Archives for category: Privatization

Leonie Haimson has written a stunning article about stories in the New York Times that promote investments of Bill Gates without acknowledging that the writer’s outside organization is funded by the Gates Foundation.

She refers in amazing detail to two laudatory articles about Bridge International Academies, the corporation that is providing for-profit schools in poor countries in Africa and elsewhere. Gates is an investor in BIA. The Gates Foundation supports the organization that supports the journalist. BIA is encouraging countries like Kenya and Liberia to outsource their responsibility for primary school education to the corporation, which charges the families about $6 a month. Haimson points out that when the cost of uniforms and supplies and food are included, the total is far higher, and represents about a quarter of the family income. If there is more than one child, the cost may be 2/3 of the family income. You can be sure that the business is highly profitable, and it relieves the country of the necessity of building universal free public education.

The article goes into detail about the research on both sides of the issue, which is not reflected in the Times’ coverage.

Other articles in the New York Times have praised the “flipped classroom,” a favorite of Bill Gates, and edTech schools that Gates endorses.

I hope the Public Editor of the New York Times reads this timely and important critique of their coverage.

Peter Greene received a notice from the Center for Education Reform, which has led the fight against public schools for almost 25 years, promising a reward to the charter school that created a video showing how great charter schools are. This was in response to John Oliver’s devastating critique of the charlatans who have profited off the deregulation of public money for nonpublic schools.

Right after the John Oliver piece appeared, the CER asked its followers to write Oliver and tweet him to tell him he was wrong. Apparently this didn’t do the job, so now it is offering a prize of $100,000 for a video showing the awesomeness of privately managed schools.

Greene writes:

I, too, would be interested to see what opportunities charters offer that wouldn’t exist without charters. Perhaps some videos will highlight charter-only perks like “getting away from Those Children” or “enjoying a constantly churning staff of underpaid unretained teachers” or “the delightful mystery of what exactly is being done with our tax dollars” or “the warm glow of knowing that we’ve helped some investors make a buck or ten” or even “the suspense of never knowing when my school might suddenly close.” Please, somebody, make that video…The “Our School Is Great” video is a common genre. Public schools all across the country make them– for free– all the time. But it’s completely in keeping with the charter school industry that, having failed to raise a groundswell of grass roots anger over the Oliver piece (which is now over a week old and yet the righteous indignation over it seems largely confined to people who make their living shilling for charters), the charter cheerleading squad must now pay somebody to stand up for them and help them fight back against this PR disaster.

When I read the CER announcement (I am on the CER mailing list), I was aghast that a school-related organization had that kind of spare money to hold a contest. The Network for Public Education certainly doesn’t. That kind of money represents a large percentage of our annual budget. It must be nice to have that kind of money. But I feel far better having the right principles, even though it doesn’t enhance our bank account. It is good to wake up every day knowing that you are on the right side of history, fighting to create better schools for all. I feel sorry for people fighting for better schools for a few kids, while sucking resources out of the schools that enroll the majority o kids. This is akin to providing 50 life vests for a ship that holds 1,500 passengers. The donor can feel proud of saving 50 lives, while ignoring the other 1,450 passengers. I want a safer ship, a well-trained pilot and crew, and life vests for all.

Phi Delta Kappa released its annual poll today. Nothing new except that Gallup is no longer the polling company. No headlines. The only obvious conclusion: the American public is confused about why we have schools and what they should be doing and whether they are doing it well.

The public doesn’t agree on what the purpose of public schools is. 45% says it is to teach academics. About a quarter think they should teach career readiness. Another quarter think they should prepare students for citizenship.

Just to be clear, the reason that public schools were first established and treated as a community responsibility was to prepare good citizens to sustain our society into the future. There are many subdivisions under the goal of preparing to be good citizens, which would include the academic skills needed to read, write, think critically, be informed about issues in science and history, and be in good health. Somehow, the central purpose has been lowered in status. When people lose sight of the central purpose of education, then they fall prey to bogus claims about choice, charters, and vouchers, about which sector can do a better job of teaching academic skills or career skills. We have public schools as a public responsibility to teach young people to become active and informed citizens. All the rest follows.

In reading through the inconclusive public opinion on almost every subject, one question caught my attention because of its wording:

Q. Charter schools are public schools that are run without many of the state regulations placed on other public schools. Do you think it’s better for charter schools to meet the same educational standards as other public schools or to set their own educational standards?

The answer was a split decision. 48% said meet the same standards, 46% said no.

The question assumes that charter schools are public schools.

But charter schools are NOT public schools. Whenever charter operators are sued, their defense is that they are not public schools. They are privately managed schools that receive public funding. As the NLRB ruled last week, and as federal courts have ruled, charter schools are not held to the same standards as public schools because they are NOT “state actors.” Public schools are state actors. Charters themselves plead that they are not public schools. In 2010, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a charter operator in Arizona ran a private nonprofit corporation, not an agency of the state, in response to a lawsuit by a former teacher. In 2011, the staff at the New Media Technology Charter School wanted to form a union. They appealed to state law. The charter owner, however, said the school was not public and was not governed by state law; he said it was a private school subject to the NLRB. In the same year, teachers at the Chicago Math & Science Academy also wanted to form a union. There, too, the charter operator rebuffed them by saying the school was a “private” entity, not a public school, and was not subject to state law. (See pp. 163-164 of Reign of Error). Charter schools are run by private entities that receive government contracts. The receipt of public funds does not make an entity public. If it did, then every major defense contractor would be public, not private.

The answer is troubling as well as the question. If nearly half of the respondents think that charter schools do not have to meet the same standards as public schools, what is it they believe? Do they believe that charter schools should not be held accountable for student test scores? Do they think that charter schools should be judged by some other metric?

I have been reading PDK polls for years. I learned nothing new from this one, other than that the public has lost sight of why we have public schools. That may be the consequence of propaganda from the privatizers. If there is no agreement on why we pay taxes to support public schools, then any alternative will do, including schools run by churches and schools run by foreign nationals.

Tim Slekar, dean of education at Edgewood College in Wisconsin, alerted me to an important decision by the National Labor Relations Board.

The NLRB ruled that charter schools are private schools, not public schools. This echoes several previous rulings by the courts and the NLRB, which concluded that charter schools are private corporations that contract with government and are not “state actors.” Public schools are “state actors.” Charter schools are not.

The ruling was reported by a blog for the Albany Times-Union:

Here’s an interesting item that touches on the semantics as well as labor issues surrounding New York’s charter school movement.

A recent ruling by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), concludes that charter schools are private and efforts to start teachers unions in them should fall under their purview, rather than the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) which oversees the public sector.

The decision stemmed from efforts by the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) to unionize teachers at the Hyde Leadership charter school in Brooklyn.

PERB had asserted jurisdiction over the school, but the union ended up arguing that organizing efforts should be overseen by the NLRB which administers labor law in the private sector.

The NLRB in its decision, concluded that “Hyde was not established by a state or local government, and is not itself a public school.”

I describe previous rulings by federal courts and the NLRB that charter schools are “not state actors” in Reign of Error. In a criminal case in California a few years ago, the California Charter School Association entered an amicus brief in defense of charter operators accused of fraud and claimed that charter schools are not subject to the same laws as public schools. They are not state actors.

The appropriate analogy would be a corporation like Boeing, which works for the government, is funded by the government, but is not a state actor. It is private.

Leonie Haimson, parent activist in New York City, crusader for reduced class size and student privacy, lays waste to the charter privateers in this hilarious post!

First came the devastating resolution passed by the national convention of the NAACP, calling for a charter moratorium.

Then came the attack on charters by Black Lives Matter.

And the topper was John Oliver’s funny and accurate portrayal of charter school graft.

But the privateers (or privatizers, as I usually say) continue their assault on public education with propaganda and lies.

In Massachusetts, they claim that expanding charter schools will “improve public education,” when in fact it will drain money from neighborhood public schools and take away local control.

In Georgia, a constitutional amendment on the ballot in November authorizes the creation of a state district that will eliminate local control, like the failed Tennessee ASD, yet says it will empower communities.

This is Orwellian. That means when you say one thing but mean the opposite. Another word for lying. Like saying “reform” when you mean “privatization.”

Carl Petersen, an education activist in Los Angeles, attended the school board meeting in Los Angeles where the plight of El Camino Real Charter High School and its ethics-challenged leaders was discussed. Peterson is running to defeat Monica Garcia, a charter cheerleader, in the next school board elections.

It is astonishing. Several defenders of the charter school spoke, and they said the board was picking on the school. No defense of the extravagant charges to the school’s credit car. Just attack the board for daring to investigate this school.

Mercedes Schneider here describes a new entity that has joined the corporate reform movement. It is called SEN, the School Empowerment Network. It seems to be funded by the Walton Family Foundation, the billionaires who want to privatize all of public education and get rid of teachers’ unions. It is based in Brooklyn, New York, but gained its first contract in Michigan.

Michigan is the state where 80% of the charters operate for-profit. It doesn’t really need more charters. It does need accountability and transparency. The Detroit Free Press published a week-long series in 2014 about taxpayers being fleeced by the charter industry, which gets $1 billion a year and is never held accountable.

Bill Phillis of the Ohio Coalition for Equity & Adequacy reports on efforts by the charter industry in Ohio to block any meaningful oversight or accountability:

Here we go again-Legislators halt charter accountability, although the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) may have been up to mischief

It appears that legislators on the Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review (JCARR) latched on to some technicalities regarding “retroactive dates” to stop rules promulgated to hold charter sponsors accountable. Jim Siegel’s August 23 Dispatch article gives a play-by-play account of the August 22 JCARR meeting. Those in control of the meeting brought in their junkyard dog to unleash on the ODE witness. But several charter advocates who testified were treated with kid gloves.

There is some speculation that ODE is angling to weaken charter accountability by intentionally creating an invitation for litigation within the rules.

One of the primary reasons for the failed charter school experiment is that sponsors (which have collected in the range of $270 million over the years in a non-transparent, unaccountable environment) set their own agenda which could amount to little or nothing in terms of providing assistance to the schools they sponsor. More than 200 charters have closed or failed to open. Tens of millions of dollars have been wasted primarily because charter sponsors have not done due diligence. Why? Because they didn’t have to.

The charterites were out in force to oppose the rules during the JCARR committee hearing. This should not have been a surprise. During the August 11 & 12 State Auditor’s Charter School Summit there was a great amount of whining about the proposed rules for sponsors. The Summit served as a springboard for the display of charter power at the JCARR meeting.

The charter industry and its legislative allies, once again, have thwarted charter accountability; thus, taxpayers and students are again left behind.

Here is the linked article, which is a podcast:

By Jim Siegel The Columbus Dispatch • Tuesday August 23, 2016 7:21 AM

Legislative Republicans blocked an agency rule today that is key to completing new charter sponsor evaluations designed to weed out poor performers.

Those first-ever sponsor evaluations, crafted to help bring more accountability to a charter system sharply criticized both in Ohio and nationally, are supposed to come in October but are now clouded with uncertainty. The move to block the new rule, which Republicans said largely hinged on the Department of Education trying to enact it retroactively back to Aug. 1, comes less than seven months after a sweeping charter school reform law took effect.

The acrimonious relationship between the Department of Education and GOP lawmakers was on full display before the Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review (JCARR). Sen. Bill Coley, R-West Chester, fired thorny questions at Diane Lease, the department’s chief legal counsel, for several minutes.

Coley, R-West Chester, was a replacement on the committee for another senator who said he was on a family vacation.

“Had the department had its act together, you could have complied with all the rules of JCARR…w ithout imposing rules that have a retroactive effect,” Coley told Lease.

Lease referred to a “compressed timeline” in getting rules together for the October evaluations. “We believe we are doing what is required under the legislation. We don’t believe it’s retroactive.”

Coley replied, “I’m a trial lawyer. Don’t do that to me.” Earlier, he said the rule “ demonstrates the height of arrogance.”

The new sponsor evaluations are based on three parts — academic performance, adhering to best practices and compliance with state laws and rules. The rule up for debate Monday related to the compliance with 319 laws.

Segments of the charter school community have been fighting various aspects of the new evaluations, including asking that sponsors get an extra year before consequences take hold.

“This is a clear case of Republican charter school industry allies doing everything in their power to derail, disrupt and delay new reforms that would help hold charter schools to a reasonable standard of achievement,” said Rep. Greta Johnson, D-Akron.

The rule isn’t dead, but it is going back to the Common Sense Initiative office, which determines if agency rules have an unusually detrimental impact on businesses. The CSI office had already issued a report on the rule, but critics said the sample of charter sponsors was too small, and they submitted estimates before knowing what the department required of them.

The CSI will spend up to 30 days reviewing the rule again. Then the clock restarts on the JCARR process, which takes at least another 30 days.

“We may be back here the next month with the same impasse,” said Sen. Joe Uecker, R-Loveland, chairman of JCARR, referring to the retroactive date. “There is a distinct unwillingness on (the department’s) part to work with us on this.”

Some suggested Gov. John Kasich could implement an emergency rule that takes effect for 120 days. A Kasich spokeswoman said the governor has not been approached about that.

Even without the rule, all but two charter sponsors submitted validations on July 25 that they are following state laws.

“Even if there wasn’t a question about the dates, many of the same players would still be here saying the process wasn’t correct for some reason,” said Chad Aldis of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a sponsor that has advocated for more accountability.

“If legislators are really concerned about retro-activity, then we should take action to quickly rectify that issue.”

David Cash, testifying on behalf of charter sponsor St. Aloysius, estimated the cost of compiling the information at $240,000 for the sponsor’s 43 schools.

“In the eyes of (the department), student education takes a back seat to redundant client’s work,” Cash said.

Reps. Mike Duffey, R-Worthington, and Cheryl Grossman, R-Grove City, voted to block the rule, while Sen. Charleta Tavares, D-Columbus, voted to allow it.

“The department has said this is an extension of existing law, therefore nothing has changed,” Duffey said. “But on its face, the rule is amplifying the law and creating new hoops people have to jump through.”

The Georgia PTA, representing PTAs and a quarter million parents across the state, unanimously endorsed a resolution criticizing Governor Nathan Deal for deceptive language in a proposition that will be presented to voters in November.

A group that represents a quarter million Georgia parents says Gov. Nathan Deal and state lawmakers are being “deceptive” and even “intentionally misleading” with wording they have chosen for November’s constitutional amendment affecting schools. The amendment to the state constitution would eviscerate local control and create a statewide district modeled on Tennessee’s failed Achievement School District. In Georgia, the takeover district would be called the “opportunity school district.” The Governor says it would “increase community involvement” when it would actually supersede local control and tax districts to pay for schools no longer in their district.

It is a classic case of charter lies, and the Georgia PTA is irate.

Amendment 1 on the Nov. 8 ballot would create a statewide school district with a superintendent answering only to the governor. That superintendent would have the power to requisition local tax dollars and to take control of schools that perform poorly on a state report card based on measures such as test results, attendance and graduation rates.

Critics slammed the ballot measure itself as misleading when lawmakers and the governor authorized its two dozen words last year. Now, opponents of the proposed “Opportunity School District,” or OSD, are critical of 14 new words published this week, and are demanding what they feel would be clearer language.

The state leaders responsible, however, appear unwilling to change their wording.

This week, Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp publicized the “preamble” that will introduce voters to the ballot item. Since many will not have done their research, the language could be influential. It was written by Deal and the two leaders of the state House and Senate, who by law write ballot preambles. The words the three men approved at a meeting in Deal’s office on Aug. 2 introduce the measure this way: “Provides greater flexibility and state accountability to fix failing schools through increasing community involvement.”

That, says the Georgia PTA, is simply untrue.

“This deceptive language must not be allowed on the November ballot. … The preamble, and indeed, the entire amendment question, is intentionally misleading and disguises the true intentions of the OSD legislation,” the group said in a statement Friday. “Parental and community involvement is not increased by or required by the OSD enabling legislation.”

PTA delegates voted 633-0 in June against the ballot item itself because, the organization says, the resulting constitutional amendment would take funding from local districts and place their schools in the hands of a political appointee.

Lisa-Marie Haygood, president of the Georgia PTA, said in an interview that both the preamble and the ballot question mislead with “flowery language” that does not reveal what the legislation would actually do. The ballot question asks if the state should be able to “intervene” to improve failing schools, when the state would actually take them over.

Haygood fears the OSD will become a “profit hub” for charter school corporations, since the OSD superintendent would be able to convert OSD schools into charter schools. “There’s nothing in that legislation that improves schools,” she said. “It’s just about the money.”

Senate Bill 133, the legislation that would take effect if voters approve the constitutional amendment, lets the state take a school building and responsibility for its students while forcing the local district to pay for certain facility costs. The local district would also have to turn over local and state tax proceeds for the school’s operation and for the OSD administration.

The language is false, fraudulent, deceptive. It is ALEC-inspired. And it will turn children over to corporations.

EduShyster interviewed author Megan Tompkins-Stange about her new book “Policy Patrons,” which reports on the five years she spent working inside the big foundations that fund corporate-style reform: Gates and Broad, who pursue top-down reforms, and Ford and Kellogg, which are likelier to be “field-oriented.”

EduShyster says at the outset that the book shows the foundations to be “heavy with hubris,” certain that they have all the right answers. The Gates Foundation was giddy with joy to see how closely their goals meshed with those of the Obama administration.

EduShyster says, “We overhear the Broad folks reveling in their success in New Orleans and the failure of the opt out movement, and Team Gates crowing over, well, everything. But both have ended up getting some comeuppance of late—Gates over the Common Core and Broad over Eli Broad’s charter expansion plan in Los Angeles.

Tompkins-Stange responds:

I think what we’re seeing, with Gates and Broad in particular, is that they started from the point of view that *If you apply capital to X problem then Y solution will happen.* For example, if you make a vaccine available, disease will be eradicated. But that worldview hasn’t translated well to education, and the challenge for them now is how do they change their culture and their values in order to better operate within this context? Because what they’ve done up to this point is based on a very strategic, very technical way of looking at the world. You’re starting to see a real normative concern emerging in the field about not including people in public education reform, and not having the voices of these underrepresented groups that are going to be affected. Maybe now that we’re having this national conversation about power, race and oppression, that’s coming to the fore more as a topic of discussion within foundations.

One point that comes through loud and clear is that Gates and Broad find democracy to be a “hindrance,” an obstacle to the strategic plans that they have concocted with minimal interaction with those who will be affected.


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