Archives for category: Texas

Investigative journalist Jennifer Berkshire visited Texas to find out how the Trump-DeVos agenda of vouchers is being received. Not well, she found. In rural and suburban areas, parents are not eager to abandon their public schools.

She writes:

Keller, Texas—On the same night that President Trump invoked the specter of “failing government schools” in his State of the Union address, Texas Republican Giovanni Capriglione was working hard to establish his public school bona fides. Elected to the Texas House as part of the 2012 Tea Party wave, Capriglione reminded voters here in Keller, an affluent suburb of Fort Worth, that he was a product of public schools, his wife is too, and that his children attend them now. Grade by grade, he named his favorite teachers.

While Trump used his pulpit to make clear his administration’s contempt for public schools, Capriglione wooed the voters he hopes will send him back to the state legislature with calls for more generous school funding, less standardized testing, and more rigorous oversight of charter schools.

Why such disparate messaging?

In a word: elections. In 2018 Texas Democrats flipped 12 formerly Republican legislative seats, half in the fast-growing region around Dallas and Fort Worth known as the Metroplex. While the Texas version of the blue wave was fueled in part by enthusiasm for the Senate candidacy of Beto O’Rourke, Democrats also ran hard against what they characterized as the GOP’s antipathy toward public education. Voters ejected several school voucher advocates, while candidates who ran as supporters of public schools were rewarded. And while Trump is beloved among rural Texans, they are not fans of his signature education issue, “education freedom,” aka sending taxpayer funds to private and religious schools.

“Our rural communities are knit together by their public schools,” says Pastor Charles Johnson, head of the public education advocacy group Pastors for Texas Children. “It’s why they tend to oppose privatization, no matter who is pushing it.”

A similar dynamic is playing out in other key 2020 states. Even as Trump tries to lure back disaffected suburban moderates and hold on to his loyal rural supporters, his administration is peddling an education agenda that is increasingly under fire in states that are essential to his reelection bid. The deep divide between what such voters want for their schools and what Trump and state-level Republicans are offering presents an opportunity for Democrats to build on their 2018 gains, and perhaps even deny Trump a second term

Trouble may also be brewing in Ohio, she writes, where overzealous Republican legislators extended vouchers into suburban districts and are feeling a strong pushback.

The charter industry is nearing a flection point. The number of schools that open each year is almost the same as the number that close. The charter industry is rushing to open new schools before the public is fully woke to the crisis of charter corruption.

The Network for Public Education started a hashtag (#) on Twitter called #AnotherDayAnotherCharterScandal. Every day a new scandal, sometimes two or three.

Mercedes Schneider describes the latest charter debacle in Texas, where Betsy DeVos has dropped many millions to open new charters.

The Texas Education Agency (TEA) will be closing the Kauffman Leadership Academy (KLA) (Cleburne) charter school with one week’s notice, as reported in WFAA.com.

In this February 13, 2020, letter to KLA leadership, TEA cites, “the [closure] order was issued as a result of the financial situation at the charter school having deteriorated significantly, including federal tax liens and levies issued by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) that had frozen all accounts of the charter school.”

KLA filed with the Texas Secretary of State (SOS) as a business entity on August 23, 2010 (search here; KLA’s taxpayer ID# is 32042519895). According to KLA’s charter application dated 02/23/11 and on file with TEA, KLA planned “to open in August 2011 operate as a private school, pending charter approval.” These archived web pages from July 2011 and May 2015 have KLA identifying itself as an “open enrollment private school pending charter approval.”

According to the IRS, KLA received nonprofit status in August 2014, and according to KLA’s website, the school opened as a charter school in August 2016.

What took TEA so long to identify KLA’s suspicious financial situation is a looming question.

According to the IRS, KLA has only ever filed 990-N tax forms, also known as “e-postcards,” because according to KLA, for tax years 2013 to 2017 (the most recent filing,) KLA has reported “gross receipts not greater than 50,000.”

So, for five tax years, KLA told the IRS, “We have almost no money,” and the public– including TEA– had ready access to that information.

Meanwhile, on its website, KLA states, “every employee of the Academy earns the same salary, $35,000,” a statement that has remained consistent on its website since the time KLA received its charter in fall 2016, as evidenced by this October 2016 archived web page announcing KLA’s grad opening celebration.

If KLA had $50K or less per annum in 2016, that would have been enough for only a single KLA employee based upon state funding for perhaps 8 students.

Red flag, no?

Question: Why didn’t they just write to the Waltons or John Arnold or any number of other billionaires to get an infusion of cash?

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact:

Tessa Benavides

tbenavides@ryht.org

(210) 445-3965

First-of-its-kind Poll Reveals Texans Trust Teachers, and Have Concerns About School Testing and Funding

AUSTIN, TX (February 20, 2020) The Raise Your Hand Texas Foundation has released a first-of-its kind statewide poll about Texans’ attitudes toward public education. Notable findings include Texans appreciate teachers, but have concerns about testing and the lack of funding for schools. The poll found that 77 percent of Texans express trust and confidence in their teachers, much higher than the 61 percent of Americans polled on the same question.

The poll was released during a press conference this morning. There is footage from today’s press conference available in both English and Spanish for any future use:https://www.raiseyourhandtexas.org/2020-poll-resources/.

Names of those participating in the press conference:

  • English
    • Dr. Shari Albright, President, Raise Your Hand Texas
    • Gary Langer, President, Langer Research Associates
  • Spanish
    • Max Rombardo, Research Associate, Raise Your Hand Texas

The Foundation modeled the poll after the longstanding national PDK Poll of the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools. Langer Research Associates, PDK’s polling firm and the producer of the weekly Washington Post–ABC News poll, conducted the research.

View our comprehensive digital media kit here: https://www.raiseyourhandtexas.org/2020-poll-resources/. It includes b-roll and photos for media use, as well as downloadable copies of the full poll report and toplines.

———————————————————

First-of-its-kind Poll Reveals Texans Trust Teachers, and Have Concerns About School Testing and Funding

 

– Inaugural “PDK of Texas” poll highlights statewide perceptions

on key public education topics –

 

AUSTIN, TX (February 18, 2020) — A new statewide poll on Texans’ attitudes toward public education found they appreciate teachers, but have concerns about testing and the lack of funding for schools.

 

The poll, commissioned by the non-profit Raise Your Hand Texas Foundation, found that 77 percent of Texans express trust and confidence in their teachers, much higher than the 61 percent of Americans polled on the same question.

 

The Foundation modeled the poll after the longstanding nationalPDK Poll of the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools. Langer Research Associates, PDK’s polling firm and the producer of the weekly Washington Post-ABC News poll, conducted the research.

 

“We’re pleased to be the first organization in the country to commit to an annual statewide poll about public education issues,” Foundation President Shari Albright said. “The work of PDK is the most respected in the field, providing insight into the perceptions and trends in Americans’ attitudes toward public education. We thought it important to provide this service to Texans on an annual basis, both to understand the challenges and help find ways to improve our public schools.”

 

“Kudos to Raise Your Hand Texas for conducting this poll,”  said Dr. Joshua Starr, Chief Executive Officer of PDK International. “Like most Americans, Texans want more funding for schools, support their teachers, have concerns about testing, and want more attention paid to student social-emotional competencies. And, while there are some different perspectives based on income, geography, and race, there’s no doubt that Texans, like most Americans, support their local schools and want to see an increased investment in them.”

 

Other major findings show that, while teachers are important to school quality, Texans believe they are undervalued. The poll also found:

 

  • 93 percent of Texans say teacher quality is extremely or very important in overall school quality
  • 71 percent see teachers as undervalued in society
  • 70 percent say teacher pay is too low
  • 60 percent are not confident that state standardized tests effectively measure how well a student is learning
  • 59 percent believe their community’s public schools have too little money

 

When rating public schools as a whole, the more closely connected respondents are to a school, the higher they rate it, a trend reflected in the national research. The poll found 68 percent of Texas parents would give their oldest child’s campus an A or B grade. Overall, 48 percent of Texas gave the schools in their community an A or B grade, higher than the 44 percent of Americans who give their community’s schools the same high marks.

 

“This poll reflects positive sentiment toward our public schools,” Albright said. “The challenge is in ensuring schools have the resources they need to educate every child, starting with a well-trained teacher in every classroom and a strong leader on every campus. We must also ensure students and schools are assessed fairly. Though we still have work to do, I am confident Texas is moving in the right direction.”

 

# # #

ABOUT THE RAISE YOUR HAND TEXAS FOUNDATION

The Raise Your Hand Texas Foundation develops and strengthens school leaders and teachers, engages families in the educational experience, and advances classroom learning with innovative instructional practices to benefit all students. For more information, visit RYHTFoundation.org.

Jennifer Berkshire went to Texas to try to learn whether DeVos was helping or hurting the GOP. You may be surprised by her answer.

She writes:

The big question that fascinates me these days is whether GOP voters who care about their public schools will abandon their party as it embraces a Trump/DeVos education freedom agenda. And the answer in Texas is yes, at least when it comes to moderate suburban voters.

Twelve seats in the Texas legislature flipped from R to D in 2018 and education was a huge part of the reason. There’s been an explosion of public education activism in Texas in recent years, and GOP candidates, feeling the pressure and fearing for their seats, are now scrambling to paint themselves as the biggest lovers of public schools and their teachers around. I went to north Texas to hear for myself what this sounds like.

 
Here’s a link to the podcast: https://soundcloud.com/haveyouheardpodcast/texas

The Houston Chronicle reports that Trump will promote Ted Cruz’s school voucher plan, which aligns nicely with the DeVos “Education Freedom” vouchers.

Texas does not have vouchers, thanks to the concerted efforts of Pastors for Texas Children and a large number of local civic groups. Despite the fervent advocacy of top Republicans, a coalition of rural Republicans and urban Democrats have stopped the voucher push for several legislative sessions.

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz visited the White House in December for a public discussion about school choice, and he pitched President Donald Trump face to face on legislation he has pushed for more than a year now with Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

If and when we pass this, this will be the most significant federal civil rights victory of modern times,” Cruz said of the Education Freedom Scholarships the bill would create, providing billions of dollars in tax breaks for individuals and companies that donate to private school scholarship funds or help parents home-school their children.

“This is all about millions of kids — millions of inner-city kids, millions of African-American kids, millions of Hispanic kids, trapped right now, desperate for hope — and giving them scholarships,” the Texas Republican told Trump, who nodded in agreement. “There is nothing on the domestic front that I believe will have a longer lasting legacy in your presidency than if and when we get this done together.”

It appears Trump heard him loud and clear.

The president is expected to give the proposal a prime-time shoutout during his State of the Union address Tuesday, as he seeks his second term. Trump is expected to touch on the core planks of his re-election campaign — the economy, immigration and health care among them — with an emphasis on what he has done and wants to do for working families. School choice will be a central piece of that message, as the president plans to urge Congress to expand options for parents and students, administration officials say.

But how that message might be received in Texas is another matter. Despite the GOP majority in Austin, Texas lawmakers spent years battling over various voucher proposals with so little success that advocates gave up in 2019.

Thanks to Pastors for Texas Kids for supporting public schools with certified teachers and adequate resources.

Valerie Strauss writes here about the abject apology by Tom Torkelsen of the IDEA corporate charter chain for his company’s lavish spending.

The head of a Texas-based charter school chain publicly apologized for “really dumb and unhelpful” plans that included leasing a private jet for millions of dollars and spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on San Antonio Spurs tickets.

It’s not the first time he has acknowledged errors in the chain’s operations.

Tom Torkelson, chief executive of IDEA Public Schools, issued a letter (see in full below) to the IDEA community saying he has sometimes “pushed us to a place that’s hard to defend” in his effort to be “entrepreneurial and different from traditional education systems.”

“I’m sorry I put IDEA and our friends in that position,” he said.

Charter schools are publicly funded but privately operated. Supporters say they offer valuable alternatives to families that do not like their neighborhood schools. Critics say they drain resources from traditional public school districts that educate the vast majority of students and that they are part of a movement to privatize public education.

IDEA was started in Texas by two alumni from Teach for America and has nearly 100 campuses in that state and Louisiana serving nearly 53,000 students. According to its audit for 2018 and 2019, IDEA has more than $1.13 billion in assets. It has received more than $200 million from the federal Charter Schools Program over the past decade and has plans to expand rapidly in the next few years.

The chain markets itself as having a 100 percent college acceptance rate. It doesn’t mention that acceptance to a four-year college is a requirement for graduation, which would presumably be a disincentive to enroll for students who do not want to attend college.

Torkelson recently backed off a plan to lease a private jet for $2 million a year — for six years — after the Houston Chronicle and a state teachers union raised questions about it. Torkelson had said the lease would allow IDEA executives to fly to states where the network is expanding.

After Torkelsen’s apology, IDEA bought an ad during the SuperBowl, which cost millions. Big spenders gotta spend bigly!

This past year, Betsy DeVos gave IDEA over $100 million from the federal Charter Schools Program (aka, her private slush fund).

How does a chain of schools amass over $1 billion in assets?

If anyone can answer that question, please post it here as a comment.

 

This is a very engaging video interview of Tom Ultican, an expert on corporate education reform, explaining the federal takeover of public schools via No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top. Ultican goes into detail about the corporate assault on public schools in the Dallas Independent School District. He names names, starting with the misguided superintendency of Mike Miles, a Broadie who managed to drive out large numbers of experienced teachers. He identifies the funders of corporate funders, both billionaires and the Dallas Chamber of Commerce.

He gives a concise analysis of the money behind the “portfolio model,” charters, and privatization in Texas and Dallas.

Domingo Morel is a professor of political science at Rutgers University who has studied school takeovers across the nation. He is the author of Takeover: Race, Education, and American Democracy. 

In this post, he describes the proposed state takeover of the Houston Independent School District as a hoax. 

It is a manufactured crisis. It is a theft of political power, and it is based on race.

If the state of Texas had its way, the state would be in the process of taking overthe Houston Independent School District.

But a judge temporarily blocked the takeover on Jan. 8, with the issue now set to be decided at a trial in June.

The ruling temporarily spares Houston’s public school system from joining a list of over 100 school districts in the nation that have experienced similar state takeovers during the past 30 years.

The list includes New York City, Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia, Detroit, New Orleans, Baltimore, Oakland and Newark. Houston is the largest school district in Texas and the seventh largest in the U.S.

While the state of Texas claims the planned takeover is about school improvement, my research on state takeovers of school districts suggests that the Houston takeover, like others, is influenced by racism and political power.

States fail to deliver

State governments have used takeovers since the late 1980s to intervene in school districts they have identified as in need of improvement. While state administrations promise that takeovers will improve school systems, 30 years of evidence shows that state takeovers do not meet the states’ promised expectations. For instance, a recent report called Michigan’s 15-year management of the Detroit schools a “costly mistake” because the takeover was not able to address the school system’s major challenges, which included adequately funding the school district.

But while the takeovers don’t deliver promised results, as I show in my book, they do have significant negative political and economic consequences for communities, which overwhelmingly are communities of color. These negative consequences often include the removal of locally elected school boards. They also involve decreases in teachers and staff and the loss of local control of schools.

Despite the highly problematic history of state takeovers, states have justified the takeovers on the grounds that the entire school district is in need of improvement. However, this is not the case for the Houston takeover because by the state’s own standards, the Houston school system is not failing.

By the state’s own standards, the Houston Independent School District is not failing!

Although the state has given the Houston Independent School District a B rating, it plans to take over the Houston schools because one school, Wheatley High School, has not met state standards for seven years. According to state law, the state can take over a school district or close a school if it fails to meet standards for five years.

The Houston Independent School District has 280 schools. The district serves over 200,000 students. It employs roughly 12,000 teachers. Wheatley High School serves roughly 800 students and has roughly 50 teachers.

So why would a state take over a school district that has earned a B rating from the state? And why base the takeover on the performance of one school that represents fewer than 1% of the district’s student and teaching population?

The takeover is nothing more or less than a bald-faced attempt to strip political power from black and Hispanic communities.

No one believes that software developer Mike Morath (the current state commissioner) has a single idea about how to improve Wheatley or any other school. He has never been a teacher, a principal, or a superintendent. He is there to carry out the rightwing agenda of Governor Gregg Abbott.

Count on it. This is a bald-faced power grab.

A state judge in Texas blocked the state takeover of the Houston Independent School District until she issues a final order in June. 

A state judge Wednesday evening immediately blocked Texas from taking over the Houston Independent School District until she issues a final ruling on the case, complicating the state’s plan to oust the district’s school board by March.

In doing so, Travis County District Judge Catherine Mauzy preliminarily sided with Houston ISD, the state’s largest school district, in a legal battle that will ultimately determine whether Texas can indefinitely seize power from its elected school board.

Calling the injunction a temporary setback, the TEA vowed in a statement to appeal the ruling.

The Texas Education Agency had planned to seize control of the district, oust the elected school board, and replace it with a governing board appointed by State Commissioner Mike Morath in March. Now the state must wait for the judge’s ruling in June.

The takeover was prompted by the persistent low test scores of Wheatley High School, which has a higher proportion of students in need than other schools in the district of 280 schools.

The state has failed to improve other, smaller districts that it has taken over.

Morath is a software developer, not an educator. He thinks that fixing a school district, one of the largest in the nation, is akin to ironing out bugs in a software program.

Critics in Houston think that Morath’s goal is to replace public schools with charter schools. During his single term on the Dallas school board, Morath led a failed effort to turn Dallas into a charter district, a goal he shared with billionaire John Arnold (Ex-Enron).

Mauzy hinted at her decision just before she stood to leave the courtroom Tuesday afternoon.

“Democracy is not always pretty,” she said. “But I am convinced it’s the best system we have. If we applied some of [the state’s arguments] to the Texas Legislature, I don’t know where we’d be.”

Now there is an interesting thought. Judge the members of the Texas legislature by their thoughtfulness, their diligence, and their intelligence, and how many would be ousted?

The following statement was released on New Year’s Day by Community Voices for Public Education, a coalition of parents and students in Houston. As their statement demonstrates, the state takeover is a fraud intended to strip the school district of its elected school board and to replace it with a hand-picked governing board selected by a non-educator who wants to privatize public education.

 

It is New Years’ Day and public education is on our minds.

Will you make a commitment to fight the immoral, unAmerican and racist takeover of HISD?  Call your elected officials and then bring five friends with you to the January 9 rally opposing this takeover. 

Recently, the Houston Chronicle editorial board used misleading facts and misrepresentation to misinform its readers. The Chronicle seems mission-driven to legitimize the state takeover of HISD no matter the cost to its journalistic integrity or actual facts.

When they do this over three editorials, it is no longer an accident; it is propaganda. 

Here are some examples from the most recent editorials.

HISD at a crossroads: Looming State Takeover: The editorial compared HISD’s 81% graduation rate to Dallas’ 88% and Fort Worth’s 87% leaving the reader with the impression that they were better school districts.  The reality is Fort Worth has a TEA 2019 Accountability Rating of “C”(79) and only 53% of their graduates are college, career or military ready versus HISD’s “B”(88) and 63% graduate readiness. Dallas ISD has a “B” (86) rating and only 57% of their graduates are college, career or military ready. By the TEA’s own standards HISD is the better district. How did the Houston Chronicle and Mr. Morath manage to come to a completely different conclusion? Didn’t any of them bother to check the Texas Schools website? https://txschools.gov 

HISD must learn from others and our own past:  This editorial starts with the statistic of 56% of HISD students not meeting grade level expectations as measured by the STAAR test but it never mentions that Dallas ISD has the exact same STAAR performance rating as HISD. Once again, the Chronicle incorrectly leaves readers with the impression that Dallas is a better school district. (Source https://txschools.gov

HISD needs improvement, but where to start? How could the Chron fail to mention the Superintendent? The person who actually runs the district. The person who hires and places the all important principals. The person who would have to actually implement the LBB recommendations. This piece misleads the reader into thinking the Board of Trustees run the district. They don’t! They are a governing body elected by us and accountable to us. If the state takeover proceeds, our democratically elected school board members, four just elected, will be replaced with a board of managers serving at the pleasure of the governor and the TEA.

A call to all Houstonians to participate: In its final editorial in the series, the Chronicle asks us to put blind faith in TEA Commissioner Mike Morath as our unelected torchbearer. His educational experience is one term as Dallas ISD Trustee in which he unsuccessfully tried to turn Dallas ISD into a “home rule” giant charter using the same tactics he is now employing in Houston ISD. Truly, his resume is thinner than most substitute teachers. 

Throughout the series, the Houston Chronicle disregards overwhelming evidence that state takeovers harm students and communities. They also turn a blind eye to the fact that takeovers have been used disproportionately against school districts of color. Furthermore, they have ignored a preponderance of evidence that high stakes testing is a flawed method for evaluating students, teachers and schools. 

And the series pays the barest lip service to poverty/inequity and the effect on children and families. When seven children share one mattress, they do not need a state takeover to do better in school; they need six more mattresses.

If the Editorial Board wanted to facilitate meaningful change in HISD, their editorials should have been grounded in complete facts and they should have used data to inform, not obfuscate. There is no such thing as problem solving through propaganda.

Community Voices for Public Education
http://www.houstoncvpe.org/