Get sick, get well
Hang around a ink well
Ring bell, hard to tell
If anything is goin' to sell
-- Bob Dylan

Sunday, March 8, 2015

It's Magic: Big profits to be made in Chicago's alternative schools

Magic: Panning for gold
Magic Johnson has joined up with Edison Inc., school board member Deborah Quazzo and other profiteers who are panning for gold in the growing dropout market.

WBEZ reports that Magic keynoted a conference in Arizona to which Chicago school board member Quazzo had flown a small contingent of some of Chicago’s most powerful education officials. Deborah Quazzo's investment firm Global Silicon Valley Advisors paid the freight.

The conference was all about the potential for profits in Chicago's growing alternative schools business.
At a press conference in Chicago in February, Johnson said he was approached by EdisonLearning because the company wanted to draw inner-city students into its schools. “What they needed was a guy like myself to come in to more or less brand it,” he said. When asked how much he makes per school, he told WBEZ and Catalyst: “That is all you need to know.”
One month after Quazzo, Hines, another CPS board member Andrea Zopp, CPS chief Barbara Byrd-Bennett and Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s then-education deputy Beth Swanson attended the conference, the Chicago Board of Education approved another $6 million in startup money for for-profit alternative schools. It was the second round of a multi-year expansion. (Quazzo has also come under fire in recent months after a Chicago Sun-Times investigation found that companies she invests in have tripled the amount of money made through contracts held with CPS schools.)

WBEZ and Catalyst Chicago also found that many of the for-profit companies running alternative schools stand to make millions off the deals. Other findings:
  • On average, some of the companies spend more than half of their budget on consultants, advertising, technology and fees to affiliated companies.
  • Companies can maximize profit by running two or even three sessions a day, serving double the number of kids, yet only hiring the same or fewer staff as a normal school. (One of the for-profit companies, Camelot, is an exception. It operates an eight-hour school day with little online work.) 
  • Since the companies are privately owned, the public has no way of knowing who is making money from investing in them or whether they have any connections to district or city officials. 
  • In at least one case, CPS contracted with a company that was, at the time, under investigation in California.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Bogus 'Parent Trigger' petition rejected by Anaheim board


Last month I wrote about an attempt in Anaheim, CA to privatize the management of another public school, using the so-called Parent Trigger law.

The law, which turns parent against parent in a community, gives a temporary majority, who are willing (often cajoled) to sign a petition, the power to hand their public school over to a private company. That company can then fire the principal and all the teachers as well as abrogate the district's collective bargaining agreement. It doesn't matter if next week, or next year, the majority shifts. The school can be privatized and there's little district parents and taxpayers can do about it.

Well, there is something they can do and they did it Thursday in Anaheim when the school board found that the petition submitted by a group of Palm Lane Elementary School parents failed to collect enough valid signatures to privatize the school.

According to a story in the Orange County Register, about 130 of the Palm Lane Elementary parents' signatures were determined to be invalid or unverified. Some parents signed the petition twice or two parents of one student signed the petition.

The privatization move at Palm Lane was backed by former State Sen. Gloria Romero's consulting group. the California Center for Parent Empowerment. Romero, a Democrat, has become the darling of the right-wing American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the Koch Bros. and receives funding from Walton, Broad and other powerful anti-union, pro-privatization foundations.

The discredited petition effort was also aided by the Hesperia, Calif.-based privatization consulting firm, Excellent Educational Solutions.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Reed Hastings drops another $2M on his favorite charter


Netflix billionaire Scott Hastings, the teacher union hater who brought us the Vergara decision, announced he is giving $2M to a privately-run, Palo Alto-based charter school network.

According to SeattlePI.com:
The $2 million will jumpstart a $17 million fundraising campaign that Rocketship is launching in order to open new schools over the next three years to serve thousands more “Rocketeers,” as the non-profit refers to its students.
Rocketship is a low-budget charter operation that relies on young and inexperienced teachers rather than more veteran and expensive faculty, reduces its curriculum to a near-exclusive focus on reading and math, and that replaces teachers with online learning and digital applications for a significant portion of the day. What supposedly set Rocketship apart from other charters was a financial model that allowed it to operate on government payments without continual infusions of cash from private donors. Most charters require additional funds to cover the costs of a longer school day, intensive tutoring and other expenses.

But facing a drop in student enrollment, the company recently announced it had scaled back its ambitions of rapidly enrolling 1 million students in 50 cities and went begging to their billionaire patrons like Hastings. Rocketship has been around for eight years and was celebrated early on for its ability to produce high test scores from a predominantly minority and immigrant student-base, but test scores have fallen in recent years. CEO and Co-Founder Preston Smith indicated that this was one of the reasons for slowed expansion.

Rocketship is organized as a 501C3, with a separate land holder, Launchpad LLC. The company suffered through a leadership transition after the exit last year of co-founder John Danner, who began a firm to supply software to schools. In the business world, it's called vertical integration.

"What happens when you have a relatively secretive organization that has an unelected board and has large growth plans?" asked Brett Bymaster, of San Jose, who organized his Tamien neighborhood to oppose a proposed Rocketship school there, filed a successful land-use lawsuit that has slowed the charter network and now runs a "Stop Rocketship" website that has attracted a local and national following.

Hastings is a powerful philanthropist for charter schools, currently serving on the board of the California Charter Schools Association and KIPP. He has also leveraged his power and money to push anti-immigrant legislation, including more English language testing on non-English-speaking students.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Adding charter schools to their investment portfolios

There's a couple of good Schooling in Ownership Society pieces in the media today. The first comes from my favorite education writer, Valerie Strauss (The Big Business of Charter Schools) in her Answer Sheet column, in today's Washington Post. 

Valerie Strauss
She has a link to one of my favorite headlines of all time at The Motley Fool investment blog. 
From Waterparks to Charter Schools, EPR Properties Has You Covered
 Are you looking to invest in giant water slides or movie theaters? How about charter schools and wineries? EPR Properties (NYSE: EPR  ) owns properties in all of these businesses and more.
Valerie helps make my case that public education has been a profitable business for the charter profiteers at the expense of students, families, communities and taxpayers.

When I first offered up that notion a decade ago, I was ridiculed by the very profiteers themselves.
"Trying to make a killing in the charter school business"?! Yeah, that's right, the charter school business is so profitable that I'm telling all my friends in the hedge fund business that they're in the wrong business. My message: "If you really want to make a lot of money, start a charter school!" LOL! -- Whitney Tilson 
LOL! indeed. In 2007, hedge-funder Tilson chided me for implying that there was a profit to be made in the charter school market while he and his group DFER were pursuing exactly that course.


Then there's the story of former football great, "Neon Deion" Sanders who tried to make a killing in the charter school business with Prime Prep Charter only to fail, fall into disrepute, and disgrace the once viable brand he worked so hard to create. Prime Prep was recently named by non-profit Children at Risk as the worst academic institution in North Texas. Don't miss this excellent piece (The Miseducation Of Deion Sanders) on his fall from grace, by Caleb Hannan at DeadSpin.


Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Pearson's Power Philanthropy

An investigation by POLITICO finds that testing giant, Pearson Foundation’s charitable work repeatedly has been intertwined with the Pearson corporation’s business interests, potentially in violation of tax laws. Pearson now says it will shut down the foundation, permanently and move all of its philanthropic giving in-house. This after having to pay millions in fines stemming from their unethical and illegal funding practices in New York.

The Pearson Charitable Foundation was set up as an independent nonprofit with a mission to improve teaching and learning around the globe. But it has depended almost entirely on tens of millions in contributions from its parent, global publishing giant Pearson.

According to POLITICO's Stephanie Simon, Pearson foundation has worked with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to develop online courses aligned with the Common Core with the intent of letting Pearson sell most of them nationwide.

Does Pearson's foundation gambit sound a bit familiar? A little like Microsoft and the Gates Foundation, maybe? Or Walmart and the Walton Fund? It should. Increasingly these mega-corporations are using their foundations, not only to hide profits from the tax man, but to push a political agenda that benefits their ideological pursuits as well as their bottom line. Who pays for all of this? We do.


Monday, February 9, 2015

Quazzo's desperate letter to her troops. She's a walking billboard for an elected school board.


Rahm's hand-picked school board member Deborah Quazzo is pissed. She gives a bunch of "no comments" to Sun-Times reporters Lauren Fitzpatrick and Dan Mihalopoulos, in their latest expose of her companies. They reportedly raked in another $1.3 million from CPS-funded charters, including: Noble Network of Charter Schools, Urban Prep Academies, KIPP Chicago Public Charter Schools, LEARN Charter School Network and Perspectives Charter Schools.

She says, she can't talk about it because she is under investigation by the IG. But in private, she's making plenty of noise.

"Enough is enough", she threatens in a letter to her corporate friends and supporters as she tries to rally the troops in her behalf. I got a copy of the letter this morning. In it, she blames all her "unwanted publicity" on the Chicago Teachers Union, and a well-coordinated media conspiracy to defame her.
That said, with another story in Monday’s Chicago Sun-Times, I have now been featured in that paper seven times (including three front page stories) since December 22nd – as well as having had my office picketed by the Chicago Teachers Union.  The ink was not even dry on the initial cover article before an editorial was published the very next day calling for my resignation.  It is likely no coincidence that there is a City Club debate on the issue of an elected school board on Monday.  The seeming coordination is remarkable. 
She is a "private person", she says, "who has never sought publicity – favorable or otherwise" and is only serving on Rahm's board because she wants to help "all children". I don't blame her for wanting her dealings with CPS schools to remain in the dark. But maybe she should have thought of that before assuming a public position on the mayor' appointed board.

Most of Rahm's corporate backers protect their city and school board contracts simply by tossing a few grand into his already over-stuffed campaign fund or super PAC. They don't feel the need, as Quazzo obviously does, to sit on a board where they will attract public scrutiny.

She closes the letter with a paean to the mayor, an attack on "adult agendas" and a call for her hedge-fund friends to write angry letters on her behalf to the Sun-Times.
 Under the passionate leadership of Mayor EmanueI and the leadership at Chicago Public Schools, Chicago Public School students have a longer school day, access to full day kindergarten, and expansion of STEM and IB education among other initiatives.  Great progress is being made, as is seen in virtually all measures, but we still have a long way to go.  
I believe it is time for Chicagoans, and, individuals who care across the country, to stand up united against any force that distracts from our core mission – a better future for all Chicago’s children.  Adult agendas are driving focus away from what we should all care deeply about – the welfare of and future opportunity for ALL of Chicago's 400,000 students and for that matter all children in our country.  As an initial step towards that goal, I would so appreciate it if you would take a minute and express your views to the leadership at the Chicago Sun-Times.
She includes their names, pictures and contact information. 

Quazzo sounds pretty desperate. I think she's toast. Too much baggage for Rahm to carry. She should do the right thing and step down. Right now she's a walking billboard for an elected school board.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

New Schools Venture Fund creates new group for ed school deans pushing corp agenda

A small group of ed school deans are forming a new group called Deans for Impact, to push the corporate-reform agenda on new teacher training. The new group is being underwritten by the New Schools Venture Fund (see my January 26th post on NSVF).

Based in Austin, Texas, the group with about 18 members, launches this month with a $1 million grant from the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation. Edweek's Stephen Sawchuck describes the group this way:
The new group's embrace of data-informed changes to teacher-preparation curricula—even, potentially, based on "value added" information—is likely to generate waves in the insular world of teacher preparation. 
 The idea of Deans for Impact was generated through informal conversations over a two-year period led by Benjamin Riley, a former director of policy and advocacy at the Oakland, Calif.-based NewSchools Venture Fund; David Andrews, the education dean at Johns Hopkins University; and Tom Stritikus, a former education dean at the University of Washington. (Mr. Stritikus now works for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.)
Gee, what a surprise.
 ________________________________________
 AERA 2015 Annual Meeting Theme "Toward Justice: Culture, Language, and Heritage in Education Research and Praxis"Chicago, Illinois Thursday, April 16 - Monday, April 20
_________________________________________
I'll be curious to see how the ed faculties as well as the students at these 18 schools respond to their dean's actions.

This might be a good time for a group of progressive college deans to get organized around promoting good teaching theory and practice (which doesn't include the discredited VAM or test-and-punish "accountability" models). Maybe something to think about for the upcoming AERA meeting in Chicago.

Monday, January 26, 2015

New Schools Venture Fund bankrolling Ownership Society education

Ted Mitchell, one of the founders and former  chief executive of the NewSchools Venture Fund, was named by President Obama to become the Under Secretary of the Department of Education.
The New Schools Venture Fund is one of the biggest backers of ownership society education, school privatization and corporate-style "reform." They were one of the conservative, anti-teacher groups that backed last year's Vergara suit against teacher tenure and collective-bargaining rights in California. The legal costs for Vergara were covered by  by Silicon Valley billionaire David Welch, a founder of the NCVF and a powerful force behind the growth of privately-run charter schools.

Milwaukee blogger, educator and long-time school activist, Larry Miller, has done his homework on the NSVF and its board of directors. His latest blog post reveals an organization which claims to be about school improvement and innovation but which is actually,
...seeking "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.
Included in Miller's account of NSVF is a run-down of its "all-white, 10 member board of directors, whose combined portfolio reaches deep into U.S. corporate and entrepreneurial investment endeavors".

• 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

 Good post, Larry.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Rangel interview paints clearest picture yet of UNO and their machine charter school patrons


Chicago Magazine ran an interview this week with UNO's “Patron 2” Juan Rangel. It paints the clearest picture yet of the corrupt political sewer that is Chicago's system of privately-run charter schools.
Meanwhile, the school network was handing out its own contracts to more familiar names. Monterrey Security, a firm that was previously co-owned by Danny Solis’s brother Santiago, won a $75,000 security contract. Phil Mullins’s wife, Mary Quinn, came away with an HR contract; so did firms that had contributed to Burke and Madigan. Says an UNO insider who spoke on the condition of anonymity: “There was a point where I began to wonder, Is it about the schools? Or are the schools the means to another end?”

Monday, January 12, 2015

Former schools CEO Huberman bellies up to the Chicago charter feeding trough


You might remember Ron Huberman. He was the former CTA chief bureaucrat  who ran the system into the ground and who then replaced Arne Duncan as Chicago schools CEO (why not?) under Mayor Daley and went down aboard Daley's sinking ship.

He is notable for little else besides his "data-driven" reforms -- like claiming he could predict in advance, which CPS kids would likely be murdered and which ones wouldn't. He was also the guy who cut foreign language programs (they weren't on the test) and who called in the police to bust the parent protests to save Whittier School's field house.

Most importantly, Huberman was a dear friend of the city's aspiring privately-run charter networks, like UNO, Noble Street, and Chicago International. And after his dismal tenure at CPS, things began looking up for Huberman. He was able to parlay his school system connections and knowledge of procuring insider contracts into an executive position at Chicago Growth Partners and Prairie Capital. Then he started his own firm, and began reaching for some payback in the form of contracts from some of the same government-financed charter-school operators he championed as Daley’s schools chief.

According to today's Sun-Times:
Huberman, who is a member of Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner’s transition team, founded TeacherMatch LLC in 2011.
The company has since gotten contracts worth a total of more than $200,000 from two of the largest Chicago Public Schools-funded charter operators — the Noble Network of Charter Schools and the United Neighborhood Organization’s charter network — and also has gotten work from some schools in the Chicago International Charter Schools network.
TeacherMatch, which provides software to help schools screen job applicants, reported total revenues in 2013 of more than $286,000, according to school contracting records.
That same year, it got an infusion of nearly $1.9 million from investors, the records show — a sign of confidence in its future growth.
Huberman continues to serve as the company’s executive chairman, though records list its primary owner as Prairie Capital, the Chicago private-equity firm where Huberman has been a top executive since 2011.

In 2013, Huberman lobbied UNO’s then-CEO Juan Rangel and other officials, who say they had reached a “preliminary agreement” with TeacherMatch. But Rangel quit in December 2013 amid a scandal prompted by Sun-Times reports on millions of dollars in government-funded deals given by UNO to two brothers of Rangel’s top aide.

Asked how its charter network ended up doing business with TeacherMatch, an UNO official said, “It is not known who initiated those conversations.” Noble officials and Rangel declined to comment.

Huberman says, Charters “help provide options for families". He might have added the words, "especially mine".

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Chuy Garcia: Rahm treating CPS as a 'profit center'

Quazzo  (F. Klonsky)
Mayoral candidate "Chuy" Garcia accused Rahm of treating education "as a profit center for people with powerful connections." He couldn't be more right. Latest case in point in the mayor's defense of his hand-picked board member, Deborah Quazzo, who uses her board seat to protect her ed-biz investments.

According to the Sun-Times:
Quazzo, a millionaire venture capitalist, has invested in five educational technology companies that have been paid about $3.8 million by CPS since 2010, $2.9 million of it since June 2013, when she replaced Pritzker.
Quazzo is the “founder [in 2009] and managing partner of GSV Advisors—part of GSV Capital Corp., “a publicly traded investment fund that seeks to invest in high-growth, venture-backed private companies. GSV Advisors is “a firm that provides advisory services to companies in the education and business services sectors.” In plainer language, GSV Advisors invests in firms that that bring high-tech to solving problems in education. An example is GVS-backed DreamBox Learning, online individualized math instruction that, the company claims, “improves early educational outcomes for every child—regardless of zip code.”

She's also an ex officio board member of KIPP Chicago (Knowledge is Power Program), a charter school operator; New Schools for Chicago, an organization that raises money for charters.

NEEDED--An elected school board.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Reason 1001 Why We Need an Elected School Board in Chicago

Quazzo flies Byrd-Bennett out to Arizona for her annual ed investment conference
“It’s my belief I need to invest in companies and philanthropic organizations who improve outcomes for children,” Quazzo says.

Companies that Chicago Board of Education member Deborah Quazzo has an interest in have seen the business they get from the city’s schools system triple since Mayor Rahm Emanuel appointed her to the board last year, records obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times show.
Quazzo’s companies have gotten an additional $2.9 million in Chicago Public Schools business in the year and a half since the millionaire venture capitalist joined the board to fill a vacancy left by Penny Pritzker when President Barack Obama named Pritzker commerce secretary.
In all, five companies in which Quazzo has an ownership stake have been paid more than $3.8 million by CPS for ACT prep or online help with reading, writing and math. One of them stands to collect an additional $1.6 million this year from a district contract.
Quazzo says she has recused herself from school board votes on contracts with companies in which she has a stake, including a $6 million, two-year deal with one called Think Through Math. But, of course, nearly every vote of the board in unanimous.

On the website for GSV Advisors, Quazzo lists five companies she has invested in that do business with CPS — Academic Approach, Dreambox Learning, MasteryConnect, Think Through Learning and ThinkCERCA and touts her “dozens of personal investments in dynamic education companies, demonstrating her commitment while deepening her expertise and relationships in this important and fast-growing sector.”

Quazzo also co-hosts an annual education investment conference in April in Arizona with GSV Capital, which is owned by venture capitalist Michael Moe. Barbara Byrd-Bennett, CPS’ chief executive officer, and Quazzo’s fellow school board members Andrea Zopp and Mahalia Hines are among past speakers at the conferences.

Byrd-Bennett’s airfare and hotel bill were paid for by conference organizers, as were Hines’, according to McCaffrey.

Another reason for an elected school board in Chicago.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

RACE TO TOP IS GOING BUST. BUT PEARSON HANGS ON.

"Pearson is the McDonald’s of education." -- Sir Michael Barber, Pearson Chief Education Adviser
It's too early to tell what kind of impact the latest $1.1 trillion spending bill will have on education funding in general. One thing we know is that Arne Duncan's Race To The Top funding to cut down to zero. There is also no funding in the bill for Common Core standards. That's not good news for all those politically-connected companies that have bellied up to the DOE trough for the past six years to cash in on Duncan's and RTTT's testing and charter school mandates.

The biggest is Pearson, the British conglomerate that dominates Common Core testing and text book publishing fields. But Pearson is having troubles of its own. Alan Singer, writing at Huffington (Pearson Education Can Run, But It Cannot Hide), reports that Pearson Education is closing its foundation, is under investigation by the FBI for possible insider dealings in the Los Angeles John Deasy/iPad scandal, that the company is being sued by former employees for wrongful termination and that its PARCC exams are losing customers.

But don't pass the hat for poor Pearson just quite yet. A report out of Dubai has Pearson, despite the dark cloud over its head, winning a competitive bid by the OECD to develop the frameworks for Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) 2018. PISA is widely recognized as the benchmark for evaluating education systems worldwide by assessing the skills and knowledge 15-year-old students will need in their further academic education or for joining the workforce, said a statement. The PISA exam has become the scoring mechanism to determine which of dozens of competing nations supposedly have the best education systems. The exam is administered every three years in around 70 participating economies world-wide. So far neither Pearson nor OECD is saying how much money is involved in the deal.

A blockbuster contract Pearson signed earlier this year to deliver the new PARCC Common Core exams based its pricing on a minimum of 5.5 million students nationwide taking the tests next spring. But several states dropped out, leaving just under 5 million students to take the exams. (Another 325,000 children in Louisiana will take a modified test that uses PARCC questions but is delivered by another vendor.)

At that volume, Pearson will earn a minimum of $138 million in the first year of the contract. But because the contract was crafted in anticipation of a higher revenue flow to Pearson, PARCC member states have agreed to scale back the amount of work the company must do on the exams.

Monday, December 8, 2014

More on Charter Schools USA and the takeover of schools in York, PA

A few weeks ago, I posted this piece about Charter Schools USA and their attempt to take over the York, PA school district. Charter Schools USA is based in Ft. Lauderdale and is one of the biggest for-profit operators. It's founder and CEO, Jon Hage comes out of the Heritage Foundation, a right-wing think tank funded by the Koch Bros., as well as the  Foundation for Florida Future, another conservative group founded by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

Here's a corporate profile of Charter Schools USA, posted at the Cashing in on Kids Blog.

And this from the York Dispatch...
Attorneys representing teachers, cafeteria workers, parents, state-level education officials - and probably more to come - have filed petitions to join the York City School District in opposing the state's attempt at seizing control from the locally elected school board.

The district's motion alleges that receivership "and the imposition of a district-wide charter school system will fully and unalterably bind the incoming administration to the education policies of the outgoing and 'lame duck' governor for years to come."

Gov.-elect Tom Wolf, who defeated Gov. Tom Corbett in his re-election bid last month, has said he is opposed to the charter plan and would like an opportunity to make decisions about the district's future.

A hearing for the case is set for today.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Dope farming, a new source of revenue for charter schools?

John Loevy

Let me begin by saying that I have long favored the total and complete legalization of marijuana. I see it as a a potentially huge source of public revenue and a way to radically decrease the prison population. Sales revenues could help restore state dollars to the pension fund which has been badly depleted through years of the state neglect. All this, not to mention removing a part of the market fueling international drug wars which have killed hundreds of thousands.

But as legalization becomes a reality in several states, as always, the devil's in the details. In Illinois, the prospect of even partial legalization for medicinal purposes has opened up a new gold rush of venture capitalists, political cronies, profiteers and other assorted quick-buck hustlers.

Today's Sun-Times reports that attorney Jon Loevy hopes to get his plan approved to open a marijuana farm downstate. Loevy pitch is that he's different that the other dope privateers in that he's getting into the business, not to make a buck, but to support education.... Sorry, it took me a minute to stop laughing and climb back onto my chair.
“Illinois has created a real opportunity for profits, and a lot of the groups chasing this are hedge funds and private equity firms trying to get rich,” Loevy said. “We see this as an opportunity to reroute millions of dollars to education in Illinois when it’s really needed.”
By supporting education, Loevy means that instead of paying taxes, he may funnel a chunk of his tax-exempt profits into the state's networks of privately-run charter schools which he claims will,  "improve educational quality.”

Loevy’s partners include Michael Kanovitz, Loevy’s partner at the Loevy & Loevy law firm, and Rich Silverstein, a real estate developer. Following the lead of the privatized prison industry, they plan to open a $5 million to $7 million, 20,000-square-foot medical marijuana farm in Edgewood, a town of just over 400 people in Effingham County.
A trustee in Edgewood, Ervin Yocum, said the town is looking at the proposal as if it were a regular business. “We need the jobs down here,” said Yocum, who owns the plot of land the cultivation center would be on and would sell it to the group if they get the state license. “It’s a medicine.”
Yes, it's a medicine and will ultimately be part of big pharma. But the thought of public schools, or even  privately-run charters, being dependent for funding on the good will and political orientation of drug privateers is antithetical to democratic education.

If Loevy and his investors are allowed to grow marijuana in Edgewood, there needs to be strict control over conditions and pay for labor on their farm and their profits should be taxed appropriately with funding for education and other public needs being directed by public decision making.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Howard Fuller's flight from the civil rights movement to darling of the racist conservatives


In 2012, Rachel Tabachnick, a researcher and writer on issues pertaining to the Religious Right, put together a comprehensive analysis of the current school privatization movement, "The Right's "School Choice" Scheme" on Publiceye.org.  It began with Milton Friedman's 1995 treatise, "Public Schools: Make Them Private," and continues with the right's attempt to re-frame it's attack on public education as a "civil-rights reform".

This re-framing was left to the likes of power philanthropists and right-wing think tanks like Milwaukee's Bradley Foundation, the Walton (Walmart) Family, ALEC, and the Koch Bros. They in turn, enlisted former civil-rights activist turned George Bush conservative, Howard Fuller and his Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO), a group which  tries to portray school vouchers as an effort to help low-income kids and children of color "escape" public schools to the freedom of private and religious schools. Fuller has become a vanguard "warrior" in the right-wing attack on unions and teachers' right to collectively bargain.

Long-time Milwaukee schools activist, teacher, school board member and Rethinking Schools editor, Larry Miller offers a critical perspective on Fuller in his review of Fuller's autobiography,  No Struggle No Progress.

Miller writes:
In the book Fuller uses a variety of arguments to rationalize his alliances. He works closely with the Bradley Foundation and in the past bragged of his close friendship with its deceased president and major architect of the modern conservative movement, Michael Joyce. This is the same Milwaukee-based Bradley Foundation that funds conservative policies throughout the US, has been a major supporter of the Republican Tea Party movement and of ALEC, a group behind Stand Your Ground laws and voter restriction laws, among other reactionary policies. The foundation underwrote the blatantly racist study by Charles Murray resulting in the publication of The Bell Curve, which claims that Black people are intellectually inferior to other races. In his book Fuller describes a group of young people criticizing him for accepting money from the Bradley Foundation. He responded that it is “poetic justice” that they fund his work which he says stands in opposition to Murray’s claims. Fuller has been publicly silent on The Bell Curve.

While Howard Fuller may try to rest on his past militant laurels, in life’s journey where we end up is more important than where we started. An alliance today with the Waltons, the Bradley Foundation, and Tea Party Republicans is an insult to those who have fought in the past and an affront to those fighting today for social justice and who continue to speak truth to power.
As someone who has known Fuller and followed his work for the past 40 years, I couldn't agree more.

Update on Fuller
EdWeek ran a Q&A with Fuller last week in which he eulogizes the late African-American community activist and state legislator Polly Williams, often called, "the mother of school choice" (vouchers). It was Williams who led the way for passage of the nations first district-wide school voucher program, one which by most accounts has been a dismal failure.

Williams herself, later became a critic of voucher expansion and of the direction her movement had taken under the leadership of the right-wing think-tankers.

In the interview, Fuller tries to dance around Williams' and other conservatives' disaffection with the voucher movement and it's turn towards privately-run charters instead. He goes on to deny that he  "ever supported universal vouchers."

What a tangled web we weave...

Polly Williams
Milwaukee columnist Bruce Murphy had this to say about Williams' shift:
Back in 2001, Williams told me she opposed how school choice was expanding. Williams said she supported school choice as an experiment. “Our intent was never to destroy the public schools.” She complained that choice supporters like the Bradley Foundation wanted to expand the program beyond low-income families and she opposed this. More recently she was quoted in a Journal Sentinel story opposing the plans of Gov. Scott Walker and the Republicans to expand the program to middle class families. “They have hijacked the program,” Williams complained.
Murphy documents how Williams was paid handsomely and used by white conservatives until she was supplanted by Fuller. 
From 1990 through 1997, Williams earned some $163,000 in honorariums and expenses, far more than any other legislator in Wisconsin. But after that, Williams saw her extra income drop to almost nothing, as Howard Fuller supplanted her as the moral spokesperson for school choice. “She… could have been the leader of school choice,” Joyce told me. “But she stepped aside and Fuller became the leader.”
Most importantly, writes Murphy, 
...for Williams the goal of choice was to achieve a better education. But in the wake of many studies showing choice students do no better than their public school counterparts, many Republicans now sell vouchers not as a better way, but as a cheaper way to educate children.
In short, the mother of school choice had great misgivings about the program she helped birth. As frank and combative as Williams was, I suspect she would want those reservations to be included in any celebration of her life.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Letters: Ritsch says, Wendy Kopp quote is Duncan's, not his.

In yesterday's post I attributed the quote below, regarding TFA leader Wendy Kopp, to Acting Assistant Secretary for Communications and Outreach Massie Ritsch.

In an email I received this morning, Ritsch says the quote should have been attributed, both by me and WaPo's Valerie Strauss, to Ritsch's current boss, Arne Duncan. Since I got the quote from Valerie's Answer Sheet column,  I will gladly set the record straight on that.

Yes, it was Duncan who made that ridiculous statement about Kopp -- not Ritsch.

Ritsch also denies that in his new position he will, as I claim, “help TFA keep the cash pipeline open and flowing.” That's hard for me to believe, but I will take him at his word on that as well.

Here's Ritsch's email in full:

Mike,

In your post about my new position at Teach For America, you misattribute a quote from Secretary Duncan re: Wendy Kopp as having come from me. Please correct the attribution to reflect that, in fact, Secretary Duncan made the statement below:

“I don’t think anyone in the country has done more over the past 15 to 20 years than Wendy Kopp to identify the talents and characteristics that lead to great teaching”
(Source: http://www.ed.gov/news/speeches/new-approach-teacher-education-reform-and-improvement)

I have asked Valerie Strauss to clarify the quote’s source in her post.

As part of my responsibilities at Teach For America, I will be overseeing the organization’s research and evaluation work, which includes many partnerships with academics who take an interest in TFA’s corps members and the thousands of alumni who continue to work in education long after their initial service. Under Wendy Kopp’s leadership, and now under the leadership of Elisa Villanueva Beard and Matt Kramer, TFA has worked over the last two decades to understand the personal qualities, skills and supports that contribute to great teaching. TFA has made an important contribution to everyone’s understanding of an essential question in education.

My responsibilities at Teach For America will not include managing the grants that the organization has competed successfully for or TFA’s relationship with the Department of Education, so the implication in your post that I will “help TFA keep the cash pipeline open and flowing” is not accurate.

Thanks for correcting your post accordingly.

Massie Ritsch
Acting Assistant Secretary for Communications and Outreach
U.S. Department of Education
(202) 260-2671
massie.ritsch@ed.gov
Twitter: @ED_Outreach

Monday, November 24, 2014

Ritsch leaves Dept. of Ed for TFA after serving as Duncan's clean-up man

“I don’t think anyone in the country has done more over the past 15 to 20 years than Wendy Kopp to identify the talents and characteristics that lead to great teaching” -- Arne Duncan on Ritsch's new boss.
Massie Ritsch
The revolving door between Arne Duncan's D.O.E. the corporate-reform industry keeps turning. Now Duncan is sending his second communications chief in two years, out to work for the school privateers. Massie Ritsch, the acting assistant secretary for communications and outreach, is leaving his job to take a new position Executive Vice President of Public Affairs and Engagement for Teach For America.

Valerie Strauss at the Washington Post reports that TFA has been popular with the Obama administration for years, evidenced by the the millions of dollars it has won from the Education Department in recent years and by the praise heaped on it by the secretary himself.

Ritsch's D.O.E. connection should help TFA keep the cash pipeline open and flowing.
Ritsch had served as deputy assistant secretary for external affairs and outreach at the department until late 2012, when he took over for Peter Cunningham, who had been assistant secretary for communications and outreach from the start of the Obama administration.

Writes Strauss:
A mark of just how effective Cunningham had been from the start of his tenure was his success in persuading Rolling Stone magazine to put Arne Duncan on the 2009 list of the 100 top “Agents of Change.” Duncan was No. 98, but still ahead of Taylor Swift, who was No. 100.
I do have to tip my cap to Ritsch for one thing. He was the scrubber at the D.O.E. who had to clean up after many of Duncan's mouth poops. Like when Arne claimed that criticism of Common Core was coming from, "White suburban moms upset that Common Core shows their kids aren’t ‘brilliant’".

Bank on Taylor Swift to surge ahead of Duncan without Ritsch and Cunningham there to spin things. And look for TFA's Wendy Kopp to possibly decorate the next cover of Rolling Stone.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Handing all York, PA schools over to right-wing charter privateer

KYLE STOKES / STATEIMPACT INDIANA
Charter Schools USA president and CEO Jon Hage 

Florida-based for-profit, Charter Schools USA is moving on poverty-stricken York, PA and now threatens a takeover that would turn the entire school district into privately-run charters.

The York School Board vote on charterizing all district schools was tabled yesterday until December 17th in the face of parent and community protests. Many have threatened to boycott the district if the vote passed.

According to ABC27 News,
While many students who spoke at the meeting focused on losing the programs they love, the harsh reality of the situation exists in its own back story . Struggling test scores and dwindling finances forced the district into state receivership more than two years ago. Back then the state agreed to an internal recovery plan and standards that were not met since then. 
Without improvement and lacking a contract agreement with the state teacher's union, becoming the first city in Pennsylvania without traditional public schools has become a real possibility in the past several months. 
Charter Schools USA is based in Ft. Lauderdale and is one of the biggest for-profit operators. It's founder and CEO, Jon Hage comes out of the Heritage Foundation, a right-wing think tank funded by the Koch Bros., as well as the  Foundation for Florida Future, another conservative group founded by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. Charter Schools USA currently generates revenue of $285 million, operating 70 schools across the country and is also affiliated with Chicago charter operators Chicago International Charter Schools.

Everywhere CSUSA has gone, the company has left a trail of conflict and law suits. More here.

The Indy Star reported in July that troubles are emerging just two years after the Indiana State Board of Education — spurred on by then-Superintendent Tony Bennett — turned four persistently low-achieving Indianapolis Public Schools and one in Gary over to independent operators including Hage's CSUSA's,

Hage’s Charter School USA adventure into Indiana hasn’t gone well from the start, according to Florida-based blogger, Scathing Purple Musings.

York, PA parents protest charter takeover. 
The three schools received an “F” in their first year of operation,  prompting Sherry Hage to outrageously claim that “while we may have received an ‘F,’ our schools are most definitely not failing any longer.” Moreover, a December 2012 story reported that the Hage’s received $6 million more than they should have from then Superintendent of Public Education Tony Bennett. Just six month after the Hage’s deal with Bennett for Charter Schools USA was revealed to have no profit limits nor minimum classroom expenditure levels, Red Apple Development, the real estate development arm of Charter Schools USA donated $5000 to Bennett’s campaign.

Hage's company was sued by Principal Katherine Murphy of the Aventura City of Excellence School and awarded $155 million in damages by a jury for wrongful termination, only to have Judge Rosa Rodriguez reversed the Jury's verdict, finding in favor of Aventura and CSUSA.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Arne's Army Goes Undercover

See the kid with the backpack and the 5 o'clock shadow? He could be D.O.E.?

You've heard about Ferguson, MO's militarized police department. But what about Arne Duncan's militarized D.O.E. army complete with underground agents and paid spies and infiltrators. A Le Carre novel? No, it's real.

Back in 2010, I reported the Dept.'s purchase of dozens of new military-order, Remington Model, 870 police 12/14P Mod GRWC XS4 KXCS SF. RAMAC #24587 GAUGE: 12 BARREL: 14" - Parkerized choke: modified sights: Ghost ring rear, WILSON COMBAT shotguns.They were to replace worn-out shotguns used by the Inspector General's office, said Arne's people.

I asked at the time, but got no answer --- Exactly how did those previous 27 shotguns get worn out?

For context, it was V.P. Joe Biden, laughingly referred to as "Obama's point person on gun control", who advised all of us to go out and "buy a shotgun."
"...just walk out on the balcony here ... put that double-barreled shotgun and fire two blasts outside the house."
"I promise you whoever's coming in is not gonna," Biden said. "You don't need an AR-15 (assault rifle). It's harder to aim. It's harder to use and in fact you don't need 30 rounds to protect yourself."
Then, a year later, I wrote about Arne's militarized army of D.O.E. thugs kicking in parents' doors in the early morning hours to collect on overdue student loans.

Fast forward -- Sunday's NYT reports that dozens of agencies (besides the FBI) now have hired a few thousand secret undercover operatives in order to infiltrate community groups, protests, and catch evil-doers in the act, posing as business people, welfare recipients, political protesters and even doctors or ministers to ferret out wrongdoing. The Times reports that there's so many that, “People are always tripping and falling over each other’s cases.” 

The agents, often youthful looking, will typically “dress down” and wear backpacks to blend inconspicuously into the crowd, says one official.
At the Supreme Court, small teams of undercover officers dress as students at large demonstrations outside the courthouse and join the protests to look for suspicious activity, according to officials familiar with the practice. At the Internal Revenue Service, dozens of undercover agents chase suspected tax evaders worldwide, by posing as tax preparers, accountants drug dealers or yacht buyers and more, court records show. At the Agriculture Department, more than 100 undercover agents pose as food stamp recipients at thousands of neighborhood stores to spot suspicious vendors and fraud, officials said.
Among those government agencies -- you guessed it -- Arne Duncan's D.O.E.
 At the Education Department, undercover agents of the Office of Inspector General infiltrate federally funded education programs looking for financial fraud. 
Lesson in all this? Next time you're on a picket line or at a protest against school closings, ask the kid marching next to you -- the one with the five-o'clock shadow, carrying a back pack -- to say hi to Arne for you.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

K12 Inc. stock sinking like a stone


The Tucson Weekly reports:

Things aren't looking good for the publicly traded K12 Inc., which runs online charter schools in states around the country (Its Arizona Virtual Academy has more than 4,000 students). The schools are funded by taxpayer dollars, like all charter schools, so the corporation's profits and its CEO's $5 million salary come from taxpayer money it doesn't spend on its students' educations. K12 Inc.'s stock value has plummeted from $38 in September, 2013, to its current $12.60. The downward slide over the past few months has taken it into dangerous territory. Most stock analysts have revised their recommendations downward from Buy to Hold or Sell.
The notoriously poor education K12 Inc.'s schools provide isn't the issue, at least not directly. The problem is, the customer base hasn't grown sufficiently, stores are closing and new stores haven't opened as expected — I mean, the schools haven't picked up enough new students, some of K12 Inc.'s charters have severed ties with the corporation, and some states are balking at allowing schools to open. When you're running a for-profit school, students are customers and schools are stores, so it's really the same thing, which is the problem with for-profit education.

The Destabilizing Affect of Charter School Closings

"A lot of people in the school choice movement like the idea of accountability, but when accountability hits home, it's really hard to maintain your focus on results," said Brandon S. Brown, the director of charter schools for the Indianapolis mayor's office. "It's the authorizer's responsibility to hold an absolute bar for performance, which means that, sometimes, low-performing schools will not continue to operate." -- EdWeek
Privately-run charter school networks try and operate on a corporate business model, even though they are supposedly public entities, supported with public funds and accountable to public oversight. While their original charge was one of collaborating with their public school cousins to drive innovation and school improvement, their business model is one that puts competition ahead of collaboration and market measures ahead of public good.

In order to attract both public and private investment, charter operators need to manipulate competitive market measures, such as test scores and other comparative indicators of school success to show that they are supposedly outperforming, not only public schools, but competing charter chains as well. This high-stakes competitive drive has often led to a lack of transparencytest cheatingas well as cooking the books and other forms of financial mismanagement.

Such market competition requires a continuous process of weeding out "low performers" in order to boost average measurable outcomes, gathered in various research studies and performed by willing academic or private research organizations. In the process, overseen by so-called authorizers,  thousands of children's and families' lives are disrupted as schools are closed and teachers fired (without due process) and new ones open. These children and families are often the ones most in need of stability. Teachers and students (overwhelmingly poor and students of color) become the flotsam and jetsam of charter school failure.

In 2011, conservative pro-charter Center for Education Reform reported: " Of the approximately 6,700 charter schools that have ever opened across the United States, 1,036 have closed since 1992."

It's a system that operates much like giant retailers Wal Mart, Target and Starbucks, which turn over their entire work force on average, nearly every six months. 

Edweek reports that in cities like Indianapolis, "failing charters closing abruptly, blindsiding parents and sending them scrambling to find new schools" has become a major problem.
The charter sector has long stood by the premise that if the independently run public schools fail to perform, they are shut down—an idea often referred to as the "charter bargain." But as the movement matures, it increasingly faces the messy reality of closing schools—a situation that could become more common.
In Ohio, according to the report, when the time between the announcement of a charter closing and the actual shutdown stretches the full academic year, it is referred to as a "zombie year." Teachers and administrators learn as early as September that their school—as well as their jobs—will cease to exist come May or June. That situation is generally a product of Ohio's closure law, which mandates the automatic shutdown of the state's poorest-performing charter schools, as well as the timing for when student-assessment data gets released.

The most telling piece in the charter school-closing puzzle is, that despite all the intentional disruption and churn, the great majority of privately-run charters fail to out-perform traditional public schools on every important measure.

A similar version of this commentary is cross-posted at Mike Klonsky's Small Talk blog. http://michaelklonsky.blogspot.com/2014/11/charter-school-churn-leaves-students.html

Sunday, November 9, 2014

CPS' Great Interest Rate Swap. Running schools "like a business".

"I have 30 years in the business," said Vitale, a former bank executive and former president and CEO of the Chicago Board of Trade. "I'm not a neophyte." -- David Vitale
Today's Trib blows the lid off of the Great CPS Interest-Rate-Swap in which the mayor and his hand-picked school board traded the future of the public school system for cash. If this sounds a lot like former Mayor Daley's parking meter deal -- it should.

It was Daley's $1/yr. man David Vitale, who engineered the dirty deals which also had support from a bill run through the state legislature by Sen. Pres. John Cullerton. Cullerton defended the bill, calling it part of "an effort to run government [schools-m.k.] more like a business."

The CEO at the time was none other than Arne Duncan (although for some reason, the Trib report spares him any mention). From 2003 through 2007, the district issued $1 billion worth of high-risk auction-rate securities, nearly all of it paired with complex derivative contracts called interest-rate swaps, in a bid to lower borrowing costs. But lower costs they didn't. Over the life of the deals, the district stands to pay an estimated $100 million more in today's dollars than it would have on traditional fixed-rate bonds.

The banks benefited, of course. Derivative contracts created new profit opportunities, and fees on auction-rate securities were higher than for other types of bonds.

The Tribune reports:
No other school district in the country came close to CPS in relying so heavily on this exotic financial product. In fact, market data show the district issued more auction-rate bonds than most cities, more than the state of California.
Even though this latest scandal preceded Rahm Emanuel, the current mayor is still tied to it. It was Rahm who brought Vitale over from turn-around company, AUSL and made him Board President. Vitale is still Rahm's go-to financial guy and the district continues to pay through the nose for his dealings.
 Vitale is now president of the Chicago school board. Since Mayor Rahm Emanuel named him to the post in May 2011, he has presided over slashed budgets, teacher layoffs and the closing of more than 40 schools. As the Tribune reported last year in its "Broken Bonds" series, tens of millions of dollars in borrowed money went into schools that are now closed.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Rahm's way of paying for pre-school puts millions into pockets of his investor friends.

If there’s one thing we know about Wall Street, it’s that most Wall Street firms are not in the business of philanthropy.
Yet the city is about to enter into a $30 million agreement with several Wall Street lenders to finance an early education program that from all appearances will allow banks to profit off the educational success of children with almost no risk to their own bottom lines. -- Mark Anderson at the Ward Room 
 Instead of simply finding the money in the city budget to expand the program and keep the benefits for itself, however, the city has turned to lenders such as Goldman Sachs, Northern Trust and the Pritzker Family Foundation to provide the upfront money, with promises of substantial profits for the lenders down the road if the program goes as planned.

Fran Spielman at S-T writes:

Rahm' plan for funding early childhood education is being compared to former Mayor Daley's parking meter plan.
“This is basically privatizing Head Start — giving these banking companies a very high rate of return — higher than even what we saw in the Infrastructure Trust,” said Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd), one of a handful of aldermen who voted no.

“Head Start has been proven to work for decades…. It reminds me of the parking meter deal. The same type of people came in and said it was a high-risk asset [when] it was a low-risk asset...We lost billions of dollars. We’re not gonna lose billions here. But, taxpayers under this scheme are gonna pay a lot more than if we just went out and re-allocated resources we already have.”

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Aramark's mess in Chicago schools pales in comparison to what they've done in Michigan prisons

Today's Detroit Free Press reports that a fired Aramark prison food worker filed a whistle-blower complaint Wednesday with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, alleging she lost her job for complaining about falsified records and kitchen practices that endangered health and food safety.

McVay alleges she was harassed and retaliated against for complaining about a lack of temperature monitoring in cooking; the serving of raw or undercooked meat; falsified records related to dishwater temperature and cleaning solution quality; the serving of meat that had been dropped on the floor; changing the dates on stored leftover food so it could be served after its throw-away date; suspected inflating of the count of meals served — part of the basis for which Aramark is paid by the state — among other issues.
 ******

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel's privatization of school janitorial services, handing them over to Aramark and SodexoMagic,  has left schools in a filthy mess with principals and parents (not to mention hundreds of laid-off workers) howling for change. But Aramark's mess at CPS pales in comparison to what they're doing in Michigan's prisons.

Michigan's Tea Party Gov. Rick Snyder, has turned the state into the vanguard of privatization in an attempt to bust the state's unions and fire higher-paid, experienced public employees, including teachers, without due process.

Aramark Correctional Services has had an astonishing record of incompetence in state after state, says MoTown columnist, Jack Lessenberry  In Ohio, there have been several near-riots in prisons after they ran out of food. Florida fired Aramark long ago for contract violations and for boosting their profits by skimping on inmate meals.

Kentucky did the same, after lousy Aramark food service provoked an actual prison riot. Later, an audit discovered what the state said were food quality issues and overbilling.

Ohio editorial writers have been urging that state's governor, the right-wing ideologue John Kasich, to fire Aramark for issues that include maggots in the food, staffing shortages, and running out of food, presumably to maximize profits.

Last December, Aramark (ARMK) began running Michigan’s prison kitchens under a three-year, $145 million privatization deal which eliminated about 370 union jobs and was supposed to make food service more efficient while saving the cash-strapped state millions.

But according to a Bloomberg Businessweek report, privatization hasn’t quite worked out that way.
More than 100 Aramark employees have been fired for alleged misconduct that included sneaking cell phones into prisons, distributing drugs, and having sexual contact with inmates. On Sept. 23 an Aramark worker at an Ionia prison was fired on suspicion that he’d tried to pay one prisoner to beat up another. The next day a worker at a maximum-security prison, also in Ionia, lost her job after corrections officers found a 65-page love letter she wrote to an inmate with whom she was allegedly having an affair.
In August, before the latest revelations, Snyder announced he was appointing Edwin Buss, who has run prison systems in Florida and Indiana, to independently monitor the Aramark contract. Buss’s annual salary of $160,000 will be covered by a $200,000 fine levied on Aramark by the Michigan Department of Corrections following reports of meal shortages and maggots in food served to prisoners. An additional $98,000 fine for infractions that included a dozen instances of “overfamiliarity” between employees and inmates was waived in March.

Detroit News
According to the Detroit News,
When maggots were repeatedly discovered in Aramark prison kitchens over the summer, it was consistently reported that the company previously had paid a $98,000 fine to the state for previous contract infractions. We’ve now learned that was not true. While the fine was levied against Aramark, it was never paid after Corrections director Dan Heyns intervened and told Gov. Rick Snyder’s office he would “tone down [his] attack dogs, delay or cancel any fines.”
Aramark's next big move -- health care. Yikes!

So Mayor Emanuel, what is it you like so much about Aramark? Please tell us.

Friday, October 17, 2014

North Carolina's star charter hustler, Baker Mitchell

His model for success embraces decreased government regulation, increased privatization and, if all goes well, healthy corporate profits.
ProPublica reporter Marian Wang, lays it all out there on Moyers' blog ("Charter School Power Broker Turns Public Education Into Private Profits"). She turns over a rock in N.C. and finds another big charter school hustler, a businessman named Baker Mitchell making millions by operating his chain of schools.

Baker Mitchell
People still ask me, how is it possible to make lots of money operating charters? I keep telling them, it's all about vertical integration. Take Mitchell's operation as a case in point.

Wang writes:
The schools buy or lease nearly everything from companies owned by Mitchell. Their desks. Their computers. The training they provide to teachers. Most of the land and buildings. Unlike with traditional school districts, at Mitchell’s charter schools there’s no competitive bidding. No evidence of haggling over rent or contracts.
The schools have all hired the same for-profit management company to run their day-to-day operations. The company, Roger Bacon Academy, is owned by Mitchell. It functions as the schools’ administrative arm, taking the lead in hiring and firing school staff. It handles most of the bookkeeping. The treasurer of the nonprofit that controls the four schools is also the chief financial officer of Mitchell’s management company. The two organizations even share a bank account.
 Did I mention that Mitchell is part of Koch Bros. and ALEC networks? He also hangs out with conservative kingmaker Art Pope with whom he sits on the board of the John Locke Foundation. It's where he gets his political juice to operate regulation-free.

In Mitchell's defense, he claims his schools produce higher test scores. But they have comparatively low percentages of needy students and focus totally on test prep and rote learning.

Writes Wong:
Mitchell’s schools are also distinguished from public schools by their different tone. Staff and students pledge to avoid errors that arise from “the comfort of popular opinion and custom,” “compromise” and “over-reliance on rational argument.” Students must vow “to be obedient and loyal to those in authority, in my family, in my school, and in my community and country, So long as I shall live.”
The schools also use a rigid instructional approach in which teachers stick to a script and drill students repeatedly through call and response