privatized schools

Head of Florida School System Resigns Immediately Due to IN. Scandal

Head of Florida School System Resigns Immediately Due to IN. Scandal

by Bob Sloan

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida’s education commissioner will resign amid allegations that he changed the grade of a charter school run by a major Republican donor during his previous job as Indiana’s school chief, a state education official said Thursday.

Tony Bennett will resign in the wake of the scandal surrounding Christel House Academy, the official told The Associated Press. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the announcement was not yet authorized for public release.

Bennett, when reached by the AP, would say only that “no decisions have been made at this point.” He has denied any wrongdoing.

(http://www.courierpress.com/news/2013/aug/01/tony-bennett-resign-over-indiana-school-grade-chan/)

Jeb Bush’s “Chiefs for Change” organization suffered a substantial set-back today.  Bush hand picked Dr. Tony Bennett to head his Chiefs for Change organization that is working to privatize school systems in the U.S. – state by state.  Bennett is a long time crony of Jeb Bush, and helped Bush push both his Common Core and Charter School Agenda.  Together they founded Bush’s educational foundations, Chiefs for Change — There’s no evidence Bush knew anything about the cheating.

In 2011 – 2012, Bennett toured the country touting the school privatization agenda of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and was a keynote speaker at ALEC’s States and Nation conference held in Phoenix in November 2011.  Hoosier voters were not taken in by his agenda to transform Indiana public schools into a privatized education network on behalf of ALEC corporate members who have realized huge profits off the work of Bennett and Bush’s Chiefs for Change, voting Bennett from office in 2012.

VLTP, CMD, Common Cause, PFAW and other progressive outlets have reported on ALEC’s education privatization pursuits since 2010; charters, vouchers, virtual (internet) classes and parent trigger.  We warned parents that all the hype about private and charter school success rates were just that, hype.  Those who stood to profit off of such privatization efforts would stop at nothing to advance an agenda that brought them profits…regardless of the impact upon students.

This scandal involving the “fixing of grades” in Indiana by Dr. Bennett follows on the heels of a similar scandal in D.C. involving another Jeb Bush acolyte, Michelle Rhee, the former Washington D.C. education chancellor.  Rhee has been accused of “adjusting” student test scores to give the appearance that her form of “educating” was successful.  At first, Rhee’s administration claimed it was only one elementary school involved but after independent analysis, investigators found the cheating was widespread:

“District of Columbia Public Schools officials have long maintained that a 2011 test-cheating scandal that generated two government probes was limited to one elementary school. But a newly uncovered confidential memo warns as far back as January 2009 that educator cheating on 2008 standardized tests could have been widespread, with 191 teachers in 70 schools “implicated in possible testing infractions.” The 2009 memo was written by an outside analyst, Fay “Sandy” Sanford, who had been invited by then-chancellor Michelle Rhee to examine students’ irregular math and reading score gains. It was sent to Rhee’s top deputy for accountability.

“Merrow provided a copy of the memo to USA TODAY on Thursday. Its findings stand in stark contrast to public statements made both by Rhee and her onetime deputy, Kaya Henderson, now D.C.’s chancellor. In a Jan. 8 statement coinciding with Merrow’s broadcast, Henderson noted, “All of the investigations have concluded in the same way that there is no widespread cheating at D.C. Public Schools.” She added, “We take test security incredibly seriously and will continue to do so even after our name has been cleared.” Sanford’s memo warns its intended recipients to “keep this erasure study really close (sic) hold. No more people in the know than necessary until we have more conclusive results.” The memo suggests, “Don’t make hard copies and leave them around. Much of what we think we know is based on what I consider to be incomplete information. So the picture is not perfectly clear yet, but the possible ramifications are serious.”

The Center for Media and Democracy reports:

“Despite widespread public opposition to the education privatization agenda, at least 139 bills or state budget provisions reflecting American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) education bills have been introduced in 43 states and the District of Columbia in just the first six months of 2013, according to an analysis by the Center for Media and Democracy, publishers of ALECexposed.org. Thirty-one have become law.

“In 1990, Milwaukee was the first city in the nation to implement a school voucher program, under then-governor (and ALEC alum) Tommy Thompson. ALEC quickly embracedthe legislation, and that same year offered model bills based on the Wisconsin plan. For-profit schools in Wisconsin now receive up to $6,442 per voucher student, and by the end of the next school year taxpayers in the state will have transferred an estimated $1.8 billion to for-profit, religious, and online schools. The “pricetag” for students in other states is even higher.

“In the years since, programs to divert taxpayer money from public to private schools have spread across the country. In the 2012-2013 school year, it is estimated that nearly 246,000 students will participate in various iterations of so-called “choice” programs in 16 states and the District of Columbia — draining the public school system of critically-needed funds, and in some cases covering private school tuition for students whose parents are able and willing to pay.”

Maybe now parents and voters alike will begin to realize that ALEC, Bush, Rhee, Bennett and their network have little concern for educating our children, but a huge concern about how much money can be made off of “appearing” to provide students with a quality education.  A facade has been crafted and created to make it seem that private education is working while behind the false front, tax dollars are being diverted from true education and transformed into profits for corporate exploiters.

If these individuals and their organizations have to “cheat” to make it look like their programs are working so they can capitalize off such a scam, they should all be kicked to the curb then subjected to another form of “education” created by ALEC and their corporatist members…private prisons.

National Corporate Attack on Public Education

Why is a Kindergarten teacher in Nevada so interested in what is going on in Chicago?

Thousands of mile away – teachers are under attack by the same groups using the same legislative language.  I hear a very familiar argument – and it’s coming from Chicago!  I feel your pain – sisters and brothers in another city.  #Solidarity

Does this sound familiar Chicago?  In Nevada trusted government officials gave away my pay and benefits by implementing Student First/ALEC legislation, they busted my contract as Koch Brother Think Tanks told them to, they destroyed my working conditions while I watched billionaires cart off the Nevada gold, they replaced classroom instruction with testing provided by some very wealthy test-makers, and the unemployed tell me to be happy I have a job because theirs was taken by a crisis created by billionaires who were under-regulated.  Teachers are experiencing the same or similar – all over the nation.

It is a slap in the face to teachers in every city.  So you see Chicago – your issues are my issues.   #Solidarity

Privatizing schools is the new rage.  Teachers are an easy target – compliant, rule-oriented, and orderly.  As a good friend once told me – teachers are the low-lying fruit – easy to pick off.  Both sides seem to be participating in the tirades.  Both sides are involved in privatizing scams and creating hybrids to replace real public schools to make stockholders and/or themselves money.  It is necessary to fail our public schools, to get at the money.  The bullies are succeeding because teachers haven’t fought back on a national level- YET.

Big money looks at the education portion of the general funds in every state and just itches to get their greedy, little fingers into that pie.  CHARTERS!  VOUCHERS!  CORPORATE HYBRIDS!  Business knows how to run schools better than a teacher – and they promise to make extra money to boot!  Really?  Does that make sense?  Do you go to the dentist to buy groceries?  Why would you go to a corporation to teach kids to read?  And you are going to MAKE money teaching kids to read?  Really?

Vegas has its share of touted charters of supposed high scores and fame.  More costly and with little or no real improvement.  Charters cost.  Without the regulations and rules, these charters often go in directions that are scary to watch.  Yep, charters are costly with usually little to show for it.  They are a FAD.

How to do it?  How to convince the general public to actually pay MORE to privatize schools?  How to win hearts and influence people to give their own school buildings away and fund someone’s private school ideas?

ATTACK THE TEACHERS

1.  Publish teacher’s salaries.  Skew the data.  Make the average salary appear to be twice as large as most teachers make.  Include money that teachers will never see in hand – pump up the numbers.  Make it seem like the educators are on the government dole – taking money for nothing.  If public school teachers are lousy – no one will want to fund their schools. Win the public relations campaign by smearing costly educators.

2.  Starve the resources.  Repeat after me – the answer is NOT money.  Keep saying this over and over and over until you believe it.  Even though it’s a lie.  In fact, the opposite is true.  Common sense tells us that.  Teachers make head way with even limited supplies. Imagine what teachers would do if adequately supplied and funded.  The goal is to plead poverty.  It’s an elaborate shell game.  Hide, hoard, and stash the resources.

3.  Publish scores and declare failure.  Standardized testing is a snapshot in time – not an accurate reflection of the whole person.  Standardized testing is racially and culturally biased.  Research has shown that it is NOT a true reflection or authentic when used as a sole measure.  BUT, multi-choice tests are easy to grade.  AND, we have some test making corporations standing by to sell tests by the dozens to districts.  The real winner in the testing frenzy is the test maker – it has never been the failing students or the teachers who are trying to teach to the test.  Failing schools are easy to “take-over”.  If not failing – just make the test more difficult.  Everyone fails at some point.  Corporations are great at inventing numbers and data to reflect information that supports their own argument – an argument that leads to improvement in their own bottom line, which is not really the same as improving a student’s life, right?  Test to fail, not to improve.

4.  Blame.  Place the blame on teachers.  Nothing else could be affecting students of poverty or in need of additional support – it must be the teachers who are holding students back?  Really?  Teachers are the ones who have sole control over each student’s learning, right?  If you want to blame a teacher and you really believe that line – I have a bridge to sell you and I’m sure you will buy that too.  Pass the buck, distract from the real class and poverty issues in the fabric of America.

Chicago!  The whole world is watching.  I feel your pain.  Brothers and sisters, let’s fight for our schools and our students.  This battle is fierce.  This war is necessary.  Let’s right the wrongs.  Enough is enough.

The corporations have lied.  The bankers have cheated.  The politicians have sold us for 30 pieces of silver.  Our cause is just.  The billionaires cannot win.

Let’s do it not for ourselves – but for our students.  We are American.  We are all better than this.  #Solidarity

 

Lifelong Democrat ready for fight in Charlotte over school reform

With the Democrats, alas, are coming some of the most powerful voices in so-called education “reform” — purveyors of policies whose failures we and other Charlotte parents have experienced first hand. They bring not the patience and determination required to build up struggling schools and students, but rather a sharp critique of teachers and a steamroller philosophy that the Broad Foundation (which funds many of these groups) calls “disruptive” change.

Here in Charlotte, we are all too familiar with the damage such “disruptive” policies have done to children, schools and communities.

photo of Pam Grundy by Peter Wong

In the fall of 2010, despite pleas and warnings from students, parents and community members, our board of education voted to abruptly close a set of “failing” schools, most of which served low-income neighborhoods. As students were crowded into other schools, discipline infractions rose and test scores fell. The deep damage done to school system-community relations has yet to be repaired.

* A few months later, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS) unveiled a battery of 52 new standardized tests, with the goal of testing every child in every subject, from kindergarten through high school, and then using the scores in teacher salary calculations. Our schools quickly became testing factories, and learning ground to a halt. Community protest managed to stop that madness, but we now face a similar barrage of state exams, mandated by our president’s Race to the Top initiative. Fed up with all the testing, more parents are abandoning the public schools for private institutions.

* Finally, two weeks ago, a pair of longtime CMS employees spoke out about the “crisis of heart” our district is experiencing, describing a stress-filled, dehumanizing atmosphere whose results include “too many fine educators, both novice and veteran, deciding to leave their beloved profession or questioning how much longer they can endure the stressful madness.” Statistics on principal and teacher departures from our district bear out their words.

Yet despite such on-the-ground experiences — as well as a stunning lack of evidence that these “disruptive” measures do anything to improve teaching or learning — the “reform” bandwagon rolls on, dragging federal policy along with it. The programs of the president I worked so hard to get elected have become just another obstacle.

I know many right-wingers want to dismantle our nation’s public education system, using charter and voucher laws to fragment education into a plethora of privately run institutions. When the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) held a summit here last spring, it felt good to be outside, protesting their attacks on public schools. It’s much harder to watch members of the party I support strike equally devastating blows, seemingly unaware of their effects.

We here at the grass roots face quite a challenge. Groups like StudentsFirst and Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) spend a lot of money…We hold home-printed signs and yellow pencils crafted from pool noodles.

The difference says a lot. There’s big money in many of the endeavors these “reformers” propose: money for testing companies, for charter school management firms, for computer and software producers.

To read this entire article and sign on to their very important petition, please click here