Posts Tagged ‘privatization’

Privatization of Pre-Schools Decried Now… and in 2012!

May 11, 2018 Leave a comment

Yesterday Diane Ravitch posted a 2 minute documentary describing the privatization of pre-school.

In December 2012 I wrote a post in response to an NYTimes article on the same topic, which compelled me to leave this comment:

It seems that special needs preschools were privatized in NYS… and unsurprisingly it resulted in a situation where private pre-school operators “…stole or misspent millions of dollars, piled relatives onto the payroll, billed for no-show jobs and charged for special education services that were never provided.” But that was 5 1/2 years ago. I wish I believed that the situation has improved… but I fear that as funding for pre-school expands the privatization of those services will expand.

The privatization of preschools is likely to occur for three reasons: the charter chains will seize the opportunity to enter into a nearly completely unregulated market; and, the small scale entrepreneurs who offer preschool programs in their homes are a potent force in state legislatures; and finally, there are many who believe that public preschool should be stopped entirely… unless there is funding for preschool “homeschoolers”— a mechanism that libertarians and Evangelicals in the GOP would LOVE to establish in a publicly funded school at ANY level.

This lurking privatization should make anyone who advocates universal preschools wary… especially when so many existing K-12 schools are drastically underfunded.


Is “Reform” on the Ropes… or Getting Doctored in the Corner Before Coming Out For the KO?

May 10, 2018 Leave a comment

In the Rocky movies, Sly Stallone inevitably finds himself teetering on the brink of defeat after surprisingly setting his heavy-hitting opponent on his heels. When he wobbles back to the corner at the end of the 14th round, his “corner men” work to stem the bleeding in his facial cuts and encourage him to not give up. As he rises unsteadily on his feet, he looks at his faithful and beloved wife, Adrian, in the first row and is determined to finish the fight with a flourish.

In one of yesterday’s posts, Diane Ravitch draws on a post from Oklahoma teacher John Thompson to support her conclusion (and his) that reform is on its last legs. She opens the post with this:

In case you hadn’t noticed, corporate reform has failed. It is dying. Only money keeps it going. Its true believers know it is dead but they are paid handsomely to pretend there is still a pulse. If they flat out admitted that test-and-punish reform had failed, that privatization was a flop, the money train would go away.

John Thompson, teacher and historian in Oklahoma, reviews what reformers say to keep their spirits alive and their coffers overflowing.

And John Thompson’s post DOES illustrate the fact that many “reformers” acknowledge that despite their belief in the test-and-punish method of school improvement the test scores they insist on using as a metric have not moved at all. But are the reformers going to lose this fight… or will their corner men encourage them to get on their feet and win one for Adrian?

A Washington Post op ed article by Margaret Spelllings and Arne Duncan, two of the corner men for NCLB and RTTT, suggest that “reform” hasn’t failed! All schools need is more “vision… will… and political support”. This conclusion is not surprising given that these two “corner men” believe that children raised in poverty don’t suffer in school because they lack food, clothing or shelter…. they lack grit— the  determination to push ahead despite adversity. And in this op ed piece they call for the creation of a new national coalition to address the “failing” education system:

After decades of momentum across different administrations (sic), all of us believe we’re headed toward another round of unilateral disarmament. Federal education policy is rudderless and adrift.

What, today, is the national priority for K-12 schools? For higher education? What policy proposal exists today that can plausibly achieve the progress we need?

At a moment when students are marching in the streets for their right to a safe, quality education; when teachers across the country are demanding attention and investment from their political leaders; when every economic indicator confirms the growing importance of a sound education in forging a full, productive life, what is our shared national vision for our children?

From what I’ve seen, politicians prefer spending money to protect children from gun owners exercising their rights to acquire weapons designed for warfare to spending money on health care for those same children. They prefer giving tax cuts and tax incentives to corporations to giving living wages to the teachers or decent housing to those who cannot afford a roof over their heads.

But Ms. Spellings and Mr. Duncan don’t want to acknowledge that we have the money we need to improve our schools and we are spending that money on the wrong things. They would rather insist that our vision is warped, our will is weak, and our efforts are lacking… because their “Adrian”, the corporate sponsors of the political leadership, wants things to stay just the way they are in terms of “reform”.

Here’s hoping Apollo Creed wins this fight…


An Insidious Link: Gwinnett Post Op-Ed, NYTimes Report on Koch Brothers Funding of George Mason Professors

May 6, 2018 Leave a comment

Yesterday the NYTimes ran an article describing the impact of the Koch Brothers decision to underwrite the professor’s salaries at George Mason University (GMU). Thanks to the dogged work of a group who called themselves “Transparent GMU” it became clear that the donations to GMU from the Koch brothers were conditional. After reviewing a stack of documents the University was compelled to release after a fight in court, Transparet GMU released their findings:

The documents reveal in surprising detail that for years, as George Mason grew from a little-known commuter school to a major public university and a center of libertarian scholarship, millions of dollars in donations from conservative-leaning donors like the Charles Koch Foundation had come with strings attached.

As early as 1990, entities controlled by the billionaire brothers Charles G. and David H. Koch were given a seat on a committee to pick candidates for a professorship that they funded, the records show. Similar arrangements that continued through 2009 gave donors decision-making roles in selecting candidates for key economics appointments at the Mercatus Center, a Koch-funded think tank on campus that studies markets and regulation. The appointments, which also created faculty lines at George Mason, were steered to professors who, like the Kochs, embraced unconstrained free markets.

More recently, in 2016, executives of the Federalist Society, a conservative national organization of lawyers, served as agents for a $20 million gift from an anonymous donor, and were given the right to terminate installments of the gift at their discretion. Emails disclosed by the university show that Federalist Society officials were also involved in hiring discussions and had suggested a student for admission. In turn, a professor at the law school wrote the society asking for help securing recommendations for prestigious federal judicial clerkships for students active in the society.

But, as the Times article reports, the Koch brothers’ impact went beyond one “little-known commuter school”:

The exact amount of Koch donations to campuses across the country, which frequently are earmarked for programs fostering capitalism and free markets, is unknown. But it is estimated at nearly $150 million from 2005 to 2015, benefiting more than 300 schools. An estimated $50 million of that went to George Mason.

Arrangements between universities and organizations funded by Koch money have come under scrutiny partly because of the work of an activist organization called UnKoch My Campus, the national affiliate of Transparent GMU.

The group and its campus affiliates around the country have pressured universities to reject or rescind Koch-funded agreements and also have demanded disclosures about Koch funding. The movement has recently gained steam on several campuses where faculty members and students have protested Koch-funded centers or professorships, including recent actions at Wake Forest University, Montana State University and the University of Utah.

The conditional appointment of a few professors at a few colleges may not seem problematic, but those professors are cranking out reports and sought after by like minded opinion makers who want to make their case in the media… which brings us to an op ed written by GA college professor Rob Jenkins that appears in this weekend’s edition of the Gwinnett Daily Post. In the article, Mr. Jenkins quotes an authoritative source on the condition of public schools, George Mason University economist Walter Williams:

In April, the U.S. Department of Education released its 2017 National Assessment of Educational Progress, otherwise known as The Nation’s Report Card. The results, as George Mason University economist Walter Williams observes, are not pretty.

Nationwide, only 37 percent of seniors were found to be proficient or better in reading. In math, the number was 25 percent.

To counter such clear evidence of educational fraud (as Williams calls it), administrators and elected officials point to healthy graduation rates. That may be true: The graduation rate in 2017, according to the NAEP, was over 80 percent.

Unfortunately, rather than contradicting the narrative of school failure, this statistic merely reinforces it. To quote Williams, “That means high school diplomas … are conferred when 63 percent (of students) are not proficient in reading and 75 percent are not proficient in math.”

Never mind that an economist is hardly an authoritative source when it comes to analyzing standardizer test results, and never mind that these same standardized test results have shown for decades that a school’s zip code determines their ultimate test scores, and never mind that those high scoring schools are typically the highest spending schools… editorialists like Mr. Jenkins have a narrative and they know that they can find an authoritative source by Googling any GMU economist. I imagine any libertarians reading this will say that such bias exists among the liberal elites, but I know of no circumstances where a mega-donor to a university requires  that professors hired as a result of their gifts reflect a specific viewpoint.

And here’s what I find to be the ultimate irony: I cannot imagine any member of the “liberal elite” who doesn’t seek complete academic freedom in their research and writing and doesn’t advocate for such freedom on the campus where they work… Yet we find a libertarian donor who seeks to restrict the academic freedom of the university he is donating funds to. This is what money the money of libertarians ultimately wants to buy: a society of like-minded individuals who see the world as a Darwinian marketplace.

As Anticipated, After Circling for Months the Vulture Capitalists Have Landed in Puerto Rico… and They Are Feasting on Public Schools

March 31, 2018 Leave a comment

A few months ago, when Hurricane Maria pummeled Puerto Rico, several prescient analysts predicted it wouldn’t be long before the vulture capitalists swept into the island and privatized the public schools. From all I’ve read, the public education system in Puerto Rico was struggling. It operated as one centralized system that was challenged in its effort to provide an equitable education to all children on the island and had a complex bureaucracy that was ineffective at best. Like many urban districts in the US with big bureaucracies, the Puerto Rico public schools also suffered from another problem: a lack of resources. The hurricane, then, was a crisis that provided an opportunity to re-think the way education was delivered on the island… and that, in turn, opened the door for those who view market reforms as the solution to seize the day. And, from what I read in an ABC News report based on an AP article, the market-based “reformers” have convinced the Puerto Rico legislature to do just that:

Puerto Rico’s governor signed an education reform bill Thursday to create charter schools and vouchers and help turn around a department long known for its bureaucracy and struggles to administer dwindling resources.

The bill aims to decentralize the Department of Education and ensure that 70 percent of its budget reaches schools. In addition, it will provide teachers with their first raise in a decade starting next year.

Officials said the charter schools pilot program will be implemented in 10 percent of schools across the U.S. territory. The schools have not yet been identified, but those with low academic achievement will be a priority, said Education Secretary Julia Keleher.

Meanwhile, the private school vouchers will be limited to 3 percent of students starting in the 2019-2020 academic year.

And, after 600 amendments were added to the bill, it has gained the support of the union, who evidently is willing to cede control of 10% of the “marketplace” to privatizers and another 3% to children who seek to abandon public schools in favor of private schools, some of which might be sectarian. Evidently, Randi Weingarten sees this as a good quid pro quo in order to get raises for the teachers who remain in public schools.  From where I sit, Mr. Weingarten’s willingness to let the camel get it’s nose in the tent is a mistake. One look at states like AZ where privatization gained a foothold should illustrate that the private sector and their lobbyists will incrementally siphon funds away from public schools and expand on the economic divide.

Ms. Weingarten should realize that the appetite for profit is voracious.Once the privatizers get a foothold, they will incrementally siphon funds away from public schools into the charters and vouchers. The brakes might be applied now, but as we’ve witnessed in the mainland, ALEC will do everything possible to put the petal to the metal in the future.

Florida Legislators Deregulation of Private For-Profit Charters Mirrors “Economic Development” Tactics Everywhere

March 30, 2018 Leave a comment

Diane Ravitch posted an excerpt from a Politico article describing how the Florida legislature is attempting to lure for-profit schools to its state by offering incentives. Here’s an excerpt of the post:

“A controversial program signed into law in June called “Schools of Hope” gives charter school networks designated as “Hope Operators” the ability to open a “School of Hope” within five miles of a persistently low-performing public school. Those operators, collectively, get access to a pot of tens of millions of dollars to cover startup costs, personnel and specialized educational offerings, plus are given the flexibility of being exempt from a long list of state public education laws.

The Florida legislature is doing the same thing to privatized schools as it and other legislatures and local governments have done for private businesses for decades. By offering enticements to lure businesses into relocating the legislators are doing the bidding of profit seekers: they reduce the operating costs (i.e. costs for taxes, infrastructure, and meeting regulatory guidelines) in exchange for jobs— most of which are non-union low-wage jobs that pay just enough to avoid draining the state’s coffers. With this system in place, everyone loses except shareholders… and the biggest losers are public funded enterprises like schools and social services who lose revenue when taxes are waived.

And, unfortunately, this effort to lure private enterprises to a state or city are hardly limited to schools. One only has to look at how states and cities are bending over backwards to get Amazon’s new HQ if you think that this tactic is limited to privatized for profit schools. School buildings and infrastructure are crumbling in every state of the union but virtually every state in the union somehow found the wherewithal to put together a package to bring Amazon to them. And brick and mortar stores are as happy about this development as public schools are happy about the “Schools For Hope”.  Instead of creating a virtuous circle where new businesses bring in new taxes and well paying jobs, State legislators and city councils are creating a series of vicious circles where taxes are reduced and maintenance is deferred in order to entire low-wage enterprises into their communities.

ESSA Requirement for School-by-School Spending Will Reveal Schools With High Seniority Teachers… and Not Much Else

March 20, 2018 Leave a comment

In an example of the spreadsheet mentality that pervades political thinking about public education– or even worse, an example of the desire to determine the costs assigned to each individual student— one of ESSA’s mandates is for school districts to measure school-by-school costs beginning with the 2019 school year..

Having led two large school districts (i.e. districts that served over 10,000 students and had multiple schools at each organizational level), it is obvious that this will capture one and only one data point: the seniority levels of the staff. The biggest driver in any school is the cost to pay for staffing, and the biggest variable in staffing costs is the teachers’ seniority for teachers at the top of the pay scale typically outran teachers at the bottom the pay scale by almost 2:1. One would hope that someone in the USDOE would have pointed out this obvious flaw in using this data for determining school-by-school costs within  a district, but a quote from Mario Cuomo in a recent Newsday article by John Hildebrand indicates that some other factor may be behind this need to collect school-by-school costs:

Cuomo, in a statement issued March 12 argued for his own plan that would require 15 large school systems statewide, including Brentwood and Hempstead on the Island, to begin submitting school-by-school spending plans to the state for review and approval over the next two years.

I believe the funds should follow student need, and poorer schools have greater needs,” the governor declared.

The governor doesn’t need school-by-school data from large Long Island districts to know that poorer schools in his state— the ones he acknowledges have greater needs— are NOT receiving sufficient funds. If he believes that funds should follow student needs he doesn’t need any additional data from ESSA: he can look now at the data the State Department has and see that affluent districts pay more per student than poverty stricken ones and take one look at the high school curricula and see that affluent students have a far wider array of courses and activities to choose from than students raised in poverty. He’s been in office for nearly two full terms. If he wants to avoid a candidate from the progressive wing running against him in 2018 he might find a way to channel more resources to underfunded schools instead of trying to pave the way for “funds to follow student need”… a phrase that sounds a lot like one Eva Moskovitz would coin.

Consumer Mentality Has Polarized Higher Education… Is K-12 Education Next?

March 19, 2018 Leave a comment

I read two seemingly unrelated articles in succession this morning: a re-print of a Washington Post article by Eric Adler from from our local newspaper,the Valley News, and a post by Bill Duncan blogging for Advancing New Hampshire Public Education.

Mr. Adlers Washington Post article describes how polarization, which is plaguing higher education, is an unintended consequence of the consumer mentality that was introduced into higher education at the turn of the last century when elective courses were first introduced into college curricula. Why?

Enamored of laissez-faire economics, (colleges) replaced the old classical course of studies with a free-market approach to education. Charles W. Eliot, as president of Harvard University from 1869 to 1909, proved to be the most influential of these advocates for the free-elective system. He advertised his philosophy with Darwinian vocabulary. “In education, as elsewhere,” Eliot wrote in 1884, “it is the fittest that survives.” Undergraduates would now serve as the judges of the academic disciplines; those subjects that failed to win student attention would die. From vessels in need of moral improvement, American undergraduates transformed into capitalist consumers.

The result of this consumerism is the ongoing competition for comfort at colleges: better dorms, fancier stadiums and arenas, student unions that resemble shopping malls, and cafeterias that offer food comparable to that provided on cruises. But, as Mr. Adler notes, the “comfort” also extends into content. Leftist students who oppose right-wing ideas engage in campus protests that on occasion shut down dialogue completely. But, as Mr. Adler notes, the intolerance is not limited to the left wing. He describes how “…a student Republican club at Orange Coast College in California recently campaigned for its school to punish a professor who had labeled President Trump a “white supremacist” and how “…some religious students at Duke University boycotted the institution’s summer reading list in 2015 because it contained a graphic novel that was forthright about gay romance.” He then draws this thought provoking conclusion:

Although such examples of conservative student hijinks typically draw less attention, they hint at the existence of a less-ideologically-inspired climate of intolerance, fed by students who think they know best. And these students think this for a good reason: Their schools, having given up any coherent vision of what it means to be an educated person, treat them this way.

The bottom line: if you give students a wide choice of what constitutes an education they will not only gravitate toward easy courses, they will also gravitate toward courses with content that reflects their own thinking. This is the logical ultimate consequence of consumerism.

After reading this column, I read Bill Duncan’s post that described NH Governor Sununu’s thinking on public education in New Hampshire. In the post, Mr. Duncan highlighted this quote from the Governor:

“Gov. Sununu believes that investing in kids, not institutions, will produce positive results for New Hampshire students, which is why he supports SB 193, giving families more freedom in their children’s education,” he said, referring to the school choice bill backed by Sununu and Edelblut.

If you look at Mr. Sununu’s thinking about “choice”, you can see that it is based on free market consumerism. And if parents are free to choose the schools their children attend, they will likely enroll them in schools that inculcate the values and ideals they think are best for their children. As a result of feeding parents who think they know best New Hampshire would be abandoning any coherent vision of what it means to be an educated person.  

Although many people object to State regulations, they are adopted by a democratically elected or appointed school board and they define “what it means to be an educated person”. Similarly, each year the when the local school board engages in a budget debate it is engaging in a debate on “what it means to be an educated citizen” in the community that school board serves. If we believe that parents are free to determine their own vision of “what it means to be an educated citizen” we are simultaneously rejecting the notion that the community and the state can set that definition… and we are eroding our democracy in doing so.