In 2005, Ohio launched a new voucher program to “save poor kids from failing schools.” The voucher program served 3,000 students and cost $5 million.

Now the state’s voucher program serves 69,000 students and costs Ohio taxpayers $628 million annually. Voucher advocates want more.

The legislature continually rewrote the rules for eligibility to expand the number of students who can get a voucher.

At first, only students assigned to schools in “academic emergency” – the state’s lowest rating – for three consecutive years could apply for a voucher.

A year later it became schools in either academic emergency or academic watch for three years. Six months after that, the requirement dropped to two of the last three years.

In 2013, lawmakers created an income-based scholarship for all kids regardless of their home district. Then, they removed the requirement that kindergartners be enrolled in their local public school first and later expanded it all the way up to high school students.

Today, roughly half of Ohio’s families are eligible for an income-based voucher because the limit for a family of four $65,500 of annual household income.

Not many children are being “saved.” Most voucher schools perform worse than the public schools that the students left.

Most kids who use EdChoice scholarships perform worse on state standardized tests than their public school peers, a 2020 investigation by the Cincinnati Enquirer found. null

In 88% of Ohio cities where vouchers are used, the data showed better test results for the public schools. And when it came to Ohio’s eight largest cities, five of the districts (Akron, Canton, Cleveland, Toledo and Cincinnati) reported higher proficiency levels.

Akron City Schools had the biggest difference, scoring nearly 8 percentage points higher than the private schools in its area.

Public school advocates say that’s because many of the schools on the voucher list aren’t failing. The criteria for getting on the list is wrong, not the schools.

The goal of voucher advocates is not to “save poor children from failing schools,” but to transfer public funds for parents to use at private and religious schools, even though their public schools are better.

The talented investigative journalist Jennifer Berkshire reports on the changing politics behind charter schools. Democratic support for charters, once led by the Obama administration, is waning. Betsy DeVos made clear that school choice is a Republican goal.

She writes:

In 2019, when West Virginia passed legislation that allowed for the creation of charter schools, it represented yet another feather in the cap of the school-choice movement. Nearly three decades after the creation of the very first publicly funded, privately managed school, in Minnesota, charters now educate more than 3.3 million K-12 students in 7,500 schools across the country, and West Virginia—where lawmakers ignored the fierce opposition of the state’s teachers’ union—became the forty-fifth state to allow them.

Yet today the charter school movement itself is perhaps more vulnerable than it has ever been. Unlikely allies in the best of times, its coalition of supporters—which has included progressives, free-market Republicans, and civil rights advocates, and which has been handsomely funded by deep-pocketed donors and Silicon Valley moguls—is unraveling.

Much of the blame rests on the hyperpolarized politics of the Trump era. Under Betsy DeVos, the lightning-rod secretary of education, Republicans rediscovered their love for private school vouchers and religious education. And with the taste for all things neoliberal on the wane within today’s Democratic Party, charter schools, long the favored policy plaything of the liberal donor class, are simply a harder sell….

The GOP’s most stunning move was to enact, without a single Democratic vote, the Hope Scholarship Program, a sweeping voucher program aimed at moving students out of what the right refers to derisively as “government schools.” Starting in 2022, West Virginia parents who withdraw their children from public schools will receive their child’s state share of public education funding—approximately $4,600 in 2021—to spend on virtually any educational cost: private school tuition, online education programs, homeschooling, tutors, even out-of-state boarding schools. Newly school-age students whose parents never intended to go the public route are also eligible for the funds, which can be banked and spent on future expenses, similar to a health savings account.

While West Virginia’s moves were the most dramatic, legislators in 18 states, including Florida, Indiana, Arizona, and New Hampshire, were close behind, creating private school–choice initiatives or expanding existing ones. Although lawmakers pointed to the pandemic’s shuttering of public schools as part of the justification, schools—both public and private—in most of these states remained open. For all of the bluster from Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and others about the importance of in-person schooling, the GOP’s favored school-choice programs increasingly bypass traditional classroom learning altogether. Instead, parents are encouraged to use publicly funded “education freedom accounts” to purchase an array of education “options,” much like television viewers who eschew cable packages for à la carte channels.

Charles Siler, a former lobbyist for the pro-privatization Goldwater Institute in Arizona, says that the GOP’s increasing hostility to public schools could ultimately harm charters as well. “The real target here is taxpayer-funded public education, and that’s a category that includes charters,” said Siler.

Carol Burris, executive director of the Network for Public Education, wrote the following:

As you know, the House is trying to block federal funding to charters controlled by for-profits. But it will be an uphill battle. I recently did an investigation into the private sale of 69 charters by for-profit NHA. It is jaw-dropping. Please read about it and share. This is a critical time to get the word out. Thanks, Carol

https://www.washingtonpost.com/education/2021/09/14/charter-school-scams/

It’s true that there are occasional stories of embezzlement or fraud in public schools, but none compares to the sheer audacity of California’A3 online charter chain. Its two cofounders—Jason Schrock and Sean McManus—concocted elaborate schemes and pocketed hundreds of millions of dollars of state funds. They both pleaded guilty and repaid hundreds of millions.

Schrock, however, will not spend a day in prison.

SAN DIEGO — 

One of the two masterminds behind a massive charter school scheme that defrauded the state of California out of tens of millions of dollars was sentenced to four years in prison and ordered to pay $18.75 million in fines in San Diego Superior Court on Friday.

Jason Schrock, a co-creator of the now-defunct A3 charter school network, pleaded guilty in February to one count of conspiracy to misappropriate public funds and one count of conflict of interest. He has been on house arrest in Orange County since he was arraigned in May 2019.

Because the law requires that Schrock receive credit for the more than 750 days he has spent on house arrest, he will not spend a single day in prison.

At Schrock’s sentencing hearing, defense attorney Knut Johnson emphasized that Schrock had been wholly cooperative during the investigation, turning over hundreds of millions of dollars in assets and thousands of pages of documents to further the investigation.

It was that cooperation that kept San Diego Superior Court Judge Frederick Link from handing down a stiffer sentence, the judge said. The case centered on what has been labeled as one of the nation’s largest fraud schemes after taxpayers were fleeced out of $400 million meant for K-12 education. Due in part to the cooperation of Schrock and his co-conspirator, Sean McManus, investigators have recovered $220 million…

A yearlong investigation by the San Diego County district attorney’s office determined that Schrock and McManus and their codefendants fraudulently obtained hundreds of millions in state school dollars from 2016 to 2019 after opening a network of 19 online charter schools. Three of those schools were in San Diego County.

Prosecutors accused A3 leaders of buying children’s personal information to falsely enroll them in the schools and of providing incomplete education services while taking tens of millions of dollars for personal use. A3 leaders also manipulated enrollment figures across their schools to receive more state funding per student and manipulated school attendance reporting to get more money for time that children were not spending in A3 schools.

So far, nine defendants in the case have pleaded guilty.

This is an arresting article that was written by respiratory therapist Karen Gallardo and published by the Los Angeles Times. I wish it was compulsory reading for everyone who refuses to wear a mask or to get vaccinated.

She writes:

I’m a respiratory therapist. With the fourth wave of the pandemic in full swing, fueled by the highly contagious Delta variant, the trajectory of the patients I see, from admission to critical care, is all too familiar. When they’re vaccinated, their COVID-19 infections most likely end after Stage 1. If only that were the case for everyone.
Get vaccinated. If you choose not to, here’s what to expect if you are hospitalized for a serious case of COVID-19.

Stage 1. You’ve had debilitating symptoms for a few days, but now it is so hard to breathe that you come to the emergency room. Your oxygen saturation level tells us you need help, a supplemental flow of 1 to 4 liters of oxygen per minute. We admit you and start you on antivirals, steroids, anticoagulants or monoclonal antibodies. You’ll spend several days in the hospital feeling run-down, but if we can wean you off the oxygen, you’ll get discharged. You survive.

Stage 2. It becomes harder and harder for you to breathe. “Like drowning,” many patients describe the feeling. The bronchodilator treatments we give you provide little relief. Your oxygen requirements increase significantly, from 4 liters to 15 liters to 40 liters per minute. Little things, like relieving yourself or sitting up in bed, become too difficult for you to do on your own. Your oxygen saturation rapidly declines when you move about. We transfer you to the intensive care unit.

Stage 3. You’re exhausted from hyperventilating to satisfy your body’s demand for air. We put you on noninvasive, “positive pressure” ventilation — a big, bulky face mask that must be Velcro’d tightly around your face so the machine can efficiently push pressure into your lungs to pop them open so you get enough of the oxygen it delivers.

Stage 4. Your breathing becomes even more labored. We can tell you’re severely fatigued. An arterial blood draw confirms that the oxygen content in your blood is critically low. We prepare to intubate you. If you’re able to and if there’s time, we will suggest that you call your loved ones. This might be the last time they’ll hear your voice.

We connect you to a ventilator. You are sedated and paralyzed, fed through a feeding tube, hooked to a Foley catheter and a rectal tube. We turn your limp body regularly, so you don’t develop pressure ulcers — bed sores. We bathe you and keep you clean. We flip you onto your stomach to allow for better oxygenation. We will try experimental therapeutics.

Stage 5. Some patients survive Stage 4. Unfortunately, your oxygen levels and overall condition have not improved after several days on the ventilator. Your COVID-infested lungs need assistance and time to heal, something that an ECMO machine, which bypasses your lungs and oxygenates your blood, can provide. But alas, our community hospital doesn’t have that capability.

If you’re stable enough, you will get transferred to another hospital for that therapy. Otherwise, we’ll continue treating you as best we can. We’re understaffed and overwhelmed, but we’ll always give you the best care we can.

Stage 6. The pressure required to open your lungs is so high that air can leak into your chest cavity, so we insert tubes to clear it out. Your kidneys fail to filter the byproducts from the drugs we continuously give you. Despite diuretics, your entire body swells from fluid retention, and you require dialysis to help with your renal function.

The long hospital stay and your depressed immune system make you susceptible to infections. A chest X-ray shows fluid accumulating in your lung sacs. A blood clot may show up, too. We can’t prevent these complications at this point; we treat them as they present.

If your blood pressure drops critically, we will administer vasopressors to bring it up, but your heart may stop anyway. After several rounds of CPR, we’ll get your pulse and circulation back. But soon, your family will need to make a difficult decision.

Stage 7: After several meetings with the palliative care team, your family decides to withdraw care. We extubate you, turning off the breathing machinery. We set up a final FaceTime call with your loved ones. As we work in your room, we hear crying and loving goodbyes. We cry, too, and we hold your hand until your last natural breath.

I’ve been at this for 17 months now. It doesn’t get easier. My pandemic stories rarely end well.

Karen Gallardo is a respiratory therapist at Community Memorial Hospital in Ventura.

Texas has gone overboard for charter schools, even though they consistently post worse results than public schools. In the state’s new plans, charter schools will not be held accountable for the performance of English-language learners or students with disabilities. That is grossly unfair to public schools but it should raise the ratings of charter schools.

A trusted friend who works for the Texas Education Agency sent this information:

The proposed Texas Charter School Performance Framework for 2020 has been posted for public comment. On page 19, in the Operations standards, “Program requirements: Special populations” and “Program requirements: Bilingual education/English as a second language populations” are marked as “N/A for 2020” instead of each counting for one point. These indicators, 3b and 3c, are struck out on page 20. There does not appear to be an explanation for these changes.
Appropriate handling of assessments is another deletion from the Operations standards on pages 23-24.
Due to the lack of academic accountability, the manual will reflect fiscal and operational indicators only, not academic indicators.

https://texreg.sos.state.tx.us/fidsreg/202103289-1.pdf

There are no academic indicators, which makes sense because there were no tests in 2020. But the state officials removed the program indicators for bilingual and special education populations from the Operations standards on which charter schools will still be rated. These indicators measure if charters meet program requirements such as employing certified teachers in these areas.

This is not the only exception made for charter schools. Those that get a D or F rating three years in a row are supposed to be closed by the state, but that accountability is seldom enforced. Indeed, the state allows failing charters to expand.

NPE ACTION’S NEW PROJECT TO BRING TALES FROM THE FRONTLINES OF PUBLIC SCHOOL ADVOCACY

Public schools remain incredibly popular among Americans across the political spectrum, even under the strains of a global pandemic and a divisive political culture being inflamed by opportunists seeking to push radical, unpopular agendas. Parents, students, volunteers, and communities who rely on and cherish their public schools deserve to be heard now more than ever. Public Voices for Public Schools, a community project of the Network for Public Education Action, launches today with tales from the frontlines of public school advocacy.

Unfortunately, public education in America has been under systematic attack for decades by an axis of right-wing political radicals, self-appointed reformers, opportunists, segregationists, and wealthy special interests, all working together to dismantle and privatize our treasured public schools. Their efforts have done lasting harm to students and their communities, and it is time those communities have a platform where their stories can be shared.

“After my two sons enrolled in a private school thanks to vouchers, I began to understand that school is about more than academics,” said Dountonia Batts, a former voucher parent. “As charter schools and vouchers expanded, the school system in Indianapolis was falling apart. All of the high schools in our neighborhood had been shut down, even as charter high schools were popping up. I realized I could no longer accept school vouchers for my children because it was unethical.”

People like Batts rarely get a chance to be heard, especially by policymakers who are often targeted for pressure by pro-privatization groups with access to campaign donations and full-time public relations machinery. That’s why Public Voices for Public Schools is so important, as it is a place to elevate the regular people in our community and help them have access to the tools to engage their elected representatives directly.

“Once I understood that our funders wanted us to help them burn down the entire public school system, I realized I had very different intentions than the school reform movement,” said Gloria Evans Nolan, a former Missouri education reformer. “I could see for myself the toll that education “reform” was having on my city. The result was that our sense of community was dropping away. We were also losing our history. Every school I attended is now closed.”

Public Voices for Public Schools will regularly bring you stories from parents like Batts and Nolan, students, academics researching the effects of privatization, along with many others. Visit us at pv4ps.org where you can join our shared community and always be kept up to date. You will learn what you can do to preserve a pillar of our democracy, our neighborhood public schools.
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CBS News reported on an analysis by the U.S. Treasury showing that the richest Americans avoid paying $163 billion each year.

The top 1% of Americans are avoiding paying an estimated $163 billion in taxes a year, according to the Treasury Department. In contrast, more than 99% of taxes on regular incomes — paid via a paycheck — get paid.

That discrepancy is pushing the estimated tax gap, the amount of money owed by taxpayers that isn’t collected, to nearly around $600 billion annually, and to approximately $7 trillion in lost revenue over the next decade, the Treasury Department finds.

Tax evasion is concentrated among the wealthy in part because high-income taxpayers are able to employ experts who can better shield them from reporting their true incomes, the Treasury Department argued in a blog post. More complicated incomes such as partnerships and proprietorships – more frequent among high earners — have a far greater noncompliance rate that can hit as high as 55%.

“The tax gap can be a major source of inequity. Today’s tax code contains two sets of rules: one for regular wage and salary workers who report virtually all the income they earn; and another for wealthy taxpayers, who are often able to avoid a large share of the taxes they owe,” wrote Treasury Deputy Assistant Secretary for Economic Policy Natasha Sarin.

Meanwhile our roads, bridges, tunnels, and other vital infrastructure are underfunded. Schools need to invest in physical improvements. Class sizes are too large, especially in urban districts. Teachers are underpaid in comparison to other professionals with the same education credentials.

Taxes are too low on those who can most afford to pay them. Tax avoidance is thriving while our society’s basic needs are not.

It’s past time for nation building at home.

While some parents are disrupting school board meetings to protest mask and vaccine mandates, a parent group in Los Angeles thanked the school board for mandating COVID vaccinations to protect students, teachers, staff, and families from a deadly disease.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 9, 2021


CONTACT: Jenna Schwartz, Co-Founder, 310.994.9764 (c); PSTLAUSD@gmail.com Nicolle Fefferman, Co-Founder, 323.376.6513 (c)
Parents Supporting Teachers Supports Vaccine Mandate for LAUSD Students

Parents Supporting Teachers (PST), the largest parent advocacy group supporting Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) teachers and families, announces its support for the district’s recent approval for a COVID-19 vaccination requirement for eligible students. The vaccine requirement goes one step further to ensure the health and safety of teachers, staff, and students.
“We have been waiting for this and fully support the requirement that all students in LAUSD get vaccinated once they are eligible. With positive cases being reported weekly, the single best Covid mitigation measure is to ensure everyone in the community is vaccinated, both inside and outside of schools,” said Jenna Schwartz co-founder. California law already requires all students in both public and private schools to have certain immunizations, the Covid vaccination would be one more added to the list. It is imperative that in conjunction with this mandate, the district commits to educating and informing reluctant families about the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine.

“I am thankful to our Board members for taking the necessary steps to protect teachers, families, and students. The district prides itself on having the safest safety protocols and mitigation measures among all school districts nationwide, including requiring that all teachers be vaccinated by October 15th. Requiring vaccines for students was an appropriate next step and one more added layer of protection we haven’t had yet this year.” said co-founder Nicolle Fefferman.

“At this point there is no denying that being vaccinated is the best defense against Covid-19. While some vaccinated people can still get infected, evidence shows that the vaccines are effective in reducing transmission and preventing severe illness and death. Not only that, but we do have students and staff unable to get the vaccine because of underlying health conditions. This policy helps protect these students and staff by building the community’s immunity to Covid. We hope families will feel safer about sending their children to school,” Fefferman added.

Parents Supporting Teachers also opposes the upcoming California governor recall election. Republican candidates have vowed to rescind mask and vaccine mandates for schools, and if successful would allow Covid 19 to spread throughout schools and our communities, putting the health and safety of all teachers, students, and families at risk.

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About Parents Supporting Teachers: Parents Supporting Teachers is a parent education advocacy group in Los Angeles with over 25,000 followers and is the only organically created group of this size exclusively dedicated to parent communication and education support in the entire LAUSD. Visit http://www.parentssupportingteachers.org to learn more and support our shared vision for equitable and inclusive LAUSD schools.

The board of the Los Angeles Unified School District will vote Tuesday on a funding scheme promoted by conservatives and neoliberals. Its promoters call it “student-centered funding,” but that’s a euphemism for the “backpack full of cash” idea, which encourages school choice. Critics of SCF say it introduces free-market principles into school funding and will benefit charter schools while harming public schools.

Jack Ross of the California-based journal “Capitol & Main” writes about the debate over student-centered funding.

Even though it is flush with cash from several federal relief packages, the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) wants to switch funding models next year, instituting a controversial structure called Student Centered Funding (SCF) that ties a school’s funding to its student enrollment. Under SCF, schools are awarded a base rate for each child and receive additional funds if the student is considered needier — if they are learning English, for instance, or if they’re in foster care or qualify for free lunch.

If the student leaves the school, the funding goes with them as if they carried a “backpack full of cash.” This could pit schools against each other in a competition for students and the dollars they guarantee, critics say. The funding switch has its origins with Betsy DeVos, Donald Trump’s secretary of education, who instituted grants for school districts to explore Student Centered Funding. Los Angeles received one last year

LAUSD board member Jackie Goldberg says Student Centered Funding will fuel downward enrollment spirals that will shutter underfunded schools in poor neighborhoods. The more students leave, the less money a school has, and parents and children begin jumping ship at an increasing rate. Proponents of the model say SCF gives schools more flexibility to spend their money on what they need rather than locking them into certain programs designed by remote authorities, like the school board or the state or federal government.

Goldberg disagrees. “[SCF] says districts don’t need to spend the money, individual schools do, by trying to assemble the right combination of kids with the right combination of money,” she says. “A child that’s learning [English as] a second language and has a disability, you might get a lot of money for that student. What do you do if you’re a principal? You start recruiting those students — because they bring their money with them.”

LAUSD insists Student Centered Funding furthers equity by placing schools in better control of how they use their money, and by more directly targeting money at the neediest students. “It really is that iterative process of contending with, what do we do now to better serve our students?” Deputy Superintendent Pedro Salcido told the board. “Student Centered Funding really is that next iteration: How do we deepen the work, how do we deepen progress in our schools?”

In LAUSD’s own calculations of how SCF would affect its school budgets under a “fully loaded” funding formula, 348 schools were found to lose money under SCF, while 367 schools would gain

Sorting the data by percentage of students qualifying for free or reduced lunch reveals further inequities. Ann Street Elementary in Downtown Los Angeles, which tops the list with 100% of its students receiving free or reduced lunch, will lose $3,197 per student and $268,568 in total. It’s not alone: Of the schools with 95% to 100% of students qualifying for free lunch, 29 will lose money under Student Centered Funding, the district found. Between the 85th and 94th percentiles, 141 schools face cuts.

Under a similar student-centered funding policy (lower-cased when we refer to the broader policy; capitalized when we refer to the LAUSD model), Chicago public schools went from 460 librarians in 2012 to 123 in 2020, according to the Chicago Teachers Union. More research on the implementation of student-centered funding in Chicago found teachers felt pressured to take on extra classes because of tightening budgets, while some teachers were just laid off.

“As we lose students, we have less and less resources for the things we need,” one participant says. “The librarian got pulled from being a librarian to be a special education teacher because it was cheaper and because she was certified in that area. So, staff don’t teach what they love, and arts education has to be sacrificed because they are deemed as less important….”

Jill Wynn saw student-centered funding up close. The former San Francisco school board member says the system can flourish — as long as it includes strong protections for low-enrollment schools.

A self-proclaimed charter skeptic, Wynn is a “big fan” of student-centered funding models, which she believes can guarantee extra funding for schools with the neediest children while freeing them from restrictive requirements on how that money must be spent.

But the system works only if it sets in place rules the schools must follow with their money, she explains. When it switched to its own student-centered funding model, the San Francisco School Board mandated that all schools had to use their allotted funds for library services and some music and arts programs, and schools were guaranteed a minimum amount of funding to protect small schools from closure.

What advice would she give to LAUSD if it adopts the model? “Put the guardrails in and make them high,” she says

A 4-3 pro-charter majority on the school board means opposition to SCF is, for now, probably futile. But with a year until implementation of the new model, and an outraged and organized teachers’ union, the fight over Student Centered Funding is likely just beginning.