Educate All Students: Larry Miller's Blog

September 6, 2016

After Hundreds of School Closures, Black Families Are Still Waiting for Justice

Filed under: Privatization,School Closings — millerlf @ 5:01 pm
Tuesday, 06 September 2016 By Mike Ludwig, Truthout

Graffiti alters a sign outside a school in New Orleans, Louisiana that has sat vacant since Hurricane Katrina devastated the city in 2005. After the storm, schools across the city were closed or converted into charter schools; a process that civil rights advocates say disproportionately displaced Black students. The school pictured here is located in the historic Treme neighborhood and was recently sold to a private developer who is converting the buildings into studies for artists. (Photo: Mike Ludwig)Graffiti alters a sign outside Andrew J. Bell Jr. High School in New Orleans, Louisiana, which has been sitting vacant since Hurricane Katrina devastated the city in 2005. After the storm, schools across the city were closed or converted into charter schools — a process that civil rights advocates say disproportionately displaced Black students. (Photo: Mike Ludwig)

As students across the country head back to school this week, some will be traveling longer distances than usual to reach the classroom. These students do not live in remote areas. In fact, they live in some of the most urban districts in the country, and they used to have schools right in their own neighborhoods — until school boards and state officials closed their doors in the name of “reform.”

In May of 2014, civil rights organizers in Newark, Chicago and New Orleans filed complaints with the Department of Education demanding federal intervention to stop widespread discrimination against people of color in their cities’ public school systems. The complaints couldn’t have been more urgent — neighborhoods were literally losing their schools to closures and consolidations, and the students whose schools were being shuttered were overwhelmingly Black and Brown.

It’s been more than two years, and of those three cities, only Newark, New Jersey’s school system has reached an agreement with federal officials. Even that agreement, which requires the district to identify and fix transportation and academic problems faced by students displaced by school closures, is only between the district and federal officials. To the frustration of civil rights advocates, the deal does not include an agreement for accountability between the schools and the taxpaying families who say their children were systemically discriminated against as the closures swept through their neighborhoods.

In New Orleans and Chicago, the Education Department’s Office of Civil Rights is still investigating the complaints, offering no regular updates to the civil rights attorneys and the communities behind them. Speaking on background, a department spokesman said officials do not discuss the details of ongoing investigations as a matter of policy, and some take longer than others to complete due to complex legal issues.

Meanwhile, schoolchildren in New Orleans are crossing busy, four-lane roads to reach charter schools located neighborhoods away from the shuttered school buildings sitting vacant on their own streets.

After Hurricane Katrina devastated southern Louisiana in 2005, a state-run board took over the New Orleans school district, fired thousands of local teachers and initiated the most aggressive consolidation and privatization campaign in the nation. Black students and families watched their public schools close at much higher rates than those with predominantly white students, and the district often failed to provide them with adequate educational alternatives after the closures, according to the 2014 complaint.

In Chicago, schools are being “sabotaged” by budget cuts and attacks on the local teachers union. Schools struggling from a lack of resources will be labeled as “failing schools” in just a few years, but only by standards set by bureaucrats and lawmakers miles away, according to Jitu Brown, a community organizer in Chicago and the national director of the Journey for Justice Alliance. The organization is made up of grassroots civil rights groups in 23 cities fighting to replace policies that shut down schools with community-based solutions.

Chicago is not alone. In cities across the country, hundreds of schools have shut down under so-called “reform” policies handed down by the Bush and Obama administrations, according to Journey for Justice. State and local officials use enrollment numbers, high-stakes testing scores and other metrics attached to state and federal funding incentives to identify and shut down schools considered to be “failing,” robbing neighborhoods of essential public resources and disrupting students’ academic life.

“We don’t believe that we have failing schools,” Brown told Truthout. “We think that’s a political statement. We’ve been failed.”

An Unequal Education System

Brown says that taxpaying parents in Black neighborhoods deserve better-funded schools with more resources for learning, but the inequities in Chicago are sitting in plain sight. For example, schools in wealthier, whiter neighborhoods enjoy teacher’s aides in every classroom and librarians on staff at all times, while schools in lower-income neighborhoods of color do not.

Brown said that a “sense of possibility” must be raised within a child’s mind to “open the door for information they receive.” But it’s much more difficult to spark that sense of possibility in schools that lack the classroom tools for inspiring learning that are available in other parts of the city. And it’s those same under-resourced schools that are shut down when students’ test scores do not meet the standards set by politicians outside their community.

Civil rights advocates argue that the disruption caused by school closures makes it more likely that students will skip class and even drop out of school, further lowering enrollment numbers and graduation rates in districts already being punished for underperforming. Plus, when schools close, neighborhoods lose places to gather, learn and access public services. Children and alumni lose a place where they learned, played and made memories.

“You have the feeling that you don’t have any community roots anymore and its very disruptive to a community’s mentality and community psyche,” said Jessica Shiller, a “scholar-activist” who teaches education at Towson University and works with communities impacted by school closings in Baltimore, where the city is four years into an aggressive renovation plan that will close and consolidate 26 schools by 2022.

Shiller told Truthout that shutting down neighborhood schools is one of the worse things policy makers can do, especially in low-income neighborhoods.

“That school is where kids get meals and have a relationship with somebody outside the family, a person watching them during the day; it’s where they play basketball, it’s a place to gather and see friends,” Shiller told Truthout. “And I don’t think that school district leaders … are thinking about it that way.”

Shiller said that some residents in Baltimore’s Black neighborhoods are already cynical, viewing the “renovation” plan as a force for gentrification, designed to push unwanted families and students out, making room for more affluent residents.

Back in Chicago, more than 100 schools have been closed in the past 15 years, with shutdowns peaking at 49 in 2013. New research shows that Black and Latino children in Chicago were most likely to be displaced by school closures, depriving them of the opportunity to attend schools located conveniently in their own neighborhoods and, in some cases, forcing them to travel through areas with high incidences of street-based violence in order to attend class. In New Orleans, nearly every public school in the majority-Black city has been shut down or converted into a charter.

Meanwhile, both Illinois and Louisiana are among at least 25 states that are providing less state funding per K-12 student today than was provided back in 2008, before the recession took hold, according to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities. This data was drawn from state “formula” or “general” funds, where the bulk of state school funding comes from, leaving local school districts hard-pressed to come up with sufficient funding.

Illinois is one of 14 states with “regressive” school funding formulas that spend less money on districts with more low-income students, according to Education Law Center. Year after year, Chicago and Philadelphia, which have both suffered large numbers of controversial school closings, rank as some of the most disadvantaged school districts in the nation.

The Education Law Center reports that disadvantaged school districts don’t just deserve the same funding as their wealthier neighbors. In fact, they require more funding to attract skilled teachers with competitive salaries, and to pay for programs and resources that may not be necessary in areas where families have better job opportunities. For example, most suburban parents may be able to buy sports equipment, pay for basic health care and sign their kids up for music lessons, while parents in lower-income, urban areas may lean more heavily on public schools for such resources.

However, Brown says that cities like Chicago refuse to fund and support schools equitably across race and class lines. Then, they turn around and blame the victim when officials shut the schools down.

“They say something is wrong with those teachers or those kids … and then open the door for hustlers to basically run in,” Brown said, referring to privately-run charters that have popped up across Chicago, even setting up shop in old storefronts.

Who Benefits From School Closures?

In many cases, charters and “contract” schools run by nonprofits or private businesses replace the schools that are shut down. Nationally, experts say charters have had a mixture of problems and successes, including higher marks for some students, but also patterns of “exclusion” that force already-marginalized students out of school in order to improve the school’s performance and attractiveness. The exclusion of children with disabilities and behavioral challenges is not only discriminatory, it feeds the school-to-prison pipeline by pushing kids into the hands of police on duty at schools or out into the streets.

In New Orleans, a recent survey found that parents gave much higher “grades” to new charter schools than to the public schools that used to operate in most of the city and suffered for years from mismanagement and budget woes. Surveyors found similar trends among parents in more than a dozen other cities. However, there was a direct correlation between parents’ views of charter and public schools: The worse parents viewed their traditional, publicly run options to be, the higher the marks they gave to newer charters.

But for students of color displaced by school closures, the results have so far been disappointing. A recent Rice University study found that 27 school closures in Houston, Texas disproportionately displaced poor and Black students, and the closures were not associated with any academic gains among these students besides some small, short-term gains in math.

The Rice researchers agreed that closures would have had the potential to improve displaced students’ performance if they were moved to the city’s highest-performing schools, but this did not happen in most cases. Instead, low-performing students and students of color were moved to schools that were only slightly better performing than the schools they came from.

A 2009 study in Chicago yielded similar results, and a 2012 study on an anonymous, urban school district suggests that displacing students can actually harm their academic performance if they don’t land in significantly higher-performing schools.

Shiller points to two rival high schools in Baltimore, Forest Park and Northwestern, which are currently being consolidated into one building. Both schools are predominately Black and have similar levels academic performance, and it’s unclear how students will benefit from the merger. Parents are concerned about conflicts arising between students who, until now, have rooted and played for rival sports teams.

“It’s really going to be about whether kids feel like they can make a place there,” Shiller said. “It’s the school that’s like their enemy.”

Students, parents and alumni say the merger was pushed through with little public notice and community input as Baltimore pursues a sweeping renovation plan, leaving concerned parents pleading with school officials to slow the process down.

“They’re tearing this community up by the roots,” Michael Rose, a parent of a recent Northwestern graduate and a rising ninth grader, told the Baltimore Sun earlier this summer. “They’re going to rush it, have a little get-together and get away with it.”

In a way, Rose’s frustrations sum up the sentiment behind the Journey for Justice’s national mission and the civil rights complaints filed on behalf of parents and students in New Orleans and Chicago. Across the country, families and students of color feel pushed around when schools are closed, privatized and consolidated. Instead of receiving the support they need to succeed, Black and Brown students are punished with closures when they don’t, only to be shuffled around a public education system bearing all the marks of racial inequality.

It’s a problem that goes all the way to the top. Jadine Johnson, an attorney for the Advancement Project, a civil rights group that helped file the complaints with the Department of Education, said that the impacted communities in New Orleans and Chicago have been left out of the accountability process as the federal investigations continue with little transparency.

“The process, in terms of reaching a resolution, ends up being between the school and the Department of Education, and that’s something we need to change,” Johnson said.

The department said it may use a variety of techniques to gather and examine all the relevant facts of a case before deciding whether there is enough evidence to show that federal civil rights law has indeed been broken, but Brown argues the investigations should be more “victim centered.” Once the investigation is taking place, alleged harmful activities such as school closures should stop until a final decision is made, and there should be a very clear process for appeal.

Brown said he is grateful that the federal authorities agreed to investigate educational discrimination in New Orleans and Chicago, but now that two years have passed, he’s starting to doubt that federal civil rights officials are the “crusaders for justice” that he once hoped they would be.

“The wheels of justice, they are rusted,” Brown said. “And they don’t turn.”

August 30, 2016

Can a Private Company Teach Troubled Kids?

Filed under: Privatization — millerlf @ 12:10 pm

At the Richmond Alternative School in Virginia, 97 percent of students are black and 87 percent are poor, and the city just outsourced their education.

Alexia Fernández Campbell Aug 27, 2016 The Atlantic

RICHMOND, Va.—Disruptive students are a headache for public schools. They distract from lessons, skip class, and often bring down the graduation rates. That’s why school districts across the country have resorted to opening alternative schools in recent decades, with hopes that smaller classes and individual attention might help these students get their diplomas. But even these alternative schools (which differ from charter schools in that they are still part of school districts and thus answer to superintendents) can be a burden: They’re expensive to run, and their graduation rates are still pretty low.

Desperate for help, many school districts are now hiring private companies to manage these alternative schools and educate their most troublesome students. Large, urban districts like Chicago and Philadelphia have been working with this emerging industry for several years now. Though research shows that problematic students in Philadelphia did better in alternative schools than traditional ones, there is a wide variance in school quality, and detailed information about their curricula is scarce.

The question on the table is whether a business whose job it is to make money can better educate vulnerable students than a public system with no profit motive. It’s not too different from the dynamic between the federal government and the private companies running its prisons across the country. But the Justice Department announced last week that it would stop contracting with the private sector, in part because it doesn’t seem to save that much money, and in part because the service didn’t improve either.

Richmond is one of the latest cities to experiment with outsourcing education. In July, the city hired a Texas-based company called Camelot Education to run the Richmond Alternative School, which last year served 223 students from across the city in grades 6 through 11. Nearly all of the students at Richmond Alternative are black (97 percent) and most are poor (87 percent qualify for free lunches). Some black parents once dubbed it the “colored children’s prison” and it has been criticized for contributing to what’s called the school-to-prison pipeline—Virginia is the state that refers the most students to law enforcement.

Data provided by Richmond’s school district shows that its alternative school has been floundering for years. When the school year ended three months ago, the numbers were alarming: The dropout rate had jumped to 38 percent, compared to 28 percent just two years earlier. And students’ scores in nearly every subject had fallen by 50 percent or more during that time.

“It’s at a point where we know something has to change. Trying something new is better than doing the same old thing.”

This led the school board to enlist Camelot, which has run alternative schools in 12 districts across the country. It was a quick decision that may have been too hasty, says Jessee Perry, who is running for a position on the school board, and it concerns her that it happened right before the beginning of the school year. “But it’s at a point where we know something has to change,” she says. “Trying something new is better than doing the same old thing.”

The turn to the private sector is not new for Richmond. In 2004, the city hired a private company to run a previous iteration of its alternative school, which was then called the Capital City Program. The $4.6 million agreement with a Tennessee-based company called Community Education Partners was the school district’s most expensive contract that year. Back then, the school was located next to the Gilpin Court housing projects, in one of the city’s most violent neighborhoods. The quality of the education provided by Community Education Partners turned out to be substandard, according to a Richmond Magazine investigation, which found that a third of the school’s teachers were not credentialed.

Elsewhere, schools run by Community Education Partners were not faring much better. The American Civil Liberties Union in Georgia sued the company in 2008 for allegedly providing “fundamentally inferior” education to students at an alternative school in Atlanta—an environment “so violent and intimidating that learning is all but impossible.” Atlanta canceled its contract with the company, and a year later, so did the city of Philadelphia.

When the firm’s contract with Richmond was up in 2013, the school board decided the district would take over the school again, saving it about $2 million a year. The school was moved away from Gilpin Court and into an old high-school building across the interstate. But student performance did not improve, as the district’s data shows. So, as of July, it has a $1.8 million contract with Camelot, and has agreed to provide additional support staff at a cost of $800,000, according to The Richmond Times-Dispatch.

During a recent visit to Richmond, I stopped by the school and it was buzzing with activity. Moving trucks were parked outside and crews were unloading teaching materials and what appeared to be furniture. School staff didn’t want to talk about the changes, and instead referred me to the district’s spokeswoman, who also declined to discuss them. The district did, however, provide this statement:

“Camelot will staff the school with educators who are licensed in specific content areas that are trained in behavior modification, de-escalation techniques, and who are experienced at working in nontraditional environments. The expectation is that this company will assist staff at the school in setting clear performance metrics such as enhancing the school climate, reducing absenteeism, and increasing the graduation rate.”

The district’s own teachers, who have been at Richmond Alternative for the past couple school years, were not trained to handle students who are prone to violence or who are dealing with trauma. This is something Camelot’s CEO, Todd Bock, says his staff is equipped to do. That’s because the company started out as a behavioral healthcare provider for teens before branching out into education in 2003. He says the company’s expertise is working with vulnerable teens who are at risk of dropping out of school or ending up in jail. Bock says staff at Camelot schools know the parents and guardians of each student and are aware of challenges they face at home. “So our approach really is to address the social-emotional and behavioral issues of our students first, because without that you can’t access academics,” he tells me.

For example, every day at a Camelot school begins and ends with a town-hall meeting, Bock says, where teachers and staff are encouraged to talk to students on a personal level. If a student acts up in class, protocol is for the teacher to stop and address the student’s behavior, instead of automatically sending him or her to the principal’s office. The policy at Richmond Alternative will be to suspend kids only if they break the law or if there is a need to call the police. “Frankly, suspending kids that have been suspended their whole life is a failure on our part,” he says. “We need to do everything we can to support kids and keep them where they need to be, which is in school.”

Companies such as Camelot can pay teachers less if they choose to, as they are not subject to collective bargaining agreements with the local teachers’ union.

The teachers who have been working at Richmond Alternative the past few years will have an opportunity to interview for teaching positions with Camelot, Bock says, but, if hired, they will be required to undergo the company’s de-escalation and behavior modification training. Companies such as Camelot can pay teachers less if they choose to, as they are not subject to collective bargaining agreements with the local teachers’ union.

This may be the first time that Richmond will work with Camelot, but data on the company’s presence in Philadelphia provides a fuller picture of its track record. Camelot was one of half a dozen companies running Philadelphia’s alternative schools in the past decade, the largest experiment in privatizing alternative education to date.

The city first turned to the private sector in 2004, with mixed results. In 2010, researchers at Mathematica Policy Research studied the academic outcomes of students in Philadelphia’s 14 alternative schools, which were all privately run, and compared them to the outcomes of similar students who stayed in traditional schools. Their research showed that students at alternative schools were more likely to pass their classes and graduate than similarly at-risk peers at traditional public schools. But graduation rates at alternative schools were still “abysmal,” says Hanley Chiang, the report’s main author. About 29 percent of students graduated from alternative schools, compared to about 22 percent of at-risk students who stayed at traditional high schools. “There is still a lot of room for improvement in getting these graduation rates up,” says Chiang.

His research also showed that instructional quality varies greatly among providers, with Camelot performing the best among those working in Philadelphia’s schools at the time. Graduation rates at Camelot schools increased by 12 percentage points compared to similar students who stayed in their original schools, while one provider, YouFirst (run by Community Education Partners) actually had a negative impact on graduation rates, which were lower by 14 percentage points. Chiang’s research didn’t look at whether the school district could have done a better job educating these students compared to the private firms. “The evidence is silent on that,” he says.

Despite its relative success in Philadelphia, Camelot has been criticized by the ACLU for a creating a “highly restrictive and overtly confrontational environment” at an alternative school it operates in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. The school, Phoenix Academy, was mentioned in a class-action lawsuit filed last month by the ACLU against the Lancaster School District, alleging that the district unfairly sends foreign-born students to the school just because they don’t speak English well.

Perry, the Richmond school-board candidate, says she’s concerned about school districts relying on a for-profit model to educate their most vulnerable students. To keep making money, these companies benefit from maintaining a system where traditional schools cannot educate their own students. “They might also be tempted to cut costs, which can definitely hurt the quality of the education,” she says.

For now, Richmond is counting on Camelot to do a better job than its school district has in getting high-school diplomas in the hands of their worst-performing students. As Camelot’s CEO says, the district can always fire the company if it doesn’t deliver results.

 

December 6, 2015

Is Alan Borsuk doing a victory lap for the MPS loss of enrollment?

Filed under: Borsuk,Privatization — millerlf @ 4:42 pm

Borsuk has written, argued and worked for the privatization of public education. Read how he frames the loss of enrollment in MPS. See his MJS “commentary” at:

http://tinyurl.com/q8e9qtl

December 2, 2015

Walton Foundation Grants for Milwaukee: 2014

Filed under: Charter Schools,Privatization,Vouchers — millerlf @ 9:20 pm

The following schools and organizations received money in 2014 from the right-wing Walton Family Foundation.

See the Walton Family Foundation funding report at: http://2014annualreport.waltonfamilyfoundation.org/grant-reports/
Milwaukee
Educational Enterprises, Inc. $896,658
Hispanics for School Choice Educational Trust Fund $210,000
Milwaukee Charter School Advocates $87,611
Milwaukee College Prep $333,333
School Choice Wisconsin Inc. $400,000
Schools That Can Milwaukee, Inc. $850,000
St. Marcus Lutheran School $429,640
United Community Center, Inc. $89,000
Wisconsin Lutheran College $250,000
Highland Community School $91,790
Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, Inc. $268,500 (This is a right-wing tea party “institute”.)
Nativity Jesuit Middle School $125,000
Tamarack Waldorf School $375,000
Total $4,406,532

June 28, 2015

National Charter School Conference: “It looked like every other conference. Fall in line, Black people. We know what’s good for you.”

Filed under: Charter Schools,New Orleans,Privatization,Recovery District — millerlf @ 10:00 am


National Charter School Hoopla In New Orleans

Ashana Bigard The Progressive July 2015

Editor’s Note: The National Charter Schools Conference took place this summer at the New Orleans convention center, on the tenth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. Katrina was, in the infamous words of Education Secretary Arne Duncan “the best thing that happened to the education system in New Orleans” because it forced the community to take steps to improve its low-performing public schools. The mass firing of New Orleans teachers, the dismantling of a city’s public school system and the destruction of local control, has been touted as a model for the nation. The Progressive has reported extensively on the questionable results of the New Orleans charter school experiment. Ashana Bigard, a New Orleanian, advocate, and mother of three, attended the national conference and filed the following report.

I attended the National Charter Schools Conference from June 21 to June 24 in New Orleans.

On Sunday, June 21, as I was checking in, I asked about free spaces for the parents in the community who have children in charter schools. To my surprise and dismay there was no slot open.

The conference kicked off with a Mardi Gras style parade. It was a celebration of charter schools and their success in New Orleans, which is a national model for innovation in education—or so they say.

On Monday, I attended a presentation where Paul Pastorek, the ex-superintendent of Louisiana schools, said that charter schools have “improved the quality of life for the New Orleans community.”

The average reader might say, “What is the problem with that statement?” All over the country people think that New Orleans is a model for public education, that we have done it right. We’re respectable! Successful! Disciplined! Obedient! Ready to go to college! Or work in Walmart, or be a best model prisoner! To be all you can be in today’s Army! That’s us!

We’re a growth district. A lot of our schools have a 100 percent graduation rate. We also happen to have 14,000 youth between the ages of 16 and 24, who are not in school or working. They are the lost youth. No, excuse me, I meant to say “opportunity youth.” Somebody clearly has the opportunity to make some money off them.

John White, Louisiana state superintendent of education, said that the state has 26,000 young people between the ages of 16 and 24 who are not in school or working. More than half of them just happen to reside in our “successful” New Orleans all-charter school district. These are not children in alternative schools. These are the invisible kids. They are the kids who, despite all the wonderful educational choices we supposedly have, don’t fit in anywhere.

I want people to understand how big New Orleans is. You have to drive an hour and a half in any given direction to get out of the city.

In 2007, there were 32,149 children enrolled in Orleans parish. The children charter operators at the conference called “opportunity youth,” who experienced the transition to our all-charter district, were between the ages of 8 and 16 at the time.

By 2011 there was 42,657 children enrolled in Orleans parish. Even with that larger number, one-fourth of the children fall through the cracks of our reformed system.

I don’t know about the average person, but I wouldn’t use an investor who told me that they would lose a quarter of my money. There is a big difference between a dollar and seventy-five cents, we can all agree. It feels very peculiar to call that success. But I’m getting off topic, let’s get back to our wonderful conference.

The audience at the charter school conference was very diverse. The panels, however . . .

I went to a panel called “How can we ensure schools build and maintain model diversity?” Four white men explained the network of charter schools they run, and how diverse they are. One panelist said that most of the schools in the network have a fifty-fifty ratio of white children to minority children. “We want to build schools that we would want to send our own children to,” he declared.

He sounded proud. But I wondered, if the panelists at this conference would only send their own children to a small subset of the schools in their network, what are they saying about the rest of the schools?

John White explained that this year, there is “a push to serve all children.”

Why did it take ten years to start a push to serve all children? That is another question we should be asking in our shiny new school reform system.

The conference in many ways reflected the school district in New Orleans. Many people from New Orleans came as attendees, but very few of them were leading the conference. The leaders and presenters were mainly white men.

In my humble opinion, if a city is 68 percent African American, the leadership of the city’s school district should mirror the city’s demographics.

Imagine a conference on LGBTQ issues where the majority of panelists were straight. Or a conference on women’s issues led by men. We know that the majority of public school children in our city are African American. How did so many people from outside our city and from a different background become experts on our experience and how to educate us?

I’m going to start pushing back.

I’m not saying that we can’t have any white teachers or administrators; I’m not saying that we don’t have white children and families in our public schools, because we do. I’m just saying that there is a stark difference in the demographics when you look at leadership, decision makers, consultants, and stakeholders. And when I say stakeholders, I mean the children and the people from the communities who are in our schools every day.

There was good information, and misleading information, and just downright wrong information being distributed at the national charter school conference.

When I arrived I was hopeful and maybe a little naïve. In the back of my mind, I was thinking that having a national charter school conference in New Orleans might change the way we look at our schools.

When we talk about charter schools for people who have not experienced them the way New Orleans did, you think of innovation, creative ways of teaching and learning. Let me be very clear: that is not happening in the majority of New Orleans charter schools. But just for a minute, I allowed myself to imagine a conference where sessions were interactive and fun. Where people got to engage, not just be lectured to.

I allowed myself to imagine that charter school leaders in my community would go to these innovative and engaging sessions—on different learning styles, early childhood brain development, culturally relevant pedagogy, social development fundamentals, learning through play, restorative justice, conflict resolution, nutrition for brain development, how to help cope with trauma through the arts, music, and drama, managing schools that are “zero-tolerance” when it comes to systemic oppression, how to recognize stereotypes and biases within yourself. I imagined attending these sessions with black people, Native American people, women, and youth, and that the sessions would be lead by these types of people.

Instead, it looked like every other conference. Fall in line, black people. We know what’s good for you.

All of the interesting debate and discussions took place outside the regular sessions.

At the end of the conference, African American charter school advocate Dr. Deborah McGriff spoke, as she was being inducted into the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools’ Hall of Fame. Here is what she said: “Things happening to us, not with us, for us, not by us, must end!”
– See more at: http://www.progressive.org/news/2015/06/188196/national-charter-school-hoopla-new-orleans#sthash.89Gd4Nz8.dpuf

March 1, 2015

Walton Family Foundation Discouraged About Education Privatization in Milwaukee

Filed under: Privatization,Waltons — millerlf @ 11:13 am

In a February 28th article, Alan Borsuk reports on the announcement by the Walton Family Foundation that they will be pulling back from investing in “school reform” initiatives in Milwaukee.

Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

The Walton’s pay their workers substandard wages, benefits and healthcare while implementing discriminatory policies in their workplaces. Yet the Walton Foundation’s claim is to save the children of the very people they exploit. This is the family that is wealthier than the bottom 42% of all Americans combined.

What is their education agenda? Dismantle public education. It is not a coincidence that the “reforms” funded by the Waltons are the same as those advanced by ALEC, the right-wing American Legislative Exchange Council.

Is the intention of the Waltons the liberation of poor communities and communities of color? The truth is that they are the power, the status quo, that must concede for progress to occur.

Borsuk article:

Walton Family Foundation stepping back from Milwaukee education scene

Feb. 28, 2015 MJ Sentinel Alan Borsuk

“We have decided to make grants where we can have the highest impact, which means working in the places that we believe are most ripe for improving our education system.”

Read that sentence and you know that it isn’t coming from someone happy with the education landscape in Milwaukee.

In fact, the statement is from the Walton Family Foundation, the huge philanthropy of the family of the founders of Wal-Mart Stores Inc. The foundation is pulling back from a long, strong commitment to “education reform” in Milwaukee.

The Walton decision is important in itself. The foundation has given several million dollars a year to Milwaukee schools and education organizations.

But it is also important in a broader context. Walton is joining a significant list of national players who in one way or another have entered the Milwaukee scene and then departed or reduced their interest.

I came, I got involved, I got frustrated, I didn’t see much change, I moved on. That has been the summary of a parade of those who have found Milwaukee a difficult environment for change.

And there are others (the large and impressive KIPP network of charter schools comes to my mind first) that have declined even to try Milwaukee for similar reasons.

Fifteen years ago, Milwaukee was called by some “ground zero” for school reform. Now, you rarely see national attention to Milwaukee education, at least not for positive reasons. The Walton decision underscores that.

It’s a curious thing, since you would think the current political dynamics in state government would make this a time for enthusiasm among private school choice, charter schools and innovations in the structure of urban education. In some ways that’s true, but in surprising ways, it is not.

In short, I’d attribute this to the entrenched nature of the way we do things, the continuing strength of those opposed to the things Walton favors and missteps by those who favor what Walton favors.

Milwaukee was among a handful of cities targeted in recent years by Walton. Walton had a fairly short list of Milwaukee grants, but they were generally large — frequently in the mid six figures.

It supported the launch or major facility improvements of several religious and charter schools in Milwaukee, in several cases to the tune of $375,000 each.

And it provided major funding to groups such as School Choice Wisconsin, Milwaukee Charter School Advocates and Teach for America in Milwaukee.

According to Walton reports, in 2012 and 2013 combined, it gave $740,000 to Schools That Can Milwaukee, a nonprofit that works on innovation and improvement in all three major sectors (private, charters and Milwaukee Public Schools). Grants for 2014 have not been reported yet.

Abby Andrietsch, executive director of Schools That Can, said the Walton decision, “is definitely hard news and it’s not news that we wanted to get.

“But we have strong community support and we have strong impact data that is getting stronger. We feel very confident that with that data to tell our story and show our impact, we’re going to be able to engage the community going forward.”

‘Wake-up call’
She called the Walton step “a wake-up call” for Milwaukee on the need for cooperation on school improvement.

It is overstating things to say Walton is pulling out of Milwaukee. Let’s call it a big pull back. Walton will make few, if any, new grants to schools or school networks here.

In some cases, it will phase out its support over two years. And the Arkansas-based foundation will no longer have a staff person living in Milwaukee.

What will Walton do?

The statement from foundation spokeswoman Daphne Davis Moore said, “We remain committed to Milwaukee families and are transitioning our focus to improve the environment at the state level in Wisconsin to allow families to have access to more high quality school options.”

Translate that as involvement in Madison in promoting parental choice in general, school accountability aimed at closing or making major changes in low-success schools, and probably “recovery district” ideas that would make more MPS schools into charters.

Howard Fuller, the Milwaukee choice advocate, has had a close relationship with Walton, and organizations he is involved with have received Walton grants.

“From what I see, they’re going to continue to be supportive of the advocacy work in the state of Wisconsin,” Fuller said. “What I hope we can do is create a better overall environment in Milwaukee for creating great schools for kids. Hopefully we can do it not only in a way that Walton would come back, but maybe we can attract others to see Milwaukee as a place that people want to be.”

The Walton decision comes at a time when there are some positive indications of cooperation among the often-warring factions in Milwaukee education. There are a small number of efforts where people have worked together, and efforts to promote a more cooperative environment have been occurring behind the scenes.

There even may be a new player coming to the scene to fill at least some of the gap being left by the Walton decision.

Abigail Schumwinger, who was the Walton representative in Milwaukee until a month ago, said she is beginning to work for a group developing a fund that will make start-up and capital grants to private schools.

Called the Drexel Fund, it will formally kick off this summer and it has a goal of raising $30 million in the next five years. Schumwinger said Drexel expects to focus on six states, including Wisconsin.

Whether you like or dislike the causes Walton has supported, there are messages in the foundation’s decision.

To me, two stand out: Frustration has consequences. And it’s not too late to think working together in pursuit of more high quality schools in Milwaukee could be worth it.

Alan J. Borsuk is senior fellow in law and public policy at Marquette University Law School. Reach him at alan.borsuk@marquette.edu.

January 25, 2015

Who should lead K12 school improvement? Venture capitalists or communities and educators

Filed under: Charter Schools,Education Policy,Privatization,Public Education — millerlf @ 12:54 pm

According to the NewSchools Venture Fund it should be venture capitalists.

What is NewSchools Venture Fund?

This is an investment organization that has an all-white, 10 member board of directors, whose combined portfolio reaches deep into U.S. corporate and entrepreneurial investment endeavors.

Their stated purpose opens with– “Our mission is to transform public education through powerful ideas and passionate entrepreneurs…” Of course what they don’t openly say is that this work will lead to profit for investors, their companies and the individual portfolios of many entrepreneurs.

What they seek is public money to be diverted from public schools leading to investment gains in technology, real estate, curriculum, corporate charters, high paid “non-profit” charter managers and the growing education “consulting” industry.

In education, they are connected to much of the school “reform” industry. If you look at their strategies in individual cities, they are not about educating all kids.

The description of the Board members of New School Venture Fund reads as follows:

Venture capital investor in the medical, healthcare and biotechnology sectors.

Sponsor of a series of investments including Compaq, Cypress, Intuit, Netscape, Lotus, Millennium Pharmaceuticals, S3, Sun Microsystems, Amazon.com, Symantec and Google.

Founder and CEO of Silicon Compilers and currently serves on the Board of Directors of Google.

Founder of LAUNCH Media Inc. in 1994, which delivered music and music-related content online, and he led the company through its acquisition by Yahoo! in 2001.

Managing Director of Endeavor Catalyst which is is leading the formation and capital raise of the fund supporting high-impact entrepreneurs in emerging markets and a partner at Soda Rock Partners LLC, supporting entrepreneurs to build leading high-growth companies and organizations.

Has served on the board of more than 25 venture-backed companies across a broad range of industries including Danger Inc (Acquired Nasdaq: MSFT), Sabrix (Acquired NYSE: TWX), Quinstreet (IPO Nasdaq: QNST), Stonyfield Farms (Acquired Groupe Danone), Account Now (Private), Mirra (Acquired NYSE: STX), Posit Science (Private), Post Communications (Acquired Nasdaq: NCNT). She also served on the Board of the National Venture Capital Association (“NVCA), the Coppola Companies (Francis Ford Coppola), and as Chairman of the USA for Madrid-based FON.

Managing Partner in North Bay Associates and Kokino LLC, and a co-founder of TRQ Management Company, all investment management businesses.

Past president and remains active with Cheyenne Petroleum Company, an oil and gas exploration and production company, and he was a co-founder of Soundview Real Estate Partners, a real estate investment company. In addition, he serves on the boards of various companies in the pharmaceutical industry.

Focuses on investments in the financial-services sector and in emerging software technologies. Has been called a “serial entrepreneur.” Founding CEO of Good Technology (acquired by Motorola); co-founder of Drugstore.com (DSCM) and general manager and president of Optical Engineering, Inc. Has worked at Netscape, Hewlett Packard and Bain.

For the complete description of the Board, see below. You can also learn more from their website at:
http://www.newschools.org/team

Their Milwaukee connection is through Deborah McGriff, a “Team” member, who served as a deputy Superintendent for Milwaukee Public Schools.

At the 2014 conference Howard Fuller gave opening comments. They can be seen at:

Full descriptions of NewSchool Venture Fund Board:
• Brook Byers, Partner, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers
• John Doerr, Partner, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers
• Chris Gabrieli, Co-Founder and Chairman, Massachusetts 2020
• Dave Goldberg, Chief Executive Officer, SurveyMonkey
• Laurene Powell Jobs, Founder and Chair of the Board, Emerson Collective
• Joanna Rees, Founder and Managing Partner, VSP Capital
• Jon Sackler, Managing Partner, North Bay Associates and Kokino LLC
• Kim Smith, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Pahara Institute
• Rob Stavis, Partner, Bessemer Venture Partners
• Dave Whorton, Managing Director, Tugboat Ventures

(more…)

January 9, 2015

The Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty (WILL) Calls DPI the “Enemy” of Vouchers

Filed under: Privatization,Vouchers,WILL — millerlf @ 5:43 pm

Concerning the Wisconsin Accountibility Bill (AB 1)

Posted 1-8-15 by WILL
Yesterday, certain legislators circulated a proposed bill designed to impose more robust “accountability” measures on schools in Wisconsin, including those participating in the school choice program. While accountability in education is a worthy goal, the proposed legislation strengthens the state Department of Public Instruction’s grip on school choice – expanding both its power and the discretion with which it can exercise that power. By history and design, DPI has always been hostile to school choice. You do not strengthen a program by placing it in the hands of its enemy. “At the end of the day, I don’t see how anyone who supports school choice could vote for this bill. It needs to be fixed,” says WILL President Rick Esenberg.

The value of school choice is not that private schools are “better” than public schools (some may be and some may not be), but that they are different and that these differences may result in a “better outcome” for certain students.
http://www.will-law.org/home/WILL-Blog/2015/01/08/WILL-Comments-on-Accountability-Bill

December 15, 2014

A Must See 2-Minute Cartoon Video on Public Education

Filed under: American Injustice,Privatization,Public Education — millerlf @ 3:49 pm

Watch the following youtube cartoon. It says it all.

November 10, 2014

Wisconsin Association of School Boards (WASB) Takes Clear Stand for Public Education, Democracy and Against Privatization.

Filed under: Privatization,WASB — millerlf @ 2:40 pm


(Following are past resolutions adopted by the Wisconsin Association of School Boards at its annual delegate assembly.)

1.01 Preserving Powers
The WASB supports retaining and preserving the power and duty of locally elected school boards to oversee public education. (2001-2)(2010-1)
(a) “Parent Trigger” Laws
The WASB opposes measures (such as so-called ”parent trigger” laws) which allow parents, through a petition process, to lessen school board oversight and control of public schools that fail to meet certain performance criteria and, in some cases, allow parents to hand management of those schools over to private charter school management companies or to offer affected students private school vouchers, on the basis that such laws usurp the responsibility and authority of locally elected school boards to oversee the operation of local public school districts. (2013-7)
(b) Recovery School Districts
The WASB opposes the creation in Wisconsin of a recovery school district or a similar state-level authority designed to take over and attempt to improve the performance of low-performing public schools. (2014-11)

1.47 Forced Sale of School District Buildings
and Grounds
The WASB supports maintaining locally elected school board decision-making regarding the use of school district facilities and opposes legislation mandating that districts must sell or lease vacant or “underutilized” school buildings and Bounds. (2014-9)

2.705 Oppose Private School Aid—
Special Education Vouchers

The WASB opposes the use of state tax monies to provide special education vouchers for students with disabilities or other special educational needs to attend private schools located anywhere in the state. (2012-8)

2.71 Use of Public Monies
The WASB opposes legislation authorizing or requiring the placement of public school teachers, materials and equipment funded with federal
monies on the premises of private schools. (1984-14) (1995-1)

2.72 Textbook Loan
The WASB opposes the use of public funds for the purchase or loan of textbooks or other instructional materials to private schools or their students. (1988-10) (1995-1)

3.21 Charter Schools
The WASB opposes the creation or operation of a state-level charter school authorizing body that would be legally empowered to authorize
independent charter schools throughout the state. (2012-11)
The WASB supports charter schools for experimental and innovative programs provided:
(a) The school board is the sole chartering agency.
(b) Exemptions from many state “input-type” standards and restraints are allowed in exchange for accountability to clear and high standards of student outcomes.
(c) Funding arrangements are determined by the school board and charter school.
(d) Charter schools are required to maintain health and safety standards for pupils and staff, operate as nonsectarian entities, and be open to all district students without charge for tuition regardless of ethnicity, national origin, gender, or disability. (1993-11) (1998-1)
(e) The WASB supports maintaining a school board’s final authority to approve charter school applications. (2007-8)

3.36 CESAs and Virtual Charter Schools
The WASB supports allowing CESAs to enter into cooperative agreements with individual school districts to establish virtual charter schools authorized by the board of the local school district. The WASB opposes legislation granting CESAs the authority to establish independent virtual charter schools.
Should any CESA be authorized to operate a virtual charter school without entering into a cooperative agreement with a school district, the WASB supports limiting per pupil payments to any CESA authorized virtual charter school to an amount identical to the per pupil amount of the open enrollment transfer payment to prevent CESA-authorized virtual charter schools from unfairly competing with school board-authorized virtual charter schools. (2012-12)

3.55 Private School Transportation
The WASB supports legislation to remove the requirement that a public school district must provide transportation to students who attend private and parochial schools located outside the boundaries of the public school district. (2011-10)

3.93 Students with Disabilities—Parental Choice
The WASB supports legislation requiring private schools participating in any parental choice program to accept and provide services to students with disabilities, with additional state funding for the education of these students. (2011-13)

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