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

Monday, May 20, 2019

The Bernie Sanders K-12 Plan Falls Way Short

Bernie Sanders has received lots of attention since his announcement of a new education platform for K-12.  While the Sanders plan is the only plan among twenty-some-odd candidates with any real specifics, the Sanders Plan falls far short of addressing the basic needs of children, teachers, and parents who depend upon public schools in the U. S.

However, an article just published by Nikhil Goyal at The Nation offers a positive take on the Sanders Plan.  Let's look at a couple of specifics: first, his position on charter schools.
Sanders announced that as president, in alignment with the NAACP, he would ban for-profit charter schools and impose a moratorium on federal dollars for charter expansion until a national audit was conducted. An audit would reveal that there are indeed many progressive, student-centered charters, such as High Tech High in San Diego, Minnesota New Country School, YouthBuild Charter School in Philadelphia, and Compass Charter School in Brooklyn. And those shouldn’t be shuttered.
We have to wonder if Team Sanders knows that if all for-profit charters were closed today, still over 85 percent of U. S. charter schools would remain open.

As for the proposed moratorium on "non-profit" charter expansion that would remain in effect until a national audit could be conducted, such a moratorium would leave open around 6,400 existing charters, most of which are either entirely apartheid or intensely segregated, and most are based on a total compliance lockdown instructional model that no middle class parent would ever consider for her own child.

As for the value of a national audit for charter operators, the suggestion by Sanders is that if a charter school has high test scores and clean bookkeeping, then it should continue to operate and expand, regardless of how many millions of "non-profit" public dollars are being siphoned away to build corporate education empires whose managers decide how segregated and disenfranchised children will be culturally sterilized in the no-excuses KIPP Model charter schools.

We have to ask ourselves, too, if a national audit would ignore more fine-grained details that show how "non-profit" charter chains legally shortchange instructional budgets while padding management and administrative costs.  Would an audit uncover the many ways that corporate charter grifters legally take public money from children and their teachers?

A couple of charts from 2015 research paper by Bruce Baker and Gary Miron demonstrate what I'm talking about.  Table 3 below shows how Texas charter schools compare with a major urban district in terms of expenditures.  We can see, for instance, how KIPP, Harmony, and other Texas charter schools spend a smaller percentage on instruction and a larger percentage on administration and plant services, when compared to Texas public schools that serve the same students.

We see, too, how charters depend upon a workforce model that exploits new teachers who are burned through, discarded, and replaced by more beginners.

Table 6 shows who the real beneficiaries are of public's generosity to fund a separate school system in  America.

Remember, too, that over 60 billion public dollars go to charter schools every year in this country.

How long can we afford this kind of support for a handful of amateur non-educators who are clueless about the art and science of education or the needs of children?







Tuesday, May 14, 2019

KIPP Menace Has Come to Baton Rouge

When KIPP first pitched its segregated brand of total compliance hell schools in Baton Rouge in 2001, the proposal was soundly defeated.  Now thanks to the arm-twisting of political hack and corporate lackey, Rolfe McCollister, the Baton Rouge School Board has downed a strong dose of the KIPP NOLA kool-aid, even though the three KIPP schools recently approved will drain away at least $34 million each year from public schools when fully operational.

Thanks to Evelyn Ware-Jackson for voting NO to bringing KIPP's unique brand of child abuse to Baton Rouge:
. . . . Evelyn Ware-Jackson voted no on KIPP:New Orleans' proposal.

Initially positive, Ware-Jackson said she was concerned after hearing from a handful of speakers who drove up from New Orleans to tell horror stories about how KIPP handles discipline matters there.

"I don't know who to believe," Ware-Jackson said.

Maria Harmon, co-founder of community organizing group, Step Up Louisiana, harshly criticized what she described as a system of indoctrination and public shaming at KIPP schools.

“I’m telling you now you don’t want this kind of program in your school district,” Harmon said. “It won’t benefit black children, not at all. The only thing it does is prepare them for prison.” . . . .

Wednesday, May 08, 2019

Poorest School Kids in Warwick, RI Get Cold Sandwiches Rather Than Hot Meals

from the AP:
WARWICK, R.I. (AP) — A Rhode Island school district will begin serving cold sandwiches instead of hot lunches to students whose families owe lunch money.

Warwick Public Schools says it is owed more than $40,000 from outstanding lunch payments and cannot afford to absorb the costs.

The new policy begins next Monday.

A local restaurant owner wrote on Facebook that the district twice turned down a $4,000 donation for the lunch debt.

The district responded in a statement saying it must treat all students equally and cannot single out which debts to reduce.

The district recommended the donor take applications and decide who receives the money.
Critics say such lunch debt policies shame children for something outside of their control.

Pending legislation would change state law making free hot lunches available for all students regardless of income.
Call this idiot: 
Superintendent of Warwick Public Schools
Philip Thornton, Ed.D.
401-734-3100
philip.thornton@warwickschools.org

KIPP Chicago Scraping the Bottom in Test Scores

from Chicago City Wire:
Of the 418 students attending Kipp Chicago Charter School - Kipp One Academy in 2018, 24.4 percent scored proficient in English Language Arts and 19 percent were proficient in math, according to a report recently released by the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE).

The report is based on results from the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) exam, a state-mandated exam used to assess the school and student performance in several states nationwide.

In the Chicago SD 299 School District, 27.9 percent of students scored proficient on the ELA portion of the PARCC exam in 2018, and 22.1 percent were proficient in math.

In Illinois overall, 36.9 percent of students passed the PARCC ELA exam in 2018, and 31.3 percent were proficient in math.

Scaling Up the Movement to Force Immediate Action on Global Warming

from Jacobin:
. . . . This movement is organizing and growing quickly after years of stagnation.

Influenced by the climate movement in Europe — as well as by the recent dire warnings, from science and lived experience alike — the US climate movement is moving quickly beyond the nonprofit industrial complex, which produces a lot more direct mail than direct action. We’re now hearing the early rumblings of the movement that’s actually needed, with constant action at every level, from legislative bodies to the streets — and a sense that the subject of climate action has become inescapable. In the mid-nineteenth century, black and white abolitionists alike created a culture in which the evils of slavery were  constantly discussed and debated. In London, Extinction Rebellion has done this with climate change. We may get there, too.

This new movement distinguishes itself by a willingness to tell the truth — that we could be facing disaster, even human extinction — and to confront the horror of that truth. Extinction Rebellion, as its name suggests, is honest about that. On Truth-Telling Thursdays, activists set up tables and tell people, without sugarcoating, how bad the climate crisis is, signing them up for the movement.

For many people, though, denial remains the most popular option. (Not ideological Fox News–style climate denial, but rather the form that many of us deploy as often as possible: thinking about anything other than climate change.) For most of us, it hasn’t been worth exiting that comfortable fog just to participate in the occasional ineffectual protest. That’s changed for two reasons: it’s becoming impossible to hide from the problem, and the movement is growing so fast that change looks possible. Now that it actually might matter, leaving that safe haven of denial seems worth it.

Another reason this movement is growing so fast, and might eventually win, is its understanding that climate change requires a massive economic change that is at least comparable to the ending of slavery. That’s why it is so intertwined with — and at least in part made possible by — the recent resurgence of socialism. This movement understands that the problem, and all its major solutions, are economic in nature and also massive. . . .

Tuesday, May 07, 2019

Rep. Jim Cooper, You Must Support Immediate Impeachment Hearings

My letter this morning to the Hon. Jim Cooper.  I hope you will write today, too.

Recently, I called your office following the release of the Mueller Report and asked that you support immediate impeachment hearings for Donald Trump.  You responded via email with all the standard excuses NOT to impeach: 1) voting him out is the best path, 2) impeachment would make him more popular and Dems less popular, 3) there are not enough votes in the Senate to convict if impeachment succeeds.

Now that you have had the time to read the Mueller Report, and now that over 400 former federal prosecutors have agreed that anyone other than POTUS would be under indictment for multiple felonies if they did what Trump did, I am wondering if you have reconsidered your previous position regarding impeachment.  For the sake of our Republic, I hope so.

Let me remind you, sir, that moral decisions are never made on the basis of their popularity or whether or not a preferred outcome will ensue.  


Do the right thing, for god's sake, and put the moral pressure on those unprincipled Trumpists who mock our democratic institutions.  How long do you think Dems can remain under the radar and hope that the American people will look the other way?  

The eyes of the nation are upon you.  Do what your oath demands--uphold our Constitution! 

See today's opinion piece by Brian Klaas: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2019/05/06/its-time-start-impeachment-hearings-today/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.cd5c86e3fcfc

Saturday, May 04, 2019

Sen. Blackburn Continues to Lie to and Deceive TN Voters

The paragraph below is from the most recent weekly propaganda sheet, the Blackburn Report.  Below that is my response.

Attorney General William Barr testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday about Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report. The Attorney General told me he believed the Special Counsel’s investigation was exhaustive. We now know the President did not collude with the Russians, and the Attorney General did not recommend any obstruction charges. Yet I remain concerned about the politicized culture among a select group of FBI and Justice Department employees. Tennesseans have told me time and again they want to see these government agencies held fully accountable for their actions, and I support the Attorney General’s efforts to investigate further and restore public confidence within these institutions.

 
Senator Blackburn:

Your most recent Blackburn Report is disturbing for its levels of deception, propaganda, and lies. As you know, the Mueller Report examined the question of criminal conspiracy, rather than collusion (which is not a chargeable offense, even if it rises to the level of being impeachable).  So to suggest that the Report concludes there was no collusion is a flagrant misrepresentation of the facts, which is designed to mislead Tennessee voters.

Secondly, the corrupt Attorney General Barr's failure to recommend criminal charges of obstruction says nothing about the dozen examples of obstruction that Mueller details in the Report.  Both Mueller and Barr are following Justice Department guidelines in not indicting a sitting President, so to suggest that Barr's refusal to recommend charges exonerates Trump is deceptive and misleading propaganda.  In fact, the Mueller Report states explicitly that it does NOT exonerate Trump. 

Finally, and most importantly, your disgusting newsletter does not even mention the fact that Mueller established without doubt a detailed record of Russia's malicious tampering with the 2016 election.  It is obvious that, instead of working to make sure our elections are fair, both you and Trump would rather blame the FBI for pointing out that a foreign adversary helped to assure Trump's illegitimate presidency.  It is obvious, too, that the Republican Party would rather see the same result in 2020 by any means necessary, even if it requires the help of the murderous dictator, Vladimir Putin.

Sincerely,

Jim Horn

Update:  The NYTimes reports today that hundreds of legal authorities agree that Trump would be facing obstruction charges if he were not President.


Friday, May 03, 2019

One Million Species in Jeopardy, But It's Not Too Late to Act

From The Guardian:

The world’s leading scientists will warn the planet’s life-support systems are approaching a danger zone for humanity when they release the results of the most comprehensive study of life on Earth ever undertaken.

Up to 1m species are at risk of annihilation, many within decades, according to a leaked draft of the global assessment report, which has been compiled over three years by the UN’s leading research body on nature.

The 1,800-page study will show people living today, as well as wildlife and future generations, are at risk unless urgent action is taken to reverse the loss of plants, insects and other creatures on which humanity dependsfor foodpollination, clean water and a stable climate.

The final wording of the summary for policymakers is being finalised in Paris by a gathering of experts and government representatives before the launch on Monday, but the overall message is already clear, according to Robert Watson, the chair of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES).

“There is no question we are losing biodiversity at a truly unsustainable rate that will affect human wellbeing both for current and future generations,” he said. “We are in trouble if we don’t act, but there are a range of actions that can be taken to protect nature and meet human goals for health and development.”

The authors hope the first global assessment of biodiversity in almost 15 years will push the nature crisis into the global spotlight in the same way climate breakdown has surged up the political agenda since the 1.5C reportlast year by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. . . .

Best Climate Plan So Far is by Jay Inslee

Beto's inadequate energy plan released earlier this week is blown out of the water by Inslee's most serious outline yet for dealing with the climate emergency.  From HuffPo:
Jay Inslee unveiled a sweeping plan Friday to all but eliminate planet-warming emissions from power plants, automobiles and new buildings, becoming the second contender for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination to release a climate policy this week.
The Washington governor, who is making climate change the primary focus of his inaugural White House run, said his nearly 2,900-word “100% Clean Energy for America Plan” is the first of a series of policies he intends to roll out before the first Democratic primary debate in June. 
The plan calls for shuttering all coal plants and setting a national clean electricity standard that requires 100% carbon-neutral power by 2030, leaving room for gas plants equipped with technology to capture and store heat-trapping pollution. It proposes rapidly building out electric vehicle infrastructure and mandating that all buses and new light- and medium-duty vehicles produce zero emissions within a decade. The platform lays out nine separate policies to eliminate emissions from heating, cooling and appliances in new buildings by the end of the next decade.. . .

Thursday, May 02, 2019

Top U. S. University Admissions For Sale to Highest Bidders

The investigation expands.  From the Times:
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Sitting in a plush chair and wearing a white blouse buttoned up to the neck, the young woman looks into the camera, smiles and offers advice about getting into a top American university.

“Some people think, ‘Didn’t you get into Stanford because your family is rich?’” the woman, Yusi Zhao, says in a video posted on social media. It wasn’t like that, she says. The admissions officers “have no idea who you are.”

She adds, “I tested into Stanford through my own hard work.”

The video was recorded in the summer before Ms. Zhao began her freshman year, in 2017. It now stands in sharp contrast with recent news: that her parents paid $6.5 million to a college consultant at the center of an international college admissions scheme, according to a person with direct knowledge of the investigation.

Prosecutors say that the consultant, William Singer, tried to get Ms. Zhao recruited to the Stanford sailing team, providing a fake list of sailing accomplishments and making a $500,000 donation to the sailing program after she was admitted.

The payment to Mr. Singer was by far the largest known in the case, and the disclosure immediately added Ms. Zhao and her family, pharmaceutical billionaires from China, to a cast of powerful figures swept up in the scandal, including two Hollywood actresses and prominent names from the American legal and business worlds.

The new turns in the investigation, including reports that another Chinese family paid $1.2 million in connection with their daughter’s application to Yale, have illuminated the global reach of Mr. Singer’s operation and the wealthy Chinese families eager to get their children into prestigious American universities. . . .

Thousands of Teachers March on Raleigh, NC

by Tamika Walker Kelly
Yesterday was huge.
Thousands of public school educators, bus drivers, custodians, cafeteria workers, social workers, counselors, coaches and other support staff – along with their supporters – flooded the streets of Raleigh. Again.
But we didn't just show up today. We organized. We held our legislators accountable and put them on record about their stance on public education. We met together with our neighbors in county conversations and made concrete plans to continue this work until we win the schools our communities deserve.

And we are already winning.

Tuesday, before so many of us descended on the state capital, Republican leadership in the NCGA announced a plan to give lopsided pay raises to public school employees. But what they don’t know is that we're in this together. We won't accept a proposal intended to divide us.
We are united on the 5 Priorities the North Carolina Association of Educators adopted at our convention in March:
  • Provide enough school librarians, psychologists, social workers, counselors, nurses, and other health professionals to meet national professional-to-student standards;
  • Provide $15 minimum wage for all school personnel, 5% raise for all ESPs (non-certified staff), teachers, administrators, and a 5% cost of living adjustment for retirees;
  • Expand Medicaid to improve the health of our students and families;
  • Reinstate state retiree health benefits eliminated by the General Assembly in 2017;
  • Restore advanced degree compensation stripped by the General Assembly in 2013.

So, what’s next after yesterday’s #AllOutMay1 action?

First – Please fill out our brief survey to tell us about your #AllOutMay1 day.What did you do? Who did you meet? What was one powerful, meaningful moment that you’ll take back to your school district?
Second – If you are not a member of the North Carolina Association of Educators, we need you to join right now. We know from two years of mass mobilization actions that we have strength in numbers. NCAE is our organization and it’s our voice. We need you with us.
Third – NCAE’s Organize 2020 Racial & Social Justice Caucus is working hard in every school district to bring people into NCAE and orient us toward the fight for public schools. You already signed up for this struggle – we need you to bring your co-workers, your friends and your family. Send your folks to organize2020.org and encourage them to join our communications list so they can get in the loop on our work.
Fourth – This work takes time and resources y’all. Over the past month dozens of Organize 2020 volunteers have worked hard with NCAE leadership to pull this event together. Please consider donating to our work as NCAE’s Racial & Social Justice Caucus.
We are so proud of you all, and ourselves, today. We will not be intimidated into silence by politicians and special interests focused on undermining our public schools.
We are together. We are united. We are organized.
Tamika Walker Kelly, NCAE Region 6 Director
Bryan Proffitt, Durham Association of Educators President

Monday, April 29, 2019

Scotland Declares Climate Emergency

Read this and then tell me activism doesn't make a difference:
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has declared a "climate emergency" in her speech to the SNP conference.

The SNP leader told delegates in Edinburgh she was inspired after meeting young climate campaigners who had gone on strike from school.

Ms Sturgeon said "they are right", and pledged to "live up to our responsibility" to halt climate change.

She also announced what she described as the SNP's "biggest campaign on the economics of independence".

Labour is expected to press the UK government to declare a national climate emergency on Wednesday.

The party will call for a dramatic cut in the UK's carbon emissions, with leader Jeremy Corbyn also calling for a UK-wide ban on fracking. . . .

Sunday, April 28, 2019

National Climate Emergency, Anyone? Anyone?

Britain's Labour Party is on the verge of declaring a National Climate Emergency.

Today's homework: Is there a Democrat now running for President who would do the same?  

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Make Schools Matter--Join Extinction Rebellion

Yes, schools still matter, or they can matter, if they are telling the truth and educating children of all ages about the global climate emergency and how we must work together now to save life on Earth.  

If schools are not making the factual teaching of global warming their top priority, and if they are not letting children know that we do not have time for them to grow up and become environmental scientists and lawyers before we act, and if they are not giving children the tools and confidence to act now, then those schools do not matter.  Full stop. 

It is time for everyone know that the coming decade will be make or break in efforts to halt global temperature rise, and despair at this point is not an option.  

Only education connected to action is acceptable, and if you are not acting, then your inaction supports the murderous status quo. 

Yes, it's on you, on me, on us all. The environmental gradualists have made their own position a homicidal irrelevancy.

Extinction Rebellion (XR) is one group of environmental activists in the UK that has made non-violent resistance and civil disobedience against the oligarchs' unsparring and accelerating genocide its chief reason for being.



Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Crooked Gov. Bill Lee Buys Voucher Support with Public Funds

Does your community need a new park or softball field?  Tell your state rep to go see Bill Lee with a promise to vote for his school privatization plan.  Works every time.

 . . . .A USA TODAY NETWORK-Tennessee review of Lee’s latest budget proposal shows several lawmakers who were once against or on the fence about the governor’s controversial education savings account legislation received funding for their requests.
The lawmakers identified in the review include freshmen Reps. Charlie Baum, R-Murfreesboro; Scott Cepicky, R-Culleoka; Clay Doggett, R-Pulaski; Tom Leatherwood, R-Arlington; and Chris Todd, R-Jackson.
In total, the governor has proposed fulfilling the requests from the group of freshmen lawmakers to the tune of $916,000.
Of the freshmen identified, Baum, Cepicky and Leatherwood have voted for the Lee's education proposal. Todd and Doggett are expected to vote on the legislation when the House considers it Tuesday.
The vast majority of House members who have voted against the voucher-style program did not have their appropriations requests fulfilled by the governor. . . .

Monday, April 22, 2019

Kansas Parents Take on Summit Learning

 This is not about education. This is about plans to make education for-profit and to minimize overhead by gradually rendering human teachers -- and brick and mortar schools -- obsolete. --pjc (top comment at New York Times story)

 Summit Learning, which is a Silicon Valley business scheme to depersonalize school learning (see explanations gathered here), save money on teachers and facilities, and to make more tech millionaires, has been around since 2003.  In 2014, the sociopathic Mark Zuckerberg got personally involved, and it wasn't long after that he started buying up politicians in Kansas and other places that had no clue what an insidious, destructive, and oppressive system of schooling that was about to be foisted on their children.  

The New York Times has done a bang-up story on what is happening in Kansas, where parents and students are striking back against their compromised school officials and the Silicon Valley oligarchs who have bought them.  A clip:
. . . .Silicon Valley had come to small-town Kansas schools — and it was not going well.
“I want to just take my Chromebook back and tell them I’m not doing it anymore,” said Kallee Forslund, 16, a 10th grader in Wellington.
Eight months earlier, public schools near Wichita had rolled out a web-based platform and curriculum from Summit Learning. The Silicon Valley-based program promotes an educational approach called “personalized learning,” which uses online tools to customize education. The platform that Summit provides was developed by Facebook engineers. It is funded by Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, and his wife, Priscilla Chan, a pediatrician.

Many families in the Kansas towns, which have grappled with underfunded public schools and deteriorating test scores, initially embraced the change. Under Summit’s program, students spend much of the day on their laptops and go online for lesson plans and quizzes, which they complete at their own pace. Teachers assist students with the work, hold mentoring sessions and lead special projects. The system is free to schools. The laptops are typically bought separately.
Then, students started coming home with headaches and hand cramps. Some said they felt more anxious. One child began having a recurrence of seizures. Another asked to bring her dad’s hunting earmuffs to class to block out classmates because work was now done largely alone.
“We’re allowing the computers to teach and the kids all looked like zombies,” said Tyson Koenig, a factory supervisor in McPherson, who visited his son’s fourth-grade class. In October, he pulled the 10-year-old out of the school.

In a school district survey of McPherson middle school parents released this month, 77 percent of respondents said they preferred their child not be in a classroom that uses Summit. More than 80 percent said their children had expressed concerns about the platform.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

TN Governor Plans to Weaken Local School Boards

Tennessee's new governor, Bill Lee, came into office with a plan to privatize large chunks of the state's public schools.  He has a voucher plan and a charter plan, and the charter plan has just passed the Republican-controlled state legislature.    

If signed by Lee, it will mean more state financial incentives for more charter schools and existing schools, and it will also mean that local school board decisions on new charter schools in their districts can be appealed to a state panel of charter school enthusiasts.  Just like the state panel in South Carolina state-level office that just overturned a 6-1 decision by the Charleston School Board.  So much for local control:
. . . .Compass Collegiate Academy will open despite objections by the Charleston County School Board, which rejected the school’s charter application in a 6-1 vote on April 8. On Tuesday, just eight days later, it won unanimous approval from a non-elected statewide entity: the board of the S.C. Public Charter School District.

The school plans to enroll 100 students in kindergarten through first grade when it opens, gradually expanding in later years to include 720 students through eighth grade. While the school will accept lottery applicants from anywhere in the state, its founders are looking to secure property between the Charleston Neck Area and Interstate 526 in North Charleston.

Charleston County School Board member Priscilla Jeffery said she worries about the lack of local oversight at the new charter school. At the meeting last week, she read a list of deficiencies in Compass’ application, which included the school’s plans for transportation, facilities and students with disabilities.. . .

Contact the Governor's Office at (615) 741-2001, and let him know that you elected your school board members to make decisions about your local schools: 




Charter School Founders Embezzled Millions: Parents Receive $150 Each

From Houston Public Media:
More than 4,000 parents of students who attended a Houston charter school whose founders have been imprisoned for mail fraud and tax evasion will receive more than $600,000 in restitution, the Department of Justice announced on Tuesday.
The Varnett Public School is a charter school with three locations in Houston. In August 2017, founding superintendent Marian Annette Cluff, 70, and her husband Alsie Cluff Jr., 69, who worked as facilities and operations manager, pleaded guilty to mail fraud and conspiracy to commit tax evasion charges for embezzling millions of dollars from the school.
The couple received a combined prison sentence of 13 years –10 years for Mrs. Cluff and three years for her husband– and was ordered to pay a total of $4.4 million in restitution. Last month, U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen ordered the payments be distributed to the identified victim parents in the case.
The U.S. District Clerk’s Office said the restitution payments to the parents will be handled on an “expedited basis.” Specifically, the amount reserved for restitution is $604,889.
The Cluffs embezzled millions of dollars in funds that were intended for the operation and function of the charter school and its programs, according to court records.
Prosecutors say the couple took money that mostly low-income parents paid for school field trips, book fairs, student fundraisers, and other school activities, and used the funds to support a lavish lifestyle that included trips on private jets, multiple properties, designer clothes and jewelry. 
The investigation found that the couple also diverted and concealed money received from vendors of the school, insurance companies and federal agencies into off-book accounts for their personal use and benefit. . .



Tuesday, April 16, 2019

A charter school story

I want to apologize to Schools Matter readers for my infrequent contributions. I thought once I graduated from law school and passed the most difficult bar examination in the country on my first attempt, that I'd have more time to write. Instead, in addition to my long-time day job, I now have an internship once a week at an education law firm, and I am teaching on Thursday nights at my law school. In a word — I'm swamped. However, I managed to piece together this twitter thread on Monday, that I thought was worth reposting here.


Researching for a case and came across a personal injury settlement between a charter school corporation in the Central Valley and multiple student plaintiffs for some $6-million+. The amount is on the low side considering the horrific injuries some of the students suffered.

It was the typical charter school money-making scam. They had a former employee form an unregistered and uninsured transportation company. The charter's Vice Principle provided one of their family's vehicles to that company. They paid themselves $6K a month from public money to operate a vehicle that had several defective seatbelts. Moreover, they consistently exceeded the vehicle's passenger capacity. Students had to share seats and some had to ride on the floor.

Struck by another vehicle traveling at high speed, the charter corporation's vehicle rolled multiple times and ejected several of the unrestrained students. The injuries were as bad as you could imagine them to be.

This was the inevitable result of putting public money into private hands. Because charter school corporations are privately managed with de minimis oversight, transparency, and accountability, they find ways to channel public revenue streams into their pockets, all the while cutting corners on students. Here, that cost cutting had drastic consequences that altered the lives of several students whose injuries were severe.

In this case it was a transportation company that the charter corporation created, but we've seen the same thing with Charter Management Organization real estate holding firms, and charter school side-companies like convicted felon and charter school mogul Refugio 'Ref' Rodriguez's Better 4 You Foods and Better 4 You Fundraising.

The diversion of public funds to private pockets doesn't stop at individual charter school corporations, as evidenced by their trade association—the California Charter Schools Association (CCSA). CCSA sells its member charter schools products and services, paid for out of the public purse. One of them, which would later become known as CharterSafe, generated profits so lucrative, that large firms like Travelers and Gallagher & Co. partnered with them. Here's a quote from a CCSA executive:

"…generated 30% profit margins in subsequent years–with 20-30% lead generation and 20-50% close ratios."


Postscript:

The examples of charter corporation greed and self-dealing keep increasing. It's the inevitable result of putting public money into private hands.

Monday, April 15, 2019

The Loss of Notre Dame Reminds Us

The catastrophic fire at Notre Dame Cathedral and the collapse of its spire remind us of 9-11, and our grief is renewed.  We all wondered as we watched: why can't something be done to stop the fire?  Frustration, even anger, boiled up.

So much lost.  So much history, so much art, so much of the reality of the past going up in smoke. Tragic by any measure.

Now we must ask the question: what if we could have prevented that fire?  Would we have done so?  A stupid question, you snort, of course we would have done whatever was required to save this giant piece of our civilization.

And yet there is so much more of our civilization, our civilizations, that remain with us. Notre Dame, for all its grandeur, is a tiny thread in the vast tapestry of our collective cultures, histories, stories, lives.

Now listen: there is fire coming.  We know it is coming, and we know when it is coming.  There is no doubt about its coming.  The tapestry will be burned, along with wall upon which it hangs. And the building that supports that wall, along with the surrounding city and countryside.  All of it.

Now are you as sure that you would have acted to stop the burning of Notre Dame?  Would you?  Will you act to stop the burning of the world, all the art, the words, the works, the languages, the people and life itself?

Notre Dame's burning--how sad, how tragic, and how small in comparison to the conflagration that has been planned by us.  Do we really care?  Will we take action before the we see the flames on the horizon?  Will we?  For there will be no rebuilding.

Monday, April 08, 2019

Big Win Over KIPP in California Privatization Fight

Big, big victory in Los Angeles over proposed KIPP mega-charter:

By Jared Hamil |
April 8, 2019
 
Centro CSO press conference announcing defeat of KIPP charter school
Centro CSO press conference announcing defeat of KIPP charter school, victory for public education (Fight Back! News/staff) 
 
Los Angeles, CA - Centro CSO (Community Service Organization) along with teachers, parents and students from several East Area schools announced a historic victory, April 4. After months of struggle, corporate KIPP Promesa Charter school will not be building a new mega-charter school in Boyle Heights, at the location of the former Lincoln Hospital near 4th and Soto Street.

Rosario Bonilla, a mother who lives next to proposed site said, “I’m excited we obtained the victory against KIPP that I know would have affected the lives of my children and my community. Also, I feel proud to say that billionaires can't teach our kids!”

KIPP, which is the United States’ largest charter school corporation, operates in multiple states. In Los Angeles, like many other cities, charter schools are promoted in poor working-class neighborhoods that are primarily Chicano and African American. With the backing of real estate billionaires like Eli Broad, they build new private charter schools that pull students from already existing public schools. As student enrollment from public schools declines, funding also declines, causing layoffs for teachers and support staff. Those jobs are almost always unionized, with good benefits. Charter schools are also a part of the wave of gentrification responsible for rent hikes, evictions and displacements. With a population of over 100,000 who reside in Boyle Heights, there are currently over a dozen charter schools. KIPP Charter Schools already have one school in Boyle Heights and three in East LA.

When word spread that KIPP was trying open up another school the community sprang into action. On January 4, Centro CSO supported a lawsuit filed by Boyle Heights Neighborhood Association and longtime activist and resident Carlos Montes. The lawsuit against KIPP Promesa and LA City was based on the environmental damage to the already existing bad conditions and failure to conduct an Environmental Impact Report.

Carlos Montes, of Centro CSO said, “The proposed mega-project would have an adverse impact by adding more pollution, traffic and noise to the already harmful conditions.”
Centro CSO, along with teachers from nearby schools like Breed St. Elementary and the groups like East LA Padres Contra Privatizacion, went to LA city hall and through the planning commission’s long process demanding they not build the new charter school. But the LA city council voted to approve the project, with the urging of Councilmember Jose Huizar.

KIPP also got letters of support from LAUSD Board member Monica Garcia, LA County Supervisor Hilda Solis and Maria Brenes of Inner City Struggle, which the community strongly criticized. Centro CSO led protests several times at the proposed site, demanding an end to privatization of public education.

In late January, Los Angeles teachers, overworked with huge classroom sizes, lack of support services, plagued with charter school co-locations and budget cuts went on a historic week-long strike. Over 30 thousand teachers fought against the attacks on public education, as more and more public funding went to private charter schools. The attacks were led by billionaires like Eli Broad, the Waltons of Wal-Mart and the Gates Foundation with their sellout lackeys on the LA school board like Monica Garcia and former board member and money-launderer Ref Rodriguez. During the strike, the United Teachers of Los Angeles led a protest on the headquarters of the California Charter Schools Association demanding a moratorium on charter schools within the district.

After the strike, teachers and parents in Boyle Heights continued the fight against privatization. They continued with protests, and on February 28 they went to KIPP Promesa offices demanding, “No new mega-KIPP!”

On the afternoon of April 4, at Mariachi Plaza, mothers, students and teachers of Boyle Heights and East LA announced the huge victory. Lupe Torres, an ELA resident, teacher and UTLA Chapter Chair at Marvin Avenue Elementary school, fired up the crowd, chanting “No mega KIPP!” CSO announced that the LA City Planning Department issued a termination letter on the proposed project.

Eloisa Galindo of Eastside Padres Contra Privatizacion said, “The people united will never be defeated! The power and money will never defeat people united!”

Carlos Cerdan, a teacher from nearby Breed Street Elementary said, “This win was a huge victory for the community. Centro CSO’s commitment to Boyle Heights is clear yet again, defeating a corporate charter behemoth. The fight doesn’t end here. We need to continue to inform and mobilize the community because privatizers are not going away easily. Charter schools serve to divide communities at an early age in order to destroy unity through false pretenses of choices. Schools not profits!”

This historic victory shows that the wave of charter schools can be stopped if communities stand up and fight back. Teachers, parents and community members will continue to struggle against co-locations and the invasion of private charter schools on the Eastside. Community leader Carlos Montes states, “This victory against KIPP will inspire others to fight back against privatization.”

NZ Privacy Commish: FB "morally bankrupt pathological liars"

From Huffington Post:
New Zealand’s privacy commissioner is holding no punches in his criticism of Facebook in the wake of the deadly mosque shootings in Christchurch, part of which was livestreamed by the gunman on the social media platform.
Calling the tech giant “morally bankrupt pathological liars,” John Edwards said on Twitter on Sunday night that Facebook “cannot be trusted.”
The social media platform “enable[d] genocide” in Myanmar, Edwards tweeted, referring to Facebook’s role in inciting violence and promoting discrimination in the Southeast Asian nation, aimed particularly at the minority Rohingya people.
Facebook also facilitates “foreign undermining of democratic institutions,” and allows the livestreaming “of suicides, rapes, and murders,” Edwards continued, according to the New Zealand Herald.
Facebook leaders “continue to host and publish the mosque attack video, allow advertisers to target ‘Jew haters’ and other hateful market segments, and refuse to accept any responsibility for any content or harm. They #DontGiveAZuck,” Edwards concluded in a jibe aimed at Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.

Friday, April 05, 2019

TN Commish Blames Teachers for Not Improving More

Published at the Tennessean:

After reading the Tennessean article “Large numbers of Tennessee students not ready for college, new state data show,” I was scratching my head and wondering why alarm bells are going off now about high numbers of high school graduates needing college remediation. Especially so as we find out near the end of the article that college remediation rates have actually improved by 20 percentage points in the past five years.

Furthermore, why would the executive director of the Tennessee Higher Education Commission, Mike Krause, be bad-mouthing teachers and the education colleges that prepare them, in light of these improvements in college readiness?  Why wouldn’t a 20-percent improvement at least warrant a nod of approval for heading in the right direction?

I am not suggesting that we ignore the fact that some schools across the state still have very high percentages of graduates needing college remediation in both reading and math.  And we know those schools are in both rural and urban areas that are economically distressed. Whether Hardeman County in West Tennessee or Austin-East High School in Knoxville, we know that high remediation rates go hand in hand with high poverty rates.

It is unfortunate that Krause and his chief ally in the state Senate, Republican Jon Lundberg, ignore the economic and educational disparities that are at the source of the remediation problem.  Instead, they continue to blame the problem on educators and teacher educators whose life work is to help those struggling students whose disenfranchisement remains a principal predictor for their adult life outcomes.

Sadly, Krause’s former boss, former Gov. Bill Haslam, spent the waning days of his governorship trying unsuccessfully to kill the most recent manifestation of school funding lawsuits that have been ongoing in one form or another since 1987. If Krause and members of the General Assembly want to do something about high remediation rates and other educational effects of child poverty, they could support full funding of Tennessee’s Basic Education Program, BEP, which would put the State in line with its constitutional responsibility to provide the children of the state with a “free, adequate, and equitable education.”

With teachers across the nation now finding public support for demanding the resources required to do their jobs professionally and to raise their families adequately, Krause’s blame game seems particularly out of step with the times.  We will have to see if Tennesseans are as easily manipulated now as they have been in the past by efforts to deflect attention from generations of inadequate and inequitable education funding, while leaders seek to avoid political accountability for a never-ending array of failed education reform efforts that benefit big business interests over the needs of children.
In the meantime, it would be a greater public service If the media were to give credit where credit is due, rather than ignoring the larger story in order to benefit the political motives of state officials.  A more appropriate headline on the Tennessean article might have read, “Five-year college remediation rate down by 20 percent among state high school grads.” 

Jim Horn, Ph.D., is professor of educational leadership at Cambridge College in Cambridge, Massachusetts . . . . His most recent book is "Work Hard, Be Hard: Journeys Through ‘No Excuses’ Teaching."

Wednesday, April 03, 2019

No College Benefit Derived by Attending Charter Schools

A new study published by USDOE puts into context much of the propaganda by KIPP and other charter chains related to the ostensible benefit of attending their corporate madrasas.  

Bottom line: there is no future college benefit accruing from attending these hell schools:
A study from the National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance (NCEE) obtained college enrollment and completion data for students who — more than a decade ago — entered lotteries to be admitted to 31 charter middle schools across the United States. College outcomes were compared for 1,723 randomly selected "lottery winners" and 1,150 randomly selected "lottery losers". The study found that being admitted to a charter middle school did not affect college outcomes. Also, there was not a consistent relationship between a charter school's impact on middle school achievement and the school's impact on college outcomes.