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CHINA Cracks Down of For-Profit Schools… the US, Meanwhile, Looks the Other Way

November 20, 2018 Leave a comment

This morning I read three posts from Diane Ravitch describing scams involving deregulated for profit schools in Nevada, Indiana, and Utah. The articles described the way corporate profiteers are scamming parents and taxpayers by taking over so-called “failing public schools”, in all cases abetted by legislation that opened the doors for deregulated schools in their respective states.

Imagine my surprise when I opened our local newspaper and found a Bloomberg article by Sophia Horta e Costa and Jenny Yu titled “China Cracks Down on For Profit Grade Schools” buried on page A9. Here’s the article in it’s entirety:

Education firms are in the Chinese government’s crosshairs, roiling stocks and reminding investors how quickly their fortunes can change in a country rife with regulatory risk.

RYB Education Inc. and Bright Scholar Education Holdings Ltd. both plunged by records in U.S. trading, while Vtron Group Co. and China Maple Leaf Educational Systems Ltd. sank in Shenzhen and Hong Kong after the government unveiled new rules that prohibit companies from financing for-profit kindergartens via the equity market.

While policy makers say the new rules will help protect consumers, they’ve taken many investors by surprise. That’s adding to jitters in a $5.8 trillion stock market already grappling with a trade war and the weakest economic expansion since 2009.

“The education sector had massive growth potential and was once red-hot among equity investors,” said Steven Leung, executive director at Uob Kay Hian (Hong Kong) Ltd. “It’s a pity that the government is stepping up regulation. What’s more annoying for a lot of sectors which rely heavily on the government is that you can’t expect a timeline, and many sudden changes in policies are a surprise.”

Chinese parents spend an average of $42,892 on their children’s education, almost double that of counterparts in countries like Canada and Britain, according to a report last year from HSBC Holdings Pic. The potential for growth helped propel shares of schooling firms to record highs as recently as June, with recently-listed China New Higher Education Group Ltd. and China Education Group Holdings Ltd. more than doubling in value within six months. Both dropped at least 4.5 percent in Hong Kong on Friday.

In new guidelines for the industry published late on Thursday, China’s government said it wants to build more public kindergartens.

I am not suggesting that we create a regulatory environment like China’s that can “take  many investors by surprise” I AM strongly recommending that our regulators protect consumers and taxpayers by creating a regulatory environment that requires all schools— profit and non-profit— to operate under the same guidelines. When shareholders are rewarded more than parents and children we can see what happens. China saw what was happening and stopped it. MAYBE our country will do the same.

 

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Surprise! Arizona Parents Abuse Deregulated Vouchers, Understaffed DOE Unable to Monitor Abuse

November 3, 2018 Comments off

Diane Ravitch wrote a post describing a completely predictable outcome: Arizona parents abused debit cards issued by the state to pay for their vouchers… and here’s what is even worse news: there is a proposition on the ballot that would expand this program without expanding the state staff needed to monitor it. What could go wrong?

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Betsy DeVos Visits the Koch Brothers… and No One Knew Until Later

October 11, 2018 Comments off

Suzanne Perez Tobias, the Wichita Eagle’s education reporter, wrote a “just-the-facts” article earlier this week describing Betsy DeVos’ recent visit to that city. And who was she visiting? Why the privatization movement’s major underwriters: the Koch Brothers!

The nation’s top education official was at Koch Industries in Wichita on Monday, Oct. 1, in a visit that was not announced to local school district leaders or media.

U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos met with “a small group” of teachers, students and representatives of Youth Entrepreneurs, a Wichita-based non-profit group founded by Charles and Liz Koch, said an official with the organization.

“Our Youth Entrepreneurs team was asked to host Secretary DeVos and explain the impact on more than 30,000 alumni since the start of our program,” said Lois Hairston, communications manager for Youth Entrepreneurs in an e-mailed statement.

Hairston did not say how many people attended the meeting or whether DeVos visited any local schools or other sites.

“We do not know the details of the Secretary’s visit,” she said in an e-mail.

Neither Youth Entrepreneurs nor the U.S. Department of Education issued a news release about the event.

The secretary’s online schedule noted “no public events” on Monday or Tuesday.

Wendy Johnson, spokeswoman for Wichita public schools, said neither Superintendent Alicia Thompson nor other district officials were told about DeVos’s visit. Officials with public school districts in Maize, Derby, Goddard, Andover and Valley Center also said they didn’t know the secretary was in town.

And why was the visit kept under wraps?

After a reporter contacted Kliewer (who advises the Youth Entrepreneurs chapter at Campus High) seeking information about DeVos’s visit, “He got a call from somebody with the Kochs, and they said, ‘We would prefer not to have any media coverage,’” Burke said.

I’m sure the Koch brothers would prefer not to have any media coverage… but in publicly funded organizations overseen by elected boards media coverage is part of the landscape. Taxpayers want to know how their administrators are spending their time and, particularly in this case, who they are spending their time with. But once the schools are privatized, all of that will disappear.

Kavanaugh Hearings and DeVos’s Repeal of “Obama Guidance” Intersect

October 1, 2018 Comments off

An article by AP reporter Maria Danilova that appeared in several newspapers across the country flagged an unsettling link between Betsy DeVos’ decision to repeal the so-called “Obama Guidance” on investigations of sexual misconduct on campus and the allegations brought forth by Christine Blasey Ford against Supreme Court nominee Bret Kavanaugh. Some background:

During the Obama administration the Department of Education issued a “Guidance” document establishing a lower threshold of evidence in campus hearings on sexual misconduct with the expectation that those who experience sexual assaults while on campus would bring those cases forward so that campuses would be safer for women. This was unsettling for men and conservatives, who generally supported the existing thresholds. Ms. Danilova does a good job of laying out the arguments on both sides:

DeVos has argued that the policy put in place under President Barack Obama is skewed against the accused. She is expected to issue new rules in the near future.

At stake is whether schools should require higher standards of evidence when handling complaints and whether both parties should have access to that evidence. Also under review is the use of mediators and the possibility of the accuser and the accused cross-examining each other.

DeVos’ new guidelines are expected to address whether schools should have to investigate as soon as they are aware of alleged misconduct or only after a student files a formal complaint.

Many victims of sexual violence never take that step. Ford didn’t, and only acted decades later when she learned that Kavanaugh was on a short list for the Supreme Court.

Advocates point to the Larry Nassar sexual assault scandal at Michigan State University and say that victims are shocked and unwilling to relive their traumatic experience. They say it should be the school’s responsibility to investigate.

But those who support Ms. DeVos decision to roll back the “Obama Guidance” do so based on their sense that any allegations of sexual misconduct assume put the burden of proof on the accused:

In conservative circles, “the sympathy right now is very strong with the concern that some men are wrongly accused,” (Fordham President Mike) Petrilli said. “This is an administration that cares about its base.”

A student may choose whether to report an assault to police or to have it investigated by a university under Title IX. Some students choose not to report attacks in part because police and the courts require higher standards of evidence. Students also may feel more comfortable dealing with university investigators than with police following a trauma.

Petrilli said the Senate hearing demonstrated that universities, like Congress, are ill equipped to handle such cases.

“If people were faulted, that should be handled by the justice system rather than asking universities to create some shadow system themselves,” he said.

Cynthia Garett, who heads Families Advocating for Campus Equality, said one false accusation can ruin a student’s life. She said many of the accused students she represents experienced traumatic flashbacks when they watched Kavanaugh testify. Garett said she supports DeVos’ plan to give a greater voice to the accused.

Where do colleges stand on this issue? A year ago an article by Andrew Kreigbaum in Inside Higher Ed noted that even if the 2011 Obama Guidance is rescinded many elements of the guidance are now enshrined in law.

The reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act in 2013 prescribed new standards for campus disciplinary proceedings. And a number of court decisions involving Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 lawsuits have backed up the finding that institutions have an obligation to investigate and adjudicate campus assaults.

The impending debate is likely to focus as a result on questions involving the standard of evidence that should be used in reaching decisions and the ability of students to challenge the other party in the course of proceedings.

“The Title IX regulations and court precedent make clear that schools have a responsibility to respond promptly and equitably to reports of sex discrimination, including sexual harassment, including sexual assault,” said Alexandra Brodsky, a lawyer at the National Women’s Law Center and a co-founder of Know Your IX. “Schools will still need to provide accommodation necessary to help survivors stay in school and keep learning. They will still have to take steps to protect the larger campus community. They will still have to have a fair disciplinary process to investigate reports.”…

Brodsky said courts in other noncampus settings have found options to allow the accused to question an accuser’s account without direct confrontations.

“The guidance provided helpful insight into best practices for putting together effective truth-seeking investigations that don’t create a hostile environment,” she said. “Revoking the guidance deprives schools of clarity and of helpful advice.”

Based on what I’ve read about in local and national media since the issuance of the “Obama Guidance”, it is evident that campuses across the country have had heartfelt debates on how to address the topic of sexual assault and, in doing so, have raised awareness of the issue among current students and alumni and between campus police forces and local law enforcement officials. Moreover, the campuses have been compelled to examine the conduct of students on campus that might contribute to sexual assaults… specifically the drinking that takes place in schools… the drinking that contributed to Mr. Kavanaugh’s alleged misconduct.

Given that most of the Guidance is now enshrined in law, Ms. DeVos and the political winds that are blowing against her, she might be advised to wait on making a decision on rescinding this Guidance… but then again, given the pending election and the need to activate the GOP’s base, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a debate on both the guidance AND the Violence Against Women Act which is under review. We are living in contentious and interesting times.

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Texas Curriculum Illustrates Need for Uniform Curriculum, ESPECIALLY in Civics

September 20, 2018 Comments off

Tuesday morning I read two articles that taken together underscore the lack of cohesiveness in instruction that is occurring in our country thanks in large measure to the USDOE’s refusal to impose some kind of standards in terms of civics instruction.

One article, by Alyson Klein in Education Week, told of Betsy DeVos’ “strong words on suppression of speech and the sad state of civics education. Her remarks on free speech hewed close to the MAGA line of thinking that liberals are denying conservatives an opportunity to speak freely and openly on campuses and, as a result, there is a diminishment in the free flow of ideas… a concept that seems especially preposterous given the ability of the plutocrats to pay for as much speech as they wish. Her remarks on civics education, though, drew my attention:

DeVos said that schools need to teach students to engage with others with whom they might disagree. And she said this needs to begin at the K-12 level, where she said civics education hasn’t been a priority.

“It hasn’t been a focus. We’ve been focusing a lot on math, science and reading, which are all, of course, very important subjects,” DeVos said in remarks at the National Constitution Center, a nonpartisan interactive museum. “But I think it’s really important that students learn about the history of this nation that they are here to actually protect and enhance from this day forward.

On the very same day this article appeared in Education Week, Truthdig published an article by Naomi La Chance reporting on the Texas Board of Education’s decision to eliminate certain information from the social studies curriculum because, presumably they are unimportant for students to know and understand. The information in question?

The Texas State Board of Education, a 15-member group that has been of great importance to the religious right since the 1960s, voted Friday to revise the public school social studies curriculum, including the removal of Hillary Clinton, Eleanor Roosevelt and Helen Keller.

To speed up a third-grade unit on civic responsibility, the board opted to remove Keller—an activist, member of the Socialist Party, co-founder of the American Civil Liberties Union and the first blind and deaf person with a bachelor’s degree. The work group wrote, “Helen Keller does not best represent the concept of citizenship,” giving her a score of seven out of 20 in considering her usefulness to the school curriculum. Removing her would save 40 minutes, it calculated.

By contrast, U.S. senators and representatives from Texas and “Texans who have been president” all received a rating of 20 out of 20. Students as young as kindergarten are expected to “identify the role of the U.S. free enterprise system.”

For high school classes, the board suggested removing discussion about opportunities and obstacles for women and members of ethnic minorities because, according to the board, “American patriotism does not inspire obstacles for women and ethnic minorities.”

I imagine Ms. DeVos will be perfectly OK with these changes, because States should have the right to define their own curriculum goals. But I want to know how it will be possible for students in Texas to “…learn about the history of this nation that they are here to actually protect and enhance from this day forward.” without knowing the name of the most recent Presidential candidate for the Democratic party, a first lady who fought hard for women and minorities, and an iconic figure who inspired hundreds of handicapped children to see that there were no limits on what they could accomplish.

This is what ESSA hath wrought… and it will not help children everywhere learn about the history of this nation that they are here to actually protect and enhance from this day forward.

 

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Conservative Groups Who Oppose Immigration from Unsafe Central American Nations Advocate “Exit Path” From “Unsafe Schools”

September 11, 2018 Comments off

Here’s an excerpt from today’s Politico post on public education, which illustrates how choice charlatans will use fear to generate “customers” for their “product”:

CAN SCHOOL CHOICE PROMOTE SCHOOL SAFETY? Giving students in unsafe schools an “exit path” that includes the choice to attend a private school could better protect them and push public schools to become safer environments, a panel of school choice advocates convened by the conservative Heritage Foundation argued Monday.

The discussion comes on the heels of a June reportfrom the foundation that advocates for publicly funded scholarship programs. The programs would offer students who have been bullied or attend schools with high rates of violence the opportunity to transfer to a different school of their choice.It also urges policymakers to expand a federal program that currently allows such transfers for students who are victims of criminal offenses at school.

“Private schools must cater to the needs of their customers,” Corey DeAngelis, a policy analyst at the Cato Center for Educational Freedom, said during the event. “Parents aren’t going to send their kids to schools that are not very safe. On the other hand, public schools remain open whether they are safe or not.”

He said existing or proposed Education Savings Account programs could be expanded to include a “safety mechanism” that allows students who have experienced bullying to participate, without regard to family income.

The Heartland Institute, a conservative think tank, is floating a similar policy proposal. That plan would create state-level“Child Safety Account” programs “for parents who feel, for whatever reason, their child’s school is unsafe for their child. Tim Benson, a policy analyst for the institute, said Monday that “reasonable apprehension” by parents based on school safety statistics would be sufficient to tap into the program.

The hypocrisy of these conservative organizations who are at best silent about admitting immigrant children fleeing from narco-terrorists is appalling. And that hypocrisy is compounded by the notion that public school children who “suffer reasonable apprehension” would be allowed to change schools while we separate children from Central America who have had guns held to their heads from their parents at our border.

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Thanks to ESSA, Billionaire Reformers are “Going Local”, Making State and School Board Elections Crucial

September 7, 2018 Comments off

Yesterday, one of Diane Ravitch’s posts used Andrea Gabor’s recent Bloomberg op ed as a springboard to alert her readers to the change in tactics by the billionaire “reformers”. Here are the opening paragraphs of Ms. Gabor’s Bloomberg essay:

For two decades, the prevailing wisdom among education philanthropists and policymakers has been that the U.S. school system needs the guiding hand of centralized standard-setting to discipline ineffective teachers and bureaucrats. Much of that direction was guided by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which has spent billions since 2000 to influence both schools and education policy.

But as schools open this year, top-down national initiatives based on standardized testing and curricular uniformity are in retreat.

And what will take the place of “the guiding hand of centralized standard-setting”?

In the coming years, its K-12 philanthropy will concentrate on supporting what it calls “locally driven solutions” that originate among networks of 20 to 40 schools, according to Allan Golston, who leads the foundation’s U.S. operations, because they have “the power to improve outcomes for black, Latino, and low-income students and drive social and economic mobility.”

The billionaire “reformers” did not become billionaires by accident. They are all strategic thinkers who look at national political trends and try to get in front of them in developing their profiteering instincts. Sometime in the 1980s it dawned on some of the market-driven vulture-capitalist-hedge-funders that there was a huge “market” to be accessed in the public sector. With a surplus of teachers, especially at the elementary level, it might be possible to operate private schools at a profit if the operators of those schools could receive the same amount of taxpayer-raised money as public schools. After all, public schools had legacy costs (i.e. retirees, bonds, highly compensated veteran staff members, negotiated agreements with benefits and guaranteed step increases) that were baked into the per pupil costs. If someone opened a brand new school they could operate it for far less money than a public school! When computer-aided instruction emerged as a viable (albeit ineffective) means of “educating” children, the potential profit margins got even larger. The problem was how to get the door opened.

The privatizers access to public schools became a real possibility with the passage of NCLB. That law mandated the takeover of “failing schools” by the states. But by 2001, most states had gutted their departments of education making a “State takeover” impossible. The solution? Privatization! And by the mid to late 2000s states had identified lots of failing schools, most of them serving low income students. This was an ideal outcome for the privatizers, for they could establish beachheads in each state without alienating the affluent suburban parents. By the time suburban schools started “failing” in some states the privatizers had their nose under the tent and were working to pass state legislation that would win over parents who opted out of public education without further alienating the parents in affluent suburbs and communities who were happily funding outstanding public schools.

But here’s an important note to anyone reading this: because the billionaire investors in privatized schools ARE going local it is important to make certain the state legislatures and governor’s mansions are flipped ASAP. The GOP now has 33 governors and the GOP controls 34 legislatures compared to a paltry 13 by the democrats. With ESSA, the states and local school board races are more important than ever. It is a daunting task to flip a state once a single party controls both the executive and legislative branches… but unless several states change course ESSA will have accomplished the goals of the privatizers and public education will be on the run.