Archives for category: San Antonio

In Florida, state officials ordered schools across the state to open fully without regard to safety or local officials. The Florida Education Association sued, and a judge blocked them reopening.

A Florida judge Monday granted a temporary injunction against the state’s order requiring school districts to reopen schools during the novel coronavirus pandemic, saying in a harshly worded decision that parts of it were unconstitutional.
Circuit Court Judge Charles Dodson, in a 16-page decision, granted the request in a lawsuit filed by the Florida Education Association to block the order issued by state Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran compelling schools to reopen five days a week for families who wanted that option.

The state also required districts to offer virtual learning.
School districts can now proceed to follow through on starting the 2020-2021 school year as they want, according to the teachers union.


The Florida Education Department said it could not immediately comment on the decision.


The White House, where President Trump has been pushing districts to reopen schools and threatened to withhold federal funds if they didn’t — though he doesn’t have the power to do that unilaterally — said it would not comment on state matters.


Dodson said in his decision that the state did not take many important health considerations into consideration when it issued the order.
“It fails to mention consideration of community transmission rates, varying ages of students, or proper precautions,” he wrote. “What has been clearly established is there is no easy decision and opening schools will most likely increase covid-19 cases in Florida.”


The judge ruled that the plaintiffs had established that the order was being “applied arbitrarily across Florida.” He sided with the plaintiffs, granting a preliminary injunction against the order and striking down parts of it as unconstitutional.



The administration of Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), who is an ally of the president’s, has for months been pushing districts to reopen. On July 6, Corcoran issued an issue requiring that school districts reopen school buildings, though it gave a few districts in south Florida, which had extremely high coronavirus rates, permission to start the 2020-2021 school year remotely.


Other districts that wanted to start remotely were not given approval, including Hillsborough County, which was threatened by the DeSantis administration with the loss of nearly $200 million if it carried out its plan to open remotely.


The lawsuit said that Corcoran’s order was unconstitutional because it threatened the safety of schools by conditioning funding on reopening school buildings by the end of August, regardless of the dangers posed by the pandemic.

The lawsuit also said the order was “arbitrary” and “capricious” on its face and application.
The state responded, saying the order was a reasonable exercise of emergency powers by the DeSantis administration that balanced the constitutional rights of students to a public education against the risk of harm during the pandemic.

It also said that states had submitted reopening plans that included the opening of school campuses, and that showed the districts wanted to proceed that way.
Dodson didn’t accept that reasoning, saying that districts had no choice but to open buildings because of the order.

 

Texas Public Radio describes Betsy Devos’s audacious plan to overwhelm San Antonio with charters created by two corporate chains: IDEA and KIPP.

Some of the new charters will open in middle-class areas with good public schools.

Apparently, DeVos just wants to torpedo public schools in a major Texas city.

Camille Phillips of TPR reports:

San Antonio’s largest charter school network is gearing up for a fast-paced expansion over the next three years. IDEA Public Schools plans to add 15 schools in Bexar County by 2022, doubling its local enrollment to nearly 24,000 students.

It is part of an ambitious larger plan by the Rio Grande Valley-based charter network plan to add 120 schools in Texas, Louisiana and Florida by 2024. IDEA has gotten a big boost to help make that plan happen: four federal grants in five years worth more than $211 million combined.

This year, the U.S. Department of Education awarded IDEA its largest grant yet: $117 million to expand classrooms and launch new charter schools.

“We cast a vision for our growth plan, and then it has to be paid for somehow. So this just gives us confidence that what we envision in terms of growth will actually become a reality,” IDEA regional director Rolando Posada said.

When Posada came to San Antonio seven years ago, he said he made it his goal to have an IDEA school less than 10 minutes away from every family.

“We realized that this was one of the biggest cities in the country with one of the biggest needs. And so my vision was to put a school everywhere on the map of the city of San Antonio,” he said….

Several of IDEA’s new schools will likely be located in the Northside school district, one of the region’s wealthier and higher performing districts.

Northside Superintendent Brian Woods said he finds it interesting that charter schools are no longer limiting themselves to areas where the traditional public schools are struggling.

“If you have an area that’s being served extremely well, why would you need to introduce a duplicative service?” Woods asked.

DeVos gave KIPP $88 million, and it too plans to expand its presence in Texas.

Mark Larson, chief external officer for KIPP Texas, said KIPP is creating a growth plan to determine where to expand next in the state, but “a sizeable chunk” of the $88 million awarded to the national KIPP Foundation is reserved for Texas.

“We have full intention to continue to grow and continue to grow in the San Antonio market,” Larson said.

DeVos gave $15 million to another charter network to open new schools in Texas.

One of our readers, who identifies herself as Chiara, recently explained why charters rely on federal funding to expand.

She says they know they would never be funded by popular vote as public schools are. The purpose of the federal funding is not only to help charter schools (like KIPP, funded by billionaires like the Waltons), but to bypass democracy.

She wrote:

The second of 20 San Antonio IDEA Public School campuses is headed to the South Side and and is scheduled to open in fall 2019.

”The new campus — which has yet to be named — will be built on an eight-acre plot of land on the corner of South Flores Street and West Harding Boulevard.”

If IDEA had to go to the public and ask for facilities financing to build and operate each of 20 new public schools, the public would reject all or some of the new schools, because they would (rightfully) ask why they’re replicating a system they already have. There would be a long public debate on public investment. They would have to scale back plans or scrap them completely.

Charters know this, so they use federal and private financing. If they used local facilities funding they would have to get the consent of the public.

When ed reformers say they want local facilities funding remember that if they had local facilities funding the approval process would have to go thru the public, and the public would object to funding 20 new school buildings that replicate schools they already have. That would make it impossible to plunk down 20 new charter schools.

 

 

Texas Public Radio reported on the devastating effect that charter expansion is having on the public schools of San Antonio. The city leaders, in their ignorance, decided not to improve the public schools, but to create a parallel private system to compete with them. Both sectors are funded by the public, but the charters choose their students and some do not offer transportation.

The city’s population is growing but enrollment in its public schools is shrinking.

The main reason for the apparent contradiction is an exponential growth in publicly-funded, privately-run charter schools. Charter school enrollment in the San Antonio metro area has grown by more than 200% since 2009, according to a Texas Public Radio analysis of a decade of enrollment records obtained through public information requests. 

In the past two years alone, charter networks in the San Antonio metro area gained nearly 11,000 students. For traditional school districts, that meant a corresponding loss in funding. State funding is based on attendance.

The big charter networks, like IDEA and Great Hearts, have selective enrollment practices. IDEA has received more than $200 million from Betsy DeVos and the federal Charter Schools Program.

Some local parent groups are fighting back, but they are vastly outspent by the charter networks and undercut by state policy, which favors privatization.

Charter favoritism guarantees that the local public schools, which enroll most children, will be underfunded and will serve a disproportionate number of students with the highest needs.

Some parents have organized to fight back:

Standing in the neighborhood next to Oak Meadow Elementary in the North East school district, Cameron Vickrey said her daughters’ school “experienced a kind of mass exodus” a few years ago to go to Great Hearts. Great Hearts is a charter network that uses a classical curriculum similar to private schools.

“When all of those people left there was a volunteer vacuum,” Vickrey said. “That was when I came to the school, and as a new kindergarten mom I was put on the PTA board… because they pretty much had to create a PTA board from scratch.”

Vickrey’s neighborhood is mostly one-story, ranch-style houses a short walk or drive from the elementary school.

Trimmed yards are sprinkled with white signs that say “Proudly RootEd in NEISD.”

Vickrey and a few other Oak Meadow parents started making the yard signs after hearing other parents say that nobody in the neighborhood goes to the traditional public school.

RootEd yard sign in the Oak Meadow neighborhood of North East ISD.
CREDIT CAMILLE PHILLIPS | TEXAS PUBLIC RADIO

And we stopped and thought about it, and we were like, ‘That’s not true! Of course people go to that school.’ They just don’t know those neighbors, right, because maybe they’re not in their clique or whatever.”

From there, RootEd grew into a nonprofit with a mission of spreading positive stories about district schools — both by word of mouth and on social media using the hashtag RootEd.

“RootEd just wants to say, ‘Wait, hang on a second. Remember that these schools are here. And there are awesome things happening in them still,’” Vickrey said. “Make that your first stop, the first thing that you look into and if it doesn’t work for you for whatever reason, nobody’s going to fault you for that. You have a right to do that but we just want to make sure that people don’t discount their public schools.”

Vickrey said she also wants parents to consider the “unintended side effects” of choosing charter schools: less money and volunteers for the traditional public school, and a tendency to choose a school where people look like you.

“Our middle school that we’re zoned for here is a Title I (low-income) school, Jackson Middle School,” Vickrey said. “And it’s fabulous, but so many start choosing their school path for elementary school based on trying to avoid Jackson Middle School.”

Jackson Middle School is 80% Hispanic and 72% economically disadvantaged. San Antonio’s Great Hearts schools are less than 20% low-income and almost 50% white.

This article by Tom Ultican tells the sordid story of rich elites who have cynically decided to destroy public education in San Antonio.

They have cumulatively raised at least $200 million to attract charter operators to San Antonio, a figure which includes funding by the U.S. Department of Education and local plutocrats. The lead figure is a very wealthy woman named Victoria Rico, who sits on the boards of multiple charter chains. Rico and her friends have decided to re-engineer and privatize public education in San Antonio. Rico is working closely with Dan Patrick, the State’s lieutenant governor, who loves vouchers, hates public schools, and was the Rush Limbaugh of Texas before winning election to the State Senate.

Was there a vote taken in San Antonio? No. Was the public asked whether they wanted to abandon public education? Of course not. The titans don’t believe in democracy. They know what’s best for other people’s children.

They have hired a superintendent, Pedro Martinez, who was “trained” by the unaccredited Broad Superintendents Academy, which encourages school closures, privatization, and top-down management. Martinez has worked in school districts but was never a teacher or a principal and apparently knows nothing about pedagogy. Martinez is a member of Jeb Bush’s Chiefs for Change, which promotes privatization and technology in the classroom. He is also a big fan of the faux Relay “Graduate School of Education,” which specializes in charter teachers training new teachers for charter schools and has no professors or research programs.

As a native Texan, this whole deal made me physically ill. It stinks to high heaven. Everyone facilitating this private takeover of public schools should be ashamed of themselves.

They are not “doing it for the children.” They are doing it for their own egos. There are more failing charter schools than failing public schools. What right do they have to destroy the public schools of San Antonio? Who elected them? They have won plaudits from Betsy DeVos, the Koch brothers, and ALEC. They should be held accountable for their assault on democracy. I noticed that the Texas philanthropist Charles Butt refused to participate in this unholy cabal; he prefers to invest his fortune in supporting public schools.

I take this opportunity to name Victoria Rico, Pedro Martinez, and all their rightwing enablers to the Wall of Shame.