Archives for category: School Choice

Jan Resseger writes here about the damage that “portfolio districts” do to students, schools, and communities. The original concept for “portfolio districts” was developed by Paul Hill of the Gates-funded Center for Reinventing Public Educatuon at the University of Washington. The fundamental idea was that the school board would act like a stock portfolio manager, closing low-performing schools, replacing them with charter schools, keeping open the schools with high test scores. Students would choose where to go to school. The concept was adopted by many districts as the latest thing, and many beloved neighborhood schools serving black and brown communities were shuttered. If their replacement got low scores, it was also closed. The students were collateral damage.

She writes:

Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Joel Klein launched this scheme in New York City by creating district-wide school choice, breaking up large comprehensive high schools into small schools with curricular specialties, encouraging the opening of a large number of charter schools, co-locating many schools—small specialty public schools along with charter schools—into the same buildings.  Those running the school district would consider all of these schools of choice as if they were investments in a stock portfolio. The district would hold on to the successful investments and phase out those whose test scores were low or which families didn’t choose.

Portfolio school reform has created collateral damage across the school districts which have experimented with the idea. After the Chicago Public Schools, another district managed by portfolio school reform theory, closed 50 schools at the end of the 2013 school year, the University of Chicago’s Consortium on School Research, and separately a University of Chicago sociologist, Eve Ewing tracked widespread community grieving when neighborhoods lost the public school institutions that had anchored their neighborhoods.

But there have been other kinds of collateral damage beyond the tragedy of school closures. In a new piece for the NY Times, Eliza Shapiro documents how district-wide school choice in New York City has contributed to inequity along with racial and segregation.

One problem is inequitable access to information. Parents who can afford to pay for consultants and who have the skills and position to understand how to navigate the system are able to privilege their own children with access to the schools widely thought to be desirable.  Shapiro explains: “There is a trick to getting to the front of the lines that clog sidewalks outside New York City’s top public high schools each fall. Parents who pay $200 for a newsletter compiled by a local admissions consultant know that they should arrive hours ahead of the scheduled start time for school tours. On a recent Tuesday, there were about a hundred mostly white parents queued up at 2:30 p.m. in the spitting rain outside of Beacon High School, some toting snacks and even a few folding chairs for the long wait. The doors of the highly selective, extremely popular school would not open for another two hours for the tour. Parents and students who arrived at the actual start time were in for a surprise. The line of several thousand people had wrapped around itself, stretching for three midtown Manhattan blocks.”

Resseger adds:

My own children graduated from a racially and economically diverse public high school in Cleveland Heights, Ohio.  Articles like Shapiro’s cause me to appreciate our family’s privilege in a way I had never really previously considered.  From the time they entered Kindergarten, our children knew they would someday go to the big high school at the corner of Cedar and Lee.  At a week-long summer music camp in our school district, middle school students play side-by-side with some of the members of the high school band and orchestra. Our daughter learned to know the high school tennis coach when he worked with younger students in the city recreation program. And the summer before his high school freshman year, our son, knowing that the high school cross country team worked out in a city park during August, went to the park and asked the coach if he could start working out with the team. High school for our children was a natural, predictable, and exciting transition. How lucky we were.

 

Republican Mike Turzai, Speaker of the House in Pennsylvania, is encouraging the state to adopt the Betsy DeVos agenda for diverting public funds to religious and private schools.

Turzai’s agenda is described here by Lawrence Feinberg, a school board member in Haverford Township and director of the Keystone State Education Coalition.

Feinberg writes:

The 2022 race for governor’s race has begun, and Pennsylvania House Speaker Mike Turzai wants to make it clear that he shares Betsy DeVos’ vision for privatization of public education.

In a recent Philadelphia Inquirer opinion piece, Turzai, R-Allegheny, touted our state “as a gold standard with respect to funding public school districts”, completely ignoring the fact that Pennsylvania is home to the widest per pupil funding gap between wealth and poor districts in the country.

Under his leadership, the Pennsylvania Legislature has been negligent, willfully and deliberately ignoring the state’s historic gross inequity in the distribution of school funding and locking students in poorer districts into their underfunded and under resourced predicament. A school funding lawsuit is pending, with the trial tentatively set to begin in summer 2020.

In fiscal 2015-16, only 36.8 percent of aggregate education funding came from the state while 57.2 percent came from local sources, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Education’s “Annual Financial Reports.”

The U.S. Census’ “Annual Survey of School System Finances” data from fiscal year 2015 ranks Pennsylvania 47th out of the 50 states in state support for public schools.

Instead of addressing the funding issue, he has consistently and aggressively promoted anything but democratically governed public schools that are accountable to taxpayers. While he supported the Financial Recovery Act of 2012 setting in motion a plan for distressed school districts to get back on track, he is thwarting that effort by ensuring that such districts remain in financial distress.

His signature tax credit program, which diverts public tax dollars to private and religious schools, skirts the Pennsylvania Constitution which explicitly says that “no money raised for the support of the public schools of the Commonwealth shall be appropriated to or used for the support of any sectarian school.”

 

Jennifer Berkshire writes in the New Republic that Betsy DeVos is deeply unpopular in swing-state Michigan. Voters in Detroit can see a district disrupted by a generation of failed reforms. Suburban voters like their public schools and don’t want charters or vouchers.  Berkshire notes that the Democrats are picking up unlikely victories in districts where education is a big issue.

In 2016, Darrin Camilleri was 24 and teaching at a Detroit charter school 20 miles from where he grew up, when Michigan lawmakers took up a measure to implement more rigorous oversight of the city’s charter schools. Seemingly anyone could open a charter in Detroit, and the schools closed just as suddenly as they opened. From his classroom on the city’s southwest side, Camilleri watched the reform effort fail. “Watching that play out really showed me the downside of deregulation,” he told me. “No one is holding anyone accountable.” That year, he decided to run for state representative in southern Wayne County, a largely blue-collar area that shades rural at its edges. Rather than hewing to standard Democratic talking points—health care, for instance, or Donald Trump’s erratic comments—Camilleri made charter school oversight and school funding his central issues, and in 2016, he became the only Democrat to flip a Republican state house seat in Michigan.

In the three years since Trump turned Michigan red, education has emerged as a potent political issue in the state, thanks to a steady stream of grim studies and embarrassing news stories. Between 2003 and 2015, the state ranked last out of all 50 for improvement in math and reading. According to a recent study, Michigan now spends less on its schools than it did in 1994. Republicans have slashed funding to give tax cuts to big businesses. And the number of people who choose to become teachers has fallen dramatically….

Consider the political climate in Michigan’s suburban districts. In 2018, when Padma Kuppa challenged a Republican state representative, she homed in on the GOP’s role in undermining public education and won, claiming a seat in Troy, an affluent suburban district north of Detroit that Democrats had never held before. Suburban districts like the one in Troy regularly top “best schools in Michigan” lists, with high test scores and graduation rates, and loads of AP offerings. “People here like their public schools, regardless of what party they belong to,” Kuppa said. The GOP’s steady expansion of a largely unregulated charter school sector has very little to offer voters in communities like hers.

Matt Koleszar, a high school social studies and English teacher, won his race for state representative in suburban Plymouth with a message of what he describes as “tenacious support for public schools.” His call for adequate school funding resonated in this “purple” district, he told me, but so did tying his opponent, Jeff Noble, to Betsy DeVos. Noble had scored an endorsement from the education advocacy group DeVos founded, and raised thousands from her extended family. In 2018, he even backed a controversial law to give charter schools a cut of any property tax increases at the county level. “When I went door to door, explaining to people that this meant that their taxes were going to some for-profit charter school headquarters that’s not even in the district, they were outraged,” Koleszar said….

That relationship could backfire on Trump not only in Michigan’s suburbs, but also in rural areas, where the GOP’s education policies have even less to offer voters. There, the local schools are foundational community institutions, and the conservative push to privatize public services has transferred bus drivers, janitors, cafeteria workers, and even some coaches on to the payroll of private contractors that pay less than the state does while providing fewer benefits. “When you’ve gutted all of the insurance for these jobs, they’re not that attractive,” said Keith Smith, the superintendent of schools in rural Kingsley, Michigan. Cuts have forced school districts like his to ax “extras,” such as music, counseling, and the vocational programs that prepare students to work in skilled trades….

 

 

 

New Hampshire’s Republican Governor, Chris Sununu (his father John Sununu was Chief of staff to President George H.W. Bush), appointed a man who homeschooled his children to be State Commissioner of Education. Commissioner Frank Edelblut has dedicated his time in office to undermining public schools. His big idea is called “Learn Everywhere,” which would allow the State Board of education to allow graduation credits for anything they wished, whether it was for-profit, or commercial, or lessons with Miss Sally, or anything else. Local school boards now have that authority, and they rightly complained that Learn Anywhere infringed on their realm.

Edelblut wants to put public schools out of business by allowing anything and everything to count for credit.

He is the Betsy DeVos of New Hampshire.

But Democrats in the legislature threw a big obstacle in front of Edelblut’s plan.

Lawmakers on New Hampshire’s legislative rules committee voted Thursday to reject the proposed “Learn Everywhere” program from the state’s Department of Education, in the latest blow to a months-long effort by Commissioner Frank Edelblut. 

In a 6-4 vote led by Democrats on party lines, members of the Joint Legislative Committee on Administrative Rules voted to issue a final objection to the proposed rule change. 

But the action doesn’t kill the program for good. Under state law, the Department of Education can proceed with the rules over the objections of lawmakers. Doing that, though, would be risky. The department would assume all liability in the case of legal action, according to lawyers for the state’s Office of Legislative Services on Thursday.

If the citizens of NewHampshire want to save their public schools and prevent massive fraud with their tax monies, they have to replace Governor Sununu when he runs again and insist that the new governor put an educator in charge of the State Education Department.

 

 

 

Rev. Sharon Felton, coordinator of Pastors for Kentucky Children, warns parents and other members of the public not to be fooled by the rhetoric. Charters, vouchers, and tax credits are not good for children, and they drain resources from the public schools that educate most children.

She writes:

Educating our children is the most important thing we do in the commonwealth. Educating all of our children no matter their family’s economic status, their address, the color of their skin, is so critical to our society and our future that our constitution requires it!

Section 183 of the Kentucky Constitution states, “The General Assembly shall, by appropriate legislation, provide for an efficient system of common schools throughout the State.”

People are pouring money and rhetoric into our state to convince us all that privatization, school choice, scholarship tax credits (vouchers), and charter schools are the answer to all our public school issues. What they are NOT telling us is that these programs often tend to harm students, public schools, families and our communities…

It is time we tell the privatizers no, once and for all. Our children are not commodities, available for the wealthy and corporations to profit…

Every time some high-dollar lobby group creates some new scheme to take money out of public schools, scholarship tax credits being the latest example, we take money away from the 648,369 children in public schools and make the job that much harder. We do not need to fund more than one educational system.

We do not need to give wealthy people tax breaks for donating to the private school of their choice. Instead, imagine the return if we invested everything we could into the great school system we already have going. Imagine how all our students would flourish if we provided for their teachers.

Imagine the future of our commonwealth with a fully funded public school system where teachers were paid what they deserve and had the resources to do their jobs and our children were afforded the highest quality education in the country. We will make this a reality when we choose to invest in our children and their public schools.

Join Pastors for Kentucky Children as we advocate for all of Kentucky’s children and our public schools.

Back in the early days of school choice advocacy, it was often claimed that school choice would “force” the public schools to compete and they would get better because of the magic of the market.

Now we know that was a selling point, and it was not true.

Deborah Gordon Klehr, executive director of the civil rights group Education Law Center-PA, writes about the negative effects of “school choice” on the public schools of Philadelphia. 

The publics schools in that city have long been severely underfunded, and school choice has stripped them of both students and funding, leaving them even worse off.

Klehr writes:

A study of charter schools in Philadelphia published by the Education Law Center earlier this year is a stark reminder that many parents don’t get to choose and that ultimately it may be the school and not the parent doing the choosing. More charters and more slots haven’t cured an ailing school system.

This is not to discount the successes we know exist for students in many city charters. But Philadelphia’s 22-year history of rapid charter expansion coupled with inadequate oversight is entrenching new inequities in an already unequal landscape.

Sometimes the problem is blatant discrimination: For instance, a recurring pattern we see among families who contact us is charters telling students with disabilities, after they have been accepted, “We cannot serve you.” As public schools, charters are prohibited from discriminating against students with disabilities. And yet, we see this pattern persist.

Sometimes the obstacles to enrollment are more subtle; for example, enrollment documents may only be available in English. The results, however, are clear. The population of economically disadvantaged students is 14 percentage points lower in the traditional charter sector (56%) vs. the district sector (70%). And, the percentage of English learners in district schools (11%) is nearly three times higher than in traditional charters (4%), with nearly a third of traditional charters serving no English learners.

Few of the special education students in traditional charters are from the disability categories that typically are most expensive to serve. And, the vast majority of traditional charter schools serve student populations that are two-thirds or more of one racial group – a significantly higher degree of segregation than in district schools.

In short, the city’s traditional charter schools (excluding “Renaissance” charters charged with serving all students from a catchment area) disproportionately enroll a student population that is more advantaged than the students in district-run schools; as a sector, charters are shirking their responsibility of educating all students.

No independent observer could look at the Philadelphia schools—public, charters, and vouchers—and say that any problems have been solved by privatization.

 

 

Max Brantley, the editor of the Arkansas Times, is a journalist who fearlessly stands up to the all-powerful Walton Family in the state they think they own. Brantley is a hero of the Resistance in my forthcoming book SLAYING GOLIATH.

In this post, Brantley describes the Waltons’ efforts to destroy the Little Rock School District and to crush the Little Rock Education Association.

He writes:

They are doing to Little Rock schools what the foundation of the family fortune did to small towns all across America — hollowing them out. It’s a years-long, billion-dollar effort that favors “choice” — privately run charter schools, vouchers for private schools, taxpayer support for homeschoolers and a diminishment of the role of elected school boards.  Parents know best, the Walton acolytes assert, even when the studies show little proof that the various choices beat conventional public schools. They are still searching for the magic bullet for the grinding reality of the impact of poverty on standardized test scores, the misleading standard by which “failure” is determined…

Little Rock teachers are…complaining of a mass e-mail from the anti-union Arkansas State Teachers Association last night warning teachers against striking. This group had a $362,000 startup grant from the Walton Family Foundation, no surprise given how notoriously anti-union Walmart has always been. ASTA also has ties to a national anti-union organization founded by like-minded billionaires.  Teachers weren’t too happy to be spammed by the group. ASTA also has been peppering state newspapers with op-eds touting their anti-union views. Its leader, Michele Linch, was the lone public voice on the other side of an outpouring of public opposition to the attack on the LRSD and its union by the state Board of Education.

Teachers in Little Rock ARE talking strike. I confess misgivings. There’s not a readily attainable goal as seen in other states, such as a pay increase. Nor is there any realistic hope for a change of heart in the Asa Hutchinson- (and thus Walton-) controlled education hierarchy. As Ernie Dumas wrote this week, racial discrimination and union hatred (tied historically with racist thinking) have always been with us in Arkansas. The recent LRSD takeover was nothing more than a combination of both by the white male business ruling class, with the primary immediate goal of union wreckage.

The Waltons collectively have a fortune in excess of $100 billion. They buy people, they create organizations to implement their evil schemes, they think they can squelch democracy by the power of money.

Those with the courage to stand up to them—journalists like Max Brantley, the teachers of the Little Rock Education Association, the parents and activists of Grassroots Arkansas—are the heroes of our time. They oppose autocracy, plutocracy, and a vast conspiracy to destroy democracy.

 

 

Mike Petrilli, president of the rightwing Thomas B. Fordham Institute, published a report about the “dramatic achievement gains” of the 1990s and 2000s. 

Surprisingly, he attributes most of these gains to improving economic conditions for poor families of color, not to standards, testing, and accountability, a cause that TBF has championed for years. But, not to worry, TBF has not changed its stripes, dropped out of ALEC, and joined forces with those who say that poverty is the main cause of low test scores.

So, I give Mike credit for acknowledging that improved economic conditions and increased spending had a very important effect on student academic performance. But he can’t bring himself to say that the accountability policies of NCLB and Race to the Top were poisonous and harmful, and that Common Core was a complete bust. He seems to be straining to find examples of states where he thinks high-stakes testing and school choice really were positive.

My first thought as I reviewed his data on rising achievement was that all these graphs looked very familiar.  Yes, they were in most cases the graphs (updated to 2017) appeared in my book Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools (2013). I used these graphs to debunk the Corporate Reformers’ phony claim that America’s public schools were failing.  I cited NAEP data to show the dramatic test score gains for African-American and Hispanic students. I argued in 2013 that test scores had risen dramatically, that graduation rates were at a historic high, that dropout rates were at an all-time low.

The data, I said, demonstrate the hoax of the Reformers’ narrative. Despite underfunding, despite an increased number of students who were English learners, despite numerous obstacles, the public schools were succeeding. Most of the gains occurred prior to enactment and implementation of No Child Left Behind.

Now, to my delight, I find that Petrilli seems to agree. He even admits that the decade from 2007-2017 was a “lost decade,” when scores on NAEP went flat and in some cases declined. Yet, despite his own evidence, he is unwilling to abandon high-stakes testing, charter schools, vouchers, and Common Core. How could he? TBF has been a chief advocate for such policies. I don’t expect that Mike Petrilli will join the Network for Public Education. I don’t expect him to endorse new measures to address outrageous income inequality and wealth inequality, though I think he should, based on his own evidence. And I doubt very much that TBF will withdraw as a member of the fringe-right, DeVos-and-Koch-funded ALEC.

Mercedes Schneider has a sharp analysis of Petrilli’s almost “mea culpa.”

She does not forgive him for serving as a loud cheerleader for Common Core, testifying to its merit even in states that had standards that were far superior to those of CCSS.

The title of her post sums up her distaste for his newfound insight that “poverty matters.”

“Common Core Salesman Michael Petrilli: *Economics Affect NAEP, But Stay the Ed-Reform Course.”

She does not forget nor forgive TBF’s ardent advocacy for the ineffectual Common Core Standards. She refers to TBF as “Common Core Opportunists.”

Schneider accuses Petrilli of cherry-picking the data so that he can eke out some credit for standards-testing-accountability by overlooking the irrelevance of CCSS and the big gains before the era of Corporate Reform:

Moreover, for as much as Petrilli pushed CCSS in its 2010 – 2013 heyday, he is notably silent on the CCSS lack of connection in his October 2019 NAEP score analysis. Petrilli only mentions CCSS one time, and there is certainly no encouragement to further examine any connection between his Gates-purchased CCSS push and NAEP subgroup scores.

Petrilli had yet another opportunity to do so in his 2017 “Lost Decade” piece about NAEP scores from 2007 to 2017, which Petrilli links to in his October 2019 report. No mention of CCSS at all.

It is noteworthy that Petrilli’s “lost decade” begins with 2007, the year that NCLB was supposed to be reauthorized, but lawmakers could not seem to make that happen; the bipartisan honeymoon that produced NCLB had apparently ended.

NAEP scores soared prior to NCLB and continued to do so for several years after NCLB authorization in 2001, but then came a leveling off, and for all of TBF’s selling of a CCSS, the NAEP “lost decade” continued.

Petrilli does not bother to consider whether the standards-and assessments push has negatively impacted NAEP scores. Instead, he assumes that pre-NCLB IASA was the beginning of “the real revolution.”

No word why that standards-and-testing “revolution” has not continued to raise NAEP scores even though standards-and assessments continue to be the end-all, be-all of American K12 education.

However, in convoluted and contradictory fashion, Petrilli does include standards and assessments in the NAEP-subgroup-score-raising “secret sauce,” even though he has already spent the bulk of his argument justifying the mid-1990-to-2010 NAEP subgroup-score rise as related to improved economic conditions for school children.

So, NAEP subgroup score rises appear to be correlated with socioeconomics, but a slice of credit must also go to the standards-and-assessments push, but not beginning with NCLB, sooner than that– 1994– but let’s ignore rising NAEP scores of Black students in the 1970s and 1980s.

Schneider contrasts Petrilli’s newfound appreciation for the importance of economic conditions with his deeply ingrained commitment to the Bush-Obama “test-and-punish” regime, in an article published just a few weeks ago:

Here’s Petrilli again, this time from September 23, 2019, Phi Delta Kappan, in a piece entitled, “Stay the Course on Standards and Accountability”:

So what kind of changes do we now hope to see in practice?

Here’s how we might put it: By raising standards and making the state assessments tougher, we hope that teachers will raise their expectations for their students. That means pitching their instruction at a higher level, giving assignments that ask children to stretch, and lengthening the school day or year for kids who need more time to reach the higher standards.

Gotta love the “we.” Must be the royal “we” because it sure is not “we” as in “we who work directly with children.”

For all of his promotion of “accountability,” Petrilli is accountable to no one– a hypocrisy with which he is apparently comfortable enough to “stay the course.”

 

 

 

 

Carol Burris, executive director of the Network for Public Education, reports on a new federal analysis comparing charter schools and public schools.

She writes:

A recent report on school choice commissioned by the US Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) documented what we already know–the performance of students who attend charter schools is no better than the academic performance of those who attend true public schools.
 
The report based its findings on 4th and 8th grade NAEP scores. No school, public or charter, can test prep students for success on the NAEP, thus it is considered by many to be the most reliable measure of student achievement.
 
In addition to a simple comparison of results, the researchers who prepared the report used regression analysis to control for the influence of parental education level on student achievement on the NAEP. This is important because it contradicts those who claim that charters do a better job at educating disadvantaged students, and that the equal academic performance between the two sectors is because public schools educate a more privileged population.  Parental education level has been shown repeatedly to have a significant effect on student achievement, even when controlling for SES. 
 
The report also told us that the percentage of students in private schools has dropped to 9% and homeschool enrollment has risen to 3%. Of the remaining 88%, 94% of all students are enrolled in true public schools, while 6% are enrolled in charter schools. 
 
The charter school sector can produce as many biased studies not subject to peer review as they like, but studies from objective sources consistently produce the same results–charters, despite their creaming of students and “freedom” do no better than true public schools. Ironically, this one was commissioned by the US Department of Education led by Betsy DeVos. 
 


Carol Burris

Executive Director
Network for Public Education

 

Valerie Strauss is not surprised yet disappointed that Betsy DeVos kicked off her “back to school tour” at a religious school in Milwaukee, flaunting her contempt for the vast majority of students who attend public schools. By doing so, she showed her agenda: privatization of public schools and transfer of public money to religious schools.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/education/2019/09/16/where-betsy-devos-started-her-back-to-school-tour-says-it-all-about-her-agenda/

It is ironic that she chose Milwaukee to demonstrate the benefits of school choice. Milwaukee has had choice for three decades: charters, vouchers, and a shrinking public school sector.

All three sectors are faring poorly. On the National Assessment of Educational Progress, Milwaukee is one of the lowest performing cities in the nation.  Students in religious schools, charters, and public schools are doing poorly.

Competition raised no boats. Milwaukee demonstrates the failure of school choice.

Betsy DeVos either doesn’t know or doesn’t care.