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Primavera On-Line Program in Arizona Exemplifies Worst Elements of Deregulated Capitalism

August 29, 2018 Comments off

As I read these opening sentences from an AZCentral article by Craig Harris I wondered how ANY politician in Arizona could possibly support the idea of deregulated privatization of public schools:

By most academic measures, Primavera online charter school is a failure.

Its student-to-teacher ratio is 215-to-1 — 12 times the state average — allowing little or no individualized attention.

On recently released state standardized tests, less than a quarter of its students passed math and about a third passed English, both below the state average.

And 49 percent of Primavera students end up dropping out, 10 times the state average.

But by another measure, Primavera is an unmitigated success: making money.

Beginning in 2012, the school began shifting large shares of its annual $30-plus million allotment of state funding away from instruction and into stocks, bonds, mortgage-backed securities and real estate.

That year, 70 percent, or $22.4 million, of its state funding went into its growing investment portfolio — instead of efforts to raise test scores, reduce class sizes, or address an exploding dropout rate that is now the state’s third-highest.

Mr. Harris provides charts documenting this reality and then lands what I would hope would be a knockout punch:

Damian Creamer, the school’s 48-year-old founder and chief executive, later got an $8.8 million “shareholder distribution” from the for-profit company that now runs Primavera, according to an audit filed with the Arizona State Board for Charter Schools.

With the payout, Creamer’s compensation was 39 times the salary of the superintendent of Mesa Public Schools, the state’s largest public district. Primavera’s student body of 20,210 is less than one-third the size of Mesa’s.

It also would have made Creamer the ninth-highest-paid CEO among Arizona’s publicly held companies in 2017.

When I got to this point, I wondered how on earth ANY politician could support this blatant transfer of public funds into the pocket of a profiteering con-man. Then I read this:

Gov. Doug Ducey, who signed a bill this year removing a requirement that charters post their budgets on their websites, deflected when asked about Creamer’s pay. The focus, he said, should be on whether charter schools serve families and meet or exceed educational standards.

“I’m not concerned about the CEO,”said Ducey, a former Cold Stone Creamery CEO who received $8,000 in campaign contributions from Creamer and his wife. “That is of very little interest. I’m concerned about the child and the parent and what the child is equipped to do after 12 years of education.” 

SO, Governor, if you are so concerned about what the child is equipped to do after 12 years of education why aren’t you taking immediate action to close this travesty of school where “…less than a quarter of its students passed math and about a third passed English, both below the state average” and “49 percent of (the) students end up dropping out, 10 times the state average.” And for the life of me I cannot understand how the Governor could support a bill that allows charter schools to withhold information about how their money is spent— money that taxpayers raise to make sure that their children are well equipped after 12 years of schooling.

I found the next two paragraphs of Mr. Harris’ well researched article especially troubling and perplexing:

Curt Cardine, a former charter school executive who has become a watchdog with Phoenix-based Grand Canyon Institute, said he believes Primavera’s transactions are allowed under Arizona’s charter school laws. But, he added, they’re “not ethical.” 

“I think the public would think it’s wrong,” he said. “The whole philosophy behind this is that greed is good.” 

This is troubling because I think Mr. Cardine is correct: the pilfering of taxpayers funds by the likes of Primavera’s CEO IS legal… and perplexing because I fear that voters will not punish the legislators who passed this law that at its roots is unethical.

Arizona is about to have an election for Governor and for most of it’s State legislators. I hope that this bill passed in the last session is a political issue and I hope that both candidates support its repeal…. but after reading this article I am not optimistic. I encourage you to read it in its entirety… but to have antacids near at hand when you do so. It’s hard to believe voters are not up at arms over this.

The Roots of the Philanthropists Drive to Privatize Public School

August 29, 2018 Comments off

Diane Ravitch wrote a post yesterday titled Why Philanthropy is Bad for Democracy: An Interview with Anand Giridharadas. After reading this interview a few days ago in the Daily Intelligencer I read a New Yorker article by Elizabeth Kolbert titled Gospels of Giving for the New Gilded Age and began writing a three part post that will appear this weekend.

In reading Diane Ravitch’s post and the comments that accompanied it I was reminded of the roots of the anti-government movement that resulted in the privatization of public services that is underway today. As noted in earlier posts, the Powell Memorandum written in 1973 provided the impetus for businesses to engage in the affairs of government, an engagement that resulted in Ronald Reagan persuading voters that “Government is the problem” which, in turn unleashed deregulated capitalism on the world. In response to this anti-government and pro-business tilt, Bill Clinton and Al Gore promoted the idea that government needed to be “Reinvented” by introducing market theories into the operation of government at all levels.

Unfortunately, at tis juncture, the idea that government can actually HELP people is so noxious that the GOP uses the label “government schools” to run down public education, and no one in the Democratic party is running on a platform that “Government is Good”. MAYBE the Democratic Party will look at its name and at the very least run on a platform that DEMOCRACY is good and persuade the public that DEMOCRACY is being stolen from them by privatization and profiteering.

For the Umpteenth Time a Study Proves That Family Income Determines Academic Success

August 28, 2018 Comments off

For the umpteenth time a team of researchers examined academic performance and came to the completely predictable and unsurprising conclusion that family income matters more than anything when it comes to succeeding in school. WBUR’s Robin Young, in an interview with  Robert Pianta, dean of the Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia and one of the authors of a recent study conducted by the university. The conclusion of the study appeared in the sidebar:

“It was the family factors that carried the day in determining the children’s performance in high school. It wasn’t the school that they went to.”

So in the end, the issue of attending a private or a public school doesn’t matter according to researchers. But, as noted in a post earlier this morning, that will not matter to the GOP faithful, for they believe that in the open marketplace where vouchers are issued parents will be free to choose their schools and EVERYONE will benefit. For the “reformers” who ultimately share the GOP’s faith in market forces, this won’t matter either.

As noted in several posts, this finding that family income matters most when predicting academic success is decades old. When Pennsylvania first administered a statewide assessment in the early 1970s they reached the same conclusion. We ignored the implications of the finding then, and 40+ years later I am confident it will be ignored again.