Archives for category: Portfolio District

Tom Ultican, retired teacher of physics and advanced mathematics, has been accumulating case studies of what he calls “the Destroy Public Education Movement.” His latest case study centers on Indianapolis, but he observed that the nexus of so much advocacy for school privatization is the Harvard University Program on Educational Governance and Policy at the Kennedy School. This program was founded by tenured Professor Paul Peterson, one of the nation’s leading advocates for every kind of choice except public schools. Peterson trained many of the nation’s academic proponents of school choice (including vouchers), such as Jay Greene and Patrick Wolf of the University of Arkansas “Department of Education Reform.” In addition to churning out “studies” that tout the glories of privatization, PEPG also sponsors the rightwing journal Education Next, whose editorial board is firmly in the privatization camp. (When I was a fellow at the rightwing Hoover Institution, I was on the editorial board of EdNext, which is a sounding board for rightwing academics and would-be academics who have no scholarly credentials but do have the “right” views).

Ultican writes:

It is not the kind of objective journal expected from an academic institution. Influenced by super-wealthy people like Bill Gates and the Walton family, Education Next’s reform ideology undermines democratic control of public schools. It promotes public school privatization with charter schools and vouchers. The contributors to their blog include Chester E. Finn, Jay P. Greene, Eric Hanushek, Paul Hill, Michael Horn, Robin J. Lake and Michael Petrilli. Robin Lake’s new article “The Hoosier Way; Good choices for all in Indianapolis” is an all too common example of Education Next’s biased publishing.

Ultican draws the ties among the EdNext gang, the portfolio model, Paul Hill, Robin Lake, and Lake’s celebratory treatment of the expansion of privatization in Indianapolis.

He writes:

The portfolio model directs closing schools that score in the bottom 5% on standardized testing and reopening them as charter schools or Innovation schools. In either case, the local community loses their right to hold elected leaders accountable, because the schools are removed from the school board’s portfolio. It is a plan that guarantees school churn in poor neighborhoods, venerates disruption and dismisses the value of stability and community history.

Robin Lake was one of Hill’s first hires at CRPE. She became his closest confederate and when he decided to reduce his work load in 2012, Lake took his place as the Director of CRPE. Lake and Hill co-wrote dozens of papers almost all of which deal with improving and promoting charter schools. Since the mid-1990s Lake has been publishing non-stop to promote the portfolio model of school management and charter schools. Lake’s new article up on Education Next is her latest in praise of the portfolio agenda for wresting school control from local voters.

Like a large number of the contributors to Education Next, neither Robin Lake nor her mentor Paul Hill have practiced or formally studied education. None-the-less, they have been successful at selling their brand of education reform; which is privatization. They describe their organization, CRPE, as engaging in “independent research and policy analysis.” However, Media and Democracy’s Source Watch tagged the group an “industry-funded research center that . . . receives funding from corporate and billionaire philanthropists as well as the U.S. Department of Education.”

Ultican traces the bipartisan nature of the privatization movement in Indianapolis, which centered on a neoliberal group called The Mind Trust:

Today, charter schools which are not accountable to local residents of Indianapolis are serving nearly 50% of the city’s students. Plus, 10,000 of the 32,000 Indianapolis Public School (IPS) students are in Innovation schools which are also not accountable to local voters. The organization most responsible for the loss of democratic control over publicly financed schools in Indianapolis is The Mind Trust….

Tony Bennett served as Superintendent of public schools in Indiana during the administration of Republican Governor Mitch Daniels. Bennett was“widely known as a hard-charging Republican reformer associated with Jeb Bush’s prescriptions for fixing public schools: charter schools, private school vouchers, tying teacher pay to student test scores and grading schools on a A through F scale.” He left Indiana to become Florida’s Education Commissioner in 2013, but soon resigned over an Indiana scandal involving fixing the ratings of the Crystal House charter schoolwhich was owned by a republican donor.

In 2011 before leaving, Bennett was threatening to take action against Indianapolis schools. The Mind Trust responded to Bennett with a paper called “Creating Opportunity Schools.” Lake writes,

“In response to a request from Bennett, The Mind Trust put out a report in December 2011 calling for the elimination of elected school boards and the empowerment of educators at the local level. … At the same time, Stand for Children, an education advocacy nonprofit, was raising money to get reform-friendly school-board members elected, and much of the public debate centered on The Mind Trust’s proposal. … A new board was elected in 2012 (the same year Mike Pence became governor) and the board quickly recruited a young new superintendent, Lewis Ferebee, to start in September 2013.” (Emphasis added)

Lewis Ferebee was a member of Jeb Bush’s Chiefs for Change. He was selected to continue the Jeb Bush theory of education reform. It is the theory Bush developed while serving on the board of the Heritage Foundation in the 1990s.

The dark-money group Stand for Children soon joined the fray and helped to direct philanthropic money to the privatization program, which was premised on removing democratic control of the schools.

Lewis Ferebee, a key figure in the anti-democratic private takeover of the public schools of Indianapolis, is now chancellor of the schools of the District of Columbia.




This is a very engaging video interview of Tom Ultican, an expert on corporate education reform, explaining the federal takeover of public schools via No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top. Ultican goes into detail about the corporate assault on public schools in the Dallas Independent School District. He names names, starting with the misguided superintendency of Mike Miles, a Broadie who managed to drive out large numbers of experienced teachers. He identifies the funders of corporate funders, both billionaires and the Dallas Chamber of Commerce.

He gives a concise analysis of the money behind the “portfolio model,” charters, and privatization in Texas and Dallas.

Jennifer Berkshire and Jack Schneider reveal the secret ingredient to the success of the Resistance to privatization/portfolio district strategy in Denver in this podcast.

For years, Denver had been a feather in the cap of DFER and other advocates of privatization. Betsy DeVos lauded Denver for its commitment to school choice, although she was disappointed that it had not yet adopted vouchers. the Brookings Institution praised Denver for its deep commitment to choice.

Michael Bennett rose from Denver superintendent to the U.S. Senate and still touts his success as a school reformer.

But in the last school board election, the critics of school closings, portfolio strategies, and charter schools won the seats to control the board, to the amazement of everyone.

How did it happen?

Jennifer Berkshire wrote: It’s a fascinating and inspiring story. The movement to “flip the board” started in Denver’s Black community and was then taken up by teachers. But the most amazing part of the story may be how young people – the products of the Denver reform experiment – have risen up to demand change. I don’t think that’s what DFER envisioned! 

Listen to the podcast.

Jan Resseger writes here about the damage that “portfolio districts” do to students, schools, and communities. The original concept for “portfolio districts” was developed by Paul Hill of the Gates-funded Center for Reinventing Public Educatuon at the University of Washington. The fundamental idea was that the school board would act like a stock portfolio manager, closing low-performing schools, replacing them with charter schools, keeping open the schools with high test scores. Students would choose where to go to school. The concept was adopted by many districts as the latest thing, and many beloved neighborhood schools serving black and brown communities were shuttered. If their replacement got low scores, it was also closed. The students were collateral damage.

She writes:

Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Joel Klein launched this scheme in New York City by creating district-wide school choice, breaking up large comprehensive high schools into small schools with curricular specialties, encouraging the opening of a large number of charter schools, co-locating many schools—small specialty public schools along with charter schools—into the same buildings.  Those running the school district would consider all of these schools of choice as if they were investments in a stock portfolio. The district would hold on to the successful investments and phase out those whose test scores were low or which families didn’t choose.

Portfolio school reform has created collateral damage across the school districts which have experimented with the idea. After the Chicago Public Schools, another district managed by portfolio school reform theory, closed 50 schools at the end of the 2013 school year, the University of Chicago’s Consortium on School Research, and separately a University of Chicago sociologist, Eve Ewing tracked widespread community grieving when neighborhoods lost the public school institutions that had anchored their neighborhoods.

But there have been other kinds of collateral damage beyond the tragedy of school closures. In a new piece for the NY Times, Eliza Shapiro documents how district-wide school choice in New York City has contributed to inequity along with racial and segregation.

One problem is inequitable access to information. Parents who can afford to pay for consultants and who have the skills and position to understand how to navigate the system are able to privilege their own children with access to the schools widely thought to be desirable.  Shapiro explains: “There is a trick to getting to the front of the lines that clog sidewalks outside New York City’s top public high schools each fall. Parents who pay $200 for a newsletter compiled by a local admissions consultant know that they should arrive hours ahead of the scheduled start time for school tours. On a recent Tuesday, there were about a hundred mostly white parents queued up at 2:30 p.m. in the spitting rain outside of Beacon High School, some toting snacks and even a few folding chairs for the long wait. The doors of the highly selective, extremely popular school would not open for another two hours for the tour. Parents and students who arrived at the actual start time were in for a surprise. The line of several thousand people had wrapped around itself, stretching for three midtown Manhattan blocks.”

Resseger adds:

My own children graduated from a racially and economically diverse public high school in Cleveland Heights, Ohio.  Articles like Shapiro’s cause me to appreciate our family’s privilege in a way I had never really previously considered.  From the time they entered Kindergarten, our children knew they would someday go to the big high school at the corner of Cedar and Lee.  At a week-long summer music camp in our school district, middle school students play side-by-side with some of the members of the high school band and orchestra. Our daughter learned to know the high school tennis coach when he worked with younger students in the city recreation program. And the summer before his high school freshman year, our son, knowing that the high school cross country team worked out in a city park during August, went to the park and asked the coach if he could start working out with the team. High school for our children was a natural, predictable, and exciting transition. How lucky we were.


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

Davenport writes:

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

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

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

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


Jane Nylund, parent activist in Oakland, wrote the following warning after reading about the ouster of the Disrupters in Denver. Parents and activists and concerned citizens must organize and oust the agents of Disruption:


Oakland also must flip 4 board seats next year. The Walton-bought board has recently closed two schools, Roots and Kaiser Elementary, and there is talk of accelerating the “Blueprint process”, which is basically a plan to close and consolidate schools. Oakland’s portfolio model, which was only supposed to close “low performing” schools (nearly all of which were privatized into charters), has now morphed into the Citywide plan, in which no school is safe from the threat of closure. Kaiser was an exemplary model for a popular, well-supported, diverse neighborhood public school that attracted families both within and outside its boundaries. It also supported a significant number of LGBT families. It’s enrollment had been steady for years. Its closure (and planned consolidation with Sankofa, a struggling elementary school several miles away with a freeway in between) means that the beautiful piece of property where Kaiser is located (with SF bay views) will either be sold or handed over to a charter. Kaiser’s closure was a sacrifice, a political pawn in the school closure game, to show that the school board can be “bold” and not just close schools in high-needs neighborhoods. Look at us, we can close anything, and we will! This is the not-so-new normal for OUSD.

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

Gumbert writes:

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

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

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

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

Imagine a brand new nonprofit organization starting with more than $200 million. The usual group of billionaires has funded an organization called the City Fund, whose main purpose seems to be to buy local school board elections. Thus far, they have targeted Atlanta, Indianapolis, Newark, Denver, San Antonio, St. Louis, and Nashville, but they may have added or subtracted other sites. The City Fund is active in several elections. If they gain control, they will replace public schools with privately managed charter schools. The privatizers are really good at Disruption, not at improving schools or education.

William Phillis warns that the City Fund is active in Ohio, where most charter schools are rated D or F, lower-performing than even the urban districts they seek to dominate.

Charter zealots are running for board of education seats throughout the nation: Ohio is vulnerable
The warning issued by the Cincinnati Education Justice Coalition should attract the attention of all traditional public school advocates.
The charter industry is immersed in cash from the federal government, philanthropists, billionaire charter-friendly folks and, of course, funds siphoned from school districts. The charter establishment uses a toolkit full of strategies to expand its footprint in American education such as:
·        State takeover tactics
·        Portfolio school districts
·        Teach for America alliances
·        Political campaign contributions that overflow politicians’ coffers
Packing school boards with charter activists is a winner-take-all tactic they also use.
Ohio is not immune from any of the charter-promoting tactics. In fact, Ohio’s loosey-goosey regulations for the charter industry attract entrepreneurial opportunists and a variety of non-educators to the charter world.
Some school districts have already been taken over by charter-addicted board members who are bent on privatizing the public common school.
William L. Phillis | Ohio Coalition for Equity & Adequacy of School Funding ||

Lynn Davenport is a parent activist in Texas. She wrote the following post to alert her fellow Texans about the invasion of Kitamba Consultants, who bring with them the so-called “portfolio model” of privatization.


She writes:

The LA teacher strike thwarted a concealed plot to use Kitamba consultants to reinvent LAUSD with a portfolio model of privatization. Kitamba has a contract with TEA right now for these districts, including RISD:


I just got a 228 page public information request from the Texas Education Agency and Region 13 service center in Austin for their MOU with Kitamba.

Texas is spending big bucks on the same Kitamba consultants exposed in the LAUSD strikes against philanthropist/private equity reformer and Supt Austin Beutner:
“Created by the consulting firm Kitamba, the documents lay out an aggressive timeline for assigning schools to 32 support networks, giving principals more power, and cutting the central office by fall 2019.

The January strike appears to have derailed the plans. A spokesperson for Los Angeles Unified declined to comment.

During the January strike, United Teachers of Los Angeles criticized what it described as the district’s portfolio plan and its partnership with Kitamba. (A spokesperson at the time said Los Angeles Unified is not pursuing a portfolio approach.) Kitamba won a $765,000 contract for its work, paid by a slate of outside donors, including the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation.

Details of Kitamba’s contract and scope of work were reported in February by the Los Angeles Times after school board member Scott Schmerelson criticized Beutner for not disclosing contracts with consultants, including Kitamba, or the work they had done for the district.”

Rajeev Bajaj is a Broadie:


I researched all of this during my System of Great Schools LinkedIn article in December, I just didn’t see the magnitude of the Kitamba contract at the time:


Please read my SGS Takeover article again:


Blogger Bekah McNeel found that, “In 2017 the Laura and John Arnold Foundation gave a two-year $85,000 grant to the TEA through Education Service Center Region XIII “to support the Texas Education Agency’s System of Great Schools Network, a program for districts interested in the portfolio model of school governance.”

Interesting that Dallas mayoral candidate Lynn McBee’s org was mentioned:



We need to stop this with the help of Texas AFT, parents, and trustees who see the harm of the portfolio model. We also need to loop in the California union to get their advice. I would like to hire Brett Shipp Media to help expose this. If we don’t stop it, our neighborhood schools, teachers, and elected boards will be eliminated in favor of a charter-like model of “autonomy”.



Tom Ultican has been writing about differentcities where the Destroy Public Education Movement has made extraordinary gains. Atlanta has fallen into the clutches of the DPE as a result of Teach for America’s success in electing its alumni to the school board, which hired a superintendent committedto the DPE agenda.

Ultican writes:

“On March 4, the Atlanta Public School (APS) board voted 5 to 3 to begin adopting the “System of Excellent Schools.” That is Atlanta’s euphemistic name for the portfolio district model which systematically ends democratic governance of public schools. The portfolio model was a response to John Chubb’s and Terry Moe’s 1990 book, Politics, Markets, and America’s Schools, which claimed that poor academic performance was “one of the prices Americans pay for choosing to exercise direct democratic control over their schools.”

“A Rand Corporation researcher named Paul Hill who founded the Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE) began working out the mechanics of ending democratic control of public education. His solution to ending demon democracy – which is extremely unpopular with many billionaires – was the portfolio model of school governance.

“The portfolio model of school governance directs closing schools that score in the bottom 5% on standardized testing and reopening them as charter schools or Innovation schools. In either case, the local community loses their right to hold elected leaders accountable, because the schools are removed from the school board’s portfolio. It is a plan that guarantees school churn in poor neighborhoods, venerates disruption and dismisses the value of stability and community history.

Atlanta’s Comprador Regime

“Atlanta resident Ed Johnson compared what is happening in APS to a “comprador regime” serving today’s neocolonialists. In the 19th century, a comprador was a native servant doing the bidding of his European masters; the new compradors are doing the bidding of billionaires privatizing public education.

”Chalkbeat reported that Atlanta is one of seven US cities The City Fund has targeted for implementation of the portfolio district governance model. The city fund was founded in 2018 by two billionaires, John Arnold the former Enron executive who did not go to prison and Reed Hastings the founder and CEO of Netflix. Neerav Kingsland, Executive Director of The City Fund, stated, “Along with the Hastings Fund and the Arnold Foundation, we’ve also received funds from the Dell Foundation, the Gates Foundation, the Walton Family Foundation, and the Ballmer Group.”

“City Fund has designated RedefinED as their representative in Atlanta. Ed Chang, the Executive Director of RedefinED, is an example of the billionaire created education “reform” leader recruited initially by Teach for America (TFA).

“TFA is the billionaire financed destroy-public-education (DPE) army. TFA teachers are not qualified to be in a classroom. They are new college graduates with no legitimate teacher training nor any academic study of education theory. Originally, TFA was proposed as an emergency corps of teachers for states like West Virginia who were having trouble attracting qualified professional educators. Then billionaires started financing TFA. They pushed through laws defining TFA teachers as “highly qualified” and purchased spurious research claiming TFA teachers were effective. If your child is in a TFA teacher’s classroom, they are being cheated out of a professionally delivered education. However, TFA provides the DPE billionaires a group of young ambitious people who suffer from group think bordering on cult like indoctrination.

“Chang is originally from Chicago where he trained to be a physical therapist. He came south as a TFA seventh grade science teacher. Chang helped found an Atlanta charter school and through that experience received a Building Excellent Schools (BES) fellowship. BES claims to train “high-capacity individuals to take on the demanding and urgent work of leading high-achieving, college preparatory urban charter schools.

“After his subsequent charter school proposal was rejected, Chang started doing strategy work for the Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP). This led him to a yearlong Fisher Fellowship training to start and run a KIPP charter school. In 2009, he opened KIPP STRIVE Academy in Atlanta.

“While complicit in stealing neighborhood public schools from Atlanta’s poorest communities, Chang says with a straight face, “Education is the civil rights movement of today.

“Chang now has more than a decade working in billionaire financed DPE organizations. He started in TFA, had two billionaire supported “fellowships” and now has millions of dollars to use as the Executive Director of RedefinED. It is quite common for TFA alums like Chang to end up on the boards of multiple education “reform” organizations.

“Under Chang’s direction, RedefinED has provided monetary support for both the fake teacher program, TFA, and the fake graduate school, Relay. In addition, they have given funds to the Georgia Charter School Association, Purpose Built Schools, Kindezi School, KIPP and Resurgence Hall.”

Keep reading to learn the scope of the civic disaster in Atlanta, where DPE is rapidly applying its failed ideas and dismantling public education.

The sad part of DPE is that it proclaims lofty goals but eventually has to confront its failures, which are predictable.