Monday, September 12, 2016

Donald Trump Comes to Cleveland, Steps Right into Charter School Regulation Mess | janresseger

Donald Trump Comes to Cleveland, Steps Right into Charter School Regulation Mess | janresseger:

Donald Trump Comes to Cleveland, Steps Right into Charter School Regulation Mess

As you may have read, Donald Trump, the Republican candidate for President, showed up in Cleveland last Thursday to announce his education plan—to make $20 billion in federal block grants to the states to expand school choice. The Washington Post reports that it is unclear where that money would come from: “Trump’s plan to add ‘an additional federal investment of $20 billion towards school choice’ would be accomplished by ‘reprioritizing existing federal dollars’….”
Trump’s choice of venue for staging his announcement is fascinating. Maybe he hasn’t been paying close attention, because he stepped right in the middle of Ohio’s big mess: the state legislature has persisted all year in proving that its members are beholden to the campaign donations that are ensuring they don’t regulate for-profit charter schools. And yet, to make his big announcement, Trump went straight to a for-profit charter school. And the for-profit charter school Trump visited is owned by Ron Packard, the former CEO of the notorious national K12 Inc. chain of online charter schools, where Packard was paid a salary of $5 million per year.  Here is what education reporter, Patrick O’Donnell explained about Ron Packard in Friday’s Plain Dealer:
“Trump’s appearance at the Cleveland Arts and Social Sciences Academy (CASSA) is drawing attention to a charter school that usually escapes notice. But its owner Ron Packard has been a major figure in the national charter school community for years as the founder and former CEO of online school powerhouse K12 Inc… Packard helped build K12 into the largest provider of online classes, with e-schools in multiple states. Those include Ohio Virtual Academy, the second-largest online school in Ohio, with 13,000 students. But Packard left K12 in 2014 and founded Pansophic Learning to create the new ACCEL Schools charter school network. Last year, he bought management rights to 12 schools from controversial charter operator White Hat Management and several schools, including CASSA, from the financially struggling but higher performing Mosaica network… ACCEL schools now has 27 schools in Colorado, Illinois, Michigan and Minnesota, with the majority here in Ohio.”  Packard came to Cleveland with Donald Trump and, before Trump spoke on Thursday, O’Donnell reports that, “Packard moderated a panel discussion on school choice and the value of charters.”
I wonder if Donald Trump is aware that the lack of regulation of an out-of-control, for-profit charter school sector has, in Ohio, recently risen to the level of a scandal?  This blog has extensively covered the campaign contributions, lawsuits, and obfuscations of another for-profit charter operator, William Lager of the notorious Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow, in his attempt to ensure that Ohio’s legislature does not crack down to prevent billions of dollars in profits flowing to Lager and other for-profit charter operators.
Trump’s full blown support for school choice comes at a time when Ohio’s ECOT scandal is among many reports of the diversion of public dollars, and of civil rights violations and academic malpractice as states have failed adequately to regulate the charter school sector.  In August, Pennsylvania’s Auditor General Eugene DePasquale, “highlighted more than $2.5 million in lease reimbursements to nine charter schools, including the Propel Charter School System in Allegheny County, the Chester Community Charter School in Delaware County, and School Lane Charter School in Bucks County… ‘What we found in some of our audits is that the same people who own and operate charter schools, they themselves create separate legal entities to own the buildings and lease them to charter schools.’ DePasquale said.”
Then last week there was Jeff Bryant’s report, Who Gains Most from School Choice? Not Low-Income Students of Color.  Bryant features Laura Barr, a Denver, Colorado, school choice consultant who charges a steep fee to help parents figure out their choices in that city’s education marketplace and then position their children to be admitted to the school of their choice: “Laura Barr has operated her school choice consultancy for several years. Business is good. Her thriving practice has five employees and frequently contracts with various Donald Trump Comes to Cleveland, Steps Right into Charter School Regulation Mess | janresseger:

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