DFER, Achievement First Inc and the flow of charter school money into Connecticut campaigns

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The Charter School industry and their corporate education reform allies continue to ramp up their effort to impact the political landscape in Connecticut.  Closely associated with Governor Dannel Malloy and his anti-public education policies, the elite behind the education reform and privatization movement are engaged in a broad based effort to control the dialogue and votes in the Connecticut legislature.

As reported yesterday in, Charter School Political Action Committees target Connecticut legislative races, two new corporate funded political action committees (PACS) are have recently been created and are spending money to elect pro-charter school candidates and defeat public school advocates in races for the Connecticut General Assembly.

Change Course CT, a front-group for Democrats for Education Reform, was formed on July 18, 2016.

Charters Care, a new appendage of the Northeast Charter School Network, was formed a few days earlier on July 13, 2016.

Both Democrats for Education Reform and the Northeast Charter School Network are corporate-funded charter school advocacy groups based in New York City and both receive the bulk of their money from the billionaires and millionaires who are trying to privatize public education in the United States.

According to forms filed with the Connecticut State Elections Enforcement Commission, all the funds collected by Change Course CT come from Education Reform Now Advocacy, a non-profit 501 (c) 4 corporation that is operated in conjunction with New York City based Democrats for Education Reform Now and Education Reform Now.

Signing the official documents on behalf of Change Course CT has been Jenna A. Klaus, who appears to be the daughter of Jeff Klaus and Dacia Toll.  Toll is the CEO of Achievement First, Inc., the large charter school management company that owns and operates charter schools in New York, Connecticut and Rhode Island.  In addition to collecting the bulk of the $110 million in Connecticut taxpayer funds paid to charter schools, Achievement First, Inc. earned its infamy from suspending record numbers of kindergarteners in an apparent attempt to push out children who don’t fit the company’s limited definition of appropriate students.  Jeff Klaus is a regional president for Webster Bank and can often be found, throughout the day, attacking education advocates and posting pro-charter school comments on various Connecticut media websites.

The Charters Care election documents are being signed by Christopher Harrington, the Connecticut Policy Manager for the Northeast Charter School Network and the PACs money has come from OxyContin’s Jonathan Sackler and from yet another New York based corporate education front group called Real Reform Now.

Not surprisingly, Jonathan Sackler, a Greenwich, Connecticut multi-millionaire is one of Governor Dannel Malloy’s biggest campaign contributors and is on the Board of both the Northeast Charter Schools Network and Achievement First, Inc., as well as, being the founder and board member of ConnCAN, Connecticut’s leading pro-charter school lobbying group.

The charter school industry has spent in excess of $9 million lobbying on behalf of Governor Malloy’s charter school and education reform agenda.

In addition they have provided massive amounts of campaign funds to Malloy and other pro-charter school candidates at the federal, state and local level in Connecticut.

Charter School Political Action Committees target Connecticut legislative races

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Look out, here they come again…

Outside groups have begun a campaign to persuade voters in New London and Bridgeport to support Democratic candidates committed to diverting even more scarce public funds to privately owned and operated charter schools.

As a result of Governor Malloy’s budget and corporate education reform agenda, while Connecticut public school students, teachers and schools are reeling from their deepest cuts in state history, charter school companies in the state will collect more than $110 million from Connecticut taxpayers, this year.

A massive amount of money considering these entities refuse to educate their fair share of students who face English Language challenges, children who need special education services, and students who have disciplinary issues.

But these schools simply aren’t satisfied with skimming off more than $110 million that should be going to help fund public schools and keep a lid on property taxes.  Charter schools want more and now they are trying to buy up candidates who will be loyal to their cause.

A national, pro-charter school, anti-teacher, corporate-funded group called Democrats for Education Reform has formed a new political action committee in Connecticut called Change Course CT.

Another New York based pro-charter group called Northeast Charter Schools Network has formed a second political action committee in Connecticut called Charters Care.

And these two big money groups are coming into Connecticut to add even more fire power to the existing pro-charter, anti-teacher groups that are already trying to influence public policy and elections.  ConnCAN, New York based Families for Excellent Schools and their political action committee, Connecticut Forward, are only three of a growing number of groups that are spending millions of dollars to persuade Connecticut legislators and candidates to turn their backs on Connecticut’s real public schools.

According to the CT Mirror’s story entitled, Charter school advocates playing in General Assembly primaries;

Change Course CT, a PAC associated with Democrats for Education Reform, a national group Gov. Dannel P. Malloy addressed during the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia last week, has polled voters on two primaries in Bridgeport and one in New London.

“We just want to know what the dynamics of the races are,” said Amy Selib Dowell, the Connecticut director of Democrats for Education Reform.

She declined to say what they are doing with the polling data gathered in three districts: the 39th House, where Rep. Ernest Hewett of New London is challenged by Chris Soto; the 23rd Senate, where Sen. Ed Gomes of Bridgeport is challenged by Dennis Bradley; and the 126th House, where Rep. Charlie L. Stallworth of Bridgeport is challenged by Maria Pereira.

Charters Care is spending their money on “literature and T-shirts promoting Stallworth over Pereira, an outspoken opponent of charter schools, and Rep. Terry Adams of Bridgeport over Dan Dauplaise.”

As noted, these pro-charter groups are closely aligned to Governor Dannel Malloy’s and his anti-public school agenda.  The groups have spent more than $9 million lobbying Connecticut public officials since Malloy rolled out his corporate education reform agenda in 2012.

The timing could not be more suspicious.

Malloy may be on his way out, but one of his key life lines for his aspirations in Washington D.C. is the charter school industry and their corporate education reform allies.

Or, as the CT Mirror noted;

Malloy, the co-chair of the DNC’s Platform Committee, was a featured speaker at a Democrats for Education Reform event in Philadelphia…”

“Payment” to be collected later…

For additional background on these groups and their antics in Connecticut read the following Wait, What? posts;

Connecticut Charter School Industry spends another half a million dollars on lobbying elected officials

The Bevy of Billionaires undermining public education

Charter School Industry “invests” more than $9 million in Connecticut lobbying

Education reformers and charter school industry are jacking our legislature.

Koch Brother’s American Legislative Exchange Council pushing for more charter schools

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Thanks in no small part to Donald Trump’s running mate, Indiana Governor Mike Pence, the right-wing, corporate-funded, pro-privatization, anti-public education, American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is meeting this week in Indianapolis.

At the top of their privatization agenda — More unaccountable charter schools.

The Center for Media and Democracy reports that at the meeting, “where corporate lobbyists sit side-by-side with state legislators in luxury hotels to vote as equals on ‘model bills’ that then get pushed to become law in states across the country,” a key issue will be the continued expansion of charter schools.  CMD explains;

The for-profit education companies that help fund ALEC, like K12, Inc., have a track record of poor results that tends to result in a high rate of school closures. K12, which was founded in part by junk bond fraudster felon Michael Milken, has a seat and a vote on ALEC’s corporate board.

Two new bills being considered by what ALEC now dubs its “Education and Workforce Development Task Force” could help poorly performing charters stay open without having to improve.

Under the Assessment Choice Act, instead of using a uniform assessment for students statewide, charters’ authorizers would take their pick from a “menu” of tests, unlike traditional public schools.

If propping up test scores isn’t enough to save a charter from closure, the “Student and Family Fair Notice and Impact Statement Act” promises to add new hurdles. Before closing or restructuring a charter school, this act would not just require that families be notified. It would also create a public hearing process in which parents, teachers, and “experts” could give testimony about the school, and the charter board would be allowed to suggest a response plan.

So, the corporate education reformers who taught standardized testing as the mechanism to rank order children, teachers and schools is now proposing legislation that would allow charter schools to exempt themselves from the use of the Common Core testing scheme.

Meanwhile, Trump’s running mate, one of the most anti-public education, anti-teacher governors in the nation is ALEC’s keynote speaker and was also scheduled to speak at an evening reception on school “reform” hosted by some of the biggest names in the corporate education reform industry.

While Hillary Clinton has unfortunately been a major supporter of the charter school industry and their corporate education reform allies, Trump-Pence are proving, yet again, that they would be a hundred times worse for the students, parents, teachers and public school of the nation.

K12 Inc – The Pride of Wall Street

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Writing in their 2015 Annual Report, K12 Inc. Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Nathaniel Davis said;

Our strategy is simple: optimize student success, support market expansion in collaboration with current and future partners, and pursue targeted revenue growth.

Hyping their status as the leader in the for-profit corporate education reform industry, the company reported added;

The U.S. Market for K-12 education is large and online learning is gaining greater acceptance.

The notion that the country’s public school children are little more than lucrative profit centers for Wall Street investors has been growing since Rupert Murdoch famously called America’s public schools, a $500 billion untapped economic opportunity.

And by way of explaining the pro-charter environment and their ongoing success collecting public money, K12 Inc. explained;

Many parents and educators are seeking alternatives to traditional classroom-based education for a variety of reasons.  Demand for these alternatives is evident in the expanding number of choices available to parents and students.  For example, public charter schools emerged in 1988 to provide an alternative to traditional public schools and, have seen enrollments grow by 225% over the past 10 years….and there are approximately 6,400 public charter schools operating in 42 state and the District of Columbia with an estimated enrollment of over 2.5 million students.

While much of the attention related to education reform has focused on charter schools, the Common Core and the Common Core testing frenzy, Internet based, online virtual charter schools have become a significant part of the corporate education reform industry.

According to the International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL), as of 2013, all 50 states “had established a significant form of online learning initiative, adding that, “1.82 million students participated in a formal online learning program.”

It was with this burgeoning sense of opportunity that a former Goldman Sacks executive and President Ronald Reagan’s former US Secretary of Education formed K12, Inc. in 2000.

With $40 million dollars from Wall Street investors, including $10 million from the infamous junk-bond dealer Michael Milken, Ronald Packard, a former Goldman Sacks executive and William Bennett, a former Secretary of Education, formed K12, Inc. so that they and their investors could profit off the children of the United States.

Other initial Wall Street investors included Andrew Tisch (Loews) and Larry Ellison (Oracle and Knowledge Universe), as well as Milken and his brother.

William Bennett, who by the 2000s had become a right-wing talk show host, served as the chairman of K12 Inc.’s board of directors until he resigned in 2005 following a series of racist comments that he made about African-Americans.

However, despite the controversy surrounding K12 and Bennett’s role in the company, the corporation’s profits have grown exponentially over the years, earning hundreds of millions of dollars for K12’s executives and shareholders.

K12 Inc. began by creating an online “education program” for children in Kindergarten through 2nd grade in Pennsylvania and Colorado.

Today, a decade and a half later, K12 Inc. owns, operates or manages virtual schools in Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, Wyoming and the District of Columbia.  In addition, the company sells online products to schools in all 50 states and around the world.

The company has been so successful that in 2007 it owners decided to take the company public, raising millions in capital as it joined the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE: LRN).

By 2015, the company’s revenue exceeded $948 million, a 5.1 percent increase over the preceding year.   Since its inception, K12 Inc.’s revenue has exceeded $5 billion dollars, almost all of it paid for by American taxpayers.

The policy landscape supporting virtual charter schools has grown substantially over the years K12 Inc. has been in existence.  In just the last eight years, more than 157 bills passed in 39 states and the District of Columbia, all expanding the online school juggernaut.

In many cases, the anti-public school, pro-cyber school legislation was a result of aggressive lobbying and political involvement by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the member of its Digital Learning Subcommittee, a group of education reform entrepreneurs that includes K12 Inc.

Explaining an important aspect of its success, K12 Inc., its board of directors and staff have been especially active when it comes to political donations and lobbing activities at the federal and state level.

Federal Election Commission reports reveal that since its inception, individuals directly connected with K12 Inc. have donated well in excess of $1.5 million dollars to federal candidates and political action committees, helping to ensure that the company and cyber schools, in general, received a place of honor in both the administrations of President George W. Bush and Barak Obama.

The virtual school industry has received consistent and bi-partisan legislative and administrative support.

In fact, the No Child Left Behind Act, the Race to the Top initiative and the recently adopted, Every Student Succeeds Act, all make room for the significant expansion of virtual schools.

In addition to the company’s work at the federal level, the Center for Media and Democracy reports;

Since 2004, K12 Inc. and its employees have pumped almost $1.3 million into state-level politics in 23 states (as of 2012), including contributions to candidates for office, party committees, and ballot initiatives.

On top of K12’s direct involvement in political campaigns, K12 Inc. has also focused on direct lobbying activities, spending more than $120,000 spent on federal lobbyists in the last two years, all while hiring more than 150 lobbyists in 28 states between 2003 and 2012, according to the National Institute on Money in State Politics.

A prime example of K12’s involvement in state politics can be found in the role it played in Georgia’s referendum to amend its state constitution in order to make it easier to open charter schools in that state.  K12 was a major supporter of the effort, donating at least $300,000 in 2012 to “Families for Better Public Schools,” a Georgia political action committee behind a constitutional amendment that would further the charter school industry by bypassing the legislature and state board of education to create a new, politically appointed commission that would have the authority to independently override state and local control and approve new charter schools and online virtual schools.

With additional financial support from the Koch Brother’s  Americans for Prosperity StudentsFirst, the Walton Family Foundation and other major corporate education reform players, the amendment passed with proponents outspending the opposition by about ten-to-one.

In yet another example, the Center For Media and Democracy reports,

In Pennsylvania, where ten percent of its revenue is generated, K12 Inc. has spent $681,000 on lobbying since 2007, according to the New York Times.  It registered 11 lobbyists in the state from 2007 through 2012, according to the National Institute on Money in State Politics.

K12 Inc. has also used ostensibly benign front groups to lobby and organize protests on its behalf. The K12 Inc. funded group Pennsylvania Families for Public Cyber Schools spent $250,000 on lobbying in the last five years, according to the Times.

The paper also reports that K12 Inc. is connected to My School, My Choice, a group that organized protests in Ohio against reforming the state formula for financing charter and online schools. The protesters turned out to be paid temp agency workers. Tim Dirrim, the founder of the organization, is the board president of the K12 Inc. managed Ohio Virtual Academy.

In states across the country and at the national level, political donations, lobbying, public relations and advocacy and extensive marketing campaigns have served as the building blocks of K12’s lucrative online schools.

However, perhaps the most telling points about how K12 Inc. and other online charter school succeed in the present economic and political climate can be found in the narrative that the company lists as “Risk Factors” in their most recent quarterly report to the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC), factors that make it clear that the for-profit education reform industry has become an active part of the advanced capitalist system.

Warning Wall Street and its investors, K12 Inc. outlined the potential barriers to its success, noting;

  • From time to time, proposals are introduced in state legislatures that single out virtual or blended public schools for disparate treatment.
  • We have been, and will likely continue to be, subject to public policy lawsuits filed against virtual and blended schools by those who do not share our belief in the value of this form of public education.
  • Opponents of virtual and blended public schools have sought to challenge the establishment and expansion of such schools through the judicial process. If these interests prevail, it could damage our ability to sustain or grow our current business or expand in certain jurisdictions.
  • Beyond academic performance issues, some virtual school operators have been subject to governmental investigations alleging the misuse of public funded or financial irregularities. These allegations have attracted significant adverse media coverage and have prompted legislative hearings and regulatory responses.
  • As a public company, we are required to file periodic financial and other disclosure reports with the SEC…The disclosure of this information by a for-profit education company, regardless of parent satisfaction and student performance, may nonetheless be used by opponents of virtual and blended public schools to propose funding reductions or restrictions.
  • As a non-traditional form of public education, online public school operators will be subject to scrutiny, perhaps even greater than that applied to traditional brick and mortar public schools or public charter schools.  (A claim that is blatantly false considering there is little to no federal or state oversight of virtual charter schools.)

And finally, in what may be the most telling and honest observation of all, K12 reports;

  • Parent and student satisfaction may decline as not all parents and students are able to devote the substantial time and effort necessary to complete our curriculum.

While these “risk factors” paint a picture of potential problems facing K12 Inc. and other virtual schools, the supposed legitimacy of the virtual school industry has allows them to expand operations and continue to rake in the cash, all at the expense of taxpayers and real public schools.

For-profit K12 Inc. virtual charter school giant claims Common Core testing could hurt its profitability???

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Education Reform Speak is hard enough to understand, but when K12 Inc., the large online virtual school vendor, sought to warn investors about the dangers of the Common Core — a concept proposed and driven by the corporate education reform industry —the resulting explanation was nothing short of bizarre.

Here, K12 Inc. uses it 2015 Annual Report to explain how the Common Core and Common Core testing scheme puts the company’s profits at risk.

A big kudos to any reader who can figure out what K12 means in the following paragraph, which is taken directly from the company’s most recent annual report. Note the wording that the problem apparently lies in that many states are implementing the common core but failing to use the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core SBAC and PARCC testing programs.

FROM K12 INC. 2015 ANNUAL SHARHOLDER REPORT;

The transition to Common Core State Standards and Common Core Assessments could result in a decline in state test scores that might adversely affect our enrollment and financial condition

“Many states have adopted the CCSS, also known as the College and Career Readiness Standards, but are not choosing to use the assessments developed by two national testing consortia that align with the CCSS Curriculum.  Instead, these states are electing to use existing or state-developed assessments to evaluate student performance.  As a result, it has been reported in many states that students learning under the CCSS but continuing to be tested under the existing state proficiency tests have experienced sharp declines in test results.  As managed public schools we serve [to] undertake this transition, and given the growing number of at-rick students enrolling in these schools, perceived academic performance could temporarily or permanently suffer such that these schools may become a less attractive alternative, enrollments could decline, and our financial condition and results of operations could be negatively impact.

K12, inc. 2015 Annual Report, Page 42

#Hashtag# – And education reformers want us to hand our children off to these people?

The on-line scam called K12 Inc.

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While children play in the summer heat, parents in Massachusetts and 31 other states across the country are being bombarded with advertisements for the online “learning” giant, K12 Inc., a for-profit virtual school system that is part of the ongoing movement to divert public funds away from traditional schools and give the taxpayer money to privately owned and operated charter and on-line entities that supporters claim are the future of public education in the United States.

But the truth surrounding these corporate education reform strategies fall far short of their advertising claims, a fact that is especially true when it comes to the growing online or virtual charter school industry.

As California’s Mercury News explained in a major investigative series this past spring,

The TV ads pitch a new kind of school where the power of the Internet allows gifted and struggling students alike to “work at the level that’s just right for them” and thrive with one-on-one attention from teachers connecting through cyberspace. Thousands of California families, supported with hundreds of millions in state education dollars, have bought in.

But the Silicon Valley-influenced endeavor behind the lofty claims is leading a dubious revolution. The growing network of online academies, operated by a Virginia company traded on Wall Street called K12 Inc., is failing key tests used to measure educational success.

Fewer than half of the students who enroll in the online high schools earn diplomas, and almost none of them are qualified to attend the state’s public universities.

In fact, a series of academic studies have revealed that despite collecting hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer money, most virtual schools are utterly failing when it comes to actually educating children.

Reporting on a major study conducted in 2015 by Stanford University, the Washington Post wrote,

Students in the nation’s virtual K-12 charter schools — who take all of their classes via computer from home — learn significantly less on average than students at traditional public schools, a new study has found.

The online charter students lost an average of about 72 days of learning in reading and 180 days of learning in math during the course of a 180-day school year, the study found. In other words, when it comes to math, it’s as if the students did not attend school at all.

In addition to outright corruption, the widespread academic failures plaguing virtual charter schools are leading to numerous state investigations into a significant number of the on-line schools, including some owned and operated by K12 Inc.

For example, earlier this month California Attorney General Kamala Harris announced that the Bureau of Children’s Justice and False Claims Unit of the California Department of Justice had reached a settlement agreement with K12 Inc. and its 14 affiliated California Virtual Academies over the company’s “violations of California’s false claims, false advertising and unfair competition laws.“

Covering the settlement agreement, the Mercury News reported;

Facing a torrent of accusations, a for-profit company that operates taxpayer-funded online charter schools throughout California has reached a $168.5 million settlement with the state over claims it manipulated attendance records and overstated its students’ success.

The deal, announced Friday by Attorney General Kamala Harris, comes almost three months after the Bay Area News Group published an investigation of K12 Inc., a publicly traded Virginia company, which raked in more than $310 million in state funding over the past 12 years operating a profitable but low-performing network of “virtual” schools for about 15,000 students.

[…]

Harris’ office found that K12 and the 14 California Virtual Academies used deceptive advertising to mislead families about students’ academic progress, parents’ satisfaction with the program and their graduates’ eligibility for University of California and California State University admission — issues that were exposed in this news organization’s April report.

The settlement could help spur legislation that would prevent for-profit companies like K12 from operating public schools in California.

The Attorney General’s office also found that K12 and its affiliated schools collected more state funding from the California Department of Education than they were entitled to by submitting inflated student attendance data and that the company leaned on the nonprofit schools to sign unfavorable contracts that put them in a deep financial hole.

“K12 and its schools misled parents and the State of California by claiming taxpayer dollars for questionable student attendance, misstating student success and parent satisfaction and loading nonprofit charities with debt,” Harris said in a statement. “This settlement ensures K12 and its schools are held accountable and make much-needed improvements.”

K12 Inc. and its 14 “non-profit” virtual charter schools enroll about 13,000 students in California.  According to the Attorney General’s investigation, only about one in three students in the K12 Inc. schools actually graduate. The statewide graduation rate for California’s public schools is close to 80 percent.

The California controversy is just one of many surrounding K12 Inc.

Overall, about 315,000 students in the United States attend “virtual” schools and like those in California, the vast majority aren’t getting the quality education that the taxpayers are paying for.

But that doesn’t even slow down the cash flow.

In 2015, K12’s revenue exceeded $948 million, a 5.1 percent increase over the preceding year. Since its inception, K12 has collected over $5 billion dollars for its investors and executives.

K12’s false claims may have cost it money in California, but it continues to make similar claims of success in advertising that is presently running in a number of states.

If there was real truth in advertising, the K12 and other virtual charter schools would be using the tag line,

“America’s Virtual Schools – Ripping off the taxpayers, not even coming close to providing children with an adequate education.”

Check back for more on K12 and the virtual charter school industry.

BREAKING NEWS – Trump goes with anti-public education running mate

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As expected, the most unqualified candidate to be President of the United States has chosen a running mate who is equally unprepared, ill-equipped and incapable of representing the people of the nation.

Not only is Indiana Governor Mike Pence the most anti-choice governor in the country, he is nothing short of a puppet for the charter school industry and its corporate education reform allies.

As Indiana’s governor, Pence has driven an anti-teacher, anti-public education political and legislative agenda that has included dramatically expanding charter schools and diverting scarce public funds to voucher programs that, in turn, have allowed private individuals to use taxpayer money to send their children to religious schools.

As a gubernatorial candidate Pence has used his anti-public education agenda to raise massive amounts of money from wealthy corporate education reform donors both in and out of his state.  Many of the most prominent anti-public school big donors appear on Pence’s fundraising reports.

As the Indianapolis Star and other Indiana based newspapers and blogs have reported, Pence has been collecting hundreds of thousands of dollars from charter school owners and voucher supporters.

Pence’s education donors include;

  • Fred Klipsch, founder and chairman of Hoosiers for Quality Education, “a leading pro-voucher organization. Klipsch boasted in 2012 that he had put together the campaign funding to overcome teacher opposition and push through legislative approval of the Mitch Daniels-Tony Bennett education agenda, including vouchers and charter schools.”
  • John D. Bryan, founder and director of Challenge Foundation, “which operators several charter schools, including the Indianapolis Academy of Excellence. He has given nearly $600,000 to Republican campaigns in Indiana, including $145,000 to Pence’s campaigns for governor.
  • Roger Hertog, of Success Academy infamy.  Hertog, a major right-wing donor has also given pro-charter school governor Andrew Cuomo at least $30,000.
  • Robert L. Luddy,  “who runs a group of private schools and who provided much of the campaign financing for school board candidates who overturned a model school desegregation program in Wake County, N.C., schools.

In July 2012, the education blog, In School Matters led with an article entitled, More on the money behind the Indiana school-voucher law.  Pro-public education blogger Steve Hinnefeld wrote;

Hoosiers for Economic Growth chairman Fred Klipsch explained recently how his organization and several affiliated groups spent $4.4 million to push through the education policies that Indiana adopted in 2011, including a huge voucher program, expansion of charter schools and anti-union measures.

Klipsch spoke in May at a national policy summit in Jersey City, N.J., hosted by the American Federation for Children and the Alliance for School Choice, organizations that promote taxpayer funding of private schools.

You can download a PowerPoint of Klipsch’s presentation from the website of the Hispanic Council for Reform and Educational Options. You can also watch a video of Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett receiving the John T. Walton Champion of School Choice Award at the summit.

Hoosiers for Economic Growth spent almost $1.3 million during Indiana’s 2010 election cycle, most of it targeted to producing a Republican majority in the Indiana House. Organizations like School Choice Indiana and Gov. Mitch Daniels’ Aiming Higher also contributed to the effort, according to Klipsch’s presentation.

The goal was to overcome what Klipsch referred to as “the problem” – the Indiana State Teachers Association, which his presentation calls “the most powerful political force at the Statehouse and at the ballot box” and “the biggest spender by far” in Indiana politics.

The ISTA’s political action committee, the Indiana PAC for Education or I-PACE, spent $792,683 in 2010, according to campaign finance reports.

Hoosiers for Economic Growth gets much of its money from the Indiana PAC of American Federation for Children, a pro-voucher outfit headed by Michigan Republican activist Betsy DeVos. The PAC’s money comes from Philadelphia and New York hedge-fund managers and Wal-Mart heiress Alice Walton.

More about Pence in the coming days

Drive up education degree is an insult to every student, parent, teacher and taxpayer

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In her latest commentary piece, Connecticut education advocate Wendy Lecker explains that latest fade from the corporate education reform industry.  In, A blind acceptance of the robot teacher, Lecker takes on the charter school industry advocates who claim that teachers don’t need all those education and child development courses.  All they need, they say, is a quick, fly-by-night crash course on how to make children sit and succeed at taking standardized tests scores.

Wendy Lecker writes;

Connecticut seems to accept a constricted vision of education for its neediest children that is never imposed on more affluent districts. The most recent example of this disparity is the recent partnership between the New Haven Public Schools and an outfit called Relay Graduate School of Education, to provide alternative certification for would-be teachers.

Relay was founded by representatives of three charter school chains, Achievement First, KIPP and Uncommon Schools — chains with a troubling record of suspensions, harsh discipline and attrition. It was founded to train charter school teachers. Relay employs not one professor of education.

The Relay vision of teaching is narrow. Its primary goal is to train teachers to raise test scores. Consequently, Relay focuses on giving its trainees a prepackaged set of “skills” that focus mainly on classroom management and getting students to do what teachers want. The contrast between Relay’s methods and goals and those of existing Connecticut schools of education is stark.

For example, UConn’s teacher education program strives to “establish a safe and positive learning environment” and “promote democratic participation and community. UConn’s core practice principles focus on helping prospective teachers learn to use their professional judgment, and to help students develop into independent thinkers. UConn’s principles help teachers develop “strategies, activities and approaches that are responsive to cultural, linguistic, ability and other student differences,” “plan learning opportunities that teach content through inquiry” and “use knowledge of students as individuals and members of cultural and social groups to inform instruction.” The aim is to help teachers meet students where they are and develop each student’s capabilities.

Relay employs the principles of one of its “star” faculty, Uncommon Schools’ Doug Lemov. Those principles focus on control and compliance. For instance, Lemov instructs trainees that “(a) sequence that begins with a student unwilling or unable to answer a question ends with that student giving the right answer as often as possible even if they only repeat it.” Even if they only repeat it!

The principles also instruct trainees to “set and defend a high standard of correctness in your classroom” and “control the physical environment to support the specific lesson goal for the day.” Relay’s prescriptive, robotic methods churn out teachers focused on getting students not to think for themselves, but to regurgitate the one “correct” answer.

Relay falsely claims its methods are proven. As University of Washington Professor Kenneth Zeichner has found, there is no peer-reviewed evidence demonstrating the success of Relay Graduate School of Education. In fact, even education reformers have called into question Relay’s methods. Katherine Porter Magee, of the conservative Fordham Institute, criticized one Relay lesson video, noting it “included low-level questions and inadequate wait time, and was generally rushed and superficial.”

Connecticut has several university-based schools of education. Three — Albertus Magnus, Southern Connecticut and Quinnipiac — are in the New Haven area. Yet New Haven partnered with Relay. Why do New Haven’s children, the majority of whom are poor children of color, need teachers trained only to control them, when Connecticut’s schools of education focus on developing children based on their individual needs and strengths?

This partnership must be seen in the larger context of Connecticut’s abandonment of its previous deep commitment to robust teacher training. Connecticut used to be a national model for teacher education. Its BEST program was state-funded and developed by the Connecticut State Department of Education (CSDE) over 15 years, in conjunction with developing the state’s academic standards. CSDE ensured that a robust teacher induction system was designed, implemented, researched and evaluated. The state raised teacher salaries; required, funded and trained experienced teachers as mentors; developed licensing requirements and a staged licensing process; and required ongoing professional development.

Although the successful BEST program was lauded nationwide, Connecticut abandoned BEST, because it was seen as too costly. Apparently, Connecticut’s leaders viewed providing tax subsidies to insurance companies and hedge funds as more worthwhile than investing in Connecticut’s children. Connecticut has also in recent years cut state programs for alternative teacher certification. Thus, the burden and cost of certification increasingly falls to school districts.

At the same time, Connecticut has imposed more mandates on university-based teacher education programs. It is almost as if the state wants to drive existing schools with a proven track record into the ground and replace them with cheap, fly-by-night operations.

Connecticut children deserve teachers who can help them reach their potential, not parrot from canned scripts. They deserve better than teachers trained in five-week Teach for America training programs or quick certification factories such as Relay.

 You can read and comment on Wendy Lecker’s column at : http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Wendy-Lecker-A-blind-acceptance-of-the-robot-8348106.php

 

Can Jennifer come out and play?  How about Jeffrey?

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Jennifer Alexander, the CEO of the Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now (ConnCAN) gets paid a lot of money to be the spokesperson for the Connecticut charter school industry and their corporate education reform allies.

Doing that job earned her $224,000 in salary and benefits in 2014. Her board of corporate elite even gave her a $25,000 bonus that year, all so that she could continue to push their pro-charter school, pro-Common Core, pro-Common Core testing and anti-teacher political agenda.

However, while Jennifer Alexander spends plenty of time inside the Capitol lobbying legislators and working with the Malloy administration, she has refused, to date, to accept an offer to debate the real problems and issues facing Connecticut’s public school children, parents, teachers and schools.

Not that long ago, UConn actually invited me to participate in a panel discussion about the very issues facing Connecticut’s public schools.  Other participants were to include both Jennifer Alexander and Jeffrey Villar, the highly paid executive of the Connecticut Council on Education Reform, another charter school industry front group.

However, within 48 hours of the invitation being sent, UConn suddenly cancelled the panel.  And when it was rescheduled months later, no invitation to me was forthcoming.

Meanwhile, thanks to Governor Dannel Malloy and the Democratic controlled General Assembly, while Connecticut’s public schools are being hit with the deepest cuts in state history, Malloy and his administration are shoveling even more scarce taxpayer dollars to privately owned and operated charter schools that have consistently refused to educate their fair share of children who require special education services or those who need extra help learning the English language.  These charter schools even allow a significant number of uncertified teachers and staff to “educate” the children they claim to serve.

One would think that being paid nearly a quarter of a million dollars a year would give Jennifer Alexander the courage and conviction, or at least the obligation, to actually come out and debate the issues.

But in Malloy’s Connecticut, honesty and transparency are useless terms and those paid to defend his positions choose to remain hidden inside their golden temples.

Thus, I renew my request and offer.

Ms. Alexander, we’re waiting with baited breath.  Come out and debate.

Or perhaps Mr. Villar would be willing to defend the reformers’ indefensible positions.

How about it Jen or Jeffrey?

This is an important election year, why not accept my challenge and debate the issues so that Connecticut’s voters have the information they need to make informed decisions.

The Bevy of Billionaires undermining public education

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The colossal and disastrous effort to privatize public education in the United States is alive and well thanks to a plethora of billionaires who, although they’d never send their own children to a public school, have decided that individually and collectively, they know what is best for the nation’s students, parents, teachers and public schools.

From New York City to Los Angeles and Washington State to Florida, the “billionaire boys club,” as Diane Ravitch, the country’s leading public education advocate, has dubbed them, are spending hundreds of millions of dollars via campaign contributions, Dark Money expenditures and their personal foundations to “fix” what they claim are the problems plaguing the country’s public schools.

These neo-gilded age philanthropists claim that the solution is for parents, teachers and education advocates to step aside so that the billionaires and their groupies can transform public education by creating privately owned and operated – but taxpayer funded – charter schools.

In addition, they pontificate that students learn best when schools are mandated to use the ill-conceived Common Core standards so classrooms become little more than Common Core testing factories and the teaching profession is opened up to those who haven’t been burdened by lengthy college based education programs designed to provide  educators with the comprehensive skill sets necessary to work with and teach the broad range of children who attend the country’s public schools.

The billionaire’s proclaim that the solution to creating successful schools is really rather simple.

They say that public schools run best when they are run like a business…

Cut through their rhetoric and the billionaires want us to believe that by introducing competition and the concept of “profit” they can turnaround any school, no matter the challenges it or its students may face….

Privatization, they argue, will lead to greater efficiencies while opening up the public purse to those who have products that they seek to sell to our children and our public schools.

And, the billionaires would have us believe, that the best teachers are those who get five weeks of training via a high-profile Teach for America program and are then thrown into the classroom where they, like all teachers, should be evaluated based on how well their students do on those unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core standardized tests.

Like the military industrial complex that President Eisenhower warned us about more than 55 years ago, the billionaires, the charter school industry and their corporate education reform allies want us to believe that providing children with the skills and knowledge to succeed and prosper in the 21st Century is nothing more than an opportunity to “wage war” and make money, all at the same time.

And who are these billionaires?

They are the self-professed greatest names in the United States.

The following is a partial and growing list of the super elite who deem to dabble in remaking our public schools.

Or as they would put it, blessed are the wealthy for they shall reform our public schools, with or without our consent.

First Name Last Name Net Worth Relationship with Corporate Education Reform and Charter School Industry (Partial list) How They got their billions
John Arnold $2.5 B Laura and John Arnold Foundation, Democrats for Education Reform, Education Reform Now, EdVoice, New Teacher Project Hedge Fund Owner – Centaurus Advisors LLC
Louis Bacon $1.9 B StudentsFirst, Cuomo Donor, New Yorkers for a Balanced Albany Hedge Fund Owner – Moore Capital Management
Steve Ballmer $23.5 B Stand for Children, Major Dark Money Donor Microsoft CEO
William Berkley $1.1 B Achievement First, Inc. WR Berkley Corporation Founder Chairman CEO – insurance sports and entertainment companies
Michael Bloomberg $40 B Leadership for Educational Equity, Teach for America, Stand for Children, New Leaders for New Schools, California Charter School Advocates, Major Dark Money Donor Co-founder, Bloomberg LP Owner, former Mayor of New York City
Eli Broad $7.3 B The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, EDVoice, California Charter School, Cuomo Donor, Malloy Donor, Major Dark Money Donor Sun Life Insurance Company of America – (Retired)
Steve Cohen $12.7 B Steve and Alexandra Cohn Foundation, Harlem Children’s Zone, Achievement First, NE Charter School Network, Teach for America Hedge Fund Owner – SAC Capital Advisors
Ray Dalio $15.6 B Dalio Foundation, Teach for America, Hedge Fund Owner – Bridgewater Associates Owner Founder – hedge
Elizabeth DeVos $4.7 B DeVos Family Foundation, Alliance for School Choice, American Federation for Children, Stand for Children, All Children Matter, Children’s Scholarship Fund, Major Dark Money Donor Amway Owner Co-Founder – Orlando Magic NBA Team Owner
John Doerr $4.1 B New Schools Venture Fund, EdVoice, Venture Capitalist – Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byera
Stanley Druckenmiller $4.4 B Children’s Scholarship Fund, Hedge Fund Owner – Duquesne Capital – Retired
David Einhorn $1.4 B Democrats for Education Reform, Hedge Fund Owner – Greenlight Capital
Doris Fisher $2.6 B Doris & Donald Fisher Fund, KIPP Foundation, Ed Voice, Gap Inc. Co-Founder
John Fisher $2.2 B Doris & Donald Fisher Fund, KIPP Foundation, Charter School Growth Fund, Silicon Valley Growth Fund, Ed Voice, Gap Inc. Heir Owner – Oakland Athletics Owner
Bill Gates $75 B Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Microsoft Chairman
Reed Hastings $1.2 B KIPP Foundation, Ed Voice, California Charter School Association, Major Funder Netflix Co-Founder Facebook Board Member
H Wayne Huizenga $2.6 B National Heritage Academies, Inc. (NHA) for-profit charter school management organization, Stand for Children Investor, Waste Management- Blockbuster Video – AutoNation – Swisher Hygiene
Ray Lee Hunt $5.3 B Texans for Education Reform, Hunt Oil Co-Owner Heir – son of founder H L Hunt – oil
Carl Icahn $17 B Icahn Charter Schools, StudentsFirst, New Yorkers for a Balanced Albany Icahn Enterprises Owner
Charles Johnson $4.6 B Charles and Ann Johnson Foundation, Alliance for School Choice, American Education Reform Council Chairman, Franklin Resources – Owner of San Francisco Giants
Paul Tudor Jones III 4.7 B Families for Excellent Schools, StudentsFirst, New Yorkers for a Balanced Albany, Cuomo Donor Hedge Fund Owner – Tudor Investment Corporation
Bruce Karsh $1.9 B KIPP Foundation, Teach for America Hedge Fund Owner – Oaktree Capital Management
Seth Klarman $1.3 B Families of Excellent Schools, New Yorkers for a Balanced Albany Hedge Fund Owner – Baupost Group Investments
Charles Koch $39.6 B American for Prosperity, American Encore,  Major Dark Money Donor Koch Industries
David Koch $39.6 B American for Prosperity, American Encore, ,  Major Dark Money Donor Koch Industries
Bruce Kovner $5.3 B Thomas T Fordham Institute (former), Bronx Preparatory Charter School, Hedge Fund Owner – Caxton Associates
Kenneth Langone $2.7 B Families for Excellent Schools, StudentsFirst, Harlem Children’s Zone, Republicans for Cuomo Home Depot Co-Founder
Daniel Loeb $2.6 B Success Academy, Families for Excellent Schools, StudentsFirst, Cuomo Donor, New Yorkers for a Balanced Albany Hedge Fund Owner – Third Point LLC
Stephen Mandel Jr $2.5 B Teach for America, Excel Bridgeport, Hedge Fund Owner – Lone Pine Capital
Robert McNair $3.3 B Texans for Education Reform, Chairman, McNair Group
Rupert Murdoch $10.6 B Amplify News Corporation Founder Chairman, CEO
Laurene Powell Jobs $16.7 B NewSchools Venture Fund, Teach for America, Apple-Pixar Owner
Thomas (Margot) Pritzker $2.7 B University of Chicago Charter School, Pritzker Organization Chairman CEO – Hyatt Hotels Corp Executive Chairman
Penny Pritzker $2.3 B Noble Charter Schools, Hyatt Hotels Heir –
Larry Robbins $2 B KIPP New York, Relay Graduate School of Education, Teach for America New York, Harlem Village Academies, Harlem Children’s Zone Hedge Fund Owner -Glenview Capital Management
Julian Robertson Jr $3.6 B Robertson Foundation, Pave Charter Schools, Families for Excellent Schools, iMentor, Teach for America, New Yorkers for a Balanced Albany Hedge Fund Owner – Tiger Management Corporation
Stacy Schusterman $3.4 B Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, Charter School Growth Fund, Ed Voice, Stand for Children, Teach for America Samson Investment Company (oil & gas)
Charles Schwab $5.4 B Charles and Helen Schwab Foundation, Teach for America, Aspire, KIPP Foundation, Charles Schwab Corp Founder
Paul Singer $2.2 B Paul Singer Family Foundation, New Yorkers for a Balanced Albany Elliott Management Corporation Founder Owner – distressed debt acquisitions
Christy Walton $5.2 B Walton Foundation, Major Dark Money Donor Wal-Mart Co-Owner Heir-Widow of John-who was son Of Founder Sam Walton
Jim Walton $33.6 B Walton Foundation, Major Dark Money Donor Wal-Mart Co-Owner Heir – Youngest Son Of Founder Sam Walton
Alice Walton $32.3 B Walton Foundation, Major Dark Money Donor Wal-Mart Co-Owner Heir – Daughter of Founder Sam Walton
Carrie Walton Penner (S Robson) Walton $31.9 B Walton Foundation, Major Dark Money Donor Wal-Mart Co-Owner Heir – Son Of Founder Sam Walton
Sam Zell $4.8 B Zell Family Foundation, Teach for America Equity Group Investments Chairman -real estate – private equity
Mark Zuckerberg $44.6 B Zuckerberg Foundation, Newark Project Facebook Chairman CEO

 

 

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