push. So let’s push.

During the 2020 Presidential campaign, candidate Joe Biden pledged to educators that if elected, Betsy DeVos’s priorities, such as charter schools, would be gone. That’s what he said in a nationally televised forum in Pittsburgh for educators in December 2019 (start about 4:40). In Pittsburgh, he also promised to end the federal pressure for standardized testing. In his campaign documents, he promised that no federal funds would go to for-profit charter schools.

So far, his batting record is poor. The first consequential decision, made before the confirmation of Secretary Cardona, was to insist on the resumption of federal testing in the midst of the pandemic.

Now we know he backtracked on charter schools. The federal Charter Schools Program—though riddled with waste, fraud, and abuse, though used in North Carolina to fund segregation academies—will receive the same funding as under DeVos ($440 million a year).

Here comes the next insult to the nation’s public schools: Secretary Miguel Cardona will be the lead speaker at the National Charter Schools Conference. Contrary to President Biden’s statement in Pittsburgh, charter schools will not be gone.

Will Secretary Cardona tell the attendees that he is cutting off federal funding to charters that operate for profit? Will he tell them that the federal government will no longer fund charters operated by for-profit managers? Will he explain why he kept the wasteful federal Charter Schools Program at the same level as it was under Betsy DeVos?

Don’t count on it.

This clear and thoughtful article was written by Michael Turmelle, director of education and career initiatives, New Hampshire Charitable Foundation. The Republican-controlled legislation intends to pass sweeping voucher legislation that would harm the public schools attended by the great majority of the state’s children.

He writes:


If you have ever needed a hospital or a pharmacy; driven on well-engineered highways; eaten food that was grown and shipped safely; felt the protective assurance of our armed forces and intelligence services; used a cell phone; gotten a vaccine to guard against a deadly disease, then you have benefited from public schools.

This is the social contract we have made: since we all rely on an educated populace to do countless things we all depend on every day, we all chip in to a system of public schools to educate people. We all agree to support this common good that benefits us all — whether our kids happen to be in school, or if we even have kids of our own. 

We all need strong public schools because we need all our children to be able to get the robust education that will allow them to go on to become the nurses and doctors, the engineers and entrepreneurs, the public-health researchers and food-safety inspectors, the firefighters and intelligence analysts and teachers who will support our communities and economy tomorrow. 

The New Hampshire Charitable Foundation is in the midst of a 10-year initiative to improve outcomes for New Hampshire children and families who face significant barriers to opportunity.

Public K-12 schools play a critical role in providing that opportunity by delivering on the very American promise of an education for all — no matter how much money your parents have, or where you live, or the color of your skin or if you get around on your feet or in a wheelchair. null

But the public good that is public education is being imperiled in New Hampshire in ways that put children’s education and the well-being of our communities and our economy at risk.

How? 

By inequity.

Some schools in New Hampshire have well-paid veteran teachers, top-notch facilities, state-of-the-art equipment and resources. Some districts struggle to pay dedicated educators, have constant teacher turnover, patched-together buildings and outdated resources. The former are in wealthy towns, the latter are not. 

And disparities in funding correlate with disparities in outcomes.

In New Hampshire, according to an independent report produced for the state’s Commission to Study School Funding: “The highest poverty school districts have the lowest student outcomes. The negative relationship between poverty and outcomes is very strong.” 

New Hampshire’s state constitution mandates that the state provide an “adequate” education to all children. Since a coalition of “property-poor” towns sued the state in the 1990s, various funding formulas have been applied by the legislature — all of which have continued to rely predominantly on local property taxes to foot the majority of the bill for public education. The amount the state sends to districts remains far below what districts must spend. Another group of districts sued the state in 2019, asserting state adequacy aid would need to triple to meet the basic requirements set out in state law. The state Supreme Court sent the “ConVal lawsuit” (so named for the Contoocook Valley school district, one of the districts that brought the suit) back to Superior Count in March for a trial. Manchester and Nashua, the two largest districts in the state, joined the suit this month.

All children in every public school in New Hampshire (not just the ones in wealthy towns) should have the resources, facilities and teachers needed to ensure them a world-class education and the best outcomes possible. Our current unequal system of supporting schools creates two separate and unequal classes of education for our kids, robbing too many of them of the American promise of equal opportunity.

By a troubling move toward privatization. 

Running through some recent proposed legislation and public discourse is a disquieting attack on the idea of public education as a public good. 

The school voucher program being considered by the legislature is a system under which taxpayer-generated state aid earmarked to educate children in public schools is redirected to private schools or home education.

Voucher programs would risk further exacerbating funding inequity in New Hampshire schools and leaving the most vulnerable children — the ones who rely most on the promise of public education – in schools with fewer resources, increasingly inadequate facilities and diminished opportunity. An analysis by the nonprofit, nonpartisan Reaching Higher New Hampshire shows that the program would cost the state nearly $70 million in new state spending over three years.

Vouchers do not help kids do better. Multiple independent studies from states that have implemented vouchers have shown that voucher programs do not improve academic outcomes. Voucher programs also deepen racial segregation in schools (which has also shown to diminish outcomes for all children) and leave LGBTQ students vulnerable to discrimination.

Taking public funds from our public schools to pay for private education is not a good answer for how to make our schools stronger for the nine out of 10 of New Hampshire’s children who use them.

Just like public fire departments, highways and health departments, public education is a public good that benefits us all. And just like all those other things, it deserves robust investment, access to it should be equitable — and we absolutely cannot do without it.

Billy Townsend served as a school board member in Polk County, Florida. He now blogs about the schools in his state and takes aim at the state’s determination to cripple public schools while shifting more than a billion dollars to voucher schools.

In this article in the Orlando Sentinel, he compares a public high school to the inferior voucher schools that the state wants more of.

He writes:

Six years ago, essentially zero Jones High School students took physics. Today, more than 250 do. That means 250 Orlando-area young people per year now have a better chance of becoming engineers or scientists or doctors. We should celebrate that. Physics is crucial to many educational and professional journeys.

Unfortunately, as a recent former Polk County school board member, I know all too well the rarity of serious growth in Florida’s education capacity. Our state is steadily dismantling education capacity everywhere through its contempt for public schools and indifference to voucher-school performance.

Capacity destruction drives Florida’s chronic educator shortages. It’s one reason Florida has among America’s worst state test score “learning rates,” according to The Educational Opportunity Project at Stanford University.

Capacity destruction particularly harms children and communities that lack capital. Quite often, these low-capital communities are also historically black communities. A thriving physics program — one that exceeds enrollment for most other wealthier schools in Florida — demonstrates real capital investment in community capacity.

That makes the Jones physics story all the more important — and a powerful counterpoint to Florida’s failed state voucher programs, particularly the Florida Tax Credit (FTC) voucher.

Like many voucher schools, the Jones enrollment of nearly 1,600 is almost entirely Black. A casual observer may see it as “segregated,” in the sense we’ve come to popularly understand segregation. But there is a massive difference between the Jones community-support “segregation” and the “segregation” of schools in Florida’s low-capital voucher-school marketplace.

The Sentinel’s invaluable “Schools without Rules” series in 2017 documented the failures of many voucher schools and how little Florida leaders care about it. It also illustrated how Florida’s testing system and barbaric mass third-grade retention policies drive children into voucher schools in a disfigured conception of “choice.”

But the Sentinel did not delve deeply into the extreme racial segregation of Florida’s voucher-school marketplace, as I did in Polk County.

As of last month, the Step Up for Students voucher marketplace shows 16 Polk County voucher schools have enrollments of at least 76 percent Black children. Twelve of the 16 schools are at least 95 percent Black. Six are 100 percent Black.

Not one of those schools has any accreditation. None of them have any state or local oversight. There is no elected board member or unelected bureaucrat to call when these schools defraud you. More than 800 Black children in Polk County attend these segregated, low-capital so-called schools at any given time.

Moreover, the Urban Institute’s 2017 study of Florida’s voucher marketplace, the only recent study of its kind, found that 61 percent of voucher recipients abandon their FTC voucher within two years. 75 percent abandon the voucher within three years. That’s an extraordinary record of failure and churn. Voucher advocates twist themselves into knots insisting this is not a 75-percent 3-year program dropout rate. But it is.

Many voucher schools resemble the worst of pre-Brown vs. Board of Education American schools — operating in strip mall storefronts with names like “Endtime Christian School of Excellence.” That is the name and description of a very real and very typical voucher school in Lake Wales. Yet, Florida is expanding the roughly $1 billion a year in direct tax money and corporate tax-shelter cash it spends each year to defraud black children and parents – and everyone else.

Runaway voucher spending with no oversight has built zero capacity to actually provide education. That’s because money alone cannot buy education capacity; only consistent, focused effort.

There are very few decent voucher products to buy. And decent private schools, almost without exception, do not rely on vouchers for survival or take many voucher kids. Vouchers do not cover the tuition of serious private schools, which have full-tuition paying customers and endowments and capital and accreditation. Such private schools are also very, very white.

School segregation, integration and equity pose some of society’s hardest, most complex challenges. In my experience as a school-board member and advocate, human beings want to attend schools that reflect their communities; they want to avoid busing; they want equality — or advantage — in resources; they (often) want diversity in faculty and fellow students; and they want to be in the majority of a school population. People want all of this at the same time in the same school.

Jones provides a far better model for addressing that challenge than vouchers. Indeed, I would not call the Jones model of schooling “segregation.” I would call it “community ownership” and Jones is literally a “Community Partnership School.” That means it works rigorously with the Children’s Home Society of Florida, Orange Blossom Health, and the University of Central Florida to provide “wraparound” social services and slowly, painstakingly build capacity for the Parramore/Lorna Doone community and its high school.

Today, the Jones community school model is building capacity in physics while most of the rest of Florida is destroying it. That is a public-school accomplishment to celebrate from a model far superior to the failed voucher model state power prefers.

Angie Sullivan teaches first-grade students in a Title I school in Las Vegas. She writes regularly to every member of the legislature and to journalists to tell them what it is like from a teacher’s perspective.

She wrote this missive:

Shannon Bilbray-Axelrod should recuse herself from charter school legislation.  It is unethical for her to line her lobbying pocket and then work on charter legislation.  Scott Hammond and Carrie Buck should also recuse themselves from working on charter language having made millions in the business.  Unethical.  

While you are in AB420, you should amend the Charter Authority requirements.   

To sit on the 9 member board, you should have not earned money from a for-profit school.   

The number of recusals from Charter Authority board members while trying to do business is ridiculous. 

Oftentimes decisions are made with a questionable quorum because too many folks on the dais are making money from the business and have to recuse. 

If you are a charter lawyer, charter consultant, charter owner – not the time to sit on the decisions making board.  It is unethical.   

You should have to wait 3 years after profiting from charters before being allowed to sit on the board.  
The chair of the Charter Authority should not run a charter.   

This leads to awkward business.   

The Chair leaves the dais to go to the table to have the board give her permission and/or money.  I have seen Chair Melissa Mackedon who runs a charter in Fallon do this several times.   

It is like insider trading – benefitting their business and themselves.  Then popping back up into positions to hand out money and favors to other charters.  Charter Board Members should not be on both sides (giving and receiving) routinely in meetings.  Unethical.  

Former or current legislators should not sit on the Charter Authority Board.  It appears that they legislated to make millions.  Pat Hickey and Randy Kirner are examples of folks who recently left their positions and then became part of the Charter Authority Board.

Lawyers like Jason Guinasso who have chaired the board should not be able to come back a few years later to manipulate charter language or the board.   He addressed them as friends trying to take advantage of his connections.  Recently Guinasso approached the board from the table on behalf of a charter he most likely set-up for failure while he was chair.  The theft and lawsuits cost Nevadans.


https://www.nevadacurrent.com/2020/06/29/lv-charter-school-alleges-it-paid-1-6m-to-utah-management-company-for-nothing/

https://kutv.com/news/beyond-the-books/nevada-charter-school-ends-business-ties-with-american-preparatory-schools-in-utah

New EMOs/For-Profit Service Providers should not be allowed in the state.  No more new for-profit campuses under their umbrellas either.  They have made a huge mess.   Academica basically has a weird monopoly with different branches.   They are posed for rapid expansion.  Folks outside the state watching Academica in Nevada are very concerned.  

For-profit corporations like Academica take advantage of states like Nevada.  Language should be included to prevent rapid expansion and the ability to siphon money into side businesses.   This robs students and gives millions to side businesses.   Folks like Gulenist Soner Tarim should not be able to come into Nevada and apply for a charter – with language in the contract that gives them 12% off the top and ability to rapidly expand by being a EMO/Service Provider.  These should be two different things – EMO/Service Provider and Charter Applicant.  These administrators and side businesses are making a ridiculous amount of money and do not have to bid out their services.  The public should be able to see these contracts since the taxpayer is paying.  Folks should not be handing contracts out to their friends and family.

EMOS/Service Providers should not be allowed to break the charter diversity laws like Academica did intentionally when opening the Northern Pinecrest.  Academica should be closed for that.

PPP loans were given to both the charter campuses and the management corporations and all the side businesses.   How much money did a for-profit charter really get during the pandemic?   They got money for the EMO/Service Providers/Campus/Friends/Family etc?  Then held an informational meetings to warn everyone “not to say anything”.  

125 Florida charter schools already funded by taxpayers received $50 million in PPP loans https://www.abcactionnews.com/news/local-news/i-team-investigates/125-florida-charter-schools-already-funded-by-taxpayers-received-50-million-in-ppp-loans

I hope the FBI comes and arrests everyone involved in this mess and lining their pockets. 

https://www.nevadacurrent.com/2020/12/24/nevada-charter-schools-got-millions-in-ppp-loans/ 

$350+ Million in education money annually and not one person knows what it is spent on.

And seems like legislators are just fine with that?


The Teacher,

Angie Sullivan


https://www.leg.state.nv.us/App/NELIS/REL/81st2021/Bill/8052/Text

Three scholars have recently published a very informative book about the history of education in New Orleans. The authors tell this story by scrutinizing one very important elementary school in the city, the one that was first to be desegregated with one black student in 1960. The book is titled William Frantz Public School: A Story of Race, Resistance, Resiliency, and Recovery in New Orleans (Peter Lang). The authors are Connie L. Schaffer, Meg White, and Martha Graham Viator.

This is the school that enrolled 6-year-old Ruby Bridges in November 1960. Her entry to the school each day, a tiny little girl accompanied by federal agents, was met with howling, angry white parents. Her admission to an all-white school in New Orleans was a landmark in the fight to implement the Brown v. Board decision of 1954. It was immortalized by Norman Rockwell in a famous painting called The Problem We All Live With.

The authors set the stage for their history by pointing out that the Reconstruction-era constitution of Louisiana forbade racially segregated schools. In the early 1870s, about one-third of the public schools in New Orleans were racially integrated. Some schools had racially integrated teaching staffs. School board members were both white and black. When Reconstruction ended, rigid racial segregation and white supremacy were restored.

The William Frantz Public School opened in 1938 as a school for white children. It occupied almost a full city block.It was one of the few schools built during the Depression. It was built to accommodate 570 children. The authors demonstrate the vast inequality between white schools and black schools. Not far away was a school for black children of elementary age. Not only were black schools overcrowded, but black neighborhoods had problems with poorly maintained sewers, streets, sidewalks, gas and water lines, and structurally unsound buildings. Black schools were dilapidated, students shared desks, and class sizes were often in excess of 60 children to one teacher. Black students had fewer instructional hours than white students, due to overcrowding. White teachers were paid more than black teachers.

Black citizens of New Orleans were outraged by these conditions but they were politically powerless. The white power structure did not care about the education of black children.

Then came the Brown decision of 1954, which declared the policy of “separate but equal” to be unjust. The federal courts moved slowly to implement desegregation, but eventually they began to enforce it. The federal district judge who took charge of desegregation in New Orleans was J. Shelley Wright, a graduate of the city’s white schools. He determined to implement the Brown decision, despite the opposition of the Governor, the Legislature, the Mayor, and prominent white citizens of the city, as well as White Citizens Councils.

In 1958, the Louisiana legislature passed several measures to weaken desegregation efforts including laws allowing the governor to close any school that desegregated, providing state funds to any students seeking to leave the traditional public schools, and granting the state sweeping power to control all schools.

Their well-written history brings the reader to the present, to the all-charter model that privatizers hold up as an exemplar for every urban district troubled by low test scores and white flight.

The section of the book that I found most interesting was their detailed account of the white reaction to the prospect of school integration, despite the fact that the black students who applied to attend white schools were carefully screened for their academic potential and their behavior. Ruby Bridges was the one and only student chosen to start desegregation. Crowds gathered every morning to spit and scream. They harassed not only Ruby, with her federal protection, but any white student who dared to enter the school. Their blockade eventually forced whites to abandon the William Franz Public School. A few persisted, but little Ruby never met them. She was assigned to a classroom with no other students and one teacher.

The whites who tried to stay in the school were subject to threats of violence. Some lost their jobs, as did Ruby’s father. They feared for their lives. The hatred for blacks by whites was explosive. The portrayal of malignant racism is searing.

A relatively small number of whites tried to calm the situation. One such group was called Save Our Schools. They reached out to the white parents of the school, trying to bring peace and reconciliation.

In perhaps the most disturbing response to an SOS mailing, a WFPS parent who had received a letter from SOS returned the letter smeared with feces. A handwritten comment on the letter stated the parent would rather have ignorant children then to send them to a “nigger school.”

The mob won. By the middle of the school year, fewer than 10 white students remained in the school, and they too needed protection. By 1993, not one white student attended the school.

As the tumult continued after Ruby’s admission, prominent whites funded private schools so that white students could escape the specter of desegregation. The Legislature passed laws to support the resistance to desegregation and to give vouchers to whites fleeing the public schools and to underwrite the private academies where racist white students enrolled.

When the battle over desegregation began, New Orleans schools enrolled a white majority. Racism led to white flight, and before long the school district was overwhelmingly black, as was the city.

The authors detail the problems of the district. Not only was it segregated and underfunded, but its leadership was unstable. The management was frequently incompetent and corrupt. Its accounting department was a mess. So was Human Resources. Teachers were not paid on time. The management was woeful. The state wanted to take control of the district before Hurricane Katrina. Three months before the disastrous hurricane, the state leaned on the district to hire a corporate restructuring firm at a cost of $16.8 million.

In June, the Louisiana Department of Education and the Orleans Parish School Board signed an agreement relinquishing the management of the district’s multi-million dollar operating budget to the state. As a result, the district entered into negotiations with a New York turnaround management corporation, Alvarez and Marsal, to oversee its finances. In the contract, the board not only surrendered financial control, it also granted the firm authority to hire and fire employees.

Alvarez & Marsal put one of its senior partners, Bill Roberti, in charge of the district. Before joining the management consultants, Roberti had run the clothing store Brooks Brothers. A&M had previously received $5 million for a year of controlling the St. Louis school district, which was not “turned around,” and collected $15 million for reorganizing New York City’s school bus routes, with poor results (some children were stranded for long periods of time, waiting for buses on the coldest day of the year).


Before the hurricane, the state created the Recovery School District (in 2003) to take control of failing schools. In 2004, it passed Act 9, which allowed the state to take over schools with an academic score of 60 or less and hand them over to charter operators. After the hurricane, the Legislature passed Act 35, which changed the criteria for takeover and paved the way for the Recovery School District to take charge of most of the city’s public schools. Parents got “choice,” but the new charter schools created their own admissions policies, and most did the choosing.

Prior to Act 35, schools with School Performance Scores below 60 were considered to be in academic crisis. Act 35 raised the threshold score to 87.5, virtually ensuring every school in Orleans Parish would be deemed in academic crisis, and therefore, eligible for takeover by the Recovery District…Act 35 achieved what Governor Davis, Leander Perez, and segregationists failed to do in 1960. Act 35, for all intents and purposes, allowed the State of Louisiana to seize control of the Orleans Parish school district…The takeover of the failing schools within Orleans Parish made the Recovery District the largest school district in the State of Louisiana. Had the threshold for the School Performance Score not been raised in Act 35, the Recovery District would have taken over only 13 schools and had a much reduced presence and influence in public education in New Orleans.

After the hurricane, district officials and Alvarez & Marsal issued a diktat permanently terminating the jobs and benefits of more than 7,500 teachers and other staff.

Sixteen years since Hurricane Katrina and the privatization of public schools in New Orleans, the debate about the consequences continues, as it surely will for many more years.

For those interested in New Orleans, I recommend this book, along with Raynard Sanders’ The Coup d’Etat of the New Orleans Public Schools: Money, Power, and the Illegal Takeover of a Public School System, Kristen Buras’ Charter Schools, Race, and Urban Space: Where the Market Meets Grassroots Resistance. For a favorable view of the charter takeover, read Douglas Harris’s Charter School City: What the End of Traditional Public Schools in New Orleans Means for American Education.



Bob Braun was an education reporter for 50 years. After he retired from the New Jersey Star-Ledger, he began blogging and paid close and critical attention to the state takeover of Newark. This column, posted in 2014, is as timely now as it was when it first appeared.

Let’s get this straight. Those of us opposed to the structural changes to public education embraced by crusaders ranging from the billionaire Koch brothers and the Walton Family Foundation to Bill Clinton and Barack Obama—along with Governor Chris Christie and Microsoft founder Bill Gates—are not opposed to the reform of public schools. We oppose their destruction.

We do not oppose making schools more accountable, equitable and effective—but we do oppose wrecking a 200-year-old institution—public education—that is still successful in New Jersey.

Public schools give students from all backgrounds a common heritage and a chance to compete against privileged kids from private schools. We don’t want schools replaced by the elitists’ dream of privately managed, publicly funded charter schools, which can be money makers for closely aligned for-profit entities.

We oppose eliminating tenure and find laughable the idea embodied in Teach for America (TFA), an organization that recruits new college graduates for short stays in urban schools, that effective classroom instructors can be trained in weeks if they’re eager and want breaks on student loans—breaks that come with TFA participation. We oppose breaking teacher unions, reducing education to the pursuit of better test scores and using test results to fire teachers. We want our teachers to be well trained, experienced, secure, supervised, supported and well paid. We want our kids to graduate from high school more than “college and career ready”—a favorite slogan of the reformers. We want them to graduate knowing garbage when they see it—to understand mortgages, for example, rather than just solving trigonometry problems.

Don’t call it reform, call it hijacking. A radical, top-down change in governance based on a business model championed by billionaires like Eli Broad, the entrepreneur whose foundation underwrites training programs for school leaders, including superintendents—among them, Christopher Cerf, New Jersey’s education commissioner from late 2010 until this past February. The Broad Foundation seeks to apply to public institutions, like schools, the notion of “creative destruction” popularized for businesses by economists Joseph Schumpeter and Clayton Christensen. In a memo forced into public view by New Jersey’s Education Law Center, leaders of the Broad Superintendents Academy wrote that they seek to train leaders willing to “challenge and disrupt the status quo.”

Sorry, but it’s neither clever nor wise to disrupt schools, especially urban schools. Irresponsible, distant billionaires cause unrest in communities like Newark, a place they’ll likely never get closer to than making a plane connection at its airport. These tycoons say they want to improve learning—to narrow the achievement gap between rich and poor, black and white. I don’t buy that. The gap is caused by poverty and racial isolation, not public schools. They want reform that doesn’t raise taxes and won’t end racial segregation. So they promote charter schools that segregate and pay for them with tax funds sucked from public schools. Bruce Baker, a professor at Rutgers Graduate School of Education, calls it “revenue neutral and nonintegrative” reform. What that means, Baker says, is “don’t raise our taxes and don’t let poor black and brown kids access better-resourced suburban schools.”

School reform once meant equity and integration. Now it’s called choice. Not the choice that would allow Newark kids to take a bus 15 minutes to Millburn. Not the choice that would allow the dispersion of disadvantage so the poorest attend the same schools as the most advantaged. It’s choice limited to a district. And choice limited to families who win a lottery for charter-school admission. “We’re letting poor parents fight it out among themselves for scrap—it’s Hunger Games,” says Baker.

Charters segregate. In Newark, where there are 13 charter schools, children with the greatest needs—special education kids, English-language learners, the poorest children—are stranded in asset-starved neighborhood schools. Disadvantage is concentrated, public schools close, and resources shift to charters. In Hoboken, three charter schools educate 31 percent of the city’s children, but enroll 51 percent of all white children and only 6 percent of youngsters eligible for free lunches.

Such skimming of the more able students lets proponents like Christie claim that charters outperform public schools. But charters serve a different population. In his devastating send-up of Newark’s North Star Schools, titled “Deconstructing the Cycle of Reformy Awesomeness,” Baker describes how charters achieve high test scores and graduation rates by shedding underperforming students. Half the kids—including 80 percent of African-American boys—dropped or were pushed out.

Charters are not the solution. “Overall, charters do not outperform comparable public schools and they serve a different population,” says Stan Karp, an editor at Rethinking Schools, an advocacy organization dedicated to sustaining and strengthening public education. He adds, “Nowhere have charters produced a template for district-wide equity and system-wide improvement.”

Many suburbs have resisted charters, but state-run urban districts like Newark cannot. In Newark, Christie joined with then Mayor Cory Booker, a devotee of privatization, to bring in Broad Academy graduates Chris Cerf to be state schools chief and Cami Anderson to be Newark superintendent. They were awarded a pledge of $100 million from Facebook cofounder Mark Zuckerberg to support school reform in Newark.

Suburbs cannot escape other reforms, including federal insistence on relentless, time-consuming annual testing to measure student achievement and teacher performance. While states can opt out of testing, the price in lost federal revenues can be high. Democrats for Education Reform (DFER), a national political action committee, applauds these changes as “bursting the dam” of resistance from unions to test-based evaluation and merit pay.

The coalition of foundations, non-governmental organizations and financial institutions promoting privatization is an opaque, multi-billion dollar, alternative governance structure. They include the Broad and Walton foundations; the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation; the Charter School Growth Fund and the NewSchools Venture Fund (a pair of nonprofit investment operations overseen largely by leaders of for-profit financial firms); the training and support organizations New Leaders for New Schools, the New Teacher Project and America Achieves; as well as the advocacy groups Stand for Children and Education Reform Now.

At its most recent summit of education reformers—including Newark’s Anderson—the NewSchools Venture offered workshops on “How Disruptive Can We Be?” and a seminar on charter schools that was advertised this way: “Charter schools are being brought into the center of reform strategies, not just to provide new options for some students, but to transform an entire public education system, based on a diverse portfolio of autonomous school operators.”

Why is school privatization such a draw for investors? Is it just philanthropy? No, there is also profit to be made from the $650 billion spent annually on public schools. Some charter school operations are profit making, including nearly two-thirds of charter school operators in Michigan and many in Florida—and Christie has been pressing to allow profit-making charters in New Jersey. Salaries for operators of charter school chains can run as high as $500,000 a year. The New Markets Tax Credit, pushed by charter supporter Bill Clinton when he was president, allows lenders to reap higher interest rates. Then there are rents paid by charter schools to charter-related profit-making companies like Newark’s Pink Hula Hoop (started by TEAM Academy board members); legal fees; and the sale of goods and services.

The costs of this movement: urban schools stratified. It’s an apartheid system, with the neediest warehoused in neglected public schools and a few lucky lottery winners in pampered charters. It is stratification on top of a system already stratified by all-white suburban districts and $35,000-plus private schools.

More costs: unconscionable amounts of time, energy and resources devoted to test preparation. The brightest young people, says Baker, will leave teaching to short-stay amateurs rather than endure the unpredictability of evaluations that rate a teacher “irreplaceable” one year and “ineffective” the next.

New Jersey ranks at the top nationwide in educational achievement, reports Education Week. We are second in “chance for success,” third in K-12 achievement and fifth in high school graduation. These statistics include urban schools; if properly funded, they succeed. Look at Elizabeth: good schools, no charters. Christie left it unmolested and provided millions in construction funds kept from other cities—perhaps because the school board endorsed him.

New Jersey is not the basket case Christie says it is. Urban schools are not failure factories. We don’t need a hostile takeover by Wall Street.

Billy Townsend was a school board member in Polk County, Florida. He saw up close and personal how charters were sucking the high-scoring students out of public schools and excluding the students with disabilities. He saw up close and personal how the state’s voucher program was serving as a refuge from high-stakes testing and enabling the restoration of racial segregation. Billy believes, as I do, that if the day ever comes when so-called reformers see the harm they are doing to kids and to our democratic institution of public education, they might repent. Will shame move them more than the pursuit of profit and power? Perhaps we are naive to think it might. But hope springs eternal that even the profiteers and entrepreneurs and shady fly-by-night grifters might someday see the light.

Billy has written a powerful series about the Jeb Crow school industry and how its sole purpose is to destroy public education without helping kids. All of the articles are referenced in this post, the last of the series. He has demonstrated how the voucher schools are highly segregated and low-quality. He refers to the choice schools as “failure factories” but now calls them “Jeb Crow” schools to credit former Governor Jeb Bush for creating the Big Lie that school choice saves children. It doesn’t.

Townsend throws out a challenge to reformers who are sincere, if there are any, about equity and helping kids:

Serious “reformers” — those who actually mean it when they use the moral, racialized language of equity in justifying punitive policies that destroy public education capacity — know today that their entire life’s work is bullshit that failed on its own terms. 

They know it. Every single one of them. Some of them will cry about America’s super awesome graduation rate; but they know that’s manipulated data bullshit, too. Mostly, they’ve just gone silent while think tanks beg to keep getting useless test data and grifters use the language and weaponry “reformers” provided them to demolish public education capacity for everyone. 

The question now: if, when, and how will “reformers” ever break their shamed silence about their failures and decide to help us fix them?

Jeb Crow means wealthier, whiter kids get high capital charters; more vulnerable, less white kids get no capital vouchers; and we kill/privatize public schools altogether.

The grifting and cheating by state education officials is breath-taking. They know that school choice is a cynical ploy to shift money from taxpayers to private corporations. They know that the corporation that handles the voucher funding now has assets of nearly $700 million. They know where power lies in Florida. They know how corrupt the Legislature is. But everyone goes along to get along.

If you read one thing today, read Billy Townsend’s reports on Florida’s massive crime against children and the state’s own future.

You may recall that the Oklahoma State Board of Education recently voted 4-3 to allow charter schools to share in local tax revenues, over the opposition of State Commissioner Joy Hofmeister, who said that the decision might violate state law. You may also recall that the virtual charter school in Oklahoma called EPIC has been embroiled in scandal after scandal (just google “Oklahoma EPIC scandal” and you will get lots of references to allegations of theft, embezzlement, ghost students, etc.). For example, in fall 2020, the state auditor reported that EPIC owes the state $8.9 million for inaccurate reporting, improper transfer of funds, and a multitude of other egregious (you might say “epic”) calculations. That $8.9 million was the tip of a very large iceberg. The state auditor said that about 1 of every 4 dollars that the state paid to EPIC (a total of $458 million) was deposited as profit by the school’s owners. The story is breathtaking.

The Oklahoma Parent Legislative Action Committee (PLAC) posted this on its Facebook page:


Oklahoma PLAC
  Facebook post:

TRANSPARENCY, ACCOUNTABILITY??? 🔎 Where art thou?

We’re wondering why State Board of Education member Jennifer Monies did not recuse herself during last week’s vote to settle a lawsuit that directly benefited another entity of which she serves as board member. She is both plaintiff and defendant in this case yet she still cast a vote. 

“On numerous occasions in the board’s public meetings, Monies has mentioned her service on the board of her son’s school, John Rex Charter Elementary in Oklahoma City, which would stand to benefit from the settlement and which is listed as a member of the Oklahoma Public Charter School Association on the organizations’ website.”

And another tragic Farce

EPIC Charter Schools named Charter School of the Year by Choice Matters