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Posts Tagged ‘privatization’

Red States Didn’t Cut As Many Services as Feared… but the Bipartisan Desire for Charter Schools Has Transformed the Debate on Public Schools

August 19, 2019 Comments off

Today’s NYTimes features an op ed article by Matt Grossmann, director of the Institute for Public Policy and Social Research at Michigan State University, that suggests that the GOP has not made as many adverse inroads into public services as Democrats and progressives feared. Mr. Grossman provides compelling data on the limited ability of conservatives to impose their full  agenda at the state level, in large measure because they have to provide balanced budgets. But he misses one big point: the bi-partisan support for charter schools has transformed the debate on public education. After recounting the challenges State GOP legislators faced in trying to cut popular programs, Mr. Grossman offers this summary of the successes the GOP experienced:

Surprisingly, the biggest Republican state success stories came in partnership with Democrats. After decades of tough-on-crime policies, conservative groups joined with liberal foundations to reform criminal justice in several states. Taking advantage of federal action by Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and (especially) Barack Obama, conservative legislators helped greatly expand charter schools. Early childhood education and alternative energy promotion also expanded nationwide, largely on a bipartisan basis.

Mr. Grossman overlooked a very significant shift that appears to have taken place as a result of the Democrats adopting the neoliberal idea that public schools should be operated independently of local school boards.

The bi-patrisan support for charter schools means the debate between those seeking governance of public education by locally ELECTED officials as opposed to governance by private UNELECTED boards is over. The debate is now about whether parents’ decisions about where their child attends school should be made as citizens seeking options for government funded services (i.e. charter “schools-of-choice” vs. traditional schools “assigned by the government”) or made as consumers able to choose from a wide array of products (i.e. vouchers). In short, the debate is no longer between attending the “government school” that is funded with state and/or local taxes or choosing from an array of charters approved by the local and/or State Board. The debate is now between choice and vouchers… allowing parents to take their “school tax allocation” and applying to whatever school they wish to attend— on line, nearby, or distant. It appears that there is bi-partisan support for the abandonment of the governance model that has been in place for decades whereby local communities fund schools overseen by elected school boards that their local resident children must attend. Mr. Grossman may not see this as consequential. As a retired public school administrator I do.

Where Democrats Land on Charter Schools is Less Important Than Where They Land on Testing

August 14, 2019 Comments off

I was heartened to read an American Prospect article last month by Rachel Cohen indicating that virtually all of the Democrats running for President have taken a position in opposition to for profit charters. The positions range from Bernie Sanders, who echoes the NAACP language verbatim, to Beto O’Rourke, who issued a squishy statement saying that “there is a place for public nonprofit charter schools, but private charter schools and voucher programs—not a single dime in my administration will go to them.” Even Cory Booker, the man who brought for profit schools to Newark, is equivocating on his pro-charter stance. Here’s a twitter post he issued:

Sen. Cory Booker speaks in Newton, IA: “I’m a guy who believes in public education and, in fact, I look at some of the charter laws that are written about this country and states like this and I find them really offensive.”

This is all good news… but in the end it dodges the real problem with public education, which is the accountability model that is based predominantly on standardized test results. As long as schools are sorted into “success” and “failure” bins based on their test scores the teachers in public schools will be compelled to teach to the test and the students in most schools in this nation will be subject to curricula and instruction based on passing a test or facing some kind of political consequence that will reinforce two faulty premises: that students can get better test scores if they and the teachers apply themselves; and, if students attain higher test scores they will be successful later in life. Neither of premises have any basis in reality… yet both of them are ingrained in the voters minds.

It would be especially heartening if one of the candidates for President emphasized this point… but I sense that because doing so would require them to question the whole basis for school accountability they will avoid the issue altogether and testing— and sorting— will continued unabated.

As STATES Tackle Desegregation, Sausalito Marin City (CA) Schools Illustrate How Aggressive AGs Can Effect Change

August 11, 2019 Comments off

Today’s NYTimes reports that the Sausalito Marin City School District’s decision to open a charter school two decades ago resulted in separate but equal schools, violating the Brown v. Board of Education decision. Dana Goldstein and Anemoma Harticollis open their article about the State’s edict to desegregate schools with this:

A California school district outside of San Francisco agreed to desegregate its schools on Friday, after a two-year state investigation found that the district had “knowingly and intentionally maintained and exacerbated” racial segregation and even established an intentionally segregated school.

The intentionally segregated school with an imbalance of white students in the district, a charter school created 20 years ago by parents “…who said they were frustrated by poor test scores in the district“, IS more integrated than most schools across the country. It’s student body is 41 percent white, 11 percent African-American, 25 percent Latino and 10 percent Asian. The other school in the district, though, has an enrollment that is 7 percent white, 3 percent Asian, 49 percent African-American and 30 percent Latino. But where the district fell far short of the mark was in the way it funded and staffed the two schools:

It reneged on a promise to create a gifted program and cut music, art, physical education and counseling services, according to court papers (in the district-run school, Bayside-M.L.K). By 2015, the Bayside-M.L.K. principal, assistant principal and about half of the teaching staff had left, the court papers say.

The district-run school did not have a qualified math teacher, while the charter school did. The district school had only a part-time counselor, while the charter school had a full-time one.

And the district was harsher in disciplining black and Hispanic students compared with white students than any other public school district in the state, the attorney general said.

It is imponderable what the State’s findings would have been had the DISTRICT school been as well resourced as the CHARTER school… but if Brown v. Board of Education’s conclusions were applied even a separate and equal school would be illegal.

The real takeaway from the article, and the most distressing to read, is that for all intents and purposes the Federal government is no longer doing anything to address desegregation, which means it will now fall to STATES to address the issue of inequality. As Ms. Goldstein and Harticollis note, this is a reversal of roles:

State attorneys general typically defend school systems against desegregation claims, not pursue them. In the decades after the Supreme Court’s 1954 ruling in Brown v. Board of Education, the vast majority of desegregation agreements resulted from federal, not state, action — but in recent years, federal courts have done little to integrate schools.

In the long run this will mean that children of color in states with aggressive (i.e. liberal) AGs will eventually be offered the same opportunities as their white counterparts. But… it also means that children of color in most states will remain in second tier underfunded schools while their white counterparts attend well funded districts. In short, Brown v. Board of Education is no longer the law of the entire nation.

Upshot Article Oversimplifies “Solution” to Complicated Problem Congress Created

July 31, 2019 Comments off

Yesterday’s NYTimes featured an article by Upshot writer Kevin Carey written on July 24 titled “It’s Easy to Forget, but a Program to Forgive Student Loans Already Exists“. There are two problems with the article from my perspective.

First, the “program to forgive student loans” is so convoluted that it’s “existence” is arguable. Contrary to the sub-headline that reads, “Democrats are campaigning to fix an issue that is already starting to resolve itself for many teachers and other public servants“, the article describes an issue that desperately needs to be fixed because the laws underpinning it were ill-conceived, allowed only five days for the initial application process, and changed directions several times over the course of time.  

Second, and most importantly, the implementation was botched because Congress failed to provide the funds needed to provide the staff required to make the implementation possible. Here are the most telling paragraphs from Mr. Carey’s article:

“(The borrowers) needed some good advice. Whom would they call? Not the Department of Education, which subcontracts the work of helping borrowers to “loan servicing companies”. Unfortunately, the servicers didn’t prove up to the task.

Loan servicers are paid a flat rate per borrower for processing loan payments and helping people navigate the repayment process. That means that the more time and effort a borrower requires, the less money the servicer makes. Someone who sets up an automatic debit from a checking account and never picks up the phone is a source of profits. Borrowers who need a lot of time-consuming assistance to ensure that their job, their loan and their repayment plan are all eligible for the forgiveness program are a financial liability.

The results were predictable. In June 2017, a few months before the first public servants were (theoretically) eligible for loan forgiveness, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau issued a report describing the many ways loan servicers were messing things up.

This sums up the whole problem with government today: it is understaffed and therefore incapable of functioning effectively. Taxpayers want the government to come up with a FAST, CHEAP solution to complicated problems and to run like a business. As Mr. Carey explains later in the article, when USDOE outsourced their work to “loan servicing companies” they operated like a business and got a FAST and CHEAP “solution” to the complicated problem Congress created… a “solution” that padded the wallets of the “loan servicing companies” but left the borrowers high and dry…. and “proved” that government is the problem. The headline to this should read: “It’s Easy to Forget that an Effective Government Requires Bureaucrats”….

Mr. Carey concludes his article with evidence that more and more borrowers are becoming eligible, and seems to think that since the percentage of approved borrowers has increased the problem is taking care of itself. After reading the article and looking at the daunting amount the government is on the hook for, I’m not confident that there will be sufficient funds available to honor the promises they made to public employees— especially since the current administration is intent on keeping its promises to the billionaires and shareholders who received massive tax breaks.

In “Dog Bites Man” Article, NYTimes Illustrates USDOE’s Complicity in Sustaining a Failing For-Profit College

July 24, 2019 Comments off

If you want to see how the US Department of Education’s tilt in favor of for profit education institutions works, read Erica Green and Stacy Cowley’s thoroughly researched NYTimes article titled “Emails Show DeVos Aides Pulled Strings for Failing Colleges“. The article offers evidence that USDOE officials conspired with officials at Dream Center Education Holdings, a subsidiary of a Los Angeles-based megachurch, when they continued to use misleading and dishonest advertising in an effort to keep their institution alive. Because the USDOE failed to act when Dream Center was clearly bankrupt both financially and educationally, US taxpayers and– most sadly– Dream Center students are on the hook for millions of dollars.

Here’s what I find to be most infuriating about this whole episode: the complicated inter-relationships between accreditors, the USDOE officials, and USDOE regulations make it very difficult to explain what happened in a way that is readily understandable. Consequently, when this kind of issue surfaces, there is no easy fix and politicians are left to point fingers at each other and voters often take sides based on their faith in one side or another or one economic theory or another. The only clear losers in all of this are the former students of Dream Center schools who lost money out of the pockets to take the courses or face the demand to pay debts for courses that led them no where. For those who see privatization and deregulation as the best way forward, this might not be a problem. Their mantra— caveat emptor— means that the students “got what they deserved” by enrolling in a failing institution. The only problem with that line of thinking is that the government who serves as the quality control gatekeeper knowingly allowed a failing institution to advertise itself as “accredited”. The government that was complicit in misleading the consumers should pay the price… not the consumers who thought they were enrolling in a government approved institution.

Stand for Children’s Pitch is Appealing… It’s Track Record is Appalling

July 10, 2019 Comments off

Yesterday I got an email from someone named Anna Chaney that landed in my junk file. The message line read: “Take action: Stand for quality public education”. I decided to pull it out of the junk bin and read it. The message resonated. Underneath a logo for an organization called “Stand for Children” and surrounding a picture of a mother helping her daughter with schoolwork It read:

Wayne,

When my family was homeless, school was a haven for my daughter, Tara. It offered her stability and a chance to just be a kid during a difficult and uncertain time.

Once we found a place to live, I had time to become more involved with her school. That’s when I learned it had an F-rating. I was devastated. I knew Tara needed an excellent education if she was going to excel in the future (she wants to be President one day), so I teamed up with other frustrated parents to take action.

Thanks to the determination of families, my daughter’s school now has new leadership and more educational resources in the classroom.

All children deserve to attend a public school that unlocks their potential and lets them thrive.

It had a link to click on where you could sign a petition if you believed “every child deserves access to a high-quality public education” and another link where you could “join the fight for quality public education today” and at the very bottom one of those bright boxes that invited you click on if you wanted to TAKE ACTION.

I clicked on none of the links… but “Stand for Children” sounded vaguely familiar and I seemed to recall that it was one of those many organizations with appealing names and appalling track records. A quick Wikipedia check confirmed my recall. After giving a generally positive overview of Stand for Children, Wikipedia had a section about the organization headed “Criticism” that included the following:

Critics of the group assert that it represents business interests.[16][17]—major funders include the Walton Family and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundations. Education policy analyst Diane Ravitch criticized the group for opposing teacher’s unions and seeking to impose standardized testing on public schools.[18]Susan Barrett, former volunteer co-leader of a Stand for Children team in Portland, Oregon, left the organization due to concerns that corporate donors and wealthy board members influence reforms.[19] In 2009, Stand for Children volunteers in Massachusetts witnessed an organizational change in favor of promoting charter schools. The former volunteers organized to protest a ballot initiative filed by Stand for Children. Former Stand for Children volunteers said the ballot measure puts the careers of teachers at the mercy of a rating system while doing nothing to improve teaching in schools.[20]

Regarding Stand For Children’s success in Illinois, Edelman stated: “They essentially gave away every single provision related to teacher effectiveness that we had proposed — everything we had fought for in Colorado. We hired 11 lobbyists, including four of the absolute best insiders and seven of the best minority lobbyists, preventing the unions from hiring them.” He further stated, “There was a palpable sense of concern if not shock on the part of the teachers’ unions of Illinois that Speaker [of the House Mike] Madigan had changed allegiance and that we had clear political capability to potentially jam this proposal down their throats the same way that pension reform had been jammed down their throats six months earlier.”[21] The Chicago Tribune called Stand for Children “a new force in Illinois politics.”[22] In all, two Chicago newspapers published editorials in favor of Performance Counts.[23][24][25]

Some journalists[who?] questioned the $2.9 million raised by Stand for Children’s Illinois PAC due to the affiliate’s recent[when?] formation and fundraising in the months before a new Illinois law capped campaign contributions for individuals and corporations.[26] These funds, donated by a small number of businesspeople giving hundreds of thousands of dollars each, led detractors question the organization’s grassroots support in the state.[27]

So… here’s my general guidance to people who want to help improve their school… beware of national organizations with catchy titles and bold missions. They all tend to be funded by billionaires whose agenda is NOT the advancement of public education but the advancement of privatization. In a world where President Trump can claim to be a supporter of the environment, it is not surprising to find that an organization seeking privatization of public schools can call itself “Stand for Children”.

 

Charter Schools Acknowledge Flaws, Flaws that Prove “No Excuses” Approach to Discipline Fails

July 6, 2019 Comments off

After reading Eliza Shapiro’s article this morning in the NYTimes I came away with the sense that MAYBE the tide is turning against charter schools in NYC and, if so, it could be a harbinger of a shift everywhere. The article’s title, “Why Some of the Country’s Best Urban Schools Face a Reckoning”, is misleading at best. It implies that the charter schools who are facing “a reckoning” are “some of the country’s best urban schools”, which perpetuates the NYTImes narrative that charter schools are better than traditional public schools. The article, though, pulls no punches because the data on charter schools indicted that while many of the charters flagged in the article have trumpeted their successes they have papered over their failures. The first two paragraphs set the stage:

When the charter school movement first burst on to the scene, its founders pledged to transform big urban school districts by offering low-income and minority families something they believed was missing: safe, orderly schools with rigorous academics.

But now, several decades later, as the movement has expanded, questions about whether its leaders were fulfilling their original promise to educate vulnerable children better than neighborhood public schools have mounted.

From there, Ms. Shapiro describes how zero tolerance discipline policies ended up emphasizing conduct at the expense of academics, demonstrates that many of the criticisms leveled against the charter schools were warranted, and indicates that both the Governor of NY and the legislature have resisted any further expansion of charters in NYC because of the deficiencies in the programs. Ms. Shapiro describes the new political reality in this paragraph:

Last month, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, a Democrat who has been a crucial supporter of charters, declared that the State Legislature would not lift a cap on the number of new charters issued citywide. By halting charter growth indefinitely, Albany lawmakers have begun to erode the schools’ foothold in the country’s biggest school system.

Will the charter’s loosening foothold in Albany and NYC have an impact on their expansion elsewhere? My belief is that it will except in those parts of the country where charters are unapologetically used to segregate children based on race, religion, and wealth…. and as long as Betsy DeVos has her hand on the tiller and neoliberalism reigns in the Democratic party the resegregation and monetization of public schools will continue and charters will be the vehicle for that trend.