Posts Tagged ‘Efficiency is the Enemy’

Are Campuses Another Covid Casualty?

July 4, 2020 Comments off

Yesterday’s NYTimes featured an article by Anemona Hartocollis describing a “rising revolt” by college professors who are reluctant to return to campus where they would be required to face classrooms full of students who might be asymptomatic carriers of Covid 19. The result of all of this could well be “open” colleges where students watch their professors on cell phones in their dormitories… or students not bothering to go on campus at all and getting their education remotely. I have a sense that college administrators dread the idea of not opening with face-to-face instruction assured for fear of further lawsuits from disenchanted students or the change that if they go remote for more time students will completely lose the “feel” of being on campus and won’t bother to ever return…

Campuses, like Carnegie units, curves for grading, and credits could be Covid casualties….

The Other Shoe Just Dropped: President Trump is Seeking Millions for Private Scholarships

July 3, 2020 Comments off

It didn’t take long for the Supreme Court decision to impact public school funding! As Francesca Chambers of McClatchy News writes,  the POTUS wants to take 10% of the money earmarked for public education from any forthcoming stimulus bill and give it to private schools. To compound matters, he also wants to  allow $5,000,000,000 in tax credits for donations to these “scholarship funds”.

This is completely predictable and absolutely wrong. Now more than ever public schools need money to help make decisions for the future. Instead, huge sums that could make a difference when schools open will be siphoned off. And to put a cherry on the top of this sundae for private schools, any funds allocated to states for this purpose that are NOT spent would go to states where such spending is possible. Here’s a description of how that would work from Ms. Chambers’ article:

Eighteen states already have tax-credit scholarship programs, according to the school choice advocacy group EdChoice, including Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and Kansas. Funds are awarded to students in those states by nonprofit Scholarship Granting Organizations.

Draft legislation that White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadowshad ordered drawn up, according to the plan outline, would give every state the option of receiving federal funding for the scholarships if they choose to participate in the “Education Freedom Grant” program the Trump administration is proposing.

The proposal stipulates that states with existing tax-credit scholarship programs must give 50% of the grant funds to scholarship organizations within 30 days of receiving them. States that do not have established programs will have 60 days to distribute the money. States that have not distributed the money by March 30, 2021 will have their funding reallocated to states that do participate in the program.

This kind of program is beloved by the libertarians who see choice as the panacea for every problem and businesses as unselfish and capable of “efficiently” operating the public sector. The only hope is that the Democrats will block this at every turn and make certain that public schools get every dollar they need and deserve to operate effectively.

For Profit Charters Rake in $$$ Earmarked for Small Businesses

June 19, 2020 Comments off

In a NYTimes article published earlier this week, Erica Green reported that for-profit charter schools took in millions of dollars earmarked for struggling small businesses AND continued to accept state aid. Here are the opening paragraphs to her piece:

Charter schools, including some with healthy cash balances and billionaire backers like Michael Bloomberg and Bill Gates, have quietly accepted millions of dollars in emergency coronavirus relief from a fund created to help struggling small businesses stay afloat.

Since their inception, charter schools have straddled the line between public schools and private entities. The coronavirus has forced them to choose.

And dozens of them — potentially more because the Treasury Department has not disclosed a list —have decided for the purpose of coronavirus relief that they are businesses, applying for aid even as they continue to enjoy funding from school budgets, tax-free status and, in some cases, healthy cash balances and the support of billionaire backers.

That has let them tap the Paycheck Protection Program, which Congress intended to keep businesses and nonprofits from shedding jobs and closing their doors. Parents, activists and researchers have identified at least $50 million in forgivable loans flowing to the schools, which, like all schools, are facing steep budget cuts next year as tax revenue, tuition payments and donations dry up.

$50,000,000 is not a huge sum given the hundreds of charter schools, but the bold red underlined phrase is key. The Secretary of the Treasury, Steven Mnuchin, has refused to disclose who received the $500,000,000,000 his department distributed to help “small businesses”. Given this administration’s full support for vouchers, privatized schools, and rewarding the GOP’s donors with deregulation and privatization, my hunch is that the $50,000,000 uncovered is the tip of the iceberg.

But for me, the news about the privatized charters has two especially distressing elements. First, because the schools themselves are operating on business principles they see the government money as a potential revenue stream that they can tap into to help their balance sheets and operational ease. This paragraph describes that mentality:

In many cases, charter school leaders have openly acknowledged that they did not apply for the funds because they were in dire financial straits. The board chairman of one Oakland, Calif., charter school network, Education for Change Public Schools, said its $5 million loan would be a “cheap form of cash-flow financing.”

The other distressing element is the opacity of the allocations combined with the drastic cutbacks on newspaper staffs is making it impossible for voters OR responsible legislators to get a handle on how their money is being spent. In the case of the charter funds, it took a group of parents and an independently funded watchdog group to watch hours of videos of charter school meetings.

Parents and researchers in Oakland have tracked about $19 million awarded to charters in the Oakland Unified School District. A report released Monday by In the Public Interest, a policy and research group that scrutinizes the privatization of public goods, found that 70 percent of the district’s 43 charter schools had accepted the funding. Combined with federal relief funds available to all public schools, the report says, the district’s charter schools would receive at least $23 million in federal funding, which breaks down to an average of nearly $2,000 more per student than traditional schools.

The report was done in partnership with a parent group, Parents United for Public Schools, whose members aggressively tracked the Paycheck Protection Program funds. The group’s co-founder, Kim Davis, came across the charter funding by accident while on a charter school meeting held on Zoom, and said she was “stunned.”

“Virtually all schools in Oakland are doing GoFundMe because someone lost their job, and in part, it’s because their business did layoffs and didn’t have P.P.P.,” Ms. Davis said.

And my overarching distress is that the voters continue to view public education as a business. Public education is NOT a business. It is a government service that is under siege from a federal government that seems intent of privatizing their services in the name of lower operating costs and, thus, lower taxes. Instead of playing to the altruism of voters in our country, of asking how to expand the benefits of the government service called “education”, the privatizers are playing to the greed of voters by asking them how THEY benefit from money being spent on someone else’s children.