Archives for category: Privatization

Mercedes Schneider describes here a lawsuit filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center to block the public funding of charter schools.

SPLC cites the state constitution, which requires that all public funds go to public schools that are overseen by the local district and the state. Charter schools are overseen by neither.

Currently the state has three charter schools operating in Jackson, with another 14 set to open this fall. Eleven of the 14 will be in Jackson.

Mercedes provides an excerpt from the lawsuit:

Section 206 of the Mississippi Constitution provides that a school district’s ad valorem taxes may only be used for the district to maintain its own schools. Under the CSA, public school districts must share ad valorem revenue with charter schools that they do not control or supervise. Therefore, the local funding stream of the CSA is unconstitutional.

Section 208 of the Mississippi Constitution forbids the Legislature from appropriating money to any school that is not operating as a “free school.” A “free school” is not merely a school that charges no tuition; it must also be regulated by the State Superintendent of Education and the local school district superintendent. Charter schools– which are not under the control of the State Board of Education, the State Superintendent of Education, the Mississippi Department of Education, the local school district superintendent, or the local school district– are not “free schools.” Accordingly, the state funding provision of the CSA is unconstitutional. …

The CSA heralds a financial cataclysm for public school districts across the state. … The future is clear: as a direct result of the unconstitutional CSA funding provisions, traditional public schools will have fewer teachers, books, and educational resources.

The SPLC is right to point out the devastating financial impact that the funding of charters will have on public schools. This is a point that is always overlooked, ignored, or dismissed by corporate reformers. As long as they get what they want, they don’t care what happens to the majority of children.

The New York Daily News reports that the wealthy PAC that wants more charter schools has targeted four legislators for defeat because they defend public schools and oppose privatization.

A Super PAC pushing for enactment of a controversial education tax credit to benefit private and parochial schools is targeting Bronx Democratic state Sen. Gustavo Rivera and three Assembly Democratic incumbents in the upcoming Sept.13 primaries, records show.

The PAC, New Yorkers for Independent Action, has already reported spending nearly $256,000 of the $2.78 million it has raised since January on polling and campaign literature in the districts currently represented by Rivera and Assembly members Phil Ramos (D-Suffolk County), Pamela Harris (D-Brooklyn), and Latrice Walker (D-Brooklyn).

The PAC reported it is supporting Councilman Fernando Cabrera against Rivera, Giovanni Mata against Ramos, former Assembly aide Kate Cucco against Harris, and City Councilwoman Darlene Mealey against Walker.

New Yorkers for Independent Action’s treasurer is Thomas Carroll, who is president of Invest In Education Foundation, an education reform group.

Tom Carroll started the Brighter Choice charter chain in Albany with the goal of replacing all public schools. Several of his schools closed because of academic deficiencies.

Okay, so I wrote this post on my iPhone, using the WordPress app, and as I should have expected, the content disappeared.

It is a flaw in WordPress.

This is the speech I gave to the SOS March on July 8.

If you have five minutes to spare, you might enjoy watching.

The resistance continues, and the movement grows stronger!

EduShyster posts a guest column by a Denver teacher who tells the inside story of the reformers’ current “success” story.

Denver has gone all in for school choice, and the teacher was bombarded with messages to market the school, come up with a “vision statement,” even as she and other teachers were coping with budget cuts that eliminated electives.

The students at my school were among some of the neediest in the state in terms of free and reduced lunch funding, and some of the most affected by trauma. In other words, they were students who needed the most support. The budget cuts began in my third year there, and only got worse as students left to attend other *choice* schools that were opening nearby. For students, that meant the loss of our only school-staffed, non-academic elective other than art: drama. For teachers, that meant rationing paper, although we considered ourselves fortunate relative to schools that were rationing toilet paper and paper towels.

Disruption became the only constant.

This year, it became very clear that the Denver Public Schools has shifted focus. Nearly 500 staff were cut, most of them teachers, including 372 full-time positions that, according to one news report, *will be completely lost.* For Denver’s students, nearly seventy percent of students relying on free and reduced lunches, that will mean larger class sizes, taught by less experienced teachers, not to mention the absolute absence of electives from some schools. It’s all about the Return on Investment, but what, exactly, is DPS investing in?

Open shut
shutterstock_121985983.jpg (1000×631)Much of Denver’s school reform has focused on the creation of new charter schools. Since 2005, DPS has opened more than 70 schools, most of which are charters. One of these opened near my former school, causing our enrollment to decline, which then triggered more budget cuts in our already bare-bones staffing. But at least my school stayed open. Forty eight schools have closed in the past ten years. In fact, DPS officials attributed the enrollment loss that triggered the most recent round of budget cuts and teacher layoffs in part to school closures.

It is a sad story. Remember it the next time you read something about Denver as a model of reform. In a way, it is. It shows how school choice destroys public education.

Today is beat up on ECOT day. It makes an easy target. Its owner William Lager rakes in tens of millions of dollars from taxpayers, which he profits from, and he uses a small portion of the profits to reward his benefactors in the Republican party of Ohio. Meanwhile his school has truly horrible results, but accountability is not for him! He has really good friends who take care of his operation.

But it is even worse than it appears.

Bill Phillis, a former deputy commissioner of education in Ohio (and now in his 80s, fighting to restore integrity to education), posted this newsletter on his Ohio Equity and Adequacy blog:

ECOT: If we can’t rig enrollment data and make staggering profits, we will have to close

In an early year of ECOT’s operation, this money-making machine was required to pay back a million dollars to rectify enrollment/student participation issues. In the context of the return of funds gained illegally, an Ohio Department of Education (ODE) person signed an agreement that ECOT would only be required to offer educational programming in order to receive funds, whether or not enrollees participated.

Now that ODE is in the process of auditing student participation, ECOT is protesting by legal action and engaging in political tactics to stir up their supporters. Their bevy of highly paid lobbyists is on high alert.

Some observations:

ECOT is demonstrating a high level of brazen behavior in protesting an audit of their suspicious enrollment/student participation practices. Possibly they believe their record of huge campaign contributions will give them cover.

The ODE person who signed a contract that has allowed ECOT to collect funds for students not participating should be investigated and prosecuted.

The provision of online programming ECOT-style can’t possibly cost as much as ECOT receives per student. The profit certainly must be really huge.

Personnel in districts losing students to the failed ECOT machine should be outraged and make every attempt to recover those students.

William Phillis
Ohio E & A

Do you want to know the definition of BRAZEN? Are how about chutzpah?

ECOT is suing the state to prevent it from auditing whether students log in and receive instruction. ECOT thinks it should be paid whether students log in for a minute or not at all.

Accountability is only for the little people, to paraphrase the billionaire Leona Helmsley. (She said “taxes are only for the little people,” but she was wrong. She went to jail.)

Denis Smith worked in the Ohio charter school office, and he saw the combustible mix of deregulation, money, and politics. This is a combination sure to produce scandal. And it has.

Smith reports here on the biggest scandal: the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT). It has the lowest graduation rate in the nation, according to the New York Times. It is a for-profit virtual charter. Its owner William Lager is one of the state’s major donors to the Republican Party. His patrons protect him from scrutiny or accountability.

One of the supporters of ECOT is Andrew Brenner, chairman of the Ohio House Education Committee. He despises public schools.

Brenner has said previously that “public education is socialism.” But if we follow the Chairman’s logic (hmm, I thought only well-known socialists and collectivists like Mao Zedong and Leonid Brezhnev were referred to as Chairman), we find illogic, viz., the Chairman of the Education Committee seems very much opposed to public education.

But the illogic gets worse.

Profits generated from the public funds received by charter school operators like Lager and White Hat Management’s David Brennan flow to their favorite Republican politicians in the form of contributions. These profits, snared by privately operated management companies with hand-picked, unelected boards not subject to full public transparency and exempt from 150 sections of state law, ultimately wind their way to committee chairs in the legislature as well as more senior leadership in the House and Senate.

To Chairman Brenner, this is capitalism at work. And capitalism is the very opposite of socialism, right? Yes socialism, as evidenced by the operation of public school districts who raise their revenue from the taxation of local property and who are subject to full legal transparency and accountability, governed by a group of citizens elected by qualified voters in the community where they operate. These are community schools, the real public schools. Contrast that with charter schools, where, unlike public schools, there is no requirement for board members to be qualified voters, viz. citizens.

I wonder why Republicans aren’t in favor of requiring proof of citizenship for charter school board members, as they are for some voters. Hmmm.

Public money for private purposes.

Jersey Jazzman, aka public school teacher and Ph.D. candidate Mark Weber, wrote a blistering reproach to the charter school cheerleaders who have persuaded Governor Chris Christie that charters accomplish more with less. This enables Christie to propose an outrageously inequitable plan that takes from the poor and gives to the rich.

He shows how certain loud charter zealots in New Jersey have argued that charters in Newark are way better than Newark public schools, despite the clear evidence that the charters enroll a different demographic and have high attrition rates.

He points out that when honest critics point out the verifiable facts, they can expect to be slimed and smeared by the charter cheerleaders, who glory in the privatization of public schools.

Weber reviews the shameless attacks by charter zealot Laura Waters and refutes her claims with data, evidence, not rhetoric.

He concludes:

I’ve spent more time answering Waters’ post than it deserves; however, I’m doing so this time for a reason. Chris Christie has proposed a radical change in school funding — one that even Peter Cunningham agrees is pernicious for this state’s neediest children. Yet how does Christie justify his plan? With stories of charter school “success.” And who has sold this tale?

Laura Waters, Peter Cunningham, and the well-heeled charter school operators themselves. In their zeal to pump up charters and shoot down honest critics like Julia Sass Rubin, these fine, reformy folks have set up the students who attend New Jersey’s urban, public, district schools for a huge cut in their schools’ budgets.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: I don’t ever pretend that I don’t have a point of view. I’m a New Jersey public school teacher and I am damn tired of being blamed for things completely out of my and my colleagues’ control. I think the celebration of charter school “success” is largely a pretext for beating up teachers unions, gutting teacher workplace protections, and cutting back even further on public school funding, particularly in urban districts. I think charter cheerleading keeps us from having a real conversation about the structural problems related to race and economic inequality in America.

But now we’re seeing the consequences of unbridled charter love are even more dangerous than mere charter expansion. Charlatans like Christie are using the very arguments charter cheerleaders spout daily to make the case that we can simply turn our backs on urban schools and their students. So long as a few charter schools get better than average test scores — by whatever means necessary — it’s perfectly fine to cut the budgets of urban district schools.

This awful rhetoric can be laid directly at the feet of the charter industry and their willing saps in the media — and that includes the professional reformy propaganda machine that exists solely to counter informed critics like me or Bruce Baker or Julia Sass Rubin.

I won’t speak for Bruce [Baker] or Julia, but I’m pretty sure they’d agree with me when I say this: I am not against school choice or charter schools per se. I started my K-12 career in a charter school. I think there are worthwhile reasons for having charters and other forms of alternative schools. I have been teaching long enough to know not every kid is going to fit well in her neighborhood school, and that there are good reasons to offer other choices. I think there are charters that have practices that may well be worth studying.

So folks like me and Bruce and Julia may have a point of view our opinions, but we aren’t questioning charter cheerleading simply as a reflex; our criticisms are reasonable and informed by the evidence. Do you disagree? Fine, I’m happy to debate.

But understand: your ill-informed, statistically-inept charter cheerleading is no longer simply about justifying your own school; it’s now being used to excuse a wholesale defunding of our urban public schools.

Do you really want that on your hands?

Two dedicated pro-public education advocates, Chuck Pascal and Troy LaRaviere, wrote important amendments that were adopted and incorporated into the Democratic platform.

Because of them, with important support by Randi Weingarten, the platform now takes a stand against the high-stakes testing regime, opposes school closing shift based on test scores, opposes evaluating teachers by test scores, and emphasizes the importance of democratically-controlled public schools. The platform continues to support “high quality charter schools,” without defining what that means: high test scores? Or something else?

Ironically, the transcripts cited here were made by Education Reform Now, an affiliate of Democrats for Education Now, the organization created by hedge fund managers to promote charter schools.

The updated text can be found here.

An unofficial transcript of the session can be found here.

Politico reports that Democrats for Education Reform, the hedge funders’ charter advocacy group, is not happy with the amendments to the platform proposed by supporters of public schools Troy LaRaviere of Chicago and Chuck Pascal of Pennsylvania:

NO CANDIDATE LEFT BEHIND: While Democrats have yet to publish their most recent platform language, education-focused groups are already sniping about it. American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten said the new language “represents a refreshing sea change in its approach to public education” and “makes it clear that Democrats are committed to ending the failed era of test-and-sanction.” AFT is pointing to amendments to the draft language it says were adopted in Orlando during the weekend platform meeting – amendments that voice support for parents who want to opt their children out of standardized tests, demand more accountability for charter schools, and oppose using student test scores in teacher evaluations. All of those stances are favored by teachers unions.

– But Shavar Jeffries, the president of Democrats for Education Reform, called the amendments an “unfortunate departure from President Obama’s historic education legacy” and said that these changes came about because the platform drafting committee “inexplicably” allowed the process to be “hijacked.” Your dutiful Morning Education scribes will post the final platform draft as soon as it’s available.

Wendy Lecker warns the people of Connecticut that the New Haven public schools have made a deal with the Relay “Graduate School of Education,” which trains robot teachers who value compliance and arrive with scripted lessons. Why contract with Relay, she asks, when there are highly reputable teacher education programs in the neighborhood?

When you consider that Connecticut is one of the highest achieving states in the nation on NAEP, you have to wonder how the charter industry captured the state’s political leadership.

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