"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Saturday, November 30, 2013

How Jeb Bush and Tony Bennett Invaded Sullivan County, Indiana

By Doug Martin

Since my last article on the possibility that two schools in tiny Dugger, Indiana may be closed soon by the Northeast School Corporation of Sullivan County, I have unearthed something shocking that residents, teachers, parents, and students should know, and it points to Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor and brother and son of two past U.S. presidents.

As I detail in one chapter of my upcoming book, Hoosier School Heist, Jeb Bush was one of the main players behind school privatization in Indiana, among other things recruiting his pals at the for-profit Charter Schools USA and Edison Learning to take over so-called “failing” schools in Indianapolis and Gary.  In fact, back in 2011, before emails were released to prove what he was up to across the country, I wrote about Jeb Bush’s role in draining money from Indiana public schools in order to hand it to wealthy campaign donors of Tony Bennett and Mitch Daniels. 

One of Jeb Bush’s chief plans was to sell online learning to Indiana, and he succeeded in 2010 when Tony Bennett—Indiana’s former supt. of education and member of Bush’s Chiefs for Change school privatizing front group— used his power at the Department of Education to help dupe the only rural charter school in Indiana, the Rural Community Academy in Graysville in Sullivan County, to enter into a partnership with Connections Academy, the online learning for-profit company operating in 19 states and now owned by testing and book giant Pearson.

The same year Pearson purchased Connections Academy (2011), Bennett’s education department signed a six-year contract with Pearson Education to deliver textbooks to Indiana schools and “Indiana awarded NCS Pearson a $224,720 contract to rewrite the state's teacher standards” to line up with new academic guidelines.  Pearson, in turn, funded the broadcasting of Tony Bennett’s inaugural “State of Education” speech that was broadcasted on radio and TV stations across Indiana.

By all accounts, the Rural Community Academy started off proudly 10 years ago as a community-led charter school after the Graysville Elementary School in 2003 was closed by the Southwest School Corporation.  But somewhere along the line, the billionaire-boys club (as education scholar Diane Ravitch calls it) co-opted the little red charter school on the hill and Jeb Bush’s buddies moved in.

And they won big.

With a budget of $6.6 million in the 2011-2012 school year, the Rural Community Academy put $5 million of taxpayer money (see page 10 in PDF) into the hands of the pilot program run by Connections Academy and Ball State University (which, by the way, collects around $3 million yearly “sponsoring” charter schools in Indiana).

Connections Academy funds Jeb Bush’s school privatizing Foundation for Excellence in Education (a big supporter of Tony Bennett) in order to spread for-profit online learning in numerous states.

Connections Academy is notorious for buying lawmakers across the country, and it has been no different in Indiana. The mega corporation also works with corporate-backed ALEC to pass and write online charter school laws across America.  Connections Academy’s Mickey Revenauge, as Lee Fang writes, co-chairs ALEC’s “education policy-writing department,” where the Virtual Public Schools Act sent to Maine and other US lawmakers debuted and Bush, ALEC, and Connections Academy pulled the same trick, but it didn’t work out as well as it did in Indiana. Indiana had Mitch Daniels and Tony Bennett to help it all along.  Bennett and Revenauge  hobnobbed at Bush's Foundation for Excellence in Education's 2011 summit, where online learning was on the agenda.  Moreover, Connections Academy has handed $19,900 to mostly Indiana Republicans since 2007, with $2,000 finding its way into Tony Bennett’s campaign chest, according to Indiana campaign records. A good majority of Indiana Republicans, too, belong to ALEC, and Mike Pence is scheduled to speak at the corporate group’s next engagement on December 6th.

Connections Academy by law needed to use a brick-and-mortar Indiana charter school to first get state funding for its pilot program to enroll students across Indiana, and the Rural Community Academy was used.  Indiana Connections Academy now has a nonprofit set up whose sole goal is to funnel money to the for-profit company ($4.5 million in 2010—see page 19 in PDF), and tax records are not yet available to show whether or not the rural school is still paying.

Connections Academy also raked in another $637,000 (page 10) from July 2010 to June 2011 from the Rural Community Academy, all the while the poor little rural school was in the hole for $25,000 (see page 1). 

All in all, Connections Academy has made over $10 million from Indiana taxpayers so far, and it isn’t going to end anytime soon.

When residents in Dugger ask why the state doesn’t have any funding or small grants to help keep their two schools in existence, they might want to know that one of the main reasons is Jeb Bush.  Let’s hope it works out in Dugger, and if parents do decide to start a community-led school, they should know that there is one now in existence in Indianapolis, Project Libertas, a private "Freeway School" which opened after the powers-that-be closed its charter school for political reasons.  It is doing great work for its kids, parents, and the community, all without help from the millionaires.   


Capitalism's Bankrupt Plan for Rating Higher Ed

Spot on, from the Chicago Sun-Times:

President Obama has proposed tying financial aid to American colleges and universities to a “rating system” of higher education. The administration has conducted a number of public forums at college campuses over the last few weeks to purportedly collect input on the proposal. We can only hope these forums enable the president and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to see how little they know about the realities of higher education.
Obama and Duncan have, so far, relayed their concern about how many students enrolled in colleges across the country actually graduate with a bachelor’s degree. They seem to think that a low graduation rate indicates an underperforming college.
What they don’t realize is that many students, especially those enrolled in community colleges, must attend college part-time and under heavy burdens. It is estimated that only a third of America’s 18 million college students attend full-time residential colleges, as Obama, Duncan and I did. The remainder, about 12 million students, must work their way through school and often at a slower pace.
Many must attend school in the evening. Many depend upon day care centers at their colleges for child care. And these students often take longer to obtain a degree. Given their burdens, it is no surprise that a higher percentage drop out. It’s also no surprise that students from low-income backgrounds are less likely to graduate in four years.
Berea College in Kentucky, for example, takes only students from lower-income families; many take longer to complete their studies. Should Berea be penalized for taking a chance on them?
Some colleges take a chance on those who are immigrants or who have had interrupted educations. Should they be penalized?
I wish Obama and Duncan could have met my father. In 1926, William Penn College in Iowa took a chance on a penniless Armenian refugee who knew very little English. It was hard for him to master English and study chemistry at the same time, all while working multiple jobs to earn his way. Five years later, he was one of those who pioneered the development of ethanol. Would a college dare to take a chance on such a person under the pending Obama ratings plan?
Perhaps the most pernicious feature of the Obama plan is to rate colleges on the earnings of their graduates. Under the plan, a college that produces Wall Street investment bankers would rate higher than a college producing kindergarten teachers, registered nurses and, in a twist of fitful irony for Obama, even community organizers.
Within the legal community, as well, few would hold lawyers earning millions as more valuable than those working for Legal Aid or those opening solo practices in ethnic or minority neighborhoods. I am proud of the students I have taught at The John Marshall Law School who have gone back to their communities. They won’t die millionaires, but they are doing good. Why should any college or graduate school producing such graduates be penalized in a ratings game?
Obama could do more for higher education by investing in the early childhood education of all American children. He should abandon any attempt to rate colleges and instead focus his attention on providing financial aid to students who most deserve it.
Ann M. Lousin, a professor at The John Marshall Law School since 1975, is the 2013-14 Edward T. and Noble W. Lee Chair in Constitutional Law.

Nashville Limits Charters As Memphis Doubles Down

Nashville Metro has acknowledged the impending $23 million shortfall in next year's budget is due to the drain from corporate charter schools.  As a result, the school board has decided to cut its losses by restricting the spread of these segregated zero-tolerance chain gangs.  With the TN Department of Education staffed by TFA cultists and losers from the Gates Foundation, there is plenty of gnashing in Nashville this winter as bogus charter reports are generated to show that life cannot continue without the total compliance punishment boutiques.

We have to wonder when Memphis and Shelby County will notice the missing $212 million that the new apartheid corporate reform schools are collecting to contain and culturally sterilize the poorest children of Memphis who have no other choices.  

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Charlatan Steve Perry exposed for the world to see!

Ebony Murphy-Root's courageous exposure of one of the most pernicious corporate neoliberal education reformers is a must read: 'Did You Grow Up Around Black People?' My year working for "America's Most Trusted Educator"

The comments under this reprint of the piece are worth visiting as well: A powerful and haunting report from a former Capital Prep teacher

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Public School Funds Feeding International Private School Chain, Basis Education, Inc.

Since the late 1990s, Arizona has become a tax haven for corporate charter operators, including Basis Charter Schools.  Basis has built a school and real estate empire, in fact, from public school money that has allowed them to expand their mostly white schools to Texas and Washington, DC, where they are under a federal Civil Rights investigation at present.

Business is so good, in fact, that Basis Charter Schools has spawned the creation of an exclusive private school chain that has plans to become a multinational schooling corporation, Basis Education, Inc. to educate the children of the elite from Bangalore to Brooklyn.

In fact, the new Red Hook Independent plans to open between Park Slope and a huge public housing complex in Brooklyn. From DNAInfo.NewYork:

RED HOOK — An Arizona-based charter school operator is building a private school in Red Hook that will charge $23,500 in annual tuition — and the school won't offer any scholarships to local kids next year.
The 1,000-seat Basis Independent School, which will be located in a five-story building at 556 Columbia St., will feature 43 classrooms, a 389-seat black box theater, a gymnasium and a parking garage with 42 spaces and an elevator, according to the school’s architect and officials.
The school is just a few blocks from Brooklyn's largest NYCHA housing development, Red Hook Houses East and West, and median household income for the immediate area is $16,748, according to recent data.

Mark Reford, CEO of Basis Schools, told Community Board 6 last week that he decided to build the school in Red Hook because of its proximity to Park Slope, Carroll Gardens and Williamsburg, but that he also hoped the school could help Red Hook as well. . . .

NYC Parents' Message to Bill De Blasio

Will he hear their voices?

The Opt-Outers are Outed

Found this posted over at @thechalkface HT to Shaun Johnson. 

Now it's time to move on and change the discussion and have a conversation about what should replace the test and punish curriculum.

Need a new vision of what education should look like.

New York Magazine

The Opt-Outers

What happens if enough New York parents say they don’t want their kids to take tests?

Families and teachers protesting high-stakes testing in front of the offices of the Department of Education in April.
More than a year before 7-year-old Oscar Mata was scheduled to take his first major standardized test, his parents received word from his school that he was failing. The Department of Education calls it a Promotion in Doubt letter—a well-intentioned, if blunt, method used to get families to take notice of gaps in a student’s skills.
The letter arrived in 2011, around the time of Oscar’s second-grade winter break. Before then, he had been happy at the Twenty-First Century Academy for Community Leadership in West ­Harlem. His parents, Andrea and Juan, had been drawn to the dual-language school, where English and Spanish learners took field trips together for innovative social-­studies projects. They say that Oscar is great at math and loved science, music, and art. He loved reading, too, until he started to get tested on it.
“There was this transformation of the whole culture—and curriculum,” Andrea says. “I could see it mostly through the homework. It really looked like test prep. There were even ­bubble sheets.” Oscar had more than a year before the third-grade test, when students start taking the New York State ­English ­Language Arts (ELA) and math tests—but the thinking goes that the sooner they learn how to take big standardized tests and the sooner any skill shortfalls can be dealt with, the better they’ll do in the long run. Oscar, however, had a paradoxical reaction. “His interest in school,” says Andrea, “took this immediate plummet.”
She felt as if her son had been caught in a vortex: The school starts teaching Oscar differently, he loses whatever spark of curiosity inspired him to want to learn, and the school punishes him for it. He made it to third grade, but by then, test prep had come to dominate his classroom. Grand plans for science experiments and hands-on interactive projects, Andrea says, “would just kind of fizzle out and disappear because there wasn’t time to do them.”

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Charter Schools Are About Business, Not Education

NEPC report finds 44% of charter school students in 2011-12 attended schools operated by EMOs

William J. Mathis, (802) 383-0058, wmathis@sover.net

Jamie Horwitz, (202) 549-4921, jhdcpr@starpower.net

Gary Miron, (269) 599-7965, garmiron@gmail.com
URL for this press release: http://tinyurl.com/nzhgjup

BOULDER, CO (November 26, 2013) – A new National Education Policy Center report published today shows that across the nation, schools managed by for-profit firms such as K12 Inc, National Heritage Academies and Charter Schools USA, as well as nonprofit education management organizations (EMOs) such as KIPP, continue to increase the number of students they enroll, despite a scarcity of evidence showing positive results.

Students across 35 states and the District of Columbia now attend schools managed by these non-government entities. Oklahoma and Tennessee have added schools run by EMOs since the last edition of this report.

The report, Profiles of For-Profit and Nonprofit Education Management Organizations: Fourteenth Edition – 2011-2012, was released today by the National Education Policy Center (NEPC), housed at the University of Colorado Boulder.

“There is growth in number of schools and students served in both for-profit and nonprofit sectors, although growth among schools operated by nonprofit EMOs continues to outpace the for-profit sector. Growth has slowed for for-profits in brick-and-mortar school settings. The real growth in the for-profit sector is with companies that operate virtual schools,” said the report’s lead author, Dr. Gary Miron, a professor of evaluation, measurement, and research at Western Michigan University. “The growth of virtual schools, which is fueled by millions in advertising dollars, is astounding because of the sketchy academic results reported by the schools that operate online.”

The report is the NEPC’s latest edition in its series of profiles of EMOs, companies contracted to manage charter schools and other public schools. The EMO sector emerged in the 1990s as part of an effort to use market forces and private entities to reform public education.

For-Profit Operators
Since the 1995-1996 school year, the number of for-profit EMOs has increased from 5 to 97, and the number of schools they operate has increased from 6 to 840. Enrollment has grown from approximately 1,000 students in 1995-1996 to 462,926 in 2011-2012.

While the actual number of for-profit companies has grown very little over the past few years, many of the large- and medium-sized EMOs are expanding into new service areas, such as supplemental education services and virtual schooling.

Imagine Schools was the largest for-profit EMO in 2011-2012 in terms of the number of schools it manages. The company managed 89 schools during the 2011-2012 school year, but it has lost a number of contracts since then. The next largest for-profit operators in 2011-2012, in terms of numbers of schools, are Academica (76) and National Heritage Academies (68).

However, in terms of enrolled students, the largest EMO is K12 Inc., which operates virtual schools. Because of the large enrollments in its schools, the total enrollment of K12 Inc.’s schools exceeded that of any other for-profit—or nonprofit—EMO, with 57 schools enrolling 87,091 students.

Nonprofit Operators
Nonprofit operators have shown more robust growth in brick-and-mortar school settings than for-profit operators, both in terms of new nonprofit EMOs and new managed schools. A total of 201 nonprofit EMOs were identified and profiled in this year’s report, including 31 large nonprofit EMOs, 68 medium-sized, and 102 small nonprofit EMOs.

The overall number of students in nonprofit EMO-managed schools has increased dramatically, from 237,591 in the 2009-2010 school year to 445,052 during the 2011-2012 school year. KIPP, the Knowledge is Power Program, a national charter school network, remained the largest nonprofit EMO, with 98 schools and just over 35,045 students in 2011-2012.

Virtual Schools
The number of virtual schools operated by EMOs increased from 60 in 2009-2010 to 91 in 2011-2012. This represents 10.8 percent of all schools managed by for-profit operators.

As noted, the largest for-profit operator is K-12 Inc. which operates full-time virtual schools. Some of the largest for-profit EMOs are beginning to lose contracts with brick-and-mortar schools and are shifting their attention to virtual education. “Most virtual schools are charters, are full-time, and are statewide in their scope,” said Charisse Gulosino of the University of Memphis, the report’s coauthor. “As it stands, research, policy and practice have not kept pace with virtual schooling’s growth — reflecting the need for deliberation about its impact and implications for public K-12 education.”

Monday, November 25, 2013

Whatever Happened to the Fair Housing Act? and Why It Is Crucial to Fair Education

Below is information on an amazing piece of investigative reporting, presented this past Saturday on This American Life.  Please do have a look and listen.  Also, see the opportunity to participate in the an ongoing investigation on school segregation.

A Year Later, Feds Inch Forward on Fair Housing

  by Nikole Hannah-Jones ProPublica,  Nov. 22, 2013, 11:43 a.m.by Jeff Larson and Nikole Hannah-Jones, ProPublica, Dec. 20
Tonight's episode of "This American Life" will feature a story based on ProPublica's yearlong investigation "Living Apart: How the Government Betrayed a Landmark Civil Rights Law."
Called "House Rules," the TAL segment will examine the ways zip code determines the destiny of many Americans. The show will feature some of the actors who go undercover to test the market for hidden housing discrimination, a highly effective tool seldom used by the government.
Our reporting chronicled the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's repeated failures in enforcing the 1968 Fair Housing Act. This landmark legislation not only barred discrimination in housing sales and rentals – it also required communities to "affirmatively further" residential integration.
Since we published our first stories late last year, there have been several significant developments on matters we reported. Here's what's happened.

HUD Proposes Regulation

In July, HUD issued a proposed regulation that for the first time clearly defined the steps local and state governments that receive HUD funding must take to examine housing segregation based on race and show they are in line with the Fair Housing Act. The effort to define such rules began under the Clinton Administration, but stalled because of objections from cities and counties. President Obama had promised the regulation would be issued by the end of 2010, but conflicts within HUD and pressure from powerful outside groups kept it bottled up for years.
The proposal would create a new planning process under which HUD grantees must use data provided by the federal government on segregation, racially concentrated areas of poverty, access to education, employment, transportation and environmental health to set housing and development priorities.
Advocacy groups such as the National Fair Housing Alliance and the Poverty & Race Research Action Council have praised the regulation. Others, including The Weekly Standard, have accused HUD of social engineering.
The public comment period on the proposal ended Sept. 17. The final regulation has not yet been issued.

Westchester County Loses Grant Dollars

In August, HUD took the unprecedented step of stripping $7.4 million in community development block grants from Westchester County, N.Y., the tony New York City suburb that settled a landmark fair housing lawsuit in 2009.

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The second installment of ProPublica's "Living Apart" series documented how, even with the explicit backing of a federal court, HUD had not taken steps to make Westchester County comply with requirements of the Fair Housing Act. But this summer, after years of defiance by county leaders, Westchester became the first jurisdiction ever to lose its allocation of HUD grant dollars for not affirmatively furthering fair housing.
"It is unfortunate the County continues to fall short in its duty to identify barriers to fair housing choice and to work to overcome these obstacles," HUD Deputy Secretary Maurice Jones said in a press release. "This continuing failure to meet these requirements offers HUD no choice but to make these funds available to other jurisdictions that are willing to meet their civil rights obligations."

Case Settles, Enforcement Tool Saved

For the second time since early 2012, a tool of fair housing enforcement has been saved from possible extinction by a case settling before it reached the Supreme Court. Last week, the town of Mount Holly, N.J., settled a lawsuit slated to go before the court on Dec. 4.
As ProPublica reported in February, the Mount Holly case centered on allegations of what's called "disparate impact": That a policy or practice disproportionately harmed racial minorities or other protected groups. The Fair Housing Act does not explicitly mention disparate impact, but federal courts have consistently affirmed the principle in rulings over a 40–year period. Since modern-day discrimination is rarely overt, this precedent has become a powerful tool for the government and civil rights groups, allowing them to bring cases against landlords, lenders or jurisdictions by showing their policies or actions had disproportionate effects on certain groups of people. (Not all such impacts violate the law; if a legitimate business practice leads to the disparity, it's not a violation.)
Mount Holly was sued a decade ago over its development efforts in a predominately black and Latino part of town. The town bought and destroyed most of the homes in the neighborhood, planning to build more expensive housing that never came to be. Residents sued, saying the town's actions had a disparate impact on African Americans and Latinos.
The legal battle finally made its way to the nation's highest court this year, setting the stage for a potential challenge from its conservative wing, which has revisited aspects of several pieces of landmark civil-rights legislation in recent sessions.This summer, the court limited the reach of the Voting Rights Act.
In 2011, the Supreme Court accepted a disparate impact case out of St. Paul, Minn., but federal officials and civil rights activists persuaded the city to withdraw the case to avert a ruling that might strike down the principle.
In February, as the Court contemplated whether to hear the Mount Holly case, the Obama Administration released a long-promised disparate-impact regulation aimed at solidifying the principle's place in fair housing enforcement.
Last week, Mount Holly avoided the Supreme Court showdown when its town council voted to compensate those who'd lost their homes.
Disparate impact lives to fight another day.
ProPublica is also looking into segregation at secondary schools. Parents and researchers can help our reporting by filling out this form. 
For more from ProPublica on the civil rights, check out our reading guide to the best reporting on segregation in America, and key takeaways from our fair housing investigation.