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

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."


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.