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Posts Tagged ‘vouchers’

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

July 6, 2019 Leave a comment

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.

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DeVos Adopts Caveat Emptor Approach to Student Debt… Profiteers Smile!

June 29, 2019 Comments off

In an unsurprising “Dog Bites Man” development, Betsy DeVos repealed the Obama era guidelines designed to punish for-profit schools for misleading consumers and replaced them with a set of guidelines designed to provide consumers with more information…. and letting the profiteers off the hook entirely.

NYTimes reporter Erica Green describes it thusly in her article on the topic:

The so-called gainful employment rule was issued by the Obama administration in 2014, right before huge for-profit chains collapsed, leaving students stranded with debt and worthless degrees. Under the new standards, career and certificate programs, many of which operate in the for-profit sector, would have to prove their graduates could find gainful employment to maintain access to federal financial aid. It also would have required schools to disclose in advertisements a comparison of the student debt load of their graduates and their career earnings…

Education Department officials have argued that transparency, not regulation, is the best way to hold all schools — public nonprofits, community colleges and for-profits — accountable for their results. Instead of any accountability measures, it promised to expand an existing database, called the College Scorecard, to provide information on student debt and earnings prospects. The database, which provides information, including loan debt information, for 2,100 certificate granting programs, was unveiled last month.

In short, the USDOE shifted the burden of proof and responsibility from profiteers to consumers… a move that likely foreshadows how the marketplace might work should Ms. DeVos and her libertarian minded charter school advocates have their way with vouchers. The consequence of this shift is described by Ms. Green:

But in rescinding the rule, the department is eradicating the most fearsome accountability measure — the loss of federal aid — for schools that promise to furnish students with specific career skills but fail to prepare them for the job market, leaving taxpayers on the hook to pay back their loans…

Bob Shireman, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation and an architect of the rule when he was in the Obama administration, called the repeal “disturbing and shortsighted.”

They are opening the door to operators whose singular focus on gobbling up federal grants and loans for their investors will steer the business toward manipulative recruiting and poor quality training,” he said.

Meanwhile, the relief for thousands of indebted former students of those schools “…whose singular focus on gobbling up federal grants and loans for their investors” is in limbo as the USDOE delays decisions on how to handle the money they owe to the government:

…Ms. DeVos has moved to overhaul that “borrower-defense” rule as well, hoping to give some students only partial relief. That process has been tied up in court proceedings, leaving more than 150,000 student claims in limbo.

“Borrower Defense” is replaced by “Caveat Emptor” and the businessmen “…whose singular focus on gobbling up federal grants and loans for their investors” are relieved and elated… and the edu-preneurs are getting their ads for charter schools geared up for the day when vouchers expand.

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Tennessee’s ESA Shenanigans Illustrate Why Delegating Education Policy to States is a BAD Idea

April 25, 2019 Comments off

A friend on Facebook shared a blog post from Momma Bear, a group of concerned Tennessee parents, grandparents, citizens, and– in a ll probability— teachers who are appalled at what is taking place in Tennessee. It seems that the Governor wants to get a voucher bill passed and in order to secure the votes he needed to do so was offering enticements to legislators if they voted in favor of his plan and threatening funding shortfalls for those who didn’t. The post describes how the House went from a 49-49 deadlock to a tie-breaking 50-48 vote on the voucher bill… and it seems that very few of the votes were cast in favor of the voucher policy itself… rather they were cast to secure funding for better roads and avoiding vengeance.

This is Lamar Alexander’s legacy for weakening the Federal policy guidelines and handing them off to the states…. and I rest my case for the flaws in the ESA legislation.

Millions of Federal $$$ for Charters Wasted Since 2006. Note the Date, Please!

April 23, 2019 Comments off

Jeff Bryant, co-author of a recently released report from the Network for Public Education (NPE), wrote a post for Common Dreams describing Betsy DeVos’ most recent reaction to the report, which was an ad hominem attack of the writers. Mr. Bryant’s summarized Ms. DeVos’ reaction and the NPE’s response in this paragraph:

By denying, distracting, and personally attacking the report authors, she encouraged us to delve further into the evidence that much of the money awarded by the program went to charter schools that are, at best, bungling attempts to start up education businesses that should never have been financed to begin with or, at worst, scam operations that willfully intended to make off with taxpayer money and not suffer any negative consequences.

What I find particularly alarming after reading this post is that the easiest defense of DeVos COULD have been: “The waste, fraud, and abuse happened under the watch of previous administrations and I will be taking the following steps to correct this problem”… because almost all of the documented cases in the NPE report come from actions taken by the DOE under the Obama administration.

She didn’t say that… which means she does not care at all about the need to regulate for profit charter schools or the impact those schools have on the lives of parents, children, and community members.

But here’s what I find even MORE alarming: there are probably at least a dozen Democratic candidates who WILL defend charter schools using that line of reasoning.

My bottom line on charters is that they should be governed by democratically elected boards and subject to the same regulations as public schools.

In Chicago, Black Families Leave, White Families Arrive, NYTimes Wonders Why. The Answer? The Degradation of Public Schools

February 26, 2019 Comments off

Today’s NYTimes has a lengthy analysis of the forthcoming mayoral election written by Monica Davis headlined: “Chicago, Seeking a New Mayor, Sees Many Black Residents Voting With Their Feet“. The reasons given for this outmigration are myriad, with the best synopsis offered in this paragraph:

“People are frustrated and they’re saying, ‘We’ve just had enough. No more mayors for the 1 percent. This city belongs to all of us, not just the people who live in the Gold Coast,’” Sharon Fairley, a former federal prosecutor who also led an agency that oversees Chicago police, said of the hurdles facing the next mayor. “The biggest challenge that anyone coming into this position now is facing is generating a feeling of inclusiveness.”

One of the actions that undoubtedly contributes to the disenfranchisement of African American was the mayor’s decision to close 50 neighborhood schools and compel children to board buses to attend schools in parts of town where they felt unwelcome. They felt unwelcome not because the schools were predominantly white or middle class, but because the schools were often in neighborhoods where different gangs controlled the streets and where it was impossible for parents to regularly monitor their children’s performance.

Nothing reinforces a lack of inclusiveness like closing a neighborhood school, shunting children to a distant school where they are unwelcome, and stripping the schools of elective programs and support services. Yet the school closure issue barely registered in the lengthy article, warranting only these two passing comments:

Downtown Chicago is booming, its skyline dotted with construction cranes. Yet residents only a few miles to the south and west still wrestle with entrenched gang violence, miserable job prospects and shuttered schools — some of the still-being-identified forces, experts say, that are pushing black Chicagoans to pack up and get out.

Before his announcement, he was facing a wide field of people who said they would challenge him, as well as criticism over a tenure that included conflicts over police conduct, street violence and the closings of schools on the city’s South and West Sides. And Mr. Emanuel’s policies have remained a focal point for criticism from some who now hope to succeed him.

If you want to send a message to voters and residents that they don’t matter and that the political leaders are looking out for the 1% at the expense of everyone else; underfund schools and close those that are underperforming…. and that formula for reform is precisely what is generating a feeling of despair and a lack of inclusiveness in our nation today.

Cory Booker Has Background, Talent to be President. Too Bad He Opposes Public Education

February 6, 2019 Comments off

For those who follow politics but do not appreciate the devastating impact of privatization, Cory Booker seems like a candidate for President in the mold of Barack Obama: an articulate African American with his roots in urban reform and a steady ascent up the political ladder. But there is one other area where Cory Booker has an unsettling resemblance to Barack Obama: his desire to privatize public education and, consequently, his embrace of ideas akin to those of Betsy DeVos and— yes— Arne Duncan.

For those readers who believe that a Cory Booker candidacy would improve the state of public schools, I urge you to read and bookmark this article by Jacobin’s Eric Blanc. The title, “Cory Booker Hates Pulic Schools” gives you some idea of the contents.

California’s Proposition 13 and New Hampshire’s “Pledge” Have the Same Result

January 24, 2019 Comments off

In “California Schools Were Once the Nation’s Envy. What Went Wrong?”, in a recent article on the LA teachers strike in The Guardian, Andrew Gumbels’ answers the question in two words: Proposition 13.

Ask any public policy expert what single factor contributed most to the decline of California’s schools, and the answer will invariably be the state’s retro version of Brexit: a referendum, passed in 1978 on a wave of populist anger, that was earth-shattering in its impactand has proven enduringly divisive.

Proposition 13 drastically cut and capped property taxes and hobbled the ability of California counties – and, indirectly, the state – to raise money for schools and other key social programs. The initiative, which passed with close to 65% support, was billed as a grassroots tax revolt against a backdrop of high inflation, rising interest rates and a perception of out-of-control public spending. Overnight, the tax revenue available to pay for public schooling was slashed by one-third, forcing the state to step in and make up some – but not all – of the shortfall.

The school system was already in a modest decline – California had fallen from fifth in the country in per-pupil spending in 1965 to 14th – but the decline now accelerated markedly. Within a decade, California was below the national average. It currently ranks 43rd out of 50 states.

“People always come back to Prop 13 because a lot of the other changes since are a result, either direct or indirect, of that vote,” said Jennifer Imazeki, an economist and education specialist at San Diego State University. “It changed the amount of money districts could raise through property taxes and cut revenue dramatically. And the money’s a big part of it.”

Proposition 13, like many populist ideas, was a simple and blunt method for dealing with a complicated problem… and like most simple solutions had several adverse unintended consequences. The schools were predominantly funded by property taxes which meant that property rich communities had great schools and property poor districts had poor schools. When the California Supreme Court passed legislation requiring more resources for underfunded schools, taxpayers rebelled.  A conservative activist, Howard Jarvis, wrote a referendum that was easy to understand— your property taxes will be lower!— and it passed overwhelmingly and forty years later has become sacrosanct: a law that no politician wanted to challenge under any circumstances even though the majority of taxpayers would benefit from a thoughtfully crafted method of funding public education.

New Hampshire, like California, relies exclusively on property taxes and in many jurisdictions, especially those with a limited tax base, the property taxes are onerous even though the schools in those underfunded communities are poor in comparison. And like California, New Hampshire has been sued on several occasions and lost in court on several occasions, but so far no Howard Jarvis has emerged because no Democrat or Republican has ever run for office based on a platform that would replace the property taxes with a broad based and less regressive income tax…. The candidates for Governor take “the pledge” to never impose a broad based tax and, as a result, no legislature in NH has ever voted to impose any kind of broad based tax. So…. after the legislators ignore court decisions for 10-15 years, a new lawsuit if filed by a different set of aggrieved districts and the cycle begins again.

And NH and CA have the same problems: inequitable and generally underfunded schools and a public that doesn’t want to see its taxes go up. The challenge going forward for public education is daunting: to soften the anger directed toward tax recipients that is at the root of the tax-caps. Part of the conservatives pitch to lower taxes invariably includes an undeserving welfare queen, a “greedy teacher” who earns wages and has benefits and pensions in excess of others in the town, or a weak veteran teacher who draws a high wage “because the union protects them”. Today, the conservatives add “inefficient” to the list and seek a moral high ground by offering every child the chance to attend any school they wish without providing enough money to make that assertion a reality. In sum, as it stands now, there is a long list of reasons to oppose a tax hike and a very short list to support it… and few people who seek social and economic justice are willing to link that with tax increases for those in the top 10-20%— which would need to happen if there is any hope of equity of opportunity in the future.