Archives for category: Privatization

John King awards $245M to charters incl $8M to the Uncommon Schools charter chain, a chain he previously ran that is known for outrageously high suspension rates. Jersey Jazzman called him the King of Student Suspensions. (His own children never attended a no-excuses charter school; when he lived in New York, they were enrolled in a Montessori school.)

http://jerseyjazzman.blogspot.com/2015/10/john-king-new-seced-is-king-of-student.html?m=1

Research accumulates that charters don’t necessarily outperform public schools. That they drain resources from public schools, thus harming the great majority of children who attend public schools. That they fail to be accountable or transparent. That their sponsors and advocates are funded by billionaires and hedge fund managers. That even the best of them, according to a new study by Dobbie and Fryer, have no long-term effects. That they open and close with alarming frequency. That many are abject failures.

Yet John King is using his brief tenure to hand over hundreds of millions to continue the Public School Demolition Derby.

http://www.ed.gov/news/press-releases/us-department-education-awards-245-million-support-high-quality-public-charter-schools

This post is a profile of Doris Fisher, the California billionaire who wants to privatize public schools and open corporate-run charters with no ties to the local community.

“As co-founder of the Gap, San Francisco-based business leader and philanthropist Doris Fisher boasts a net worth of $2.6 billion, making her the country’s third richest self-made woman, according to Forbes. And she’s focused much of her wealth and resources on building charter schools. She and her late husband Donald donated more than $70 million to the Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP) and helped to personally build the operation into the largest network of charter schools in the country, with 200 schools serving 80,000 students in 20 states. Doris’ son John serves as the chairman of KIPP’s board of directors, and she sits on the board herself.

“Doris’ passion for charter schools also fuels her political donations. While not as well-known as other deep-pocketed charter school advocates like Eli Broad and the Walton family (heirs to the Walmart fortune), Fisher and her family have quietly become among the largest political funders of charter school efforts in the country. Having contributed $5.6 million to state political campaigns since 2013, Fisher was recently listed as the second largest political donor in California by the Sacramento Bee – and nearly all of her money now goes to promoting pro-charter school candidates and organizations. While often labelled a Republican, she gives to Democrats and Republicans alike, just as long as they’re supportive of the charter school movement. According to campaign finance reports, so far this election cycle she’s spent more than $3.3 million on the political action committees of charter school advocacy groups EdVoice and the California Charter Schools Association (CCSA), as well as pro-charter candidates. (Christopher Nelson, managing director of the Fishers’ philanthropic organization, sits on the board of CCSA, which, along with EdVoice, declined to comment for this article.)

“Fisher’s philanthropic and political efforts are not as straightforward as simply promoting education, however. Recent investigations have found that she’s used dark-money networks to funnel funds into California campaign initiatives that many say targeted teachers and undermined public education. It’s why many education activists worry about the impact her money is having on California politics – and on California schoolchildren.”

What is less well known than her passion for privatization is that spends millions in “dark money” to harm the state’s public schools.

“Even if some of the charter schools Fisher champions have been a success, she’s secretly supported efforts that critics regard as undermining the success of the public school system and teachers. A recent investigation by California Hedge Clippers, a coalition of community groups and unions, found that Fisher was one of a number of wealthy Californians who in 2012 used a dark money network involving out-of-state organizations linked to the conservative Koch brothers to shield their donations to controversial campaign efforts that year. The money was used to oppose Proposition 30, a tax on high-income Californians to fund public schools and public safety, and support Proposition 32, which, among other things, would have severely limited the ability of organized labor, including teachers unions, to raise money for state and local races.

“At the time of the campaign, none of these donations were public. In fact, fellow charter-school advocate Eli Broad publically endorsed Proposition 30 while secretly donating $500,000 to the dark money fund dedicated to defeating it. And Fisher herself had close ties to Governor Jerry Brown, a key proponent of Proposition 30. Brown’s wife Anne Gust Brown worked as chief administrative officer at the Gap until 2005 and is credited with helping to improve the company’s labor standards, and the Fishers were major financial supporters of Brown’s 2014 campaign to pass Proposition 1, the water bond, and Proposition 2, the “rainy day budget” stabilization act.

“I would imagine that it caused some domestic strife,” says Karen Wolfe, a California parent and founder of PSconnect, a community group that advocates for traditional public schools. “[Anne likely] thought she had the Fishers’ support on her husband’s crowning achievement, a tax to finally balance California’s budget and bring the state out of functional bankruptcy. This was absolutely his highest priority.”

“In total, according to the Hedge Clippers investigation, Fisher and her sons donated more than $18 million to the dark money group. It wasn’t the only time the Fisher family has worked with political organizations known for concealing their financial supporters. In 2006, current KIPP chairman John Fisher gave $85,000 to All Children Matter, a school-privatization political action group in Ohio that was slapped with a record-setting $5.2 million fine for illegally funneling contributions through out-of-state dark money networks. Instead of paying the fine, All Children Matter shut down and one of its conservative founders launched a new group: the Alliance for School Choice, which in 2011 listed John Fisher as its secretary. And last year, Doris Fisher contributed $750,000 to California Charter School Association Advocates, which funneled such donations to a local committee. The names of individual donors wouldn’t be disclosed until after the election.”

How sad that a woman worth more than $2 billion would secretly fund campaigns to block funding of the public schools that enroll 90% of children in California. What is she thinking?

Poor Detroit has been a petri dish for every reformer idea. None of them has worked.

As Peter Greene puts it:

Michigan has run the entire table of reformster ideas– takeover of the district, creation of an achievement district, and charter operators brought in to replace the publics. Detroit is now a reformy buffet. Moreover, Detroit should be a beautiful display of how well the various reformster policies work. Except that it isn’t, because they don’t.

Detroit is a case study in state authorities looking at a system in crisis and saying, “Let’s try anything, as long as it doesn’t involve actually investing money and resources in the children of Those People.” Detroit has been a city in crisis for a while now, and that has allowed leaders to say, “We have a chance to fix education in this city and let some people make good money doing it. And if we can only get one of those things done, well, let’s go with the money-making one.”

When a crisis happens– a hurricane hits, the bottom is ripped out of a local economic driver– that opens up a gaping area of need in a state, officials can respond one of two ways. They can call on people of the state to rally, to provide aid and assistance to the affected communities. Or, they can try to build some sort of firewall between the affected communities and everyone else, try to insure that everyone else is protected from any effects, any cost created by the affected communities. The citizens of a state are like mountain climbers roped together and hanging onto the side of a precipice. When one loses his grip (either because of accident, weather conditions, or because he was pushed), the others can either try to haul him back up, risking trouble themselves, or they can cut the dangler loose. If they’re extra cynical, they can sell the dangler an umbrella “to break his fall,” and congratulate themselves on having saved him before they cut him loose.

Michigan’s leaders have treated the tragedy and decline of Detroit as an opportunity to sell umbrellas. They have stripped poor non-white citizens of democratic processes, of their very voices, while stripping critical systems like education and water for parts. The ship has been sinking and Michigan’s leaders have decided to fill the lifeboats with bundles of cash rather than human beings.

Reformers are willing to try anything, except spending more money to repair this woeful district. In Detroit, children of the state of Michigan have been used as guinea pigs for every faddish idea.

Peter Greene delves into 16 policy ideas for education, proffered by Bellwether Education Partners, a consulting group populated by and for reformers.

You will not be surprised that at the top of the list is school choice. Despite any evidence that charter schools are intrinsically superior to public schools, they are the solution put forward, as well as increasing the federal tax breaks to incentivize more investments in charters.

Peter reviews the 16 policies and finds not much new.

He concludes:

Some points worth thinking about, and a whole lot of swift repackagings of the same old reformster profiteering sales pitches. As I said at the top– Clinton already knows all of this and all Trump really wants is a tub of gasoline and a blowtorch, so I’m not sure to whom this pitch is aimed. But it’s on the reformster radar, so it should be on our as well.

Mercedes Schneider has been watching the money flowing in to Massachusetts from out of state to influence voters to lift the cap on charters.

While more than 100 school district boards have voted against Question 2, while the teachers’ union opposes it, it has the passionate support of hedge fund managers in New York City.

Thus far, about $12 million has been allocated to fight for charters; most of that money comes from out of state.

About half that much has been spent to defeat Question 2, mostly from the teachers’ unions, which understand that the charters will kill the union and remove teachers’ rights.

Will Massachusetts allow millionaires and billionaires in New York to create a dual school system in their state and privatize public money meant for public schools?

This post was written in 2014, but it remains relevant today. DFER (Democrats for Education Reform) raises large sums of money from hedge fund managers to promote charter schools. The free market has been very good to hedge fund managers, and they think that public schools should compete in a free market too. They are not in the game to make money, but to promote their ideology of free-market competition. DFER and its related organizations, like Education Reform Now, and Families for Excellent Schools, are spending millions of dollars in places as far-flung as Denver and Massachusetts. It may be confusing to the public to see “Democrats” promoting school choice and accountability, since these have always been Republican ideas for school reform. But, it made no sense to create a group called Republicans for Education Reform because Republicans don’t need to be convinced to private public schools.

Leonie Haimson, parent advocate (and a member of the board of the Network for Public Education), asks:

How did this happen? How did our electeds of both parties enable corporate interests to hijack our public schools?

Her answer:

A small band of Wall St. billionaires decided to convert the Democratic party to the Republican party, at least on education — and succeeded beyond their wildest dreams – or our worst nightmares. And now we have electeds of both parties who are intent on helping them engineer a hostile takeover of our public schools, which has nothing to do with parent choice but the choice of these plutocrats.

What can you do about it?

Contact the Network for Public Education and find out how you can become active in your local or state organization that supports public schools and opposes privatization.

If you live in Massachusetts, join parents and educators who are fighting Question 2, which would allow unlimited expansion of charters to replace public schools.

Get involved.

The Bond Buyer reports that charter schools in California are seeking access to bonds for school construction, putting them into direct competition with public schools for the same money. Public schools have the advantage of stability and longevity; charter schools come and go with frequency. Public schools have higher bond rating than charter schools. Caprice Young, quoted in the article below, is a former president of the California Charter School Association, a powerful and wealthy lobby, and she now is CEO of Magnolia charters, which is part of the Gulen (Turkish) school chain.

The Bond Buyer reports (behind a pay wall):

LOS ANGELES — As California charter school enrollment has increased, so have conflicts over their access to school construction bond funds.

Enrollment at charter schools increased from 3.4% of the state’s K-12 population in 2005-06 to 9.2% in 2015-16, according to an Aug. 2 report from the state Legislative Analyst’s Office. The number of schools has grown from 560 to 1,207 over the past 10 years, according to the LAO report.

Some of these conflicts over state and local bond funds have come to the fore in Southern California, home to a large share of the state’s charters.

Rather than being subject to a state-oriented compliance-based accountability model, charter schools develop local charters, which are legal agreements between schools and their authorizers, and must comply with the terms of their charters, according to the LAO report.

The schools are exempt from most state regulations, but must meet three basic state requirements: provide nonsectarian instruction, charge no tuition and admit all interested California students up to school capacity.

Increases in charter school enrollment and declines in birth rates have caused Los Angeles Unified School District’s student enrollment to fall to 542,000, a 100,000 drop in a six-year period, according to school district figures released last year following an independent audit.

Charter schools were designed to offer parents an alternative, but in California, they fall under the jurisdiction of the school district in which they are located, which loses state per-student funding for each student that enrolls in a charter.

There has been friction between the district and charter schools over bond funding.

Los Angeles Unified officials say there is a level playing field, but charter school advocates disagree.

A district spokeswoman pointed to three school buildings occupied by Aspire charter schools. The buildings are brand new construction among the 130 new school buildings that have risen on school district property.

The school that Aspire Juanita Tate Academy occupies was built using $33.8 million of the district’s Measure R and Measure Y bond money, from voter approved measures that authorized a combined $7.855 billion of general obligation bonds.

The remaining $30.3 million came from grants funded by state general obligation bonds.

Aspire Firestone Academy and Aspire Gateway Charter Academy’s school buildings — both located on the same campus — were built using $59.5 million of the district’s Measure R, K, and Y money, local bond measures that together authorized $11.2 billion of debt. They also used $25.9 million from state bond funds.

None of the above Aspire schools were built using what the district calls the Charter School Bond Allocation, according to Los Angeles school officials.

The California Charter Schools Association filed a lawsuit against LAUSD on January 11 claiming that the school district has reduced an agreed upon allocation amount from 2008’s $7 billion Measure Q. The petition for writ of mandate asked Los Angeles Superior Court to compel LAUSD’s compliance with the California Public Records Act and void the school board’s decision to cut $88 million dollars from the charter school facility allocation under Measure Q.

The actual 2008 bond measure did not include a dollar amount for the charter school allocation, according to Emily Bertelli, a CCSA spokeswoman. But a separate document adopted by LAUSD’s board at the same time said that it would allocate $450 million to charter school projects – and they have since reduced that funding allocation more than once, she said.

In November 2015, CCSA sent a letter to the LAUSD board objecting to another reduction and requesting records justifying the reduction and showing how bond proceeds have been spent for charter schools. That day, LAUSD cut $88 million dollars from Measure Q for charter facilities, reducing the funds allocated for charters to $225 million and breaking its commitment to voters, according to a case summary on CCSA’s website.

“We have only just started to issue Measure Q bonds,” said John Walsh, LA Unified’s deputy chief financial officer. “We have issued just south of $650 million – and it is a $7 billion program. We don’t just earmark the first $450 million to go to charter schools.”

The language of Measure Q does say money will be allocated for charter schools, Walsh said, though not a specific amount.

Under the state’s 2000 Proposition 39, which allowed the state’s school districts to pass bonds with a 55% voter approval rate instead of the previous two-thirds threshold, districts were mandated to offer unused space at schools to charter schools.

“There are ways that we have used bond funds through the district’s facilities program to the advantage of charter schools,” Walsh said.

Allowing Aspire Schools to occupy the new buildings is one example of that, according to district officials.

L.A. Unified doesn’t approve a pot of money for charter schools, but handles funding on a project-by-project basis, Walsh said.

The danger for charter schools is that its relationship with a school district depends on the make-up of the school board.

There is an issue around competition for students, said Caprice Young, chief executive officer of Magnolia Public Schools, which operates ten independent charters.

“We have been thankful in California that we have a great partnership with the state treasurer’s office, which allows us to issue bonds that are tax-exempt,” said Young, who served on the Los Angeles Unified school board from 1999 to 2003 before founding the California Charter School Association in 2003.

Charter schools can issue revenue bonds through the California School Finance Authority, a conduit issuer that falls under the umbrella of the state treasurer’s office. School districts can also share the proceeds of general obligation bonds issued for school construction.

“With CSFA we pay for the bonds out of operating funds and that can be a lot more expensive,” Young said. “If we are given access to San Diego or Los Angeles GO bonds, there is a revenue stream from property taxes that we don’t have availability to. It cuts out a huge portion of public schools when we are not included.”

When school districts tax the public to create school facilities, charter schools should be included, Young said.

“And the way dollars are allocated needs to be fair and reasonable,” she said.

The difference in interest rates from issuing charter school bonds, which are typically rated BBB at the highest, and more often below investment grade, tend to be more in the 7% to 9% range versus the low 1% to 3% interest rates that LAUSD and SDUSD GOs are pricing at in today’s low interest rate environment, she said.

More than 60% of charter schools and charter school enrollment is in Los Angeles County, the San Francisco Bay Area, and San Diego County, the LAO report said.

In the San Diego Unified School District, enrollment has stabilized at around 132,000 since 2007-08, but that is down from its peak of 142,260 in 2001-2001, according to district documents.

San Diego Unified has been largely a benevolent partner to its charter schools, charter school advocates said, though CSMA filed a lawsuit against that district too, at one point.

San Diego schools designated $350 million from its $2.8 billion Proposition Z of 2012 for charter school construction. “Facilities are a major challenge for all schools, but they are a particular challenge for charter schools,” said Miles Durfee, Southern California regional director for the California Charter Schools Association.

The law states that charter schools should get an equitable share of all bond issuances, Durfee said.

When Proposition Z passed, charter schools made up 12.5% of San Diego’s enrollment, but enrollment has grown to 15%, Durfee said. He thinks charter school’s share of the Proposition Z money should also grow. The percentage change would give charter schools an additional $20 million.

The language of Proposition Z says the percentage dedicated to charter schools could be reevaluated , but the language of the bond measure does not indicate a time frame, according to San Diego school officials.

Durfee said $40 million of the charter school allocation of Proposition Z has been spent on projects that are underway or almost complete and $304 million has been allocated to charter schools, but not spent. That leaves $6 million of the charter school pot not dedicated to a project.

That leaves San Diego charter schools that want to expand without many options.

The district established a Charter Schools Facilities Committee to advise on projects proposed by individual charter schools prior to consideration by the Board of Education.

Local charter school leaders help determine the best use of capital resources to address the facilities needs of local charter schools, according to San Diego school officials. Additionally, a representative of the charter schools is a member of the Independent Citizens’ Oversight Committee for the bond program.

Unlike traditional schools, if a charter school faces a financial crisis it doesn’t get bailed out by the state; it just closes, Young said.

“Charter schools have to be nimble and they have to have balanced budgets, which isn’t the case for traditional school district schools,” Young said.

A charter school has to purchase a property immediately after it identifies it as a good location, and build right away, Young said.

“If we don’t buy the land, someone else will,” Young said. “If we don’t build right way, we have an operating expense that is not being offset by revenues from students.”

A charter school does not have the luxury that a district has to take its time acquiring a property and then take years to build a school, Young said. If it operated in that manner, she said, a charter school would close.

Mitchell Chester, the state commissioner of education in Massachusetts, is a huge supporter of charter schools, Common Core, and PARCC testing (he was chair of the PARCC group). He approved a charter school for Brockton, despite loud community opposition. He recently met with parents at the Brockton High School, and when he mentioned the new charter for Brockton, he was met with boos and hissing. The Brockton charter was not ready on time, but received state permission to open in Norwood, 22 miles away. Chester defended the charter on grounds that it was able to recruit nearly 300 students from the Brockton public schools. Parents were unhappy because the Brockton public schools have seen budget cuts, which they attribute to the charter school.

Brockton High School, which has been repeatedly honored (including a front-page story in the NY Times) for excellence, enrolls more than 4,000 students. The charter school, New Heights, will enroll 315 (not there yet). The thousands of students at the public high school will lose programs so that the state can open a charter school to serve the same community.

If New Heights reaches an enrollment of 315 students by October, it will receive $3.96 million in state and local funds, based on early projections, Reis said.

Brockton parents like Dominique Cassamajor said that money would be better spent on Brockton Public Schools, including the elementary school attended by her 9-year-old daughter, especially when the district is already dealing with a difficult budget.

“I don’t like it at all,” Cassamajor said. “I know people who have kids in the new school, but it’s just taking away funds from Brockton Public Schools. Everybody has their choices. But to me, it’s taking away money from most of the kids. The classroom already has a deficit. That’s why we are doing the Brockton Kids Count campaign.”

So what is the logic in Brockton? Open a charter for 315 kids and take resources from the high school that serves 4,000+ kids?

The Journey for Justice is working with other civil rights groups to bring thousands of people to demonstrate at Hofstra University on Long Island, New York, where the first Presidential debate will take place on September 26. Details are below.

NEWS RELEASE MEDIA CONTACT: Jitu Brown
For Immediate Release 773-317-6343
September 15, 2016 http://www.j4jalliance.com

​Thousands expected to demonstrate @ Sept. 26th presidential debate in protest of public education cuts in African American and Latino communities across the nation
“It matters to me who becomes the next U.S. Education Secretary…”

CHICAGO – A national coalition of parents, students, teachers and activists have vowed to travel to Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, on Monday, September 26th, and join with thousands of other people who will protest the first presidential debate due to cuts in public education and the impact on students of color. Activists, led by the Journey for Justice Alliance, have demanded Democratic nominee Sec. Hillary Clinton and Republican nominee Donald Trump release their respective K-thru-12 education platforms and meet with school leaders prior squaring off.

A coalition led by the Journey for Justice Alliance (J4JA) with more than 40,000 members from 24 cities across the US is galvanizing. Organizers say they will release a seven-point platform that tackles school privatization, the school-to-prison pipeline, standardized testing and a myriad of other failed education interventions that have led to massive school closings, charter proliferation and other schemes that have not improved education outcomes in urban communities.

“Our voices have been locked out of any discussion about public education during the race to the White House,” said Jitu Brown, national director J4JA. “Both Clinton and Trump have closed their ears to those of us who have protested, boycotted, waged hunger and teacher strikes demanding an end to corporate education interventions that have devastated students and schools.”

“Clinton, Trump and (Green Party candidate) Jill Stein have all been eerily silent on the impact of these bad policies and school-based cuts that have harmed African American and Latino students the most—yet they continue to campaign in our neighborhoods in search of our support,” said Brown. The award-winning activist gained national attention as the organizer and participant in a 34-day hunger strike to save Dyett High School in Chicago which forced Mayor Rahm Emanuel to abandon his plans to destroy the school.

Added Natasha Capers, public school parent from the New York City Coalition for Education Justice, “We intend to gather that morning in a national forum on what’s been happening to us in our respective communities,” she said. “There is massive charter proliferation in New York despite the fact that research shows charters do not improve education outcomes. It matters to me who becomes the next U.S. Education Secretary.”

The Alliance will release a national public education platform in a forum called “Public Education Nation” co-sponsored by the Network for Public Education Action, which calls for a moratorium on school privatization; federal funding for 10,000 sustainable community schools; an end to zero tolerance policies; national equity in assessments; an end to the attack Black educators who are being terminated from urban school districts in record numbers; an end of state takeovers of trouble school districts where there is only mayoral control and appointed school boards; and, an elimination of the over reliance on standardized tests in public schools.

Parents and teachers have repeatedly lobbied law makers in their opposition to the destruction of community schools at the expense of publicly-funded, privately operated charter schools and over testing.

​“Where do the candidates stand on standardized testing and how those scores are tied to teacher evaluation,” said Nikkisha Napoleon, a public school parent in New Orleans. “Children in New Orleans have been devastated by racist education experimentation—and we’ve also seen a loss of African-American teachers in our city. Why is this happening in places like Chicago, Philadelphia and Detroit? I’m angry that people who live in our neighborhoods, have a history with our children and understand our culture are being driving out of our schools. Where do the candidates stand on the loss of veteran Black and Latino teachers?”

Added, Hiram Rivera, a public school parent and director of the Philadelphia Student Union. “This is a movement for justice and equity in this country. Black and Brown people are united in fighting to make our schools matter, our lives matter and to have our voices heard. We are tired of handshakes and photo ops. We are tired of school closings, privatization schemes and the disinvestment in our neighborhoods. Clinton and Trump need to be held accountable—before they take the oath of office. I’m going to Hempstead because we have to make our voices heard.”

###

The Journey for Justice Alliance (J4J) (www.j4jalliance.org) is a national network of inter-generational, grassroots community organizations led primarily by Black and Brown people in 24 U.S. cities. With more than 40,000 active members, we assert that the lack of equity is one of the major failures of the American education system. Current U.S. education policies have led to states’ policies that lead to school privatization through school closings and charter school expansion which has energized school segregation, the school-to-prison pipeline; and has subjected children to mediocre education interventions that over the past 15 years have not resulted in sustained, improved education outcomes in urban communities.

Paul Sagan, the chair of the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, which oversees and approves charter schools, gave $100,000 to the campaign to raise the cap on charters. This is a blatant conflict of interest. He is supposed to review and monitor, not cheerlead for them.

Please sign this petition to Governor Charlie Baker of Massachusetts calling to him to seek Paul Sagan’s resignation.

The petition says:

This year, 231 local school districts will lose more than $450 million to charter schools, even after state reimbursements. If Question 2 passes, it would more than triple the number of charter schools in just ten years, and take away more than $1 billion a year from our local public schools.