Archives for category: Portfolio District

Carol Burris wrote the following post. Marla Kilfoyle provided assistance. They asked me to add that there are dozens more exceptionally well qualified people who should be considered for this important post: they are career educators who believe in public education, not closing schools or privatization.

The media has been filled with speculation regarding Joe Biden’s pick for Secretary of Education. Given the attention that position received with Betsy De Vos at the helm, that is not a surprise. 

In 2008, Linda Darling Hammond was pushed aside by DFER (Democrats for Education Reform) for Arne Duncan, with disastrous consequences for our public schools. Race to the Top was a disaster. New Orleans’ parents now have no choice but unstable charter schools. Too many of Chicago’s children no longer have a neighborhood school from the Race to the Top era when it was believed that you improved a school by closing it.

But the troubling, ineffective policies of the past have not gone away. Their banner is still being carried by deep-pocketed ed reformers who believe the best way to improve a school is to close it or turn it over to a private charter board. 

Recently, DFER named its three preferred candidates for the U.S. Secretary of Education. DFER is a political action committee (PAC) associated with Education Reform Now, which, as Mercedes Schneider has shown, has ties to Betsy De Vos. DFER congratulated Betsy DeVos and her commitment to charter schools when Donald Trump appointed her.  They are pro-testing and anti-union. DFER is no friend to public schools.

The DFER candidates belong to Jeb Bush’s Chiefs for Change, an organization that promotes Bush/Duncan education reform, as Jan Resseger describes here. “Chiefs for Change,” you support school choice, even if it drains resources from the public schools in your district, of which you are the steward. In their recent letter to President BidenChiefs for Change specifically asked for a continuance of the Federal Charter School Program, which has wasted approximately one billion dollars on charters that either never open or open and close. They also asked for the continuance of accountability systems (translate close schools based on test results) even as the pandemic rages.

We must chart a new course. We cannot afford to take a chance on another Secretary of Education who believes in the DFER/Chiefs for Change playbook. 

We don’t have to settle. The bench of pro-public education talent is deep. Here are just a few of the outstanding leaders that come to mind who could lead the U.S. Department of Education. Marla Kilfoyle and I came up with the following list. There are many more. 

Tony Thurmond is the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, California. Tony deeply believes in public schools. Prior to becoming his state’s education leader, he was a public school educator, social worker, and a public school parent. His personal story is both moving and compelling. 

Betty Rosa dedicated most of her adult life to the students of New York City.  She began her career as a bi-lingual paraprofessional in NYC schools, became a teacher, assistant principal, principal, superintendent, state chancellor, and now New York State’s interim commissioner. 

Other outstanding superintendents include Joylynn Pruitt -Adams, the Superintendent of Oak Park and River Forest in Illinois, who is relentlessly determined to provide an excellent education to the district’s Black and Latinx high school students by eliminating low track classes, Mike Matsuda, Superintendent of Anaheim High School District and Cindy Marten, the superintendent of San Diego.  

Two remarkable teachers with legislative experience who are strong advocates for public schools and public school students are former Teacher of the Year Congresswoman Jahana Hayes and former Arkansas state senator Joyce Elliot

There is also outstanding talent in our public colleges. There are teachers and leaders like University of Kentucky College of Education Dean, Julian Vasquez Heilig, who would use research to inform policy decisions.  

These are but a few of the dedicated public school advocates who would lead the Department in a new direction away from test and punish policies and school privatization. They are talented and experienced leaders who are dedicated to improving and keeping our public schools public and who realize that you don’t improve schools by shutting them down. Any DFER endorsed member of Chiefs for Change is steeped in the failed school reform movement and will further public school privatization through choice. They had their chance. That time has passed. 

 

 

Thomas Ultican has yet again performed a public service by investigating a reformy think tank, where people get huge amounts of money from billionaires to tell the world that public schools are terrible and private management is the way to go.

In the linked post, he delves into the philosophy and fundraising genius of the Center for Reinventing Public Education at the University of Washington.

As Tom shows, it is very lucrative to knock the public schools. Foundations stand in line to offer millions for more evidence that our nation’s public schools, which educated 90% of us (but NOT Donald Trump!), are rotten.

We have been waiting thirty years to see the miracle of charter schools and vouchers and the portfolio model, but no matter. It’s a good living for them that bring bad news.

Thomas Ultican, retired teacher of advanced math and physics, has been analyzing the depredations of the privatization movement, which dares to call itself a “reform” movement, thus debasing the plain meaning of reform.

In this post, he digs into the machinations of the billionaire privatizers and their plans to buy and privatize the public schools of Oakland, California. Their tentacles reach far, and they have paid for seats on the school board as well as a panoply of organizations, who have a common purpose.

They don’t care that they have failed and failed and failed to improve the education of the children of Oakland. Their goal is power, and they have always been able to pay people to do their bidding.

Ultican writes:

Community based schools run under the authority of an elected school board have served as the foundation for American democracy for two centuries. Feckless billionaires operating from hubris or theological commitment or a desire to avoid taxes or a pursuit of more wealth are sundering those foundations.

Will activists of good will be able to throw off the yoke of billionaire financed tyranny and defend their public schools in Oakland?

Thomas Ultican is a retired teacher of physics and advanced mathematics who has developed a passionate interest in the inner workings of the Privatization and Disruption Movement (also known as the Destroy Public Education Movement).

This is his account of the new and very well-funded plaything of the Billionaire Boys (and Girls) Club: the City Fund.

It sees itself as part of a movement, but it is not. It is merely a hobby for those who have so much money that they can”t find useful things to do with it, like feed the hungry, fight for a higher minimum wage, create health clinics for children and families, or even restore the arts and libraries in schools that have lost them to budget cuts.

There are a few things you need to know about this “movement.” It is a movement of the elite, the super-rich, the powerful. It has no troops, just well-paid minions. As long as the money keeps flowing, there will be takers, ready to sign on to the job of destroying democratically governed public schools and replacing them with privately managed schools. There is so much money available to them from billionaires like Reed Hastings and John Arnold that they can flood local school board elections with more cash than any of the other candidates and put anti-public school candidates on the board of the district.

The City Fund uses billionaire cash to undermine democracy. It does nothing to alleviate poverty or reduce segregation. Such things are not important to them, other than dreaming that changes in the ownership of schools from public to private will someday, somehow reduce poverty.

Here is the other interesting fact about the staff of the City Fund. Nothing they have done has ever improved education. All of their endeavors have failed. They exist to disrupt and destroy communities and their attachment to their local public schools. As one surveys the disaster of the Tennessee “Achievement School District,” the pathetic results of the New Orleans all-charter district (where nearly half the charters are failing schools), one wonders why the billionaires pay them to sow more chaos. The billionaires sit back and watch the fun from afar.

Ultican has created a sociogram of the main actors. None of them can point to a district that has “closed the achievement gap.” None of them can point to a success story that vaulted an entire district to the peak of excellence. Yet there they are, sitting on hundreds of millions of dollars, primed to impose their will on the people and deprive them of their right to elect their representatives.

How long will the billionaires continue to fund failure?

There is something in the City Fund that is strangely detached from the lives of children and families, something completely indifferent to the importance of communities, something soulless in the work they do to rearrange the lives of other people. It as though they are looking at cities where they never lived from a height of 30,000 feet, deciding the fate of people they never met, people who are not on the payroll of billionaires.

They exist in a luxurious, air-conditioned bubble, remote from the cares of families who worry about feeding their children, paying their rent or mortgage, having a decent job, planning for the future.

They are the outsiders who land in a community to tear it apart, then exit to do the same to another community.

Strange what some people will do for money, a lot of money. Power is intoxicating. So is money.

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.