Posts Tagged ‘privatization’

Charlotte NC Newspaper Article Illustrates How Game is Rigged… But Doesn’t Say So

July 21, 2017 Leave a comment

The title of Keung Hui’s article in the Charlotte News Observer poses this question: “NC Public School Enrollment Falls As More Choose Other Options. What Does That Mean?”. Unfortunately the article doesn’t explicitly give the right answer, which is: “It means the system is now rigged against public schools”… but it does offer lots of evidence to support that response. These quotes, for example:

Keith Poston, president and executive director of the Public School Forum of North Carolina, says the expanded choice is part of a concerted political strategy to paint the public schools as failing. As an example, he cited the state’s school performance grades – A through F – that are largely based on the passing rates of students on state exams.

“It’s not an accident that we’re seeing an increase in scrutiny of public schools through testing and grades, which tell us nothing more than the socioeconomic status of the students at the school, and those same test grades are being used to justify providing more private options,” Poston said…

“There are very powerful and well-funded interests that are seeking to profiteer off public education at the same time that our public schools are being tested and stigmatized by school performance grades,”

Lawmakers have made a number of education-related changes including:

  • Lifted the cap on the number of charter schools and made it easier for them to expand their enrollment. Charter schools are taxpayer-funded public schools that are free from some of the regulations that traditional public schools must follow;
  • Created a voucher program to help families who meet income guidelines pay for tuition at private schools;
  • Created programs for parents of special-needs students to pay for their child’s tuition at private schools and cover other education-related expenses;
  • Made it easier for home-school students to take classes from people who are not their parents.

Natalie Beyer, a Durham school board member, said the state has been pursuing a privatization agenda in education that’s moving taxpayer dollars away from democratic oversight.

“It’s alarming for taxpayers because in North Carolina we have state law that has created a separate-but-unequal loosely regulated system of (charter) schools,” Beyer said. “When I look at any measure of student achievement, statewide or nationally, all the research shows the best investment is in a high-quality public school system.”

Mr. Hui presents the facts to support the conclusion that the legislature has rigged the system against public schools. The standardized tests will rate 50% of the public schools as “failing”, and those will be the schools serving children raised in poverty. State funds formerly directed exclusively to public schools governed by elected boards are now being given to parents who enroll their children in private schools. Private schools are deregulated, which means they are allowed to hire non-certified teachers, not required to offer free-and-reduced meals, not required to admit students with IEPs, and not required to meet building codes and transportation codes that apply to public schools. And the lack of “democratic oversight”, mentioned in passing, means that many charter chains are governed by out-of-state “edupreneurs” who have no abiding interest in the children they serve beyond an assurance that they pass the state tests and follow whatever discipline codes they put in place.

Not only did Mr. Hui not draw the obvious conclusion that NC’s system is rigged against public schools, he used language that implicitly identified schools as a commodity:

Traditional public schools still educate the majority of students, with their 1.4 million children representing 82.1 percent of the state’s K-12 students. But the market share was at 86.6 percent in the 2010-11 school year.

This kind of reporting reinforces the perspective of profiteers who want voters to conceive of public schools as competing in a marketplace. When education reporters use this kind of terminology, it is further evidence that the cards are stacked against public education because the “marketplace” favors deregulated private schools overseen by profiteers who answer to shareholders over tightly regulated “government schools” overseen by elected officials who answer to voters.

And to further reinforce the profiteers, Hui concludes his article with this quote from Darrell Allison, president of Parents For Educational Freedom in North Carolina, a pro-choice, pro-privatization advocacy group who said:

When our backs are against the wall, when we’re forced to change, that’s where innovation comes from. That’s where creativity comes from. I’m betting on our traditional public schools and our non-traditional public schools.”

What Mr. Allison is implying is that competition will yield innovation and creativity, one of the articles of faith of the profiteers. But innovation and creativity are hard to come by when your primary focus is on improving test scores that are based on socio-economics. It’s even harder to come by when you have to educate all the children who reside in your county and you have to do it with less money. So what does it mean that “NC Public School Enrollment Falls As More Choose Other Options”? The answer is clear: the game is rigged against NC Public schools.

Education Tax Credits Save Taxpayers Money, Destroy Public Education

July 20, 2017 Leave a comment

Late last month a Progressive article by Dora Taylor outlined four things about education tax credits (aka Education Savings Accounts in NH) that Betsy DeVos and her allies at ALEC do not want the public to understand. Marketed as a means of providing low income students with “scholarships” that enable them to enroll in private schools, they actually divert state funds to middle class parents who are already enrolled in parochial schools. Ms. Taylor opens the article with a description of how these tax credits work:

Education tax credits are similar to school vouchers. A voucher is money paid by the state to cover private school tuition for a student. Voucher money comes straight out of public school funds.

Vouchers are unconstitutional in eighteen states and one of the reasons is that the money can go to a religious school, crossing the line between church and state.

In a “scholarship tax credit program,” the money bypasses the state and instead goes through a go-between, a “scholarship granting organization” to a private school to pay a student’s tuition in full or in part. Typically, these organizations keep 10 percent of the money as they pass through funds to private schools.

A scholarship granting organization distributes money to students, who are purportedly “low income”, to attend a private school the organization has selected to include in its portfolio. Granting organizations can select the schools they do business with, whether they are religious schools or schools that are unaccredited.

While these groups have set a standard for “low income” —a family of four with an income of $64,750 or less—family income is not a determining factor for many of the students who receive the scholarships.

This convoluted system effectively replaces locally elected school boards with a state appointed scholarship granting board that determines schools worthy of scholarships and the eligibility of students who can attend those schools…. but this aspect of the law creating “education scholarships” is not part of the marketing campaign…. and that is intentional. After providing an overview of the tax credits, Ms. Taylor identifies four elements of education tax credits that Betsy DeVos and ALEC do NOT want the public to realize:

  1. Education Tax Credits Deplete State Budgets: Instead of providing additional resources to enable “poor” students to choose private schools to attend, ALEC’s boilerplate legislation diverts current education funding to these scholarship funds…. and that’s on top of revenue they lose when billionaires make tax-deductible donations to these scholarship funds, some of which might go to for-profit charter schools the self-same billionaires invest in!
  2. Education Tax Credit Programs Benefit the Wealthy: ALEC’s boilerplate legislation calls for donors to scholarship funds to effectively receive a subsidy for making a contribution. As Ms. Taylor reports, donors receive “a dollar-per-dollar write off on Federal taxes and, in some states, it can be used as an additional write-off on state taxes. With a donation to a scholarship grant-making organization, a person, company or corporation can benefit financially, sometimes doubling the tax write-off.” So a billionaire can “donate” a large sum to a scholarship fund and receive both a federal and a state deduction that offsets the donation… and a corporation that likely gets some kind of local tax-credit to locate or remain in a state similarly receives a tax credit at the federal and state level! And in both cases, the donors can claim they are helping disadvantaged children expand their opportunities. Also, as noted above, states can set a “low income” standard that is relatively high and thus enable middle class parents who are currently sending their children to a private school to qualify for a scholarship… even if that school is a parochial school (see #4). 
  3. Education Tax Credit Programs Pose Significant Risks to Children: Since the schools receiving scholarships are overseen by a non-public entities, they are not subject to federal or state standards. Thus schools receiving scholarships can discriminate, barring special needs students and permitting religious instruction… which leads to the fourth factor.
  4. Education Tax Credit Programs Divert Public Money to Religious Indoctrination: While there is evidence that Betsy DeVos wants to use her position to allow public funds to flow to schools with religious affiliations, I do not believe ALEC’s shares that intent. However I do believe the billionaires who underwrite ALEC appreciate the political clout they can garner if they develop programs that appeal to the evangelical base of the GOP. Thus, an essential element of all legislation is to permit public funds to flow to all private schools, including those operated by churches, synagogues, and mosques.

The marketing of “Education Tax Credits” is artful. What voter wouldn’t want to have more tax credits available to them? What voter could oppose giving parents and children more choices in terms of schooling? What voter could oppose a law that will augment state funds with donations from generous billionaires enabling funding for schools to increase without imposing higher taxes? And what voter would be willing to pay higher taxes to help poor kids in another part of the state when those kids will be able to qualify for scholarships funded by someone else? Advocates of funding equity, of public education governed by locally elected school boards, and of opportunities for all children have a steep uphill fight in the years ahead.



For Once I Agree with Arne Duncan and John King: Defrauded Students Need Protection

July 19, 2017 Leave a comment

Readers of this blog know that I seldom agreed with the positions taken by Arne Duncan and John King. But I strongly support the position they took yesterday in a post they wrote for The Hill decrying the Trump administration’s decision to throw out the rules they promulgated protecting students who were fleeced by for-profit institutions like ITT, Corinthian College, and— while they didn’t mention it in their post— Trump University. As Mr. King and Duncan note, self-regulation of the marketplace did not work any more effectively in for-profit education than it would work in any sector.

But here’s the irony and the reason I was unalterably opposed to both Mr. King and Mr. Duncan. During their tenures as Secretary of Education they promoted “reforms” that relied heavily on deregulated free-market for profit charter schools… and many of the deregulated free-market for profit schools they promoted proved to be corrupt and of no value to the students they purported to serve. Yet despite these failures, both Mr. King and Mr. Duncan stood by their “reforms”, “reforms” that paved the way for the de-facto vouchers Ms. DeVos is now promoting.

Is the Privatization of Poorly Designed and Delivered Public Education in Africa a Harbinger for the US?

July 17, 2017 Leave a comment

Diane Ravitch wrote two posts yesterday that linked to two separate NYTimes columns dealing with the Bridge International Academies, a privatized education service offered in several African nations funded by “social impact investments”.  Peg Peg Tyre describes the primary source of these funds in her NYTimes magazine article, “Can a Tech Start Up Successfully Educate Children in Developing World?”, and it is a who’s who of privatization advocates in the US:

The Bridge concept — low-cost private schools for the world’s poorest children — has galvanized many of the Western investors and Silicon Valley moguls who learn about the project. Bill Gates, the Omidyar Network, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative and the World Bank have all invested in the company; Pearson, the multinational textbook-and-assessment company, has done so through a venture-capital fund. Tilson talked about the company to Bill Ackman, the hedge-fund manager of Pershing Square, which ultimately invested $5.8 million through its foundation. By early 2015, Bridge had secured more than $100 million, according to The Wall Street Journal.

But, as Tyre notes, African nations face daunting governance challenges. Most of the governments are de facto dictatorships that are led by kleptocrats who use public resources to pay off opponents, reward allies, and maintain the status quo, which has very small and extraordinarily well off and well educated upper class and vast numbers of un-educated peasants who can barely make a living. But technological advances are underway in Africa, advances that require a larger number of educated workers, something the existing governments were unable to provide. Here’s Ms. Tyre’s description of the problems Bridge witnessed in Kenya, which incorporates the demographic, socio-economic, and governance realities of African schools:

The founders decided to build their headquarters in Nairobi, and they opened their first school there in 2009. Long known as the Green City in the Sun, Kenya’s capital had begun to reimagine itself as the tech capital of East Africa; newly formed telecommunications companies were placing cheap mobile phones in the hands of millions of farmers, merchants and low-wage workers, and mobile banking quickly followed. The public-education system, though, was not keeping pace. In 2003, the Kenyan government officially abolished fees for public primary education but afterward found itself unable to construct enough schools for the poor children who tried to enroll. Public schools, which receive money from the government for teachers’ salaries and building maintenance, still charge parents small amounts to cover costs like classroom supplies and firewood. The schools’ quality varies, but in some, reading materials, textbooks and even chalk can be in short supply. All public-school teachers are certified. Teacher absenteeism is widespread. According to a 2007 World Bank report, 30 percent of teachers in one region in Kenya fail to show up on any given school day. Learning levels for children are low: 70 percent of third graders cannot do second-grade work. And while some catch up, many don’t. 

Wealthy Kenyans and foreigners send their children to private schools, which are taught in English and enjoy lavish resources. The working poor often opt to send their children to parochial or local private schools, known as informal schools, that take no money from the government but charge fees that are slightly higher than public schools’. Some provide a basic education, but many do not. Sixteen percent of Kenya’s poor school-age children do not attend any school because their parents can’t afford even the smallest school payments. All Kenyan schools are required to teach the precisely prescribed national curriculum, which is taught in Kiswahili and English and mastery of which is measured by an eighth-grade test called the K.C.P.E. Obtaining a high grade on the K.C.P.E., which is seen as a sign of a child’s industriousness, intelligence and moral rectitude, means a student may continue on to high school.

When I read this description of the African status quo, I immediately saw a dystopian scenario for our country’s schools, one that is emerging as I write this. Compare the situation in our country to that described in Kenya, focussing on the highlighted sections:

  • Our telecommunications corporations provide cheap mobile phones in the hands of millions of  farmers, merchants and low-wage workers, and mobile banking  is already in place making it increasingly easy for citizens to roll up large debt while acquiring lots of “things”.
  • Our national and and state governments have not developed a means of providing “enough schools for the poor children”, with infrastructure initiatives stalled at the federal level and state budgets unable to provide funds for renovations or new construction.
  • Our public schools are increasingly underfunded to the point where teachers make out-of-pocket contributions for necessary school supplied and parents in some districts are charged small amounts to cover costs for things like transportation, extra-curricular activities, and textboooks.
  • Disturbingly, in a country that is far and away more affluent that Africa, our schools’ quality varies, and, as noted above, in some reading materials, textbooks and even chalk can be in short supply.
  • Also, based on standardized testing, learning levels for children are low: too large a number of third graders cannot do second-grade work. And while some catch up, many don’t. 
  • Because of the deficiencies that exist in many districts serving children raised in poverty, the working poor often opt to send their children to parochial or local private schools…a trend that is likely to be reinforced by our nascent federal and state policies that promote vouchers.
  • Because an increasing number of children in our nation are homeless, we have an increasing number of poor school-age children who do not attend any school, a number that is likely to increase if parents of immigrants become fearful of deportation.
  • Finally, and most distressingly, because standardized testing is the basis for determining the “quality” of our schools, all Kenyan US schools are required to teach the precisely prescribed de facto national curriculum, which is determined by the limited number of corporations who develop and administer standardized tests.

The difference between the direction our schools are headed and the baseline of poor African nations is chillingly similar, And given the trends in our nation— where petroleum lobbyists are writing energy policy, arms lobbyists are writing military policy, and, alas, privatizers are writing education policy— it appears that our governance is moving closer to the model in developing nations.

Should we allow our public services to decline further, we may find ourselves floundering for solutions to public education in the same way developing nations are. But we can rest assured that should that happen, entrepreneurs will bail us out with “social impact investments”. From my perspective, the best “social impact investment” is a system of progressive taxation that supports a robust safety net that results in an opportunity for any child to learn and develop the skills they need to be a citizen in a democracy.

David Brooks’ Assessment of Donald Trump Jr and the Trump Family’s History Unwittingly Undercuts the Notion of Running Schools Like a Business

July 14, 2017 Leave a comment

David Brooks, a GOP loyalist, has long supported his party’s notion (and that of neo-liberals) that public services should run like a business and, whenever possible, outsourced to private enterprise. I find it difficult to believe that he, his GOP colleagues, and neo-liberals in the Democratic party can hold that view after they read and digest the column Mr. Brooks wrote in today’s NYTimes. Titled “Moral Vacuum in the House of Trump”, 3/4 of the column recounts a history of the Trump family beginning with Donald Trump’s grandfather who made a small fortune operating hotels in the Pacific Northwest and ending with Donald Trump’s son who obliviously scheduled a meeting with a Russian attorney who offered to give him some compromising information about Hillary Clinton.

After recounting the questionable “offerings” available in Grandfather Trump’s hotels, the questionable financial practices that enabled Father Trump to earn a huge fortune building and selling modestly priced homes in New York, Mr. Brooks concludes that from the Trump family’s perspective, ethics are immaterial. The Trump family has “…no attachment to any external moral truth or ethical code. There is just naked capitalism.” 

After reading the column, two quotes jumped out at me:

One from Donald Trump, Jr. that read: ““That’s what we do in business. If there’s information out there, you want it.”

And, one from David Brooks that read: “Successful business people, like successful politicians, are very ambitious, but they generally have some complementary moral code that checks their greed and channels their drive.”

As I noted in a comment I submitted, I find it hard to believe that David Brooks (and his GOP and neoliberal compatriots) can continue to advocate that public services like infrastructure, schools, and health care be outsourced to businesses believing— against all evidence— that successful business people “…have some complementary moral code that checks their greed and channels their drive.” When public enterprises are “run like a business” corruption will follow… and if public enterprises are outsourced to businesses shareholders will win and the public will lose. Publicly operations overseen by democratically elected officials may not result in profit for the top .01%, but it will result in higher levels of trust among members of the public and better services for all.

ESSA Creates Opportunity for ESAs and Koch Brothers Network is Ready to Seize the Opportunity

July 11, 2017 Leave a comment

Over the past eight years, Congress reached a bi-partisan agreement that NCLB and its progeny, RTTT were unmitigated disasters. While the basis for this agreement differed from State-to-State, there was an underlying consensus that both RTTT and NCLB took power away from the states and placed too much power at the federal level. The solution to this was ESSA, which returned decision making authority for accountability to the states. As noted in several earlier blog posts, since the election of Donald Trump and his appointment of Betsy DeVos to head USDOE, the federal influence on education has declined markedly thanks to Ms. DeVos’ efforts to repeal regulations on an array of fronts including civil rights, gender equity, and desegregation.

But a more chilling development associated with ESSA was reported earlier this week in an article written by John Frank for the Denver Post: the Koch brothers intend to use Colorado as a testing ground for school choice and vouchers by diverting public funds to Education Savings Accounts (ESAs), thereby de-funding public education. His report on an annual meeting of the Koch Brothers’ Americans for Prosperity Foundation described the strategy:

The effort in Colorado involves the Americans for Prosperity Foundation and the Libre Initiative, a group focused on Hispanic community outreach. Together the organizations are making calls and sending flyers to voters this summer, two of which promote ESAs as a way to “give families the freedom to select schools, classes and services that fit the unique needs of their kids.”

…The summertime effort in a nonelection year demonstrates the Koch network’s permanent apparatus in Colorado and how it can mobilize like-minded volunteers into action.

“When there’s not an election, there’s not a lot of noise and you can have a lot of impact,” said Michael Fields, the senior director for issue education at the national Americans for Prosperity Foundation.

The ESA model is relatively novel in Colorado, and Fields sees his team’s work as a “race to who defines the issue first.”

If the persuasion effort is successful in Colorado, the Koch network’s political groups could push it forward as soon as the 2018 legislative session or possibly onto the ballot for voter approval.

Fields is optimistic: “I think we can get something across in the next few years.”

Stripped of its anti-Government libertarian philosophical basis, ESAs would be an easy sell for the “middle-of-the-road” voters in Colorado, a state the Koch Brothers began grooming a few years ago when they helped underwrite the bi-artisan effort in that state that resulted in legislation that provides equal state funding for charter schools. Framed as an opportunity for parents to “select the schools their children can attend”, using funds drawn from donations made in lieu of taxes to a state-wide savings account it is hard to elicit a negative response. If the Koch Brothers are making calls to elicit support from middle-of-the-road” voters, here’s the pitch they can make:

  • If the “middle-of-the-road” voter has children in school and is happy, tell the voter that ESA legislation would allow their child to remain in that school and they would pay lower State taxes.
  • If the “middle-of-the-road” voter has children in school and is unhappy, ESA legislation would offer them a chance to send their child to a different school that meets their needs…. even if that school was affiliated with a church or was an on-line school.
  • If the “middle-of-the-road” voter has no children in school, promote the notion that parent-consumers can “choose the school for their child”… and emphasize that ESA legislation will result in a reduction in their taxes.
  • If the “middle-of-the-road” voter sends their child to a religiously affiliated school note that ESA legislation will substantially defray their tuition costs and reduce their taxes.
  • If the “middle-of-the-road” voter either attends a church that offers schooling for children who desire religious training, note that ESA legislation will help support their church’s efforts.

The advocates for ESAs have an easy sell. Those who support public education, on the other hand, cannot assure more choices for parents or lower taxes. The need to appeal to more abstract notions like “fairness” and “equal opportunities” for all and need to counter the negative arguments that disaffected and resentful voters will voice, arguments like:

  • The only people who support public schools are the unions
  • The money for public education goes to teachers who have better wages and benefits than I do
  • We’ve spent millions of dollars for schools and they haven’t improved a bit
  • When my kids went to school we didn’t have all these fancy programs and social services. Why should I pay higher taxes for these frills?
  • I already pay tuition for my children to go to a private school that has Christian values, why should I pay higher taxes for a school that promotes secular humanism?

The list could go on and will be expanded and amplified as the pro-ESA messages from the Koch Brothers permeate the airwaves and phone lines in the months ahead.

The problem for those of us who support public education is journalists like Mr. Frank and news outlets like the Denver Post are framing the debate as one between unions (which are implicitly “self-serving”) and “reformers”, who are seeking the best solutions for parents and children. The astro-turf organizations funded by billionaires will issue white papers and organize and populate rallies in support of ESAs while those who oppose them will be left on the sidelines. And since school choice is now a bi-partisan issue, the lonely voices in the wilderness don’t even have a political party to advocate for economic justice. Someone who is not a union member needs to compete in the “race to who defines the issue first” in the words of Michael Fields, the senior director for issue education at the national Americans for Prosperity Foundation. In my way of thinking, we need to assert the high-minded purpose of public schooling. Here’s a 15 minute effort to define the over-arching purpose of public education, a purpose that ESAs undercuts:

  • Every child is entitled to a high quality education. Since ESAs only provide partial funding for schooling parents are expected to supplement the costs for their children who do not attend public schools. This means that parents with lower incomes will not have the same choices or same opportunities as more affluent parents.
  • In order for democracy to thrive, all students need to attend high quality schools where the values of the community, state, and nation are taught. ESAs fragment the community of learners and will reinforce the divisiveness that is poisoning discourse in our democracy today.
  • Locally elected school boards, not individual “consumers”, should set the priorities for how your school funds are spent and what values are inculcated in the schools. ESAs will undercut the power of local democracy.

These arguments are harder to sell than “choice” and “lower taxes”. But if we cannot get agreement on these issue, it will be difficult to sustain our democratic form of government in the future.


Still Think ESSA is a Good Idea? Three Stories Highlight Efforts to Erode Public Schools in Three Different States

July 7, 2017 Leave a comment

This morning’s in-box featured three stories describing how the erosion of public education is proceeding apace in three different states— MI, IN, and NY.

Two NPR stations offered brief print stories on the latest struggles for public education funding in Michigan, where it seems that the legislature is intent on funneling much needed money to parochial schools while simultaneously penalizing public schools who use funds to sue the state for the misuse of funding. At this juncture, the State’s efforts to fund parochial schools and shortchange public schools have been thwarted by the courts in response to a lawsuit filed by organizations funded by the local school districts. The legislature’s solution to this lawsuit? Use THEIR funds to appeal the lawsuit and pass a law that “…would penalize public schools that use state dollars for lawsuits against the state.”  Since one of the groups suing the legislature is the state-wide organization representing administrators, an organzation funded with dues paid by school districts, their head had a response:

Peter Spadafore is with the Michigan Association of School Administrators.  He said school districts have gone to court and won against the state on important issues.  This would put that ability in jeopardy.

Spadafore said, “You know I can see the spirit of this, but the idea here is really to tell school districts no they shouldn’t be suing the state.”

Or, more accurately, being told to sit down, shut up, and stop complaining. Hopefully elections in MI will turn the tide on this and both the US constitution that calls for a separation of church and state and the state constitution that calls for fair and equitable funding for schools will be honored.

Meanwhile in Indianapolis, Chalkbeat reporter Dylan Peers McCoy writes that the school board members, a majority of whom were supported and underwritten by “reformers” and StudentsFirst, is opening four new “innovative” charter high schools while simultaneously closing three traditional high schools due to low enrollment. If the charter schools were managed by the school district, there might be a way to make a straight faced argument for this shift, but the reality is that these innovation charters are not under the control of the local board… and the reason for this structure is explained in the article:

Advocates tout innovation schools as a tool for dramatically improving IPS. They are controversial, however, because they are a hybrid between charter and traditional public schools. IPS gets credit from the state for the test scores and other data from innovation schools, but they are managed by outside nonprofits or charter operators. Because teachers at the schools don’t work directly for the district, they are not part of the IPS union.

So while a greater number of Indianapolis high schoolers will presumably have more choices, it is clear that a greater number of Indianapolis teachers will work for less compensation and have less job security… and fewer “public” schools will be overseen by the elected school board.

And last but not least, StudentsFirst (recognize that name) NY’s Executive Director Jenny Sedlis is beaming in a picture in the NY Daily News with this caption: “Thanks to Albany leaders, productive conversations led to an agreement that’s good for all public school kids.” And why is she so happy? The headline for the story explains: “De Blasio’s extended control of Public Schools comes with a catch – expanding the charter sector and support for its students”. It seems that Governor Cuomo and the NY legislature are not happy with the mayor’s unwillingness to subsidize the charter schools by giving them free space and allowing them to expand into more venues in the city. Here’s the synopsis of the deal:

State charter authorizers will recycle and re-issue 22 licenses for city charter schools that had been revoked or awarded and never used, under the terms of the deal state lawmakers, Gov. Cuomo and education officials negotiated to extend de Blasio’s control of the city schools.

The deal also increases the city’s payments to charter operators for school facilities and provides MetroCards for charter school students whose classes begin before the start of the standard public school year.

So the STATE is diverting LOCAL funds to underwrite for-profit charters and requiring that LOCAL schools make space available FOR FREE to those same for-profit charters…. and both the State and the Mayor are characterizing this as giving the mayor “control” over the local schools. The concluding paragraphs of the story put this deal in context:

Some charter schools also receive significant financial support from billionaires in the hedge fund industry who have financed expensive lobbying and public relations campaigns against the mayor. Charter advocate and StudentsFirstNY executive director Jenny Sedlis called the deal a win for charter operators and their families.

“Charters have been battling with the de Blasio administration for the last four years, but thanks to Albany leaders, productive conversations led to an agreement that’s good for all public school kids,” Sedlis said. “Parents will have access to more school options and charter operators will get significant relief.”

If ALL parents had access to fully funded high quality schools staffed by fully qualified and experienced teachers this deal would be “good for all public school kids”… but when part of the deal is to siphon local funds to pay charter school operators those kids who are unable to make a choice suffer.

Taken together, these stories show what happens when control is devolved to the State and local level: there is a move toward privatization wrapped in the language of the marketplace and a move toward lower wages and less job security for teachers. Those who love the free-market gig economy are elated… but those of us who seek a fair and equitable level playing field for all children and parents are disappointed. Do you still think ESSA is a good idea?