Archives for category: Hoax

Domingo Morel is a professor of political science at Rutgers University who has studied school takeovers across the nation. He is the author of Takeover: Race, Education, and American Democracy. 

In this post, he describes the proposed state takeover of the Houston Independent School District as a hoax. 

It is a manufactured crisis. It is a theft of political power, and it is based on race.

If the state of Texas had its way, the state would be in the process of taking overthe Houston Independent School District.

But a judge temporarily blocked the takeover on Jan. 8, with the issue now set to be decided at a trial in June.

The ruling temporarily spares Houston’s public school system from joining a list of over 100 school districts in the nation that have experienced similar state takeovers during the past 30 years.

The list includes New York City, Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia, Detroit, New Orleans, Baltimore, Oakland and Newark. Houston is the largest school district in Texas and the seventh largest in the U.S.

While the state of Texas claims the planned takeover is about school improvement, my research on state takeovers of school districts suggests that the Houston takeover, like others, is influenced by racism and political power.

States fail to deliver

State governments have used takeovers since the late 1980s to intervene in school districts they have identified as in need of improvement. While state administrations promise that takeovers will improve school systems, 30 years of evidence shows that state takeovers do not meet the states’ promised expectations. For instance, a recent report called Michigan’s 15-year management of the Detroit schools a “costly mistake” because the takeover was not able to address the school system’s major challenges, which included adequately funding the school district.

But while the takeovers don’t deliver promised results, as I show in my book, they do have significant negative political and economic consequences for communities, which overwhelmingly are communities of color. These negative consequences often include the removal of locally elected school boards. They also involve decreases in teachers and staff and the loss of local control of schools.

Despite the highly problematic history of state takeovers, states have justified the takeovers on the grounds that the entire school district is in need of improvement. However, this is not the case for the Houston takeover because by the state’s own standards, the Houston school system is not failing.

By the state’s own standards, the Houston Independent School District is not failing!

Although the state has given the Houston Independent School District a B rating, it plans to take over the Houston schools because one school, Wheatley High School, has not met state standards for seven years. According to state law, the state can take over a school district or close a school if it fails to meet standards for five years.

The Houston Independent School District has 280 schools. The district serves over 200,000 students. It employs roughly 12,000 teachers. Wheatley High School serves roughly 800 students and has roughly 50 teachers.

So why would a state take over a school district that has earned a B rating from the state? And why base the takeover on the performance of one school that represents fewer than 1% of the district’s student and teaching population?

The takeover is nothing more or less than a bald-faced attempt to strip political power from black and Hispanic communities.

No one believes that software developer Mike Morath (the current state commissioner) has a single idea about how to improve Wheatley or any other school. He has never been a teacher, a principal, or a superintendent. He is there to carry out the rightwing agenda of Governor Gregg Abbott.

Count on it. This is a bald-faced power grab.

During the Clinton administration, Congress enacted a program called EB-5, which promised green cards to foreign investors who put their money into job-creating projects. One of those designated projects for foreign investors was charter schools. Give a lot of money, invest in charter school construction, get a green card.

The middle-men quickly figured out how to make this exchange pay off in profits.

Example: a charter school in North Carolina that won $3 million from foreign investors (six green cards), but has accumulated staggering debt.

The Center for Immigration Studies tells this sordid tale:

We have suggested in the past that the combination of the loosely run charter school movement with the loosely managed EB-5 immigrant investor program shows every sign of being a disaster for everyone involved(students, teachers, and taxpayers) — except for the middlemen.

They usually do just fine, thank you.

We have been following, among others, the case of one specific charter school in the suburbs of Charlotte, N.C., where until recently the state government has been, at the very least, more lax than most states in its supervision of charter schools.

This is a school in which six (probably Chinese) aliens have invested $500,000 each in the hopes of getting a family-sized set of green cards through the Homeland Security-managed EB-5 program. It is the Lakeside Preparatory Academy in Cornelius, N.C., sometimes known as the Lakeside Charter Academy, and as Thunderbird Preparatory Academy, Inc.

Financial Background. The struggling school opened a few years ago with four financial handicaps:

  • As we recorded in some detail, the campus had been sold, and resold and resold, apparently never at arms’ length, among Utah-based firms, some with the same postal address, so that several middlemen made major profits as its paper value moved up from $1.3 million to $9.5 million — despite a real estate assessment, for tax purposes, of $3.3 million (there was also a couple of million dollars worth of remodeling done during this time);
  • Somewhere along the way, the campus’ landlords collected $3 million from the alien investors which helped underwrite the aforementioned profits;
  • There was a falling-out among the middlemen that resulted in the school accepting a $450,000 judgment against it, a sum it had to borrow; and
  • Much of this debt remains, and is subject to a 20 percent interest rate (public school debt rarely exceeds 2 percent or 3 percent).

Bear in mind that the campus is owned by a for-profit entity in Utah, which had the advantage of the EB-5 funding; the school itself, though apparently controlled by the landlord, is a non-profit entity, and receives tax moneys for the education it provides.

In this dismal setting, a recent audit found that the school lost $103,875 in the 2017-2018 school year, and then a loss of $292,463 in the more recent 2018-2019 school year. The most recent loss occurred while the school reported a gross income of $983,091, down from a gross of $1,252,807 the prior year. So the gross was falling and the loss rising. At the end of the last school year, the cumulative loss was $363,471.

The Prospect of Bankruptcy. If one reads the audit carefully — what follows is not stressed anywhere — one finds that during the most recent school year the school paid the Utah landlords only some $23,000 in rent, and that in its current year it is obligated to pay 25 percent of its gross or, if the experience of the most recent year is to continue, $246,522, or about $223,000 more in rent than the previous year, which, if income and expenses remain the same, would suggest a loss in the current year of well over $500,000.

This would mean that the school went from about $100,000 in losses, to about $300,000 in losses the most recent school year, to more than $500,000 in losses for the current year.

Given those prospects, how in the world will the EB-5 investors get their money back?

The True Numbers. What we have reported above reflects the most recent audit by Rives & Associates, a North Carolina CPA firm. Local critics of the audit say that even these grim numbers do not reflect the dire state of the school.

We have a copy of an invoice, for example, that shows that the non-profit school owed the for-profit landlord (Lakeside Charter Holdings LLC) $1,720,503 at the end of the 2018-2019 school year; the date that debt is due is not shown, this debt is about double the school’s entire income for that year, and it apparently is not recorded in this audit. What we do see, on p. 14 of the audit is this, perhaps Delphic, statement: “Some liabilities, including bonds payable and accrued interest, are not due and payable in the current period and therefore are not reported in the funds.”

So, discounting a bit of auditing sleight of hand, the true debt of the school — with about 100 pupils — is well over $2 million!

It may well be in the interest of the landlord, and of the EB-5 middlemen, to seek to hide the true level of the school’s debt.

With all this in mind, EB-5 investors should look carefully at the proposed investments, and they should look at least twice if a charter school is involved.

The EB-5 program calls for 10 new jobs to be created by each $500,000 investment; since charter schools do not create jobs (they just take them away from the public schools), it is hard to agree with the underlying DHS decision to accept any charter school investment as appropriate in the EB-5 program.

One can only hope that the taxpayers will not be forced to bail out this little school.

The following statement was released on New Year’s Day by Community Voices for Public Education, a coalition of parents and students in Houston. As their statement demonstrates, the state takeover is a fraud intended to strip the school district of its elected school board and to replace it with a hand-picked governing board selected by a non-educator who wants to privatize public education.


It is New Years’ Day and public education is on our minds.

Will you make a commitment to fight the immoral, unAmerican and racist takeover of HISD?  Call your elected officials and then bring five friends with you to the January 9 rally opposing this takeover. 

Recently, the Houston Chronicle editorial board used misleading facts and misrepresentation to misinform its readers. The Chronicle seems mission-driven to legitimize the state takeover of HISD no matter the cost to its journalistic integrity or actual facts.

When they do this over three editorials, it is no longer an accident; it is propaganda. 

Here are some examples from the most recent editorials.

HISD at a crossroads: Looming State Takeover: The editorial compared HISD’s 81% graduation rate to Dallas’ 88% and Fort Worth’s 87% leaving the reader with the impression that they were better school districts.  The reality is Fort Worth has a TEA 2019 Accountability Rating of “C”(79) and only 53% of their graduates are college, career or military ready versus HISD’s “B”(88) and 63% graduate readiness. Dallas ISD has a “B” (86) rating and only 57% of their graduates are college, career or military ready. By the TEA’s own standards HISD is the better district. How did the Houston Chronicle and Mr. Morath manage to come to a completely different conclusion? Didn’t any of them bother to check the Texas Schools website? 

HISD must learn from others and our own past:  This editorial starts with the statistic of 56% of HISD students not meeting grade level expectations as measured by the STAAR test but it never mentions that Dallas ISD has the exact same STAAR performance rating as HISD. Once again, the Chronicle incorrectly leaves readers with the impression that Dallas is a better school district. (Source

HISD needs improvement, but where to start? How could the Chron fail to mention the Superintendent? The person who actually runs the district. The person who hires and places the all important principals. The person who would have to actually implement the LBB recommendations. This piece misleads the reader into thinking the Board of Trustees run the district. They don’t! They are a governing body elected by us and accountable to us. If the state takeover proceeds, our democratically elected school board members, four just elected, will be replaced with a board of managers serving at the pleasure of the governor and the TEA.

A call to all Houstonians to participate: In its final editorial in the series, the Chronicle asks us to put blind faith in TEA Commissioner Mike Morath as our unelected torchbearer. His educational experience is one term as Dallas ISD Trustee in which he unsuccessfully tried to turn Dallas ISD into a “home rule” giant charter using the same tactics he is now employing in Houston ISD. Truly, his resume is thinner than most substitute teachers. 

Throughout the series, the Houston Chronicle disregards overwhelming evidence that state takeovers harm students and communities. They also turn a blind eye to the fact that takeovers have been used disproportionately against school districts of color. Furthermore, they have ignored a preponderance of evidence that high stakes testing is a flawed method for evaluating students, teachers and schools. 

And the series pays the barest lip service to poverty/inequity and the effect on children and families. When seven children share one mattress, they do not need a state takeover to do better in school; they need six more mattresses.

If the Editorial Board wanted to facilitate meaningful change in HISD, their editorials should have been grounded in complete facts and they should have used data to inform, not obfuscate. There is no such thing as problem solving through propaganda.

Community Voices for Public Education


I just opened my email and discovered this brilliant post by Audrey Watters, whose critical voice on EdTech is indispensable.

Watters lists the 100 biggest EdTech debacles of the past decade, and seeing them all in one place is astonishing.

What strikes me is the combination of unadulterated arrogance (i.e., chutzpah), coupled with repeated failures.

What is also impressive are the number of entries that were hailed by the media or by assorted journalists, then slipped quietly down the drain, without impairing the reputation of the huckster who took the money and ran.

Again and again, we encounter EdTech start-ups and innovations that are greeted with wild acclaim and hype, but whose collapse is ignored as the parade moves on to the next overpromised miracle technology.

Whatever happened to the promise that half of all courses in school would be taught online by this year (false) or that most colleges and universities would die because of the rise of the MOOC (false)? Why do virtual charter schools make money even though they have horrible outcomes for students (lies, lies, lies)?

This post is stuffed with flash-in-the-pan technological disruptions that planned to “revolutionize” education, from K-12 through higher education but then tanked.

Please read it. Share it with your friends and colleagues.

Lessons: Learn humility. Believe in the power of human beings, not machines designed to replace them. Don’t let them sell you stuff designed to control the brains, emotions, and social development of students. Be wary. Be skeptical. Protect your privacy and the privacy of children.

Protect your intellectual freedom.

Read Audrey Watters.





John Thompson, historian and retired teacher in Oklahoma, writes here about the use and misuse of NAEP scores to advance disruption in the schools.


A new wave of “misnaepery” is heading towards Oklahoma and other states. After most or all of the corporate reform agenda became law in about 90 percent of states, reading scores dropped so much that even a reform true believer dubbed NAEP as “National Assessment of Educational Stagnation and/or Decline.”

After test-driven, market-driven reform was implemented, from 2013 to 2019, the nation’s 8th grade math scores for African-Americans dropped by five points. But I would argue that 8th grade NAEP reading scores are the most important and reliable metric, and they dropped seven points in six years for African-American 8th graders.

Today, Oklahoma’s 4th grade NAEP reading scores have dropped to four points below the 1990s pre-HB1017 tax increase level. And since accountability-driven, competition-driven reforms were supposed to improve outcomes for our poorest children of color, it is shocking that from 2013 to 2019 black student 8th grade scores dropped 15 points!

Rather than admit their mistakes, reformers have retained their original meme that was used to justify hurried and risky reforms to blow up the education “status quo,” so that “disruptive innovation” can spark “transformative change.”

Two contradictory misnaepery themes are being rushed into the breach by the Fordham Institute. The smiley-faced meme is that teachers and students will naturally rise to meet far more “rigorous” standards. On the other hand, the conservative Fordham Institute has been blaming states like Oklahoma for supposedly hurting student performance by ending high school graduation exams. It is also arguing that we should return to the punitive policies of the former Chief for Change State Superintendent Janet Baressi and retain even more 3rd graders based on reading tests. 

First, ignoring the damage done by their experiments, accountability-driven, competition-driven reformers argue that radically higher testing standards will produce transformative improvements. State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister was a leader in the reaction against Baressi’s privatization agenda, so I can’t be too critical when she has to adopt some policies pushed by Education Next and other “astroturf” think tanks. Rightly or wrongly, she revised the state’s standards and assessments. There are no stakes attached to these metrics, and they allow the State Department of Education to say, “Oklahoma’s new standards [are] one of only 17 ‘A’ grades in the nation, up from the previous rank of 47th and a grade of ‘D.’”

So, for instance, Oklahoma’s 2017 8th grade math tests set a proficiency level which is at the NAEP proficiency level, basically comparable to around a 300 on that rigorous standard. The only groups in the United States were average scores reach that level are white and economically advantaged students in Massachusetts, a state where per capita income is nearly 50 percent greater. Oklahoma’s NAEP scores currently correlate with a level just above Kazakhstan.  Advantaged students in Massachusetts perform at the level of the counterparts on PISA and TMMS in the top performing states and nations, except for South Korea.

Of course, now that we listened to conservative reformers at the Fordham Institute and raised our expectations, Oklahoma students will soon join students at the top of the world’s education systems …

Fordham and other national reformers are also launching a second round misnaepery memes.  The 2015 NAEP was its first test of 4th graders after Oklahoma’s Reading Sufficiency Act required the retention of 3rd graders who don’t pass a reading test. Once Chief for Change Baressi was defeated by a pragmatic Republican, Hofmeister, educators were allowed more judgment in deciding whether to retain students. Until last year, however, little funding was available for interventions to assist struggling readers, much less adequate training and supports for inexperienced and emergency teachers in early elementary grades. (Oklahoma has hired more than 3,000 emergency certified teachers in a year.)

The 2015, 4th grade test scores increased by 2-1/2 percent. A conservative Republican reformer claimed they “were attributed to the 2014 implementation of a law that barred students from being promoted to the fourth grade if they read at lower than a second-grade level.” Those gains disappeared during the next two NAEPs. So, it is argued that more teeth needs to be restored to the retention policy.

But we also need to ask what really prompted the one-year jump in test scores. As in other states, the retention of low-performing readers can provide a temporary boost in NAEP scores. If you add up the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd graders who would have been in 4th grade during 2015, but who were retained, the total comes to about 9,000. Before the RSA, the more typical number of retentions was about 4,000. That means that about 5,000 more of the lowest performing students were missing from the 2015 4th grade class of about 47,000. The retention of more than 10 percent of the tested class could explain the one-time test score boost. As those students subsequently entered 4th grade, test scores dropped back to normative levels.

And what happened to that year’s economically disadvantaged students when they took 8th grade tests in 2019? Their scores were down by 2-½ percent in comparison to their 2015 8th grade peers.

Who knows what will be Fordham’s next misnaepery-driven attack on public education. After all, they were one of the think tanks who argued that the No Child Left Behind Act, which was enacted in 2002 deserved credit for the NAEP gains of the late-1990s! And now it is proclaiming an “Agincourt-level disaster” is the result of weakening NCLB accountability. The thing we know is that the Fordham spin will be picked up, amplified, and used by rightwing lobbyists throughout the nation to slander public schools.

Parent activist Lynn Davenport posted this warning about a “public-private partnership” that leaves out the public. Corporate interests are plotting to privatize public schools while hiding behind the facade of the “portfolio model,” a term used to deceive the public of Grand Theft Public Schools.

Davenport writes:

The new oil in Midland is student data. The Midland Collective Impact initiative under Educate Texas was launched in October 2015. I’ve written extensively on what “collective impact” really means and how there’s no “public” in public-private partnerships. Although Educate Texas concluded its work with the initiative in April 2017, Educate Midland continues with the collective impact framework which is one giant data grab. Key Midland funders include the Abell-Hanger Foundation, Scharbauer Foundation and Henry Foundation. Scharbauer Foundation wrote a letter to the TEA endorsing the Transformation Zone grant and Abell-Hanger Foundation piloted an outcome measurement system.

What data did Educate Midland and MISD give to them? Do parents have to consent to the data being collected for use by foundations? As a charter operator governing partner does the Educate Midland board have access to academic and behavior data of children to be used for “educational research.”

The “portofolio model” allows appointed boards to govern public schools with taxpayer funds. Article VII of the Texas Constitution makes provision for public free education. If we replace elected trustees with appointed boards, that is taxation without representation. Once our voice is removed, we will likely never get it back.

To read more about the scandalous effort to privatize the public schools in Midland, read Lynn Davenport’s additional report here. 



Justin Parmenter, an NBCT teacher in North Carolina, explains in this article why Democratic Governor Roy Cooper vetoed a pay raise for educators passed by the ultra-conservative state legislature. 

He begins:

Asheville City Schools full-time instructional assistant Angel Redmond is in her 4th year with the school system and her 21st year in education. Angel has a degree in psychology, and her duties include teaching math and reading to small groups, handling discipline issues, proctoring standardized tests, and substitute teaching when needed. Her current salary is just $22,000 per year, which means that she has to put in 15 hours a week at her second job in order to make ends meet.

Under a General Assembly plan for educator pay which was vetoed last week by Gov. Roy Cooper, Angel would have seen an increase of only $18.26 per month. That’s enough for roughly half a tank of gas.

Cooper’s veto of the poorly-named “Strengthening Educators’ Pay Act” came at the request of public school educators and advocates. On the surface it might seem like a peculiar move for a governor who has vowed to bring much-needed improvements to public education in our state, and Senate leader Phil Berger wasted no time framing Cooper as an enemy of teachers.

However, the legislation would have provided little more than table scraps from a General Assembly majority that has consistently underfunded public education and deprived our schools of billions in potential revenue via massive tax rate cuts since taking control of the House and Senate nearly a decade ago.

Under the bill, teachers with 0-15 years experience would not have received any raise this year. Teachers with 16-20 years would see only $50 more a month before taxes. Teachers from 21-24 years of experience would get $150 more a month, while our most dedicated veterans with 25 years or higher would have salaries raised $60 a month.  For school year 2020-21, teachers with 0-15 years would again get nothing, and teachers with 16 years or more would all get another $50 a month.

These measly raises were promised, not funded.

Governor Cooper was right to veto what amounted to an insult, not a pay raise.

Teachers deserve a living wage. Teachers deserve to be paid as valued professionals.



W. J. Gumbert left the following comment about the state takeover of Houston, based on the low test scores of one high school. For the uninitiated, Governor Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick hate public schools. John Arnold is a billionaire who made his money as an energy trader at Enron and now campaigns against public sector pensions and in favor of charter schools.

Gumbert writes:

Let’s remember that charters close their low performing campuses enrolling economically disadvantaged students to circumvent accountability. Wheatley HS is 93.8% economically disadvantaged, 78.9% “at-risk”, 20.5% special education and student mobility is 28.5%. Wheatley would be evaluated under the “alternative academic accountability standards if it was operated by a charter. Regardless, TEA assigned HISD an academic accountability rating of 88.

At the same time as HISD’s takeover, TEA has approved the following charters, operated by appointed boards, to expand despite operating campuses with a lower rating than Wheatley HS:

KIPP Texas – 4 campuses rated 46-54
International Leadership of Texas – 3 campuses rated 45-58
Harmony Science Academy (Waco) – 51
Jubilee Academies – 3 campuses rated 50-51
Great Hearts – 56

The takeover of HISD is SOLELY to allow TEA, Abbott, Lt. Dan and crew to implement the largest portfolio of privately operated charters in the nation. It is not a coincidence that John and Laura Arnold reside in Houston, have funded the expansion of the portfolio model and are funding IDEA’s expansion in Houston. It is time for everyone that cares about kids and democracy to take a stand!!!!!

Foxconn is the giant Taiwanese tech company that manufactures electronic products for major tech companies around the world. They are known for poor working conditions and long hours, also for employee suicides on the job. When Scott Walker was governor of Wisconsin, his great coup (or so he thought) was to woo Foxconn to open five “innovation centers” in the state. This was supposed to create jobs. Foxconn won billions in tax breaks and incentives. That was 2017. But not a single innovation center has opened, and according to this article, none is on track to open. While Walker made grandiose plans for Foxconn, he cut the budgets of schools and universities, which is the usual place to spur innovation.

Looks like he was hoaxed.

Electronics manufacturer Foxconn’s promised Wisconsin “innovation centers,” which are to employ hundreds of people in the state if they ever get built, are officially on hold after spending months empty and unused, as the company focuses on meeting revised deadlines on the LCD factory it promised would now open by next year. The news, reported earlier today by Wisconsin Public Radio, is another inexplicable twist in the nearly two-year train wreck that is Foxconn’s US manufacturing plans.

The company originally promised five so-called innovation centers throughout the state would that employ as many as 100 to 200 people each in high-skilled jobs, with the Milwaukee center promising as many as 500. Those jobs were to complement the more than 13,000 jobs Foxconn said its initial Wisconsin electronics manufacturing factory would bring to the US, in exchange for billions in tax breaks and incentives that Governor Scott Walker granted the company back in 2017.

Suppose you are trying to decide who to vote for in your local school board election. You get a flyer in the mail from a group called “Public School Allies.” It lists three candidates. You vote for them.

Surprise! You were hoaxed!

“Public School Allies” is a billionaire-funded front that intervenes in local elections to support charter schools! 

Matt Barnum reports in Chalkbeat:

The political arm of The City Fund, the organization with ambitions to spread charter schools and the “portfolio model” of school reform across the country, plans to spend $15 million to influence state and local elections over the next three years.

That political group, known as Public School Allies, has already directed money toward to school board races in Atlanta, Camden, Newark, and St. Louis, and  state elections in Louisiana, Georgia, and New Jersey. Donations have ranged from $1 million to as little as $1,500.

The information was shared by Public School Allies and, in a number of cases, confirmed by campaign finance records. The $15 million comes from Netflix founder Reed Hastings and former hedge-fund manager John Arnold, the organization said.

In other word, this is a fraudulent organization that selected a name intended to deceive voters. They advocate for closing schools with low test scores and giving them to charters.

They are not “allies” of public schools. They are allies of privatization.

Their use of deceptive language is an open admission that they know the public wants real public schools, not privately managed charters.

Why are they ashamed to call themselves “Friends of Charter Schools?”