Weekly Report

June 3, 2018 - por

Weekly Report

National: In the Public Interest and University of Oregon political scientist Prof. Gordon Lafer respond to a critique of Breaking Point: The Cost of Charter Schools for Public School Districts by the Center on Reinventing Public Education (which is funded by the pro-charter Bill & Melinda Gates, Laura and John Arnold, and Walton Family foundations) by insisting that the full costs of charter schools not be swept under the carpet by using methodologically flawed conclusions based solely on per-pupil funding. “To suggest that these costs be ignored—or that elected officials continue to be prohibited from taking them into account—is to act in bad faith toward students,” writes Lafer.

National: LittleSis has created a useful guide to the corporations that are de-funding public education and opposing striking teachers, including billionaire school privatizers, regional corporate forces, and Koch-backed think tanks. “This article lays out some information about the corporations, banks, and billionaires that teachers in Oklahoma, Arizona, West Virginia, Kentucky, and Colorado are up against.”

NationalThe Intercept’s Rachel Cohen unpacks the issue of whether it’s proper and ethical for charter schools to offer material inducements to low-income families of prospective attendees. “In cash-strapped school districts, where traditional public schools and charters compete over funds, schools face acute financial pressure to attract and retain students.” Sarah Butler Jessen, an education professor at the University of Southern Maine’s Muskie School of Public Service and co-author of a new book, Selling School: The Marketing of Public Education, said “part of the reason this doesn’t surprise me is because there isn’t a lot of transparency with these activities. There is no requirement that schools report practices like this.”

National: Want to see Backpack Full of Cash, the film about school privatization narrated by Matt Damon? Here’s a list of upcoming screenings

CaliforniaCharter school backers have outpaced teachers unions in spending on the governor’s race. “Wealthy donors who support charter schools and education reform have poured more than $22 million into independent committees to support former Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa for governor and former schools executive Marshall Tuck for state schools chief. Teachers unions have dropped about $4 million on committees to back Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom for governor and Tony Thurmond for superintendent.”

New York magazine reports that a nationwide network of charter school billionaires raised $17 million for the Villaraigosa ad effort, including $7 million from Netflix CEO Reed Hastings; $2.5 million from former housing developer Eli Broad; and $2 million each from investment firm manager William Oberndorf and former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg. And “it will all play out in just a short week-and-a-half. But if Antonio Villaraigosa does make the ‘top two,’ one of the big questions will be exactly how far some of the deepest pockets in the country are willing to dig to take their battle all the way to November—and whether their candidate pays a political price for their support.”

California: An audit is coming the way of a Concord charter school after its top officials abruptly depart. “The Clayton Valley Charter High School has been instructed to preserve all documents, including emails and financial documents, as the county’s Office of Education conducts an extensive financial audit.” East Bay Timesreports that “the county has also expressed concern over the school’s transparency policies, particularly in denying a public records request sent by a former teacher for the contract for Assistant Superintendent Ron Leone. The school district does not have a superintendent for Leone to assist.”

Florida: An Ohio businessman was sentenced to over 4 years for helping to defraud Florida charter schools out of nearly $1 million in public funding. There will be another hearing this week to determine “whether Kunkemoeller should begin serving his sentence right away or be allowed out of custody on bond while courts in Ohio determine an appeal for a years-old bank embezzlement charge.” Meanwhile, charter school enrollment in the state is up, surpassing that of traditional schools.

Florida: Sarasota’s school board has denied the application for Pinecrest charter school. “‘It is going to destroy public education here in Sarasota because they are just going to set up more and more of these schools,’ Carol Lerner, chair of Protect Our Schools Manasota says. ‘Already 14% of the students are in charter schools. You get to 20% and the schools start to fall apart. You get to 50%, and they start collapsing, the traditional school system.”

MarylandThe scramble is on for federal charter school money. The state “is set to give away millions of dollars to groups hoping to start or expand public charter schools. More than $17 million is coming to Maryland from the federal government. But, there are plenty of strings attached in order to cash in. The Monarch Global Academy in Laurel is one of five charter and contract schools run by the Children’s Guild serving students in Anne Arundel County. (…) Charter school operators and those hoping to start programs like Monarch Global Academy may qualify for one of five grants totaling, on average, $700,000. The money can be used to start up new schools, known as replication schools, or for school expansion.”

New Jersey/National: Vineland resident Wayne Kerschbaum describes an unsuccessful pitch last year by Library Systems & Services (LSSI) to take over operation of the public library. At the invitation of the Mayor, “representatives of Library Systems & Services made a pitch to manage our library. I attended this presentation and, candidly put, it didn’t add up. The savings figure stated was completely unsubstantiated, and anyone who critically considered it realized that the achievement of their financial goals would come at the expense of the library staff’s income and benefits package. The presentation was as intellectually insulting as it was patronizing. With the exception of exactly one person, everyone attending told the board, no. We care about the quality of our library and the well-being of its staff. They are our neighbors.”

North Carolina: The nationwide wave of public education protests has come to North Carolina, as “nearly 20,000 North Carolina teachers descended on Raleigh, the state capital, on Wednesday to ‘march for students and rally for respect.’ Wednesday’s event is ‘the beginning of a six-month stretch of time to hold our legislators accountable for prioritizing corporate tax cuts, instead of our classrooms,’ and work toward the ultimate goal of ‘electing more pro-public education leaders in North Carolina to return our state back to a beacon for public schools,’ the North Carolina Association of Educators (NCAE) said in a statement that laid out a list of expectations for lawmakers.” Kristin Beller, a member of the North Carolina Association of Educators, “raised the issue of charter schools, which she said have stripped funds from the state’s public schools. A paper co-authored by a Duke University professor last year found that charter schools are reducing the funding available for Durham’s public schools by $500 and $700 per student, The News & Observerreported.”

OhioThe Cincinnati Enquirer’s Jessie Balmert takes a look at the potential impact the ECOT virtual charter school scandal will have on hotly contested state election races.  “For years, Republican leaders heaped praise on the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow—billed as an online alternative to poorly performing public schools. Now, the GOP can’t put enough distance between its candidates and the failed, taxpayer-funded experiment. Democrats—hoping to capitalize on the scandal-ridden charter school to win elections in 2018—aren’t going to let this go. Expect your television set and social media feeds to be filled with ECOT for the next six months.” In the meantime, several more shoes may drop, including “How much money did ECOT donate to lawmakers and state leaders?”

Oklahoma: In what is surely not a good look for the charter school industry in the state, Langston Hughes Academy for Arts and Technology’s board members have obtained a restraining order from a judge against the president of the organization’s board, “after three fellow board members claimed she misled them regarding grade-tampering allegations at the charter school. Those grade-tampering allegations led to the suspension of Langston founder and superintendent Rodney Clark and three other staff members in April. The board plans to vote on whether it should reinstate the suspended staff at special board meeting [tonight].”

Washington: The State Supreme Court has again taken up the volatile issue of whether charter school funding violates the state constitution. “This is a very different creature—privately managed, publicly funded,” said Paul Lawrence, “who represents groups that include the Washington Association of School Administrators, the Washington Education Association, other unions and parents who have children in public schools. ‘You can’t create uniformity by saying, ‘We are the same, except …’” Former state Attorney General Rob McKenna “said it shouldn’t matter that charter schools aren’t under the control of the locally elected school board.”

Arizona: Yesterday the Arizona Republicran a hard-hitting editorial denouncing the double standard in transparency that favors charter schools over public district schools. “Arizona’s charter school experiment cannot be sustained without public confidence in how public money is being spent. The Legislature took one positive step to increase confidence—and a giant leap to undermine it. Charter school supporters should be lining up to fix this. Why? Because more transparency and financial accountability are in the long-term best interest of charters.”