Archives for category: Ohio

Carol Burris, executive director of the Network for Public Education, wrote a stunning expose of for-profit charter operators in Ohio. It was published in Valerie Strauss’s blog The Answer Sheet.

Burris writes:

Buckeye Preparatory Academy opened its doors in September 2014, promising “rigorous academic standards” for the 117 students who enrolled. It was started by the for-profit management charter company the Cambridge Education Group, founded by Marcus May. In 2017, three years after Buckeye opened, Cambridge tried to sever all ties with May, who was indicted and later convicted of racketeering and fraud in connection with the charter schools he ran. Buckeye never received a grade from the Ohio Department of Education better than an F during its four-year existence. At the end of 2017, Buckeye Prep was more than $1 million in debt.

That enormous deficit, which equaled nearly all of the tax dollars the school took in, was due, in large part, to the astronomical management costs charged by Cambridge.

According to the 2018 audit, the for-profit took 18 percent of all revenue received by the charter to manage the school. Cambridge also collected $93,398 in overhead fees, pulling a total of $383,505 from the $1.26 million in operating aid that the school received. As debt accrued, Cambridge was charging the school 5 percent interest on money the school owed.

An additional $41,490 went out the door to the authorizing sponsor of the school, Buckeye Community Hope Foundation, whose related for-profit organization, Kent Properties, LLC, was the school’s landlord, receiving $162,000 a year in rental costs.

At the end of the school’s audit, an addendum said that the management of Buckeye Prep was transferred from Cambridge to another for-profit, ACCEL Schools of Ohio, LLC.

On the surface, that transfer might appear to be a lifeline for the students who attended Buckeye Prep. But the small charter school at 1414 Gault St. in Columbus was — and would continue to be — a big moneymaker for for-profit operators and their partners.

The orphanage with no orphans

Some states, such as New Jersey, have only one state entity that authorizes charter schools. In Ohio, there are 20 active authorizers, called sponsors. Sponsors provide oversight, deciding whether a school opens and, later, whether its charter is renewed.

For Buckeye Prep’s sponsor, the Buckeye Community Hope Foundation (BCHF), charter sponsorship is a lucrative business. According to BCHF’s 2017 audit, the foundation, involved with low-income housing, received over $3.1 million for sponsorship and services provided to 50 charter schools that year. Its related for-profit corporation owned the Buckeye Prep building and collected more than $162,000 in building and furniture lease payments during 2017, its final year.

[Biden promised to end federal funding of for-profit charter schools. A new report explains how they operate.]

As the failing school approached the date for charter renewal, its new operator, ACCEL, chose a sponsor that already managed many of its schools — St. Aloysius Orphanage. Despite its name, St. Al’s, as it is called, has not provided a home for orphans since the 1970s. It is a mental health service provider that also sponsors charter schools.

Compared with its other funding streams, charter school sponsorship provides the most income — over $3.6 million in 2019. However, while St. Aloysius collects the fees, it does none of the work. Instead, it hired a for-profit corporation, Charter School Specialists, paying out $2.3 million a year to the for-profit.

The relationship between sponsor and for-profit was so tight that in 2020, the state auditor had to remind schools that their sponsor was St. Aloysius, not Charter Schools Specialists, after several listed the for-profit as their sponsor.

In 2019, the Cleveland Transformation Alliance recommended — to no avail — that St. Al’s no longer sponsor charter schools based on its record of keeping failing schools open. Two years earlier, the same committee raised conflict of interest concerns because some school treasurers were employed by both the charter board and Charter Schools Specialists. That conflict of interest while overseeing the expenditure of millions of dollars in public funds was allowed to continue. In 2021, eight school treasurers were employees of the for-profit overseer and the charter schools’ boards, including Capital Collegiate Preparatory Academy, according to information obtained from the Ohio Education Department.

For-profit operators run more than 62 percent of the schools sponsored by St. Aloysius; many of them are other ACCEL schools.

ACCEL schools

In 2014, the online for-profit charter chain K12 Inc. announced a new, yet-to-be-named company financed by Safanad Limited, a Dubai investment company. Pansophic Learning was launched later that year as the Safanad/K12 joint venture. The name of its American-based charter school company is ACCEL Schools.

The CEO of both Pansophic and ACCEL is Ron Packard, formerly of K12 Inc., now known as Stride. Packard’s background is in finance, and he compounded the revenue of K12 by 80 percent — (a far higher percentage than its 2019-2020 graduation rate of 56.3 percent).

ACCEL’s primary strategy is to pluck schools from established for-profit chains that failed or are folding, including Mosaica, White Hat Management, and I CAN Schools.

With no shortage of failing charter schools to buy, ACCEL’s growth has been fast-paced. It now manages 73 charter schools (brick and mortar or online) in Arizona, California, Colorado, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, and Washington, and it is attempting to open schools in West Virginia.
[Yes, charter schools can be bought and sold]
Global School Properties, located at the same address as ACCEL and Pansophic in Virginia, is the real estate arm of ACCEL, which allows it to acquire properties and then basically rent their own buildings to themselves — with public funds — through the schools they manage.

ACCEL’s largest portfolio is in Ohio. Forty-six schools list ACCEL as their operator. However, we also found an additional 17 schools run by a superintendent with an ACCEL email address, all but two under the Constellation Schools brand. And in 2018, ACCEL bought out White Hat’s failing online charter school, OHDELA, resulting in a total of 64 schools in that state.

ACCEL and Capital Collegiate Prep

When ACCEL took over Buckeye Prep in 2018, it operated the school as Buckeye for one year — before shutting it down to put another in its place. The for-profit needed to find a board to act as the nonprofit face for the new for-profit-run school. ACCEL’s then vice president, Mark Comaduci, introduced community member Leslie Eaves to Amy Goodson and Carlena Hart, attorneys for Buckeye Prep, via email. Eaves was told to form a board, for which she served as president. She found three educators — Malcolm Cash, Renita Porter and Said Adam — and forensic accountant Rhonda Whitfield.

By January 2019, the new board was formed. In June 2019, Buckeye voluntarily requested contract nonrenewal (see closed community schools). The following day, July 1, Kent School, LLC, sold the school building to Global School Properties for $1,380,635, records show. St. Al’s would be the new sponsor, and the school would now be called Capital Collegiate Preparatory Academy (CCPA).

From the start, the relationship between the charter school’s board and ACCEL was rocky. Unlike many of the boards recruited by for-profit operators, this board included seasoned educators who took their duties of governance seriously. According to emails between Eaves and ACCEL officials, including Ron Packard, the first problems arose with the terms of the management and lease agreements between the school and ACCEL.

Buckeye’s lease agreement was for $12,500 a month or 10.5 percent of state funds received, whichever was greater. ACCEL wanted to increase the lease by $5,500 a month, according to internal emails. In the end, the agreement was for 14 percent of revenue — state funding as well as additional federal entitlements if the grant application was prepared by ACCEL.

In 2020, the school that served only 135 students paid ACCEL’s related real estate company $145,006 in rent, with ACCEL projecting a rent payment of $319,840 for the very same building in 2025. At that rate, ACCEL would recoup what it paid in six years — precisely the length of the school’s charter. If the charter failed and closed, ACCEL would walk away with a million-dollar-plus building largely paid for by the taxpayers of Ohio.

The management contract charges the charter school 15 percent of all revenue received, with a few exceptions. But that is not where payments would end. A read of the management contract clarifies that ACCEL was in charge of, and would be compensated for, all of the school’s day-to-day operations — from the curriculum to student records to all personnel services.

The school was allowed to go into unlimited debt on which it would pay interest to ACCEL, making it nearly impossible for the school to leave the for-profit management company in the future. Financial records from 2020 show the school operating at a loss of over $420,000, with a 2021 projected loss of over $845,000.

Conflicts between the board and ACCEL ignite
The change in school management came with a wave of staff turnover, with just two teachers opting to stick with the new school, where many of the students were behaviorally challenged. ACCEL hired new and inexperienced teachers, and for the first two months, according to former board treasurer Whitfield, the campus didn’t have any pencils or paper in the classrooms. The situation was so dire that an organization that had performed an independent review of the charter school donated paper and pencils.

To get a grasp on student progress, the board authorized the use of I-Ready Assessment. However, ACCEL preferred to use its own assessment product called “Dr. Carr’s Scrimmages” to measure student progress. Carr, who became a vice president of ACCEL, previously worked for the defunct for-profit charter chain Mosaica. Student progress, and lack thereof, was discussed at length during the board meeting of February 2021, which can be found here.

The school’s principal, a former real estate agent, seemed unsure as to why the Scrimmages were being used. I-Ready results showed that most sixth-grade students were performing at two to three years below grade level in reading and math. That led to a discussion as to whether, given the poor progress made by sixth-graders, the school should expand to grade 7 or focus instead on expanding its kindergarten program. Board members expressed worry regarding a seventh-grade addition.

But the principal and the ACCEL superintendent, Ashley Ferguson argued in favor of adding a grade as being in the best interest of students and the school. Ferguson added, “We need to be up by 200 kids to eliminate our deficit. Two kindergartens would not do it.” [ Ferguson, a vice president of ACCEL Schools, attended board meetings as ACCEL’s “superintendent,” even though Shannon Metcalf is listed as superintendent on the state website.]

Board members resign

To get a better understanding of the school’s day-to-day operations, the board hired Tisha Brady in 2020 to serve as a compliance officer. What Brady observed appalled her.

Brady, a former lobbyist for School Choice Ohio and longtime supporter of charter schools, has soured on charter management organizations running schools. During a December 2021 interview with me [ Carol Burris, the author of this post], Brady expressed her concerns regarding where Ohio’s charter schools were going. “[For-profit management] is absolutely not in line with the supposed principles of school choice programs,” she said. “This is simply a cash grab using disadvantaged students as ATMs to launder public funds into the pockets of a private corporation.”

Meanwhile, the concerns of the board grew. It was difficult for the board to get a handle on expenditures and purchases, even with Brady’s assistance. During the June 14, 2021, meeting, the board objected to the $53,000 spent by ACCEL for smartboards for the school. During classroom visits, board members noticed that the smartboards were generic dry erase boards. The meeting minutes noted a prior concern regarding a large expenditure for a curriculum that was missing, as well as a refrigerator that was removed by a vendor. Eaves, the board president, objected to the lack of inventory control of school purchases, according to the minutes.

When Brady and Whitfield entered the school to inventory the items and see how they were being used, they both said, an ACCEL teacher assaulted Whitfield with a cart. Whitfield filed a complaint with the police department and the professional conduct division of the Ohio Department of Education, as well as with ACCEL.

“My concern was for the students in the classroom. I worried about what the kids had witnessed,” Whitfield said. Whitfield resigned from the board a month later. Eaves had previously resigned in October. The school’s website now lists only four board members, still including Whitfield, who is gone — a violation of law that requires five board members, which ironically St. Al’s had used to put the board on probation in the past.

Capital Collegiate Preparatory Academy expands

Despite worry over student performance, a slim majority of the board decided to add the seventh grade. According to Whitfield and Brady, one teacher teaches all subjects on a rotating basis and out of certification. But, those seventh-graders, no matter how poorly prepared, increased the head count, which in turn increased ACCEL’s fees for both rent and management. The school goes further into debt, and ACCEL collects interest.

And so, it will continue until the school’s charter is up in 2025. ACCEL could walk away from the failing school, sell the building to another for-profit, and move on to another failing school.
Right now, nearly half of all charter schools in Ohio are run by for-profits. Most of these charter schools are located in some of the poorest neighborhoods in the United States. The state of Ohio has known about the cycle of for-profits repeatedly preying on failing charter schools for years.

There is more: Capital Collegiate Preparatory Academy, which was no more than the retread of a failing school, received a $250,000 Federal Charter Schools Program (CSP) implementation grant.
Half of all of the grants distributed by Ohio from its 2015 CSP State Entities grant were given to schools run by Ron Packard’s ACCEL.

The article contains many links to sources. To see them all, open the article.

Stephen Dyer is a former state legislator in Ohio and an expert on school finance. In the latest post on his blog, 10th Period, he shows why the arguments for vouchers are a fraud. Vouchers are sold as a salvation for Black and Hispanic students, yet they mostly subsidize white children escaping desegregated schools. And while they are sold with the promise of improving student performance, the voucher schools are in fact inferior to public schools. They are not the schools that rich parents pay for; most voucher schools are low-quality religious schools with unqualified teachers.

Dyer begins:

Now that a group of 100 school districts have formally sued the state over the EdChoice Voucher program, it’s time for voucher proponents to trot out their favorite canard — vouchers give students of color opportunities they wouldn’t otherwise have. And to oppose vouchers is to oppose opportunities for students of color.

Total crock.

The reason this canard is so pernicious is simple: It’s not true, and in fact, the opposite is true. Vouchers are disproportionately distributed to white students, leading to greater overall segregation in public school districts and communities of color with substantially fewer state resources to educate students in those communities.

This is the stat that voucher proponents love to quote, and it’s what Greg Lawson (a guy I actually like personally, despite our profound policy differences on this and nearly every issue) from the Buckeye Institute articulated in the Dispatch story yesterday:

“Greg Lawson of the Buckeye Institute said the data on who takes vouchers varies from school to school, but overall more minority students use EdChoice. 

Ohio is about 82% white, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau. But 50% of the students who take an EdChoice scholarship identify as white or non-Hispanic, according to the Ohio Department of Education. 

‘The choice is there for everybody regardless of what demographic box they check,’ Lawson said.”

What Greg and others “forget” is that EdChoice doesn’t apply to every school district in the state. In fact, according to data from last school year, only 164 of Ohio’s 613 school districts lost any state funding to the EdChoice Voucher transfer last year — a $164 million deduction from districts’ state aid. However, 95% of that funding came from just 38 school districts. Want to take a gander at the demographic makeup of those 38 districts? You guessed it. Overwhelmingly non-white. How overwhelmingly?

Try 68% non-white.

Sounds a whole lot different from the 82% white stat Greg mentioned, doesn’t it? In fact, of those 38 districts, only Wilmington was close to the 82% white stat.

Why would he try to repeat the 82% stat when only 1 district in the entire state that loses substantial state aid to EdChoice fits that description?

Because if only 50% of the voucher recipients are non-white, yet the communities from which the students come are almost 70% non-white, it kinda kills the whole “giving people of color an opportunity” argument.

Yeah….

Seems that for more than 20 years now, legislators have known that vouchers are disproportionately going to white students, yet they have done nothing to address this. 

Someone might want to ask them about that.

Oh yeah. One more thing. It was interesting to read that not even the outrageously histrionic Aaron Baer mentioned in the Dispatch the whole original argument for the voucher program to begin with: it provides better options for kids in “failing” public schools. 

That’s because we now know, thanks to more than a decade of comparative testing, that vouchers actually harm student achievement.

Even the Fordham Institute — an avowed voucher proponent — agreed in 2016 when it found that vouchers actually reduced student achievement. This was affirmed in 2020 when the Cincinnati Enquirer looked at test scores of voucher recipients and compared those scores with scores of students in the communities in which the private school resided. The paper found that 88% of the time, the public school students outperformed the private school students.

To voucher proponents now what matters now is the choice, not the outcomes from that choice apparently.

So let me bottom line this program: it leads to more racial segregation, deprives communities of color much needed state educational aid and provides less successful student outcomes. 

But hey, let’s throw hundreds of millions more of our tax dollars at this thing

Jan Resseger writes here about a lawsuit against vouchers filed by 100 school districts and the Ohio Coalition for Equity and Adequacy.

She begins:

On Tuesday, 100 Ohio public school districts and the Ohio Coalition for Equity and Adequacy of School Funding filed a lawsuit challenging the legality of Ohio’s EdChoice Scholarship Program under the provisions of the Ohio Constitution. EdChoice is Ohio’s rapidly growing, publicly funded school voucher program.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer’s Laura Hancock reported: “A coalition of 100 school districts sued Ohio over private school vouchers Tuesday, saying that the hundreds of millions of public dollars funneled away from public schools have created an educational system that’s unconstitutional.”

The lead plaintiffs are Columbus City Schools, Cleveland Heights-University Heights City Schools, Richmond Heights Local School District, Lima City Schools, Barberton City Schools, Cleveland Heights parents on behalf of their minor sons—Malcolm McPherson and Fergus Donnelly, and the Ohio Coalition for Equity and Adequacy of School Funding. The Cleveland law firm of Walter Haverfield is representing the plaintiffs.

In their lawsuit, plaintiffs declare: “The EdChoice Scholarship Program poses an existential threat to Ohio’s public school system. Not only does this voucher program unconstitutionally usurp Ohio’s public tax dollars to subsidize private school tuitions, it does so by depleting Ohio’s foundation funding—the pool of money out of which the state funds Ohio’s public schools… The discrepancy in per pupil foundation funding is so great that some districts’ private school pupils receive, as a group, more in funding via EdChoice Vouchers than Ohio allocates in foundation funding for the entire public school districts where those students reside. This voucher program effectively cripples the public school districts’ resources, creates an ‘uncommon’, or private system of schools unconstitutionally funded by taxpayers, siphons hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayer funds into private (and mostly religious) institutions, and discriminates against minority students by increasing segregation in Ohio’s public schools. Because private schools receiving EdChoice funding are not subject to Ohio’s Sunshine Laws or most other regulations applicable to public schools, these private facilities operate with impunity, exempt from public scrutiny despite the public funding that sustains them.”

Please open the link and read the rest of the post, which explains the grounds for the lawsuit.

Stephen Dyer is a former state legislator who keeps close watch on school finance in Ohio. I missed this post when it was posted a few months ago, but it retains its ability to shock. Open the link to see his graphs and documentation.

Dyer wrote:

Despite House Bill 2, which was supposed to slim down our notoriously poor-performing charter school sector and the closure of the nation’s largest online school — ECOT — which closed because the school literally stole hundreds of millions of tax dollars to educate kids they never educated, we are currently spending more on charter schools than any other year on record.

By a mile.

According to the latest Charter School funding report from the Ohio Department of Education, we are set to spend $999.7 million. The previous record was $955 million from the 2015-2016 school year — the high-point of the ECOT years.

Despite this massive recent increase (an extraordinary $111 million jump … over two years), it’s not because we’ve had more students attending charters than ever.

No. That record remains the 2013-2014 school year when 122,130 students attended charters.

As I’ve recounted for more than a decade, because of the way we fund charters, that means that local property taxes have to subsidize charter school kids.

It doesn’t take a Ph.D. in Rocket Science to understand that if you’re removing $8,500 in state aid from a district for a kid the district was only getting about half of that from the state to educate that the difference has to come from somewhere.

This year, that subsidy is slated to be $148 million. And in some districts, it’s really high. Like in Columbus where $62 million in local revenue has to subsidize the state funding deduction for charters…

Anyway, the data demonstrates pretty clearly that charter schools have plenty of money right now to educate their kids. Why? Because they don’t have to adhere to 150 plus state regulations, pay for buses and pay their teachers 40% less, on average, than districts with leaner benefits.

So you don’t have to spend nearly as much in a charter as you do a district…

Dyer then reviews the abysmal performance of charter schools compared to district schools and concludes:

I give you this overall horrible performance for you to mull over as the state considers investing more than $1 billion in this education sector that’s produced more state report card grades of F than all others combined since we’ve had the A-F system.

Bill Phillis, retired deputy commissioner of education in Ohio, is a staunch advocate for the state system of common schools, which is guaranteed in the state constitution. He founded the Ohio Coalition for Equity and Adequacy. The question in Ohio, as in many other states, is why Ohio legislators continue to fund failure.

He writes:

STATE REPORT CARD: CHARTER SCHOOLS NOT EVEN A CLOSE SECOND TO REAL PUBLIC SCHOOLS

The original promise of charter and voucher advocates: Charters will out-place school districts.

The data show a different outcome.

There is no data available from private schools to make a comparison.


Scott DiMauro, President of the Ohio Education Association, in a November 3 commentary in the Ohio Capital Journal shared a comparison of charter school report card results with real public schools. The results show that charter school kids are the real losers.


Do state officials care? Apparently not.

State Report Cards Should Be A Wakeup Call For Ohio’s Charter, Voucher Hawks

Scott DiMauro

I remember taking home my report cards when I was in school. I was a pretty good student; my grades always reflected my passion for subjects I loved, and more importantly, provided some real-time feedback on areas where improvement was needed — Time management, for example, was a skill I had to learn over time. During my years as a high school social studies teacher, I strived to give that same kind of useful assessment to my students when I was putting report cards together for them.

The state puts report cards together for school buildings and districts, too. In spirit, at least, they have the same mission, quantitatively assessing where our publicly funded institutions across the state are succeeding and where there is room for growth. And not surprisingly, after a year and a half of serious challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, the latest round of state report cards shows there’s some extra room for improvement, with about a 10% drop in Performance Index (PI) scores for Ohio’s traditional public schools from the 2018-2019 school year to the 2020-2021 one. Chronic absenteeism also climbed to 17%, up from 7.5%, during that time.

But, over that same period, charter schools in the state saw a 25% drop in PI scores – a 2.5 times greater loss than traditional public schools. And chronic absenteeism in those institutions soared from 22% up to 45%, meaning nearly half of all charter school students in Ohio missed a big chunk of the last school year.

While the Ohio Education Association applauds the change in state law that removed letter grades from the state report card system, it is clear Ohio’s charter schools are not making the grade. As a teacher, I’d give them a D-minus at best.
This should be seriously alarming to Ohio’s taxpayers, who see their money taken from their local public schools to fund these poorer performing alternatives. The PI drop for KIPP, a charter school in Columbus, was 66% — more than double the decline seen in Columbus City Schools.

The seven biggest PI drops in Ohio charter schools were Breakthrough Schools in the Cleveland area, which are often touted by charter advocates as shining examples of success, with PI scores plummeting 77% to 84%. Charter advocates often complain about comparing all school districts’ performance with charters, but last year, 606 out of 612 public school districts in the state lost scarce resources to charter schools.

Recent test score data on Ohio’s private, mostly religious schools — which receive millions in taxpayer funded vouchers — is not available to make a comparison, since those schools are not subject to any of the same accountability standards as public districts.

Now, if some lawmakers get their way, the situation will get exponentially worse for the 90% of Ohio’s kids who rely on public education. House Bill 290 — known as the “Backpack Bill” — would create so-called “Education Savings Accounts” that are just universal vouchers with even less accountability. Even with these vouchers, most families still couldn’t afford tuition at the private schools in their communities, and for those that do go to the private schools, Ohio taxpayers who foot the bill don’t get much bang for their buck. The Cincinnati Enquirer revealed last year that nearly 90% of all voucher students do worse on state tests than students in traditional public schools in the same zip codes.

The data paint a troubling picture. Vouchers and charters take critical resources and weaken the public schools that serve the vast majority of Ohio’s children while delivering worse educational outcomes for our kids. What’s worse is that now we have a school funding system worth investing in — the Fair School Funding Plan. Failing to fully fund that system while pouring more resources into the worse-performing charter and voucher system is wasting an extraordinary opportunity to once and for all fix the way Ohio funds education for the 90% of students and families who attend Ohio’s public schools.

Ohioans need to tell their lawmakers to oppose House Bill 290 and focus on their constitutional responsibility to fund Ohio’s public schools to ensure a high-quality education for all of Ohio’s kids.

State report cards should be a wakeup call for Ohio’s charter, voucher hawks – Ohio Capital Journal

Follow the link to read the 8 Lies About Private School Vouchers https://vouchershurtohio.com/8-lies-about-private-school-vouchers/Like us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/OhioEandA

Dan Greenberg is a teacher in Ohio and a member of the board of the Network for Public Education. He teaches high school English in Sylvania, in the northwest of the state.

Here he writes about the power of teachers, who are trusted by parents and the community to refute slanders about their schools.

He writes:

About a week before the November 2nd election, a colleague of mine sent me a picture of a campaign literature piece supporting candidates for school board in my community.

“Kids and Taxpayers FIRST! Keep ‘Woke’ politics out of our classrooms.”

The postcard was paid for by the NW Ohio Coalition for Public School Excellence, a group that was not only supporting conservative candidates in my community, but a neighboring community, with the exact same yard signs just different names.

Not to be outdone, the Northwest Ohio Conservative Coalition blanketed voters in my school district with robo-call messages telling voters to support the conservative candidates and “…keep woke politics out of the classroom.” The calls seem to go out indiscriminately; even the President of Democratic Club in my community received one.

These campaign tactics, filled with lies about schools teaching Critical Race Theory, had an interesting impact. I don’t know how much they motivated conservatives to head to the polls, but the group I saw them motivate most was the teachers. At a time when teachers are emotionally and physically exhausted, when they seem to be focused on making it through one day at a time, these campaign lies seemed to tap some reserve of strength and energy teachers did not know they had. Teachers started posting to social media, pushing back on the CRT lies. They started posting images of the four teacher union-endorsed candidates on their Facebook pages. They sent text messages to friends and family with the names of the teacher-endorsed candidates. One teacher even wrote a message across the entire back window of her van (in excellent teacher handwriting) telling community members to support teachers by voting for our endorsed candidates.

On November 2nd, as results came in the teacher-supported candidates were leading, and in the end, the four candidates in the two districts who were coming to the school boards with a priority of taking on “Woke politics” and Critical Race Theory lost.

The campaign money, the campaign literature, the yard signs, the robo calls… they could not beat the voice of teachers and the voice of truth.

Bill Phillis is a retired state deputy commissioner of education who is dedicated to the preservation and improvement of public schools in Ohio. He has dedicated his retirement years to publicizing the harm that vouchers and charters do to public schools. He founded the Ohio Coalition for Equity and Adequacy. The Ohio State Constitution guarantees a uniform system of public schools, a commitment that the Republicans who control the state have repeatedly violated with impunity.

The latest gambit from the Republican privatizers called “the backpack bill,” symbolizing the idea that each child has a “backpack full of cash” to spend in any way their family chooses. They really need to see the wonderful documentary “Backpack Full of Cash.” You can rent the documentary and show it in your community.

Phillis writes:

THE OHIO UNIVERSAL VOUCHER CAMPAIGNERS USE CRITICAL RACE THEORY TO ENTICE FOLKS TO SUPPORT HB290 (UNIVERSAL VOUCHERS) IN A SLICK MAILER


The HB290 crusaders have produced and sent a fundraising mailer signed by one Aaron Baer to an undisclosed list of folks. The seven-page letter warns recipients that public schools are indoctrinating our children into radical anti-Christian ideology, “Critical Race Theory, and trans advocacy”. “They are being trained to hate America”, the letter says. They evidently combed through the classrooms of Ohio and found 4 students whose teachers were doing something that hinted at support for CRT or other controversial issues. They didn’t mention the 100,000 plus public school educators that are working selflessly to grow upstanding citizens.
The author of the letter makes such revealing statements as:

  • “…many of Ohio’s public schools have been failing our students for more than a generation.”
  • “…I initiated the Backpack Bill (HB290)…” (A couple legislators who sponsored the bill indicate they initiated the bill.)
  • “…The Backpack Bill ensures every Ohio student can have access to high quality education…”
  • The P.S. to the letter includes the statement, “Ohio students are trapped in failing public schools…”

The Backpack voucher campaigners are perpetuating the myth of the “failing public school monopoly” as a key plank in their campaign platform.

Public school advocates, who believe HB290 is too extreme to pass, need to wake up.

Follow the link to read the 8 Lies About Private School Vouchershttps://vouchershurtohio.com/8-lies-about-private-school-vouchers/

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Photo Credit: Jeanne Melvin


The No Child Left Behind Act Has Put The Nation At RiskVouchers Hurt Ohio

William L. Phillis | Ohio Coalition for Equity & Adequacy of School Funding | 614.228.6540 |ohioeanda@sbcglobal.net| http://ohiocoalition.orgSign up for our newsletter!

The Republican war on “critical race theory” began in the closing months of Trump’s term in office, when he denounced it and called for “patriotic education.” One Republican state after another began passing resolutions and laws banning the teaching of CRT, which was interpreted to mean teaching about racism or anything that might make “some” children feel uncomfortable or be “divisive.” Teaching about the Ku Klux Klan or white supremacy apparently made some children feel uncomfortable.

Jan Resseger reports that the Ohio State Board of Education repealed a 2020 anti-racism resolution, since any such proposal are “divisive.” She goes into detail about the national reach of the Republican effort to eliminate anti-racist materials from the schools.

She begins:

Late on Wednesday night, the Ohio State Board of Education repealed Resolution 20, an important declaration passed in the summer of 2020 directing the Ohio Department of Education to establish staff diversity training and launch a curriculum review intended to reduce racism and bias in the state’s public schools.

The Columbus Dispatch’s Anna Staver reports: “Ohio’s State Board of Education repealed an anti-racism resolution Wednesday night and replaced it with one condemning any teachings that ‘seek to divide.'” Staver explains that the 2020 anti-racism resolution: “condemned hate crimes and white supremacy movements ‘in the strongest possible terms,’ but it also directed the Ohio Department of Education to teach its employees about implicit bias. Local school boards were asked to review their graduation rates, discipline records and classroom resources… Opponents… argued that (the resolution) opened the door for districts to teach ‘disturbing’ and ‘divisive’ material about racism and identity.”

State Board member Brandon Shea drafted Resolution 13, a counter statement which eventually passed but without some of Shea’s proposed language. Shea’s proposal, according to Staver’s report, “observed not only a growing national divide but a troubling focus on the color of one’s skin rather than on the content of one’s character.'” Shea’s proposal also condemned “critical race theory.”

While Staver reports that Resolution 13, as passed, removes the incendiary language about critical race theory, the replacement resolution condemns “any language that seeks to divide” and “any standards, curriculum, or training programs for students, teachers, or staff that seek to ascribe circumstances or qualities, such as collective guilt, moral deficiency, or racial bias, to a whole race or group of people.” This is, of course, language that conforms to the prescriptions of far right ideologues who want to protect the white majority from looking honestly at white privilege and examining the history of slavery and racism in the United States.

For The Intercept, Akela Lacy summarized the original July 2020 resolution which was rescinded on Wednesday night: “The resolution, introduced by board President Laura Kohler, acknowledges that ‘Ohio’s education system has not been immune’ to racism and inequality, and that ‘while we earnestly strive to correct them, we have a great deal of work left to do.’ It calls for the state education board to offer board members implicit bias training, programs designed to help people understand their own unconscious biases and the ways stereotypes can distort their beliefs; for all state Department of Education employees and contractors to take the training; for the department to reexamine curricula for racial bias; and for school districts to examine curricula and practices for hiring, staff development, and student discipline.”

As Lacy explains, ever since the original resolution passed, there has been an outcry from members of the public and a loud minority within the State Board itself complaining that the resolution constitutes “critical race theory.” Under pressure, the State Board finally asked Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost to determine whether the resolution is constitutional. He let the resolution stand, saying such a determination is outside his authority, except, he said, the State Board cannot impose these mandates on private contractors. For months, the resolution has been the subject of hearings in the Ohio House of Representatives’ State and Local Government Committee, where hundreds of educators and members of the public have offered testimony in favor of last year’s resolution. However, at one hearing, Lacy reports that one member of the State Board of Education, Diana Fessler, openly defended white supremacy.

It would be one thing if this sort of battle were happening only in Ohio’s state board of education, but instead the same fight is being reported in local school boards all across the country. And the arguments and downright fights are highly politicized. In the Washington Post, Adam Laats reported: “Conflicts (have) roiled school board meetings across the country, over a range of hot-button issues: masks, vaccines, policies for trans athletes, Critical Race Theory. The conflicts moved past yelling, to lawsuits and demands for recalls—and not just of individual members but entire boards. Over and over again, local school board meetings have turned from staid discussions of budgets and staffing to heated ideological forums, hosting a go-nowhere series of fights that have little to do with the actual needs of the local schools. Conservative pundits have talked up these confrontations as part of a larger political strategy… Why have school boards become ground zero for these aggressive ideological skirmishes? Quite simply: They are accessible. Most meetings are open to the public, in local town halls or school district offices; their members are local volunteers, who usually have no campaign war chests or partisan election support… And if school board meetings are disrupted, members recalled, teachers threatened, students intimidated, it is that much harder for schools to function and children to learn.”

Open the link and read on.

PRESS CONFERENCE ON UNIVERSAL VOUCHER BILL: 11:00 A.M., WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 6

We have been warning the public school community and other Ohioans that the goal of voucher advocates has nothing to do with “rescuing poor kids from low performing school districts”; it is to give each kid a voucher. Fund the kid, not the system. Tune into the press conference to hear a universal voucher pitch first hand.

https://www.ohiochannel.org/

COLUMBUS – State Reps. Marilyn John (R-Richland County) and Riordan McClain (R-Upper Sandusky) will host a press conference on Wednesday, October 6th to announce new legislation known as the Backpack Bill. House Bill 290 will extend school choice to all students throughout Ohio, which will expand their educational opportunities.

During the press conference, the representatives will announce a sub-bill to HB 290. This very important legislation strives to ensure that Ohio maintains strong funding for public and private schools while also cultivating innovation and opportunity for all of Ohio’s children.

WHO: State Rep. Marilyn JohnState Rep. Riordan McClain

WHERE: Ohio Statehouse, Netzley Press Room,1 Capitol Square, Columbus, OH 43215

WHEN: Wednesday, October 6, 2021, at 11:00 a.m.

https://www.ohiochannel.org/


The No Child Left Behind Act Has Put The Nation At Risk

Vouchers Hurt Ohio

William L. Phillis | Ohio Coalition for Equity & Adequacy of School Funding | 614.228.6540 |ohioeanda@sbcglobal.net| http://ohiocoalition.orgSign up for our newsletter!

Denis Smith worked for many years in the Ohio State Department of Education, finishing his career in the Office of Charter Schools. He writes in the Ohio Capital Journal about the existential threat posed to our democracy and our society by the privatization of public schools. His advice: Be careful what you wish for.

In the last few months, Americans have witnessed a series of assaults by the political right on key parts of the bedrock principles of democracy. Those attacks include new restrictions on voting rights in more than half of the states, the storming of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 by thousands of insurrectionists, and most recently, clear evidence that the former president pressured the top leadership of the Justice Department to help him overturn the 2020 election results.

Certainly these scary developments are newsworthy and have garnered banner headlines and filled airtime on the evening news. But these high-profile assaults on our democracy have served to obscure another, perhaps even more serious threat, an added variant and supplement to the seditious behavior of insurrectionists and a twice-impeached president who encouraged their assault on democracy.

In the midst of the chaos caused by angry militia types working to keep in power a rogue administration, and being mindful of the distraction these events have caused, it’s past time to get educated about the future viability of public education.

While the U.S. Capitol was placed under assault some months ago, public education has been targeted for forty years, when Ronald Reagan signaled his followers that the public sector was undesirable and that private enterprise was always preferable in the nation. His attitude was immortalized in his remark that “the nine most terrifying words in the English language are ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.’”

This observation has been interpreted by the right as a command from Reagan himself to privatize about everything in the public sector — except the military — as part on an ideology which holds that a private enterprise is always preferable to a public function. That thinking has morphed into a crusade to destroy perhaps the most recognized and common artifact in any community: the public school.

Individual liberty v. community responsibility

For those who know this institution’s place in American history, the terms public school and common school are used interchangeably, and the leading proponent who believed that every community should offer a program of education was Horace Mann, considered the father of American public education. In his role as the first commissioner of education in Massachusetts, Mann believed that “education should be free and universal, nonsectarian, democratic in method, and reliant on well-trained professional teachers.”

As Mann’s nineteenth-century idea of the common school spread across the new American Republic, in villages, small towns and cities where a community’s shared and accepted values were honored and embraced, the little red schoolhouse became an icon, the force that helped to mold the very idea of community.

That was the America we recognized until several decades ago.

Today, attacks by insurrectionists attired in their cammies and state legislators dressed in business suits are hard at work to undermine that very sense of community, of place. Instead of embracing the idea of place, the community and its schools which educated generation after generation, those same legislators mumble vaguely about something they call “socialism” or “government schools” and instead espouse something else called “educational choice.”

That word choice, used often in the same sentence with freedom, serves as the anti-government elixir peddled by legislators to further encourage insurrectionists and religious zealots who do not accept the idea of community – and its public or common schools.

And with the frequent use by the right of such terms as choice, freedom, and liberty, that tattered social fabric we should be concerned about is worn down even more.

Indeed, words – particularly those three – have consequences.

Several years ago, the New York Times columnist David Brooks critiqued the work of author Marcia Pally, who observed that Americans project a prominent duality – a need to explore as well as be “situated” – i.e., having a sense of community. But today, our very sense of community is under stress, a weakened social fabric fueled by politicians who in their continuing mischief and purposeful vandalism promote divisive policies that result in the transfer of public funds away from our common schools to support private, religious, and charter schools.

In spite of these destructive policies adopted by state legislatures that are antithetical to societal cohesion, the need for community comes at the very time, in Pally’s analysis, when the forces of global migration, globalization, and the internet are proving to be transformative and thus challenge the very idea of community, of being situated.

But it was Brooks’ added observation that a fourth force, in the form of individual choice, gained my attention then and now, particularly in the current and growing national atmosphere that proclaims it’s all about me and my freedom to choose, regardless of compelling community needs, including health, safety, and the transmission of a common cultural heritage, as Horace Mann, John Dewey, and other visionaries labored to establish in another, more unified time in our history.

The byproduct of this thinking — that it’s all about me — centered as it is on the individual and not the community, is seen in both the Capitol insurrectionists and the anti-vaxxers. These protesters are seemingly also armed with the idea that personal freedom and individual choice trump any responsibility in caring for the well-being of others, whether by wearing a mask or being vaccinated against COVID.

To hell with elections. It’s all about me and what I believe, we are being told by those who protest the warnings of scientists and public health experts. And to hell with masks and vaccinations. We don’t need tyranny, they tell us.

And while we’re at it, to hell with the idea of community. When it’s all about me and what I believe, there is no room for what you value.

It doesn’t take many dots to connect this thinking with the deterioration of the idea of community, of being situated, and of having common values like the public schools that were created to serve all the youth in a particular community. We hold that truth (or should we use the past tense now?) to be self-evident. Not.

But in all of this, of slogans like freedom and choice, be careful what you wish for.

In my reaction to Brooks and his review, I wrote this in April 2016:

“…how we preserve freedom serves to illustrate the certainty of unintended consequences for conservatives, viz., how can you promote the concept of choice, particularly educational choice, as a desired public policy outcome, while also warning about weakened community cohesion and a frayed, tattered, strained social fabric”?

Five years later, I stand by those words. In light of recent events, that strained social fabric is even more fragile, and approaching an irreparable state of repair. It follows that with such disrepair, the idea of community in this country may soon be on a ventilator.

Cookie-cutter legislation

The enemy, it seems, is within. We witnessed this bashing of democracy with the images of militia-types beating police with flagpoles. Another version of that assault is the introduction of cookie-cutter legislation, some of which was crafted by the Koch-funded American Legislative Council, which exists to destroy education by taking the word public out of it, and replacing elected local school boards with charter schools whose boards are hand-picked by for-profit chains rather than being elected by voters in a community.

When state legislators vote to create educational vouchers that subsidize private and religious school tuition with public funds, they are making a decision to support schools that often teach content that has not been subject to a thorough review process, as public schools are. By contrast, vouchers mean that students can now be attending schools, free from state regulation, that may not even teach science or other subjects, or use instructional materials that do not support appropriate knowledge about our world.

The image of a caveman and a dinosaur, coexisting in an earlier time, as displayed in a Kentucky museum, comes to mind. It’s not too hard to imagine that under a voucher scheme, if a church affiliated with the museum operated a school and offered a curriculum in line with such a view, it could be eligible for state educational choice dollars.

Yes. Your tax dollars. And mine.

But where is the proper public purpose for taxpayer support of such an imagined school? Right now, for example, the proposed expansion in some states including Ohio of so-called educational choice vouchers to religious schools could make such situations possible in the future. One wonders what would happen if private and religious schools would first be required to agree to a set of very detailed assurances, including the teaching of specific courses of study consistent with the curricular offerings of local public schools, before receiving any state funding in the form of educational vouchers.

I think we know the answer to that. It’s called having it both ways – getting public money with no accountability and no strings attached.

The purpose of public schools

And then there is the subject of citizenship and our common heritage. Besides its purpose to produce skilled and literate individuals, public schools have also been charged to prepare young people to be caring and ethical citizens. By contrast, it can be argued that with private and religious schools, their own unique missions may not place civic-related ideals in the top rank, but instead subordinate civic education and awareness to a more narrow or sectarian purpose that mirrors the defining purpose of the school.

But if in the name of freedom and educational choice there is already enough concern about the use of public tax dollars to help fund private, religious and charter schools and thus undermine public education, weaken our democracy, and further damage our social fabric, there is yet another problem created by the actions of state legislatures to fund religious schools through vouchers.

It’s the Establishment Clause.

A product of The Enlightenment, the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause was crafted by the nation’s founders, who knew that religious wars had consumed Europe in the centuries preceding the American Revolution. Currently, in my home state of Ohio, a coalition of school districts is preparing a court challenge to check the legislature’s intent to expand the state’s voucher program as not only a violation of the constitutional prohibitions against supporting sectarian schools but also a violation of the Ohio Constitution’s purpose to establish a “system of common schools.”

I trust that this language from the Ohio Constitution is illustrative of how other states establish a system of public education.

[Article VI, Sec. 2 Education] The General Assembly shall make such provisions, by taxation, or otherwise, as, with the income arising from the school trust fund, will secure a thorough and efficient system of common schools throughout the State; but, no religious or other sect, or sects, shall ever have any exclusive right to, or control of, any part of the school funds of this State.

Certainly, private and religious schools do not meet the definition of a common school that must be supported by public funds, yet in the name of educational choice there is a nationwide movement to expand voucher programs that will support private and religious schools, in spite of any Establishment Clause violation and other legal prohibitions.

So we return to the purpose of the common school as a unifying force to build community and not be a dividing force, as private and religious schools will be, if they are put on an equal footing with public education through support with public funds.

If all of these issues might seem to be troublesome, there is one which will likely prove to cause the most damage: How can you maintain the concept of E Pluribus Unum when public policy seems poised to support all types of schools and thus erode the idea of the common school, in this case the Unum in our national motto, as the essential driver to ensure that children who come from many backgrounds form a single nation through our common schools?

Indeed, we know that the mission of public education is to prepare young people to be skilled, literate, and ethical citizens. But that’s only part of it.

Let’s take a look at the Unum part of the equation. In an essay about the role of public education written two decade ago, Kenneth Conklin, a Hawai’i philosophy professor, raised some concerns about how a fragmented educational system can itself cause a fragmented society.

“If an educational system is altered, its transmission of culture will be distorted,” Conklin wrote. “The easiest way to break apart a society long-term without using violence is to establish separate educational systems for the groups to be broken apart.”

Public tax dollar support of private, religious, and charter schools clearly represent the establishment of separate educational systems. Such tax support violates the very idea of Horace Mann’s common school, the very image of democracy in every community.

Conklin provides some additional advice for us to consider:

“A society’s culture can survive far longer than the lifespan of any of its members, because its educational system passes down the folkways and knowledge of one generation to subsequent generations. A culture changes over time, but has a recognizable continuity of basic values and behavioral patterns that distinguishes it from other cultures. That continuity is provided by the educational system.” (Emphasis mine)

What’s next?

We’re in trouble. A community thrives on consensus, of shared values. The actions of agents of disinformation spreading lies about vaccines have undermined confidence in science and public health. And if we lose a consensus about public education and the shared values it represents, we have lost our democracy.

But there is hope.

In reaction to this assault on public education in Ohio, a group of 85 school districts have joined to challenge the intent of the Ohio General Assembly to greatly expand the Educational Voucher program and put private and religious schools on an equal footing to receive tax dollars siphoned away from constitutionally established common schools. Their position is that Article VI of the Ohio Constitution makes no provision for publicly supported but parallel and competing forms of education supported by public funds.

The Ohio Coalition for Equity and Adequacy of School Funding, which was itself established twenty-five years ago to ensure fair state funding for school districts irrespective of wealth, is facilitating the legal efforts of districts in challenging the constitutionality of educational vouchers and the blatant violation of the Establishment Clause in establishing funding for religious schools. With so much at stake for future state funding of public school districts, more districts are expected to join this lawsuit in the coming weeks

So what is the lesson to be learned from public support of private and religious schools, along with the privatization of what is left of public education?

Be careful what you wish for.

If you think freedom and choice are the purest ideals to possess and not a sense of community to hold us together, most prominently seen in our public schools, think again. Every vote in every state legislature to offer or expand choice in the end represents a choice for disunion, for a fragmentation of our cultural heritage, a basis for community – and our very nationhood.

We are on the brink. If there is not a counter-movement to roll back this destruction of our communities by the Ohio General Assembly through the planned destruction of the common school, we will get what we deserve.

Yes, be careful what you wish for.

Accurate link: https://ohiocapitaljournal.com/2021/09/16/public-schools-vouchers-privatization-and-educational-choice-be-careful-what-you-wish-for/