Archives for category: U.S. Department of Education

How cruel can Betsy DeVos and Steven Mnuchin be? As people of great wealth and privilege, they have not a thought for those who have been impoverished by the pandemic.

Both have been sued in a class-action lawsuit on behalf of student debtors whose tax refunds they sought to garnish.

Jessica Corbett writes in Common Dreams:

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, and the federal departments they run were hit with a class-action lawsuit Friday for illegal seizures of thousands of student borrowers’ tax refunds during the coronavirus pandemic, which has left over 40 million Americans jobless and familes across the country struggling to stay in their homes and keep food on the table.

The suit (pdf)—filed by Student Defense and Democracy Forward in the U.S. District Court for D.C.—accuses the Education and Treasury departments of violating the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) Act from late March, which halted all involuntary collection of federal student loans, including tax refund offsets, until the end of September.

“Secretaries DeVos and Mnuchin have inflicted needless financial pain on student borrowers and their families by failing to stop the illegal seizures of their tax refunds,” Democracy Forward senior counsel Jeffrey Dubner said in a statement.

“The turmoil caused by the ongoing pandemic is no excuse for breaking the law,” Dubner added. “Our class-action suit seeks to hold the administration accountable so that student borrowers can stay on their feet during this crisis.”

Stan Karp has written a brilliant critique of federal policy and Betsy DeVos’s audacious and vicious assault on our nation’s public schools and their students. Don’t believe those who say that Congress has blocked her most horrendous actions. She has used her authority and exceeded the intent of Congress to advance her single-minded and narrow-minded pursuit of privatization. When Congress tries to blunt or control her actions, she simply ignores Congress. She is out of control. She treats members of Congress like her household help.

Karp reviews the failures of No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top.

Then he shows how the pandemic has given DeVos the tools to wreak havoc on our public schools, which enroll the vast majority of children.

He writes:

The emergency CARES Act, passed without a single dissenting vote and signed in March, was the first of several massive pieces of federal legislation rushed through Congress in response to the pandemic. While the CARES Act didn’t include the same kind of signature federal initiative that RTTT represented for Obama and his secretary of education, Arne Duncan, it did give Duncan’s successor, the wildly unpopular, right-wing billionaire Betsy DeVos, extraordinary powers in a host of important policy areas.

There will be additional federal action affecting schools in the months ahead, including attempts to address the financial tsunami that is already engulfing school budgets. But even a cursory comparison between the federal response in 2009 and the initial response to the current crisis provides some clues about the extended emergency ahead for public education.

The CARES Act included $13.5 billion for K–12 schools, $14 billion for higher education, and another $3 billion that governors can split between the two as part of $31 billion in “stabilization aid” for state budgets. But while the total $2.2 trillion legislative package was several times larger than the $800 billion American Reinvestment and Recovery Act of 2009, the initial amounts provided for education in the CARES Act were much smaller.

The Recovery Act sent $54 billion in education aid to states primarily for K–12 programs and the implementation of RTTT. Moreover, as noted by Education Week, the “2009 stimulus didn’t just shore up education budgets; its unprecedented windfall of education aid also helped the Obama administration put financial muscle behind its priorities. Those priorities focused on areas like standards and accountability.” To promote those policies, the funds came with prescriptive regulations about their use, including provisions that drove an expansion of charters, standardized testing, and test-based teacher evaluation. States and school districts desperate for federal dollars had to commit to this agenda to receive RTTT’s “competitive grants.”

“The CARES Act doesn’t take the same approach,” Education Week’s analysis concluded. “It’s hard to see discrete elements of a Trump education policy agenda driving current coronavirus aid — although U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos indicated last week she wants to change that.”

DeVos Given Tools of Destruction

The CARES Act gives DeVos multiple tools to do so. It gives the secretary of education authority to waive many requirements outlined in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the omnibus federal education legislation that replaced NCLB. The first — and undoubtedly most popular — use of this authority came when all 50 states sought and received in a matter of weeks a waiver to suspend federally required annual standardized testing for the current school year. The educational irrelevance of these tests and their existence as an obstacle to serving the real needs of students was one of the first lessons of the pandemic.

But DeVos’ new authority has much more sinister potential. The CARES Act gives her the power to waive Title I funding regulations, which govern the largest federal education program supporting children from low-income families. It also allows her to suspend Title II rules defining professional development and Title IV requirements to “provide students with a well-rounded education” including the arts, mental health services, and training on trauma-informed practices — all crucially important in the current crisis. The CARES Act specifically allows schools to shift money from these areas to purchase “digital devices.” By early April, 28 states had received waivers to reallocate ESSA spending.

In the guidelines for distributing the first pot of CARES funding, the $3 billion Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund, DeVos blocked any use of funds to support DACA recipients or international students. She also said any monies awarded to teacher unions to provide services defined in the CARES Act would be “inconsistent with statutory requirements,” although last year she authorized church and religious groups to receive federal funds to provide similar services.

DeVos has a long and notorious record of using agency guidance and regulatory action to undermine equity. One of her first acts after being confirmed as secretary was to support the repeal of protections for transgender students, including their right to choose restrooms. She was sued for rolling back protections against predatory lenders at for-profit colleges and threatened with jail by a federal judge for “intentionally flouting” a court order to stop collection proceedings for such loans. DeVos rescinded sexual assault guidance issued under Title IX, a move the National Women’s Law Center said would have a “devastating” impact, and in May released new guidance that weakened protections for victims of sexual harassment and assault. She proposed allowing schools to use federal “student enrichment funds” to purchase guns and used a school safety commission formed in the wake of the Parkland school shootings to recommend repeal of regulations on school discipline practices that were rooted in civil rights concerns. Similarly, DeVos tried to rescind Obama-era rules that required districts to track racial disparities in special education classification rates, an effort a federal judge blocked as “arbitrary and capricious.” In April, DeVos relaxed oversight and accreditation rules for higher education online programs at a time when the pandemic was massively expanding the scale of such programs.

Trump and DeVos on Feb 14, 2017 in Washington D.C. Photo: Olivier Douliery/Pool
Beyond putting her very rich thumb on the wrong side of the scales of justice, DeVos is now in position to be a key gatekeeper for a new and crushing era of austerity for school budgets. To access the CARES Act’s stabilization funds, states must nominally commit to maintaining recent levels of education funding for fiscal years 2021 and 2022. But DeVos can waive that requirement and no doubt will. Already, she has issued guidelines for distributing CARES Act funds that drive more dollars to private schools and wealthier students by circumventing requirements to allocate the funds according to more progressive Title I formulas.

DeVos undermines equity. She flouts the Will of Congress. She seeks to dismantle civil rights protections.

Unlike Trump, she is not incompetent. She is not stupid. She is very clever. She is diabolical. Trump will never fire her because she sows chaos as surely as he does, but without bluster and braggadocio.

If you need a reason to vote for Joe Biden, think about Betsy DeVos.

Three whistleblowers in the U.S. Department of Education filed complaints that Betsy DeVos overruled internal reviews to award $72 million to the IDEA charter chain.

This is not the way federal grants are supposed to work. Funds are supposed to be awarded based on peer reviews and staff reviews, not awarded as plums by political appointees. This is political interference at the highest level. This award should be revoked.

I have often referred to the $440 million federal Charter Schools Program as DeVos’s private slush fund, and this grant proves that my hunch was right.

Valerie Strauss writes in the Washington Post:

A U.S. congressman is demanding answers from the U.S. Education Department, alleging department employees complained to his office about political interference in the awarding of a multimillion-dollar federal grant to the controversial IDEA charter school network.


Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) sent a letter to the department Monday asking for details and records related to the awarding of the grant.

In an interview, Pocan said “three whistleblowers” told his office that professional staff evaluating applications for 2020 grants from the federal Charter School Program had rejected IDEA for new funding, deeming the network “high risk” because of how IDEA leaders previously spent federal funds.


But according to these whistleblowers, Pocan said, professional staff was overruled by political appointees who ordered the funding be awarded to IDEA. The identities of the whistleblowers were not revealed to The Post, nor were the names of the political appointees.


The Education Department did not respond to a request for comment.


IDEA, a Texas-based charter school network with nearly 100 campuses in Texas and Louisiana serving nearly 53,000 students, said in a statement:
”Peer reviewers from education and other fields evaluate grant applications independently from Department of Education staff. In three of the last four Charter Schools Program competitions, spanning two administrations and including the most recent round of grants, the independent reviewers who evaluated applications gave IDEA Public Schools the highest scores of any applicant in the country. (In 2017, IDEA received the second-highest score.) All of the outside reviewers’ scores and comments are public on the Department’s website, and we encourage anyone doubting the strength of IDEA’s applications and our 20-year track record with students to read those reviews.”


Earlier this month, the Education Department announced it was awarding millions of dollars in new grants to charter schools, which are publicly funded but privately operated. IDEA was the top recipient, receiving $72 million over five years.

IDEA had previously received more than $200 million in funding over the past decade through the program.



But the network has been dogged by controversy. This month, IDEA chief executive Tom Torkelson resigned after publicly apologizing 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.

The Texas Monitor reported last month that Torkelson had flown on a private jet to Tampa to meet with DeVos to discuss “education philanthropy,” records show. The Monitor reported he was the only passenger on a jet that can hold nine people.


Last November, the Education Department’s inspector general criticized IDEA in an audit of data IDEA included in annual performance reviews it submitted to the federal government, required as part of the grants received from the federal Charter Schools Program.
The inspector general concluded that IDEA Public Schools “did not provide complete and accurate information” for all performance measures on annual performance reports over three years and did not report any information for 84 percent of the performance measures on which it was required to report over two years.

Still, IDEA had certified its annual performance reports were “true, complete and accurate.”
The audit also found IDEA “did not always spend grant funds in accordance with federal cost principles and its approved grant applications.”
IDEA acknowledged some of the findings, took issue with others, and agreed with all the recommendations from the inspector general to improve internal procedures.


That inspector general report, together with the suggestion that political appointees pushed through more grant money, should spark an even deeper inspection of IDEA, Pocan said in an interview.
“There needs to be an investigation,” Pocan said. “This would be completely improper to take a program that has to have inspector general reports and a lot of media attention about bad decisions they’ve made, and then to get a grant that wasn’t approved by the professional staff and instead given for political reasons.”

Our regular reader and diligent researcher Laura Chapman writes:

It is not difficult to see who is busy publicizing and brokering ideas for federal action on pre-K-12 education and who is not. The active players are all in for school choice and they have a “perfect” opportunity to dismantle and starve brick and mortar public schools. Federal policies will jumpstart what happens in states, districts, and communities.

The transition from NCLB to ESSA took longer than expected. Most states put their new DeVos-approved plans for accountability and school improvement in place during 2019-2020, later than expected.

Those plans have been pruned by the pandemic. Since April 3, 2020, every state is eligible for a range of ESSA waivers including tests and how state education agencies “permit LEAs (local education agencies) to use Title IV, Part A funds to best meet its needs without regard to customary requirements for
–content-areas,
–spending limits on technology infrastructure, or
–completing a needs assessment.”
In addition, “the definition of professional development” is modified to allow LEAs s to provide effective teacher training for distance learning. https://oese.ed.gov/files/2020/04/invite-covid-fiscal-waiver-19-20.pdf

Although these flexibilities are in place now, no one has a clear idea about how the pandemic will shape the 2020-2021 school year, or what proposals presidential candidates will put into play for reshaping ESSA and the scheduled reauthorization of ESSA after the 2020-21 school year.

I think that the accumulated national debt will lead to massive budget cuts for federal and state funding and full-out marketing of choice programs.

The choice advocates have a clear policy package in the works, and big bucks now from the billionaires to market it. Bellwether Partners is playing a role in this work, and so is the 74Million, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, California Community Foundation, Carnegie Corporation of New York, Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, Charles Strauch, Doris & Donald Fisher Fund, Gen Next Foundation, Karsh Family Foundation, Park Avenue Charitable Trust, The City Fund, Walton Family Foundation, and William E. Simon Foundation.

The pandemic and special federal legislation to shore up the social safety net, including grants to schools, has accelerated the activity of groups intent on expanding federal support for choice in education.

Here is an example: “FEDS MUST HELP ALL TYPES OF SCHOOLS REOPEN: The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act will support millions of workers and industries hard-hit by COVID-19. About $13 billion from the bill will make it to K-12 schools across the country for uses such as classroom cleaning and teacher training.” … “State governments, at the urging of Washington and epidemiologists, have closed all schools, public and private. This is an unusual (and necessary) instance of equal treatment for schooling sectors that normally operate under different rules. But all schools, and all sectors of out pluralistic system of public education, will need support when they are allowed to reopen; a coherent policy that supports non-public schools and homeschoolers — along with charters and traditional districts that already receive public funds — will not be a luxury. It will be an essential element of how the country’s children recover from the COVID-19 disruption.” https://mailchi.mp/the74million/t74-virtual-charters-targeted-in-school-closures-equity-access-the-federal-stimulus-video-keeping-college-bound-students-on-track-virtually?e=5cdda43764

This marketing campaign for “our pluralistic system of public education” is gibberish for choice in education, including private and religious education. This agenda has been reinforced with Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ March 27, 2020, proposal that Congress provide “Continue to Learn Microgrants” to disadvantaged students whose schools have “simply shut down.” Federal funds would be allocated for “educational services provided by a private or public school” with the priority for students in special education and eligible for food stamps. Funds could be used “to buy computers and software, internet access, and instructional materials like textbooks and tutoring. For children with disabilities, the grants could be used for educational services and therapy.”

This proposal is a variation on her push for “Education Freedom Scholarships” authorizing federal tax credits to people who donate to school scholarship programs for private school tuition and other education expenses. https://www.the74million.org/devos-proposes-microgrants-amid-coronavirus-school-closures-continuing-push-for-school-choice/

Then there is news on this blog and elsewhere that charter schools are eligible for “Small Business Loans,” if, they affirm they are a “non-government entity.” That affirmation is a non-trivial and legal redefinition of charter schools with implications for how these are marketed, authorized, and supported (or not) by billionaire foundations and Congress, whether Republican or Democrat. Charters that have been profiteering from public dollars will probably move into double dipping (once for students, another as a small business) with little fear of legal action.
https://www.publiccharters.org/cares-act-low-or-no-cost-lending-programs-charter-schools

Over multiple years, experts in “follow the money” have identified major ‘idea brokers” and the federal policies that have emerged from their work. Some legacy brokers from the Obama Administration are still at it—promoting digital learning, charter schools, pay for success contracts, alternative certifications, and more. If the pandemic accelerates I think that the de-professionalization of education will accelerate along with the unschooling of instructional delivery. In that case, many brick and mortar buildings once known as public schools are likely to repurposed or rot, except in wealthy suburban communities.

The IDEA act is on jeopardy. This is the act that protects students with disabilities and guarantees their right to a free and appropriate education.

The pandemic crisis is a time when the Trump administration is taking radical steps to eliminate and cut back on programs they don’t like.

It’s time to save IDEA. http://saveidea.org/

Signs this petition and make your voice heard on behalf of the children who need you!

A few days ago, the House Subcommittee that controls federal education appropriations invited Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to testify about her budget proposals, which seek to eliminate 29 federal programs and turn their funding over to the state as a block grant. At the same time, she wants to slash the Department’s funding. And…of course, she wants $5 billion for vouchers for private and religious schools, which are both demonstrably unpopular and ineffective.

This video clip shows Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wisconsin) questioning DeVos about the federal Charter Schools Program. Rep. Pocan relied on a report from the Network for Public Education to the nearly $1 billion in federal funds wasted on charter schools that either never opened or closed not long after opening.

He asked DeVos direct questions, questions that required a yes or no.

She evaded, she ducked, she weaved, she obfuscated. She refused to answer yes or no.

She dismissed the NPE report, Asleep at the Wheel, as “propaganda” that had been “debunked.” This was a lie. The data in the report came from the U.S. Department of Education and from DeVos’s own reports to Congress.

Pocan exposes two facts about DeVos. One, she plays fast and loose with facts. Two, she refuses to answer questions that are uncomfortable for her. We already know that she, unlike previous secretaries of education, actively dislikes public education. I humbly suggest that her contempt for public schools makes her unfit to be Secretary of Education.

Asleep at the Wheel:

Rep. Mark Pocan Questions Betsy DeVos on the Charter Schools Program

The House Subcommittee on Appropriations for Labor, Health, Human Services and Education opened hearings this morning, with Secretary DeVos as witness to testify about the Trump administration’s budget proposal. She. Wants to combine the funding for 29 programs and send the money to states as a block grant, to be used as they wish, she wants deep cuts in overall spending but a new $5 billion federal voucher program, which she calls “education freedom scholarships.” Charter school advocates were stunned to learn that the federal Charter Schools Program was one of the 29 that would disappear into a block grant.

Rep. Rosa DeLauro opened the hearing with this statement.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

February 27, 2020

CONTACT:

Will Serio: 202-225-3661

Chairwoman DeLauro Opening Remarks for House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Hearing with Secretary DeVos on the President’s Fiscal Year 2021 Budget Request

(As prepared for delivery)

Good morning, Secretary Devos. Welcome to the Subcommittee. It is our second budget hearing of the year. It is your fourth budget hearing with us. Today, we are examining the President’s Department of Education budget request for fiscal year 2021.

As I was reviewing the budget materials, Madame Secretary, this much was clear to me. You are seeking to privatize public education. But, I believe that is the wrong direction for our students and our country. Instead, we need to be moving towards expanding public policies like early childhood education that we know help students to succeed. We see this in other countries around the globe. They are not shrinking public support; they are expanding it.

I will get more into the consequences of the cuts that you are proposing. But, I want to start by examining your privatization philosophy, the false premise on which it is built, and the research it ignores.

Contrary to your claims, the nation’s public education system, which 90 percent of our children attend, has witnessed significant progress for all groups of students over the last 30 years. Average mathematics scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) have improved for 4th graders (by 13 percent) and 8th graders (by 7 percent). While overall reading improvements have been more modest, Black 4th graders’ scores improved by 6 percent and 8th graders’ by 3 percent. Hispanic 4th graders’ scores improved by 6 percent and 8th graders’ by 5 percent.

There is more to do to address the disparities in achievement. We know we face significant challenges in assisting the kids that come into our system in education districts where they experience poverty and exposure to violence, often resulting in trauma. But, the solution is not less resources, nor is it more privatization.

In fact, the administration’s own data has shown how privatization has let down students. The Trump administration evaluated the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program and found that vouchers had a statistically significant negative impact on the mathematics achievement of impacted students. In other words, more vouchers, lower math achievement. That is not a lone data point, either. Previous multi-sector studies using NAEP data have found that no student achievement scores for children in private schools were higher than those of children in public schools by any statistically significant degree.

So, your push to privatize public education is based on false premise that is not supported by data.

Its consequences would be to undermine the education of students in nearly every state, particularly for vulnerable students in high-need regions, including rural parts of our country.

• You would end career and college readiness for 560,000 low-income, middle school students across 45 states by eliminating the highly competitive grant program known as GEAR UP (-$365 million).

• You would endanger academic tutoring, personal counseling, and other programs for 800,000 students in sixth grade by slashing TRIO programs by $140 million. TRIO serves low-income, first-generation students and students with disabilities, helping them graduate from college.

• You would endanger education access for children experiencing homelessness by eliminating the Education for Homeless Children and Youth program (-$102 million). This funding is desperately needed. In the 2016-2017 school year, more than 1.3 million enrolled children had experienced homelessness at some point in the past 3 years, an increase of 7 percent from 2014-2015.

• You would endanger youth literacy as well as potentially increase class size and undermine efforts to support diverse teachers by eliminating the main program — Supporting Effective Instruction State Grants which we increased for the first time in many years (-$2.1 billion).

• You would potentially put higher education out of the financial grasp of students by flat funding the Pell Grant ($6,345). 40 percent of undergraduate students or 7 million students rely on Pell Grants to afford higher education. But while Pell covered 79 percent of the average costs of tuition, fees, room, and board at a four-year public institution in 1975, it covers only 29 percent today. Our students cannot afford for us to stand pat like this.

• And, finally, your budget would risk exacerbating the financial challenges of under-resourced rural districts by converting rural formula grants into the block grant. These districts already struggle with lower student populations and higher transportation costs and your move to undermine their funding in this way is unacceptable.

With all of this, let me say, it is not going to happen.

I am supportive of the recognition of I-D-E-A State grants ($100 million proposed increase) and career and technical education, ($680 million proposed increase) for CTE State grants. Although I am disappointed that Adult Education State Grants are left with level funding. I plan to ask you that about later.

You have also once again requested an increase for student loan servicing. We included new reforms in the fiscal year 2020 bill to help us conduct more oversight and ensure borrowers are getting the help they need. Many of these ideas stemmed from an oversight hearing that this Subcommittee held last year. To be direct, I will need to see how the Department implements the new requirements as I review your request for next year.

And, with regard to Charter Schools, there is a place for them. They have a role in the education system. However, we have moved in the direction of creating a parallel education system. Concerns remain around issues of accountability and transparency, which to this point they have not been forthcoming. As I have said again and again, I believe Charter Schools ought to be held to the same rigor. And, where they fail, we need to know about it.

To close, Madame Secretary, you are clearly seeking to privatize public education. I hope that I have been clear that we are not going to do that. Because doing so ignores the research indicating the gains we have made, ignores the many areas private education shortchanges students, ignores the very reason the federal government has needed to be involved in education as so powerfully indicated with Brown vs. Board of Education, and ignores the spirit and values of this country. No, instead, we need to be expanding public policies that boost education attainment, not restricting or reducing them.

So, I look forward to our discussion today. Now, let me turn to my colleague, the Ranking Member from Oklahoma Tom Cole. Mr. Cole?

###

delauro.house.gov

The Network for Public Education has issued two reports documenting waste, fraud, and lack of oversight in the federal Charter Schools Program. The CSP was created by the Clinton administration in 1994 at a time when there were few charters; it was intended to give aid to start-ups. Over the years it has evolved into a slush fund for rapacious corporate charter chains and for the advocacy groups that lobby for more charter funding.

In response to the NPE reports, the charter industry attacked them as cherry-picking, inaccurate, and union-funded, none of which is true.

Recently Betsy DeVos attacked NPE and its critique of the $440 million CSP program that is in her sole control.

NPE executive director Carol Burris responded to the critics by using the data offered by DeVos herself. DeVos’s numbers demonstrate that the NPE reports underestimated the number of charter schools that never opened (“ghost schools”) or that closed not long after opening.

She further showed that the charter lobby (which has received millions from the CSP program) has an obvious self-interest in keeping their federal money flowing and that their critiques of the NPE reports are inaccurate and riddled with error.

The worst thing that the industry and DeVos can say about NPE is that we support American public education and oppose privatization. This is true. We do. That doesn’t make NPE “biased.” It makes us good citizens.

Burris’s response is brilliant and well worth your time to read as an example of clear thinking and clear writing, supported by the evidence provided by DeVos herself.

Peter Greene writes here about the budget approved by Congress for the Department of Education.

There is good news and bad news. Peter Greene thinks it’s mostly good news. I’d say there is both.

Congress did not appropriate a penny for Betsy DeVos’s top priority, her $5 billion request for vouchers (aka “education freedom scholarships”). Sorry, Betsy, nada. Even Republican Congressmen and Senators represent public school parents.

But Congress appropriated $440 million for Betsy’s charter school slush fund, otherwise known as the federal Charter Schools Program. The CSP is a swamp of fraud, waste, and abuse, as the Network for Public Education demonstrated in its “Asleep at the Wheel” and “Still Asleep at the Wheel” reports, which showed that more than $1 billion in federal funds were wasted on charters that either never opened or closed not long after opening. The House (controlled by Democrats) wanted to cut CSP to $400 million (which is $400 million too much), but the Senate (controlled by Republicans) negotiated it back to level funding. The CSP was created by the Clinton administration in 1994 to help start-ups, mom-and-pop or teacher-led charters that needed some extra funding. Betsy has turned it into a big fat plum for corporate charter chains like KIPP and IDEA, which are not start-ups and which are already richly endowed with funding from billionaires, most of them right-wingers. At present, the federal government is the single biggest funded of charter schools in the nation, even in states that don’t want them or need them, like New Hampshire, where Betsy gave the state $46 million to double the number of charters, but the state legislative fiscal commission rejected the money. Congress showed its lack of concern for accountability; that’s for the little people.

Peter Greene writes:

Trump asked for a 10% cut to the department and the elimination of twenty-nine programs. That didn’t happen (though it’s worth noting that many Trump appointees like DeVos have figured out that you can cut spending in your department by simply letting positions stand empty).

There is more money for Title I. It’s about a 3% increase, while Democratic candidates are calling for increases of 200% to 300%.

The Charter Schools Program– the fund that has wasted a billion dollars on charter school waste and fraud– will stay art current levels, with neither the boost the GOP wanted nor the cut that Democrats called for.

And special ed funding will once again not be increased to its full, required level. This makes forever years for Congress to stiff the states on the granddaddy of all unfunded mandates. Thanks a lot, Congress.

 

 

Valerie Strauss reviews “Still Asleep at the Wheel” here.

She begins:

“More than 35 percent of charter schools funded by the federal Charter School Program (CSP) between 2006 and 2014 either never opened or were shut down, costing taxpayers more than half a billion dollars, according to a new report from an advocacy group that reviewed records of nearly 5,000 schools.

“The state with the most charter schools that never opened was Michigan, home to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

“The report, titled “Still Asleep at the Wheel,” said that 537 “ghost schools” never opened but received a total of more than $45.5 million in federal start-up funding. That was more than 11 percent of all the schools that received funding from CSP, which began giving grants in 1995.

”In Michigan, where the billionaire DeVos has been instrumental over several decades in creating a charter school sector, 72 charters that received CSP money never opened, at a total cost of some $7.7 million from 2006 to 2014. California was second, with 61 schools that failed to open but collectively received $8.36 million.
The Education Department did not respond to a query about the findings. DeVos has made expanding alternatives to school districts — including charters and programs that use public money for private and religious schools — her top priority as education secretary, and has said her metric for a state’s education success is how much they expand school “choice.”

”Casandra Ulbrich, president of the Michigan State Board of Education, said in an interview that she found the new report “extremely troubling.”


“It raises some very legitimate questions about a federal grant program that seems to have been operating for years and years with little oversight and very little accountability,” she said.”