Archives for category: Privatization

Tonight March 3, I am zooming with Jennifer Berkshire and Charles Siler to discuss the privatization movement. Charles has a unique perspective: he was part of it.

Jennifer is co-author of A Wolf at the Schoolhouse Door with historian Jack Schneider..

Charles worked in the belly of the beast at the Goldwater Institute, and then he had an epiphany and walked out into the sunlight.

Join us!

Diane Ravitch in Conversation with Jennifer Berkshire and Charles Siler

I reviewed A Wolf at the Schoolhouse Door in The New Republic. It is an important book that pulls together all the threads of the privatization movement and shows that their agenda is not to improve education or to advance equity but to destroy public education. The review is here.

Tonight, I will join the authors at a town hall Zoom meeting in Seattle at 9 p.m. EST, 6 p.m. PST. Please join us!

It begins like this:

Two years ago, Margaret Spellings, George W. Bush’s secretary of education, and Arne Duncan, Barack Obama’s secretary of education, wrote an opinion article in The Washington Post lamenting the decline of public support for the bipartisan consensus about education policy that began under Ronald Reagan. Elected officials strongly supported a regime of testing, accountability, and school choice, they wrote, but public enthusiasm was waning due to a lack of “courage” and “political will.”

A Wolf at the Schoolhouse Door: The Dismantling of Public Education and the Future of Schoolby Jack Schneider and Jennifer BerkshireBuy on BookshopThe New Press, 256 pp., $26.99

They were right. Elected officials, educators, and parents were rapidly losing faith in the bipartisan consensus. For a decade, it had failed to produce any improvement on national tests. Parents were opting their children out of the annual testing mandated by federal law; in New York, 20 percent of eligible students refused to take them. Teachers went to court to fight the test-based evaluation methods imposed by Duncan’s Race to the Top. Communities from Los Angeles to Philadelphia were complaining about the growth of charter schools, which diverted funds away from public schools. A year after Spellings and Duncan’s essay appeared, teachers across the nation, from West Virginia to California, went on strike to protest low wages, low funding, and large class sizes, issues that were ignored during the era of bipartisan consensus.

What went wrong? Why did the bipartisan consensus that Spellings and Duncan praised fall apart? In their new book, historian Jack Schneider and journalist Jennifer Berkshire provide a valuable guide to the history and the politics of the rise and fall of the bipartisan consensus. Theirs is indeed a cautionary tale, because they show how Republicans and Democrats joined to support failed policies whose ultimate goal was to eliminate public education and replace it with a free-market approach to schooling. Betsy DeVos was publicly reviled for her contemptuous attitudes toward public schools, but she was not an exception to the bipartisan consensus: She was its ultimate embodiment. She was the personification of the wolf at the schoolhouse door. 

Schneider and Berkshire write that they began the book to answer “a puzzling question: Why had conservative policy ideas, hatched decades ago and once languishing due to a lack of public and political support, suddenly roared back to life in the last five or so years?” Their prime example was private school vouchers, an idea first promoted by Ronald Reagan in the early 1980s and rejected at that time by Congress. Private school vouchers were not the only policy prescription that was recycled from the ashcan of failed ideas. There was also “market-based school choice, for-profit schools, virtual schools,” and deregulation. These ideas were repackaged as innovative while their history and their conservative ideological origins were obscured. True believers, intent on eliminating public schools, built donor networks, cultivated political alliances, and churned out ready-made legislation. A key element in this network-building was the enlistment of billionaires who were enamored of free-market solutions and who opened their wallets to persuade national and state elected officials to inject competition and private-sector solutions into the public education system. 

This is a book you will want to read. Give it to your local school board members and your legislators.

REGISTER NOW FOR 2/24 WEBINAR:

Litigating Against Private School Vouchers

Join Education Law Center and Public Funds Public Schools on Wednesday, February 24, from 3:00-4:30 p.m. EST for a webinar, “Litigating Against Private School Vouchers.” 

During the webinar, experienced attorneys will discuss lawsuits challenging private school voucher programs and other diversions of public funds to private education in state and federal courts.    
 
Moderator: Bacardi Jackson, Southern Poverty Law Center

Panelists:Alice O’Brien, National Education Association
Christopher Wood, Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd
Tamerlin Godley, Paul Hastings
Jessica Levin, Education Law Center

Register for Litigating Against Private School Vouchers
If you have any questions about the webinar, please contact Nicole Ciullo at nciullo@edlawcenter.org. ‌  ‌

As a result of strong opposition, Republicans who control the New Hampshire legislature decided to postpone consideration of their “number one priority,” school vouchers. Under consideration was the most sweeping voucher bill in the nation. Thousands of people signed up to testify against the legislation.

A bill to create a school voucher-like system in New Hampshire is poised to be kicked to 2022, after Republicans on the House Education Committee said that it needed more time.

In a 20-0 vote Thursday, the committee recommended that the bill be retained, a move that if approved by the full House next week would put off any decision-making until next year’s session.

House Bill 20, named the “Richard ‘Dick’ Hinch education freedom account program” after the late House speaker, was a top priority for House Republicans this year. The proposal would allow parents to withdraw their children from public school and take the per-pupil state money with them.

Under the bill, that state funding, which amounts to $3,700 to $8,000 per student depending on the school, could then be used by the parents for a number of alternative expenses, such as private school tuition, college preparatory courses, school supplies, or transportation.

But a deluge of opposition to the bill from public school advocates and Democrats had slowed down its progress, resulting in contentious hearings and deliberative sessions that stretched through the day. Opponents argue the bill would drain resources from public schools and prompt cutbacks and increased property taxes; proponents say that it would provide new opportunities to families whose public schools aren’t working for their children.

Despite numerous tweaks and amendments, the bill didn’t have the votes to pass out of the GOP-controlled committee.

It is unclear if the committee would have had the votes to pass the bill even if the amendments were drafted correctly. Last week, NHJournal reported James Allard (R-Pittsfield) was likely to vote against the measure.

House insiders tell NHJournal that had a vote on the bill been held, the best-case scenario would have been a 10-10 tie vote in the committee, sending the bill to the floor with no recommendation. That would have set up a heated floor battle.

Attempts to sway Allard and other concerned Republicans included adding income-caps to the EFA eligibility formula. The cap would limit participation to those earning less than 375 percent of the federal poverty limit — roughly $99,000 for a family of four. That proposed income-cap would cut the number of eligible students in half.

Democrats on the Education Committee were pleased with the outcome.”HB 20 contains no protection for students against discrimination, little oversight, and is ripe for fraud…and would act as a tax-dollar giveaway to wealthy families. There has never been as much vocal opposition to a piece of legislation in NH,” Democrat leader on the committee Mel Myler said in a press release Thursday morning.

There’s still an Education Freedom Account bill in the Senate, giving supporters hope the legislation can still be amended and passed this year. In 2017-2018, the Senate passed SB193 – an education savings account program. That bill died in the House, after being heavily amended. The Senate then scrapped a separate bill and reintroduced SB193, the original version. Again, the proposal failed in the House.Democrats and teachers unions argued EFAs would increase property taxes, defund local district schools, and wreak havoc on New Hampshire’s education system. They celebrated Thursday’s win.

It has been well documented that students who leave public schools for voucher schools lose ground academically. Vouchers will not only hurt the state’s poorly funded public schools, it will hurt the children who use vouchers. It is a lose-lose for everyone except the religious schools that win public funds.

This story has justifiably gotten a lot of national attention. Tim Boyd, the mayor of Colorado City, Texas, resigned after posting the following message on his Facebook page. He has a philosophy of sink or swim. That Government has no responsibility to help you when the power goes out and the temperature goes below freezing. Surviving is your problem.

That worldview sounds like it derives from the late Rush Limbaugh. It is certainly not consonant with the core values embedded in the Holy Bible. I’m guessing ex-Mayor Boyd considers himself a Christian. From what I know of the words of Jesus, he taught love and kindness for one’s neighbors, not indifference.

For non-Christians, there is another source for believing that government has an obligation to help its citizens: the United States Constitution, which begins: “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

”Providing for the general welfare” is a commitment that society makes to its citizens.

And then there’s the basic fact that the government in most parts of this country does control the power grid and the water supply. Texans should rightly hold their state government responsible for the lack of both. Individuals and families can burn wood in their fireplaces, if they have one, and they can draw water from a well, but most people don’t have a well. People in civilized societies pay taxes so the government will protect them, build roads, supply electrical power and potable water, provide free public education, and do those things that individuals can’t do for themselves.

When their lives are at risk because of a natural disaster, they rightly turn to government for help. At times of overwhelming crisis, only government has the resources and personnel (think National Guard) to save lives.

This is what ex-Mayor Boyd wrote, along with his sort-of apology:

ORIGINAL FACEBOOK MESSAGE (since deleted):

Let me hurt some feelings while I have a minute!!

No one owes you are (sic) your family anything; nor is it the local government’s responsibility to support you during trying times like this! Sink or swim it’s your choice! The City and County, along with power providers or any other service owes you NOTHING! I’m sick and tired of people looking for a damn handout! If you don’t have electricity you step up and come up with a game plan to keep your family warm and safe. If you have no water you deal without and think outside of the box to survive and supply water to your family. If you are sitting at home in the cold because you have no power and are sitting there waiting for someone to come rescue you because your (sic) lazy is direct result of your raising! Only the strong will survive and the weak will parish (sic). Folks God has given us the tools to support ourselves in times like this. This is sadly a product of socialist government where they feed people to believe that the FEW will work and others will become dependent for handouts. Am I sorry that you have been dealing without electricity and water; yes! But I’ll be damned if I’m going to provide for anyone that is capable of doing it themselves! We have lost sight of those in need and those that take advantage of the system and meshed them in to one group!! Bottom line quit crying and looking for a handout! Get off your ass and take care of your own family!

Bottom line – DONT (sic) A PART OF PROBLEM, BE A PART OF THE SOLUTION!!

APOLOGY

All, I have set back and watched all this escalating and have tried to keep my mouth shut! I won’t deny for one minute what I said in my post this morning. Believe me when I say that many of the things I said were taken out of context and some of which were said without putting much thought in to it. I would never want to hurt the elderly or anyone that is in true need of help to be left to fend for themselves. I was only making the statement that those folks that are too lazy to get up and fend for themselves but are capable should not be dealt a handout. I apologize for the wording and some of the phrases that were used! I had already turned in my resignation and had not signed up to run for mayor again on the deadline that was February 12th! I spoke some of this out of the anger that the city and county was catching for situations which were out of their control. Please understand if I had it to do over again I would have just kept my words to myself and if I did say them I would have used better wording and been more descriptive.

The anger and harassment you have caused my wife and family is so undeserved….my wife was laid off of her job based off the association people gave to her and the business she worked for. She’s a very good person and was only defending me! But her to have to get fired from her job over things I said out of context is so horrible. I admit, there are things that are said all the time that I don’t agree with; but I would never harass you or your family to the point that they would lose there livelihood such as a form of income.

I ask that you each understand I never meant to speak for the city of Colorado City or Mitchell county! I was speaking as a citizen as I am NOT THE MAYOR anymore. I apologize for the wording and ask that you please not harass myself or my family anymore!

Threatening our lives with comments and messages is a horrible thing to have to wonder about. I won’t share any of those messages from those names as I feel they know who they are and hope after they see this they will retract the hateful things they have said!

Thank you

Tim Boyd(citizen)

Civil rights groups, led by the Southern Education Foundation, are opposing the voucher legislation proposed by Republicans in Georgia.

SEF leads opposition to education savings account bill introduced in Georgia legislature

One of the first pieces of legislation introduced in the Georgia legislature in 2021 was the Georgia Educational Scholarship Act (HB60), a bill that would divert taxpayer dollars to private schools. In February, SEF and nine other education and equity-focused organizations sent a letter to the Georgia House Committee on Education expressing concerns that HB60 would divert funds from public education at a time when schools can least afford to lose it, and further perpetuate inequities.

SEF prepared analysis of the bill and a backgrounder on academic outcomes and participation requirements for similar tax credit scholarship programs across the country.

SEF’s Legislative and Research Analyst also provided testimony to the Senate Education and Youth Committee on SB47, a proposed expansion of the state’s existing special needs voucher program.

William Gumbert has been reviewing the rapid expansion of charter schools in Texas with concern. In previous posts, he has demonstrated that they are likely to underperform the public schools with which they compete. And, worse, they take funding away from the districts in which they are located. Texas is now being flooded by corporate charter chains, replacing community-based public schools. His attached report explains why community-based schools and school districts deserve the support of all Texans.

Jim Swanson and John Graham, both CEOs in Arizona, wrote a stern warning against the legislature’s proposed voucher expansion, which would make almost all students in the state eligible for public funding to spend in a private or religious school. One of the authors is on the Arizona State Board for Charter Schools. Arizona is a state that likes low taxes; it does not fund its public schools adequately or equitably. Under the leadership of Governor Doug Ducey (who promised the Koch brothers a few years ago that he would drive taxes down as low as he could), the state is offering choice instead of adequate funding to its schools. Arizona has consistently underfunded its public schools and pretends to “reform” them by offering charters and vouchers.

They wrote:

The current, aggressive push to expand Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (ESAs) does nothing to address the systemic education challenges we face in Arizona.

It is a dangerous attack on our public education systems and our state’s economic future. As a business community, our priority is to ensure that all students have access to a top-quality school that meets students’ needs and interests.

Arizona leaders should focus on effectively funding public education and supporting innovative programs that improve academic outcomes.

The time is now. Public education is the single most powerful economic development tool we have as a state.

ESAs were originally designed to serve a small population of students – they were never meant to replace public education or to serve all students.

A full expansion of ESAs is nothing more than a boutique scheme to address a non-existent need for private school subsidies.

While being marketed as a solution for low-income students and students of color – the students whom data tells us need the most wide-scale, institutional support – SB1452 is the most offensive of the private school voucher bills proposed this session. The bill would make roughly 700,000 Arizona students eligible for ESAs – a 280% increase in a single move. This is nothing more than a bold attempt to privatize education.

There’s a lot wrong with this bill, but the worst is the fact that rather than focus on supporting low-income students of color, many of whom are already eligible, SB1452 will make many more middle- and high-income white students eligible for taxpayer-subsidized vouchers, exploiting the impoverished communities in favor of further subsidizing the tiny fraction (as few as approximately 5%) of Arizona families choosing to home-school, private and parochial schools.

Greater Phoenix Leadership, Southern Arizona Leadership Council and Northern Arizona Leadership Alliance, representing more than 200 CEOs across Arizona, have made it clear that they are against the expansion of vouchers in Arizona and have voiced support for our public education systems, from early childhood to higher education. Business leaders and voters are like-minded – we have consistently come together for public education with a focus on equity and access. Instead of proposing unsustainable ways to make 70% of students eligible for private school vouchers, we need to make the public schools better, stronger and more successful.

What our state needs is crystal clear – an equitable, fully funded, high-quality public education system that serves all students across Arizona, no matter the zip code or income level. We have fallen too far behind and the only way we catch up – the only way we move the needle and bring Arizona to a competitive, robust and morally conscionable state – is to focus on the public education funding formula. Programs like private school vouchers have a long history of excluding and segregating our communities rather than including and supporting them. ESAs don’t get us where we need to be.

We need to put our heads together – across the business, education and political realms – and finally execute big changes to the funding formula and other mechanisms that have proven inefficient and worse, inequitable. Now is the time to focus on what moves all our students forward – working together to properly fund the schools serving 95% of Arizona students.

Question: Will the legislature listen to Arizona business leaders or to Charles Koch and Betsy DeVos?

West Virginia was the first site of the Red for Ed teachers’ movement. The teachers of the state captured national attention for their statewide strike. Their strike included a number of issues, not only salaries and health care, but also charter schools. Teachers correctly saw them as a means of diverting funding from public schools. They wanted well-resourced public schools. But given the GOP dominance of the legislature, the charter supporters demanded charter legislation, and the best the teachers could was to limit their number.

Now, in the middle of the pandemic, the GOP is coming back with both charter and voucher legislation. The bills are advancing rapidly and teachers can’t mass their numbers in the Capitol due to restrictions on access.

CHARLESTON — Bills on schedule to pass the state House of Delegates this week would allow faster charter school expansion, promote online charter schools and give parents public money for non-public schooling.

It’s just the second week of the legislative session.

Fresh off their first statewide strike a year earlier, public school workers in 2019 shut down classrooms again to oppose an omnibus education bill that, among many other things, would’ve legalized charter schools and vouchers to provide public money for private- and home-schooling.

The effort staved off vouchers and limited charter schools to no more than three until July 1, 2023. County boards of education also were generally given veto power over charters.

This time, facing a Republican governor paired with Republican supermajorities in both legislative chambers, state public school worker unions are taking a more cautious approach.

“Maybe fight is not the best word, but to support our stand,” said Fred Albert, president of the state branch of the American Federation of Teachers, “and we’ve said this a million times: Elections have consequences. And we’ve always been about trying to elect friends of public education and people who support public education … [W]e know it’s going to be an uphill battle…”

Time to stop the bills appeared to be running out three days into the session. Perhaps it ran out in November.

By just Day Two of the session, House Republicans had already advanced charter school and voucher bills from the House Education Committee, which has been the graveyard of previous union-opposed legislation. The House Finance Committee passed the vouchers bill Saturday.

If the full House passes the bills, they head to the Senate, where there has historically been even more support for such legislation. A simple majority can override a gubernatorial veto...

Other factors could be affecting workers’ ability to combat the legislation. Many have borne personal tolls from the pandemic.

“People are dying,” White said. He said he confirmed Thursday five of his union members had died.

“I think people are feeling overwhelmed with the pandemic,” Albert said. “There’s a lot of fear out there for their own health and safety and for their children and classrooms.”

Teachers and others also have waged wearying battles over mandated returns to classrooms.

“I think people are exhausted from the fights over school reopening,” said Jay O’Neal, a teacher at West Side Middle who helped galvanize the 2018 and 2019 strikes.

A perfect time to sabotage public schools and their teachers, when everyone is 3xhausted.




SB 48 Will Be Heard at 3:30 p.m. on 2/17/21 in the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Education Your Voice is Needed!
What you can do . . .
1) Make calls and/or send emails – We are urging all those connected to Pastors for Florida Children to contact the members of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Education and encourage them to vote “NO” on this bill! We are hoping to flood their offices with calls/emails up until the committee discussion on SB 48 at 3:30 p.m. on 2/17. If you live within the districts of any of the Senators on the subcommittee, be sure to indicate that in your call/email. Ask your family members, friends and colleagues to contact them as well. Below is some more information as well as talking points about the bill: 
SB 48 is moving through the legislative process and will divert more tax dollars away from public schools and further remove public oversight, transparency and accountability. If passed, SB 48 would expand eligibility for school-voucher programs, consolidate existing choice programs and allow parents to use taxpayer-backed education savings accounts for private schools and other costs.
Private schools that take state scholarships also do not have to meet state standards for teacher qualifications, facilities, curriculum or finances. Also, within the last calendar year, evidence has been presented that private schools that accept state money are currently able to discriminate against some of the state’s students without any repercussions.
SB 48 will outsource the oversight of Florida’s $1 billion voucher program to private organizations that will profit from the program expansion. There is no local oversight from elected officials and private organization audits are also reduced from annually to every three years.
The almost 3 million schoolchildren in Florida deserve better! Every child in Florida deserves to have access to a high quality education as is mandated by the Florida Constitution. 
Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Education Members and Contact Information:Chair Doug Broxson (R)broxson.doug@flsenate.gov850-487-5001@DougBroxson
Vice Chair Manny Diaz (R) — *Bill Sponsordiaz.manny@flsenate.gov850-487-5036@SenMannyDiazJr
Sen. Janet Cruz (D)cruz.janet@flsenate.gov850-487-5018@SenJanetCruz
Sen. Audrey Gibson (D)gibson.audrey@flsenate.gov850-487-5006@SenAudrey2eet
Sen. Joe Gruters (R)gruters.joe@flsenate.gov850-487-5023@JoeGruters
Sen. Travis Hutson (R)hutson.travis.web@flsenate.gov850-487-5007@TravisJHutson
Sen. Kathleen Passidomo (R)passidomo.kathleen@flsenate.gov850-487-5028@Kathleen4SWFL
Sen. Tina Polsky (D)polsky.tina@flsenate.gov850-487-5029@TinaPolsky
Sen. Tom Wright (R)wright.tom.web@flsenate.gov850-487-5014@SenTomWright
2) Get Educated – The League of Women Voters of Florida hosted a Lunch & Learn program dedicated solely to the detriments that this legislation will cause, featuring Rev. Rachel Gunter Shapard, one of the co-founders of Pastors for Florida Children. If you would like to view it to learn more about SB 48 click here. If you were not able to attend the webinar hosted by Public Funds Public Schools entitled “Fighting Voucher Legislation in 2021: An Update on State Voucher Bills and Tools to Oppose Them,” you can view the recording here. The webinar featured representatives of Public Funds Public Schools (PFPS), the Network for Public Education (NPE), and the National Coalition for Public Education (NCPE). It is worth your time!
3) Write an Op-Ed – if you are a writer, we need you! It is imperative that we tell the other side of the story. Privatizers are bringing in parents and students who have benefited from vouchers to testify before legislative committees, but the problem is that private school students only represent 10% of the school-age population in Florida. We need to help amplify the stories of students who attended voucher schools and due to a negative experience had to return to public schools, or of public schools that are in underfunded that are doing incredible work, but need more resources to make a truly transformative impact. Contact us if you would like to write an Op-Ed. 
4) Make a connection – If you know of students who have utilized a voucher “scholarship” who had a negative experience and had to return to a public school, please connect us to them! Now more than ever it is imperative to share the other side of the story. 
Sincerely,
Rev. James T. GoldenChair, Social Action Committee,Florida African Methodist Episcopal Church
Rev. Joyce Lieberman Executive/Stated Clerk,Synod of South Atlantic – Presbyterian Church (USA)
Rev. Rachel Gunter ShapardRegional Vice President, Together for Hope – Black BeltContact us:pastorsforflchildren@gmail.com ‌  ‌
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— 
Charles Foster Johnson, Pastor, Bread Fellowship of Fort WorthExecutive Director, Pastors for Texas ChildrenP.O. Box 471155Fort Worth, TX 76147
(c)210-379-1066
www.pastorsfortexaschildren.comwww.charlesfosterjohnson.com