Archives for category: Privatization

In the battle over Question 2–whether to expand the number of charter schools by a dozen a year indefinitely into the future–sentiment is running against the proposal, despite the millions of dollars spent on television ads by the pro-charter groups. In western and central Massachusetts, according to this article, a majority of voters are against Question 2 once they hear from a volunteer about the fiscal impact on their public schools.

In Worcester, meanwhile, school officials want to see Question 2 defeated….

“To have the possibility of losing additional funding from our budget – it would be devastating,” said Molly O. McCullough, a member of the Worcester School Committee, which was among the first school boards in the state to officially oppose the ballot question in January.

Brian E. Allen, the Worcester schools’ chief financial and operations officer, said the public schools are already losing critical funding – $24.5 million this year – to the two existing charter schools in the city. If the district were to absorb all 2,000 of Abby Kelley Foster Charter Public School and Seven Hills Charter Public School’s students back into its population, for example, the money it would get back would be enough not only to hire the necessary teachers to instruct those students but also an additional 150 teachers to use elsewhere in the system, he said.

On the flip side, if Worcester were to add 2,000 more charter school seats – the equivalent of two new schools – “now we’re talking about significant financial impacts,” he said, to a district that cut staff last year because of a budget deficit.

In essentially the same boat as Worcester, as far as the financial impact a charter school would have on them, the majority of other school districts in Central Massachusetts have also taken official stances against Question 2. Two other school systems besides Worcester – Fitchburg and Marlboro – already share their city with charter schools. Fitchburg and other districts have also seen recent proposals from local groups to start new ones.

As school boards consider the fiscal impact of the existing public schools, they take a stand against the resolution.

What all this demonstrates is the utter callousness of the pro-charter advocates. Massachusetts has the most successful public school system in the state, yet “reformer-billionaires” think it should be disrupted. Worcester, as the article points out, had a third charter school that lasted only three years. What is the logic of disrupting and defunding the nation’s most successful state public school system by adding a dozen new transient schools every year and causing budget cuts to the public schools that remain?

The number of towns saying NO to Question 2 now exceeds 200 in Massachusetts.

Out-of-state billionaires have poured $20 million into the campaign to pass Question 2, which would cause budget cuts to the state’s public schools so that the charter industry could grow by 12 a year indefinitely.

School districts say no.

Mayor Walsh of Boston says no.

Senator Elizabeth Warren says no.

Save your schools: Vote NO.

I recently posted Carol Burris’s analysis of a court decision in California that blocked the sneaky expansion of charters into districts outside the one where they were authorized; the new charters called themselves “resource centers” and were infiltrating districts that did not want them.

Here is a report by the San Diego Union-Tribune on the same decision.

California’s booming satellite charter school industry that has persevered through lawsuits, scandals and turf wars suffered a blow this past week when a state appellate court ruled hundreds of the campuses are illegally operating outside their districts.

At issue now is how 150,000 California students — including 25,000 in San Diego County — will continue their education. The court decision also puts at stake millions of dollars in revenue generated by the charters for privately run organizations.

The 3rd District Court of Appeal overturned a lower court decision in a lawsuit filed by the Anderson Union High School District near Redding claiming the Shasta Secondary Home School (now Shasta Charter Academy) illegally opened satellite charter campus, which are officially called resource centers, in its jurisdiction.

Filed Monday and set to go into effect Nov. 16, the appellate decision reverses the lower court ruling, which sided with the charter that was authorized by the nearby Shasta Union High School District. The lower court said it was legal to operate a resource center, as such schools are officially called, in the neighboring Anderson district to give its independent-study students who live there a chance to use computers, receive tutoring and work on assignments in a classroom setting.

Of the state’s 1,200 charter schools, 275 are “resource centers,” many of them storefronts where students show up from time to time. That means that unless this decision is overturned by the state’s Supreme Court, more than 20% of California’s charter schools will cease to operate or seek some other option to survive.

San Diego public schools will welcome the return of the students in these “non-classroom-based” charters:

Andra Donovan, general counsel for the San Diego Unified School District, offers another option: Returning to district and its expanded catalog of independent-study programs.

San Diego Unified “is fully prepared and has sufficient capacity to absorb those students currently attending these charter schools, with fully robust, higher quality independent study and online learning programs as well as traditional and blended programs,” Donovan said. “Our graduation rate far exceeds that of many of these them and our district provides integrated support not available from these charters.”

These “resource centers” are locations intended to coordinate online instruction, which has repeatedly been shown to be a farce, educationally, an easy way to collect credits without getting an education.

Some districts opened resource centers because it was easy money.

Online instruction offers flexibility to students who want an alternative to traditional schools, and big revenue to charter organizations and authorizers. Districts that approve the charters receive up to 3 percent of their revenue for oversight and other services.

The Julian Union district opened its first charter in 1999, and now enrolls some 4,000 students in its charter resource centers across the region. Fewer then 400 local students attend Julian’s district schools.

The tiny rural two-campus district earned nearly $800,000 in revenue from its Julian and Diego Valley charters in the 2014-15 year, when its total revenue was $6.2 million.

Former Julian Superintendent Kevin Ogden helped establish the district’s first charter school, which took in $18 million in revenue last year, and operates 14 programs in eleven facilities.

Ogden helped usher in Diego Valley and Harbor Springs charters, both of which operate resource centers in other districts through independent study programs that offer as much as four days a week of classroom instruction or as little as a few teacher meetings. The Grossmont lawsuit targets Diego Valley.

Ogden retired about two years ago to take a top job at the Lancaster-based Learn4Life, an organization that includes Diego Valley, its Diego Plus Education Corporation and other charters throughout the state.

Following Julian’s lead, dozens of far-flung charters and resource centers have been authorized by other small East County districts, including some that acknowledged the arrangements were forged mostly for the money.

Does anyone seriously believe that the students who receive diplomas from these sham institutions are getting a high-quality education? Is this the way the U.S. will compete in the global economy? Hey, reformers, this is a farce.

Lawrence Feinberg, a veteran school board member and head of the Keystone State Education Coalition, warns here that the charter industry is trying to slip a bill through the legislature that would vastly expand charters while reducing accountability.

Pennsylvania currently has one of the most corrupt charter sectors in the nation. The number of prosecutions for theft and misappropriation of funds is rivaled only by the rapacious charter industry in Ohio.

But the charter industry wants more charters and less regulation.

Feinberg warns that HB 530 is a trick on the public and a treat for the charter lobby.

“With only a few days left on the legislative calendar, lawmakers are trying to push through charter expansion with HB 530. Those in favor are dressing it up in the best costume they have and passing it off as charter school reform. It is anything but. The state’s most recent School Performance Profile scores show that only 22 percent of charters achieved a score of 70 or higher, the level that state education officials view as acceptable. So why are legislators so quick to allow unchecked expansion of these schools, wasting of tax dollars?

“There are many good charter schools out there. They serve as a valuable piece of the education puzzle in our state. But the lack of accountability and transparency is something that taxpayers should not tolerate. If HB 530 becomes law, charters would be able to ignore enrollment caps, hold higher fund balances than their traditional school counterparts, open schools in more than one location without permission from the authorizing entity, and avoid participating in the state evaluation system for teachers and principals required of other schools.

“Authors of HB 530 also made sure to stack the decks in favor of charters through a new Charter School Funding Advisory Commission that the bill creates. The purpose of the commission is to explore issues related to charter schools and make recommendations. Its members include representatives from charter schools, the secretary of education, legislators and members chosen by legislators, and school business managers. Oddly, school directors who are charged with authorizing charter schools (and who are responsible for raising local revenue from their neighbors to support education) have no seat on the commission. Also, the current six-member Charter School Appeal Board is expanded to nine. Two of the three new positions are reserved for charter school administrators and trustees.

“As schools consolidate and populations continue to drop, many schools are finding that they need to shut down school buildings. Currently, schools can work within certain parameters to sell or lease these buildings. HB 530 requires schools to first offer these buildings to charters on first right of refusal, simply ignoring the wishes of the local taxpayers who paid for these buildings and may have other desired uses for them.

“One final concern I wish to mention is a new performance matrix created by HB 530 that would be used to measure the academic performance of charter schools and to assess renewal terms. This matrix is the only measure that may be used by school boards for evaluating charter schools. In current law, charters can be revoked for poor academic performance. Additionally, under case law, if a charter school does not meet specific, measurable academic benchmarks required under federal law, it may be subject to charter revocation if the sending school districts are performing better. House Bill 530 eliminates the ability to compare charter schools and their sending school districts and undermines the original intent of the Charter School Law to create schools that provide something above and beyond what is provided by traditional public schools. Oh, and guess who creates this matrix? The previously mentioned commission that is weighted in favor of charter school representatives.”

Call your representative. Stop HB 530.

The Washington Post has an interesting article about a curious phenomenon: Deaths caused by opiod abuse are rising, while prosecution of those involved in the supply line by the Drug Enforcement Administration has been ebbing.

The story begins:

“A decade ago, the Drug ­Enforcement Administration launched an aggressive campaign to curb a rising opioid epidemic that was claiming thousands of American lives each year. The DEA began to target wholesale companies that distributed hundreds of millions of highly addictive pills to the corrupt pharmacies and pill mills that illegally sold the drugs for street use.

Leading the campaign was the agency’s Office of Diversion Control, whose investigators around the country began filing civil cases against the distributors, issuing orders to immediately suspend the flow of drugs and generating large fines.

But the industry fought back. Former DEA and Justice Department officials hired by drug companies began pressing for a softer approach. In early 2012, the deputy attorney general summoned the DEA’s diversion chief to an unusual meeting over a case against two major drug companies.

“That meeting was to chastise me for going after industry, and that’s all that meeting was about,” recalled Joseph T. Rannazzisi, who ran the diversion office for a decade before he was removed from his position and retired in 2015.

Rannazzisi vowed after that meeting to continue the campaign. But soon officials at DEA headquarters began delaying and blocking enforcement actions, and the number of cases plummeted, according to on-the-record interviews with five former agency supervisors and internal records obtained by The Washington Post.”

What gives?

It is always useful to follow the money trail. The article mentions Purdue Pharmaceuticals, one of the biggest manufacturers of opioids.

Purdue has made one family into billionaires: the Sackler family of Connecticut, who made Forbes list of the nation’s richest families in 2015, with a family valuation of $13.5 billion. By some estimates, more than 2 million people are addicted to OxyContin is the US. Purdue has paid out hundreds of millions in fine, and the state of Kentucky is suing the company for nearly $1 billion. Not to put to fine a point on the matter, one article blamed the opiod epidemic on one company, with its aggressive marketing: “How the American opiate epidemic was started by one pharmaceutical company.” That company: Purdue, owned by the Sackler family.

What does this have to do with education?

Jonathan Sackler of the billionaire Sacklers is a big supporter of charters and privatization. Jonathan Pelto pointed this out in this post.

Charters? Check.

50CAN? Check.

StudentsFirst? Check.

Teach for America? Check.

Students for Educational Reform? Check.

And let us not forget daughter Madeline Sackler’s worshipful film about Eva Moskowitz called “The Lottery.”

It is ironic that people who fight for the public good must turn to crowd-sourcing and GoFundMe and Kickstarter campaigns, while those who push privatization of public schools can count on fortunes created by drug abuse, death, and addiction.

Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, former talk show host, really wants vouchers for the millions of students in Texas. Fortunately, he has been defeated year after year by a coalition of rural Tepublicans and urban Democrats.

The battle is on again this year. Patrick and his fellow ideological zealots are headed for a showdown on the issue. There is no evidence that vouchers “work,” and much evidence that they don’t. In a state like Texas, the voucher proposal is strongly opposed by a brave group called Pastors for Texas Children. (Make a donation if you can to help them.)

Supporters of vouchers insist that the schools that receive public funds should be exempt from state tests or any other accountability measures, which might limit their “freedom.”

“A bipartisan group of state representatives hammered private school choice proponents at a heated legislative hearing on Monday, signaling an enduring uphill battle in the Texas House for proposals that would use taxpayer dollars to help parents send their kids to private or parochial schools, or educate them at home.

“Rural Republicans and Democrats in the lower chamber have long blocked such programs — often referred to in sweeping terms as “private school vouchers,” although there are variations. Passing one has emerged as a top priority in the Texas Senate for Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who unsuccessfully pushed a private school choice program when he was a Republican state senator from Houston and chairman of the Senate Education Committee.”

Of course, the proposal for vouchers is a pathetic excuse for failing to restore the $5 billion cut to the public schools in 2011.

Mike Klonsky reports on the Trump plan to get rid of public education, as described by Carl Paladino, a Trump surrogate and far-right extremist who owns charter schools in Buffalo, New York.

“If there was any doubt, Trump surrogate Carl Paladino made it perfectly clear that if his boss is elected his goal will be nothing less than the elimination of public education and complete liquidation of the nation’s teacher unions.

Paladino ran for governor against Cuomo and lost. He is the Trump of upstate New York.

Buffalo, NY | WNYmedia Network | Live Video | Video News

Klonsky writes:

“Paladino, Trump’s N.Y State co-chairman told a group of urban school superintendents yesterday, that Trump would seek to do away with “corrupted, incompetent” public school systems in America’s cities, replacing them with charter schools and vouchers for private schools.”

Clinton may or may not continue Obama’s disastrous education policies, but she will listen when we push back.

The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities documents how states are disinvesting in K-12 education.

This report shows the dramatic contradiction between political rhetoric and economic reality. The state’s that are cutting education spending are also demanding higher test scores, and many have launched charters and vouchers, which further diminish funding for public schools.

It begins:

“Public investment in K-12 schools — crucial for communities to thrive and the U.S. economy to offer broad opportunity — has declined dramatically in a number of states over the last decade. PUBLIC INVESTMENT IN K-12 SCHOOLS HAS DECLINED DRAMATICALLY IN A NUMBER OF STATES OVER THE LAST DECADE.Worse, most of the deepest-cutting states have also cut income tax rates, weakening their main revenue source for supporting schools.

“At least 23 states will provide less “general” or “formula” funding — the primary form of state support for elementary and secondary schools — in the current school year (2017) than when the Great Recession took hold in 2008, our survey of state budget documents finds. Eight states have cut general funding per student by about 10 percent or more over this period. Five of those eight — Arizona, Kansas, North Carolina, Oklahoma, and Wisconsin — enacted income tax rate cuts costing tens or hundreds of millions of dollars each year rather than restore education funding.

“Most states raised general funding per student this year, but 19 states imposed new cuts, even as the national economy continues to improve. Some of these states, including Oklahoma, Kansas, and North Carolina, already were among the deepest-cutting states since the recession hit.

“Our country’s future depends heavily on the quality of its schools. Increasing financial support can help K-12 schools implement proven reforms such as hiring and retaining excellent teachers, reducing class sizes, and expanding the availability of high-quality early education. So it’s problematic that so many states have headed in the opposite direction over the last decade. These cuts risk undermining schools’ capacity to develop the intelligence and creativity of the next generation of workers and entrepreneurs.

“Our survey, the most up-to-date data available on state and local funding for schools, also indicates that, after adjusting for inflation:

“Thirty-five states provided less overall state funding per student in the 2014 school year (the most recent year available) than in the 2008 school year, before the recession took hold.
In 27 states, local government funding per student fell over the same period, adding to the damage from state funding cuts. In states where local funding rose, those increases rarely made up for cuts in state support.”

This helps to explain the lure of school choice. It is a thinly-veiled way to divert attention from a state’s failure to fund its public schools. It offers a cheap alternative.

Please read the excellent letter in the New York Times by Jitu Brown, director of Journey for Justice, defending the decision of the NAACP to call for a moratorium on charter schools.

Jitu was one of the leaders of the Dyett hunger strike, in which a group of community activists refused to eat for 34 days until the city of Chicago agreed not to close the last open-enrollment high school in their community. They won and the school reopened this fall.

Jitu is an authentic civil rights leader in Chicago and nationally. He has organized parents in major cities to fight back and speak out against school closings.

He is also a valued member of the board of directors of the Network for Public Education.

Valerie Strauss writes about a visit by President Obama to a highly selective public school in Washington, D.C. He brought with him his two Education Secretaries, Arne Duncan and John King.

He said he wanted every school to be as great as the school he was visiting, Benjamin Banneker. But there was much he did not mention.

Strauss writes:

“There’s no denying that Banneker is a top-performing school in the nation’s capital, and that 100 percent of its seniors graduate. But it’s unclear if Obama knows that if every school did what Banneker does, the high school graduation rate might plummet. That’s because Banneker is a magnet school where students must apply to get in — but the only entry grades are ninth and tenth. And they must maintain a B- average to stay. Kids who can’t cut it leave, but that attrition isn’t counted against the school’s graduation rate.”

He did not talk about his administration’s preference for charter schools over public schools. He did not acknowledge how Race to the Top had promoted privatization and led to the closure of thousands of public schools, mostly in communities of color. He didn’t talk about Common Core or the $$360 million that Duncan spent to create two testing comsortia aligned to Common Core, nor about the slow collapse of both consortia. He did not mention Dincan’s obsession with “bad teachers” or his mandate for evaluating teachers by test scores, which has generated a widespread teacher shortage.

President Obama is a brilliant man. Why is he so oblivious to the damage caused by Race to the Top, Arne Duncan, and John King?