Archives for category: Vouchers

I posted this previously with the wrong link. This is the correct link: http://www.federationforchildren.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/AFC-2016-Election-Memo_Final.pdf

Betsy DeVos, billionaire and Trump nominee for U.S. Secretary of Education, is chairman of the board and chief funder of the American Federation for Children. 

The organization advocates for charters and vouchers. If you scan its activities and news releases, you won’t find any mention of public schools. On her website, they are the invisible dragon that the AFC wants to slay.

When the election was over, the staff compiled a list of the victories for school choice. School choice means schools choose; school choice means segregation. School choice means privatization. In DeVos’ world, school choice means autonomy without accountability. School choice means the death of public education.

Read the AFC memo here.

The DeVos family has had an outsize influence in Michigan, by its charitable contributions and its political contributions.

After the Detroit Free Press published a scathing series of articles about the corrupt, unaccountable practices in charter schools in the state, the legislature was shamed into drafting a law that would provide oversight of the charter sector.

The DeVos family gave out $1.5 million in campaign contributions to make sure that charter schools continued to be unregulated and unaccountable.

80% of the charter schools in Michigan operate for profit. No other state has so many for-profit operators.

Detroit is overrun with charters. It is at the very bottom of all urban districts tested by the National Assessment of Educational Progress, despite all its choice and competition. Or because of them.

Michigan doesn’t have vouchers, because the people of Michigan voted them down in 2000 when the DeVos family proposed an initiative to permit public funds to flow to nonpublic schools. The measure lost overwhelmingly, by 69-31%. No county in the state voted for it.

Milwaukee has had both charters and vouchers for more than 20 years, and it is among the lowest scoring urban districts in the nation, but ahead of Detroit.

Read what the New York Times wrote about charters in Detroit last June. DeVos now owns this mess.

Why should anyone open a charter school, get public money, and be free of oversight? Why should taxpayer dollars flow to religious schools when every state referendum on vouchers has gone down to inglorious defeat by large majorities?

Paul Krugman, the Nobel Prize winning columnist for the New York Times, predicts an unprecedented level of corruption during the Trump years, related to Trump’s refusal to separate himself from his business empire. Will foreign diplomats reserve the $20,000 a night suite at the Trump hotel in D.C. to impress the President? Will governments grant permits expeditiously to build new Trump hotels, casinos and golf courses to curry favor? Will the President appoint members of the National Labor Relations Board to prevent his hotels from being unionized (there is a labor dispute at a Trump hotel in Las Vegas before the NLRB right now).

He writes,

Self-dealing will be the norm throughout this administration. America has just entered an era of unprecedented corruption at the top.

The question you need to ask is why this matters. Hint: It’s not the money, it’s the incentives.

True, we could be talking about a lot of money — think billions, not millions, to Mr. Trump alone (which is why his promise not to take his salary is a sick joke). But America is a very rich country, whose government spends more than $4 trillion a year, so even large-scale looting amounts to rounding error. What’s important is not the money that sticks to the fingers of the inner circle, but what they do to get that money, and the bad policy that results.

Normally, policy reflects some combination of practicality — what works? — and ideology — what fits my preconceptions? And our usual complaint is that ideology all too often overrules the evidence.

But now we’re going to see a third factor powerfully at work: What policies can officials, very much including the man at the top, personally monetize? And the effect will be disastrous.

Let’s start relatively small, with the choice of Betsy DeVos as education secretary. Ms. DeVos has some obvious affinities with Mr. Trump: Her husband is an heir to the fortune created by Amway, a company that has been accused of being a fraudulent scheme and, in 2011, paid $150 million to settle a class-action suit. But what’s really striking is her signature issue, school vouchers, in which parents are given money rather than having their children receive a public education.

At this point there’s a lot of evidence on how well school vouchers actually work, and it’s basically damning. For example, Louisiana’s extensive voucher plan unambiguously reduced student achievement. But voucher advocates won’t take no for an answer. Part of this is ideology, but it’s also true that vouchers might eventually find their way to for-profit educational institutions.

And the track record of for-profit education is truly terrible; the Obama administration has been cracking down on the scams that infest the industry. But things will be different now: For-profit education stocks soared after the election. Two, three, many Trump Universities!

Moving on, I’ve already written about the Trump infrastructure plan, which for no obvious reason involves widespread privatization of public assets. No obvious reason, that is, except the huge opportunities for cronyism and profiteering that would be opened up.

Krugman previously wrote that Trump’s proposal to rebuild the nation’s infrastructure would privatize many of our public assets and become a goldmine for the private sector.

Buckle your seat belts. The next four years will make Teapot Dome look like a tea party.

Gary Rubinstein entered teaching via Teach for America, but unlike most TFA recruits, he made teaching his career. He is also TFA’s most incisive critic, sometimes a critical friend, other times a critic of TFA hypocrisy.

In this post, Gary deconstructs TFA’s statement on Trump’s nomination of choice zealot Betsy DeVos. TFA, like other reform organizations, is in a dilemma because they want to be on the side of social justice, but they also want to be on the side of the new administration, which will be very good indeed for TFA. More charters mean more jobs for young recruits. Billions of dollars for school choice are heading the way of the “reformers,” and it is hard for them to seem sad about that. Gary wishes the TFA statement had included a few good words on behalf of public schools and on behalf of teachers. It didn’t.

The TFA statement includes 11 policy priorities, and Gary analyzes each of them. He wishes TFA had called on DeVos to stop the teacher bashing. It didn’t. He wishes it had called on DeVos to protect the funding of public schools while promoting choice. It didn’t.

Read the whole post for links and analysis.

Gary concludes:

Accountability has been used as a weapon to fire teachers and close schools throughout the country based on highly flawed metrics. Obama and Duncan did a lot of damage with this one and maybe TFA feels that they used it in a fair way, even if I don’t. But that same weapon in the hands of Trump and DeVos should be something that TFA should be concerned about. I don’t think that this was something that TFA needed to ask the new Secretary to be vigilant. Based on the contempt she has shown for public schools and teachers over the years, it’s pretty clear that DeVos will use her power to try to make it even easier to fire teachers and close schools. This could have a negative effect on not just all the TFA alumni who are still working in public schools, but also for the ones who are at the few charter schools that try to keep their most needy students and whose test scores suffer for it. In the bigger picture, I think that having DeVos too strong on accountability will negatively affect so many students in this country.

Finally there’s policy number nine about using “evidence and data” to ‘drive’ “teacher improvement and development over time.” This is code for trying to use test scores and value-added metrics to rate teachers, no matter how inaccurate those metrics are.

More telling than the policies TFA chose to include on this list is the ones they chose to exclude. Knowing that DeVos is planning to use her power to divert funds from the public schools (and charter schools too) for vouchers for private schools, perhaps TFA could have asked that she not cut funding to schools. Knowing how much contempt DeVos has shown toward public school teachers, TFA could asked her not to bash teachers so much. Knowing that DeVos has funded reform propaganda sites like Campbell Brown’s The Seventy Four, TFA could have suggested that she spend time in public schools and see what great work is being done.

There’s a lot they could have said to help stave off the at least four year battle everyone in non-charter schools is going to have to fight daily. Instead they padded their valid concerns about discrimination with a bunch of reform code.

Of their nine policies that TFA is urging DeVos to consider (three of the eleven are basically saying, make schools safe for all students), six of them are things that she was already on board with. It’s the TFA way of saying “We are already in agreement with you on most things so you can trust us and work with us to help you out in general.” They seem to care more about their own survival and the continuation of Duncan’s reform strategies than they do about the potential damage that the Trump / DeVos duo can wreak on the children of this country.

Today is #GivingTuesday. Please give whatever you can to the Network for Public Education and help us as we fight efforts to privatize our public schools.

The Network has generated nearly 75,000 emails to members of the Senate, urging them not to confirm Betsy DeVos, who supports charters and vouchers, not public schools.

Please open this link and add your name. Share it with your friends. Our goal is to reach 100,000 emails. We can do it.

It is wrong to appoint a Secretary of Education who opposes public schools. Her nomination should be opposed by Republicans and Democrats alike. Republicans are supposed to be protectors of tradition and community values. Public education is a central American tradition. Republicans serve on local school boards and state school boards. They too should vote to oppose DeVos’ radical attack on public education.

“When you wage war on the public schools, you’re attacking the mortar that holds the community together. You’re not a conservative, you’re a vandal.”

― Garrison Keillor, “Homegrown Democrat: A Few Plain Thoughts from the Heart of America”

Please stand up against the vandals who would destroy the mortar that holds the community together.

And please give generously so we can fight on your behalf and on behalf of America’s children.

Steven Singer, who teaches in Pennsylvania, lists the top ten reasons why school choice is no choice. 

 

Donald Trump and Betsy DeVos believe that school choice is the best possible education ponies, including vouchers, charter schools, perhaps trade schools and home schooling. Maybe anyone who puts the word “School”  on a building will get part of the bobanza.

 

Singer shows what is wrong with school choice. Here are four of his ten reasons why school choice is no choice. Open the post to see the links and read the other six:

 

“On the surface of it, school choice sounds like a great idea.

 

“Parents will get to shop for schools and pick the one that best suits their children.

 

“Oh! Look, Honey! This one has an exceptional music program! That one excels in math and science! The drama program at this one is first in the state!

 

“But that’s not at all what school choice actually is.

 

“In reality, it’s just a scam to make private schools cheaper for rich people, further erode the public school system and allow for-profit corporations to gobble up education dollars meant to help children succeed.

 

“Here’s why:

 

“1) Voucher programs almost never provide students with full tuition.

 

“Voucher programs are all the rage especially among conservatives. Legislation has been proposed throughout the country taking a portion of tax dollars that would normally go to a public school and allowing parents to put it toward tuition at a private or parochial school. However, the cost of going to these schools is much higher than going to public schools. So even with your tax dollars in hand, you don’t have the money to go to these schools. For the majority of impoverished students attending public schools, vouchers don’t help. Parents still have to find more money somewhere to make this happen. Poor folks just can’t afford it. But rich folks can so let’s reduce their bill!? They thank you for letting them buy another Ferrari with money that should have gone to give poor and middle class kids get an education.

 

“2) Charter and voucher schools don’t have to accept everyone

 

“When you choose to go to one of these schools, they don’t have to choose to accept you. In fact, the choice is really all up to them. Does your child make good grades? Is he or she well-behaved, in the special education program, learning disabled, etc.? If they don’t like your answers, they won’t accept you. They have all the power. It has nothing to do with providing a good education for your child. It’s all about whether your child will make them look good. By contrast, public schools take everyone and often achieve amazing results with the resources they have.

 

“3) Charter Schools are notorious for kicking out hard to teach students

 

“Charter schools like to tout how well they help kids learn. But they also like to brag that they accept diverse students. So they end up accepting lots of children with special needs at the beginning of the year and then giving them the boot before standardized test season. That way, these students’ low scores won’t count against the charter school’s record. They can keep bragging about their high test scores without actually having to expend all the time and energy of actually teaching difficult students. Only public schools take everyone and give everyone their all.

 

“4) Voucher and charter schools actually give parents less choice than traditional public schools

 

“Public schools are governed by different rules than charter and voucher schools. Most public schools are run by a school board made up of duly-elected members from the community. The school board is accountable to that community. Residents have the right to be present at votes and debates, have a right to access public documents about how tax money is being spent, etc. None of this is true at most charter or voucher schools. They are run by executive boards or committees that are not accountable to parents. If you don’t like what your public school is doing, you can organize, vote for new leadership or even take a leadership role, yourself. If you don’t like what your charter or voucher school is doing, your only choice is to withdraw your child. See ya.”

 

 

Kevin Carey of the New America Foundation wrote an opinion piece in the New York Times, attempting to assuage fears that Betsy DeVos would privatize American schools. If she tries to promote privatization, she is likely to face “disappointment and frustration,” as Carey put it. He believes that the decentralization of American public education will prevent her from imposing privatization. I disagree with Carey, because we have seen state after state, district after district, where “reformers” have passed legislation for charters and vouchers, intended to undermine public schools without the consent of the governed. Massachusetts and Georgia, the only states that voted on whether to have more charters, decisively voted NO. The point of Carey’s article seems to be to persuade readers that charters are swell and vouchers will never happen, that DeVos can’t change much, so relax, privatization is not a threat. Can’t happen. Won’t happen. Trust me.

 

The New America Foundation, Carey’s employer, has received nearly $10 million from the Gates Foundation since 2009. Not surprisingly, it regularly defends charter schools and the Common Core standards. It  has even urged colleges to adopt the standards now.

 

 

Carey previously worked at Education Sector and Education Trust, both Gates-funded and charter-friendly. He tells us that “charter schools are public schools, open to all, accountable in varying degrees to public authorities, and usually run by nonprofit organizations.” Savvy readers of this blog know that charter schools declare that they are private organizations whenever they are sued or when their teachers try to form a union, but they are “public” when it is time to collect government money. They choose their students. They exclude children with severe disabilities and English-language-learners. They kick out troublesome students. In many states, charters are deregulated, unsupervised, and non-accountable. Carey has written favorably about the for-profit Alt-School chain of technology-based private schools (which would be eligible for Trump’s vouchers). Carey joined Eli Broad and every national “reform” group (including TFA, 50CAN, DFER, etc.) to endorse the Obama administration’s plan for “reforming” teacher education. After the 2008 election, he called on Democrats to embrace such “progressive” reforms as charter schools and test-based accountability.*

 

Carey says not to worry about DeVos’ passion for privatization because most states won’t be able to afford the cost of a universal voucher system. Trump says he will free up $20 billion from existing federal programs, but expects states to chip in another $110 billion. That won’t happen, Carey says, because “states don’t have that kind of money lying around.” Local school districts will resist the diversion of their property taxes. And besides, Betsy DeVos’ state laboratory of free-market reform–Michigan–is hardly a success. 80% of the charters there operate for profit, and Detroit is still a mess, despite a Wild West of charters and competition. Nor have vouchers proved to be a success.

 

Larded throughout the article is subtle praise for charters. He points out that expansion of charters was voted down in Massachusetts “despite strong evidence that the state’s well-supervised charters produce superior results for low-income and minority schoolchildren.” No mention of the reason that liberal Massachusetts rejected charters: the districts with charters did not want to sacrifice their public schools to the growth of charters, and the districts without charters wanted to protect their public schools. Organized groups of parents rang doorbells and told their friends and neighbors to support their public schools. The defenders of public education were outspent 2-1 by out-of-state billionaires like the Waltons and Michael Bloomberg, but they defeated the charter question by a vote of 62-38%.

 

Carey exemplifies the new line of “reformers”: charters run by private corporations and private boards are “public” but vouchers are a bad idea. The problem with this logic is that once you start down the road of school choice, it is hard to know when or how to stop. The Obama administration’s advocacy for charter schools greased the wheels for vouchers, some form of which now exist in about half the states.

 

Yes, we do have to worry about DeVos and Trump’s privatization agenda. If the state is a deep red state, with a Republican governor and a Tea Party legislature, like Indiana and many more, the state may grab whatever the feds offer and supply vouchers to anyone who wants them to use for any purpose, including home schooling and low-quality religious schools. DeVos may open the floodgates to unregulated, for-profit charters, allowing anyone to open a charter who wants to, regardless of their experience or qualifications (like Florida, Michigan, and Nevada). School choice does not have a record of success; charters get mixed results, at best, and vouchers have a record of failure. Even when they produce higher graduation rates, they simultaneously have astonishingly high attrition rates.

 

Join with the Network for Public Education to fight the DeVos nomination. Democrats, Republicans, and independents must stand together in opposition to this raid on public money. Separation of church and state is part of our heritage as Americans. Public schools that enroll all children–not just those they want–are part of our democracy.

 

When the federal government turns against public education, as the Trump administration promises to do, that is unprecedented. We don’t need to be soothed and promised that its threats to public education are not real. They are real. They build on the opening to school choice created by the Gates Foundation, the Broad Foundation, the Walton Foundation and the think tanks that they have underwritten as part of their “policy advocacy.”

 

Parents and educators and concerned citizens must mobilize to oppose the Trump privatization agenda.

 

*I had my own unfortunate brush with Carey in 2011; I didn’t realize he was a key player in the “reform” movement, and I agreed to an interview. He published a mean-spirited screed about me, taking pot shots at my scholarly works and claiming that I changed my philosophy of education because Joel Klein did not give my partner a job. At the time, I was closeted, and Carey managed to “out” me. My partner already had a high-level job at the Board of Education when Klein arrived and was not in need of a job. So long as she worked at the Board, I was constrained from criticizing Klein or Bloomberg, whose policies of disruption did little to improve education. Once she retired, I was free to write and speak my mind. Yes, they helped me to see the deep flaws of corporate reform, of putting non-educators in charge of schools, of intimidating experienced educators, of trying to run schools like a business, of making test scores the basis for all decisions, but not for the reason Carey and Klein asserted.

 

Peter Greene opened his email and found an invitation to attend the annual convening of Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Educational Excellence. Bush may have done poorly in the 2016 campaign but he still wants to remake American education in the image of Florida: charters, vouchers, high-stakes testing for students and teachers.

Greene wonders:

I am interested in seeing what happens next to Jeb!, who now occupies a weird sort of reformster twilight zone. On the one hand, Herr Trump appears to fully embrace Bush’s education policies, or at least the Let a Million Charters Bloom part. But Bush himself–well, it seems unlikely that Jeb is in line for Trumpian Ed Secretary. And that bitter taste resting on Bush’s ivy league palate must be getting only more and more bitter as it becomes obvious that President Trump will be following a lot of the policies that Candidate Trump used to smack Bush over the head. What happens when hated political enemies actually stand for pretty much the same policy ideas? How exactly do you criticize someone for pursuing policies that you totally agree with?

Who will the conventioneers hear from? Open the post.

Two years ago, Mother Jones published a lengthy and excellent article about the DeVos family, how they became billionaires, and how they turned Michigan into a “right to work” state.

 

They are “the new Kochs,” determined to crush the left, especially labor unions and public education.

 

“THE DEVOSES sit alongside the Kochs, the Bradleys, and the Coorses as founding families of the modern conservative movement. Since 1970, DeVos family members have invested at least $200 million in a host of right-wing causes—think tanks, media outlets, political committees, evangelical outfits, and a string of advocacy groups. They have helped fund nearly every prominent Republican running for national office and underwritten a laundry list of conservative campaigns on issues ranging from charter schools and vouchers to anti-gay-marriage and anti-tax ballot measures. “There’s not a Republican president or presidential candidate in the last 50 years who hasn’t known the DeVoses,” says Saul Anuzis, a former chairman of the Michigan Republican Party.

 

“Nowhere has the family made its presence felt as it has in Michigan, where it has given more than $44 million to the state party, GOP legislative committees, and Republican candidates since 1997. “It’s been a generational commitment,” Anuzis notes. “I can’t start to even think of who would’ve filled the void without the DeVoses there….”

 

Forbes ranks the DeVos family at #60 of the richest 400 families in America. They are noted for their generosity to Christian and conservative causes.

 

In selecting Betsy DeVos for the role of Education Secretary, Trump has chosen someone who looks on public schools with contempt. She will use her influence to harm public education and the teaching profession.

 

The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan released the following statement on the nomination of Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education:

 
Kary Moss, Executive Director of the ACLU of Michigan, issued the following statement on the nomination of Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education:

 

We strongly urge Congress to scrutinize the record of Betsy DeVos, who has been a staunch proponent of school vouchers, a misguided idea that diverts taxpayer dollars into private and parochial schools and perverts the bedrock American value of separation of church and state. She and her husband served as the primary fundraisers and engine for a Michigan ballot initiative –Kids First! Yes! Coalition that voters soundly rejected in 2000.

 

She has ardently supported the unlimited, unregulated growth of charter schools in Michigan, elevating for-profit schools with no consideration of the severe harm done to traditional public schools. She’s done this despite overwhelming evidence that proves that charters do no better at educating children than traditional public schools and serve only to exacerbate funding problems for cash-strapped public districts. We believe that all children have a right to a quality public education, and we fear that Betsy DeVos’ relentless advocacy of charter schools and vouchers betrays these principles.