Connecticut – Beware the charter school industry’s proposed new school funding scheme

The charter school front groups, ConnCAN and the Connecticut Council for Education Reform, with the help of the Connecticut School Finance Project, the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education (CABE) and the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents (CAPSS) – the latter two groups which are funded through local school budgets and are supposed to be advocating for public schools – have proposed a set of principles for a new school funding formula for Connecticut that will undermine the state’s public school districts and drain local municipal budgets.

The new pro-charter school plan is based on the school funding formula in Rhode Island and it is a classic “Money Follows the Child” system that would mean that, in addition to collecting about $110 million a year from the State of Connecticut, the state’s privately owned and operated Charter Schools would grab an additional $40-$50 million a year in public funds from the local schools in Bridgeport, New Haven, Hartford, Stamford, Hamden, Norwich and Manchester.

The operative language in the new charter school sponsored formula reads;

“A combination of state and local funds should be allocated to schools of choice on a per student basis, so that the total per-pupil funding for these students will go to the schools or districts of choice.”

This public money “follows the child” plan is particularly appalling and inappropriate because charter schools are not accountable to elected local board of education.  Local school districts have no say in whether charter schools are created, where they are located, which children they educate or refuse to educate, nor do local boards of education have control over any other charter school policy or practice.

The operative question is why should local taxpayers pay for a school that is utterly unaccountable to the local community?

In addition, Connecticut’s charter schools are notorious for discriminating against Latino students, students who require additional help learning the English language, children who need special education services and those who display disciplinary problems.

Furthermore, charter schools in Connecticut do not face the same costs as public schools since,  among other things, they refuse to allow educators to unionize and in most cases only half the teachers (or even fewer) have been certified under Connecticut’s strict teacher preparation programs.

The truth is that Connecticut charter schools also DO NOT pay for transporting students to or from their school nor do they pay for any special education costs associated with their students – those costs are already picked up by the local school districts.

Although pro-charter school Governor Malloy will undoubtedly use this plan as his proposed formula when he announces his school funding plan next month, the plan is bad for Connecticut’s students, parents, educators, public schools and taxpayers.

His efforts to privatize public education in Connecticut know no bounds and the charter school industry’s newest proposal is simply a stunning money grab from school districts that are already massively underfunded.

A cost study conducted in 2005 found that Connecticut was underfunding its schools by approximately $2 billion a year, leaving schools without the resources they need to close the achievement gap and help all students succeed.  A new cost study – which is sorely needed and which the school funding advocates (CCJEF) are calling for —one done to reflect current costs, taking into account all our new mandates and standards,  and current student demographics and need – will undoubtedly show a similar if not even larger gap in state funding.

This incredible pro-charter school funding proposal would make the situation even worse for Connecticut’s urban districts.

The plan is being put forward by:
CT Association of Boards of Education (CABE)
CT Association of Public School Superintendents (CAPSS)
CT Association of Schools (CAS)
CT Coalition for Achievement Now (ConnCAN)
CT Council for Education Reform (CCER)

Finally, the reality that CABE and CAPSS are joining the charter school industry in promoting such a disastrous funding plan is a disturbing indictment of their failure to represent the citizens of Connecticut and a gross violation of their mission, purpose and nonprofit status.  Compounding their dereliction of duty is the fact that these two groups are part of the CCJEF coalition yet their scheme harms the very children, parents, public and schools and poorer towns and cities that CCJEF has been fighting so hard and so long to help.

For more about how charter schools are seeking to undermine Connecticut’s public schools read, Draining dollars from our students by Wendy Lecker

In her column, Wendy Lecker wrote;

Compounding the damage to public school funding, Malloy’s allies intend to “reform” Connecticut’s school funding formula to drain more public dollars from public schools — toward privately run charter schools.

As the Malloy administration recently acknowledged, district public schools are the vehicle the state chose to discharge its constitutional responsibility to educate children. Although the state must ensure adequate funding, in reality the state and municipalities share the financial burden. State education funding never covers the full cost of education. The state provides a portion and the local municipality fills in the rest, with the federal government contributing a small amount. When the state fails to pay its fair share, municipalities must to make up the gap.

Successful school funding reforms start with an analysis of what it costs to educate children. Once the cost is determined, states find they must increase school spending. Those increases have been proven to improve educational and life outcomes, especially for poor children.

To begin serious reform, Connecticut must assess what it costs today to bring an adequate education within the reach of all students.

However, Malloy’s charter allies do not want to discuss the cost of education. Their agenda is simply to get the legislature to include charter schools in any new school funding formula. Why? So local districts would be required to fund charters from local budgets.

State charter schools are considered independent districts. Local districts do not receive state allocations for students attending charter schools nor are they required pay the local contribution for children in charter schools. The host district has no say over the charter schools located within its borders. State law does require local school districts to pay for transportation and special education costs for children attending charter schools. Aside from that, charters are funded by state allocations, federal funds and private donations.

Charters are not funded like district public schools because they differ from public schools. They are statutorily created and can be discontinued anytime. They need not serve all grade levels nor provide the same services as public schools, and do not have to hire certified teachers. They are also exempt from other state mandates and accountability.

The charter lobby’s proposal would require local districts to pay for any costs for charters not covered by the state. Local taxpayers would now pay for charters like they pay for their own schools; without having any voice in charter schools and without charters following the same rules as public schools. As the state decides to expand charters, more local dollars will be drained from public schools toward these independent schools. In Rhode Island, where this system exists, districts lose tens of millions of dollars annually to charters.

Draining more money from impoverished school districts will not improve education for Connecticut’s neediest children. If our leaders are serious about school funding reform, they must start with assessing the true cost of providing every child with an adequate education. Only then can we have an honest discussion about how we can serve the educational needs of all our children.

Education reformers and charter school industry are jacking our legislature.

Yeah, jacking…. As in car-jacking…

One month into the 2016 session of the Connecticut General Assembly and the various front groups that work for the education reform and charter school industries have already spent more than $157,000 lobbying legislators in favor of their pro-charter school, pro-Common Core, pro-SBAC testing and anti-teacher agenda.

Led by a group that calls itself “The Big Six,” at least 25 registered lobbyists are working the State Capitol in favor of a political and policy agenda that includes diverting more scarce public funds away from public schools and to privately owned and operated charter schools.

Their legislative agenda also includes taking away local citizen control of public schools and supporting the Malloy administration’s effort to punish school districts in which more than 5 percent of the parents opt their children out of the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) testing scheme.

Not only do these “education reform” groups support the Common Core and the Common Core testing fiasco, they actively oppose the fundamental and inalienable right of parents to opt their children out of the SBAC tests.

These education reformers claim that SBAC testing is good for developing children’s “grit” and will determine if students are “college and career” ready – of course, the SBAC test is good for neither of those things.

In addition to their support for the massive and expensive standardized testing scam, the group supports using the SBAC test results to evaluate teachers, despite the fact that numerous academic studies have revealed that using standardized tests results is not an appropriate measure and should not be part of an effective teacher evaluation program.

“The Big 6” includes the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education (CABE), the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents (CAPSS), the Connecticut Association of Schools (CAS), the Connecticut Business and Industry Association (CBIA), Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now (ConnCAN), and the Connecticut Council for Education Reform (CCER).

In joint testimony this week, the lobbying alliance opposed a bill removing the discriminatory SBAC results from Malloy’s teacher evaluation program, claiming that they opposed efforts to “weaken” the system.

Weaken the system?

What about creating a system that actually services a mechanism to evaluate how well teachers are doing?

While “The Big 6” includes the state’s major charter school lobbying groups, it also includes three organizations that receive the majority of their funding from taxpayers.

The Connecticut Association of Boards of Education (CABE), the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents (CAPSS) and the Connecticut Association of Schools (CAS) all get their primary funding from membership dues that are paid for by local property taxpayers via local school districts.

You know the political system is truly broken when taxpayer funded lobby groups are lobbying to undermine students, parents, teachers and taxpayers.

Since Governor Malloy introduced his “education reform” initiative in 2012, the charter schools and their education reform allies have spent well in excess of $7 million dollars lobbying for his agenda, which is a record breaking amount.

In addition to “The Big Six,” other organizations that are presently lobbying Connecticut legislators in favor of the charter school and “education reform” agenda include the Bronx Charter School for Excellence, the North East Charter Schools Network , Achievement First, Inc., the large charter school chain with schools in New York, Connecticut and Rhode Island, and Families for Excellent Schools, the New York-based lobbing and political entity that bused in charter school students and parents from as far away as New York City and Boston last year to rally in support of Malloy’s efforts to hand charter schools even more public funds.

In their most recent state budget plan, Governor Malloy and Lt. Governor Wyman proposed giving charter schools more money while, at the same time, proposing the deepest cuts in state history to Connecticut’s public schools.  Malloy and Wyman are calling on the legislature to cut cut about $60 million from Connecticut’s public schools.

This while Connecticut charter schools already collect well over $100 million a year in Connecticut taxpayer funds.

When THEY say “personalized learning” it is time to be afraid, very afraid

The Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents (CAPSS), the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education (CABE), and the Connecticut Association of Schools (CAS) are among the most vocal Connecticut champions of the Common Core and the unfair, discriminatory and expensive Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) testing scheme.

Although the three organizations are funded primarily from local taxpayer funds and are supposed to be advocating for local public schools, all three have spent the last three years lobbying for Governor Malloy’s restrictive, centralized and top-down Corporate Education Reform Industry agenda… An agenda that undermines local control of education, seeks to limit the rights of parents, denigrates teachers and turns Connecticut’s public schools into little more than Common Core testing factories.

In fact, the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents (CAPSS), perhaps more than any other entity in Connecticut other than the Malloy administration itself, has been promoting the “big lie” that parents cannot opt their children out of the absurd Common Core SBAC tests.

But yesterday, in a moment of supreme – (ah) – irony – representatives of these three entities held a press conference at the Legislative Office Building to announce that the solution to Connecticut’s educational achievement gap is “personalized learning.”

And what pray-tell is “personalized learning?’

Thanks to an article in CTNewsJunkie entitled, “Education Organizations Tout ‘Personalized’ Learning,” we learn that according to the representative of the Connecticut Association of Schools (CAS), personalized learning is,

“recognizing that all children learn differently and it’s about helping them learn the way they learn best. For example, if a grade schooler is interested in dinosaurs, it’s giving him an assignment related to dinosaurs that allows him to demonstrate his abilities.”

Now who would have ever thought of that idea?????

And the director of the Superintendent’s organization added, “Everybody wants to have the time they need to learn something and everybody wants to be taught in the way that they learn.”

Truer words have never been spoken, but the concept of true personalized learning is about as far from the Common Core and Common Core SBAC testing system as one can get.

And as if to prove the hypocrisy of their commitment to true personalized learning, the “White Paper” the group of Common Core advocates released reiterated their support for Governor Malloy’s inappropriate Teacher Evaluation System, a system that relies on the test results of the unfair and discriminatory Common Core SBAC Test.

Out of one side of their mouths the education reformers claimed they were holding their press conference to promote a more individualized approach to learning, while out of the other side of their mouths they were re-dedicating themselves to a teacher evaluation system that seeks to rank order teachers based on a Common Core SBAC test program that is purposely designed to make sure that 6 in 10 children are deemed failures.

So what exactly is this concept of “personalized learning” that these education reformers are talking about?

Interestingly, not one of the spokespeople at the press conference explained what “personalized learning” really means in today’s world of education reform.

The harsh reality is that “personalized learning” has become a buzzword of the corporate education reformer industry.

About four years ago media mogul Rupert Murdoch announced that he was splitting his massive multi-national corporation into two pieces.

One company would seek to continue to buy up and dominate the world’s mainstream media outlets and the other would focus on what Murdoch famously described as the $500 billion untapped market called America’s Public Education System.

To head the new operation, Murdoch hired Joel Klein, the former NYC Education Chancellor who had done so much damage to New York City’s public schools.

They named their new company Amplify and claimed that it would serve as the foundation for a new education system based on “personalized learning.”

As reported at the time, the new company was developed around the concept of the Amplify tablet, a mini-computer that would provide students from kindergarten through the 12th grade with “personalized learning.”

According to the company’s marketing propaganda Amplify would serve as a “student’s centralized education hub.”

Amplify and its products would not only take the place of textbooks but it would also provide games, simulations, “and even a curated library tailored to each student.”

In an interview with WiredAcademic.com in 2013, Joel Klein laid out the fundamental concepts behind Amplify and their strategy of promoting “personalized learning.”

As the article explained,

“These tablets come pre-loaded with curriculum from Amplify, the education company Klein leads. The company wants every student in every K-12 school to use a tablet. It also provides data services to schools to help them track student progress in coursework.

Many school districts that have the money and will to buy tablets for students are currently buying iPads from Apple or Android devices, which they customize for their students. Amplify says it has created a more education-focused tablet than tech rivals such as Apple or Google are currently offering.

“We work with special development people who work with teachers hand in glove,” Klein said, noting that his company sold 20,000 devices to schools in Guilford County, NC, rolling out a system there this Fall. Amplify has also piloted the tablets with a dozen school districts. “It’s about the software we are putting on there that makes this a really optimal learning platform.”

[…]

At the same time, Murdoch hopes Amplify buoys News Corp.’s journalistic holdings such as The Wall Street Journal and The New York Post by creating a hybrid news and education business model on par with Pearson PLC, which owns The Financial Times, and The Washington Post Co., which owns education company Kaplan (but recently sold the namesake Washington Post to Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos).

Klein says Amplify’s strategy fits in well with the newly launched Common Core education standards that are going into use in more than 40 states. They “enable you to align your curriculum across the country,” he said. “Because we don’t have a legacy publishing business, we can align our curriculum right away with the Common Core. It gives us an advantage.”

We asked him his views on some states such as Indiana that are bucking against the Common Core and whether that could potentially set back his business. “I don’t think it is consequential. Some states might come off the Common Core… There were never 100% that were part of the Common Core (there were 45 state to begin with). Most states that aren’t on the Common Core may still require the curriculum we are building,” he said. “You make some differences for Texas. But the students in Texas will want the good curriculum we are developing.”

Klein’s impact on education reform in New York had ripple effects around the country. He’s helped mold and select several new superintendents in other cities ranging from Baltimore to New Orleans. He’s involved with the Broad Center, funded by L.A. billionaire philanthropist Eli Broad, which aims (among its other projects) to train and place reform-minded superintendents in the education sector.

[…]

Amplify acquired its way into the education business, buying up Brooklyn-based education data systems Wireless Generation for $360 million in 2010. It also provided professional development training to teachers. Klein hopes to sell news content and educational curriculum on the tablets and to disrupt the textbook market at the same time, posing a huge risk to other large textbook publishers such as McGraw-Hill, Houghton Mifflin, and Pearson, which together have $2.6 billion in annual revenue. “I think the printed textbook should be given a respectful and decent burial,” Klein said, during a recent interview with THE Journal. “I think it should be gone.”

[…]

“It’s not about tech for tech sake,” Klein says, about putting tablets into the hands of every student at every school. “It is about facilitating the learning process. If it doesn’t do that, it is not succeeding. I’ve had teachers in many places who say kids who were not engaged are now engaged and writing on the tablet. It gives them a feeling of responsibility.”

All of this brings us back to The Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents (CAPSS), the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education (CABE) and the Connecticut Association of Schools (CAS).

When they say “personalized learning,” do they mean the “personalized learning” that is being forced upon our children by companies like Amplify, Pearson and the other corporations and corporate executives behind the Corporate Education Reform Industry?

If that is what they are saying, then they need to stand down and back off before they do any more damage to Connecticut’s public schools.

You can read the CTNewsjunkie article about yesterday’s press conference at: http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/education_organizations_tout_personalized_learning/