Education

U.S. Department of Education Checks-up on Michigan Public Schools

images[2]The Detroit Public Schools are being paid a visit today by Tony Miller, the U.S. Deputy Secretary of Education. Department spokesperson Daren Briscoe told The Detroit News that the purpose of the visit is:

“…to assess the status of reform efforts to improve outcomes for Detroit’s public school students and to determine how ED can best provide continued support and technical assistance across a broad range of reform and management areas. He will meet with the leadership of the Detroit Public schools, the Education Achievement Authority, and the Michigan Department of Education.”

How nice…almost sounds like they’re coming for tea.

The Michigan powers-that-be must sense that their lawbreaking days are coming to an end.

And their crimes are many:

Detroit schools have been operating under Emergency Management since 2009, and under that authority have been decimated through cruel cut-back management schemes borrowed from the corporate world. Emergency Manager Roy Roberts, a former GM executive, further destroyed the district through his Education Achievement Authority plan in which he transferred the dead weight of the 15 lowest performing schools in DPS to a new state operated district. Last years’s legislation that paved the way for the wild proliferation of charter and cyber schools has further turned DPS into an educational ghost town.

Last August, on the same day Public Act 4, the Emergency Manager law, was suspended as the Michigan Supreme Court ordered the certification of the petitions putting the law to a referendum vote in November, state Attorney General Bill Schuette filed a lawsuit to suspend seven elected DPS board members on a technicality. This week Wayne County Circuit Court threw-out the case as so much hogwash. DPS school board legal counsel chararacterized the harassment as “a bogus lawsuit by the AG from the beginning. It just showed contempt for Detroit”.

Speculation swirls whether the various complaints of civil rights violations committed under DPS Emergency Management will be discussed at today’s “helpful” meeting. Included among them are the closure of so very many schools that are primarily serving minority communities, the transfer of those 15 low performing schools to the EAA, and the suspension of 180 high school students who staged a walk-out in protest of the poor quality of education in DPS.

This federal scutiny comes at a pivotal moment for the EAA. Certain lawmakers have been pushing hard for legislation that would codify the state-wide district into law so they may expand from 15 schools to 60 within five years — and obtain critical grant monies to keep afloat.

Federal government agencies rarely stick their noses in state operations, and when they do, the effort is typically flaccid at best. For two years the coalition that put together the petition drive to repeal the Emergency Manager law has been soliciting the assistance of U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, asking him to investigate violations of the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act. The petitioners have been met with…crickets.

Let’s hope today’s meeting is a productive one.

Amy Kerr Hardin from Democracy Tree
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The Precarious Situation of Nevada’s ELL Students

(or “Why Nevada is Going to Get Sued for Millions.“)

With recent headlines like “Conference attendees say Nevada isn’t doing enough to educate ELL students,” and “GOP lawmaker seeks more state funding for English language learners,” it should come as no surprise that Nevada has an English Language Learner problem in its grade schools. What such headlines don’t show is the depth and breadth of the peril we place our state in by not doing enough to educate ELL students.

Economic Impact

According to 2012 Applied Analysis impact study, the cost to Nevada of ELL students who will fail to graduate, or unlikely to graduate, is projected at $17 trillion, in loss of tax payments, unemployment benefits, cost of incarceration, and health care costs that will have to be subsidized. This net economic drag can be reversed if Nevada adequately educates ELL students early on and fixes its high school graduation crisis. The estimated return on investment if this is accomplished is tenfold for each dollar spent over the coming years. Therefore, every day Nevada continues to view the investment of educating ELL students as a burden is another day that the potential return on investment is not realized.

Depth of the ELL Population

Nevada school age children in general are demographically diverse and likely to be “at risk” – three in five are minorities, one in six is an ELL learner, and one in two qualifies for free or reduced cost school lunches – further exacerbating efforts to educate ELL students.

ELL population has remained stable for the last five years, even as immigration has declined into the state.  Although some immigrant families, particularly undocumented immigrants left Nevada in the last three years, the bulk of the immigrant families have decided to make Nevada their home in spite of the hard times. As is evident the magnitude of Nevada’s ELL demographics is no longer small enough to fully address by diverting minor resources from general education funding as it once was decades ago.

Breadth of the ELL Achievement Gap

Nevada has a legal obligation under constitutional law, federal law, and state law to provide ALL children with an equal quality of education and quality educational opportunities; free of charge and regardless of legal status. However, Nevada’s ELL children lag significantly behind their English-speaking counterparts, third grade ELL children lag 15% behind in CRT reading scores, and the gap becomes larger the longer that they remain in ELL programs, one in twelve ELL children passes the English high school proficiency exam.

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Experts agree that teaching special populations of ELL children require skill sets and expertise that the average teacher is not taught. In addition, for ELL children to succeed they need to receive instruction from teachers who understand how to teach the development of language as well as how to communicate to English Language Learners academic concepts. Shockingly, in a recent review of Clark County School District classrooms 69 out of 70 teachers were rated as not providing high quality ELL instruction and most observed classroom interactions contained NO instructional content for ELL students on language development. Reviewers made it loud and clear that the high quality instruction required for ELL students was almost completely missing. This is overwhelming evidence that Nevada is not meeting its legal obligations requiring that “the programs and practices actually used by a school system [be] reasonably calculated to implement effectively the educational theory adopted by the school.

Providing Resources for ELL Needs

Increased funding does not guarantee that the additional resources needed for educating ELL students are provided. However, Nevada doesn’t currently provide any funding for ELL resources, one of only a handful of states that does not provide any state funding for ELL children. In failing to provide even minimum services for ELL children the state places itself at risk of a multi-million dollar lawsuit. School districts with comparable ELL student populations, who have settled ELL lawsuits, such as Florida, California and Arizona provide substantial state support for ELL programs leaving a strong precedence for substantial ELL resources as a funding requirement. Further deteriorating ELL resources in Nevada:

This leaves us asking the question “What level of funding for ELL will fix the looming human, work force and legal crisis?” The Nevada legislature has commissioned two studies in 2006 and 2012; both recommended increasing funding for ELL students. According to the 2006 adequacy study, Nevada should be funding English Language Learners at $5600 per child which when adjusted for inflation would have equated to $3,551.3 million in additional funding dedicated strictly for English Language Learner instruction and resources. The 2012 study was unable to propose an updated estimate for funding ELL resources because it was “simply not possible to disentangle the relationship between – low?income [students] and ELL students.”

Authored by Sebring Frehner with the expertise of various community leaders.

States Pushing ALEC Bill To Require Teaching Climate Change Denial In Schools

groundhog

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) – known by its critics as a “corporate bill mill” – has hit the ground running in 2013, pushing “models bills” mandating the teaching of climate change denial in public school systems.

January hasn’t even ended, yet ALEC has already planted its “Environmental Literacy Improvement Act” – which mandates a “balanced” teaching of climate science in K-12 classrooms – in the state legislatures of Oklahoma, Colorado, and Arizona so far this year.

In the past five years since 2008, among the hottest years in U.S. history, ALEC has introduced its “Environmental Literacy Improvement Act” in 11 states, or over one-fifth of the statehouses nationwide. The bill has passed in four states, an undeniable form of “big government” this “free market” organization decries in its own literature. More →

E-mails link Bush foundation, corporations and education officials

E-mails link Bush foundation, corporations and education officials

jeb and george bush                                    George and Jeb Bush (Jason Reed/Reuters)

A nonprofit group released thousands of e-mails today and said they show how a foundation begun by Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor and national education reform leader, is working with public officials in states to write education laws that could benefit some of its corporate funders.

A call to the foundation has not been returned.

The e-mails are between the Foundation for Excellence in Education (FEE) and a group Bush set up called Chiefs for Change, whose members are current and former state education commissioners who support Bush’s agenda of school reform, which includes school choice, online education, retention of third-graders who can’t read and school accountability systems based on standardized tests. That includes evaluating teachers based on student test scores and grading schools A-F based on test scores. John White of Louisiana is a current member, as is Tony Bennett, the new commissioner of Florida who got the job after Indiana voters rejected his Bush-style reforms last November and tossed him out of office.

Donald Cohen, chair of the nonprofit In the Public Interest, a resource center on privatization and responsible for contracting in the public sector, said the e-mails show how education companies that have been known to contribute to the foundation are using the organization “to move an education agenda that may or not be  in our interests but are in theirs.”

He said companies ask the foundation to help state officials pass laws and regulations that make it easier to expand charter schools, require students to take online education courses, and do other things that could result in business and profits for them. The e-mails show, Cohen said, that Bush’s foundation would often do this with the help of Chiefs for Change and other affiliated groups.

The e-mails were obtained by Cohen’s group through public record requests and are available here, complete with a search function. They reveal — conclusively, he said — that foundation staff members worked to promote the interests of some of their funders in  Florida, New Mexico, Maine, Oklahoma, Rhode Island and Louisiana.

The Web site of the Foundation for Excellence in Education used to list some of their donors but no longer does and is not required to list all of its donors to the public under tax rules for 5013C organizations. However, it is known that the foundation has received support from for-profit companies K12 and Pearson and Amplify, as well as the nonprofit College Board.

There are strong connections between FEE and the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), according to the nonprofit Center for Media and Democracy:

Aptly named FEE, Bush’s group is backed by many of the same for-profit school corporations that have funded ALEC and vote as equals with its legislators on templates to change laws governing America’s public schools. FEE is also bankrolled by many of the same hard-right foundations bent on privatizing public schools that have funded ALEC. And, they have pushed many of the same changes to the law, which benefit their corporate benefactors and satisfy the free market fundamentalism of the billionaires whose tax-deductible charities underwrite the agenda of these two groups.

 

FEE and ALEC also have had some of the same “experts” as members or staff, part of the revolving door between right-wing groups. They have also collaborated on the annual ALEC education “report card” that grades states’ allegiance to their policy agenda higher than actual student performance. That distorted report card also rewards states that push ALEC’s beloved union-busting measures while giving low grades to states with students who actually perform best on standardized knowledge tests.

Here is some of what the e-mails released today by Clark’s group say, taken from the Web site of In the Public Interest:

* In New Mexico, FEE acted as a broker to organize meetings between their corporate donors and individual Chiefs.

* Maine moved the FEE policy agenda through legislation and executive order that would remove barriers to online education and in some cases would require online classes – including eliminating class size caps and student-teacher ratios, allowing public dollars to flow to online schools and classes, eliminate ability of local school districts to limit access to virtual schools.

*In Florida, FEE helped write legislation that would increase the use of a proprietary test (FCAT) under contract to Pearson, an FEE donor.

* Foundation for Excellence in Education CEO Patricia Levesque urged state officials to introduce SendHub, a communications tool, into their state’s schools. News reports indicate that Levesque’s boss, Jeb Bush, is an investor in SendHub.

 

Florida 

• FEE staff sought legislation that would count the state test, known as FCAT, as more than 50% of the state’s school accountability measure. FEE staffer Patricia Levesque wrote to a state official that she had negotiated the related language with state legislators, who were now “asking for the following, which the Foundation completely supports: FCAT shall be ‘at least 50%, but no more than 60%’ of a high school’s grade.” Pearson, the company that holds the $250 million FCAT contract and sponsors FEE through its foundation, has an obvious financial stake in ensuring that FCAT continues to be at the center of Florida’s education system.

• Levesque writes, “I think we need to add a sec onto this bill to give you/the department authority to set a state?approved list of charter operators or private providers so districts can’t pick poor performers to implement turnaround.” At least one FEE donor, the for-profit Florida-based Charter Schools USA, could benefit from being placed on such a state-approved list.

• Charter Schools USA also could benefit from a “parent trigger” law, the passage of which, as Nadia Hagberg of FEE wrote, was the goal of a partnership between Bush’s Florida-based organization (the Foundation for Florida’s Future) and Parent Revolution: “The Foundation for Florida’s Future worked closely with [Parent Revolution] throughout the process in Florida and they proved to be an invaluable asset.” Parent trigger, which failed to pass during Florida’s last legislative session, is a mechanism to convert neighborhood schools to charter schools.

Louisiana

• An April 26, 2011, e-mail indicates that Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education, through its Chiefs for Change project, had engaged John Bailey, a director of Dutko Grayling. CEO Patricia Levesque wrote to State Schools Superintendent Paul Pastorek:

“John Bailey, whom you met over the phone, will be on the call to provide an update on reauthorization discussions on the Hill. He is going to be on contract with the Foundation to assist with the Chiefs’ DC activities in light of Angie’s departure.

“Dutko has been accused of working with industry front groups in the past. For example, Dutko worked with AIDS Responsibility Project (ARP), an industry-supported effort described by an HIV/AIDS policy activist as a ‘drug industry-funded front group. ‘”

• There are records of the Foundation for Excellence in Education reimbursing Paul Pastorek and John White, the two men who led the state’s education department, for their travel to Orlando and Washington, D.C., for events sponsored by FEE and the Chiefs for Change.

Maine

• As the Portland Press-Herald has reported, the e-mails were evidence of “a partnership formed between Maine’s top education official and a foundation entangled with the very companies that stand to make millions of dollars from the policies it advocates.”

• FEE Deputy Director Deirdre Finn wrote, “We can definitely help develop an executive order,” referring to what became a February 2012 executive order by Gov. LePage directing his education commissioner to develop a plan to open the door to more cyber-schooling in Maine. The elements of the order originated with the Digital Learning Council, a group co-chaired by Bush and funded by FEE donors K12 Inc, the Pearson Foundation and McGraw-Hill.

• The Foundation for Educational Excellence also acted as a conduit for ALEC model legislation and policies. LePage’s order originated at ALEC, was tailored for Maine by the FEE and sent to Education Commissioner Stephen Bowen, who subsequently forwarded it to LePage to release unchanged. “Resolution adopting the 10 Elements of High Quality Digital Learning” is a model bill introduced by Arizona Sen. Rich Crandall at the 2011 ALEC Annual Conference.

New Mexico

• FEE provides its donors — including for-profit digital education companies — access to the chiefs. A draft agenda for the Excellence in Action 2011 Summit blocked off two hours for “Chiefs for Change donor meetings.” Another draft agenda for the meeting allocated nearly three hours to “Chiefs for Change donor meetings.” The donors for the summit were the Walton Family Foundation, the Charles and Helen Schwab Foundation, the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, the Broad Foundation, the Carnegie Corp., Susan and Bill Oberndorf, GlobalScholar, Target, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Microsoft, State Farm, IQity, McGraw-Hill Education, Doris and Donald Fisher Fund, Intel, Pearson Foundation, Apex Learning, ETS, Electronic Arts, Koret Foundation, SMART Technologies, K12, Morgridge Family Foundation, Charter Schools USA and Connections Academy. Demand for donor time was so high that Patricia Levesque wrote that she had to turn down opportunities for the chiefs to meet other representatives from companies.

• FEE staff served as advisers to acting education commissioner Hanna Skandera. FEE, and, by extension, its donors, had great influence over New Mexico legislation. In a Jan., 2011, e-mail, Skandera directs a staffer from the legislature to forward all education bills to FEE’s Christy Hovanetz for edits: “Can you send all Governor’s office ed bill language to Christy, including social promotion?” Another FEE staffer, Mary Laura Bragg, wrote to Skandera, “I’m at your beck and call.”

• The foundation sought to make connections between Skandera (as well as the other Chiefs for Change) and the Hume Foundation for funds for digital learning projects from  Hume  that “must flow through the Foundation for Excellence in Education as a project-restricted grant.” The Santa Fe New Mexican reported  Oct. 21 that Skandera had indeed applied for such a grant, which ultimately could lead to digital learning legislation favorable to FEE funders Connections Academy and K-12 Inc.

• The e-mails indicate that FEE paid for Skandera’s travel, reimbursing New Mexico $3382.91 for her expenses, including trip to Washington, D.C., to testify before Congress.

Oklahoma

• An Oct. 7, 2011, e-mail indicates that State Superintendent Janet Barresi was a guest of Louis A. Piconi — founder and SVP of Strategic Activities, Apangea Learning Inc., a distance learning company — at an event Piconi hosted for Jeb Bush and Indiana Schools Superintendent Tony Bennett. Apangea is not a known funder of FEE, but Apangea and Barresi contributed to Bennett’s campaign.

• As in other states, FEE staff had great control over state education policies, writing and editing regulations for the Oklahoma State Department of Education.

*For unknown reasons, Barresi’s response to an e-mail from Patricia Levesque about SendHub was not included in Oklahoma’s response to the public records request. Instead, that was found in the documents from Louisiana. A Louisiana official was cc’d on the e-mail. A description of Barresi’s response is in the Rhode Island section of this document.

Rhode Island

• In February 2012, Patricia Levesque, using her Foundation for Excellence in Education e-mail address, urged state officials to introduce SendHub, a communications tool, into their state’s schools. News reports indicate that Levesque’s boss, Jeb Bush, was an investor in the start-up by the fall of 2012.

• An e-mail chain between RI Ed Commissioner Deborah Gist and FEE’s Patricia Levesque shows Gist trying to obtain a funding grant from the Kern Foundation, which was denied because of the “political environment” in RI.

• Gist also sought funding from the Hume Foundation for a digital learning initiative. FEE staff made it a point to connect Gist, as well as other state education commissioners, with Hume to launch digital learning projects.

This post was written by  Valerie Strauss  and posted in the Washington Post on January 30, 2013.  The original may be found at http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/01/30/e-mails-link-bush-foundation-corporations-and-education-officials/

 

 

 

Excellence Happens in Vegas

Cross posted from EduShyster’s blog.
Keeping an eye on the corporate education agenda.

It’s time once again to climb aboard the rephorm express. Today we’re headed west, to Vegas, baby: home to the legendary Strip, the Hoover Dam, and these days, plenty of excellence, Teach for America style. Alas, what happens in Vegas likely won’t be staying there for long…First, allow me to lay it on you historical style. Once upon a time, back at the peak of the economic boom, Nevada’s most populous county was opening upwards of 10 schools and hiring 2,000 new teachers—every year. Then the economy imploded thanks to the greed of a great many people who were not teachers. Fast forward a few years and the excellent leaders of Las Vegas have at last identified the source of Sin City’s persistent woes: teachers. You see, it turns out that most of the teachers here are of the low quality, low expectations variety, single handedly stifling the hopes and dreams of Vegas’ youngsters, leaving them without the skills necessary to join the city’s low-wage, low-skills workforce.  Fortunately, reader, where there is a simple, glaring problem, a silver bullet solution lies within easy reach. I give you—drum roll please—Teach for America.

Exellence happens
In recent years, Las Vegas has imported excellence to the tune of hundreds of outstanding young TFA recruits. And just like the Chinese laborers who once tunneled through the Rocky Mountains in order to bring the Transcontinental Railroad west, there is no challenge so tough that excellence can’t bore right through it. Take for example the ballooning class sizes—as high as 50 in required classes—resulting from teacher layoffs and a years’ long fiscal crisis. Here’s TFA alum turned Nevada Board of Education member Allison Serafin on how huge class sizes are no match for excellence.

How do you prepare teachers for Clark County’s large classes, which are among the nation’s most crowded?

Serafin: We don’t allow class sizes to be an excuse for lackluster achievement. You control what kind of teacher you are and what your students learn. If a member is struggling with a large class, we’ll find teachers who have succeeded with many students and see what we can learn.

Problem solved, or as Clark County’s 55,000 English Language Learners might say:¡problema resuelto! In fact, that is most likely what our young ELL friends will say, given that many of the district’s ELL teachers have been laid off and that Nevada is one of just a handful states that don’t provide any extra funds to educate students who are still learning English.

Excellence rises to the top
But there I go again, making excuses. In the time it took me to type that last excuse, two more TFA alums were elected to statewide office on a “no excuses” platform. I kid you not, dear reader. It turns out that in Las Vegas, the TFA excellence adventure merely begins in the overcrowded classroom—then it’s onto bigger venues, like the Nevada State Board of Education, which is now home to two TFA alum. Armed with nothing more than then high expectations and a combined $300,000, raised primarily from out-of-state sources, these fearless young leaders are introducing the Board of Education to some serious TFA-style excellence. Fortunately Allison Serafin and Alexis Gonzales-Black have some powerful friends, like philanthropist-turned-education-advocate Elaine Wynn, two-time-former-wife of odious Vegas bazillionaire Steve Wynn and the new president of the State Board of Education.

Excellence meets the apocalypse
There remains but one question for us to answer, dear reader: is there a way for the tax payers of Nevada to increase their stake in the excellence project that is Teach for America? Good news again. In his state-of-the-union address, Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval announced that the state is ponying up $2 million to bring still more TFA recruits to the Sagebrush State. Of course not everyone here is rolling out the welcome mat for the excellence express. Take the residents of Towne Terrace, a down-at-the-heels apartment complex in downtown Las Vegas, purchased by Zappos magnate (and Alexis Gonzales-Black employer) Tony Hseih who dreams of repopulating the entire area with more than 1,000 TFA corps members and alum. Except that the residents of the Towne Terrace made it exceedingly clear that they had no interest in being evicted to make way for excellence. Oh well, next time…

Do you wish that you were excellent? Send comments and self-improvement tips to  tips@edushyster.com.

Cyber Schools — Michigan Could Learn from the Pennsylvania Experiment

Its been nearly a year since Democracy Tree covered its first story on cyber schools. In the course of research, various Internet searches are conducted, and in February of 2012 a search for “cyber-schools” yielded a first page of results with multiple articles and scholarly research on the subject. Fast forward to January of 2013 and we find K-12 Inc. getting top-billing on Google Ads, and scrolling down, the for-profit cyber corporations appear over and over again.

In the wake of the rush to open charters and cybers in Michigan over the past few months, corporations vying for student dollars are making doorbuster sales look tame. Michigan would be wise to ask: Just how much accountability and transparency exists among these new enterprises? Lawmaker Douglas Geiss (D) just introduced House Bill 4032 which would bring cyber schools to the same reporting standard as traditional public schools regarding disclosure of instructional materials. The bill would amend the Revised School Code on only this very narrow concern — a baby step towards transparency. But, given the free license the Michigan legislature has thus far afforded cybers, this bill will likely stall in committee. 

Not to imply cyber learing does not have a legitimate place in our public education system — it serves students who are, for a variety of reasons, unable to attend a brick and mortar facility — physical and mental health conditions, travel and bullying are all valid reasons to opt out of a traditional learning environment. But parents who make this choice because they think its going to be better, based on a sales pitch and a prayer, may be short-changing their child’s education.

Pennsylvania has been in the cyber game for a full decade, and their enthusiasm for the concept appears to be well on the wane. The state’s lawmakers are poised to do much more than tweak a tiny transparency clause — they are prepared to put the breaks on the growth of the enterprise by limiting funding for its expansion.

Pennsylvania Education Secretary, Ron Tamalis, rejected applications this week for eight new cyber-schools citing they “lack adequate evidence and sufficient information of how prospective students would be offered quality academic programs.” — a broad transparency issue. He went on to further imply that these schools may be in it just for a quick buck, because they lacked a sound financial plan.

A recent evaluation of Pennsylvania cyber-schools showed that none in the state met requirements — a finding so shocking that charter schools asked to be evaluated separately from their online cousins. Rumors swirl that the state’s legislature is toying with limiting future funding for cyber-schools, with 34,000 students already participating in this educational gamble, lawmakers are hesitant to pave the way for further cyber inroads in Pennsylvania public schools.

Mechanicsburg Area School District superintendent, Mark Leidy, recently expressed the frustration local school officials feel over the funding issue thusly: 

“The mixed message for school districts is hard to understand…In one respect, we are told, and we accept, that we are accountable for the education and achievement of our students. Yet, if our expectations or standards are met with resistance, individual families can elect to go to another school at a significant cost to our taxpayers. If the issue is one of choice, and families need to exercise an option for their child to receive classes online, then our district provides this opportunity at half the cost of what outside providers charge.”

Parents are opting out of online opportunities offered by traditional public schools in favor of for-profit schools with a poor track record, and taxpayer dollars are following those bad decisions. Pennsylvania is wise to check the metastasizing of cybers before it’s too late.

Michigan could learn from this.

Amy Kerr Hardin from Democracy Tree

Charter Schools — Socializing Debt and Privatizing Profit

imagesCA1R9REYIn Michigan, Gov. Snyder’s education policies have effectively put a For Sale sign on every public school student — launching an explosion in the growth of charter schools, and we are just now beginning to see some credible analysis on the charter boom impact. Much of it focuses on the Detroit area where public schools are hemorrhaging students to these for-profit charters — the kids are like so much chum in a corporate feeding frenzy.

The charter craze ignited 20 years ago in Minnesota and, until recently, very little hard data was sifted by professionals. Much of the “evidence” in support of charters was anecdotal and theoretical, often appealing to parental emotions and notions of “choice” magically bringing improvements to our educational system through an over-simplified understanding of the competitive model. We’ve seen public policy based on airy and unsubstantiated claims — a risky experiment that would not likely occur in other developed nations. This behavioral pattern is fully buttressed by the conservative enthusiasm for rugged individualism — “get government out of our lives” thinking (unless it’s our vaginas of course).

The Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) conducted an analysis examining 6 years of charter performance in Michigan from the 2005-06 school-year to the 2010-11. Their Jan. 2013 report did not factor adjustments More →

DPS — The Incredible Shrinking School District

It’s reality check time for Detroit Public Schools Emergency Manager Roy Roberts. In  a recent correspondence with his staff, he all but admits that the Emergency Management scheme is seriously flawed. Referencing the free-fall in student enrollment as seriously problematic, he tells employees the following:

…the reality remains that if we continue to lose students the district will have no choice but to continue to shrink. I know that this is not what any of us wants to see happen. My goal is for all of us to work together to grow the district.” images[3]

Projections through 2016 predict the loss of over 1000 jobs, a $180 million dollar drop in the per pupil foundation grant, the closing of up to 28 more schools, and the current school population to shrink from 50,000 to 38,400 — less than half of the over 100,000 prior to Emergency Management. This enrollment decline did not occur in a vacuum — it happened under the watch of two unelected Emergency Managers, with unchecked absolute authority, who have run roughshod over the financially stressed district since 2009. They wielded brutal cut-back management fiscal policies, borrowed from the corporate world, leaving the district under-staffed and unable to manage class sizes.

Under the Snyder administration things got worse — much worse. With the governor’s blessing, Roberts launched the Education Achievement Authority so he could cut the academic dead-weight of the district’s 15 lowest achieving schools. The EAA is projected to absorb up to 60 new schools statewide, with many of them coming from DPS.

But, the straw that broke the district’s back is the recent expansion of brick and mortar charter and charter cyber schools — for-profit operations that see students as dollar signs. They have proliferated in the beleaguered Detroit area under the anti-public education policies of the governor. Snyder has systematically dismantled DPS like a true corporate raider.

Is this his idea of success?

Amy Kerr Hardin from Democracy Tree

Three Reforms to Top N.C. Agenda – Americans For Prosperity

by Tim Phillips, president of Americans for Prosperity

Now with a new governor working with the Legislature, here are the three key reforms to watch in the coming legislative session:

First, the Legislature needs to bring the benefits of fiscal responsibility home to each taxpayer through permanent tax reform. While the details have yet to be finalized, the Legislature may pass a bill to eliminate both the corporate and personal income tax. The state will make up the lost revenue by broadening the sales tax rate. This will encourage saving and investment, leading to higher job creation and greater overall prosperity.

Second, the state needs to take advantage of its energy reserves. Gov. Pat McCrory says he will join with his regional governors in Virginia, South Carolina and Georgia to negotiate with the federal government for energy exploration off the Eastern Seaboard. In addition, the state needs to finalize regulations for natural gas development (fracking) so that investors More →

Texas Public School Course Teaches the ‘Racial Origins Traced from Noah’

A new report put out by the Texas Freedom Network Education Fund reveals that in several public school classes on the impact of the Bible on history have found classes teaching from a right-wing, fundamentalist Christian standpoint.

A Southern Methodist University religious studies professor Mark Chancey found instances of students learning a literal interpretation of the Bible, that the earth is approximately 6,000 years old and that Judaism is a “flawed and incomplete religion” with materials “designed to evangelize rather than provide an objective study of the Bible’s influence.”

TFN also found a lesson explaining “racial origins traced from Noah.”
RacialOriginsNoah More →