Gonzalez: Feds failed to keep tabs on $3B in school aid
The federal government shelled out $3.3 billion over the past 20 years to launch new charter schools nationwide, yet failed to monitor how that money was used, a new report has found.
Federal spending to launch charter schools zoomed from a mere $4.5 million in 1995 to more than $253 million today, according to the Center for Media and Democracy, a liberal watchdog group — with President Obama now asking Congress for a whopping increase to $375 million for next year.
And that’s on top of billions of dollars state governments spend for charter school operations.
Yet the new report concludes there is “no systematic public accounting for how the federal budget allocated to charters is actually being spent,” and “major gaps in the law allowing waste and fraud.”
The U.S. Department of Education doesn’t even bother to keep a public record of which charter schools get money from more than a half-dozen federal programs, said Lisa Graves, director of the Center for Media and Democracy. Her organization had to review thousands of pages of documents obtained through Freedom of Information Law requests before it could coming up with an initial tally of federal charter school spending.
This happens even as cases of fraud, waste or mismanagement by charter school operators pop up all over the country.
The Department of Education’s own inspector general has warned about the lack of accountability.
This lack of oversight is a recipe for disaster for too many American school children and for taxpayers.
In a 2012 audit, the inspector general found federal officials “did not effectively oversee and monitor (state governments) and did not have an adequate process to ensure (they) effectively oversaw and monitored their subgrantees.”
The audit found, for example, that Florida “could not provide a reliable universe of charter schools . . . that received onsite monitoring, desk audits or closed during the grant cycle.”
In California, auditors reviewed 12 charter schools that closed after receiving federal startup funds — some even before opening their doors to any students. The state “had no followup documentation” for any of the schools, nor “any indication of what happened to any assets purchased” with federal funds, the audit concluded.
Even when monitoring of charter schools showed major deficiencies, federal and state officials were slow to seek improvements, the audit found.
“This lack of oversight is a recipe for disaster for too many American school children and for taxpayers, when large chunks of the money ends up either missing in action or in corporate charter school coffers,” this latest report warns.
Education doesn’t need Common Core reform, teachers need the time and resources to build great schools
Now that every state has modified the Common Core and cherry picked their tests, are the standards “common?"
In my last letter, I asked a question that I think lies at the heart of the Common Core debate. I was disappointed that you did not respond to it. Here it is again, with context:
Jayne, there was nothing to prevent you from challenging all children before the Common Core arrived. I am certain you had strategies to level the playing field for economically disadvantaged students prior to 2010. Why do you believe you need the Common Core?
You told me in a previous letter that Florida parents and teachers reviewed the Common Core and made minor revisions. But this wasn’t the first time standards were reformed in Florida. In 2006-07 your state adopted the Sunshine State Standards, then changed to the Florida (Common) Core Standards in 2010, and then tweaked and renamed them the Florida Standards in 2014. My question remains, why did you need to go from one set of standards to another?
According to a report by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, the Sunshine State Standards were at about the same level of rigor and quality as the Common Core. In English Language Arts, Fordham gave the Sunshine State standards a B while the Common Core grade was B+. In math, the Sunshine State were rated A and Common Core received A-. Do you agree with Fordham’s findings that the level of difficulty was about equal? If so, do you support Common Core because you believe that all states should have the same standards?
Here is why I ask the question. Those who support the Common Core standards often claim they are needed because state standards were weak and, if states would adopt the same standards, the achievement of all students would rise. The problem is there is no evidence that standards per se make a difference in student performance, and there is some impressive scholarship that says they do not make any difference.
Tom Loveless of the Brookings Institutehas shown that similar reforms over the past three decades have not improved student achievement, even when the standards were “rigorous” and schools did their best to implement them. He points out that when we look at National Assessment of Educational Progress scores, that the range of scores within individual states is “four to five times greater than differences” in state averages, even though states had vastly different standards. Back in 2010, writing for the National Education Policy Center, William Mathis made similar arguments based on both national and international data.
As principal, I’ve seen transfer students from Florida adjust easily and I’ve seen those who fell apart. The same goes for students who transferred from other New York schools. The quality of the prior school, the effort of the student, and all of the social and economic factors that impact learning, made the difference in how the student adjusted. Any reform, by state or national standards setting and testing, is a waste of precious financial resources and time. We should be working hard to improve the lives of our students and the quality of our schools. Public schools have not failed America, Jayne. America has failed its public schools.
Nevertheless, if the standards are developmentally or academically inappropriate and the tests are aligned with them, damage can be done. You asked in your last letter where is the evidence that parental unhappiness with New York testing and test prep has anything to do with the Common Core. It is a great question.
OKLAHOMA’S POOR NEED MUCH MORE THAN CHARTERS CAN GIVE
What was once Harding High School in Okla. City Public Schools is now Harding Charter Preparatory High School, authorized by the district.| Photo by Brett Dickerson
There has been a surge of anti-public-education talk in the past several weeks. Why?
Legislation to allow the governments of Tulsa and Oklahoma City to establish their own charter schools has come back to life as an amendment to another bill in the Oklahoma Legislature.
And the bill’s promoters want to make their case that the two biggest urban districts in the state are horrible, dystopic places that deserve abandonment instead of support and renewal.
OKC and Tulsa governments could start charters on their own – So much for worry about “government schools”
HB 1696 contains modified language that was once in SB 68 which could not get enough support in the House. It was “laid over” by its author, Senator David Holt (R-Oklahoma City), so that the language could be put into another bill later.
Now that the associations for school boards and school administrators have negotiated to allow for charter schools to be everywhere in Oklahoma under illusory control by their local districts, this bill would modify what was just signed by the governor.
If HB 1696 passes, the city governments of Tulsa and Oklahoma City could establish their own charter schools independent of their respective school districts. The only recourse of those districts would be to call for an expensive public “yes/no” special election on each charter establishment being proposed.
How many times do we think that will happen until the public becomes weary of the special elections? You know the answer. And that’s the plan.
An opinion piece promoting the bill in today’s edition of The Oklahoman argued that “the charter model has been highly successful in Oklahoma City” as they failed to mention that all of the charters they cite in OKC have been authorized by OKCPS.
Isn’t it astonishing that those who get into such a froth about “government schools” are excited to establish…government schools? The only difference is thatthese government schools will not be controlled directly by democratically elected boards,only appointed boards of the mayors.
CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett Troubles Make You Wonder What They "Teach" at The Broad Academy
Latest CPS Scandal Highlights Chicago’s Need for Democratically Elected, Representative School Board http://bit.ly/1H56qFF
As her inner circle draws federal heat, CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett steps down | Chicago http://bit.ly/1H56Ews
Former CPS CEO Brizard: SUPES owner 'instrumental' in bringing Byrd-Bennett to district | Chicago http://bit.ly/1H56HIT
Byrd-Bennett out, Ruiz in as fallout from federal probe continues | Catalyst Chicago http://bit.ly/1H56JjW
This afternoon at 4pm, a coalition of Chicago teachers, parents, students and community members will meet at Daley Plaza to voice their displeasure with the announcement last week by Chicago Public Schools (CPS)CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennettthat 61 Chicago Public Schools will be closed before the opening of the 2013-2014 school year.
Byrd-Bennett is the latest in a long line of well-compensated mayoral proxies pushing forward the slow and steady destruction of Chicago schools, a process that has been going on for decades. In 1995, the Illinois general assembly passed an omnibus of reactionary school reforms, called the “Amendatory Act,” that restructured the governance of CPS. Under the new system, the Mayor of Chicago was given the power to appoint the entire Board of Education without any community oversight, the union’s ability to bargain over classroom issues was tossed out, and the superintendent was replaced with a “Chief Executive Officer,” mimicking the corporate structure of the business interests that pushed for these reforms.
Since the passage of the Amendatory Act, Chicago has seen six CEOs come and go, each leaving the system a little less stable than they found it. The first CEO under the Amendatory Act was Paul Vallas, who set schools on a path to becoming standardized testing factories. Vallas was followed by Arne Duncan, who was likeable enough to play basketball with some very important people (namely, Barack Obama, who later appointed him Secretary of Education). After Duncan, a succession of new CEOs shuffled through, closing public schools and opening charters at a pace on par with much of the rest of the country.
For most of the past two decades, the primary prerequisites for a CEO were an ability to address the media and a talent for glad-handing power brokers (and, in some cases, a willingness to fall on the sword after new policies failed). CEO were, essentially, spokespeople for the district who hobnobbed with the city’s elite. They were also involved in contract negotiations with the various unions in the schools, none of which had been acrimonious since the 1987 teachers strike.
However, the impatient Mayor Rahm Emanuel is operating in a very different political landscape than his predecessor, Mayor Richard Daley. Daley presided over 22 years of labor peace due to decades of “business unionism” in the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU)—a model where backroom deals and close relationships with management replace work actions. Daley’s ambitious plan to close public schools and replace them with charters was a long con, the equivalent of slowly turning up the heat until the frog is cooked. But this strategy inadvertently gave communities time to understand what was going on, and to organize a response. Many activists who came out of that movement took leadership roles in the CTU after ousting the business union leadership in 2010. (Full disclosure: I am a founding member of its current leadership caucus and the CTU's new media coordinator). Last year, after Emanuel did everything within his power to avert the first teachers strike in 25 years and failed miserably, it became clear that a new type of boss would be necessary to speed up the process of busting the teachers union and turning over schools to the highest bidders. A new union and community coalition and growing public awareness around the failings of education reform meant that Mayor Emanuel had to find someone with experience executing unpopular mandates.
Fortunately for Emanuel, the answer was right in front of him: One month after the strike, CPS announced that CEO Jean-Claude Brizard was leaving the district by “mutual agreement” and that then-Chief Education Officer Barbara Byrd-Bennett would be taking his place. Byrd-Bennett can be thought of as something of a "cleaner," like Harvey Keitel's problem-solving character Winston Wolf in Pulp Fiction: She comes in, takes care of business and leaves quickly. In the school system of the neoliberal era, the job of the cleaner is to close as many schools as possible and replace them with charter schools before the public catches on to the plan. After the announcement, the “chaos on Clark Street” (where CPS headquarters are located) intensified, and the media painted Byrd-Bennett as a phoenix rising above the ashes to save the public schools.
When Byrd-Bennett was appointed as Chief Education Officer of CPS in the spring of 2012, quickly and with little fanfare, her savior reputation preceded her. In Cleveland, where she was hired as schools CEO in 1998, Byrd-Bennett was called the “$300,000 wonder,” a reference to her salary. The narrative in Cleveland was that she expensive, but worth every penny. While media wrote glowing reports about her, Byrd-Bennett cut hundreds of teacher jobs and closed over 20 schools before leaving the district in 2006.
Flash forward to 2009, when Detroit Public Schools Emergency Manager Robert Bobb hired Byrd-Bennett as his “chief academic and accountability officer.” Over the next two years, Bobb and Byrd-Bennett closed 59 schools and cut 30 percent of the workforce. In the tradition of Chicago Mayor Richard Daley’s “Renaissance 2010” plan and Philadelphia’s “Imagine 2014,” in March 2011, DPS announced its “Renaissance Plan 2012,” which included adding 41 charters, making 29 percent of district run by private interests.
Byrd-Bennett has proven herself so skilled at the art of “cleaning” districts that she has part time job with the Broad Academytraining school superintendents in the ways of corporate education reform. The Broad Academy is a billionaire-funded venture that closely resembles Teach for America, but it trains aspiring school district superintendents instead of teachers. “Broadies” often come from business or law backgrounds and have a keen interest in neoliberal education reform. After training, Broadies are placed in high-profile positions in urban school districts throughout the country. The Academy’s graduates include Jean-Claude Brizard , Detroit’s Robert Bobb, and CPS newcomer Chief of Innovation and Incubation Officer Jack Elsey, who worked with Bobb and Byrd-Bennett in Detroit.
The Broad Academy is an initiative of the Broad Foundation, which literally wrote the book on closing public schools, School Closure Guide: Closing Schools as a Means for Addressing Budgetary Challenges. One of the more telling sections provides tips for effective public relations, offering detailed instructions on how to make the public feel like they are part of the process without actually listening to them. For example, the guide offers instructions for messaging to the media, offering a table of “ineffective statements” and offering “possible alternatives” for each. Instead of saying that “the district is operating in the red and this cannot continue,” the book suggests a more effective alternative: “The fact that the district is operating in the red prevents us from providing the best possible educational opportunities to the children in this community in a sustained way.” Lines like these were delivered by CPS bureaucrats at school closing hearings that took place earlier this year in various Chicago neighborhoods, which were attended by thousands of concerned community members.
But if Emanuel brought Byrd-Bennett in to work the same kind of charter magic in Chicago that she did in Detroit, he may be dismayed to encounter one important difference: Chicago is now in a good position to fight back. The school closings hearings were packed with engaged, motivated citizens, and the teachers union is more organized than it's been in three decades. During its popular and successful strike, the union’s approval rating climbed while the mayor’s fell—public opinion polls showed that taxpayers blamed Emanuel for the ugliness that took place during negotiations. The CTU’s current leadership has built relationships with community leaders and organizations, forming a coalition to fight the slash-and-burn privatization pushed by the Board of Education and its corporate sponsors, and has even hosted civil disobedience trainings open to the public. This afternoon’s protest will serve as further evidence that Emanuel is indeed up against a new opponent, one strong enough that not even the best “cleaner” may be able to defeat it.CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett May Have Met Her Match in Chicago - Working In These Times:
9 Investigates high rate of charter school failures
ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. —
There are 60 charter schools in central Florida, one-fifth are failing.
Compared to the area’s traditional public schools, charter schools have about the same percentage of A-rated schools, however, charter schools have 10 times the number of F-rated schools.
“Taxpayer money was spent to buy computers, supplies, furniture all for those children, all of that is gone,” Orange County School Board member Linda Kobert said, referring to Acclaim Academy, an Orange Countycharter school that suddenly closed Wednesday. “While we don’t get the money back or the equipment back, we are taking the children back.”
In Florida, school districts are responsible for issuing charters for charter schools, however, that is where the oversight ends. Schools can revoke a charter but only under the direst of circumstances such as continued failing grades or severe financial issues.
“The school district does not have jurisdiction over charter schools, that is the law of the state,” Kobert said. More Information: Florida statutes on charter schools In 2012 it took back-to-back F grades from the state for Orange County Public Schools to finally shut down Rio Grande Charter School.
While letter grades from the state are a far from perfect metric for measuring school performance, they are the only system in place to gauge schools and the only way to close a charter school.
The State of Florida gives all charter schools a three-year grace period where they do not receive a letter grade, although they are still evaluated. After the three-year grace period, underperforming charter schools can stay open for another 18 months while the school district goes through the process of closing them down; all while the school continues to receive state and federal tax dollars.
In 2011, almost half of all failing grades handed out by the state went to charter schools. In 2012, 34 percent of all failing grades went to charters, yet they only make up 15 percent of the state's schools.
During that same time, five charter schools received termination letters, all while receiving an average of $930,000 from the state.
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Whistleblower: For-Profit Charter School Lied About Attendance To Get State Cash: Whistleblower: For-Profit Charter School Lied About Attendance To Get State CashAnother charter school scandal is in the news. And once again, GOP leaders who collect millions in campaign cash from failing charter schools are suspicious of the allegations but eager to go after the unidentified whistleblower who broug
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solidaridad: Rally against the cuts to Adult Education, Early Education, School Nurses, and Counselors: Rally against the cuts to Adult Education, Early Education, School Nurses, and CounselorsAll the Pieces MatterJoin us at LAUSD headquarters on Beaudry next Tuesday, May 12, for UTLA's "All the Pieces Matter!" rally against the RIFs. Come together and show support for our students and
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Las Vegas: Betting On New Teachers But Coming Up Short : NPR Ed : NPR: Las Vegas: Betting On New Teachers But Coming Up Short Beyond Sin City's casino strip, what happens in Vegas also includes an education system in crisis. Its schools are severely overcrowded, as we reported Wednesday onMorning Edition. And Nevada and Vegas' schools are ranked at or near the bottomnationally.NPR EDWhat Happens I
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Schools of Opportunity: the inaugural winners - The Washington Post: Schools of Opportunity: the inaugural winnersLast October I wrote about a pilot initiative to identify and recognize public high schools that seek to close opportunity gaps through practices “that build on students’ strengths” — not by inundating them with tests. Today the first winners are being announced, and in the coming days
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Jersey Jazzman: A Decade of Testing -- But Nothing's Changed: A Decade of Testing -- But Nothing's Changed There are two things in eduction policy on which we should all agree:- Poverty matters. The correlation between poverty and outcomes is indisputable, but that's only the beginning. We have more and more evidence of a causal link between economic disadvantage and student achievement. Children
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State board awards disputed test contract to ETS | EdSource: State board awards disputed test contract to ETS The State Board of Education on Wednesday awarded the Educational Testing Service a three-year, $240 million contract to administer the state’s standardized tests, despite a competitor’s call for reopening a bidding process that it called flawed and “arbitrary.”ETS has run the state’s test
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NEA - Social Justice Activist Award: Social Justice Activist Award Boyd Bosma Jose Lara Jose VilsonMembers of the National Education Association have a long and proud history of social justice activism. Education advocacy and social justice advocacy go hand in hand, as an increasingly diverse kaleidoscope of students and educators must feel wel
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Special Nite Cap CORPORATE ED REFORMNational teachers union blasts Christie over pension funding in radio, online ads - News - NorthJersey.comNational teachers union blasts Christie over pension funding in radio, online ads - News - NorthJersey.com: National teachers union blasts Christie over pension funding in radio, online adsOne of the largest teachers’ unions in the nation is blasting Governo