Larry Miller's Blog: Educate All Students!

September 24, 2014

Aldermen Target Incentives Offered by Charter Schools

Filed under: Charter Schools — millerlf @ 7:50 pm

Council members target enrollment incentives offered by charter schools

News release from Alds. Nik Kovac and Michael J. Murphy
By Nik Kovac – Sep 23rd, 2014

Charter schools in Milwaukee would be prohibited from using financial incentives as a recruitment tool, under legislation introduced today by Alderman Nik Kovac and co-sponsored by Common Council President Michael J. Murphy.

The charter ordinance is in response to reports that Central City Cyberschool—and others like it—offered cash incentives for student referrals. A flyer from Central City Cyberschool indicated that parents, staff and daycare centers could “earn $200” if they referred a student who met a number of conditions.

“Students and their families should be evaluating schools based on the quality of the education they will receive,” Alderman Kovac said. “Any schools that receive public money should not be trying to game the system like this, and it certainly should not be taking place at a school that is chartered by the city.”

The ordinance will be referred to the Steering and Rules Committee, and Alderman Kovac said he hoped it would quickly be adopted by the Common Council.

In conjunction with the proposed ordinance, Alderman Murphy said he will also be introducing a resolution that calls on the state legislature to prohibit choice and public schools from offering similar financial incentives as well.

“We don’t want any funds that could be used to educate children being diverted to spurious recruitment efforts,” Alderman Murphy said. “A race to the bottom isn’t in anyone’s best interest—least of all the children in our schools.”

School Choice Wisconsin Embarrasses Itself with False Reporting

Filed under: Charter Schools,Vouchers — millerlf @ 11:07 am

Supporters of taxpayer funded private schools (voucher schools) have no shame in attempting to berate public education.

In its latest attack on public education, School Choice Wisconsin (SCW) commissioned a report on 911 calls, comparing MPS and voucher and charter schools. The report lacks any validity in content, methodology and conclusions drawn .

The report uses data from school year 2012-2013. Since 2012-13, the Milwaukee Police Department has seen a significant reduction in calls for service to MPS schools. In a channel 6 interview yesterday, an MPD representative stated that MPS has been doing an excellent job of handling matters internally, avoiding the need for calls for service.

School Choice Wisconsin should be embarrassed to stand behind such flagrant political grand-standing. Note a few facts about the report:
• School Choice Wisconsin has issued at least 3 versions of the report because of errors in its data and reporting.
• The SCW study included calls after hours and on non-school days, so it doesn’t reflect what’s happening in school.
• Calls may include burglar alarms, medical calls, SRO activity and neighborhood incidents.
• SCW claims it is looking at the intersection of police calls and school locations, not just schools as educational settings. That’s a problem because all of the data comparison is on a per-student basis and doesn’t account for non-student users of facilities.
• There were simple math errors. The 2R charter count was over-reported, which deflated their per-student police calls.
• It was also that found MPS student count is underreported.
• SCW did not include all MPS students in all MPS schools, 151 buildings only.
• Conclusions did not match the data. For example, the data does not verify that MPS has 84 times as many juvenile arrests as MPCP.

School board President Michael Bonds Responds to Flagrant Comments by Alberta Darling and Joe Sanfelippo

Filed under: Darling,MPS Buildings,Tea Party — millerlf @ 10:33 am

Malcolm X to house high-performing school
Published: September 23, 2014

Legislative leaders misstate facts, ignore MPS efforts to place internationally recognized program in school

MILWAUKEE — Dr. Michael Bonds, president of the Milwaukee Board of School Directors, issued the following regarding the erroneous statement issued today by State Senator Alberta Darling and State Representative Joe Sanfelippo regarding the district’s plans to continue the development of the former Malcolm X Academy building:
“From the beginning of this process, Senator Darling and Representative Sanfelippo have clearly misunderstood this effort to bring a high-performing International Baccalaureate school to the Malcolm X neighborhood. Their statement today only further serves to illustrate that fact.

“There is nothing inappropriate about the decision made by the Milwaukee Board of School Directors to move forward with this project without the developer we initially identified. What was most critical to this Board is that the project move forward.

“It is unfortunate that Senator Darling and Representative Sanfelippo have characterized this effort as phony, crooked and obscene. In fact, the Board took the appropriate steps to continue the project itself and keep our promise to the neighborhood to deliver what it asked for: a high-performing school.

“I have asked the Office of the City Attorney to provide legal options with respect to the inflammatory and false allegations by Darling and Sanfelippo against the district, alleging corruption.”

September 15, 2014

Public Schools in Texas Outperform Charter Schools

Filed under: Charter Schools,Ravitch — millerlf @ 9:17 am

Tom Ratliff: Public Schools in Texas Outperform Charter Schools
by dianeravitch

Tom Ratliff, a member of the Texas state Board of Education, wrote this article for the Longview News-Journal. It is a warning to parents not to assume that charter schools are better than public schools. On average, he says, the opposite is true.

Public schools ranked higher for financial accountability:

During the 2012-13 school year (the most recent year of the rating), Texas’ traditional public schools far outperformed charter schools in both academic and financial measurements. Don’t take my word for it, look at the information straight from the Texas Education Agency:

To summarize these reports, I offer the following:
The FIRST rating is the Financial Integrity Rating System of Texas and, according to the education agency, is designed to “encourage public schools to better manage their financial resources in order to provide the maximum allocation possible for direct instructional purposes.” I think we all agree, that’s a good thing to measure.
According to the agency, the FIRST rating uses 20 “established financial indicators, such as operating expenditures for instruction, tax collection rates, student-teacher ratios, and long-term debt.” How did the schools do? Glad you asked.
Traditional ISDs: 89 percent ranked “superior” and 1.2 percent ranked “substandard.”
Charter schools: 37 percent ranked “superior” and 20 percent ranked “substandard.”
Yes, one out of five charter schools ranked “substandard” on how they spend the tax dollars supporting them, while almost 9 out of 10 ISDs ranked “superior”.

And public schools outperform charter schools academically too:

Let’s shift our attention to academic performance. If the academic performance is good, the taxpaying public might be more understanding of a low rating on a financial measure. Unfortunately, the charters do not compare well there, either, under the 2014 TEA Accountability System.
Traditional ISDs: 92.6 percent met standard, while 7.4 percent did not.
Charter schools 77.7 percent met standard, while 17.3 percent did not.
Again, almost one out of five charter schools failed to meet the state’s academic standards.

And then Tom Ratliff asks the best question of all:

“Where is the outrage from groups like the Texas Association of Business or the Austin Chamber of Commerce?” Those groups rarely miss an opportunity to criticize the shortcomings of traditional ISDs. Why not express concerns when numbers like these relate to charter schools? If these numbers were attributable to ISDs, you can bet those groups would be flying planes around the Capitol and holding press conferences like they have in the past. A little consistency would be nice when asking for taxpayer-funded schools to perform as expected.”

Ratliff points out that his father wrote the original charter law. It is refreshing to see a policymaker looking at the data and seeing that competition does not translate into better education or more accountability. By the way, Tom’s father Bill Ratliff –former Lieutenant Governor of Texas–is already a member of the blog’s honor roll for his willingness to speak up and think for himself. A good Texas family.
dianeravitch | September 14, 2014

August 30, 2014

Diane Ravitch Blog on Milwaukee Voucher Schools

Filed under: Vouchers,Women Committed to an Informed Community — millerlf @ 12:11 pm

Milwaukee: Ruth Conniff on the Disgrace of Voucher Schools
by dianeravitch

Last May, Ruth Conniff, editor of “The Progressive,” joined a group of other women on a tour of voucher schools in Milwaukee. The others included another journalist, a state legislator, and Milwaukee grandmothers Gail Hicks and Marva Herndon.

“Herndon and Hicks formed a group called Women Committed to an Informed Community, also known as the “mad grandmas,” to bring attention to the voucher schools popping up all over the largely African American north side of Milwaukee in strip malls, rundown office buildings, old car dealerships, and abandoned factories.”

What they saw should chill the ardor of the most doctrinaire followers of Milton Friedman. Vouchers began in Milwaukee nearly 25 years ago based on the claim that they would save poor black children from “failing” public schools. Today, Milwaukee should be a national symbol of the failure of vouchers. Yet state after state is endorsing vouchers, egged on by the Friedman Foundation and rightwing think tanks.

Let’s be clear. Vouchers, charters, and choice have failed the children of Milwaukee. The city ranks near the bottom of all cities tested by the federal NAEP, barely ahead of Detroit. Black children in Milwaukee score behind their peers in most other cities and states. Study after study shows they don’t get better test scores than their peers in public schools.

“”We are talking about the schools that fall under the category of LifeSkills Academy,” says Hicks, referring to a Milwaukee voucher school that made headlines last year when the couple that owned it fled to Florida, taking with them millions in state education funds and leaving sixty-six students suddenly stranded, with no school.

“Many of the schools Herndon and Hicks are concerned about are religious. But “we are not talking about schools associated with long-established churches,” Hicks says.

“In racially divided Milwaukee, most of the mainline parochial schools that take voucher students are run by Catholic and Protestant churches on the largely Hispanic south side, Herndon explains.

“On the north side, it’s just loaded with fly-by-night, hole-in-the-wall schools, gas station schools,” Herndon says.

…….

“The $6,442 per pupil in public funds attached to vouchers is more than the cost of tuition at many parochial schools. That, along with start-up funds for new voucher schools, creates a powerful incentive for cash-strapped parochial schools and unscrupulous, fly-by-night operators alike. As a result, parents in voucher districts have been inundated with marketing calls, flyers, and advertisements at taxpayer expense urging them to send their kids to private school for free.

“Nowhere is the problem with turning public schools over to private business more evident than in Milwaukee, the birthplace of school choice.

“Academy of Excellence” is spelled out in snap-on plastic letters above a phone number on a temporary-looking sign on West North Avenue.

“A teacher stands in the doorway of a rundown office building with peeling orange paint on cinderblock walls, watching children jump rope in the parking lot between rows of cars. A few little girls crouch on the sidewalk, drawing with chalk.

“Pastor George Claudio of the StraightWay Vineyard Christian Fellowship greets us inside.

“He has been serving as principal here since September, although he has no background in education, he explains.

“I’m not a trained principal, so my approach has been more of a business and leadership approach,” he says. “I don’t know much about academics, so I’m on a crash course, relying on the teachers in the building.

“Everybody here is way below the poverty level,” he adds, as we peer into a classroom where four-year-old kindergarteners are lying down for a nap on the dirty indoor/outdoor carpeting. A teacher snaps out the lights.

“Despite the dirty carpet and peeling walls, and a first-floor bathroom with no toilet paper, no paper towels, and heavy scribbling in the stalls and over the sink, Pastor Claudio is proud of how much better things look here since school started in September, after a major cleanup. Last fall, he tells us, the lights didn’t work.

“This building has flipped through several voucher schools. The last resident was BEAM Academy, an Edison charter school. “Edison” plastic tags still adorn some of the classroom doors. Another Academy of Excellence school, on the south side, is in even worse shape, the pastor tells us.

“There are three Academy of Excellence schools in Milwaukee, run by the Association of Vineyard Churches, a conservative, evangelical sect.

“Every morning, Pastor Claudio leads the school in a daily devotional.

“We use the Bob Jones University curriculum,” he says.

……………

The pastor says that two-thirds of the students probably would benefit from special education, but the school has no trained special education staff. Indeed, teachers in voucher schools don’t need teaching certification. Instead of special education, the children get tutors–college kids and volunteers from the church. In the middle school science class, a sign on the wall says, “In the beginning God created the Heavens and the Earth—Genesis 1:1″ a poster in the hallway says: “God can see your heart and he knows that it is wicked.”

The school will double in size this fall when it enrolls 200 students from Myanmar who don’t speak English.

………………

Conniff concludes:

“The latest battle of the mad grandmas is against new laws that would force the sale of public school buildings to private school operators.

“The public schools are just being raped,” says Hicks. “A lot of schools no longer have gym, no longer have art, language, higher math. Schools don’t have the money because they’re sticking money in charter schools and vouchers, which are businesses.”

“In Milwaukee, eighth graders are attending what purports to be a public school to study science and learn creationism.

“Third graders are absorbing a strange home brew of art, finance, and bible passages.

“Immigrant children straight from refugee camps in Myanmar are landing in a school that looks like a refugee center, to be immersed in English and a harsh religious ideology that teaches them that their hearts are wicked.

“All of this is supported by the public with tax dollars.

“It looks like the end of society.”

Ruth Conniff’s reporting is persuasive evidence that the once strong belief in separation of church and state was sensible protection for the common school system. Now that the wall of separation has been penetrated, all manner of Bible schools are getting public dollars. Does anyone believe that the children of Milwaukee are better served in these schools than in the public schools? And what remains of public education when children are withdrawn to attend voucher schools and charter schools?

Can anyone honestly say that the children in these publicly-supported voucher schools are getting a good education that prepares them for college and careers in the 21st century?

August 27, 2014

We Can Do This: Burke 49%, Walker 47%

Filed under: Elections — millerlf @ 1:53 pm

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) remains locked a tight re-election campaign, according to a new poll released Wednesday.

The Marquette Law School poll of those likeliest to vote this fall shows Democratic nominee Mary Burke leading Walker 49 percent to 47 percent, an advantage that is within the survey’s margin of error.

The poll affirms what strategists in both parties have anticipated for months: this is going to be a competitive fall campaign. In the July survey, Walker and Burke were running about even.

A former executive at the bicycle company Trek and an ex-state commerce secretary, Burke is running a campaign focused on Walker’s record on jobs and the economy. Walker has been tying Burke to unpopular former governor Jim Doyle (D), under whom she served as commerce secretary.

The Marquette poll of 609 likely voters was conducted from Aug. 21-24. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.1 percentage points.

Response to MJS Article on Henry Tyson and St. Marcus Lutheran School

Filed under: St. Marcus — millerlf @ 1:31 pm

On August 26 the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel published an article on Henry Tyson, the superintendent of St. Marcus Lutheran School. (http://tinyurl.com/mq8dpyb) I was interviewed by the author and quoted in the article.

In the article Tyson is quoted as being “shocked” for becoming the “nemesis of public education.” Following I would like to explain why he has become so controversial. The following were my statements to the author on this issue.

I was asked by the writer, why has Henry Tyson and St. Marcus Lutheran School come under such heavy criticism from the pro-public school advocates?

Henry Tyson is not forthright about student achievement. He claims high-performance, yet the data shows different. In all of these comparisons to MPS, he is comparing one school, St. Marcus, to 116 MPS K8 and middle schools. MPS can show a number of schools that have higher performance than St. Marcus.
But even in comparing all 116 schools to St. Marcus there is data that shows higher results for MPS, on the average, than St. Marcus.
(The Department of Public Education generated report on St. Marcus can be seen at: http://www.stmarcus.org/uploads/STM%20REPORT%20CARD%206.2.14%20v6.pdf )

Data:
The first graph on the St. Marcus report card compares MPS in blue to St Marcus voucher students in red to all St Marcus students in yellow. The MPS bar says 15% reading proficiency. This should actually say 15.5%. But it should also say that this number is for all MPS students, in over 160 schools, including high school.
If you compare MPS K8 grades to the K8 grades offered by St. Marcus, you get a different picture. The 116 K8 schools in MPS have a 16.8% proficiency rate average, compared to St. Marcus’ is 19%.
The second graph on their report card, referred to as “Value – Added ”, depicts significant gains in reading for students who stay enrolled at St. Marcus. They go on to say that the student rate of return for St. Marcus is 91%.
This does not add up. This should mean, as St. Marcus students move to eighth grade, the schools proficiency levels should increase. But in fact the eighth grade proficiency level falls to 15%, four percentage points below the school’s average, representing a decline in attainment of proficiency.
17% of MPS eighth-graders test at proficiency. This means that by the Fall of eighth grade, MPS eighth-graders, on the average for 116 schools, are outperforming St. Marcus eighth graders.

Special education:
According to Tyson St Marcus has 730 students and 60 of them are special education students, which is 8.2%. How can they claim that they are open to all students when MPS enrolls 20% special education students?

Circus:
The leadership at St. Marcus turned their attempt to gain control of the Malcolm X building into a circus. They marched young children from their school, during the school day, to the Malcolm X site praying and even having students pound on the doors, shouting “let us in, let us in.”
Henry Tyson spoke before the MPS school board quoting Malcolm X. I asked a teacher at St. Marcus if the teachings of Malcolm X are presented to students. He chuckled and stated, “not that I’m aware of.”

Regressive teaching:
On his blog, Henry Tyson states that St Marcus Lutheran School “… follows the teachings of the Milwaukee-based Wisconsin Evangelical Luther Synod (WELS).”
If you go to their official monthly publication, Forward in Christ, you can witness their teachings, unrestrained and unapologetic, at:
(http://www.wels.net/news-events/forward-in-christ/archive)

On “the Menace of Islam” “The greatest menace of Islam is the deadly threat that it poses to the eternal life of every one of its adherents.”

On Jews Going to Heaven “If your question is about unbelieving Jews (or unbelievers from any other ethnic group) or followers of Judaism who have rejected Jesus Christ as the Messiah and Savior of mankind, then we must sadly answer that they did not and do not go to heaven.”

On Suicide “Suicide is murder; ‘and you know that no murderer has eternal life in him’(John 3:15).
On Marriage: Joining a Christian and a Non-Christian “Experience demonstrates that all too many of these marriages, almost predictably, become heartaches followed by divorce.”

On Equality of Women “In order to avoid exercising leadership over men contrary to “the order of creation,” WELS women do not vote in church meetings.”

On the Catholic Pope “We identify the Antichrist as the Papacy.”

On Evolution “It appears that American citizens don’t have the privilege of stating that the evolutionary explanation of the origin of this universe, the earth, and man is not only questionable, but also unscientific, and irrational, and just plain wrong.” The earth is only 6000 years old and “…was created with the appearance of age. On the first day everything looked older than it was.”

On Homosexuality “Scripture declares that homosexuality is a sin, which is contrary to God’s intention in creating man and woman. Sinful resistance to the revealed will of God is a factor in this sin.”

On Civil Rights “Anything goes. When the civil-rights bills were passed in the mid ’60s, their principal sponsor, Sen. Hubert Humphrey, promised in one melodramatic session that he would “physically eat” the bill he was promoting if ever anyone attempted to use his bill in order to prefer a member of one race at the expense of a member of another race. Senator Humphrey died from other causes than the food poisoning to which he’d have been subjected after the Supreme Court OK’d affirmative action.
A fortnight ago, we had the Civil Rights Restoration Act, which now extends to the federal government the right to inquire into the racial or sexual composition of a school’s basketball team if its medical school is receiving federal subsidies. And last week, Georgetown University, the oldest Jesuit College in America, capitulated on the lawsuit demanding that it make room within Georgetown for gay and lesbian student federations. Somebody, somewhere, somehow, has got to stop the civil-rights thing. It is making a joke out of one after another of our Bill of Rights.” (These comments are a reprint from Forward In Christ by William F. Buckley Jr.)

On Economic Inequality “It is egregiously impossible if you mean that the state can and should guarantee equality of education, income, or wealth. The only way that there could be equality of wealth is if the state seized all private assets and redistributed them. The only way there could be equality of income is if the state seized control of all businesses and arbitrarily set all salary levels the same, determined by some central committee. Unless you are pining to live under Stalinistic Communism, you wouldn’t favor that approach, and so I conclude that you are prepared to live with inequality of income and wealth.
But people can still envy, of course. The last presidential election season featured quite a bit of attention on Mitt Romney’s personal wealth, and that campaign was quickly followed by the “Occupy” and “99%” mini-movements that sought to arouse envy and hostility from the have-lesses against the have-mores. My personal prediction is that you ain’t seen nothing yet. The coming political season will bring back plenty of chatter about income and wealth inequality in the U.S.
Those efforts will be led by people who have given up on the belief that you can better your life by hard work, discipline, self-control, deferred gratification, and saving. They believe that everyone with wealth either stole it or cheated people to get it.” (From Pastor’s Blog, St. Marcus Pastor Mark Jeske.)

New Civil Rights Movement:
Some people claim that the voucher movement is part of the new civil rights movement. I’ve noticed that St. Marcus teaches about the southern civil rights movement, including taking students on trips to southern historical sites.
I approached friends who were activists in Milwaukee during the 1970s open housing marches, a focus of civil rights activism at that time. I asked them if the ministers or the churches belonging to the Wisconsin Evangelical Synod (WELS) were engaged in any way in supporting that effort. The response from everyone was that they were nowhere to be found.

Maybe in their hearts, they were in support. But the true test is activism.

I must also question the fact that they are nowhere to be found in the fight to stop attacks on voting rights, economic inequality, healthcare or gay rights. While they are silent on the attacks on the poor and on democratic rights, they do not hesitate to run to the Tea-Party Republicans to lobby against MPS.

They are silent on the devastating funding cuts the Republicans have made to public education. At the same time they have lobbied for more funding for vouchers.

August 22, 2014

In These Times: The Con Artistry of Charter Schools

Filed under: Charter Schools — millerlf @ 9:05 am

The Con Artistry of Charter Schools
Wednesday, 20 August 2014 09:15 By Ruth Conniff, In These Times

There’s been a flood of local news stories in recent months about FBI raids on charter schools all over the country.
From Pittsburgh to Baton Rouge, from Hartford to Cincinnatti to Albuquerque, FBI agents have been busting into schools, carting off documents and making arrests leading to high-profile indictments.

“The troubled Hartford charter school operator FUSE was dealt another blow Friday when FBI agents served it with subpoenas to a grand jury that is examining the group’s operations. When two Courant reporters arrived at FUSE offices on Asylum Hill on Friday morning, minutes after the FBI’s visit, they saw a woman feeding sheaves of documents into a shredder.”—The Hartford Courant, July 18, 2014

“The FBI has raided an Albuquerque school just months after the state started peering into the school’s finances. KRQE News 13 learned federal agents were there because of allegations that someone may have been taking money that was meant for the classroom at the Southwest Secondary Learning Center on Candelaria, near Morris in northwest Albuquerque … “—KRQE News 13, August 1 2014

“Wednesday evening’s FBI raid on a charter school in East Baton Rouge is the latest item in a list of scandals involving the organization that holds the charter for the Kenilworth Science and Technology School. … Pelican Educational Foundation runs the school and has ties to a family from Turkey. The school receives about $5,000,000 in local, state, and federal tax money. … the FBI raided the school six days after the agency renewed the Baton Rouge school’s charter through the year 2019.”—The Advocate, January 14, 2014

“The state of Pennsylvania is bringing in the FBI to look into accusations that a Pittsburgh charter school [Urban Pathways Charter School] misspent tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars on luxuries such as fine-dining and retreats at exclusive resorts and spas.”—CBS News November 12, 2013

“COLUMBUS, OH—A federal grand jury has indicted four people, alleging that they offered and accepted bribes and kickbacks as part of a public corruption conspiracy in their roles as managers and a consultant for Arise! Academy, a charter school in Dayton, Ohio.” —FBI Press Release, June 2014
What’s going on here?

Charter schools are such a racket, across the nation they are attracting special attention from the FBI, which is working with the Department of Education’s inspector general to look into allegations of charter-school fraud.
One target, covered in an August 12 story in The Atlantic, is the secretive Turkish cleric, Fethullah Gulen, who runs the largest charter-school chain in the United States.
The Atlantic felt compelled to note, repeatedly, that it would be xenophobic to single out the Gulen schools and their mysterious Muslim founder for lack of transparency and the misuse of public funds.
“It isn’t the Gulen movement that makes Gulen charters so secretive,” writes The Atlantic’s Scott Beauchamp, “it’s the charter movement itself.”
Kristen Buras, associate professor of education policies at Georgia State University, agrees.
“Originally, charter schools were conceived as a way to improve public education,” Buras says. “Over time, however, the charter school movement has developed into a money-making venture.”

Over the last decade, the charter school movement has morphed from a small, community-based effort to foster alternative education into a national push to privatize public schools, pushed by free-market foundations and big education-management companies. This transformation opened the door to profit-seekers looking for a way to cash in on public funds.
In 2010, Rupert Murdoch, whose News Corp. has been an ALEC member, declared for-profit K-12 public education “a $500 billion sector in the U.S. alone that is waiting desperately to be transformed.”

The transformation has begun.

“Education entrepreneurs and private charter school operators could care less about innovation,” says Buras. “Instead, they divert public monies to pay their six-figure salaries; hire uncertified, transient, non-unionized teachers on the cheap; and do not admit (or fail to appropriately serve) students who are costly, such as those with disabilities.”
Rebecca Fox Blair, a teacher who helped to found a small, alternative high school program in Monona, Wisconsin, says she was struck by the massive change in the charter school movement when she attended a national charter school conference recently.
“It’s all these huge operators, and they look down on schools like ours,” she says. “They call us the ‘mom and pop’ schools.”
There are now more than 6,000 publicly funded charter schools in the United States—a more than 50 percent increase since 2008.
Over that same period, “nearly 4,000 traditional public schools have closed,” writes Stan Karp, an editor of Rethinking Schools. “This represents a huge transfer of resources and students from our public education system to the publicly funded but privately managed charter sector.”
And all that money has attracted some unscrupulous operators.
Michael Sharpe, the disgraced CEO of the FUSE charter school in Hartford, admitted in court to faking his academic credentials and hiding the fact that he was a two-time felon who had been convicted of embezzlement and served five years in prison as a result. When he was indicted he was living in a Brownstone paid for by his charter school management company, where he kept a tenant whom he charged rent.
Scott Glasrud, the CEO of Southwest Learning Centers in Albuquerque, a group of four schools including an elementary school and a flight academy, was earning $210,000 a year, as well as additional compensation for a contract he made with his own aviation company to lease planes to the flight school he administered.
But these are small-time operators compared with Ronald Packard, the CEO of K12, Inc., the scandal-plagued online charter school company. Packard’s salary was $4.1 million in 2013.
K12 has been charged with attempting to falsify records, using unqualified teachers, and booking classes of more than 100 students by state investigators in Florida.
Education reporter Jennifer Berkshire, aka EduShyster, shared Morningstar data on her blog showing that between 2012 and 2013, executive compensation at K12 grew by $11,399,514. In 2012, executives at K12 earned a total of $9,971,984 in compensation. Last year that figure jumped to $21,371,498.
“According to a lawsuit filed in US district court this spring,” Berkshire writes, “Packard knowingly inflated the value of K12 stock by making *overly positive statements* about the company, its performance and its prospects, then cashed out, causing his personal numbers to add up to the tune of $6.4 million large.”
As a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), K12 has helped pushed legislation to replace bricks and mortar classrooms with computers and replace actual teachers with “virtual” teachers, generating enormous profits from its taxpayer-financed schools.
ALEC added K12 to its corporate board of directors just before its national convention in Dallas at the end of July.
At the Dallas meeting, ALEC also trumpeted the launch of a new charter school working group. Among the measures the group discussed:
Legislation to exempt charter school teachers from state teacher certification requirements, and allow for charter schools to be their own local education authority.
A bill to gives charter schools the right of first refusal to purchase or lease all or part of unused public school properties at or below market value, and avoid taxes and fees.
A controversial measure proposed by Scott Walker in Wisconsin to create a statewide charter school authorizing board, bypassing local authority over charter schools, even as charters drain funds from local districts.
New Orleans, the nation’s first all-charter school district, is the testing ground for charter school expansion.
Buras, the author of Charter Schools, Race, and Urban Space: Where the Market Meets Grassroots Resistance, has been engaged in research on New Orleans for the past decade.
“Charter advocates claim that education ‘reform’ in New Orleans is a glowing success and should be replicated nationally,” says Buras. “What the public really needs to know is this: Charter school reform in New Orleans is a hustle, a sham.”
When the state-run New Orleans Recovery School District assumed control of New Orleans public schools, veteran teachers were fired and their collective bargaining agreement was nullified. Since 2005, Buras says, the scale used in Louisiana to assess public school achievement has been manipulated “in an attempt to contrive charter school success.”
In Detroit, another seat of school privatization and austerity, charter schools have also meant lucrative contracts for private operators, and austerity for teachers and kids, says Tom Pedroni, associate professor in the college of education at Wayne State University.
The Detroit Free Press published a series of articles on waste of tax dollars and questionable financial dealings by charter school officials and boards.
“One school bought useless wetlands. Others overpaid—by a lot—for their school property. And another gave its administrator a severance worth more than a half million dollars,” the Free Press reported on June 22.
Michigan’s largest charter-school management company charges jaw-dropping rents to its schools, the Free Press reported—as much as $1 million a year for schools in financially strapped Detroit. Two-thirds of the National Heritage Academy schools across the state “pay as much in rent as tenants in Detroit’s Rennaissance Center, with its expansive views of the Detroit River,” the paper found.
“In Michigan, 80 percent of charter schools are run by for-profit educational management organizations,” says Pedroni. “Charter school authorizers—typically universities, community colleges, and public school districts—build very close and financially lucrative relationships with these organizations.”
“Whistleblowing, or even mildly questioning, board members typically are quickly dismissed by the charter authorizers,” says Pedroni. “In the end, private interests and authorizers do quite well. Children, their communities, and teachers do not.”
Riding the wave of pro-privatization, right-wing propaganda that public schools have “failed” and need to be turned over to private business operators, charter school lobbyists, working with ALEC, have been able to get legislation passed to allow them to open schools all over the country that take public funds but skip the kind of oversight that regular public schools must submit to.
The results are being collected as evidence by the FBI.

August 21, 2014

10 Ways You Can Help The People Of Ferguson, Missouri

Filed under: American Injustice,Two Americas — millerlf @ 4:24 pm

10 Ways You Can Help The People Of Ferguson, Missouri

Posted: 08/19/2014

On Aug. 9, Ferguson, Missouri, police officer Darren Wilson fatally shot unarmed black teen Michael Brown at least six times, including twice in the head.

The shooting, followed by the Ferguson Police Department’s refusal to release an incident report detailing the circumstances leading to Brown’s death, has sparked ongoing unrest in an area long fraught with racial tension.

An aggressive response by Ferguson police, including the deployment of rubber bullets and tear gas on protesters, has also sparked a national debate over the increasing militarization of local law enforcement.

Americans nationwide have responded in solidarity, holding vigils and demonstrations in Brown’s honor.

Here are a few ways you can help, even if you’re not in Ferguson:

1. Donate to the Michael Brown Memorial Fund here.

michael brown family

The fund, established by the parents of Michael Brown, will assist the family with legal, burial and travel costs as they investigate their son’s killing.

2. Support the Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment’s Legal Defense Fund for Justice for Mike Brown.

ferguson protesters arrested

All contributions to this cause provide legal support for those arrested as part of the protests, primarily on bailing or bonding residents out of jail. The group’s legal support program includes distributing information on legal resources, coordinating with pro bono lawyers and manning a jail support line.

“All people, regardless of their charges, have a right to legal representation. We know that currently public defenders are overworked,” MORE, a St. Louis-based community group, stated in a press release. “According to the law, each person is innocent until proven otherwise; however, this is not how the system plays out on a day-to-day basis, particularly for communities of color. “

Go here to donate.

3. Support efforts requiring all state, county and local police to wear body cameras.

Amplified by the Ferguson Police Department’s refusal to release an incident report on Brown’s shooting, the department’s failure to implement dashboard and body cameras has further outraged a community left without any specific details or footage of Wilson and Brown’s interaction.

Despite receiving a grant from the Department of Justice to purchase the necessary equipment, Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson claimed at a press conference last week that the department didn’t have enough funding to implement the technology.

More than a thousand police agencies nationwide have established dash camera or body camera policies, and as a result, communities have seen greater police transparency and accountability.

In Rialto, California, where the entire police force has worn body-mounted cameras since 2012, complaints against officers fell by 88 percent in the first year of the program’s implementation, according to The New York Times. Over the same period, use of force by officers also dropped significantly, by almost 60 percent.

Launched on Wednesday, a White House petition for a “Mike Brown Law” has already garnered more than the 100,000 signatures required to get a response from the White House.

“The law shall be made in an effort to not only detour police misconduct (i.e. brutality, profiling, abuse of power), but to ensure that all police are following procedure, and to remove all question, from normally questionable police encounters,” the petition states. “As well, as help to hold all parties within a police investigation, accountable for their actions.”

To sign the petition, go here.

4. Advocate for the removal of the Pentagon’s “1033 Program.”

ferguson police

Created in 1997, the federal “1033 program” provides local police departments across the United States with billions of dollars’ worth of surplus military weapons at no charge.

Because 1033 acquisitions are not public record, the excessively militarized state of law enforcement in the U.S. has also occurred with little to no oversight.

According to Newsweek, “the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA), which coordinates distribution of military surplus, refuses to reveal the names of agencies requesting ‘tactical’ items … for security reasons.” Those items include assault rifles and Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles.

Moreover, a yearlong investigation by the American Civil Liberties Union found that “of the more than 800 paramilitary raids that we studied, almost 80 percent were for ordinary law enforcement purposes like serving search warrants on people’s homes.”

A mere 7 percent were deployed for hostage, barricade or active shooter incidents.

Cue Ferguson, where police decked out in Marine-issue camouflage, Kevlar vests and automatic rifles have patrolled the city in vehicles outfitted for combat for the past week, discharging tear gas and rubber bullets at community protesters.

In response to the Ferguson Police Department’s military tactics, a Care2 petition urging the Department of Defense to “dissolve the 1033 program and hold all police officers involved in brutality accountable” has already picked up more than 27,000 signatures.

“The Pentagon is encouraging local police forces to feel as if they are going into battle — with a clear enemy and a shoot-to-kill mentality,” the petition states. “This national militarization of police must be stopped immediately.”

To sign the petition, go here.

Last week, Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) also announced plans to introduce legislation curbing the sale of surplus DOD weapons to local law enforcement.

5. Stop voting for defense industry-backed lawmakers who voted to continue the 1033 program.

paul ryan wisconsin

In June, 355 House lawmakers opposed legislation by Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) that aimed to block the transfer of military equipment to local law enforcement, thereby dissolving the 1033 program.

According to a new report by MapLight, a campaign finance research organization, lawmakers who voted against Grayson’s amendment received 73 percent more money from the defense industry than representatives who voted to defund it.

Of the 59 representatives who received more than $100,000 from the defense industry from Jan. 1, 2011, to Dec. 31, 2013, only four voted in favor of Grayson’s amendment. Lawmakers in the former category include GOP Reps. Darrell Issa (Calif.), Pete King (N.Y.), Paul Ryan (Wis.) and new House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.). Democrats Adam Schiff (Calif.), Brad Sherman (Calif.), Chris Van Hollen (Md.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) also voted against the amendment.

Rep. Richard Nugent (R-Fla.), who received $18,555 from the defense industry during the same time period, defended his vote to maintain the program in an interview with The Huffington Post last week.

“As a past sheriff, we utilized that equipment in a responsible way,” Nugent said. “End of the day, you can always find misuses of any equipment that’s given or utilized by law enforcement. It’s the responsibility of those communities to keep that law enforcement agency in check. But to just outright ban the usage of that equipment would devastate local law enforcement agencies across the nation.”

To view the votes by state, go here.

6. Demand accountability from federal and city officials.

Even if they’re not your representatives, you can still show support for and voice your opinions to Ferguson’s elected officials charged with helping to mediate the conflict. In the state legislature, Ferguson is primarily represented by state Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal (D) and state Rep. Courtney Curtis (D).

Chappelle-Nadal was tear-gassed Sunday while peacefully protesting Brown’s death and has pushed back against the Ferguson police chief’s cavalier attitude toward deploying tear gas against civilian protesters.

“He blew me off,” she told The Huffington Post Wednesday, speaking of Jackson. “It was bullshit, and the thing is … I don’t tell people when I’m out with these kids, ‘Hey, I’m your senator.’ But I don’t care about that, I care about these kids.”

Curtis has also voiced support for safeguarding the public against police misconduct by requiring police officers to wear body cameras while on duty.

Human rights organizations such as Amnesty International and the ACLU have also criticized the Ferguson Police Department for resorting to “heavy-handed tactics.”

“Under international law, officers responsible for abuses should be adequately disciplined, and, where warranted, prosecuted,” Amnesty wrote in a petition addressed to Jackson.

To sign the Amnesty petition, go here. To support a similar effort by the ACLU, go here.

You can also contact the Ferguson Police Department, urging law enforcement leaders to release public information related to the shooting.

To contact Police Chief Thomas Jackson, call 314-524-5269 or email tjackson@fergusoncity.com.

7. Don’t allow irrelevant narratives to deflect from the larger issue at hand.

michael brown

As Michael Brown’s death unfolds in the media, numerous developments haphazardly released by the Ferguson Police Department have served to distract from the core issue behind the Ferguson protests: Another unarmed, black teenager has been gunned down by law enforcement with little to no explanation.

On Friday, the Ferguson police chief released a video allegedly depicting Brown in a strong-arm robbery at a convenience store, where police claim he stole a $48.99 box of Swisher Sweets cigars. Jackson later noted that the robbery was unrelated to Brown’s death.

On Monday, The Washington Post reported that the St. Louis County medical examiner revealed that Brown had “marijuana in his system” when he died.

Throughout the ongoing unrest in Ferguson, some people have also focused on a minority of hostile protesters looting local stores as a justification for police brutality against a larger group of peaceful protesters with a more pressing mission: justice for Brown.

Regardless of whether an 18-year-old stole a pack of cigars or had marijuana in his system when he died, his life had value and the circumstances of his death deserve fair and complete examination. Black Americans have had to remind the rest of the nation this a few too many times.

8. Send condolences or a message of support to Brown’s family here.

arrested ferguson protesters

9. Diversify your media consumption.

The ongoing protests in Ferguson have unleashed a flurry of competing perspectives on issues ranging from police militarization to racial inequality.

With social media driving so much of the Ferguson narrative, it becomes even more important to actively seek coverage from a diverse range of political outlets to gain a deeper understanding of the historical, cultural and socio-economic factors at play in Ferguson.

A snippet from some different accounts of the unrest in Ferguson:

“The reason I go through such painstaking efforts when I deal with police is because I learned from my parents and through experience that you want that officer to feel as calm, comfortable and safe as possible. You don’t want him on edge, nervous or agitated. Stay calm. Breathe. Don’t get animated. Don’t get loud. Don’t be a smart-ass. Don’t even move. Don’t do anything.”
— T.J. Holmes, The Root

“I don’t know what made me buy a plane ticket to St. Louis at 1:15 a.m. on Tuesday … But perhaps it was just me. A black boy turned black man who finds it increasingly miraculous that I made it to 27. A black man with a black mother who was alive in the South for the final push of Jim Crow. And a black man with a black mother with black parents who would have done anything so that their children and grandchildren wouldn’t have to live a life in fear of the dogs. And the hoses. And the bombs.” — Rembert Browne, Grantland

For insight into international coverage of the protests, read The Washington Post’s “How the rest of the world sees Ferguson.”

10. Recognize the widespread implications of white privilege, and invest yourself in racial equality.

arrested ferguson protesters

The Civil Rights Act may have become law 50 years ago, but America’s fight against racial discrimination is far from over.

In a society where black people are more likely to be held back a grade in school or disproportionately arrested for drug-related crimes, the societal privileges afforded to whites become even more critical issues to recognize.

White privilege is being able to play with a toy gun in Walmart without making other shoppers uneasy and without being shot to death by police.

White privilege is being able to send your son to a convenience store without worrying that store employees will stalk him, afraid that he might steal something.

Or being able to carry loaded rifles into restaurants without fearing that a misconstrued move could end your life.

In an interview with The Huffington Post last week, the Rev. Tony Lee, an African-American pastor at Community of Hope AME Church in Prince George’s County, urged white Americans to show solidarity with the African-American community:

We need to lock arms amidst all of this. If the police feel they are above the law with any one group, they will feel they are above the law with others. We need to learn from the civil rights movement. It wasn’t just black folks, it was everybody, because it wasn’t a black problem it was a moral issue. We are remembering 40 years after the Freedom Summer. That wasn’t just black people risking their lives, it was a community that went down to Mississippi because they knew that when any group within the nation is marginalized then we can’t be the nation we want to be.

August 20, 2014

Photos of the Children of Ferguson on the Front Lines of Protest

Filed under: American Injustice,Two Americas — millerlf @ 9:29 am

The Children of Ferguson, on the Front Lines

Ferguson-kids-1

Satravion, 10, of Ferguson, Missouri.

Image: Amanda Wills, Mashable
FERGUSON, Missouri — Parked in a driveway just steps away from an armored police truck was a truck that served a very different purpose on Tuesday night — a stage for five carefree children to perform their song, “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot.”

Eight-year-old Meosha was on drums made from a bucket. Shakira, 7, and Aaliyah, 6, were backup dancers, holding up their hands and waving a sign scribbled with the name of their song. A showman by nature, 10-year-old Satravion provided lead vocals while Cory, 2, supplied a sporadic backup melody.

And because every great band has to have an equally great name, these kids had no trouble picking theirs.

They call themselves Mike Brown and the Trayvon Martins.

 

A lesson learned on the front lines

Many of the protesters who line Florissant Avenue in Ferguson night after night bring along their kids — and sometimes they get caught in the crossfire. On Sunday evening, one witness said she saw an 8-year-old girl nearly choke after police tossed tear gas into the crowd.

So, why would a mom or dad risk all this to bring a 4-year-old here? The answer, for every parent with whom I spoke, was the same: The kids of St. Louis need to see this.

Ferguson-Kids-5

A young girl stands with her father and cousin on Tuesday in Ferguson.

Image: Amanda Wills, Mashable

Racial tension isn’t exclusive to Ferguson; it weaves its way across St. Louis. In fact, many parents walking with their children by their sides aren’t even from Ferguson; they come from all over the area to participate. For them, it’s about more than Michael Brown.

The roots stretch deep into a long history of predominately black neighborhoods battling small, daily wars with white authorities. Residents have told me repeatedly that racial profiling has gotten out of control. To them, it seems as though officers are looking for excuses to arrest young black men. The image of these men slammed against police cars while cops cuff them is one that the children of Ferguson — and other parts of St. Louis County — are growing up with, rearing a violent nature that perpetuates in a never-ending cycle.

Many parents marching in Ferguson are young, some in their early 20s.

Many parents marching in Ferguson are young, some in their early 20s. They’ve lived these scenes over and over — and they are doing everything they can to change it for their kids.Tierra Gates, who walked alongside her three children — ages 3, 4 and 7 — on Tuesday, said she wanted them to see the unrest firsthand in order to better understand why it was happening and that it was OK to be angry — and even more acceptable to talk about it.

“I don’t keep anything from my kids,” Gates said as her middle child curiously pressed every button and turned each knob on my camera.

“We do everything as a family,” she added, looking down at her youngest child clinging to her leg.

However, Gates says she is aware of the danger that rolls in through Ferguson after the sun goes down. Unlike a lot of parents here, that’s when Gates packs up her family and heads home.

Ferguson-Kids-4

Tierra Gates’ children, ages 3, 4 and 7, on Tuesday in Ferguson.

Image: Amanda Wills, Mashable

But some parents want to expose their children to all of Ferguson’s unrest — even the darker sides.

Ebony Starks, 25, had her three children with her on Tuesday evening. They marched slowly, hand in hand, with groups of protesters who slowly started to increase in numbers — markers of a heightened energy that often comes just before violence sets in at night in Ferguson.

Ferguson-Kids-6

Ebony Starks’ son on Tuesday in Ferguson.

Image: Amanda Wills, Mashable

Starks said her children — ages 5, 8 and 11 — were here on Sunday evening when cops threw tear gas into the crowd.

“It really was scary,” she said. “The [police] didn’t care if kids were around or not.

They just threw it. My babies were all here with me.

They just threw it. My babies were all here with me.”Still, Starks and her kids returned on Tuesday because she said police brutality is something her family routinely encounters, and it’s important to face it head on. Starks said a police officer slapped her in the face in front of her children in February after she didn’t follow his orders during a domestic disturbance call.

“The police showed them firsthand why not to trust the police,” Starks said.

‘I don’t ever want to see these kids out here ever again’

While the kids march alongside their parents, they are often overlooked, sometimes even caught on the front lines. That’s one reason some protesters vehemently opposed having children on Florissant Avenue after dark.

Ferguson-Kids-2

Cory, 2, sits in the back of a pickup truck near the protest area in Ferguson on Tuesday.

Image: Amanda Wills, Mashable

A family of four — mom, dad and two kids under the age of 8 — walked the sidelines of the protest for hours on Monday and Tuesday evening. The father, a young man in his early 20s, carried his son on his shoulders, instructing him to keep on his face mask. His daughter held a drawing of hands.

 

Crystal Williams, 51, who grew up in the area, pulled the family away from the crowd on Tuesday night and pleaded with the parents to leave their children at home.

“You call me if you ever need a babysitter,” Williams told the young parents. “These kids should be gone by 5 o’clock.”

Ferguson-Kids-3

A mother and her two children, all of whom have marched in Ferguson until late in the evening.

Image: Amanda Wills, Mashable

“I don’t ever want to see these kids out here ever again,” she added.

“Most of us don’t care about dying, but you’ve got babies.”

“Most of us don’t care about dying, but you’ve got babies.”Williams left Ferguson over a decade ago. A police officer had pointed a gun to her 11-year-old son’s head after he stole a Snickers bar, she said. But she said she had returned to her hometown to help parents keep their children safe by offering them up to three hours of child care free of charge.

Williams agreed it’s important that kids of a certain age in Ferguson see what’s happening to their community. But it should be in measured doses, she said, and during times of day when peaceful protests are indeed peaceful.

“I don’t think any child under the age of 13 should be out here,” she said. “And no child under the age of 17 should be out here after 10 o’clock.”

The teens with nothing to lose

But therein lies one of the biggest issues in Ferguson. Much of the violence we’ve been seeing here happens at night, when the mood between police and protesters drastically changes in a matter of minutes. However, it’s also the time of day when the older protesters return home, and teenagers take their place.

Ferguson-Teens-4

Some men in this group of teenagers, ages 17 to 19, say they knew Michael Brown well.

At 16, 17, 18 years old, they feel invincible, and are, in turn, quicker to react violently to aggressive police tactics, like driving armored trucks up and down the street. While the police may be trying to intimidate protesters, the tactic often revs them up.

“A lot of the youth are outraged and very angry. They are very hurt, and the reason is because there is a disconnect,” said Pastor Chris Harris, one of several clergymen who come to Ferguson at night in an effort encourage peaceful protest.

Ferguson-Teens-1

This group of young men say they’ve been protesting in Ferguson until late in the evening when they are forced to leave.

Image: Amanda Wills, Mashable

This is the age group that Brown’s death impacted the most. Some of the teens running up and down Florissant Avenue at night say they knew Brown well. It’s easy for them to see themselves in his shoes. For some of these young men, his death is scarily close to home in every way. They try to mask the fear of it with aggression and anger, partly because that’s all they really know.

“There’s no one that is actually connecting with them in regards to allowing them to express their voice,” Harris said.

“It’s critical they have a chance to voice their opinion. Otherwise, this will continue to heighten.”

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