charter schools

Cyber Schools Fleece Taxpayers for Phantom Students and Failing Grades

Cyber Schools Fleece Taxpayers for Phantom Students and Failing Grades

Many times we’ve written about attacks upon our public school system by corporate interests wishing to capitalize off of public tax dollars spent on education.  Cyber schools are some of the most misunderstood programs by parents.  Journalist Mary Bottari at PRWatch has done an excellent job of ferreting through the data – ciphering information from dis-information – to give parents and students a more complete understanding of why Cyber School programs are failing.  Not only failing to achieve the results promised, but companies like K-12, Inc. are amassing huge profits from tax dollars as our children’s education is set back decades.

The full article is a must read for parents, teachers and those trying to decide whether long distance learning and charter schools are the future of America’s education program.

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by Mary Bottari at PRWatch

“The data is in and K12 Inc.’s brand of full-time public “cyber school” is garbage. Not surprising for an educational model kicked off with a $10 million investment from junk-bond king Michael Milken.

“Milken was the Wall Street financier who virtually invented junk-bonds — high-risk securities that were used to leverage hostile buyouts in the “go-go” 1980s. Milken came to symbolize Wall Street excess, serving as inspiration for the Michael Douglas character Gordon Gekko in the 1987 movieWall Street. Milken spent almost two years in a federal penitentiary for securities fraud.

“After he was released from prison, Milken set his sights on the $600 billion public education “market,” forming new companies including Knowledge Universe and Knowledge Learning, parent company of the KinderCare child care chain. With his $10 million stake in K12 Inc., Milken aided one of his Vice Presidents and another junk dealer, Ron Packard, who specialized in mergers and acquisitions for Goldman Sachs back in the ’80s.

“The duo prepped to exploit the public education sector, and boy, have they. His various educational ventures have made Milken one of the richest men in America, and Packard ra

Explosion of For-Profit “Virtual Schools” Linked to ALEC

In recent years, there has been an explosion of full-time “virtual” charter schools paid for by the taxpayer. From 2008 to 2012, 157 bills passed in 39 states and territories (including the District of Columbia) that expand online schooling or modify existing regulations. Many of these bills are attributable to American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) politicians.

ALEC approved a “model” Virtual Public Schools Act in 2005 at a time when both K12 Inc. and Connections Academy (the second largest for-profit) were corporate sponsors and helped craft the measure, according to ALEC’s website at the time. Connections Academy quit ALEC under pressure, but K12 Inc. remains on the ALEC Education Task Force and helped sponsor the organization’s recent 40th anniversary shindig in Chicago…”

Read Mary’s full, informative article at PRWatch -> HERE <- or at Truthout -> HERE <-

Former Indiana Superintendent, Lauded by ALEC and Education Privatizers, Cheats on School Grading Formula for Top Donor

Former Indiana Superintendent, Lauded by ALEC and Education Privatizers, Cheats on School Grading Formula for Top Donor

From PRWatch by Brendan Fischer

New documents show that former Indiana Schools Superintendent Tony Bennett — who now heads Florida’s schools — overhauled Indiana’s much-heralded school grading system to guarantee that a charter run by a major campaign donor would receive top marks. These revelations shine a light on the big bucks behind the education privatization agenda, its continued failure to meet the need of students, and provides another instance of cheating to cover up poor educational outcomes.

Bennett had been applauded by education privatizers like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) for enacting reforms like school grading, vouchers, and anti-union measures. He was a keynote speaker at ALEC’s December 2011 States and Nation Policy Summit, and the education reforms he pushed were adopted by ALEC in August 2011 as a stand-alone bill called the “Indiana Education Reform Package” — in no small part because they reflected ALEC model legislation…

…Christel DeHaan, a big Republican donor in Indiana and school privatization supporter, gave Bennett an astounding $130,000 in campaign contributions for his 2008 and 2012 elections. But when DeHaan’s Christel House charter school received a “C” last September under Bennett’s grading system, he and his staff scrambled to fix it, according to emails obtained by the Associated Press.

They need to understand that anything less than an A for Christel House compromises all of our accountability work,” Bennett wrote in a Sept. 12 email to then-chief of staff Heather Neal, who is now Gov. Mike Pence’s chief lobbyist.

Bennett had made the A to F grading system a signature item of his 2011 radical education reforms, which he spearheaded with the support of then-Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels and ALEC legislators in the state. Bennett often cited Christel House as a model charter school as he secured support for his education overhaul, and according to the emails had assured the Chamber of Commerce and legislative leaders that Christel was an “A” school.

This will be a HUGE problem for us,” Bennett wrote to Neal about the school’s “C” grade…

…”Legislative leadership as well as critics of A-F are going to use this against us to undo our accountability metrics through legislation,” Bennett wrote in another email. “I hope we come to the meeting today with solutions and not excuses and/or explanations for me to wiggle myself out of the repeated lies I have told over the past six months.

According to the Associated Press, Bennett’s staff scrambled to alter the grading system over the next week, and Christel House’s grade jumped twice, eventually reaching an “A.”

Read the entire article -> HERE <-

The GOP’s free-market reforms are aimed at public education … More ALEC!

The GOP’s free-market reforms are aimed at public education … More ALEC!

by Will Huntsberry, published by NC’s Indy Week

VLTP and our editors and authors have attempted to inform the public that education is the next big initiative of ALEC.  Not to educate, but rather to privatize public schools and turn teaching over to private corporations.  These corporate “teachers” are not required to be state certified instructors and charters basically are less regulated than public schools.

This article by Huntsberry describes ALEC’s efforts of privatizing education and why…

“At least seven bills are moving through the Legislature that would divert money from public schools to private hands, eliminate teacher tenure, instill performance pay and potentially increase class sizes in public schools. As for charters, they would have less accountability to local school boards; in effect, they would be deregulated.

“Introducing all the reform bills at once is a national strategy, not a state one. A conservative think tank the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) developed the plan, and over the past two years, it has been deployed in Republican-controlled states.

ALEC’s goal is to promote “limited government, free markets, federalism, and individual liberty,” according to its website. The organization writes conservative legislation, which state lawmakers can use in their home states. Many major corporations sponsor ALEC: Duke Energy, ExxonMobil, Bayer, AT&T, Cracker Barrel and Koch Industries are just a few of the organization’s current members, according to the Center for Media and Democracy.”

Ramming through the education reforms is like a game of whack-a-mole. “If all the moles pop up at once, there is no way the person [i.e. progressive education advocates] with the mallet can get them all,” reads an ALEC strategy guide on education policy.

“Instead of being forthright and aggregating all of the reforms into one education bill, they are making it difficult to see,” says Patty Williams of Public Schools First NC, an organization that advocates for progressive education policy. “It’s just a way of not being transparent to the public. We should be proposing laws in a way that’s easy to understand.”

A school voucher bill, HB 994, introduced Tuesday and originated in the office of Rep. Paul Stam, R-Wake, is the centerpiece of conservative education bills. Not only does the bill come straight from the ALEC playbook, Stam, like many other North Carolina lawmakers, is a member of ALEC.

Please take the time to read and share this highly important and informative article by Will Huntsberry -> HERE <-

How Kasich’s Budget for Ohio Hurts All Schools, But Especially The Poorest

Governor John Kasich has made clear that he wants to privatize the schools of Ohio as much as possible with vouchers, charters, and online schools. His new budget reflects his attitude toward public education.

This report came from Jan Resseger in Cleveland. Jan works tirelessly on behalf of equity and social justice.

It is likely you have been getting mixed messages about Ohio’s proposed school funding plan. The political rhetoric is designed to confuse you. How to sort out the facts and how to consider the moral implications of the plan that will allocate opportunity among Ohio’s children?

First, forwarded below is an alert from the Ohio Coalition for Equity and Adequacy of School Funding. You’ll remember them as the DeRolph plaintiff group. The point being made here is clear and simple. Of course poor districts will get more from the state than the wealthiest districts, even though the proposed formula for this biennium rewards rich districts more than poor districts. All of Ohio’s school funding plans going back over a century deliver more money to poor districts. That is a primary function of a state funding formula… to make up at least to a tiny degree for disparate property taxing capacity across local school districts. Back in the 1990s, the Supreme Court of Ohio found four times that Ohio’s formula did not do a good enough job of equalizing access to opportunity.

The problem with this year’s budget proposal is that it doesn’t deliver anywhere what is needed to make up for vast disparities in local property taxing capacity. This means that school districts in wealthy communities will continue to have plenty while the poorest rural and urban districts won’t have nearly enough. This means, for example, that despite passage of a 15 mill levy last November, Cleveland probably still won’t be able to afford to reduce class size enough or hire back all the social workers who were laid off two years ago.

It is appropriate here to remember the words of political philosopher Benjamin Barber: “Equality is not achieved by restricting the fastest, but by assuring the less advantaged a comparable opportunity. Comparable in this matter does not mean identical. The disadvantaged usually require more assistance to compete. Adequate schooling allows those born disadvantaged to compete with those advantaged.”

Here also is a link to an analysis of the proposed state budget by an alternative newspaper in Cincinnati. It is a fair and balanced analysis.

In a constitutional, thorough and efficient system of public common schools, all students and all districts should be winners when a state budget bill is crafted. The state has the constitutional responsibility to secure a thorough and efficient system of public common schools for the benefit of all of Ohio’s school children. So why should there be any losers?

State administration officials, in regard to their state budget, had said such things as:

Students in every zip code deserve a quality education.

If you are poor you will get more, if you are rich you will get less.

The district-by-district spreadsheet revealed that poor districts typically will not receive more state aid than the current amount. The administration officials then said:

We were not looking for a specific per pupil funding number-there is no magical number.

We are not attempting to arrive at a cost amount per pupil.

Poor school districts receive more total state money per pupil.

A historical perspective is warranted. Poor districts have received more state money per pupil than rich districts since at least 1906. SB 103, enacted April 2, 1906, provided state funds to poor districts on top of the state subsidy of $1.85 per pupil for all districts. In May 1908, HB 1302 appropriated $45,000 “to assist with the maintenance of weak school districts.” A $50,000 appropriation, via HB 561, was enacted in May 1910-again, to put more state money in poor school districts.

The state’s first foundation program (Ohio Foundation Program) was enacted in 1935. The Foundation Program Act provided additional funding to poor districts in addition to the state “flat rate” per pupil amount to all districts. The legislature revised the foundation law in 1947 but the result remained the same-more state aid to poor districts.

In August 1975 the legislature enacted SB 170 which included the equal yield formula. The premise was to yield more state funds to poor districts. Equal yield was repealed in the early 1980s in favor of a return to the foundation program. The equal yield formula failed because it was grossly underfunded.

The idea of more funds for low wealth districts is obviously not new. However, even with more state funding per pupil provided to low wealth districts, the total per pupil revenue available to low wealth districts is much less than high wealth districts. Since, in general, low wealth districts will receive no increase with the proposed state budget, the equity gap will widen.

The proposed budget for FY 14 & FY 15 is a loser for all districts. In general, most school districts will be receiving less state and federal money than they received in FY 11. K-12 public education will not benefit from an improved Ohio economy under the state budget proposal and thus a greater burden will be shifted to local revenue sources. FY 2014 and FY 2015 STATE BUDGET PROPOSAL:

Rich districts, poor districts, which are the winners?

Ms. Jan Resseger
Minister for Public Education and Witness
Justice and Witness Ministries
700 Prospect, Cleveland, Ohio 44115
216-736-3711

http://www.ucc.org/justice/public-education

“That all citizens will be given an equal start through a sound education is one of the most basic, promised rights of our democracy. Our chronic refusal as a nation to guarantee that right for all children…. is rooted in a kind of moral blindness, or at least a failure of moral imagination…. It is a failure which threatens our future as a nation of citizens called to a common purpose… tied to one another by a common bond.” —Senator Paul Wellstone, March 31, 2000

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This article is written by Diane Ravitch and is posted at her blog at http://dianeravitch.net/2013/02/26/how-kasichs-budget-for-ohio-hurts-all-schools-but-especially-poorest/

Diane Ravitch's Blog

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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Prospective Charter Schools Applications Surge Into Raleigh

A short while ago we posted The Assault on Public Education Continues in NC which noted the growth in Charter school applications in NC.  Here is a follow up article expanding on the subject.

This post is from the Carolina Journal Online, published by the John Locke Foundation–Art Pope’s think tank here in NC.  A well formed and influential magazine that supports radical right wing dogma.  They are part of the conservative echo chamber by which they overwhelm the public with “expert” supporters for the rad-right agenda.  This is a site worth looking at for no other reason than to see how it promotes this agenda.  I encourage you to learn about the John Locke Foundation by clicking here (once you have read the rest of this blog, I hope).

[Just for background for those who have not been following our blogs on NC:  Art Pope, is an ex-member of ALEC – might still be, we don’t know for sure–yet) and has been involved in Americans For Prosperity with, among others, David Koch.  Pope is said to use brother Charles Koch as a role model.  On the smaller stage of North Carolina as opposed to the international stage of ALEC, Pope has been incredibly influential in NC politics and is widely given credit for the super-majority that conservatives have in the state capitol.

Thom Tillis, who will be referred to later, is the Speaker of the House.  He is also a member of ALEC and was ALEC’s 2011 Legislator of the Year.  He is involved with their International Relations Task Force (chaired by NC’s Tim Moffit and the Philip Morris Corp.).  VLTP has written about ALEC’s international influence before, and is working to connect some final dots showing how multinational corporations are at the heart of a major amount of ALEC Model Legislation.]

The article is entitled Prospective Charter Schools Applications Surge Into Raleigh, and subtitled “But critics fear that state regulators will stifle innovation“.  Well framed as talking ponts–conservatives do this so well.  Sounds interesting, and it is–for the wrong reasons:

RALEIGH — Potential charter school operators, including two that would operate online, flooded the state with 154 letters of intent to open in fall 2014, punctuating a growing appetite for alternatives to traditional public education.
More →

The Assault on Public Education Continues in NC

from the Charlotte Observer, 1/10/13, in the Business Section
NC State Board of Education to vote on online schools

 

How Are Corporations Undermining K-12 Public Education Through These ALEC Bills? – ALECExposed

Courtesy of CMD’s ALECExposed, here is a great 2 page flyer about ALEC’s position on Education.  Perfect for handouts at teach-ins, rallies, protests, etc. More →

Public Schools and Guns

I am a public school teacher.  The irony of teachers being the heroes this week after standing between students and a gun – is not lost on me.  

After being villainized for the last few years, I guess my main surprise is that someone else noticed that teachers are heroes.  It seems apparent to me . . .  teachers are heroes.  I work with dozens of heroes every workday.  I know many people who give everything they have – to teach students.  I’m not surprised by the events in Connecticut.  My only surprise is that the general public seemed to finally notice teachers again and find something to value about us.

I don’t expect this admiration to last long because Americans have to get back to the bottom line soon.  Someone in a corporation needs to make money.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/24/teachers-heroic-actions-i_n_2360571.html

I am a public school teacher.  The response of gun lovers this week has been – disgusting. More →