Education Opportunity Network

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6/21/2018 – New Report Reveals Which States Are Abandoning Public Schools

THIS WEEK: How Charters Segregate … Teacher Salaries Lag … Teacher Healthcare Costs Rise … Rural Schools Dying … DC Reform Fail

TOP STORY

New Report Reveals Which States Are Abandoning Public Schools

By Jeff Bryant

“Having a democratically governed local school, accessible to all students and fully accountable to the public for how its spends taxpayer money, has been a given for most American families since segregated schools were outlawed, but a new report finds most states have been abandoning the traditional public system in favor of schools that are privately operated, less accessible to all children, and less accountable to taxpayers and democratic governance. The report contends the shift in emphasis from public schools to privately managed alternatives is not only an attack on public education, but also an attack on equal opportunity and civil rights..”
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NEWS AND VIEWS

‘It’s Like A Black And White Thing’: How Some Elite Charter Schools Exclude Minorities

NBC

“Charter [schools] have also used their greater flexibility to limit which kids make it through the schoolhouse doors – creating exclusive, disproportionately white schools … Some pick from preferred attendance zones. Some don’t offer school bus transportation. Others require expensive uniforms … There are at least 747 public charter schools around the country that enroll a higher percentage of white students than any of the traditional public schools … Politicians often sell charters as a solution for low-income black and brown students stuck in poor-performing public schools. Yet, by 2015, racially identifiable white charter schools had emerged in 18 states … The federal government has played a role in the growth of these charters by granting charter startup grants to schools without considering whether they will lead to increased segregation.”
Read more …

Average Teacher Salary Is Below The Living Wage In Half The Country, Report Says

Education Week

“In more than half the states, the average teacher is not making a living wage … Real teacher salaries rose just 7% since 1970, and have been largely flat since 1990. Since the 2008 recession, per-pupil funding and real teacher salaries, both adjusted for inflation, have declined in most states … States with low teacher salaries… tend to have more teacher shortages, a higher teacher turnover rate, and more uncertified and novice teachers than those states that pay the most. Those are all factors that hurt students, especially those who need good teaching the most.”
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Unwieldy Health Costs Often Stand Between Teachers And Higher Pay

USA Today

“Teachers, like other public employees, have traditionally accepted a trade-off: In exchange for relatively low salaries, they could expect relatively generous benefits, including pensions and low- or no-cost health premiums. But in an era of $100,000-a-year drugs and government budget cuts, school districts struggle to find the money to keep up their end of the bargain … Many cash-strapped school boards, cities and legislatures view health care benefits as an unpredictable budget-buster. Teachers are asked to fork over more of their paychecks to keep their health coverage, even as budget cuts impel them to use their own money for classroom supplies and to crowdsource money to buy computers … Primary, secondary and special education teachers paid 25.4% more last year to insure themselves and their families than they did in 2008.”
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School’s Closed. Forever.

The New York Times

“Officials in aging rural communities with stretched budgets are closing small schools and busing children to larger towns. People worry about losing not just their schools but their town’s future … Rural schools have been closing in waves for decades, but the debate has taken on sharp urgency this year, particularly in communities in the Midwest and New England that have grown smaller and older since the recession … DeVos has defended for-profit schools, maintaining that the U.S. needs to ‘expand, not limit, paths to higher education for students.’”
Read more …

DC’s Public Schools Go From Success Story To Cautionary Tale

Associated Press

“As recently as a year ago, the public school system in the nation’s capital was being hailed as a shining example of successful urban education reform and a template for districts across the country. Now the situation in the District of Columbia could not be more different. After a series of rapid-fire scandals, including one about rigged graduation rates, Washington’s school system has gone from a point of pride to perhaps the largest public embarrassment of Mayor Muriel Bowser’s tenure … Critics view the problems … as an indictment of the entire data-driven evaluation system instituted a more than a decade ago when then-Mayor Adrian Fenty took over the school system and appointed Michelle Rhee … Rhee’s ambitious plan to clear out dead wood and focus on accountability for teachers and administrators landed her on the cover of Time magazine … But now analysts question whether Rhee’s emphasis on performance metrics has created a monster.”
Read more …

New Report Reveals Which States Are Abandoning Public Schools

Having a democratically governed local school, accessible to all students and fully accountable to the public for how its spends taxpayer money, has been a given for most American families since segregated schools were outlawed, but a new report finds most states have been abandoning the traditional public system in favor of schools that are privately operated, less accessible to all children, and less accountable to taxpayers and democratic governance.

The report contends the shift in emphasis from public schools to privately managed alternatives is not only an attack on public education, but also an attack on equal opportunity and civil rights.

“We’re spending billions on privatized alternatives to public schools and as a result leaving school children increasingly exposed to civil rights abuse and taxpayers increasingly at risk of being ripped off,” says Diane Ravitch, the founder and president of the Network for Public Education., which along with the Schott Foundation for Public Education, is responsible for the report.

“Our democracy requires that every child has access to a free, public school system,” says Schott president and CEO John H. Jackson. “Any effort to privatize local systems not only threatens millions of students opportunity to learn and to succeed but ultimately threatens our democracy.”

[Disclosure, Schott is a partner of the Education Opportunity Network and the People’s Action Institute.]

The report, “Grading The States: A Report Card on Our Nation’s Commitment to Public Schools,” which evaluated the 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia on the extent to which states are shifting public dollars to private alternatives including charter schools and private schools, found only five states – Kentucky, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, and West Virginia – received A ratings.

Many states with very large public school systems – including Arizona, Florida, Georgia, and North Carolina – were graded F. Seventeen states in total received an F rating.

There are 22 states with grades between a C and a B+, and six states and the District of Columbia received a grade of D or D+.

The report is the first in-depth nonpartisan report card to include these state-by-state measurements of the consequences of shifting public funds from the traditional school system to charter schools and private schools receiving money through taxpayer supported vouchers programs, education savings accounts, and tax credit scholarships. The consequences the report considers include how well states protect student civil rights of students and guard taxpayers from fraud and the misuse of public funds.

The laws and regulations of each state were graded according to five key criteria based on objective, measurable factors:

  • 1) Types and extent of school privatization;
  • 2) Civil rights protections for students in voucher and charter programs;
  • 3) Accountability, regulations and oversight;
  • 4) Transparency of voucher and charter programs; and
  • 5) Other factors related to charter school accountability.

Based on these criteria, the report teased out details of state law that many would find troubling.

For instance, of the 15 states that have traditional school voucher programs, seven of them fail to require background checks for teachers and employees in voucher receiving schools. Thirteen of those states don’t require the voucher receiving schools to have open meetings or other forms of public transparency.

Of the 6 states with Education Savings Account programs, four fail to require state testing of students participating in the program or require prior public school enrollment for students receiving ESAs. This lets families who can already afford private education continue on the taxpayer’s dime.

Of the 44 states and District of Columbia with charter laws, 28 states and the District of Columbia don’t require the same teacher certification as traditional public schools, 38 states and the District of Columbia have no provisions regulating the spending and funding for education services, 23 states and the District of Columbia fail to protect students against religious discrimination, and 18 states have programs that fail to mandate services for students with disabilities.

The report concludes, ” Instead of diverting resources, we should invest in public schools to make them better for all students.” It recommends a moratorium on all voucher programs with an immediate phase out that does not displace children presently in the voucher system. Regarding charter schools, the report supports the NAACP’s recent call for a moratorium on new charter schools and urges states to pass laws and regulations ensuring that all students attending charters have equal opportunity and rights, that the schools are fully transparent and accountable to the taxpayers who fund them, and the corruption associated with the sector is weeded out.

6/14/2018 – Congress Stages A Sell-Job On Charter Schools And Ignores Complaints Of Black Parent

THIS WEEK: DeVos Listening to NRA … History Makeover Decried … DeVos Rejects Staff Advice … Vets Hurt By For-Profits … Dems Go Por-Public

TOP STORY

Congress Stages A Sell-Job On Charter Schools And Ignores Complaints Of Black Parent

By Jeff Bryant

“During a Congressional hearing … charter proponents stacked the agenda with biased testimony and completely ignored the lone witness who could attest firsthand to the real impact these schools have on communities of color … Jonathon Phillip Clark, an Iraq War veteran and black Detroit parent with seven children in the public-school system … Clark described his community as an “education desert” ravaged by Michigan’s policy of school choice, where charter schools open and close seemingly at random, and public schools are shuttered because of the uncertainties created by charter school competition … The Republicans on the House Committee virtually snubbed Clark, directing their questions to the pro-charter witnesses.”
Read more …

NEWS AND VIEWS

NRA Has A ‘Tight Grip’ On Trump’s School Safety Work, Senator Tells Betsy DeVos

Education Week

“How can a federal commission, charged with figuring out how to prevent the next school shooting, ignore the issue of guns? That’s the question Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., the top Democrat on the Senate education committee, put to U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos … Murray wrote. ‘Shifting the focus away from guns only shines a spotlight on the tight grip the NRA has on this Administration and the Administration’s inability to listen to the voices of the people you claim to serve’ … She noted that the panel’s first ‘listening session” was held during the day, in Washington, D.C., with little advanced notice for students, community members, educators, health care providers … DeVos herself chose to skip that meeting.”
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AP World History Gets A Makeover, And High School Teachers Rebel

Politico

“High school history teachers are in revolt over the alteration of a widely taught Advanced Placement course that they say threatens to present a skewed, Eurocentric history of the world to thousands of students … Under the controversial changes … World History course would begin in 1450 – essentially the rise of European power – effectively eliminating instruction on pre-colonial Africa, Asia, Americas, and the Middle East. Earlier eras would be relegated to a pre-AP course that isn’t tested … and not likely to be taken by students … Students taking the new post-1450 course will lose a broad global understanding of history, teachers say.”
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Betsy DeVos Reinstated College Accreditor Over Staff Objections

The New York Times

“Education Secretary Betsy DeVos disregarded a scathing review by her own staff this spring when she reinstated the watchdog body that had accredited two scandal-scarred for-profit universities whose bankruptcies left tens of thousands of students with worthless degrees and mountains of debt … The Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools, or Acics, had failed to meet 57 of 93 federal quality and management compliance standards … DeVos went above and beyond the court’s order in restoring the organization’s status … Acics was stripped of its powers in December 2016 amid the collapse of two for-profit university chains, Corinthian Colleges and ITT Tech, where students were encouraged to take on debt based on false promises.”
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Military Veterans Decry Debt, Useless Diplomas From For-Profit Colleges

The Hechinger Report

“College fraud claims have increased 29% from August of last year. 98% of those claims involve for-profit colleges … The for-profit schools are targeting student veterans even as these institutions’ non-military enrollment has declined … These schools took advantage of a loophole in a federal law that bars for-profit institutions from obtaining more than 90% of their revenue from federal aid. Under the loophole, the schools were able to count GI Bill money as private dollars, meaning they disproportionately profited from enrolling veterans … DeVos has defended for-profit schools, maintaining that the U.S. needs to ‘expand, not limit, paths to higher education for students.’”
Read more …

Pro-Public Education Democrats Are Winning Big in Pennsylvania

The Progressive

Peter Greene writes, “Pennsylvania is shaping up to be proving ground for fans of public education and progressive politics this year … Pennsylvania elections will be energized by our newly de-gerrymandered map … Elizabeth Fiedler, candidate for House representative in the Philadelphia area won her primary race on a strong public education platform … She’s also calling for a moratorium on charter and cyber-charter schools … Summer Lee is running for state assembly in the Pittsburgh area proposing free pre-K for all and criticizing charter schools as a form of privatization. Sara Innamorato, also running in the Pittsburgh area, campaigned on a platform that included condemnation of charters … Perhaps progressives around the country could make gains by standing up for public education and against the continued privatization.”
Read more …

Congress Stages A Sell-Job On Charter Schools And Ignores Complaints Of Black Parent

One of the more disturbing aspects of the push to create more charter schools was on full display during a Congressional hearing this week when charter proponents stacked the agenda with biased testimony and completely ignored the lone witness who could attest firsthand to the real impact these schools have on communities of color.

The lone dissenting voice in the battery of speakers lined up to give glowing praise to these privately operated but publicly funded schools was Jonathon Phillip Clark, an Iraq War veteran and black Detroit parent with seven children in the public-school system. Clark is also an assistant director at Mission City, a nonprofit organization in Detroit that provides mentoring and tutoring throughout the school year and an arts camp during the summer, and he serves on the board of an organization called 482Forward, a group of parents and students that advocates for a high-quality, equitable education for Detroit children.

Unlike most of the participants in this hearing – members of the House Education and Workforce Committee, CEO of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools Nina Rees, CEO of the National Association of Charter School Authorizers President Greg Richmond, and Harvard Professor Martin West – only Clark spoke from experience of having children educated in charter schools and a neighborhood affected by free-market “school choice” competition posed by these schools.

Yet his remarks were mostly ignored.

‘An Education Desert’ Caused by Charters

Specifically, Clark described his community as an “education desert” ravaged by Michigan’s policy of school choice, where charter schools open and close seemingly at random, and public schools are shuttered because of the uncertainties created by charter school competition.

A charter school his daughter attended made promises of academic courses and school programs it later dropped. The school, Yes Academy, had five principals in three years. An audit of the school reveled it could not account for $300,000 of Title I funds – money from the federal government for educating low-income students. To evade accountability, the school switched to a different management firm run by the same person. The second firm eventually closed the school a week before classes were to start, leaving students and families in the lurch.

The charter’s board ignored parents when they complained, and the authorizer, located in Lansing, 350 miles away, had no personal experiences with the families attending the school and cared little about their complaints. When parents looked for other school “options” for their children, they realized changing schools would mean massively altering their lives and their children’s education and circle of friends.

Clark explained that his story is not an isolated example. Two of his other daughters have had similar experiences with charters and so have many other families he knows in Detroit.

Not Just in Detroit

Indeed, numerous press reports and research studies have shown Michigan’s system of charter schools and free-market education competition has had a devastating effect on the state’s academic standing, and in communities of color, high-quality schools have become even more scarce and racial inequality has worsened.

Beyond Michigan, charter schools and school choice competition have had similarly negative effects – spreading education malfeasance in nearly every state, committing financial fraud and waste, and exacerbating inequality, while they extract millions of taxpayer dollars from the public school system.

Clark urged the members of the House in attendance to be “vigilant” in their scrutiny of the charter school sector. “I would not wish Michigan charter policies on the nation,” he concluded.

Yet, what transpired during the rest of the committee hearing was less than vigilant scrutiny.

A Sell Job

The hearing, given the grandiose title “The Power of Charter Schools: Promoting Opportunity for America’s Students,” was a sell-job for charters from the beginning. The official press release from the committee did not even mention Clark’s name nor that anyone at the hearing would balance this examination of the “value of charter schools.”

The remaining witnesses – Rees, Richmond, and West – repeated familiar industry talking points about the schools being “public … open to all … and accountable.” Cherry picking primarily from studies published by one source – the Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO), whose reports of positive charter effects on student achievement are frequently exaggerated – the pro-charter trio spoke glowingly of how charter schools’ are closing achievement gaps, spreading innovation, and satisfying parents, while public schools are “stagnating.”

Regarding federal governance and oversight of charters, the general consensus was the was little needed because most matters regarding how charters are conceived and operated are “up to the states” and should remain that way. That’s not to say there weren’t requests to the committee members for more federal money, particularly for building new charter facilities.

Exemplars that Aren’t Exemplary

As proof of the wonderful things charters are doing, Rees spotlighted Dream Charter School in Harlem, NYC as an exemplary program typical of charters, but it’s not at all clear this school is in any way like most charters.

The school is a “one-off,” independent charter that’s benefitted from large grants and donations, including a $32 million grant from the city and start-up money from the Walton Family Foundation of the Walmart family. The abnormally high teacher turnover rate – more than double of the city’s schools – would seem to be something that would invite more scrutiny than praise.

Richmond’s praise for Indiana’s system for overseeing charter school authorizers seemed odd given the recent controversy over the state’s sub-par online charter and the fact nearly half of Indiana’s charters are failing or doing poorly. The top charter authorizer in the state, Ball State University, oversees mostly “D” and “F” rated schools, based on Indiana’s school rating system, that have had years of declining performance.

As evidence that charter authorizers are accountable to the public, Richmond repeated the statistic that 90 percent of authorizers are public school districts, which could be a very misleading statistic if there are lots of districts with authorizing status but actually have no or very few operational charter schools.

Snubbing the Witness

The Republicans on the House Committee virtually snubbed Clark, directing their questions to the pro-charter witnesses, often to field softball questions or confirm their windy pronouncements about the superiority of charter schools.

The one Republican exception was Tim Walberg of Michigan who told Clark he had “visited” the charter school Clark described and had “concerns.” But then Walberg pivoted to a positive description of a Michigan charter he had also visited. The school he mentioned, Island City Academy, is located in a small town, and it enrolls students who are mostly white (89 percent) and low percent with learning disabilities – nothing like Clark’s situation at all.

Committee members from the Democratic side were much more willing to engage with what Clark told them and to ask follow-up questions, but none openly questioned their own party’s role in expanding charters.

This is not to say that weren’t tough questions and critical comments about charter schools from Democrats. Representative Bobby Scott from Virginia, the ranking committee member was particularly sharp edged in calling out the role charter schools have had in increasing racial segregation in schools, a well-researched outcome the pro-charter witnesses deflected by pointing to statistics that charters enroll much higher percentages of black and brown students.

Rees claimed that many charters are making racial diversity a feature of their programs, yet a recent study that went searching for charters that are “diverse by design” found a grand total of 2.19 percent of all charters.

Policy without People

In her bizarre concluding remarks, Rep Virginia Foxx (NC) used her background as a child who overcame the challenges of growing up in an impoverished community in rural North Carolina by having access to a high-quality public school to praise charter schools – which did not even exist during her childhood.

Dismissing, as mere anecdote, the firsthand experience that Clark brought to this hearing has become routine in education policy circles in Washington, DC, where think tanks and officials often operate at the 30,000-foot level to determine how our system of education should run.

This is not to say there aren’t exceptionally good charter schools doing great things for their students. After all, there are lots of public schools doing great things too.

But public policy makers need to listen to their constituents rather than the well-oiled machinery of wealthy industries and factions. Until they do, we won’t get charter school policy, or charter schools, our students and communities deserve.

(Photo credit: d_gilette/flickr)

6/7/2018 – Charter School Industry’s Stunning Loss In California Primaries

THIS WEEK: Why Teachers Strike … Teachers On The Ballot … Budget Cuts Hurt … What Vouchers Fund … Polls On Teacher Pay

TOP STORY

Charter School Industry’s Stunning Loss In California Primaries

By Jeff Bryant

“In reviewing the losers in this week’s primary elections in eight states, one shouldn’t overlook the charter school industry, which took a drubbing in the California governor’s race where its preferred candidate former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa drew a very disappointing 13 percent of the vote … It’s important to understand what the charter industry believes was at stake in getting Villaraigosa elected.'”
Read more …

NEWS AND VIEWS

The Numbers That Explain Why Teachers Are In Revolt

The New York Times

“The underlying conflict between public school employees and policymakers has roots in decisions made during the last recession, when states and local districts short of cash curtailed education spending for the first time in decades… The recovery that has lifted the private economy has not quite restored school spending to pre-recession levels, especially in states run by fiscal conservatives … Spending per pupil rose 26 out of 29 years before 2010, only to tumble three consecutive years at the beginning of this decade … By 2016, more than half of states controlled by Democrats had restored education spending per pupil to 2009 levels, but the same was true in only 5 of 22 states controlled by Republicans.”
Read more …

From The Classroom To The Campaign Trail: Emboldened Teachers Run For Office

The Washington Post

“Teachers are running for office in unprecedented numbers … In several deep-red states, educators who protested budget cuts, low teacher pay and pension changes are challenging lawmakers at the ballot box, following through on vows to oust them from office. Teachers on both sides of the aisle are taking up the mantle, with some Republican educators campaigning on pledges to increase education spending and to slow the expansion of charter schools … Teachers have watched as their classrooms crumbled from neglect and their school days became consumed by preparation for standardized tests.”
Read more …

What Budget Cuts Mean For Third Graders In A Rural School

The New York Times

“West Greene is one of many schools across the country dealing with the effects of funding cuts, from broken-down buses to donated supplies to teachers who work second jobs … Teachers here said they felt they could address their needs locally, without getting involved in state politics, even though many said they were unhappy about their salaries and the school’s tight budget. Their detachment from the protests suggested that there were limits to the walkout movement.”
Read more …

Private Schools’ Curriculum Downplays Slavery, Says Humans And Dinosaurs Lived Together

Orlando Sentinel

“Some private schools in Florida that rely on public funding teach students that dinosaurs and humans lived together, that God’s intervention prevented Catholics from dominating North America and that slaves who ‘knew Christ’ were better off than free men who did not. The lessons taught at these schools come from three Christian publishing companies whose textbooks are popular on many of about 2,000 campuses that accept, and often depend on, nearly $1 billion in state scholarships, or vouchers … The social studies books downplay the horrors of slavery and the mistreatment of Native Americans … They disparage religions other than Protestant Christianity and cultures other than those descended from white Europeans … About 60% of scholarship students are black or Hispanic.”
Read more …

New Polls Find Most Americans Say Teachers Are Underpaid – And Many Would Pay Higher Taxes To Fix It

The Washington Post

“Three national polls report that most Americans agree that educators don’t earn enough. And two of the surveys found that at least half of Americans said they would pay higher taxes to raise educator salaries … Each found that Americans overwhelmingly believe public school teachers are underpaid … U.S. teachers earn less than 60% of what similarly educated professionals make.”
Read more …

Charter School Industry’s Stunning Loss in California Primaries

In reviewing the losers in this week’s primary elections in eight states, one shouldn’t overlook the charter school industry, which took a drubbing in the California governor’s race where its preferred candidate former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa drew a very disappointing 13 percent of the vote.

“Villaraigosa didn’t even get support from voters in demographics you’d expect he’d get,” says Meghan Choi in a phone call, referring to Villaraigosa’s poor showing in heavily influenced Latino Los Angeles County. Choi is director of Ground Game LA, an affiliate group of People’s Action that does micro-level organizing on economic and social justice issues.

“Villaraigosa burned too many bridges in the education community,” Choi says, especially in black and brown communities in Los Angeles where he tried to privatize the schools with charter management groups during his tenure as mayor. She notes that many of the wealthy people that helped him in that effort contributed to his losing campaign for governor.

Big Money Loses in California

In the California’s quirky primary system, only the top two vote-getters could advance to the general, regardless of political party. Villaraigosa, a Democrat, finished a distant third to first place winner and fellow Democrat former San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsome and little-known Republican second-place finisher John Cox.

At the outset of the campaign, Villaraigosa had been nearly tied with Newsome at the top of the polls in January at 21 percent versus 23 percent, respectively. Then in April and May, the charter-school industry began pouring millions of dollars into the race to back Villaraigosa.

The charter school industry’s state advocacy group, the California Charter Schools Association Advocates, created Families and Teachers for Villaraigosa to take in huge sums of money from “wealthy contributors,” EdSource reports. This independent expenditure committee helped raise $22.5 million in less than two months, which mainly went toward television and radio ads to support Villaraigosa and attack Newsome.

Among the donors to the pro-Villaraigosa committee were Netflix founder Reed Hastings, who contributed $7 million; former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who contributed $3.5 million; and Bill Oberndorf who gave $3.75 million.

Hastings is a pro-voucher and pro-charter billionaire who has called for an end to democratically elected school boards. He founded and profits from the Rocketship chain of charter schools where students spend most of their day at computers being drilled for standardized tests. Oberndorf is a Republican and an ally of U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.

Of course, Newsome has his campaign sources too, with contributions coming principally from labor groups. But in contrast to Villaraigosa, Newsome’s independent expenditure committees raised only $7.2 million while most of his funds were raised through direct contributions.

High Stakes for Charters

It’s important to understand what the charter industry believes was at stake in getting Villaraigosa elected.

California’s current Governor, Jerry Brown has been an invaluable backstop for the charter industry, who has defended charters from a state legislature that is increasingly skeptical of the academic performance and business ethics of these schools.

Brown’s support for charters is ideological, and deeply personal. Since he founded two charters in Oakland as mayor of that city, he continues to steer large donations to those schools despite their lackluster academic performance and significantly higher costs of operations.

But while Brown’s perception of charter schools has stayed firmly stuck in his past, California voters have begun to turn on the industry, based on disturbing evidence of its negative impact on the state’s education landscape.

A series of reports have found charter schools in the Golden State have wasted, lost, or confiscated millions of public tax dollars, much of it through fraud and double-dealing in the largely unregulated sector. A litany of negative news reports about charter schools continues to reveal routine practices that violate state and federal laws, produce poor academic results, and subject public money to fraud and conflicts of interest. And communities are beset with the adverse consequences of charters opening and closing whenever and wherever they want.

As awareness of the negative realities of charter schools spread, state lawmakers introduced into legislation efforts to bring more public oversight to the sector. Yet, every time state legislators have passed efforts to eliminate for-profit charter schools and bring all charters into line with open meetings, conflict of interest, and other laws, Brown has blocked them.

Clearly, charter operatives believed Villaraigosa would maintain the status quo. Yet even as billionaire money from the charter industry filled the Villaraigosa campaign’s coffers, his polling numbers steadily sank.

Dodging a Death Knell

“A Villaraigosa victory would have been a total death knell to public education in California,” says Choi.

She believes the state is situated in a history of education reform doctrine that’s made the state a “testing ground of privatized education.”

Indeed, large school districts in the state are financially on the brink due to the negative impact of charter schools.

With a Newsome victory generally assured in November, unless an unforeseen disaster arises, opposition to charter privatization of California public schools moves on to making sure this former San Francisco mayor keeps his promise to rein in the charter industry.

(photo credit: Captain Leadbottom/Flickr Creative Commons)

5/31/2018 – New Charter School Plan Should Alarm The Nation

THIS WEEK: False ‘Security’ … Court Defies DeVos … Inside An Underfunded School … Schools Need AC … White Rule Over Black Schools

TOP STORY

New Charter School Plan Should Alarm The Nation

By Jeff Bryant

“Charter schools already have a segregation problem. But a new law about to pass in North Carolina would direct even more taxpayer money into funding charter schools that by design, if not by intent, lead to more racial segregation of school children. This is not only an alarming development in the Old South, where schools made substantial progress on integration since the landmark Brown v. Board Supreme Court case made racially separate schools illegal in 1954. It’s also a wakeup call to the nation on how a campaign to re-segregate public schools is being carried out in the name of ‘school choice’ and ‘local control.'”
Read more …

NEWS AND VIEWS

In Costly Quest For Security, U.S. Schools Face Law Of Diminishing Returns

Reuters

“School security has ballooned into a multibillion-dollar industry … Some schools are spending precious funds on untested technologies … even though the most robust and effective safety measures can only mitigate the risk, not eliminate it … School officials must also strive to balance the need for security with a desire to preserve an atmosphere conducive to learning … Schools can become fortified bunkers that feel like prisons to students … Even extraordinarily secure places like the Pentagon and the Fort Hood military base have faced shootings.”
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Court Rules Feds Violated Privacy Law For Corinthian College Students

Associated Press via CBS Sacramento

“In a break with Obama administration policy, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced in December that some students cheated by the now-defunct schools would only get a part of their federal student loan forgiven. In order to determine how much to forgive, the agency analyzes average earnings of graduates from similar programs … A California district court ruled late Friday that the department’s use of Social Security Administration data in order to calculate loan forgiveness violates the Privacy Act. The court ordered that the Education Department stop the practice and stop debt collection from these students.”
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I Work At One Of America’s Underfunded Schools. It’s Falling Apart

The Guardian

An Oklahoma teacher writes, “You have probably heard about the recent teacher walkout in Oklahoma. While some of that was about teacher salaries, it was more about the conditions in our schools – conditions that resulted from years of underfunding education … Our classes are extremely overcrowded, with 30 and 40 students per class. Some of us don’t even have enough desks for our students to sit in … None of the teachers I asked could remember the last time we adopted new textbooks. Our current history textbook, The Story of Oklahoma, is so old that the Oklahoma City bombing only gets a couple of pages in the epilogue … One student told us: ‘I didn’t realize that people had textbooks with covers on them.’ ”
Read more …

Higher Temperatures Equal Lower Test Scores – Study Confirms That Students Learn Less In Overheated Classrooms

Chalkbeat

” after a particularly hot year of school, high schoolers performed worse on the PSAT, an exam taken to prepare for the SAT and determine winners of the National Merit Scholarship … The research highlights how external factors can impact students’ performance on high-stakes tests, while also suggesting that air conditioning, still missing in many schools, is a worthwhile investment … Impacts were significantly larger for black and Hispanic students and those in lower-income areas … Most of harmful consequences of heat disappearing in schools that appear to have air conditioning.”
Read more …

Will The State Takeover Of Jackson Schools be ‘Better Together’ Or The Same Old Education Politics?

The Progressive

Jeff Bryant writes, “In Jackson, Mississippi … a state audit of the district’s schools gave justification … to propose a state takeover of Jackson schools … White rule in Mississippi has long made Jackson schools a target of either malevolent neglect or authoritarian abuse … Mississippi’s conservative state authorities may also be concerned about the nature of Jackson’s black leadership. When Chokwe Antar Lumumba ran for Jackson mayor in 2017, he presented himself as an unabashed lefty. After he won a landslide victory, he talked about making Jackson ‘the most radical city on the planet,’ elevating an agenda of social justice, economic democracy, and citizen engagement … The rise of black populism in Jackson also raises the potential for a head-on collision with … the charter school industry.”
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New Charter School Plan Should Alarm the Nation


Charter schools already have a segregation problem. But a new law about to pass in North Carolina would direct even more taxpayer money into funding charter schools that by design, if not by intent, lead to more racial segregation of school children.

This is not only an alarming development in the Old South, where schools made substantial progress on integration since the landmark Brown v. Board Supreme Court case made racially separate schools illegal in 1954.

It’s also a wakeup call to the nation on how a campaign to re-segregate public schools is being carried out in the name of “school choice” and “local control.”

A ‘Design for Segregation’

The bill, House Bill 514, would allow suburban communities outside Charlotte to create and fund their own charter schools.

This is “a design for racial and economic segregation,” writes former NC Teacher of the Year James Ford. “The result of this will ultimately amount to systemic racism.”

The origin of the bill goes back at least two years when the mayor and town board of Matthews, NC, began devising ways to sever ties with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school district, which merges their schools with those in the city and surrounding county.

At public meetings, Matthews town officials and the State Representative for the community talked openly of creating a task force to explore a separate suburban school district and separating with CMS over issues with “trust,” student assignments, and “bussing.”

“It’s within the authority of the [state] General Assembly to do it,” one official is quoted, citing a previous attempt in 2005 that “went nowhere.”

Somewhere between then and now, the plan for separating from CMS evolved into the idea for Matthews and nearby Mint Hill to create their own charter schools. Currently in North Carolina, charter schools – privately operated schools given taxpayer funds, with fewer operational restrictions than public schools – are authorized, approved, and funded by the state.

By the time HB 514 emerged, Matthews Mayor Paul Bailey had dropped his idea of separating from the district altogether, and instead argued community-based charters would address a need for more “seats” in his community, where there are “excellent schools,” but “too few” of them.

The bill, he said, is about “local control” and giving parents more “options.”

Yet while the language for rationalizing this bill may have evolved into something more palatable, Ford is correct about its “design.” Based on both the historical context of Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools and the nature of the current unregulated charter school industry, this new bill opens a new pathway to increased school segregation that other states may decide to follow.

A Return to Segregation

Nearly all school districts in the Tar Heel state are “merged districts,” in which inner-city schools share the same district with schools in outlying suburban and rural areas, a configuration that dates back to Reconstruction.

After the Brown ruling, as well as Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education, which held busing was an appropriate way to integrate schools, Charlotte-Mecklenburg became, by the 1980s, one of the most racially integrated school districts in America. Such efforts have led to long-term benefits for Black Americans, including greater income, better health outcomes, and lower incarceration rates.

Since then, rulings by more conservative courts overturning previous legal precedent and a state General Assembly dominated by Republicans have done much to resegregate CMS and other NC school districts. House Bill 514 would surely add to the racial imbalances in schools.

Students who live in Matthews, which is 82 percent white, now have opportunities, either by assignment or by choice, to attend schools in nearby neighborhoods where student populations are anywhere between one third to over one-half Black or Hispanic. The student population of CMS overall is just 28 percent white.

Were Matthews students to attend a charter school in their own neighborhood, the likelihood of that school being mostly white (85 – 90 percent) would increase significantly.

The Segregating Impact of Charters

“Charter schools are among the nation’s most segregated [schools],” a recent analysis by the Associated Press found. AP’s findings align with previous studies that have found that charter schools and other forms of school choice are exacerbating existing patterns of segregation.

In North Carolina, there’s little doubt parents use charters to segregate.

North Carolina charter schools are significantly more segregated, with students who are wealthier and whiter than those at public schools in the state. This is due to a number of factors, including the fact that charter schools don’t have to provide transportation or school meals, which significantly reduces their appeal to low-income parents. Also, laws governing charter schools in the state dropped the previous requirement for the schools to serve a diverse student population.

In North Carolina, “at traditional public schools,” a recent study found, “only about 30 percent of students attend schools that are ‘highly segregated’ (schools that are more than 80 percent or less than 20 percent white). At charter schools, more than two-thirds attend schools that are highly segregated.”

The impact charters have on segregating students by race and income is especially acute in Charlotte-Mecklenburg. According to a recent study, the growth of charter schools in the district led to more proficient white and Asian students leaving the public schools, while affluent parents used the threat of escape to charters as a way to coerce local officials to redraw student assignment boundaries to reduce racial integration and ensure white parents could send their children to schools in their neighborhoods.

Enacting HB 514 provides white parents with just another mechanism to use charters for what they have become a tool for: separating the races.

A Dangerous New Funding Provision

Backers of HB 514 had conceived a way to use charter schools to legalize racially segregating students, but they still needed a way to fund new community-based charters in the suburbs.

Ironically, CMS alerted NC lawmakers to this problem. A report, funded by the district, warned that in North Carolina “it is against the law for towns to go into debt to pay for schools, so if a town wants to purchase land for a charter school, the town would have to pay in full up front. The report also found that the towns could not use any state funds to build a charter school and can’t raise property taxes for a school without a public referendum.”

During meetings closed to the public and hidden from Democratic state lawmakers, Republican legislators found a way around the funding problem that allows cities across the state, not just Matthews and Mint Hill, to use locally-raised tax money for public schools, including charter schools.

This funding provision “opens the door for districts and charter schools to ask municipal governments to pony up for anything from school resource officers to custodians to teacher pay supplements,” a former state legislator is quoted in an NC news outlet.

So while HB 514 may be confined to just the suburbs of Charlotte, it provides an opening for charters throughout the state to demand funds from local districts and redirect more taxpayer money from public schools to privately controlled “options” that can further segregate schools.

A Dangerous New Pathway to More Inequality

North Carolina’s Democratic Governor Roy Cooper has expressed “concerns” about HB 514, but should he decide to veto the budget bill, which the new law is attached to as an amendment, his veto would likely be overridden, as Republicans currently command supermajorities in both chambers of the General Assembly.

Already, other suburban communities around Charlotte have asked for the same sort of option Matthews and Mint Hill want to have to create their own segregated school system via community owned and operated charter schools.

Proponents of school choice and charter schools often justify increased racial segregation their preferred schools cause  by arguing that parent choice is what matters most.

But the legacy of the Brown ruling is that separate schools will never be equal. What North Carolina is doing defies that truth and opens a dangerous new pathway for other states to create more education inequality.

5/24/2018 – Will Teacher Uprisings Change Democrats?

THIS WEEK: DeVos Wants Religious Schools … DeVos Unleashes ICE … Immigrant Students Traumatized … Schools Closings Harm Students … We Hate Children

TOP STORY

Will Teacher Uprisings Change Democrats?

By Jeff Bryant

Anyone wondering whether teacher uprisings this spring will influence party politics and elections in November should look at what’s happened in this year’s primaries so far … There are clear signs the dynamics of education politics are changing in the Democratic party, and those changes are taking place at the very same time progressive populist candidates are surging in Democratic primaries across the country. These insurgencies could result not only in a new Democratic party, but also a new vision for education policy in the party.”
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NEWS AND VIEWS

DeVos: State Bans On Public Money To Religious Schools Should Go To ‘Ash Heap Of History’

Education Week

“U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos railed against state constitutional prohibitions on public funds going to faith-based institutions … The target of DeVos’ wrath: so-called ‘Blaine’ amendments to state constitutions that prohibit public funds from being used for religious purposes … These amendments are still on the books in 37 states … DeVos also gave a shout-out to states … that have created so-called ‘tax credit scholarship programs,’ in which individuals and corporations can get a tax break for donating to scholarship granting organizations. DeVos worked behind the scenes last year to get a similar, federal program included in a tax overhaul bill, but was ultimately unsuccessful.”
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Betsy DeVos Stirs Uproar By Saying Schools Can Call ICE On Undocumented Kids

HuffPost

“Education Secretary Betsy DeVos provoked an outcry Tuesday when she said schools can choose to call Immigration and Customs Enforcement on potentially undocumented students. ‘I think that’s a school decision, it’s a local community decision, DeVos told the House Education and the Workforce Committee … Advocacy groups immediately protested her answer, pointing out that under the Supreme Court case Plyler v. Doe, all children ― undocumented or not ― are entitled to a free public education … DeVos’ comments could have a chilling impact on undocumented students attending schools.”
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Teachers Are Witnessing An Uptick In Emotional Problems In Students Afraid Of ICE

The Nation

“In the latest video by Brave New Films, Immigrant Stories: Teachers, educators reveal how immigration enforcement actions are disrupting their students’ lives and affecting not just their education, but their overall wellbeing … According to a study conducted this year by the UCLA Civil Rights Project, two-thirds of the 3,500 educators surveyed across 12 states have noticed behavioral or emotional problems in their students that appear to be related to the rise of immigrant enforcement action. Some respondents noted seeing students come to school withdrawn, anxious, crying and refusing to eat lunch. One Maryland teacher even gave an account of a student who attempted to self-harm because she was so distraught by her mother’s deportation. Teachers surveyed also reported a rise in absenteeism and a decline in parent involvement because they fear leaving their homes.”
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Study: After Mass School Closings, Impacted Students Lagged Academically

The Chicago Reporter

“Thousands of students experienced negative academic outcomes after the 2013 [Chicago] school closures, despite the fact officials promised them a better education … While officials said the main reason they closed schools in 2013 was to save money, the district has never reported if it did … Students from closed schools saw long-term negative effects in math. Students tested two months behind their peers in math the year the closures were announced. That gap persisted for four years … While students from the closed schools’ GPA in the core subjects of English, math, science and social studies rose at first, by the third and fourth years after the closures, they were lower than expected compared to their peers … This indicator is a key predictor of whether students will stay on track and graduate from high school – more so than test scores.”
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The U.S. Spends Less On Children Than Almost Any Other Developed Nation

The Washington Post

“The federal government now spends less than it did about 30 years ago on some of the country’s poorest children … In 1990, the government spent about $8,700 on every child whose family took in no income from work. By 2015, accounting for inflation, it spent less than $7,000 … In 1995, America ranked ahead of nine developed nations in the share of the economy the federal government spends on children. Since 2004, America has ranked third-to-last in spending, with only Mexico and Turkey lagging behind … America spent 2.7% of its gross domestic product on children in 2015 but about 9% of it on the elderly.”
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Will Teacher Uprisings Change Democrats?

Anyone wondering whether teacher uprisings this spring will influence party politics and elections in November should look at what’s happened in this year’s primaries so far.

Most prominent among primary contests involving education issues was an improbable win in Kentucky, where a first-time candidate, math teacher R. Travis Brenda, knocked off the state’s House Republican Majority Leader Jonathan Shell.

Brenda had joined with his colleagues earlier this year in staging sickouts that closed schools across the state to protest Kentucky lawmakers’ handling of state public employee pensions and inadequate school funding. Shell “was part of the legislature’s Republican leadership team that crafted and passed pension, tax, and budget bills,” a Louisville news outlet reports.

Elsewhere in the state, of the 16 Kentucky teachers involved in primary contests, seven were victorious and will join with other teacher-candidates who ran unopposed to field 32 candidates in total in November. Nearly all are Democrats.

“The thing to watch is whether this is the start of something broader,” says NPR’s Domenico Montanaro in reporting about Kentucky’s primary races.

Changing on Education

It’s going to be hard to tell where and if teacher uprisings will change electoral politics, especially in states where uprisings have yet to take place. But there are clear signs the dynamics of education politics are changing in the Democratic party, and those changes are taking place at the very same time progressive populist candidates are surging in Democratic primaries across the country. These insurgencies could result not only in a new Democratic party, but also a new vision for education policy in the party.

One of the clearest signs of the changing education politics in the Democratic party was when the Colorado branch of the party told an influential pressure group of charter school proponents, called Democrats for Education Reform, to stop using the word “Democrats” in its name.

The state party approved an amendment to its 2018 platform opposing any attempts to segregate Colorado schools or make public schools private institutions or “private corporations.”

This schism between defenders of the public-school system within the Democratic party and those in the party who don’t care if more school funding is siphoned to privately operated management businesses is becoming more obvious in primary electoral contests.

In Pennsylvania, two longshot candidates for the State House, Summer Lee and Sara Innamorato, who knocked off establishment incumbents in the primaries, based their platforms on a range of progressive issues including opposing “charter schools as a form of ‘privatization’ that drained public resources.”

Their opponents, the brothers Paul and Dom Costa, had both recently voted against legislation to prevent online charters from exploiting failing students and against a bill that would make all charters more accountable for how they spend public funds.

Another Pennsylvania House upset winner in the Democratic primary, Elizabeth Fiedler, campaigned for “a moratorium on new charters and cyber-charters until their effectiveness and long-term costs are evaluated and they are held to the same standards as traditional public schools.” Her party establishment-endorsed opponent, Jonathan Rowan, never made his views on charter schools a prominent message in his campaign.

In Nebraska, Kara Eastman’s surprising defeat of former Rep. Brad Ashford has been heralded as a sign of progressives making inroads into the Democratic party establishment and a worrying sign among Beltway Democrats of a surging left within the party.

Here again, the upstart Eastman called for continued investment in public schools and public-school educators and resistance to those “who advertise the benefits of expanding charter schools.” Her establishment opponent left the issue of charter schools unaddressed.

Wooing Teachers

This is not to say opposition to charter schools has become a progressive rallying cry, in the way that Medicare for All, a $15 minimum wage, and other issues already have.

In Idaho, for instance, Paulette Jordan’s win is being cast as a progressive plus in a deep red state, where her Democratic party primary contest could have gone to the more mainstream candidate.

Yet Jordan called charter schools “necessary,” while her opponent argued charters “have not lived up to their promise, they have been copycats of one another and they are a great deconsolidation of our school system, competing with traditional schools for funding… The best choice is the traditional public schools.”

Nevertheless, grassroots uprisings created by organized teachers are wooing more Democrats to support public schools. This is a noteworthy trend.

A Cool Embrace

For years, Democrats have not only been cool to embrace organized teachers; they’ve often been downright antagonistic. A sure sign that this relationship may be changing surfaced recently in North Carolina where Democratic Governor Roy Cooper joined teachers in the capital who had walked off the job and closed schools across the state to protest their poor pay and lack of resources in schools due to years of funding cuts.

Seeing an NC governor, of any party, standing with organized teachers during a strike action is unprecedented. The Tar Heel state is one of the most anti-labor states in the nation, not just because of recent Republican majorities in the legislature, but also because the state has been historically resistant to labor organizing regardless of which party is in control.

Cooper has also not always sided with workers. Yet, no former Democratic governor in recent memory – including education champion Jim Hunt – would have locked arms with organized teachers in union to close schools. The fact Cooper did sends an important message about where the Democratic party may be heading.

A Better Deal?

Similarly, in Washington, D.C., Democratic party leaders are pivoting from teacher walkouts across the nation to call for giving states and school districts $50 billion over a decade to fund teacher raises by canceling the recent tax cut for top 1 percent of earners.

The Democrats’ plan, called A Better Deal for Teachers and Students, calls for another $50 billion fund to pay for new school infrastructure.

During the unveiling of the plan, union presidents Lily Eskelsen García of the National Education Association and Randi Weingarten of the American Federation of Teachers joined Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on the podium.

The scene prompted longtime Washington Post education journalist Valerie Strauss to recall when Barack Obama was president, his education secretary, Arne Duncan, was so unpopular that the NEA called for his resignation.

So given that Democrats, under a Trump administration, have little chance of pushing their proposal through, she questions whether this an example of the party making “nice with the leaders of teachers’ union.”

Whether Strauss’s skepticism is warranted or not, political dynamics in the Democratic party are clearly changing, and teacher uprisings are adding to the volatility of the mix.

If the Democratic wave that’s anticipated for November “won’t crest without progressive insurgents,” as some have observed, then maybe it also won’t crest without a change in how the party addresses education.