Archives for category: Hoax

Jennifer Berkshire and I interviewed Charles Siler about his inside knowledge of the privatization movement.

Jennifer is co-author of the important new book (with Jack Schneider) called A Wolf at the Schoolhouse Door.

As you will learn in the interview, Charles was brought up in a conservative environment. He studied at George Mason University in the Koch-funded economics department (you can read about it in Nancy MacLean’s excellent book Democracy in Chains, which I reviewed in The New York Review of Books). He worked for the Goldwater Institute and lobbied for ALEC and other billionaire-funded privatization groups.

At some point, he realized he was on the wrong side, promoting ideas that would do harm, not good. He wanted to do good.

He said unequivocally that the goal of the privatizers is to destroy public education. They promote charter schools and vouchers to destroy public education.

He explains that school privatization is only one part of a much broader assault on the public sector. The end game is to privatize everything: police, firefighters, roads, parks, whatever is now public, and turn it into a for-profit enterprise. He predicted that as vouchers become universal, the funding of them will not increase. It might even diminish. Parents will have to dig into their pockets to pay for what used to be a public service, free of charge.

Charles is currently helping Save Our Schools Arizona.

In 2018, voters in Palm Beach County, Florida, were asked to decide on a referendum to raise property taxes for the “operational needs of district non-charter schools.” That is, for public schools, not charter schools. After the measure passed, two charter schools in the district sued for their “share” of the revenues. The case went to an appeals court which ruled 2-1 against the charters. Then it went to the full court of appeals, which ruled 7-4 that the charter schools were entitled to a share of the money.

The opinion also said that the wording in the ballot measure that prevented charter schools from receiving money was “severable” — essentially meaning that it can be disregarded — and that the rest of the referendum could remain in “full force and effect.”“Severing and striking the ‘non-charter’ limitation from the 2018 referendum still accomplishes the 2018 referendum’s intent to generate additional revenue ‘to fund school safety equipment, hire additional school police and mental health professionals, fund arts, music, physical education, career and choice program teachers, and improve teacher pay.’ The only difference is that a portion of those funds must be shared with charter schools,” said the 17-page majority opinion shared by Chief Judge Spencer Levine and Judges Dorian Damoorgian, Burton Conner, Alan Forst, Mark Klingensmith, Jeffrey Kuntz and Edward Artau.

But dissenting judges lambasted the majority for deciding that the referendum could remain in effect and for deciding to take up the case en banc.They argued, in part, that allowing the referendum to remain in effect violates the will of voters, who thought they were casting ballots on a measure that would exclude funding for charter schools. Judge Robert Gross described it as an act of “judicial hocus pocus.”

“Rather than taking that principled approach and acknowledging the only proper remedy is the referendum’s invalidation, the majority has instead rewritten the referendum and pulled a bait-and-switch upon the voters of Palm Beach County,” Gross wrote in a dissent joined by Judges Martha Warner and Melanie May. “By judicial fiat, the majority has imposed a levy for the benefit of charter schools that the voters never approved ‘by local referendum or in a general election’ as required (by a section of state law).”

In a separate dissent, Judge Cory Ciklin pointed to the majority “ignoring the will of 528,089 Palm Beach County voters who participated in a countywide election. Not this court nor the School Board nor the charter schools can legally agree to severing and striking the non-charter limitation from the 2018 referendum as if the sanctity of voter intent is of no concern and one that can be blithely cast aside as nothing more than an unimportant annoyance.”

The voters thought that the ballot explicitly excluded the charter schools from the taxes they were willing to increase. The court decided otherwise.

As Judge Gross said in his dissent, this is a classic case of “bait and switch.”

During the pandemic, most schools turned to remote learning as a matter of necessity. Some in the education biz think that the pandemic has created a new market for their products. Actually, most parents and students are eager for real schools with real teachers to open again. Contrary to popular myth, teachers too want schools to reopen, as soon as they are safe for staff and students.

Historian Victoria E.M. Cain of Northeastern University has written an engaging account of the hype associated with new technology in the classroom. It is a tool, it should be used appropriately, but it is not a replacement for teachers.

She writes:

The lessons for today’s enthusiasts are clear. It is wise to be humble about the possibilities of classroom technology. No one would deny that technology can provide invaluable tools to improve learning. (What teacher today would not want to have classroom access to the internet?) Too often, though, instead of being seen as a tool to help schools, new technology has been embraced as a silver-bullet solution to daunting educational crises. In desperate times, desperate leaders have clutched at overblown promises, investing in unproven ideas without demanding reasonable evidence of efficacy. 

In the current pandemic, it might be tempting for education leaders to hope that if only we can find the right balance of learning management systems, home Wi-Fi access, and teacher training, we can continue to provide the same education we always have, virus or no virus. But it is not that easy, and it never has been.  

If we have learned anything from the past two centuries, it is this: New technologies provide assistance, not solutions. Whether it was Lancasterian school buildings in the 19th century, television in the 20th, or Zoom classrooms today, new technology will not solve our problems on its own. In the past, overhasty investment has wasted millions of dollars. Perhaps more pernicious, it has given well-meaning reformers false confidence that they have taken care of the issue. It is far better to take an approach that might not be popular or simple, one that acknowledges the scope of the crisis and the variety of solutions we will need to address it. We need to avoid the temptation to grasp too quickly at a single technological response. 

Wise counsel. Hope and hoax are both four-letter words that start with the same two letters. Hype is also a four-letter word.

The Education Law Center has developed an excellent presentation on the shortchanging of public education in the years since 20008. The great majority of states did not keep up with the costs of educating their children. Only a handful did: Wyoming, Alaska, Illinois, Connecticut. The rest saw a sharp drop in their effort to fund the education of their children.

The two absolutely worst states, as judged by their failed effort to fund their schools, were Arizona and Florida, followed by Michigan. It is not coincidence that these are states that have put their efforts into choice, as a substitute for funding.

The report from ELC begins:

In the decade following the Great Recession, students across the U.S. lost nearly $600 billion from the states’ disinvestment in their public schools. Data from 2008-2018 show that, if states had simply maintained their fiscal effort in PK-12 education at pre-Recession levels, public schools would have had over half a trillion dollars more in state and local revenue to provide teachers, support staff and other resources essential for student achievement. Further, that lost revenue could have significantly improved opportunity and outcomes for students, especially in the nation’s poorest districts.

The states dramatically reduced their investment in public education in response to the 2007 Great Recession. Yet as economies rebounded, states failed to restore those investments. As our analysis shows, while states’ economic activity — measured as Gross Domestic Product (GDP) — recovered, state and local revenues for public schools lagged far behind in many states.

This “lost decade” of state disinvestment has put public schools in an extremely vulnerable position as the nation confronts the coronavirus pandemic. Once again, state budgets are strained by declining revenues. And once again, school districts across the country are bracing for state aid cuts and the potential for reduced local support.

This report builds on our Making the Grade analysis of the condition of public school funding in the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Instead of a one-year snapshot, this report provides a longitudinal analysis of the effort made by states from 2008 to 2018 to fund their public education systems. We measure that effort using an index that calculates elementary and secondary education revenue as a percentage of each state’s economic activity or GDP.

A key goal of this report is to give advocates data and information to use in their efforts to press governors and state legislatures not to make another round of devastating “pandemic cuts” to already underfunded public schools.

Open the report to see where YOUR state ranks in its effort to educate its students.

Arizona and Florida are the two most shameful states in their neglect of the future of their children.

In the Public Interest is a nonpartisan organization that protects the public interest and has a special focus on the dangers of privatization.

Here is its latest report on charter schools:

Welcome to Cashing in on Kids, an email newsletter for people fed up with the privatization of America’s public schools—produced by In the Public Interest.

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Democratic charter school advocates are starting to help elect Republicans. Author and host of the Have You Heard podcast Jennifer Berkshire pointed out a noteworthy trend in the ever-shifting partisan dynamics of public school privatization. “Well-heeled Democratic charter advocates [are] spending big to elect Republicans.” This includes cofounder of Netflix Reed Hastings, a longtime charter school backer. Twitter

This pairs well with journalist Rebecca Klein’s breakdown of how state governments are carrying former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’s torch as they consider school voucher programs. HuffPost

Now the rest of the news…

“Enabling theft and fraud” in Los Angeles. Carl Peterson documents how the Los Angeles Unifed School District continues to take away building space from public school students to give to charter schools, with past due bills totaling $1.9 million. Patch

Charter school founder gets a year in prison. The founder of a defunct charter school in St. Louis, Missouri, has been sentenced to 366 days in prison and ordered to repay nearly $2.4 million in state funding obtained by falsifying student attendance. St. Louis Post-Dispatch

“Charter schools invaded our neighborhoods without public input.” A group of parents, teachers, and educators in East Los Angeles detail how their neighborhoods have become saturated with charter schools to the detriment of public schools. Age of Awareness

And here’s this week’s opportunity to connect…

The Coalition for Community Schools and Institute for Educational Leadership is hosting a coalition town hall on racial equity in the “community school” model. Join February 23, 2021 2:00 – 3:00 PM ET. Coalition for Community Schools

Randall Balmer is one of Iowa’s most accomplished sons. After growing up in Iowa and attending its public schools, he went on to success as a historian, author, and professor, now at Dartmouth College. In addition to writing award-winning books about religion, he wrote a biography of President Jimmy Carter and won an Emmy for a three-part PBS series on the Evangelical church.

He wrote a compelling editorial warning Iowans against the Republicans’ plans to introduce a sweeping choice plan, which will divert students and funding from community public schools. He called school choice a “mirage.”

He began with plain truths:

As a graduate of Iowa public schools, I was saddened to read about the governor’s “school choice” proposal. Public education is one of our nation’s best ideas, and the persistent attempts on the part of politicians to undermine it with the misleading rhetoric of “choice” represents a real threat to the future of democracy.

The Republicans who control the North Carolina legislature want to divert public funds to religious and private schools. This outright theft of public funds is cynically called a bill for “equity and opportunity,” although it will increase racial segregation, undermine equity, and subsidize students to attend schools of lesser quality than public schools.

At what point do these thieves of public money reveal their true motives and stop stealing the egalitarian language of public education? There is nothing egalitarian about their scheme to take money from public schools and transfer it to low-quality religious schools. Some of these schools will use racist textbooks. Some will exclude students whose parents are gay. Some will be attached to churches that teach snake-handling. Few will have certified teachers or meet any state standards. North Carolina Republicans don’t care about the future of their state. They prefer to subsidize low-quality schools instead of improving their public schools.


Kris Nordstrom of NC Policy Watch wrote this description of the legislation. It was shared with me by Public Schools First North Carolina:

HB32 would make five changes to the Opportunity Scholarship program:

1.     No prior public school enrollment requirement for entering second graders: Under current law, first-time voucher recipients had to previously been enrolled in a public school unless they are entering kindergarten or first grade. Under H32, applicants entering second grade would not have to have been previously enrolled in a public school. As a result, more vouchers will be provided to students who were already enrolled in a private school.

2.     Increase value of the voucher: Since its inception in FY 2014-15, the Opportunity Scholarship voucher has been capped at $4,200. Under HB32, the maximum voucher amount would be set to “70 percent of the average State per pupil allocation in the prior fiscal year.” The average state per pupil allocation is currently $6,586, implying a maximum voucher of more than $4,610 if, as proposed, this goes into effect for vouchers awarded in the 2022-23 school year. The maximum voucher value would then be bumped up to 80% of the average State per pupil allocation in the 2023-24 school year and beyond. This would permit vouchers of up to $5,269, given current state spending levels.

3.     Loosening of prior public school enrollment requirement in grades 3-12: HB32 would allow students entering grades 3-12 to also be eligible for a voucher even if they’re already enrolled in a private school, so long as they were in a public school in the preceding semester. For example, if a student started their school year in a public school, but transferred to a private school for the spring semester, they would still be eligible for a voucher in the subsequent school year. This change would first apply to vouchers awarded in the 2022-23 school year.

4.     Diversion of funds to marketing efforts: Since inception, the Opportunity Scholarship program has been overfunded. HB32 would divert $500,000 worth of unused funds to “a nonprofit corporation representing parents and families” to market the program in an effort to juice up demand. There are few (if any) organizations that would qualify for these funds beyond Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina. It is probably just a coincidence that PEFNC provided HB32 sponsor Rep. Hugh Blackwell with an all-expenses paid trip to Miami in 2012.

5.     Increase of administration funding. Under current law, the NC State Education Assistance Authority  may retain $1.5 million for administrating the Opportunity Scholarship program. Under HB32, they would be allowed to use up to 2.5% of appropriated funds. That equates to $2.1 million for FY 2021-22, rising to $3.6 million by FY 2027-28.

The bill also amends the state’s two other voucher programs: the Disabilities Grant voucher and Personal Education Savings Accounts vouchers.

The Disabilities Grant is a traditional voucher covering up to $8,000 per year for students with disabilities. Funds can be used for school tuition, as well as for related expenses such as therapy, tutoring and educational technology.

Under the Personal Education Savings Accounts, parents of qualifying children receive a debit card loaded with $9,000 to be spent on a wide range of education-related expenses.

HB32 makes the following changes:

1.     Merges the two programs and changes the name. The combined program would be called Personal Education Student Accounts.

2.     Expands eligibility. Currently, students must have an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) to qualify for either program. Under HB32, eligibility would also be extended to students with 504 plans, which broadens the allowable disabilities. Students would also be eligible even if they are already enrolled in college, so long as they are taking less than 12 credits per year.

3.     Different awards and carry-forward rules. If a student is affected by autism, hearing impairment, moderate or severe intellectual or developmental disability, multiple, permanent orthopedic impairments, or visual impairment, they qualify for a higher award amount and may carry-forward up to $4,500 of unspent funds to the next fiscal year. These students will get $17,000 on their debit cards. Other disabled students’ awards are based on a percentage of per-student funding provided in the prior year. Based on 2020-21 funding levels, the award would be $9,549. These students would not be permitted to carry forward unspent funds.

4.     Eligibility verification relaxed. Currently the State Education Assistance Authority is required to verify eligibility of 6% of applicants each year. That requirement would be removed under HB32.

5.     Additional skimming of funds by financial companies. HB32 would permit the charging of “transaction or merchant fees” of up to 2.5% of all spending.

6.     Forward-funds the program and creates guaranteed funding increases through FY 2031-32. Under HB32, appropriations for Personal Education Savings Accounts would be made to a reserve account to forward-fund vouchers in the subsequent fiscal year. Additionally, funding would increase $1 million annually through FY 2031-32, increasing total funding by 62%. Voucher programs are the only education programs with guaranteed funding increases beyond FY 2021-22.

Finally, the bill would permit county governments to contribute to either of the voucher programs. Counties would be able to appropriate up to $1,000 per every child in the county who receives a voucher and attends a private school in the county. These funds would be used to increase the size of student vouchers rather than increase the number of vouchers awarded.

Fiscal impact of Opportunity Scholarship changes

If HB32 becomes law, it would be the second consecutive year of rapid expansion of the Opportunity Scholarship program to divert additional state funding to students who were already planning to go to a private school. During the 2020 legislative session, the General Assembly expanded the program’s income eligibility requirements and removed limits on awards to students entering Kindergarten and first grade. These changes are expected to cost the state approximately $272 million over the next 10 years.

The changes proposed under H3B2 would add $159 million to these costs over the next nine years.

New Hampshire has a Republican Governor, Chris Sununu, who appointed the state Commissioner of Education, Frank Edelblut. The commissioner home-schooled his children. He hates public schools and would like to defund them. If you thought Betsy DeVos was bad because of her zeal for privatization, Edelblut is far worse.

At the first public hearing about Edelblut’s radical voucher plan, public turnout was huge and onerwhelmingly opposed to the destruction of public schools.

Members of the public registered resounding opposition to HB 20, a bill that would create a universal school voucher program, at a public hearing on Tuesday afternoon. Due to the unprecedented and historic turnout, with 85% of it in opposition, the House Education Committee recessed and will continue the hearing on Thursday, Feb. 11, to hear from all 131 people who had signed up to speak at the virtual hearing, and they are accepting additional registrations to testify for those who have not signed up already. 

About 30 people — including parents, educators, lawmakers, experts, and one student — testified over the course of four hours, and another 3,800 signed on to indicate their position on the bill: 600 in favor, 3,198 in opposition and five testifying as neutral, or not taking a position.

“That’s more than we’ve experienced in bills in the time I’ve been in the house,” Committee Chair Rick Ladd (R-Haverhill) said of the turnout. He has set aside the entire day on Thursday, February 11, for testimony, saying, “that’s the only way we’re going to get through this.” They’re expecting another record turnout on that day, and have said that they’re already receiving a flood of emails on the bill...

“This bill provides absolutely no oversight or accountability,” said Deborah Nelson, a Hanover resident and parent of grown children. “This bill almost certainly dismantles public education in New Hampshire, and I fear it opens us to ridicule. … it should be called the Dismantling Public Education Bill.” 

Vouchers won’t help kids who need it the most, said Monica Henson, interim superintendent for SAU 44 (Northwood, Nottingham, and Strafford). “The truth is that these accounts are subsidies to affluent families.”

Having regained control of the legislature, Republicans have made vouchers their top priority.


CONCORD
 — Proponents and opponents of “education freedom accounts” Tuesday debated if the bill would benefit students or special interests, and if it would provide greater educational opportunities or be an invitation to commit fraud.

A multi-hour public hearing before the House Education Committee drew testimony from as far away as Arizona and as close as Manchester as both sides turned out in force to make their case for or against House Bill 20, a priority of the Republican legislative leadership.

3,198 people signed in to oppose HB 20 while 600 people signed in support and five signed in as neutral. Due to high turn out, the hearing was recessed and will resume next Thursday, February 11.

The bill has the backing of Department of Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut, and Gov. Chris Sununu supports education choice or vouchers.

Many parents of students with special needs or disabilities supported the bill saying it would provide the flexibility to best suit their children’s needs, but educators and others said it would seriously jeopardize public education and drive up already high property taxes in property poor school districts with high poverty levels.

No one mentioned that students who enroll in private voucher schools abandon their federal IDEA rights and protection.

Others said the bill would allow the use of taxpayer dollars without any accountability or state oversight, taking that money away from public education, which needs more state money not less.“House Bill 20 undermines the public school system,” said Rep. Mary Heath, D-Manchester, who is also a former deputy education commissioner. “I am deeply troubled by the fact it takes money from our public schools when we already have a source of revenue for children through the scholarship program.”

That program is funded by business tax credits for companies and interest and dividends tax credits for individuals and is capped at $1 million a year.Heath said the voucher proposal would place an unconscionable burden on taxpayers.

Edelblut recently did a financial analysis indicating the cost to state and local property taxpayers would be minimal and would give school districts a three-year window to adjust their budgets to the loss of state aid when students leave public schools.

In his analysis, Edelblut claims it will save state taxpayers about $360 million to $390 million over 10 years by lowering public school costs.

He touted the program in light of the pandemic and its effect on children, but committee member Rep. David Luneau, D-Hopkinton, who chaired the Education Funding Commission which met last year, questioned what the program would do to help students who underperform in property poor districts, which the commission found to be the biggest driver of educational inequity.

Edelblut claimed the bill would close the performance gap between students from higher income families and low-income families, but Luneau disagreed.

Voucher studies have never reported a single instance where vouchers closed the gap between poor and rich kids. Typically, the students who leave public school to take vouchers lose ground compared to their peers in public schools.

Edelblut is either ignorant or lying.

The Constitution of the state of Florida bans the transfer of public funds to religious schools or any religious institution. The ban is unequivocal. It says: “No revenue of the state or any political subdivision or agency thereof shall ever be taken from the public treasury directly or indirectly in aid of any church, sect, or religious denomination or in aid of any sectarian institution.”

In 2012, the state voted on a referendum to permit vouchers for religious schools. The proposed Amendment 8 was misleadingly called “the Religious Freedom Amendment.” Voters turned it down by 55%-45%.

Despite the explicit language of the State Constitution, despite the defeated state referendum, despite the body of research that shows that voucher schools are mostly inferior to public schools, despite the number of religious schools that openly discriminate in admissions and that use textbooks that are racist and sexist, Florida’s Republican governors and legislature have steadily expanded its multiple voucher programs, which currently sends about $1 billion to mostly religious schools. These schools are not subject to the same standards and accountability as public and charter schools. Now Florida legislators want to combine its several voucher programs and expand them.

If you live in Florida, say no to this degradation of public education and waste of public funds.

From: Network for Public Education Action <carol@npeaction.org>
Date: Tue, Feb 2, 2021 at 8:16 AM
Subject: [test] Urgent: Stop the Florida Mega-Voucher Bill Today
To: <burriscarol@gmail.com>

Florida SB 48  merges and expands the multiple voucher programs that already exist into two large programs.

If passed, this bill would also reduce the frequency of audits to detect fraud from every year to once every three years, increase the yearly growth rate of voucher programs, and via ESAs, expand the use of public funds for parents to “shop” for private schools or homeschool services.

Here is what to do.

1. Pick up the phone today and call:(Sample Script) My name is (name). Please tell Senator (name) that I strongly oppose SB 48. I support public education. SB 48 is one more attempt to fund private schools and destroy our public school system. 

Chair, Sen. Joe Gruters (850) 487-5023gruters.joe.web@flsenate.govTwitter: @JoeGruters 
Vice Chair, Sen. Shevrin Jones (850) 487-5035jones.shevrin.web@flsenate.govTwitter: @ShevrinJones
Senator Lori Berman(850) 487-5031berman.lori.web@flsenate.govTwitter: @loriberman 
Senator Jennifer Bradley (850) 487-5005bradley.jennifer.web@flsenate.govTwitter: @jenn_bradley 
Senator Doug Broxson(850) 487-5001broxson.doug.web@flsenate.govTwitter: @DougBroxson
Senator Travis Hutson(850) 487-5007hutson.travis.web@flsenate.govTwitter: @TravisJHutson 
Senator Kathleen Passidomo(850) 487-5028passidomo.kathleen.web@flsenate.govTwitter: @Kathleen4SWFL 
Senator Tina Polsky (850) 487-5029polsky.tina.web@flsenate.govTwitter: @TinaPolsky 
Senator Perry Thurston, Jr (850) 487-5033thurston.perry.web@flsenate.govTwitter: @PerryThurstonJr2.

Get on Twitter and tweet: Don’t destroy Florida public schools. #SayNotoSB48  @PerryThurstonJr @TinaPolsky @Kathleen4SWFL @TravisJHutson @DougBroxson @jenn_bradley @loriberman @ShevrinJones @JoeGruters @NPEaction @pastors4flkids Stop the mega-voucher bill. I love Florida Public Schools. Stop defunding them. #SayNotoSB48  @PerryThurstonJr @TinaPolsky @Kathleen4SWFL @TravisJHutson @DougBroxson @jenn_bradley @loriberman @ShevrinJones @JoeGruters @NPEaction @pastors4flkids Stop the mega-voucher bill. #SayNotoSB48 that outsources Florida’s $1 billion voucher program to private organizations for profit.. @PerryThurstonJr @TinaPolsky @Kathleen4SWFL @TravisJHutson @DougBroxson @jenn_bradley @loriberman @ShevrinJones @JoeGruters @NPEaction @pastors4flkids 

3. Send an email to the senators above, using the email addresses under their names (click the address and cut and paste text below):
I oppose SB 48 because it contains no standards, no transparency, and only tri-annual accountability. It gives to the few while ignoring the needs of the many children in public schools. Please vote to oppose SB 48.

Don’t wait. Thanks

 

Carol Burris, Executive DirectorDonations to NPE Action (a 501(c)(4)) are not tax deductible, but they are needed to lobby and educate the public about the issues and candidates we support.
Please make a donation today.Sent via ActionNetwork.org. To update your email address, change your name or address, or to stop receiving emails from Network for Public Education Action, please click here.

A few days ago, I published a list of states that are considering new legislation to defund their public schools while expanding the corporate charter sector and increasing the funding of vouchers for failing religious schools.

One state was inexplicably left off that list of infamy: North Carolina.

A bill has been filed in that state peppered with words like “equity” and “opportunity,” a typical ruse to divert attention from the main purpose of the bill: privatization of public funds and defunding of public schools.

Republicans in the North Carolina General Assembly want more public money to flow to unregulated and unaccountable private and religious schools, which are free to use any curriculum they want, free to hire unqualified teachers, free to kick out or exclude students they don’t want, for any reason. Such schools are not subject to federal regulations securing the civil rights of their students. They are not subject to the state’s accountability system that applies to public schools. They are free to discriminate against students they don’t want.