Archives for category: Network for Public Education

As a new year begins, and as a new administration prepares to take charge of the U.S. government, our fight to support and improve public education goes on.

The Network for Public Education is and will continue to be the single largest voluntary group advocating on behalf of public schools. We had humble beginnings, starting with a bank account of a couple of thousand dollars and a board of enthusiastic parents and educators. We now have a full-time executive director (Carol Burris) who is helped by three amazing part-time workers.

We are not like the City Fund, which opened its doors in 2018 with $200 million in the bank (thanks to billionaire John Arnold and billionaire Reed Hastings). The City Fund exists to push high-stakes testing and to destroy community-based, democratically-controlled public schools. It has no members; we have about 350,000 who work with us. The “reformers” have tons of money and malevolent intentions.

Last year, we issued two bombshell reports that showed the failure of the federal Charter Schools Program, which doles out $440 million every year, mostly to corporate charter chains. We discovered and documented–using U.S. Department of Education data–that about 35-40 percent of the federally funded charters either never opened or closed not long after opening. They are the day lilies of American education, and they waste money that should go to support under-resourced public schools.

We published a report about the 1,200 or so charters that double-dipped into CARES funds intended to save small businesses. The charters, whose funding from public sources, never ceased, collected from $1-2 Billion from the Paycheck Protection Program. All of the data are available in public sources, but you have to know where to look to see that some very savvy charters and charter lobbyists cleared huge sums of PPP money (some collected $1 million or more) while public schools each collected only about $134,500.

We will continue to support real public schools, the kind that are publicly accountable to public officials. We will push the Biden administration to regulate or eliminate the federal Charter Schools Program and stop funding failure. We will fight against high-stakes testing and the misuse of standardized tests.

We will demand a suspension of federally mandated testing this spring and turn our energies toward removing the federal mandate for annual testing, which has manifestly failed to provide equity or excellence. We will remind the public that tests do not reduce achievement gaps; they are measures, not remedies. Mainly, they measure family income. Why waste hundreds of millions of dollars measuring family income?

Yes, knowledge is power, and we generate the knowledge you need to fight for public schools as the democratic institution that they are.

We welcome your financial support. Whatever you want to give, we are grateful.

Please donate here.

Whether you can afford $5, $20, $50, $100 or more, please give.

Thanks to the energetic leadership of Marla Kilfoyle, who is former executive director of the BATS, the Network for Public Education has developed a strong grassroots network. Here is her report:

The Network for Public Education 

Grassroots Education Network-November 2020 Newsletter

The NPE Grassroots Education Network is a network of over 155 grassroots organizations nationwide who have joined together to preserve, promote, improve, and strengthen our public schools. If you know of a group that would like to join this powerful network, please go here to sign on. 

If you have any questions about the NPE Grassroots Education Network, please contact Marla Kilfoyle, NPE Grassroots Education Network Liaison, at marlakilfoyle@networkforpubliceducation.org

Notes from Marla

November saw us on the precipice of a historic election.  With the incoming Biden/Harris administration, we hope that we can finally get someone in the USDOE that stands strong for our public schools, our public schools students, and our public school parents. We need a USDOE secretary rooted in equity and a vision that will get our public schools what they need to serve all of our children and families.  With that being said, NPE and our amazing partners launched the Keep Your Promises this month. We congratulate President-elect, Joe Biden, and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, on their historic victory. We look forward to working with them as they fulfill their promised commitment to our nation’s public schools. The promises made during the campaign drew support from public education advocates across the nation. With those promises in mind, we listed the top five K-12 priorities that they should keep at the forefront as they govern. In order to this, we need Pro-Public education leadership in the Department of Education. Let’s make sure that Joe Biden chooses a public education advocate for the next Secretary of Education. We need a leader who rejects corporate reforms, high-stakes testing, and school privatization. It is time to rebuild our public schools. We are encouraging people to please send an email to the Biden team. You can use our letter or create your own.  We make it easy and fast using Action Network.  Go here to send your email today, and please share. 

National Organizing

Network for Public Education President Diane Ravitch and Executive Director Carol Burris wrote a powerful piece in the Washington Post about who education advocates want to see as the next Education Secretary.  NPE also hosted another Conversation with Diane episode this month.  Diane hosted Kevin Welner on November 12th.  They had a great conversation about his new book Potential Grizzlies: Making the Nonsense Bearable and much more. To view that conversation, go here. Defending the Early Years proudly announced that Kisha Reid has joined their advisory board. Kisha has been an early childhood education advocate for years.  She is the founder and director of the Maryland-based Discovery Early Learning Center. Listen to In the Public Interest’s executive director Donald Cohen on Feet to the Fire podcast with James Lardner. Donald spoke about the importance of building trust in public institutions as the new administration ramps up its plans. The Journey for Justice Alliance podcast On The Ground, hosted by Jitu Brown, airs every Monday at 6 PM CST. J4J also released powerful videos from their Town Hall last month. You can see them here, here, and here. Fairtest publishes a newsletter each week about the misuses and flaws of standardized testing. They are a valuable resource and clearinghouse for everything testing and test reform. Fairtest has published a list of test-optional universities and colleges.  Head over to their open Facebook page for updates and their weekly newsletter. Rethinking Schools released the very powerful Teach the Struggle for Voting Rights this month. It is a must-read and share. The Parent Coalition for Student Privacy is a valuable resource for all that is student, parent, and educator privacy.  Check out their website for valuable toolkits on the topic. Parents for Public Schools published a fantastic new article on their blog this month. The article titled Family Involvement vs. Family Engagement: What’s the Difference? Is a must read and share. Parents Across America provides position papers and key documents on their website.  It is a great list to keep handy for advocacy work in your area. Congratulations to The Schott Foundation who received a $2.25 million grant from the Nellie Mae Foundation!  

The Badass Teachers Association (BATs) appears on The Rick Smith Show every Wednesday night.  Head over to this link to access show and date information. Trinational Coalition to Defend Public Education (USA) has a public Facebook group that features information from Canada, Mexico, and the U.S. about how communities are navigating the worldwide COVID crisis. The Ontario (Canada) Secondary School Teachers Federation released a statement on how the Ford government budget fails students, parents, education workers, and teachers. Wear Red for Ed has an active open Facebook page that tracks the Red for Ed movement nationwide. It is also tracking education issues that are surfacing due to the shutdown of our schools. Be sure to check out the Uniting to Save Our Schools (USOS) event tab on their website. This month they held a Zoom meeting on what it means to return safely to school. First Focus Campaign for Children wrote a letter this month to candidates and elected officials asking them to commit to kids. Kinderchat continues to host its popular Twitter chat every Monday night at 9 PM EST. The chats are informative and provide great resources for teaching kindergartners during school closures. Check them out on Twitter at #Kinderchat. Kinderchat also has a fantastic website full of resources. Instituto Nueva Escuela focused on their Montessori Public campaign this month. To learn more about this campaign, visit their Facebook page. Be sure to check out Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood blog Teach Over Tech. The blog features articles from educators, academics, parents, and students, Teach over Tech is a platform for sharing solutions to screen overuse in schools. Topics range from equitable access to high-quality learning, opting out of EdTech, outdoor teaching and learning, to parenting during distance learning, and more. Check it out here.  Equal Opportunity Schools shared and supported, the Coalition of Schools Educating Boys of Color 2020 Fall and Winter series. This month they hosted a Virtual Gathering of Leaders: It’s Time to use Your Influence for the Liberation of School Spaces. Dr. Angela M. Ward led this interactive session on personal and collective decision making. When Public Schools Reopen has launched its new website!  Uniting for Children and Youth (Canada)  hosted a Child Friend Community Conference this month. We will have updates on that in our next newsletter. National Educators United signed onto the network this month. We are honored to do this work with them. To learn more about their work, check out their Twitter feed and their page on Instagram.  If you are an educator, please ask to join their closed Facebook group to help with organizing.  

NPE Grassroots Education Network – State Organizations Support  Public Education

Please use this clearinghouse of information to inform people in the various states about the NPE Grassroots Education Network organizations.  Please encourage people to join them and support their work! Call on family, friends, and colleagues to join the fight to save public education. This section is also a place to get great ideas on organizing and actions. 

Alabama

SOS (Support our Students) was excited to announce that Little Free Libraries would be installed outside every school in Birmingham’s District 2. They asked the public to please help them build the book selection.  

Arizona 

Voices for Education shared information on why Prop 208 was a lifeline for public schools in Arizona. Arizonans for Charter School Accountability update their website frequently about charter corruption across the nation and in Arizona. Save our Schools Arizona hosted a talk this month called Addressing Education & Health Disparities in Latinx & Native American Communities. We will post the archived video in our next newsletter. Arizona Educators United, along with all of the organizations in Arizona, celebrated the passage of Prop 208.  

California

California Educators United shares how labor is rising up to meet the challenges we face in our communities and schools.  Check out all the news on their open Facebook page.The Public Core program, Between Two Teachers, is informative. To view all their archived programs, go here. If you live in the Los Angeles area, or know anyone who does, encourage them to connect with The Association of RAZA Educators.  They hold organizing meetings each month. Check out Bay Area Collective Keeping Privatizers Away from Community Schools (BACKPACS) on Facebook to keep up with all their movements in fighting back the charter lobby in the Bay Area. 

Colorado

Pueblo Education Coalition co-hosted a police-free schools Zoom event late last month with the National Education Policy Center and the CU Research Hub. They have been compiling Pueblo specific data to help guide a discussion on moving toward police-free schools. 

Connecticut

Children Are More Than Test Scores share, and discuss, information about testing in a public Facebook group of 3500 members.  Head over there and join the conversation. 

Re:public Ed informs Connecticut residents about the state, local, and federal education policies that impact teaching and learning. New London Parent Advocates updates their open Facebook page weekly with all that is happening in the New London Public Schools.

Florida

Please go to Facebook and follow  Fund Education NOW, Florida BATs, and Broward BATs to keep up with all that is happening in Florida education. Be sure to give Pastors for Florida Children a follow on Facebook and Twitter to keep up with all their actions and movements. Make sure to check in with the Florida Council of Churches Facebook event tab. They support, promote, and conduct powerful events in the state of Florida. Opt-Out Florida Network continues to fight the use of tests to rank and sort children, and schools. Pinellas Parents Advocating for School Improvements organizes on a private Facebook page. If you know of anyone in the Pinellas area, have them join to connect. Protect Our Public Schools, Manasota believes that free, quality public education is a right for all children and is necessary for the optimal functioning of a democratic society. To keep up with their movements during the COVID-19 crisis, go here

Georgia

If you live in Georgia, or know someone who does, make sure they connect with Public Education Matters Georgia.  Moms and Dads Now Enduring Surrealistic Stupidity (MADNESS) has a vibrant public Facebook group that discusses how education in Georgia is going during the COVID crisis. If you are interested, here is the link to that public group. Opt-Out Georgia organized the opt-out movement in Georgia via a closed Facebook group of over 8,000 members. If you live in Georgia or know someone who does, encourage them to connect with this group. The Georgia Chapter of the National Association for Multicultural Education (NAME) was founded in 1990 to bring together individuals from all academic levels and disciplines and from diverse educational institutions and other organizations, occupations, and communities who had an interest in multicultural education. NAME is committed to a philosophy of inclusion that embraces the basic tenets of democracy and cultural pluralism. To keep up with their movements visit their website

Hawaii

Parents for Public Schools Hawaii shared a powerful audio diary of how Hawaii’s children are weathering the pandemic. 

Illinois

Illinois Raise Your Hand sends brief email newsletters with updates and upcoming events. To read all the updates about LSC Elections and CPS Quarter 2 PreK & cluster programs go here. Illinois Families for Public Schools informed the public that when the amendment to the Illinois Student Online Personal Protection Act goes into effect next July, for the first time schools and ed tech companies will be legally required to notify families when student data is breached. 

Indiana

The Indiana Coalition for Public Education shared a summary of what the Indiana Governor promised public education. Indiana Coalition for Public Schools – Monroe County informed the public that the Indiana Department of Education is seeking public comment on its request to the US Department of Education to waive certain federal requirements pertaining to federal accountability for the 2020-2021 school year. This request is in response to the direct impact of COVID-19 on the ability to produce valid, reliable, and comparable accountability data and results for the 2020-2021 school year. Information on the request is available on IDOE’s website! Public comments should be submitted. The Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education published a powerful essay by Stu Bloom on their open Facebook page. 2020 Medley #25 – It’s Always Been About Relationships is a must read! If you know anyone in Northwest Indiana, have them connect with Northwest Indiana Coalition for Public Education by sending them a message on Facebook. They hold monthly organizing meetings and so much for the children, and public schools, of NW Indiana. 

Iowa

Do you know anyone in Iowa?  If so, make sure they join Iowans for Public Education.  Send them here to join and connect. You can also follow their movements on their open Facebook page .

Kansas

Game On for Kansas Schools exposed dark money involved in their elections. 

Kentucky

Here is the latest Dear JCPS and Kentucky SOS podcast. They cover important topics such as local and statewide election results.  Be sure to give the Pastors for Kentucky Children a follow on Facebook and Twitter to keep up with all of their movements. 

Louisiana

Step Up Louisiana  continues their fight for living wage jobs, sustainable community schools, affordable housing, stopping city worker furloughs, and public defender equity. They are encouraging citizens to submit a public comment on the city budget. Also this month Step Up Louisiana had a Facebook live event called Is School Choice the Real Choice for Public Schools in New Orleans?  You can view that event here

Maryland 

The Baltimore Algebra Project signed onto a petition last month with the Baltimore Movement of Rank and File Educators for Police Free Schools.  

Massachusetts

Citizens for Public Schools continue to advocate for cancelling the MCAS.The New Bedford Coalition to Save our Schools shares a wide array of events happening in their area on their open Facebook page.  Be sure to check it out weekly for new updates. 

Michigan

The Michigan Network for Equity in Education shares up-to-date information about their State Board and local boards addressing COVID and safe workplaces. 

Save Michigan’s Public Schools notified their members who are educators and work in districts where students are virtual, but staff is still being required to report to the buildings to work that the Michigan Occupational Safety & Health Administration (MIOSHA) initiated a “statewide order calling for employers to allow workers to stay home whenever possible” as required by Emergency Rule 5(8). Michigan Parents for Schools discuss, and organize, in a public Facebook group.  If you are from Michigan, or know someone who is, head over there and join the discussion. MI Ed Justice hosted a meet and greet this month to share their goals, work, and upcoming events. Give Trusted Voices ED a follow on Twitter to keep up with their events and issues. 

Minnesota 

Parents for St. Paul Schools continue to work hard to get a charter moratorium passed in their state and city.  Visit their open Facebook page for all the latest.  Minnesota Collective for Educational Equity published a report last month detailing how the overwhelming majority of learning disabilities in MN have been identified using discredited methods. This practice continues to this day and will persist until MN amends 3525.1341.  

Mississippi

Parents for Public Schools – Moss Point continues to support their community with information about storm resources, education, meals, and much more. Parents For 

Public Schools of Greenwood and Leflore County are still hosting Early Childhood Development programs for their community. They have been doing this since March. For more information on their programs, go here. Parents For Public Schools of Philadelphia advocates for children and schools in the Philadelphia Public School District. Make sure you give them a follow on Facebook. Parents For Public Schools of Starkville is a local organization working to strengthen public schools in Starkville. They promote the great work being done in the Starkville Oktibbeha Consolidated School District.

Missouri

Keep up with the Missouri BATs by giving them a follow on twitter. Columbia Parents for Public Schools promotes parent engagement to improve education and build public support for public schools in Columbia. 

Nebraska

Stand for Schools reported on the Nebraska Legislature Education Committee, which seems to be open to allowing privatizers in. Read more hereNebraska Loves Public Schools new film, Standing Up to Covid is out.  

Nevada

Educate Nevada NOW issued a public comment for the Commission On School Funding.

New Hampshire

Barrington Educators Association is the local chapter of the New Hampshire-NEA.  You can view updated work here.  To contact them about issues happening in NH, go here

New Jersey

Save our Schools NJ shared that the Education Law Center (ELC) and the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey (ACLU-NJ) are urging Governor Phil Murphy’s Administration to improve data collection and public reporting on the presence of police in New Jersey schools and the use of public school funding for such purposes.

Be sure to check out the The Newark Students Union events tab on their Facebook page. They post events that students can take part in to have their voices heard. 

Delran Education Association is a local organization committed to ensuring excellence in public education. Give them a follow on Facebook.  If you are a resident of Elizabeth, ask to join the Elizabeth Parents and Students Care closed Facebook group to connect. Montclair Cares About Schools uses its open Facebook page to inform the community about school openings and the COVID crisis. Give Our Children Our Schools a follow on Twitter to keep up with any future events. South Orange-Maplewood Cares About Schools organizes in its closed Facebook group. If you live in this area or know anyone who does, please ask to join the group here. Paterson Education Fund works hard to keep the community informed about Board of Education meetings and food distributions. Go here for more information and share it with anyone you know who lives in Paterson. 

New York

Class Size Matters, New York Allies for Public Education, and the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy are working together this month to survey parents about which online apps or programs are being employed by schools throughout New York state and whether they are sufficiently protective of children’s privacy. LI Opt-Out, the national leader in the Opt-Out movement, has a vibrant public Facebook page. There are important discussions going on about school reopening on Long Island. NYC Opt Out also has a public Facebook group that is currently having important conversations about the reopening of NYC schools. If you live in NYC, go here to connect. The Alliance for Quality Education launched a campaign to tell NYS legislators to support solutions not suspensions this month. Give Change the Stakes a follow on Facebook to keep up with what is happening in NYC education during the COVID crisis. Be sure to check out the NY BATs open Facebook page. They post upcoming events and actions. Keep up with FUSE (New Rochelle Federation of United School Employees) by checking out their news and views. MORE-UFT announced that in collaboration with union leadership and educators within the Movement of Rank and File Educators and Black Lives Matter at Schools NYC Group, the following resolution is being presented at the next UFT delegates assembly. Jackson Heights People for Public Schools supports, and shares, important events for their community and the surrounding area. Parents for Public Schools- Syracuse has been posting important information about special education events in their area. Croton Advocates for Public Education (CAPE) advocates for fair assessments, enrichment opportunities, and funding for their schools. The Port Washington Advocates for Public Education closed Facebook group is a place to connect and organize if you live in Port Washington, NY. North Country Alliance For Public Education works to end the reliance on high stakes testing and to stop the privatization that is taking over their schools. If you live in the North Country of New York, consider joining their closed Facebook group to connect. Visit the Rochester Coalition for Public Education website for all that is happening with Rochester education. 

North Carolina

Public Schools First NC and Wake County hosted a webinar called School Psychologists: Supporting Children In School, At Home, and In Life this month. We will have the archived video in our next newsletter. North Carolina Families for School Testing Reform launched a petition this month to keep High School students safe and waive the end of course (EOC) exams. Neighbors for Better Neighborhoods hosted a Organizers Circle this month with special guest Dr. Valerie Johnson, Dean of Arts, Sciences, and Humanities at Shaw University. Dr. Johnson, who also serves as a Professor of Sociology and as a fierce advocate for HBCUs, joined Neighbors for Better Neighborhoods to discuss how we can make the connection between hot topics in environmental justice and the community. Pastors for North Carolina Children joined the Moravian Board of Cooperative Ministries in a discussion about how churches can get involved in education.  Parents for Public Schools of Pitt County hosted an online chat with  Hope Middle School parents this month. PPS Pitt County continues to host community forums so that parents and the community can share their  experiences with Pitt County Schools. 

Ohio

Ohio BATs organize in a closed Facebook group of over 2000 members.  If you live in Ohio or know someone who does, send them this link to connect. It Takes A Village To Tackle HB70 and It Takes A Village hosted a statewide town hall on the future of public education this month.  Here is the archived video. Northwest Ohio Friends of Public Education shared a powerful piece by Sylvania teacher, Kelly Duwve, TPS Administrator Jim Gault, and Northwestern OEA Exec Director about educating students during the pandemic. Public Education Partners (PEP) are encouraging Ohio citizens to contact the Senate Finance Committee and tell them to bring the Fair School Funding Bill before the full Senate before the end of the year. Parents For Public Schools of Greater Cincinnati post upcoming events on their open Facebook page. 

Oklahoma

Pastors for Oklahoma Kids announced that Gov. Kevin Stitt removed the president of the Statewide Virtual Charter School Board who recently led the initiation of termination proceedings against Epic Charter Schools. To read more on that go here

The Oklahoma Parent Legislative Action Committee serves as an umbrella organization for local PLAC groups and affiliated organizations that advocate for a strong public education system in Oklahoma. If you know anyone who lives in Oklahoma please have them connect with OKPLAC. Oklahoma Parents and Educators for Public Education & Oklahomans for Public Education organize in a private group on Facebook.  If you live in Oklahoma or know someone who does, join up to connect. Oklahoma Teachers – The Time Is Now organizes in a private Facebook group of over 64,000 members. The purpose of the group is to unite all educators in the state of Oklahoma, so they can come together and educate, collaborate, and discuss what options they have moving forward to improve Public Education. If you know any Oklahoma educators, send them to this group to connect. 

Oregon

Community Alliance for Public Education (CAPE) shared a fantastic event in their area called Sacred Breath: Writing and Storytelling by UW Department of American Indian Studies. To learn more, and to keep up with their supported events, go here

Check out Oregon Save Our Schools on Facebook for all the latest in Oregon education. Oregon BATs organizes in a closed Facebook group.  If you are an Oregon teacher or community member, ask to join and connect.

Pennsylvania

The Keystone State Education Coalition publishes a daily PA education policy roundup.  Pennsylvania School Board Association video EDition Chief Advocacy Officer John Callahan and CEO Nathan Mains discussed surprises and implications of the 2020 election results this month. Talks turned to state budget possibilities and what to watch for in the coming weeks. The Pittsburgh Task Force on the Right to Education topic in this month’s webinar was Recommendations for Positive and Effective Parent-School Parenting During Covid 19. If you live in the Pittsburgh area, or know someone who does, share The Pittsburgh Task Force on the Right to Education Facebook link with them to connect. Education Voters PA co hosted 

a webinar this month with the Education Law Center of Pennsylvania and Public Interest Law Center about Pennsylvania’s school funding lawsuit. Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools has been unbelievably busy this month. First they are staying on top of the situation with Renaissance charters schools. To read more about that go here and here. Second, they also have their eyes and ears on the Board of Education. To learn more about that go here

Rhode Island

The Providence Student Union is publishing a new monthly newsletter that is for  youth by youth. Check it out for upcoming programs, events, resources, and more! Want to contribute to the newsletter by sharing an art piece? Your project? Maybe even some free thought? Read on to see how you can share. To keep up with what is happening in Rhode Island, give the Parents Across Rhode Island Facebook page a follow. 

South Carolina

The Quality Education Project is a fantastic group doing great work in South Carolina.  If you know anyone in South Carolina please share this information about their monthly meetings so they can connect. 

Tennessee

The Momma Bears have a great blog full of information about the fight for public education in Tennessee. Check it out here. Make sure to give Tennesseans Reclaiming Educational Excellence (TREE) a follow on Twitter to keep up with all that is going on in Tennessee education. Pastor Ladd, who is a Board chair for Pastors for Tennessee Children, is doing amazing work in Chattanooga, where churches have come together to serve underprivileged children during the pandemic. To read more about Pastor Ladd’s work go here. Tennessee Strong administrator and journalist Andy Spears reported Gov. Bill Lee has selected former State Rep. Bill Dunn to serve in an advisory role to embattled Commissioner of Education Penny Schwinn. Dunn has been a long-time critic of public education and a full time cheerleader for Lee’s voucher scheme.  

Texas

Pastors for Texas Children hosted an election eve conversation on Facebook live. Go here to view that conversation. The Baptist News Global interviewed PTC Executive Director Rev. Charles Foster Johnson. In the interview Rev. Johnson reflected on what he anticipated could happen in a Biden administration. CFISD Community Leadership Committee is a volunteer group of parents, business people, and retirees who believe that having a strong independent school district is important to the economic well-being of the Cypress-Fairbanks community. To keep up with their actions and events, visit their website. The Coalition for Public Schools Texas will be hosting a conversation about Virtual Vouchers next month. To register for this free event, to be held on 12/3, go here. Texas Kids Can’t Wait are advocates for equitable and adequate funding for Texas public schools and for a sane assessment system.They strongly oppose the corporate takeover of public schools. To follow their movements go to their open Facebook page. RootEd publishes a monthly newsletter called The Branch. Go here to view their newsletter from last month. If you know of anyone in the Houston community, please have them connect with Parents For Public Schools of Houston. They post important activities for the Houston community on their open Facebook page. 

Community Voices For Public Education has an open discussion page on Facebook.  To keep up with all that is happening in Texas public education, go here to join in the discussion. Keep up with Our Schools San Antonio on their open Facebook page. 

The Coalition for Equity in Public Education shares information on the elimination of the STARR exam in Texas. Texas AFT reported that in  just over two months, educators, employees, parents, & community members have submitted more than 3,600 reports to their #StopTheSpreadTX COVID-19 tracker.Texas AFT will continue to use these reports and stories in statewide and local fights, and they noted that they appreciate all those who are speaking out and shining a light on the situations at their campuses.

Vermont

Keep up with the The Vermont Coalition for Equity in Education on their open Facebook page and on Twitter. They are a new group, so make sure you give them a follow on both platforms and share their work. 

Virginia

Virginia Educators United conducted a webinar this month on Virginia’s COVID OSHA rules. Virginia BATs took part in a rally this month to protect students and teachers from unsafe school openings. Support Our Schools-Shenandoah County organizes to fight for public education in that region. You can connect here. To learn more about the Virginia Public Education Partners visit their Facebook page or give them a follow on Twitter.  

Washington State

WA BATs has an active Twitter feed full of powerful graphics. Check it out here

Washington Paramount Duty celebrated good news for Washington state public schools. They continue to push the Governor and the state legislature to tax the rich to ensure that students and teachers can recover from this devastating pandemic.

Wisconsin

Wisconsin Public Education Network announced in a press release that the Department of Public Instruction budget proposal provides the support “our kids deserve.” Schools and Communities United are asking parents, guardians, and students to please take a few minutes to fill out a survey and let them know how remote learning is going.Survey results will be shared at a meeting and with Milwaukee Public Schools.Parents for Public Schools Milwaukee shared an article that Wisconsin lags the nation in education spending. To read that article go here

NPE Grassroots Education Network – Resources and Graphics

The NPE Grassroots Education Network has compiled a list of resources to help communities navigate the COVID pandemic.  We created a list of c3 organizations you can donate to help others in need. We have created a space for resources to help educators and parents trying to navigate remote learning. Finally, we are collecting stories highlighting how Public Schools are helping their communities. 

Here is a link to our resources page. It will help you navigate resources covering a variety of topics.  This is a live document and will be updated, so check back for new resources. 

Here is a link to our graphics page. It will provide powerful visuals for you to share on social media. This is a live document and will be updated, so check back for new graphics.

During the campaign, Joe Biden made clear commitments to support community public schools. He promised transparency and accountability for privately managed charter schools, as well as a ban on federal funding for charters operated for profit. He also unequivocally took a stand against standardized testing in a public meeting with hundreds of educators in Pittsburgh. NPE board member Denisha Jones asked him at that time if he would commit to ending standardized testing in the schools. He unequivocally said yes.

The Network for Public Education, joined by dozens of other groups, calls on President-Elect Biden to keep his promises.

To add your group’s name, contact NPE.
https://networkforpubliceducation.org/about-npe/

Senator Gary Peters is in a close race for re-election. He is a strong supporter of public schools. He has shared reports of the Network for Public Education with his colleagues. He needs us. I just sent him a contribution. I hope you will do the same. Gaining the majority in the Senate is crucial. Gary Peters deserves our support.

Four years ago, Donald Trump won Michigan by only a few thousand votes — and immediately, Democrats here got to work. Thanks to a swell of grassroots support, two years later we made massive progress with victories across Michigan.
And now once again, our battleground state of Michigan is in the spotlight as all eyes turn here to re-elect Senator Gary Peters. And this race couldn’t be more important — analysts at CBS News are reporting that Democrats can’t win the Senate majority if we don’t first win here in Michigan.
Here’s the bad news: far-right billionaires like Betsy DeVos’ family are trying to buy Michigan’s Senate seat, and now Gary’s officially been outraised for four of the last five quarters. That’s because the GOP is dumping millions of dollars to try and defeat Gary — and if they succeed, we can say goodbye to the future of the Supreme Court and hello to at least two more years of Mitch McConnell calling the shots in Washington.
Gary is in the final two weeks before Election Day, so he reached out to ask me if I could help him close the gap on his $20,000 goal for today — and right now, we’re still falling $13,582 short. Can you chip in $100 (or whatever you can) to make sure Gary doesn’t get outraised again so we can send him back to the Senate?
If you’ve saved payment info with ActBlue Express, your donation will go through immediately:Click to donate $100Click to donate $200Click to donate $400Or click here to donate another amountIt’s never been more important for us to elect Democrats like Gary Peters who are going to continue fighting the good fight to move Michigan forward. And with control of the Senate and the future of the Supreme Court on the line, we need a fighter like Gary standing up for Michiganders in Washington. So I’m asking one more time — with a recent poll showing Gary down by nearly two points, I’m asking you to donate $100 today to help secure victory for Gary Peters in Michigan to help us win back the Senate.

Sincerely,

Gretchen Whitmer
Governor of Michigan  

Carol Burris interviewed teachers, students and administrators about their experiences returning to school. As you might expect, she encountered a range of reactions.

The Network for Public Education is following 37 districts in New York, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut that reopened — either hybrid or full time. Of the 23 districts that responded to our inquiry regarding remote learners, the average rate of students who opted to not attend in person was 21 percent. Percentages ranged from 6 percent of the school population to 50 percent. Larger percentages of students of color are associated with higher remote rates.




Superintendent Joe Roy said he has been carefully examining patterns among the 25 percent of students whose families chose remote learning in his district in Bethlehem, Pa.
For the most part, they are students from affluent families who have academic supports for learning at home, or conversely, are from the least affluent homes. The families of his district’s students of color, many of whom work in local warehouses, were hit harder by the pandemic and, therefore, are more reticent to send their children back to school.
Roy’s neighboring district, Allentown, where 86 percent of the students are Black or Latinx, decided to go all virtual after a parent survey showed a majority were not ready for in-person learning.

One middle school teacher with whom I spoke, who requested anonymity, said he hopes that the schools open soon. Technology for remote learning has been an issue he told me — from hardware to poor connections.
“We are losing kids,” he said. “Our kindergarten enrollment is much lower than it has been in previous years. Of a class of 19, maybe 17 of my students log on to my early morning class. When I meet them later in the day, 12 or fewer show up. A 6½-hour day on Zoom is brutal. Some are keeping their cameras off, and others don’t respond. Many of my students can’t work independently.”


The challenges of in-person learning


Over half of the 37 districts we are following now bring some or all students back full time. Those schools that are using hybrid typically split students into two small cohorts that share the same teacher. Some bring those cohorts back three days one week and two days the following week. Others bring the cohorts back only two days a week — on consecutive days or staggered days with a fifth day when all stay home.




Although those I spoke with are glad to be back, school is certainly not the same as before the pandemic.

My youngest grandchildren returned to in-person school for only two days last week, and they were ecstatic. The schools did everything that was required—masks, social distancing, hand washing. Who knew that children loved school so much?

Please join me on September 23 at 7 pm EST as I talk with Derek Black about his terrific new book, Schoolhouse Burning: Public Education and the Assault on American Democracy. The discussion is sponsored by the Network for Public Education. Derek Black is a professor of law at the University of South Carolina who specializes in civil rights law. Hos excellent scholarship demonstrates that the Founding Fathers wanted a free and universal public school system for the new nation. Those now attacking it are vandals!

Jeff Bryant warns parents not to be tempted by the advertisements or lures of charter schools.

He cites the report by the Network for Public Education showing that the shelf life of many charter schools is limited, and their futures are uncertain.

The report crunched nearly two decades of data and discovered that more than one in four charter schools closed after just five years. That’s less than the number of years it takes for a typical kindergartner to complete elementary school.

After 10 years, 40% of charter schools were shuttered; after 15 years, that rate rose to about 50%.

And the number of students impacted by charter school closures is considerable. According to the report, from 1999 to 2017, more than 867,000 students were displaced when their charter school closed. That figure is likely closer to 1 million students, if data from charter school closures between 1995 and 1998, as well as 2017 to 2019, were added to the analysis.

Privately managed charters are a market mechanism, like shoe stores and restaurants. Some succeed, some don’t. Buyer, beware.

Laurie Roberts is a columnist for the Arizona Republic who has written frequently about frauds in the charter and voucher sectors. When I was writing Slaying Goliath, I found her reporting and her sharp to be invaluable. She read Carol Burris’s article about the Network for Public Education study of charters that double dipped in two different pots of federal funding, and she thought that their greed was ridiculous.

As Congress considers the next economic stimulus package, it’s worth mentioning that America’s charter schools snagged at least $925 million in emergency funding from the Paycheck Protection Program, according to an analysis by Network for Public Education.

In Arizona, 100 charter school operations bagged anywhere from $40 million to nearly $100 million in emergency funding, the analysis of U.S. Small Business Administration records shows.

That’s a lot of stimulation, economically speaking. Especially when you consider that the losses at publicly funded charter schools are largely a figment of the federal government’s imagination.

Unlike small businesses that saw their operations fall off a cliff when COVID-19 hit, Arizona taxpayers fund Arizona’s charter schools.

Charters already getting state, federal aid

Not only have charter operators received their regular per-student allotments of state money, they are eligible for a share of the hundreds of millions of dollars in CARES Act funding that is being pumped into public schools to cover added costs due to COVID-19 and budget shortfalls.

So, what losses?

The Arizona Charter Schools Association sent me a statement saying charter schools were concerned this spring that the coronavirus would lead to state budget cuts, requiring them to lay off teachers.

“Charter schools have not only faced questions about the uncertainty of the state budget, but also seen steep declines in charitable fundraising and programs such as before-and after-care – which are important revenue sources for our schools and students,” the statement said. “These federal funds have provided financial assistance to eligible recipients, as Congress intended.”

No word on how many of those schools returned the money when those state budget cuts didn’t happen.

Roberts notes that more than 400 charter schools had the decency not to apply for money they didn’t need.

But:

Among the 100 charters that went for the windfall was – surprise! – American Virtual Academy. The management company, which runs Primavera Online School, snagged somewhere between $2 million and $5 million in PPP money.

This is the same company whose CEO, Damian Creamer, managed to pay himself a combined $10.1 million in 2017 and 2018 out of taxpayer money set aside to educate students. Never mind that fewer than a third of his students couldn’t read or do math at grade level or that nearly half were dropping out.

Creamer’s education technology company, StrongMind, also scored a $2 million to $5 million forgivable loan from the PPP program, according to The Arizona Republic’s Lily Altavena. Meanwhile, Verano Learning Partners, which was founded by Creamer and lists the same address as American Virtual and StrongMind, snagged a PPP payout of $150,000 to $350,000.

Carol Burris, executive director of the Network for Public Education, reports on a major NPE investigation of charter schools that double dipped into federal funding for coronavirus relief. The article was posted on Valerie Strauss’s “Answer Sheet” at the Washington Post. First the charters received public funding from the $13.2 billion allocated to public schools as part of the CARES Act. Then, on the advice of charter school lobbyists, many applied for funding from the $660 billion Paycheck Protection Program, for which public schools were not eligible. Charters enroll 6% of the nation’s students.

Valerie Strauss introduces the report:

The Paycheck Protection Program, or PPP, is a $660-billion business loan program established as part of the $2 trillion coronavirus economic stimulus legislation that Congress passed in the spring. PPP was aimed at helping certain small businesses, nonprofit organizations, sole proprietors and others stay in business during the economic downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The U.S. Small Business Administration administered the program, and recently the SBA and the Treasury Department released some data on what organizations won loans from the program and how much they received. (Some loans can be forgiven if the PPP money is spent on keeping employees on the payroll.)

The release of funding details sparked some controversy about whether some of the organizations that received funds should have gotten them, including public charter schools — which are publicly funded but privately operated — and some elite private schools. (A Washington Post database shows the data.)

Charter schools received emergency stimulus money from Congress from the same fund that traditional public schools did — but some charter schools decided to apply for PPP loans as well, saying that they are underfunded through regular funding formulas and had a right to seek more aid. Other charter schools chose not to apply for loans, saying it would be double-dipping in federal aid funds.

Among those charters that did were some that knew they didn’t actually need the money to maintain financial stability. For example, 2KUTV in Salt Lake City did an investigation into Utah charter schools taking PPP funding and found that they took a total of $7.9 million. It reported on a discussion at the June 25 meeting of the governing board of the Utah Military Academy, a charter with two campuses, in which an unidentified board member explained how the $1.15 million in PPP funding that the school was expecting would be spent.

The conversation, heard on audio tapes, went like this, according to the CBS affiliate:

“So we take this money to pay the salaries, and the money we were going to pay salaries is going to go into our accounts to help flush up our funds,” said the board member.
“Can I ask a question?” a female voice said. “My understanding was that this money is for businesses who, because of the drop in business, were having trouble keeping all their employees. How do we qualify for that? Because our funding wasn’t cut at all.”
She also notes that no employees have been laid off by the school because of the covid-19 pandemic. Two more voices interject, “We’re a business,” and, “We’re a nonprofit.” A third voice is heard saying, “It’s some of that good free government money!”

With that, here is the post about just how much charter schools did get in PPP money, written by Carol Burris, executive director of the Network for Public Education, an alliance of organizations that advocates for the improvement of public education. Burris, a former award-winning principal in New York, has been chronicling the charter school movement and the standardized-test-based accountability movement on this blog for years.

Here is Burris’s report:

On May 13, Washington Post reporter Perry Stein reported that some Washington, D.C., charter schools had been receiving funds from the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), although all of their taxpayer revenue continued to flow. By June 15, The New York Times’s Erica L. Green also wrote a story about how charter schools, some of which had billionaire backers, had been applying for and getting PPP money. Before long, local news agencies picked up on the story, questioning why schools that received public funding were tapping into the SBA program.

Unknown at the time was the national scope of the use of PPP funds by charters. Therefore, the Network for Public Education decided to scour the list of PPP recipients disclosed by the SBA and create lists by state of the charter schools and their management organizations that had received funding.

The amount that we have identified is staggering. More than 1,300 charter schools and their nonprofit or for-profits and management companies secured between $925 million and $2.2 billion through the PPP. We provide a range not from uncertainty but because the SBA chose not to report the exact amounts of the forgivable loans.
Even this range is an underestimate. Excluded from our calculations is the sizable number of PPP loans below $150,000 — which the Trump administration has not disclosed. You can find our state-by-state list of charter schools and charter management organizations, along with each school’s PPP range amounts on our website here.
Background

The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools informed its members via email in March that it had successfully lobbied for charter schools to receive PPP funds and provided instructions on how such funding could be obtained. The blog that contained the contents of that email has been removed, however, you can find it in the Internet archives here. Not only did the charter school alliance encourage its members to apply, but the organization itself received its own PPP forgivable loan in the range of $350,000 and $1 million.

Because the laws regarding charter transparency vary from state to state, prior to the publication of the SBA list we could only obtain information about PPP loans by reading charter school minutes, if they were posted. In some cases, we were able to listen to available recordings of meetings. From that limited information, a disturbing pattern emerged.

Well-funded charters with ample funding were applying for and receiving large PPP awards. A discussion of the governing board of California’s Summit Public Schools was particularly insightful. Not only did the school’s chief executive officer report that the schools were in good fiscal standing, the only major concern of the board, in addition to public relations, was whether or not they would find themselves under criminal investigation if they took the funds and it was then discovered that Summit did not need the money.

When the SBA finally released the PPP data, a nonprofit research and policy organization group called In the Public Interest, and the nonprofit grassroots advocacy group Parents United for Public Schools, analyzed charter school recipients in the state of California. Meanwhile, Carol Burris, Marla Kilfoyle and Darcie Cimarusti of the Network for Public Education concentrated on the other 49 states and the District of Columbia. Professor Gary Miron of Western Michigan University provided a national list of for-profit and nonprofit charter management organizations, which we checked against the PPP database as well. Because some organizations did not list themselves as nonprofits but rather as corporations, and some charter schools have nonprofits with names different from the name of the school, it is likely we missed a sizable number of grantees.

What we found

California has the most charter schools in the nation — approximately 1,300. Even so, its charter sector received a disproportionately large amount of PPP funding, which may be as high as half a -billion dollars.
More than 400 charter organizations received loan money totaling between $240.7 million and $565.6 million. In the Public Interest has created a searchable database of the California charters that received PPP loans, available here. Two-thirds of these charters are affiliated with “CMO’s,” or “charter management organizations,” such as Learn4Life and Magnolia Public Schools, large chains with campuses statewide. Inspire Schools, whose founder and former chief executive officer has recently drawn criticism for receiving more than $1 million in retroactively authorized payroll, took as much as $29.7 million in PPP funding. This home-schooling charter network was expelled last fall from the California Charter Schools Association, an organization that typically unabashedly defends its members.

In Los Angeles County — where the Los Angeles Unified School District has more charter schools than any other school system in the country — according to In the Public Interest, charters received as much as $201 million. San Diego County charters received as much as $91 million.

The New York State charter sector received between $126 million and $293.2 million — even as local businesses were going belly up due to a lack of revenue during the high point of the covid-19 pandemic in that state.
While New York public school districts may have felt the pain of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D) decision to not distribute federal CARES Act funding to schools and use it to fill the state’s budget hole instead, 146 of the 327 charter schools had that blow cushioned by PPP. For example, six of the eight New Vision Charter High Schools received PPP funding, which totaled at the high end of the range to $10 million. In addition, the New Visions charter management organization that manages the schools received its own PPP funding in an amount between $2 million and $5 million.

Beside California and New York, two other states’ charter sectors received high-end range PPP funding in excess of $100 million: Florida, at $152.8 million, and Louisiana, at $107.4 million. The charter sectors in three other states received up to $80 million or more: Arizona, $99.4 million; Pennsylvania, $85 million; and Texas $81.1 million. Again, readers can find state totals along with school names and funding ranges here.

National charter chains cash in

Learn4Life is a charter school chain claiming 80 campuses in California enrolling nearly 40,000 students. It is expanding to North Carolina, South Carolina and Texas. Its schools are often storefronts in malls where over-aged or at-risk students pick up work to independently complete. On-site teachers provide support if needed.
According to In the Public Interest, Learn4Life schools received as much as $51.7 million in PPP funds — more than the total amount received by the entire charter sectors in the majority of states. Last June, a judge ordered the chain to close three of its San Diego County locations after school districts said they were operating illegally within their boundaries. Later that year, a Voice of San Diego investigation revealed that John Helgeson, a Learn4Life executive vice president, was collecting two paychecks paid with public money. In a scheme described as “a classic conflict interest,” Helgeson owned a for-profit company that loaned money and leased corporate office space to Learn4Life while he worked for the chain.

At a glance, Learn4Life seems too big to apply for a PPP loan. But like Shake Shack and other corporations with multiple locations, Learn4Life’s leaders took advantage of the chain’s structure to apply school by school, while also applying for their central management organization.

Learn4Life was hardly alone. Twenty-one organizations related to the KIPP charter chain have in total received an amount at the high end of the range, $68.7 million, more than the high end of the charter sector in 42 states.

The for-profit charter management organization Academica runs charter schools in seven states. Its home office is located in Florida, where the company manages scores of charter schools down the east coast of the state from Fort Pierce to Homestead. Academica also has a presence in Arizona, California, Nevada, South Carolina, Texas and Utah. Academica Management, L.L.C, Academica West, and Academica Virtual Education, which the EMO uses to support online schooling, received PPP funding as did 15 of the schools it manages and supports. High-range amounts for Academica and its schools produce a total of $35.7 million.

Small charter management organizations jumped in as well. Phillips Education Partners, located in Newark, New Jersey, got between $150,000 and $350,000. It runs two charter schools. One of those two schools, Phillips Academy of Patterson, also received PPP in the same amount — $150,00-$350,000 — as the charter management organization. Miguel Brito, the chief executive officer of Phillips Education Partners, received total compensation in 2017 of $410,205. Meanwhile, the average salary for New Jersey school superintendents in 2017-18, was $155,631, according to an NJ Advance Media analysis of state data.

Authentic need or money grab?

The board of Palisades Charter High School near Los Angeles voted in June to accept $4.6 million in PPP funding despite admitting that they didn’t have an immediate need for the money. Yet, earlier this month, they voted to lay off five staff members, including a tutoring center coordinator, and reduce the hours of 18 other employees.

Palisades was not alone. In all of the minutes we read, and recordings we listened to, charter school boards reported ample fund balances and justified taking the money because future funding was uncertain. During a meeting of the Utah Military Academy, one board member described taking PPP funds as follows: “So we take this money to pay the salaries, and the money we were going to pay salaries is going to go into our accounts to help flush up our funds.”

However, preparing for possible uncertainties or “flushing up funds” was not the purpose of the program. We are aware of no other sector funded nearly exclusively by the taxpayers that received PPP.

This begs the questions about whether charter schools should have been allowed to access PPP money, and whether harm was caused by allowing them to do so.

Charter schools have received the same continuity of funding as district-run neighborhood public schools during the pandemic. Eligible charter schools — those schools with large numbers of low-income students —have also received federal CARES Act funding, as well as other state-based covid-19 relief. While receiving this funding that was intended to support public schools, charter schools are now also receiving funding that was intended for small businesses and nonprofits whose revenue streams were drastically impacted by the pandemic.
Granted, charter schools are not alone among nonprofits in taking funding just because they can. We found 17 nonprofit organizations that support charter schools (or advocated for charters receiving PPP funding) receiving that funding themselves — in total receiving between $6.3 and $14.8 million. For example, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a school reform think tank, is also an authorizer of charter schools in Ohio. It received between $350,000 and $1 million in PPP funding despite its initial endowment of $50 million. In 2018, the organization ended the year with a fund balance of $8 million. Readers can find a list of these charter support organizations and the amounts they received here.

And now to the question of harm. By taking PPP when not needed, systemic inequities increased. The PPP has been widely criticized as being difficult to access for many small businesses, particularly those owned by people of color.

A survey conducted in May of 500 black and Latinx small-business owners found that just 12 percent of those who had applied had received the funds they asked for, with nearly 50 percent anticipating having to permanently close in the next six months. A recent study by the National Community Reinvestment Coalition found “different levels of encouragement to apply for loans, different products offered, and different information provided by bank representatives.”

Certainly, there are other nonprofit and for-profit organizations beyond the charter school world that took covid-19 money just because they could. Although eligible via our nonprofit status, the Network for Public Education did not apply for PPP funds. We encourage other nonprofit organizations that were able to meet payroll without the funding to return those funds, making them available to the small businesses that never received them or that may need a second infusion of cash.

As to the funding supplied to charter schools, we suggest that as states distribute the next round of funding to schools, that allocations to charter schools that received PPP be reduced by the amount they received and be redistributed equitably to all schools, both public and charter.

Do you wonder which businesses, schools, and nonprofits in your neighborhood or state got a piece of the hundreds of billions of dollars handed out by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in the Paycheck Protection Program? He tried to keep the names of the recipients secret but eventually released the list.

Now you can easily review the list.

ProPublica put all the awards into a search engine which anyone can use. Here it is.

You can satisfy your curiosity about who got the money. I looked at my zip code and was shocked to see some very wealthy institutions listed as well as some local businesses who probably thought they won the grand prize in the lottery. Those on the know cashed in. Many worthy small businesses and colleges never applied. They were not in the know.

Would you like to do some volunteer work for the Network for Public Education? We would love to have your help identifying the charter schools in your state that received PPP money.

Public schools were not eligible to participate in the PPP, but charter lobbyists made sure that charter schools were. Thus, they got money designated for public schools, and they went back to get more money as small nonprofit businesses.

NPE is developing a spread sheet for every state but we don’t have the staff to review all of them. If you would like to help, please contact Darcie Cimarusti, our Communications Director, who is coordinating the project.

You would need to go through your state’s list of grantees and identify the charter schools and how much each one received.

If you want to help, contact Darcie and she can answer your questions. Dcimarusti@networkforpubliceducation.org