Archives for category: Funding

Stephen Dyer was in the Ohio legislature when the state’s Edchoice voucher program started as a small initiative. Since then, it has grown, despite research showing that it provides no education benefit to students while taking money away from public schools.

In this post, he announces the launch of a program to educate the public about how vouchers harm their public schools. Every dollar allotted to a voucher school is a dollar less for public schools.

As districts face huge budget cuts in the coming school years, it behooves them to defend every dollar they can so their students have all they need to succeed. That’s why the folks at Real Choice Ohio, which fought for years to help districts cope with charter school losses to great success, have started a series of workshops to help districts educate and inform parents nd their communities about the dangers of the EdChoice vouchers to their kids and other kids’ futures.

The first pillar of these conferences deals with the overall problem facing districts and the kids theiy serve. I am helping to lead this pillar, complete with Power Point presentations and I will be moderating an all-star panel on the EdChoice and voucher problem next week.

Open the post to learn how to sign up.

Politico Morning Education reports that states are divided about whether to take Betsy DeVos’ advice and distribute federal funds based on enrollment, not need. This is her way of sending federal money to private schools, including elite private schools. She has been rebuked by both Republican leaders like Lamar Alexander and Democrats including Patty Murray and Bobby Scott. DeVos is not backing down and is trying to find a way of mandating her wishes, despite Congressional objections.

STATES PUSH BACK AGAINST STEERING CORONAVIRUS FUNDS TO PRIVATE SCHOOLS: Despite DeVos’ call to allow private school kids access to coronavirus stimulus funds, Republican-led states like Oklahoma, Mississippi and Indiana are refusing to, and so are Maine, Washington, Pennsylvania, New Mexico and Wisconsin.

— DeVos told states that they should steer a greater share of their coronavirus relief to private school students than would be usual under federal education law. She issued a policy that directed school districts to base the allocation on total enrollment in the private schools, rather than poverty levels, and could issue a rule in the next few weeks to get states to abide by it.

— Ten states say they will go along with DeVos, including Tennessee and Texas. Some states told POLITICO they’re trying to decide what to do or playing it safe by temporarily setting aside the additional money that would go to private school kids.

— Education departments in Missouri, Arizona, Connecticut, California, South Carolina, New York, Oregon and D.C. are still reviewing the guidance. Meanwhile, officials in Colorado, Illinois and Ohio are advising districts to calculate the equitable share based on students in poverty, but to set aside the difference in funding, as DeVos recommended.

Sara Roos reviews the spending of hundreds of millions of dollars by Los Angeles School Superintendent Austin Beutner, who was given authority without accountability during the pandemic. She explains where the money went by referring to the school board’s documents.

She writes:

The Superintendent who now controls purse, policy and process, was appointed with a tenuous mandate, by a school board elected under an avalanche of ideological school-privatization money. That board unethically extending the tenure of its slim majority just long enough to appoint this Superintendent by failing to censure its swing board member charged with felonious campaign fraud. What priorities does the former investment banker Superintendent Austin Beutner’s emergency spending reveal?
Given this extraordinary freedom from accountability, what did Beutner do? SaraRoos explains.

She shows how Beutner has used the crisis to outsource crucial functions to private management. She even names the vendors who profited.

The Network for Public Education is gathering data on charter schools that applied for and received federal funding as small businesses. Most prefer not to admit what they have done, but diligent citizens can request copies of the minutes of their board meetings.

NPE’s Marla Kilfoyle has been diligently collecting the names and the amounts that charter schools have received from the SBA PPP loans. It has not been easy because charters do not want to admit they are taking these funds.

Will you lend Marla a hand? Check the board minutes of your local charter schools during April and May and see if the charter Board approved applying for and accepting PPP funds. If you find any, send the name of the school, amount and a link to the board minutes.

Just click on her email address to generate an email:
marlakilfoyle@networkforpubliceducation.org.

Under its CEO Tom Torkelsen, the charter chain IDEA experienced explosive growth, dramatic success in winning nearly $200 million in federal funds from Betsy DeVos and the federal Charter Schools Program, but multiple scandals involving lavish spending on personal perks, like a lease on a private jet, first-class travel, and box seats at sporting events.

Torkelsen announced his resignation in April, and the board has agreed to give him severance pay of $900,000. Just like a public school superintendent, right?

A few days ago, Carol Burris and Marla Kilfoyle of the Network for Public Education wrote an article in Valerie Strauss’s “Answer Sheet” about the charter schools that are claiming federal funds designated for small businesses, thwarting the intention of the legislators. Public schools are not eligible for the PPP relief funds, but—presto chango—the money-hungry charters decided they are not public schools after all, they are really small businesses. Next week, they will again claim to be public schools, not small businesses.

Congress created the Payroll Protection Plan to aid small businesses that were at risk of bankruptcy because of losing all their revenue. For many of these small businesses, a federal grant of $25,000-$50,000 would enable them to survive the shutdown. Think of the restaurants, toy stores, stationery shops, barber shops, hair dressers, shoe stores, florists, that will never open again. They did not get federal aid. But some greedy charter schools have taken advantage of PPP, collecting hundreds of thousands of dollars even though they have not lost a penny of revenue.

It’s not easy to identify the charter schools that took money that was supposed to go to endangered small businesses. They must know it’s wrong, because they try to hide their windfall.

For taking money that should have gone to small businesses, for pretending to be small businesses, for hypocritically claiming to be public schools while applying for funding as small businesses, I place these charter operators on the blog’s Wall of Shame.

Carol Burris continues to learn about charter schools that applied for and received federal PPP funding, despite their lack of need. She writes about them here:

Americans were outraged when big companies with more than 500 employees cashed in on PPP loans intended to help small businesses. For example, the Washington Post reported that various hotel companies all chaired by Republican donor Monty Bennett submitted more than 100 filings to seek $126 million. By creating individual filings, they were able to get around the 500 employee cap. The hotel chain got $76 million in the end.

Now it appears that the Mastery Charter chain is using the same tactic to cash in on payment protection plan loans (PPP) loans.

Each school in the chain has its own board; however all are under the direction of one CEO, Scott Gordon, who received a 2017 salary in excess of $300,000.

According to the Mastery website, the chain has over 1700 employees. What, then, does the Mastery charter chain do? It has each of its individual schools apply for a PPP loan.

See for yourself by reading their board minutes here and here. Notice each charter school in the chain, with the exception of the Camden school, is having its own board meeting at the same group meeting at the same time. And every one of the schools in the chain is applying for the SBA PPP funding.

Meanwhile, the unemployment system of the state of Pennsylvania is crashing from the flood of claims. And Mastery Charter Schools are still amply funded by federal, state and local tax dollars, as well as receiving public school funding in the CARES Act.

Mastery likes to call itself a public school district. So why is it seeking advantage with PPP loans at the expense of Philadelphia’s small businesses that have no revenue stream at all?

Every state is facing financial catastrophe because of the economic consequences of the pandemic. Jan Resseger argues that Congress must pass legislation to avert draconian cuts to education, public health, and other vital public services. The states are facing a national crisis not of their making, and a responsible Congress would promptly enact fiscal relief. Under Mitch McConnel, we do not have a responsible Congress.

Resseger begins:

There is plenty of confirmation from the experts about the 50 states’ desperate need for additional federal relief dollars for school districts to open public schools next fall. Without immediate help from Congress, state budget cuts will diminish educational opportunity especially for the school districts that serve our nation’s poorest children. We must not take for granted that public schools will be able to provide the same programs for our children as they did before what promises to be a deep recession. The pending school funding crisis—across all 50 states—has received scanty coverage in the press, which has paid more attention to whether, how, and when schools can reopen. Here are the grim fiscal realities.

On May 15, the House passed a new federal relief program—the HEROES Act (Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act), but the U.S. Senate went on a Memorial Day Recess prior to even taking up the bill. Education Week‘s Evie Blad reports: “The HEROES Act would create a $90 billion ‘state fiscal stabilization fund’ for the U.S. Department of Education to support K-12 and higher education. About 65 percent of that fund—or roughly $58 billion—would go through states to local school districts. The bill would also provide $1 billion to shore up state and local government budgets that have been hard hit by declining tax revenues as businesses closed to slow the spread of the virus.”

The HEROES Act passed by the House on May 15 is far from perfect. The New York Times Editorial Board explains: “The Democratic-led House passed a $3 trillion relief package on May 15. That bill was imperfect but it was something. Mr. McConnell, on the other hand, has repeatedly said he’s in no hurry for the Senate to offer its own proposal. He has put talks on an indefinite pause, saying he wants to see how the economy responds to previous relief measures. The Senate may get around to putting together a plan when it reconvenes next month. Or perhaps it will be in July.”

School districts cannot plan for essential staff like teachers, counselors, nurses, social workers, and librarians when their state budget allocations are being reduced right now before the fiscal year ends on June 30—with more state budget cuts projected moving into next fiscal year. The director of state policy research for the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Michael Leachman explains: “As economic projections worsen, so do the likely state budget shortfalls from COVID-19’s economic fallout. We now project shortfalls of $765 billion over three years…. States must balance their budgets every year, even in recessions… The coronavirus relief bill that the House passed on May 15, the HEROES Act, includes substantial state and local fiscal relief… States will need aid of this magnitude to avoid extensive layoffs of teachers, health care workers, and first responders….”

The Economic Policy Institute’s Josh Bivens rejects Mitch McConnell’s argument that Congress should wait and see about the need for additional federal stimulus dollars: “Congress is currently debating a new relief and recovery package—the HEROES Act—that would deliver significant amounts of fiscal aid to state and local governments—more than $1 trillion over the next two years, all told. This is a very welcome proposal. The incredibly steep recession we’re currently in is guaranteed to torpedo state and local governments’ ability to collect revenue. Further, nearly all of these governments are tightly constrained—both by law as well as by genuine economic constraints—from taking on large amounts of debt to maintain spending in the face of this downward shock to their revenues… Recent justifications for denying aid to state and local governments sometimes rest on claims that this spending has been profligate in recent years. This is absolutely not so—growth in state and local spending has been historically slow for nearly two decades. Given the importance of what this spending focuses on (education, health care, public order), this decades-long disinvestment should be reversed, not accelerated due to an unforeseen economic crisis.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Betsy DeVos has been rebuked by Congress, even by Republican Senator Lamar Alexander, but she refuses to back down from her plan to force states and school districts to share emergency funding with private schools, even elite private schools.

Erica L. Green writes in the New York Times:

WASHINGTON — Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, defiant amid criticism that she is using the coronavirus to pursue a long-sought agenda, said she would force public school districts to spend a large portion of federal rescue funding on private school students, regardless of income.

Ms. DeVos announced the measure in a letter to the Council of Chief State School Officers, which represents state education chiefs, defending her position on how education funding from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act, should be spent.

“The CARES Act is a special, pandemic-related appropriation to benefit all American students, teachers and families,” she wrote in the letter on Friday. “There is nothing in the act suggesting Congress intended to discriminate between children based on public or nonpublic school attendance, as you seem to do. The virus affects everyone.”

A range of education officials say Ms. DeVos’s guidance would divert millions of dollars from disadvantaged students and force districts starved of tax revenues during an economic crisis to support even the wealthiest private schools. The association representing the nation’s schools superintendents told districts to ignore the guidance, and at least two states — Indiana and Maine — said they would.

Los Angeles is trying to figure out how to reopen its schools, safely but with no assurance about how they will pay for the changes.

Sixteen students to a class. One-way hallways. Students lunch at their desks. Children could get one ball to play with — alone. Masks are required. A staggered school day brings on new schedules to juggle.

These campus scenarios could play out based on new Los Angeles County school reopening guidelines released Wednesday. This planning document will affect 2 million students and their families as educators undertake a challenge forced on them by the coronavirus crisis: fundamentally redesigning the traditional school day.

The safe reopening of schools in California and throughout the nation compels the reimagining — or abandoning — of long-held traditions and goals of the American school day, where play time, socialization and hands-on support have long been essential to the learning equation in everything from science labs and team sports to recess and group work.

The Los Angeles County Office of Education guidelines offer an early top-to-bottom glimpse at the massive and costly changes that will be required to reboot campuses serving students from preschool through 12th grade, critical to reopening California. The 45-page framework was developed through the work of county staffers, outside advisors and representatives from 23 county school systems, each of which must develop its own reopening plan….

When campuses closed in mid-March, school systems scrambled to develop a new style of education on the fly — one that relied on “distance learning.” Administrators quickly handed out computers and internet hot spots. Teachers trained on Zoom and other online platforms. Parents oversaw learning at home, even as they faced economic hardship.

Despite these Herculean efforts, school leaders and teachers report uneven student engagement and impediments to learning at home, underscoring the importance of an academically robust return to campus — even as the governor’s proposed budget envisions a cut for schools of about 10%.