Something Is Rotten In The State Of Connecticut by Ann Cronin

In her latest blog post, educator and education advocate Ann Cronin reports on Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy and his administration’s loyalty to the charter school industry and their latest attack on public education.

Cronin writes;

On July 19, 2017, the unelected, governor-appointed Connecticut State Board of Education approved 504 additional seats in state charter schools for next year, with 154 of those seats going to Capital Preparatory Harbor School in Bridgeport.

GO FIGURE:

Connecticut is in a budget crisis with every expense being monitored, yet new charter school seats, which cost the state $11,000 each, are being initiated. The cost will be more than $5.5 million.

PLUS

The new seats will cost the beleaguered and impoverished Bridgeport Public Schools money it cannot afford and will strip them of much needed resources. The Bridgeport Board of Education unanimously voted against the expansion plan because the cost of adding grades to Capital Prep Harbor School requires the Bridgeport Public Schools to pay additional costs for transportation and other services at an additional location.

PLUS

The expansion plan for Capital Prep Harbor School, approved by the State Board of Education in 2014, called for three grades to be added in 2017-2018, but Capital Prep Harbor School requested and was granted the expansion to six new grades, which increased the costs of services from Bridgeport Public Schools from $200,000 to $400,000 for 2017-2018.

PLUS

Capital Prep Harbor School does not serve the population of Bridgeport equitably. Based on the make-up of the community, nearly half of the students at Capital Prep Harbor should be Hispanic, but only 1/5 are, and Capital Prep Harbor has zero students who have English as their second language although there are ample children in Bridgeport who have English as their second language.

PLUS

Capital Prep Harbor School was approved by the State Board of Education in April 2014 as a school with its stated mission to serve the “diverse communities of Bridgeport and surrounding communities”. Capital Prep Harbor School has failed to implement that mission because of its small percentage of Hispanic students and its total lack of students with English as their second language.

PLUS

Steve Perry, the founder of the Capital Prep Harbor School and its chief spokesperson at the July 19th hearing, has been found by state auditors to have violated the lottery system at his former school in Hartford, Capital Preparatory School. Instead of the students at Capital Prep being chosen by lottery, he, as principal, handpicked a significant number of students (131 in three years), chiefly for their athletic talents. When asked by a reporter at the July 19th hearing if he was using similar illegal practices at Capital Preparatory Harbor School, he refused to answer.

PLUS

After the revelations about the lottery violations at Capital Prep in Hartford, state education officials were asked if they intended to audit the lottery at Capital Prep Harbor School. A State Department of Education spokeswoman replied, “Not at this time.” The Connecticut Post surveyed enrollment practices in the six charter schools in Bridgeport. Five of the six schools explained the methods they used to insure the propriety of their lotteries. The sixth school, Capital Preparatory Harbor School, wouldn’t answer the newspaper’s questions.

PLUS

The State Board of Education scheduled the meeting to approve the new charter seats without informing the Superintendent of the Bridgeport Public Schools. The Superintendent, Aresta Johnson, was told by the State Department of Education that she had until August 4, 2017 to file a written reaction to the Capital Prep Harbor School plan to expand the number of charter school seats in  Bridgeport.  She found out about the July 19th meeting by chance. She attended that hearing and strongly opposed the expansion of charter school seats, stating that the costs would present a severe hardship to children in the Bridgeport Public Schools.

PLUS

Nationally, charter schools have no greater record of success than public schools although the student population of charter schools is more select than the population of traditional public schools. Charter schools have fewer special education students, fewer ELL students, and fewer students from unstable homes. A report commissioned by the Connecticut State Department of Education entitled Evaluating the Academic Performance of Choice Programs in Connecticut compared student achievement in public schools, charter schools, magnet schools, and among those students bussed from urban areas to the suburbs and did not find evidence that students in charter schools had greater achievement than other students, even with their more select student body.

PLUS

Charter schools are not public schools although they call themselves that when it serves the purpose of getting public money but declare they are not public schools when there are requests for transparency in how the public tax money is spent. Charter schools violate the democratic principle that the people should have a say in how their tax dollars are spent. In public school districts, the elected school boards provide that oversight. With charter schools, it is all secret, and the profit motive is evident as the numbers of criminal cases of fraud that have occurred in charter schools demonstrate.

PLUS

Charter schools promote segregation. The NAACP, in October 2016, recognized the racism inherent in the concept of charter schools and called for “ a moratorium on charter school expansion and for the strengthening of oversight in governance and practice”  because “the NAACP has been in the forefront of the struggle for and a staunch advocate of free, high-quality, fully and equitably funded public education for all children”.

ADD IT UP: There is, indeed, something rotten in the state of Connecticut.

Fighting it will be an uphill battle. Big money from the charter school industry funds political campaigns in our state. The State Board of Education and the Commissioner of Education are not elected by us; they are appointed by the Governor. Venture capitalists support charter schools because they are money-making operations. So how do we citizens of Connecticut make a dent in this monied political structure?

Well, we take a deep breath and remember what Edmund Burke said: All it takes for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing. Then, we call one another, start talking, and get busy.

You can read and comment on Ann Cronin’s commentary piece at: https://reallearningct.com/2017/07/21/something-is-rotten-in-the-state-of-connecticut/

A CT School Adequacy Study will inform a rational and constitutional education finance program

The Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education (CCJEF) explains why the Connecticut General Assembly should approve legislation requiring a CT School Adequacy Study rather than adopt a faulty school funding formula that fails to adequately fund Connecticut’s public schools and diverts even more scarce resources to Connecticut’s unaccountable charter school industry.

Q & A:  THE NEED FOR AN ADEQUACY COST STUDY TO INFORM RATIONAL AND CONSTITUTIONAL EDUCATION FINANCE REFORM

  1.  What is the difference between the proposal supported by CCJEF (Subst. H.B. 7270, File 511) and the Sen. Duff proposal (to be amended to S.B. 2)?

CCJEF proposes an adequacy cost study, which has been done in over 30 other states, to help determine the amount of funding needed to educate different groups of students depending on their needs. S.B. 2 proposes a dramatic revision of the entire funding system which shifts funds away from traditional public neighborhood schools, reduces the “foundation” amount now allocated for each student and makes unsupported guesses at funding levels for poverty students, ELL students and others without first knowing the extent of student needs and how much is required to meet them across districts. S.B. 2 may include some improvements over the status quo but this radical change in education funding was drafted in the dark and has never been subjected to the light of a public hearing or given sufficient scrutiny.

2. Does the Duff proposal responds to the inadequacies defined by the CCJEF court?

No. Because the proposal is not based on empirical data on how much it actually costs to adequately and equitably educate students across Connecticut, the proposal is irrational. The trial court held that “Connecticut is defaulting on its constitutional duty to provide adequate public school opportunities because it has no rational, substantial and verifiable plan to distribute money for education aid and school construction.” The judge said, “[i]f the legislature can skip around changing [education funding] formulas every year, it invites a new lawsuit every year.” S.B. 2 repeats the mistakes of the past. It is another formula patched together for political and budgetary reasons without sufficient research about the diversity of student needs and the actual costs of an adequate education.

  1. How would S.B. 2 impact students attending magnet schools in Bridgeport, Hartford, New Haven, and Norwalk?

    S.B. 2 would decimate magnet schools across Connecticut because it would reduce magnet school funding by approximately $3,500 per student (based on a recent circulated version of the bill) while shifting those funds to increase payments to charter schools. Magnet schools would be unable to afford their supplemental features, such as classroom aides or special academic themes, which make them attractive options for voluntary desegregation initiatives in Connecticut. Under the proposal, students who leave for magnet schools would take funding away from the “sender” traditional neighborhood schools. At the same time, the network of regional magnet schools would lose approximately $3,569 per student.

    4. Does S.B. 2 shift taxpayer funds from traditional neighborhood schools to charter schools?

    Yes. Without the benefit of any public hearing, S.B. 2 would overturn decades of giving priority to funding of neighborhood public schools by adopting the “money follows the child” concept which shifts taxpayer money away from traditional public schools to charter schools without requiring these charter schools to meet the same accountability standards as other public schools. The inevitable long-term result may well be the slow defunding of many public school districts.

    5. Is a cost study as proposed by CCJEF a well-recognized tool used nationally in cases involving education adequacy brought before courts?

    Yes. Cost studies are not a new idea. In fact they are the gold standard prerequisite in education finance reform efforts. They have been performed in more than 30 states to effectuate education reforms with great success. For instance, the Maryland legislature enacted a bipartisan education funding system based on data and recommendations provided by a cost study. Additional funding was phased in over six years and aimed at closing the achievement gap. In the years that followed, Maryland’s high-need children performed significantly better on all metrics of evaluation than they had in the past. Likewise, in Massachusetts, a 1991 study ultimately formed the groundwork for the Massachusetts Education Reform Act of 1993. This act brought nationally-recognized reforms that catapulted Massachusetts’ student achievement to first in the nation.

    6. What is the budgetary cost of an adequacy cost study?

    The adequacy cost study is estimated to cost $250,000, less than one-in-ten-thousandths of what our state currently spends on primary and secondary education each year. It is a small price to pay to get the real-world data needed by policymakers to develop a rational education funding formula that ensures adequate and equitable educational opportunities for all public school students.

    7. How long would a cost study take?

    A cost study would take about 12 months or less to complete. Under Subst. H.B. 7270, the Department of Education would issue a request for proposals 30 days after passage of the act. The selected entity conducting the cost study would then file an interim report not later than December 14, 2017 and a final report not later than February 14, 2018.

    8. Could the CCJEF proposal be incorporated into the Duff proposal?

    Yes. Elements of S.B. 2, such as the shift in measuring local ability to pay equally between property wealth and income wealth as well as changes in student need factors, could be adopted as the beginning of a transitional financing system while the adequacy cost study is being performed.

    9. Has anyone proposed conducting a cost study in the past?

    Yes. Back in 2013, Gov. Malloy’s Task Force to Study State Education Funding recommended that “a comprehensive cost study regarding the demographic, economic and education cost factors … should be considered in determining an appropriate foundation level for the cost of education.”  Indeed, portioning out funding for each district without this knowledge is fiscally irresponsible and puts our children at risk.

  2. Has the General Assembly taken any action on developing a cost study?

    Yes. The Education Committee reported out Subst. H.B. 7270, File 511 which proposes a comprehensive “adequacy study of public school funding” to be completed in the next 12 months. This adequacy cost study is desperately needed to provide the hard, real-world data necessary to get education finance reform done right in Connecticut.

Right Wing “Think Tank” engaged in effort to persuade teachers to be climate change deniers

The Heartland Institute is an Illinois based conservative “think tank” and advocacy group that is focused on building support for conservative ideas such as charter schools and vouchers, all while promoting its broader, right-wing political agenda.

Last year, the Heartland Institute applauded Governor Dannel Malloy’s anti-public education, pro-charter school agenda proclaiming,

Charter schools will receive increased government support if Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy’s (D) proposed budget for fiscal year 2017 passes.

Malloy’s budget proposal increases state aid for public charter schools by $9.3 million and reduces state taxpayers’ funding of traditional local government schools by more than $11 million.

And later in the year, the Heartland Institute returned its attention to Connecticut observing that the state of Connecticut spent enough on public education.

In a blog post on their website, the Heartland Institute went on to quote Connecticut’s Yankee Institute for Public Policy opposing additional school aid for Connecticut’s public school children and supporting the “money follows the child” funding scheme that would divert even more scarce public funds to privately owned and operated charter schools.

Now the Heartland Institute is focusing its resources on convincing school teachers in Connecticut and across the nation that climate change doesn’t exist.

In an article entitled, Democrats Condemn Climate Change Skeptics for Targeting Teachers, the media website, Frontline explained;

The Heartland Institute has spent decades promoting doubt about climate change, and it embraces a variety of arguments to that end. At its 12th annual climate change conference last month in Washington, D.C., some speakers claimed that climate change isn’t happening. Others conceded it is happening, but that humans aren’t at fault. Others still argued that even if humans are the cause, change won’t be so bad for the planet.

Apparently the organization is now engaged in an extensive effort to convince teachers to refrain for teaching about the devastating impact that climate change is having on the earth and its residents.

The Heartland Institute has or will be sending out more than 200,000 packages of anti-climate propaganda to teachers across the country.

Frontline reports,

The packages contain a book titled “Why Scientists Disagree about Climate Change” and a related DVD; both dispute the scientific consensus that climate change is a crisis.”

As for this new initiative, Frontline adds;

The organization has long had allies in the Republican party, but its influence has grown with the election of President Donald Trump, who has called climate change a hoax.  Trump chose Myron Ebell, a longtime ally of Heartland, to run his transition efforts for energy and the environment. Trump’s appointed administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, has also expressed doubts about the human role in climate change, and as attorney general of Oklahoma sued the very agency he now runs 14 times, including over a plan to regulate climate-warming emissions.

If any teachers in Connecticut have received or get the Heartland package, please drop me a note at [email protected]

Some legislators want to shovel even more money to some of Connecticut’s Charter Schools

A recent article by Wendy Lecker entitled, Beware the new Connecticut legislative plan to channel even more public funds to charters, noted that a group of Democratic state legislators have released a plan aimed at diverting even more scarce public funds to Connecticut’s charter schools will doing little to address the underlying system that inadequately funds Connecticut’s public schools.

Turning their backs on the need for a state-wide school funding adequacy study, Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff (D-Norwalk) and State Representative Jason Rojas (D-East Hartford) have proposed an extraordinary school funding system that would promote a Trump/DeVos like “school choice” program in Connecticut.

Their plan would divert even more taxpayer funds to Connecticut’s charter schools, while taking money away from Connecticut’s successful magnet schools.

As the CT Mirror reported, their plan proposes to have the;

“…state calculate how much each local district spends to educate a student on average and then withhold one-quarter of that amount for each student who leaves for a magnet or charter school. The withheld funding would be sent to the school the child actually attends.

Currently districts do not get funding for students who leave for charter schools. However, districts still get state funding for students who leave for magnet schools, which is somewhat offset by tuition that magnets charge the sending districts.

The changes that Duff and Rojas propose would drive huge funding increases for several charter schools — including about $1,800 more per student for Achievement First Hartford Academy and $1,700 for Stamford Academy…

[…]

The network of regional magnet schools opened in the Hartford region in an effort to comply with a Connecticut Supreme Court order to desegregate Hartford schools would be hit hard by the changes, with a loss of $3,569 per student.

The legislators’ plan also fails to properly account for the added cost of educating students who require special educations services and those who need extra help learning the English Language.

One explanation for the proposal’s failures is that it appears to have been developed in conjunction with The Connecticut School Finance Project, a charter school advocacy front group that has been working closely – in violation of Connecticut’s ethics laws – with Governor Dannel Malloy and his administration.

Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) continues to pour big money into political campaigns

Since its formation in 2006, Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) has raised over $690,000 for its federal political action committee.  In addition to the federal DFER PAC, the organization has formed numerous political action committees at the state level including, DFER Colorado, DFER Colorado Small Donor Committee, DFER Connecticut PAC, DFER DC Independent Expenditure Committee, DFER DC PAC, DFER Illinois PAC, DFER Illinois Independent Expenditure Committee, DFER Massachusetts Independent Expenditure PAC, DFER New Jersey PAC, DFER Louisiana PAC, DFER New York PAC, and DFER Washington State PAC.

DFER is the political action committee front for the corporate education reform movement’s Education Reform Now, Inc. (ERN), a 501(c)(3) and Education Reform Now Advocacy, Inc. (ERNA), a 501(c)(4).

DFER uses Education Reform Now and Education Reform Now Advocacy as “Dark Money” groups to funnel millions of dollars into lobbying and political campaigns on behalf of the charter school industry.  In 2016, Education Reform Now Advocacy dumped nearly half a million dollars into the charter school industry’s failed effort to lift the cap on the number of charter schools in Massachusetts. As a dark money group, ERN and ERNA refuse to disclose the names of their donors.

Funded by major Wall Street executives and the education reform foundations, DFER and its related entities lobby for charter schools, the Common Core testing scheme, teacher evaluations based on scores and school vouchers.  They are perhaps best known for their opposition to democratically elected boards of education.  Instead they push for mayoral controlled schools.

Whitney Tilson, a co-founder of DFER, “explained the hedge funders interest in education saying that “Hedge funds are always looking for ways to turn a small amount of capital into a large amount of capital.”

As the Center for Media and Democracy noted, “The Board of Directors for Education Reform Now (ERN) consists almost entirely of Wall Streeters who made their fortunes through financial groups and hedge funds, such as Sessa Capital, Gotham Capital, Covey Capital, Charter Bridge Capital, Maverick Capital and others.”  Major donors to DFER, ERN and ERNA include corporate executives with Anchorage Capital Partners, Greenlight Capital, Pershing Square Capital Management, as well as a variety of other hedge funds.

Media mogul Rupert Murdoch is another donor to the charter school group.  It was Murdoch who famously stated, “When it comes to K through 12 education, we see a $500 billion sector in the U.S. alone….”

As federal campaign finance reports reveal, the donor list to Democrats for Education Reform is a who’s who of the charter school industry including Charles Ledley, John Petry, Joel Greenblatt, Christopher Stavrou, David Einhorn, Katherine Bradley, Dan Loeb, Boykin Curry, James Mai, Brian Zied and many others.

Charles and Rebecca Ledley, a major force behind the charter school industry’s Question #2 campaign in Massachusetts, are the single largest contributors to the DFER Federal PAC, having donated at least $70,000 to the committee.

The primary beneficiaries of the corporate education reform group’s largesse include Senators Michael Bennet (D-CO), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Corey Booker (D-NJ), Mark Pryor (D-AR) and Charles Schumer (D-NY).  Another DFER favorite is Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

More on DFER can be found at Wait, What? including; With money from Walmart’s Walton Foundation – They call themselves Democrats for Education Reform and Figures that the super-rich would turn privatization of public schools into a game and Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) explains why Common Core testing is so important and Charter School Political Action Committees target Connecticut legislative races and DFER NEWS: Adam Goldfarb, former Chief of Staff to Governor Dannel Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, lands COO post at Democrats for Education Reform (DFER)

 

Charter schools pose financial risk to municipalities by James Mulholland

The charter school industry is proposing a change to Connecticut’s school funding system to require that local communities hand over local funds to subsidize charter schools attended by local students.  The “money follows the child” funding system leaves local public schools without the resources necessary to ensure children have access to a comprehensive education.  In this piece, first published in the CT Mirror, educator and education advocate James Mulholland examines this latest money grab by the charter schools.

Mulholland writes;

In  December of last year, the Connecticut Department of Education issued a request for proposals for new charter schools – the first time in nearly three years.  As the state grapples with a budget disaster and Gov. Dannel Malloy continues to propose changes that would dramatically change the way Connecticut pays for education, the state should refrain from opening any new charter schools and freeze the funding of existing ones.

Moody’s credit rating service has warned of the fiscal risks to municipalities posed by charter schools.  In its 2013 report, Charter Schools Pose Growing Risk for Urban Public Schools, Moody’s concluded that a rise in charter school enrollment, “is likely to create negative credit pressure on school districts in economically weak urban areas.”

According to Michael D’Arcy, one of two authors of the report, “A small but growing number of traditional public districts face financial stress due to the movement of students to charters.”

As urban areas such as Hartford teeter on the brink of bankruptcy, lowered bond ratings could have a devastating effect on already dire budgetary circumstances.  Gov. Malloy is proposing a new municipal accountability system for cities and towns facing severe fiscal difficulties.  The proposal includes a multi-tiered ranking system for communities that could lead to greater state oversight of local budgets and limit annual property tax increases for the cities and towns deemed most at risk.

Under the proposal, a municipality could be assigned to one of the first three tiers if it has a poor fund balance or credit rating.  Bridgeport and Stamford have resisted the state’s efforts to open charter schools in their cities.  In 2015, the State Board of Education unanimously approved the application of the Stamford Charter School for Excellence despite the fact that the Stamford Board of Education voted 7-1 to urge the state to deny the application.  The state of Connecticut may very well force cities to accept a charter school that may adversely affect its credit rating in the future.

Moody’s recently reiterated its belief about the adverse effects of charter schools this past November when Massachusetts voters overwhelmingly rejected legislation that would have increased the state’s cap on charter schools.  Moody’s warned Boston and three other Massachusetts cities that passage of a ballot measure to expand charter schools could weaken their financial standing and ultimately threaten their bond ratings.

Nicholas Lehman, an assistant vice president at Moody’s, warned that passage of the referendum would be a “credit negative” for the cities.  Moody’s responded to Massachusetts voters’ rejection of the plan with a “credit positive” and reiterated that the history of charter schools shows they drain money from city education budgets.

Connecticut currently provides funding in excess of $100 million per year to operate 24 charter schools, 10 of which are managed by six management companies.  These companies charge a management fee of approximately 10 percent of the amount they receive from the state.

“If we saw fees of 10 percent or less, that would be reasonable,” says Robert Kelly, who oversees charter schools at the education department.  In part, these fees are used to duplicate administrative services such as payroll and human resources, which are already provided by the districts in which charter schools operate.  It seems particularly wasteful at a time when the state is looking to regionalize municipal services.

While cities and towns have seen their education funding slashed, Connecticut’s charter management companies have seen their coffers overflow. Last year, the State Board of Education increased charter school enrollment by 4 percent for the current school year. While the enrollment increase cost the state an additional $4.1 million, funding for traditional public schools was cut by $51.7 million and regional magnet schools, opened to help desegregate city schools, had budget cuts totaling $15.4 million

The diversion of millions of dollars from traditional public schools is one reason the New England Conference of the NAACP and the Massachusetts Lawyer’s Committee filed a motion against the effort to lift the cap on the number of charter schools in Massachusetts.  It was the belief of Juan Cofield, president of the New England Conference of the NAACP, that “setting up a separate system is destructive to the notion of providing the best education for all students.”

Connecticut should not continue to pursue charter schools as a means to meet the educational needs of its children.  The financial risk to our cities and towns is just too great.

You can read and comment on the original piece at: http://ctviewpoints.org/2017/02/13/opinion-james-mulholland-2/

Malloy’s disastrous education proposal includes more money for charter schools

While it remains unclear whether Governor Dannel Malloy’s new education funding scheme includes a “money follows the child formula” that would force local districts to use local tax dollars to subsidize the privately owned and operated charter schools in their communities, the Governor’s budget does shovel even more state taxpayer funds to the charter school industry.

In addition to providing more than $111 million a year to Connecticut’s charter schools, Malloy’s plan adds $11 million in state funds so that charter schools can expand enrollment and $10 million more to increase the per pupil amount charter schools collect from the state.

Malloy, like newly sworn-in Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, has been a consistent supporter of efforts to privatize public education by turning over scarce public resources to charter schools despite the fact that these schools discriminate against Latino students, students who need help learning the English language and students who require special education services.

With 137 of Connecticut’s school districts would be losing education aid under Malloy’s new funding proposal, and all towns would take a massive hit due to his effort to shift $400 million of teacher pension payments directly onto local taxpayers, it is especially galling to see Malloy’s plan pump’s even more money into the charter school industry.

Check back for more about the new funding formula as it becomes available

“‘Toxic’ Steve Perry should embarrass charter supporters”

Oklahoma educator and education advocate Dr. John Thompson is an award-winning historian and inner-city teacher. He is the author of A Teacher’s Tale: Learning, Loving and Listening to Our Kids.  He recently attended a speech given by charter school owner Steve Perry and wrote about his observations for the website, Nondoc.

Thompson wrote;

Although I’d mostly come to hear perspectives from charter supporters in the crowd, I found myself instead listening, horrified, as keynote speaker Steve Perry, a former charter school principal-turned-showman from Connecticut, shouted non-stop insults during his entire keynote address.

Thompson added;

Perry has a reputation for failing to respect the regulatory rules of the road and is remembered for calling unions “roaches” in 2013. Worse, his charter school, Capital Preparatory Magnet School, would sentence “even the youngest students in the building” to sit at what was known as the Table of Shame as a form of punishment. His current gig is running Sean “P-Diddy” Combs’ 160-student charter, a Harlem magnet school that recruits suburban students.

[…]

At Thursday’s summit, Perry told the audience that charter supporters shouldn’t even talk with people who disagree with them. He also claimed opponents of Oklahoma City’s KIPP expansion are racists. In fact, he said people like me — who display pro-Barack Obama bumper stickers but oppose charter and voucher expansions — are as bad as the worst racists in American history. Perry went on to say that public schools were “designed” to fail in order to maintain Jim Crow and drive the school-to-prison pipeline.

[…]

Perry said virtually nothing about real-world schools. Instead, he shouted memes that were often incomprehensible. He kept likening charters to the consciousness-expanding “red pill” in The Matrix while calling for an all-out assault on public schools and public school educators who were irredeemable because they had taken the “blue pill” of complacent resignation.

Thompson concluded;

I don’t know if local charter leaders were fully aware of whom they were hiring to articulate their message in Oklahoma City. I do hope, however, that they are embarrassed by his toxic speech.

Local charter leaders should distance themselves from Steve Perry and apologize to teachers for his outrageous behavior.

His piece is a “Must Read” on the antics of Steve Perry and those seeking to destroy public education in the United States.  You can find and comment on his piece at:  https://nondoc.com/2017/01/31/steve-perry-charter-supporters/

Massachusetts said NO to more charter schools, Connecticut should as well

At the same time that Governor Dannel Malloy is instituting the deepest cuts in Connecticut history to Connecticut’s public schools he is diverting more than $110 million dollars a year in taxpayer funds to Connecticut’s privately owned and operated charter schools.

Malloy and his operatives now want to expand this outrageous money grab with a plan to increase the number of charter schools in Connecticut and implement a new funding proposal that would see an additional $40-$50 million a year diverted to the private corporations that own Connecticut’s existing charter schools.

Connecticut’s elected and appointed officials should take a deep pause and look to Massachusetts for an indication of what happens when a state adopts this so-called “money follows the child” funding system.

Last November the charter school industry in the Bay State tried to push through a state-wide ballot initiative that would have allowed more charter schools to be opened in the Commonwealth.

To fund their effort the charter school industry pumped more than $24 million dollars into their political campaign.

The cash came from large corporate education reform “dark money” groups that refuse to release the names of their donors, wealthy hedge fund owners, Massachusetts corporations and out-of-state contributors including the Walton family of Wal-Mart fame and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.  (See Wait, What? post Charter School Industry raised more than $24 million in 2016 record breaking defeat In Massachusetts).

But in this case, the massive outpouring of money couldn’t buy the outcome of the election as parents, educators and taxpayers successfully pushed back against those who seek to privatize public education in the United States.  On Election Day, 62 percent of voters cast their ballots against the measure and only 38 percent in favor of the provision.

Barbara Madeloni, President of the Massachusetts Teachers Assocation, summed up the significant victory saying;

 “It’s really clear from the results of this election that people are interested in public education and value that.”

Madeloni added,

“There should be no conversation about expanding charters until the Legislature fully fund our public schools.”

Media coverage of the Massachusetts ballot initiative explained the outcome noting,

“The opposition could not match the “Yes on 2” campaign on television advertisement spending. But the “no” camp had the support of prominent Democrats, including Senator Elizabeth Warren and Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh. And it mobilized a sprawling field operation, with hundreds of teachers and liberal activists reaching an estimated 1.5 million voters statewide over the course of the campaign.”

In Massachusetts, voters realized that the charter schools were diverting scarce taxpayer funds away from local public school because Massachusetts already utilizes what is called a “money follows the child” school funding formula.  This funding system means that,

“When students leave traditional public schools for charters, they take thousands of dollars in state aid with them. And opponents focused heavily on this financial strain, raising the specter of cuts to arts education, transportation, and other services at the schools that serve the vast majority of students.”

Connecticut’s charter school advocacy groups have recently proposed just such a system for Connecticut and it is very likely that Malloy, an advocate of privatizing public education, will adopt their proposal as his own when he issues his proposed state budget next week.   See the Wait, What? Post of January 26, 2017 entitled Connecticut – Beware the charter school industry’s proposed new school funding scheme.

The question now is whether the state legislature will do Malloy’s bidding or actually step forward and do what is best for Connecticut’s students, parents, educators, public schools and taxpayers.

Stay tuned!

The dangerous rise of privatization and corporate education reform

The charter school industry and their allies in the corporate education reform movement are making unprecedented gains in their effort to privatize public education in the United States.

With Betsy DeVos on the verge of becoming the United States Secretary of Education and President Donald Trump promising to divert $20 billion in federal funding from public schools to privatization through school choice programs, the movement to undermine public education must be deliriously excited about their prospects over the next four years.

Of course, the proponents of corporate education reform have been riding high for more than two decades thanks to the policies and politics of Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, both of whom used their time in office to promote charter schools and the broader corporate reform agenda.

Although the corporate reform movement has made unprecedented gains in the last twenty years, its roots go back more than sixty years to Milton Friedman’s essay, “The Role of Government in Education,” which laid out the call for privatizing public education in the United States.

Friedman argued that the nation needed to scrap its historic commitment to local public schools and replace these hallowed institutions with a system in which parents could use public funds to send their children to “private for-profit schools, private nonprofit schools, religious schools or even ‘government schools,’” a derogatory term corporate education reformers use to describe local public schools.

For decades, Friedman’s proposal was relegated to academic debates about the potential advantages and pitfalls associated with privatization.

However, the situation started to change when the state of Wisconsin enacted the first large-scale school voucher program in 1989 and Minnesota adopted legislation allowing for the creation of charter schools in 1991.

Today, 43 states and the District of Columbia have passed laws paving the way for charter schools and the number of charter schools in the country has reached about 6,900, enrolling a total of almost 3 million students.

And corporate education reformers claim that they have only begun their effort to privatize the country’s public schools.

So what are the fundamental elements of corporate education reform?

Educator and journalist Stan Karp, who works for the Education Law Center and serves as an editor of the  Rethinking Schools magazine, addressed this issue in a stark and direct way more than six years ago in a presentation that was reprinted in the Washington Post.

Stan Karp wrote;

“Corporate education reform” refers to a specific set of policy proposals currently driving education policy at the state and federal level.  These proposals include:

  • Increased test-based evaluation of students, teachers, and schools of education
  • Elimination or weakening of tenure and seniority rights
  • An end to pay for experience or advanced degrees
  • Closing schools deemed low performing and their replacement by publicly funded, but privately run charters
  • Replacing  governance by local school boards with various forms of mayoral and state takeover or private management
  • Vouchers and tax credit subsidies for private school tuition
  • Increases in class size, sometimes tied to the firing of 5-10% of the teaching staff
  • Implementation of Common Core standards and something called “college and career readiness” as a standard for high school graduation:

Together these strategies use the testing regime that is the main engine of corporate reform to extend the narrow standardization of curricula and scripted classroom practice that we’ve seen under No Child Left Behind, and to drill down even further into the fabric of schooling to transform the teaching profession and create a less experienced, less secure, less stable and less expensive professional staff.  Where NCLB used test scores to impose sanctions on schools and sometimes students (e.g., grade retention, diploma denial), test-based sanctions are increasingly targeted at teachers.

A larger corporate reform goal, in addition to changing the way schools and classrooms function, is reflected in the attacks on collective bargaining and teacher unions and in the permanent crisis of school funding across the country.  These policies undermine public education and facilitate its replacement by a market-based system that would do for schooling what the market has done for health care, housing, and employment: produce fabulous profits and opportunities for a few and unequal outcomes and access for the many….

Standardized tests have been disguising class and race privilege as merit for decades. They’ve become the credit default swaps of the education world.  Few people understand how either really works.  Both encourage a focus on short-term gains over long-term goals.  And both drive bad behavior on the part of those in charge.  Yet these deeply flawed tests have become the primary policy instruments used to shrink public space, impose sanctions on teachers and close or punish schools. And if the corporate reformers have their way, their schemes to evaluate teachers and the schools of education they came from on the basis of yet another new generation of standardized tests, it will make the testing plague unleashed by NCLB pale by comparison.

Let’s look for a minute at what corporate reformers have actually achieved when it comes to addressing the real problems of public education:

First, they over-reached and chose the wrong target.  They didn’t go after funding inequity, poverty, reform faddism, consultant profiteering, massive teacher turnover, politicized bureaucratic management, or the overuse and misuse of testing.

Instead, they went after collective bargaining, teacher tenure, and seniority.  And they went after the universal public and democratic character of public schools.

Look again at the proposals the corporate reformers have made prominent features of school reform efforts in every state: rapid expansion of charters, closing low performing schools, more testing, elimination of tenure and seniority for teachers, and test-based teacher evaluation.

 If every one of these policies were fully implemented in every state tomorrow, it would do absolutely nothing to close academic achievement gaps, increase high school graduation rates, or expand access to college.

 There is no evidence tying any of these proposals to better outcomes for large numbers of kids over time.  The greatest gains in reducing gaps in achievement and opportunity have been made during periods when concentrated poverty has been dispersed through efforts at integration, or during economic growth for the black middle class and other communities, or where significant new investments in school funding have occurred.

Or take the issue of poverty.  Most teachers agree that poverty is no excuse for lousy schooling; much of our work is about proving that the potential of our students and communities can be fulfilled when their needs are met and the reality of their lives is reflected in our schools and classrooms.  But in the current reform debates, saying poverty isn’t an excuse has become an excuse for ignoring poverty.

Corporate reform plans being put forward do nothing to reduce the concentrations of 70/80/90% poverty that remain the central problem in urban education.  Instead, educational inequality has become the entry point for disruptive reform that increases instability throughout the system and creates new forms of collateral damage in our most vulnerable communities.

The “disruptive reform” that corporate reformers claim is necessary to shake up the status quo is increasing pressure on 5,000 schools serving the poorest communities at a time of unprecedented economic crisis and budget cutting.  The latest waiver bailout for NCLB announced recently by Education] Secretary [Arne] Duncan would actually ratchet up that pressure. While it rolls back NCLB’s absurd adequate yearly progress system just as it was about to self-destruct, the new guidelines require states that apply for waivers to identify up to 15% of their schools with the lowest scores for unproven “turnaround” interventions, “charterization,” or closing.

Teachers and schools, who in many cases are day to day the strongest advocates and most stable support system struggling youth have, are instead being scapegoated for a society that is failing our children.  At the same time, corporate reformers are giving parents triggers to blow up the schools they have, but little say and no guarantees about what will replace them.

The only thing corporate ed reform policies have done successfully is bring the anti-labor politics of class warfare to public schools. By overreaching, demonizing teachers and unions, and sharply polarizing the education debate, corporate reform has undermined serious efforts to improve schools.  It’s narrowed the common ground and eroded the broad public support a universal system of public education needs to survive.

Since Karp’s assessment in 2011, we’ve seen the rise of the Common Core and its associated Common Core testing scheme, a system that is turning classrooms into little more than testing factories and profit centers for the testing industry.

And that is all before Trump and DeVos introduce their own brand of radical corporate education reform in the marketplace call American public education.