I was puzzled to read the NYTimes headline “In Rent Plan for Charters, Mayor Faces a Hard Road” and even more mystified when I read the article that followed. My experience in setting rates for rentals is that there is a very easy line to be drawn: for profit organizations pay a premium rate based on the market rental for comparable space. So, if a motel has a 900 square foot function room that rents for “X” dollars per hour a 900 square foot classroom would rent for the same rate. Where DeBlasio seems to be getting bogged down is in setting a sliding scale. This is one area where he could take a page from the private sector: I doubt that a hotel cares what a renter’s balance sheet looks like. Why should a school district? My advice, based on 29 years of experience: set two rates: a market-based rate for for-profit organizations and a lower rate for non-profit organizations that serve children who attend school.
Progressive blogger David Sirota posted today on the deBlasio versus Cuomo dueling rallies, headlining his post as follows: “Charter School Leader Pushes Kids to Become Her Personal Lobbyists”. In the article he describes how Eva Moskowitz, the $499,000/year leader of Success Academy charter schools cancelled school earlier this week to have busloads of students from her school attend a rally in Albany. This brought to mind the suit I brought against the NYS commissioner of education who had what the staff attorney, a majority of my school board members, and I believed to be an overly narrow view of a state law that precluded me to hold community forums explaining the operating budgets to parents at “coffees” held in their homes. Without detailing the legal technicalities, the case was brought to overturn a ruling the commissioner made whereby he determined that information meetings were, by their very nature, advocating FOR school budgets and superintendents, administrators, and board members could not ADVOCATE, they could only EXPLAIN. Fortunately, the judge who heard the case did not endorse this logic— which meant that this practice could continue in our district and in districts across the state. That experience compelled me to leave this comment:
I can assure you from personal experience that NYS public school superintendents are explicitly forbidden from advocating for budgets in their own districts…. I cannot imagine an elected school board supporting a NYS school superintendent or school principal who cancelled school for the day to attend a political rally, AND secured school buses to transport children to the Capitol to attend a political rally, AND took out a full page ad in the NYTimes to advocate for spending…. oh, that’s right, charter schools don’t operate under the rules of democracy… they operate under the rules governing private enterprise.
I have no reason to believe the law precluding administrators and boards from advocacy has been repealed… but then public schools are obligated to follow one set of rules, rules that don’t apply to charter schools…
More evidence that Cuomo’s using faulty data in his defense of charter schools in NYC. NY voters, alas, have no choice at the State level: both parties embrace privatization.
Originally posted on Diane Ravitch's blog:
Just the other day, we saw two competing visions for public education clash in Albany. Mayor Bill de
Blasio spoke at a rally in support of a real plan for universal pre-K for children. Governor Andrew Cuomo
spoke at a rally in support of the continued expansion and extra funding of charter schools.
The evidence supports only one of these visions. The evidence shows that the charter sector does not do
a better job than public schools, even narrowing our frame of reference to test scores. On the other hand,
the evidence is clear that universal pre-K is the most effective educational policy lever in helping to close
the achievement gap.
Let’s take a look at Governor Cuomo’s remarks to see how well he met the 11th-12th
grade Speaking and Listening Common Core Standards, of which he is so fond.
How well did he perform on “presentation of knowledge and ideas?”
Cuomo’s claim: “this is the most important civics lesson you will learn, because this is democracy and
this is how you make your voice heard. And we are here today to tell you that we stand with you. You are
not alone; we will save charter schools.”
The facts: The rally for charter schools was not a function of democracy. Charter schools cancelled
school for the day and bussed parents and students to Albany. Public school children remained in school.
Democracy would have required that both charter AND public schools be cancelled for the day and that
busses be provided for both charter AND public school students and parents. Only then would we know if
more parents and children support or oppose the continued expansion of charter school. Only then would
the voice of the people have been heard. But New York City Department of Education Regulation D-130
prohibits such blatant political activity “if such visit may disrupt the educational school environment.”
Charter schools do not, of course, follow such rules, even though they receive public money. If this
were not enough anti-democratic behavior the Daily News reported that “sources with knowledge of the
Cuomo’s claim: “education is not about the districts and not about the pensions and not about the unions
and not about the lobbyists and not about the PR firms – education is about the students, and the students
The facts: It is Cuomo who is influenced by lobbyists at the expense of the true interests of students.
Recent investigative reporting uncovered that “Cuomo’s reelection bid has so far received nearly
$400,000 from a cadre of wealthy supporters of Eva Moskowitz’s Success Academy Charter School
network, according to an updated tally of newly-released campaign filings. Some money has even come
from Moskowitz’s political action committee, Great Public Schools, which has given $65,000 to Cuomo
since 2011… By one tally of the 2014 filings, Cuomo racked up at least $800,000 in donations from
27 bankers, real estate executives, business executives, philanthropists and advocacy groups who have
flocked to charter schools and other education causes in recent years.”
Cuomo’s claims: “We know that too many public schools are failing. Over 200 failing schools – 6%
grade level for reading, 5% grade level for math.
The facts: We know no such thing. We do know that the Board of Regents changes cut scores at
will to make it appear that students and schools are failing. For example from 2011 until 2013 out of
286 possible point combinations on the English Language Arts Regents exam an average of 74 point
combinations resulted in a passing grade. Then, in June of 2013, the number of point combinations
leading to a passing grade was dramatically lowered by 23%. Since then an average of 63 point
combinations out of 286 leads to a passing grade. We also know that New York State’s identification of
failing (a.k.a. “Priority”) schools is statistical nonsense. One researcher found that “Priority” schools have
150% more free lunch students, 300% more Black students, 175% more Hispanic students, and 200%
more English Language Learners than schools in “Good Standing.” We don’t have very many failing
schools. We do have many students who need and deserve more support. Which brings us to Cuomo’s
Cuomo’s claim: “The education industry has said the same thing for decades: more money, and more
money, and more money, and it will change. We spend more money per pupil than any state in the nation;
we’re number 32 in results. It’s not just about putting more money in the public school system, it’s trying
something new and that’s what charter schools are all about.”
The facts: The irony here is that charter schools in New York City, especially those that belong to the
charter chains that showed up to protest, spend much more per student than public schools. One analysis
has shown that, compared to similar public schools, Success Academy spends $2,072 more per student
and KIPP spends a whopping $5,359 more per student. New York State’s own data show that the “Good
Standing” schools receive 75% more foundation aid per student than the “Priority” schools. Cuomo’s
numbers just don’t add up.
Cuomo’s claim: “Now not every charter school has been great, but overall they have been a great success
– like Success Academy in the South Bronx. The third best results in the state; give yourselves a round
of applause. That’s why 50,000 parents are on the waiting list, and our point today is parents deserve a
The facts: Success Academy has become a lightning rod in this debate. So let’s review the numbers
on their Harlem schools, the only schools in the Success Academy network that have been around for
more than a couple of years. Last year’s 7th grade class at Harlem Success Academy 1 had a 52.1%
attrition rate since 2006-07. Last year’s 6th grade class had a 45.2% attrition rate since 2006-07. The
data show that this attrition is selective. For example, the attrition rate of special education students and
English Language Learners is over 60% in some cohorts in the space of just 3 years. All test outcomes
are meaningless when a school gets rid of so many kids. The Harlem Success Academies had an average
17.5% suspension rate as compared to an overall 8% in Harlem public schools. This is another way to
encourage challenging students to leave.
Harlem Success Academies have 50% fewer English Language Learners, 40% fewer special education
students overall, 1,400% fewer of the highest need special education students (and no this is not a typo),
15% fewer free lunch students, and an economic need index (a measure of students in temporary housing
and/or who receive public assistance) that is 35% lower than nearby public schools.
Even so barely more than half of their students were “proficient” on the last English exam and their
growth scores lagged peer schools by over 10 percentage points. They scored in the 39th percentile on
English exam growth for their overall student population and in the 21st percentile on English exam
growth for the students who began with scores in the lowest 1/3 of students citywide. The media likes to
tout Success Academy’s Math exam scores which were a bit better (and are easier to test prep for than the
writing required on English exams). But again, when you kick out students who get low test scores it is
not surprising that test scores go up.
Cuomo’s claim: “I am committed to ensuring charter schools have the financial capacity, the physical
space, and the government support to thrive and to grow.”
The facts: de Blasio has already stated that he will charge only those charter schools who can afford it
rent fees when they use public space. Success Academy for example had “at least $30.9 million in total,
examples from the Success Academy network, are given physical space in public buildings.
“P.S. 123 had already struggled during its first co-location, with Success Academy Harlem 2 (SAH2),
that began in 2008. Three years later, Success Academy Harlem 5 (SAH5) entered the building, taking
SAH2’s place (which had to move to another location because of, ironically, lack of space), located on
the third floor. Because of this co-location, P.S. 123 has lost three rooms and several programs, and is
slated to lose three additional classrooms in September of 2012.One of the key losses was a GED program
that catered to adults 19 years old or older, which provided the school with the opportunity to educate
both children and adult community members in the same facility. The school also lost the use of their
computer room and had the library divided into cubicles, which limits student’s library time. The school
lost its SAVE room (see footnote #41), which are required by state law, and for P.S. 123 means disruptive
students simply remain in the class. In addition, students do not have enough time to take their state
exams. Students in the lower grades will have to either go outside or sit in the auditorium while the older
students are taking their exams. Due to the limited space, only certain classes at P.S. 123 are permitted
to use the gym. As a result, the school does not have a structured physical education program. There
is not enough room for the students to have an art program. The school is unable to achieve the 12:1:1
classroom ratio for students who have an Individualized Education Program. Speech and occupational
therapy are conducted in cubicles instead separate rooms. Additionally, students in Kindergarten through
Second grade have lunch at 10:30 a.m. SAH5 has air conditioning in all their, classrooms but few of the
air conditioners in P.S. 123 work properly.”
“Despite the fact that SAH4 has not yet reached full capacity, observers found significant inequities
in space between the school and STEM during a walk-through of the two schools… STEM [Science
Technology Engineering and Math Institute, a public school] has one science lab compared to SAH4’s
three rooms. STEM has no art room —only an art cart (Figure 1]. On the other hand, SAH4’s art room is
state-of-the-art [Figure 2]… STEM has a shared one-quarter of a classroom that had previously been for
janitorial use. It has been revamped for the use of both speech and ELL services. At times, these classes
are conducted at the same time, making it difficult for students to focus. SAH4 has its own dedicated
speech room, which is used fewer than five hours a week…STEM has a one-quarter classroom that
serves 20 self-contained special-education students, despite the fact that the classroom has capacity for
only ten students [see Figure 3]. Occupational and physical therapy for STEM students is provided in the
library or hallway. SAH4 has its own Dance Room [see Figure 4]… At one point, STEM’s Kindergarten
a janitorial toilet. Since STEM students are not permitted to use the SAH4 bathrooms and are prohibited
from SAH4’s assigned floors, STEM students were required to walk from the basement to the second
floor, and then back down a different set of stairs to the first floor STEM bathroom, so as to not cross
through SAH4 space.”
“SAH2 has four science labs. P.S. 30 has one science lab. Their state-of-the-art science lab, renovated
in 1990s after a grant from Mayor David Dinkins, was lost to SAH2. In only half of a classroom, P.S. 30
has seven service providers who furnish occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech therapy, hearing
services, and tutoring [Figure 7]. SAH2 has a speech room, two psychology rooms, an occupational
therapy room, seven administrative offices, and a generic conference room. In addition, SAH2 has its own
karate room, chess room and block room [Figures 8 through 11].”
“Specifically, with the HSA [Harlem Success Academy] expansion, the students at P.S./M.S. 149 have
lost: A fully equipped music room, instruments and a program; A state-mandated SAVE room where
students who are disrupting their classrooms have a chance to work on their studies without disrupting
other students; A computer lab, capable of servicing an entire class at a time; Individual rooms for
occupational and physical therapy (a speech teacher is servicing students in the library); and The English
Language Learners (ELL) classroom (student are sometimes are serviced in the library or non-teaching
spaces). Additionally, hallways in the school are extremely overcrowded, and the middle school students
are prohibited from using the stairwell that exists directly across from their classrooms — which is very
problematic during fire drills, and is a safety hazard.”
“Already co-located with Fredrick Douglass Academy II, in the summer of 2012 Wadleigh was preparing
to be joined by a Success Academy Harlem West (SAHW) charter school in the fall. During the
negotiations for the co-location, Wadleigh was promised 29 classrooms, but received only 20. The school
lost rooms for small group tutoring and administration, and guidance counselors have been forced to
hold confidential conversations with students behind partitions. Upgrades for the incoming SAHW —
including painting doors and walls —began while Wadleigh students were attempting to prepare for their
Regents exam, and administrators were given a short deadline for packing up materials in rooms that were
to be taken over by the SAHW in the fall, despite the fact that school was in session and would be so for
The evidence is clear. Cuomo has misrepresented the evidence and the facts. He receives a grade of well- below proficient on the following Common Core Standards: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.11-12.1a (“Come to discussions prepared, having read and researched material under study; explicitly draw on that preparation
by referring to evidence from texts and other research on the topic or issue to stimulate a thoughtful,
well-reasoned exchange of ideas. CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.11-12.1c. Propel conversations by posing and
responding to questions that probe reasoning and evidence; ensure a hearing for a full range of positions
on a topic or issue; clarify, verify, or challenge ideas and conclusions; and promote divergent and creative
perspectives. CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.11-12.1d Respond thoughtfully to diverse perspectives; synthesize
comments, claims, and evidence made on all sides of an issue; resolve contradictions when possible; and
determine what additional information or research is required to deepen the investigation or complete
the task. CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.11-12.4 Present information, findings, and supporting evidence,
conveying a clear and distinct perspective, such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning, alternative
or opposing perspectives are addressed, and the organization, development, substance, and style are
appropriate to purpose, audience, and a range of formal and informal tasks.
It is time for Governor Cuomo to go back to school.
” The 4 Most Profound Ways Privatization Perverts Education”, Paul Buchheit’s recent post in Alternet, covers much of the ground described in earlier posts on this blog but does so in a condensed and forceful fashion. Some points that I keep waiting for other bloggers to make:
- The public is unaware of this movement: Diane Ravitch’s writings and articles about her “conspiracy theory” regarding the business takeover of public education have made some inroads among those who follow the politics of schools, but the general public seems to care only about lowering their tax bills.
- Public school supporters argue on moral grounds, privatizers argue on fiscal grounds… and the public wants to pay as little as possible. Here’s a question that has a bad answer: If privatized charter schools achieve similar results to public schools on standardized tests for a lower cost per student, doesn’t that mean charter schools are more productive? If I see a car that performs as well as my Corolla but has lower monthly costs and costs less to operate, why would I keep my Corolla? Similarly, taxpayers who have no children in school (the great majority) and who believe that “poverty is an excuse” for poor performance (probably a sizable minority if not a majority), why would they support a moral argument that requires them to pay more for “government funded” public schools in the name of equity when”business operated” schools can get the same result for lower costs? Not many Americans are willing to pay more money in the short run so that democracy can thrive in the long run.
- Evidence doesn’t matter, memes do: Buchheit, like all bloggers and progressives who believe in fair play and equity, have reams of studies demonstrating that privatized charters do not perform any better than “government funded” public schools, and lots of anecdotal evidence showing that privatized schools are mismanaged and engage in questionable business and ethical practices, and lots of persuasive evidence that privatization is diminishing the opportunities for students raised in poverty or students with special needs to succeed in school…. but… evidence doesn’t matter to those who have faith in the private sector and suspicion of government. As noted frequently in this blog, the meme that “government is the problem” has stuck in the minds of most Americans and, as a result, neither political party is willing to describe the kinds of problems only government can solve and both parties advocate privatization of public services as the way forward.
Buchheit, Ravitch, Moyers, Reich, Hedges, all of them are on the same page in terms of privatization: they see that it relies on the distrust of government and rigs the system so that it favors the .5% over the rest of us. Sometimes, though, I have the sense that those of us diligently reading their posts and blogging about the failures of privatization are whistling in the wind… that maybe the system is beyond repair at this point. Chris Hedges seems to be at that point… while other bloggers and idealists, including myself, WANT to believe that the public will wake up to the way the system is currently rigged and want to fix it before it gets worse. Here’s hoping we’re right!
Yesterday’s Naked Capitalism cross-posted an article written by Pruning Shears blogger Dan Fejes describing Teach for America (TFA)’s link to the privatization movement. In the opening of the article he provides a brief description of TFA’s genesis:
(TFA) was a component of the Americorps program created during the Clinton administration, and plugged willing but un- or under-qualified young people into vacant positions in low income schools for two years. Identify schools that need teachers and have energetic, idealistic recent college grads work to make a difference. Sounds great.
Readers of progressive blogs know how it’s turned out: TFA is seemingly joined at the hip with the privatization movement’s leaders and serves as a low wage labor pipeline to staff newly opened privatized charter schools. Fejes’ post concludes with a good synopsis of how the privatization machinery works— and how TFA could avoid feeding the beast:
The model works like this: Mandate standardized testing, use TFA recruits to teach to the test, use the test results to “prove” the effectiveness of TFA, use the TFA pipeline to close schools and fire teachers, and replace both with charters staffed by lower paid, non-union TFA employees. (And please note that charters go tits up with all the orderliness and accountability of Freedom Industries.)
TFA could resist this trend if it wanted. It could refuse to send recruits to districts that have had (or are considering) substantial layoffs. It could offer to send recruits to public schools as assistants instead of replacements, which would be a huge benefit to schools. TFA chooses not to, though, and that speaks volumes. By all accounts it is content with the status quo (content enough not to buck it, anyway). In the absence of a clear and forceful refusal to cooperate, the only reasonable conclusion is that TFA is happy to collaborate with those who view schools as “ecosystems of investment opportunity.”
Because I want to assume the noblest of intentions in leaders, I believe that Wendy Kopp (TFAs founder) was and is sincerely interested in providing teachers for classrooms that serve children raised in poverty and knew that in order to do so she needed capital…. and the only people with capital were “…those who view schools as “ecosystems of investment opportunity”.
Assuming Ms. Kopp had noble intentions, here’s another scenario that could have provided TFA with the capital it needed: the federal government could have provided grant money.
“Wait!” I hear you saying, “The federal government doesn’t have grant money to hire teachers!”
Here’s my response to that: IF the federal government was truly interested in helping schools who serve children raised in poverty, instead of spending millions on Race to the Top grants, they could have poured money into states with the requirement that they use the money to hire additional teachers for school districts that serve children in poverty and TFA could have staffed those schools and allied themselves with existing teachers’ colleges and/or teachers unions to provide the training. Under this scenario State Departments of Education, State teachers colleges, and local school districts could have all shared in the benefits of the grant money. Of course private corporations who give tests, provide data, and use non-union staff would have suffered… and campaign contributors who believe in market based solutions to every problem would be dismayed… but students attending schools with high concentrations of poverty would have more support and fewer teacher layoffs would have occurred.
As Fejes indicated in his first paragraph, TFA’s basic premise “sounds great”. Too bad the only source of money for the idea that sounded great was the 1%… and too bad that our government decided privatization was the way forward for PUBLIC schools.