Sunday, December 30, 2012

Charter schools have become huge business for CMOs

"What we are having now is private control of public schools." -- Prof. Gary Miron

Eleanor Chute writes in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette ("Charter schools now big business nationwide") about how charter schools have been transformed into huge, often profitable business enterprises since their inception in the early 1990's.
The early charter schools in Pennsylvania were largely the product of passionate parents or community groups, who sometimes planned their dream schools around the kitchen table. But the picture has changed dramatically since the charter school law was passed in Pennsylvania in 1997, with an expansion of education management organizations that bring big money and clout into the picture.
Chute's article has good quotes from corporate-style reform critic, Gary Miron and research data from the National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado Boulder. According to their study, private operating companies or Charter Management Organizations (CMOs) will run a majority of the nation's charters "within a couple of years." This, even though the small, independent charters of the early '90's type perform much better than the more costly ones run by CMOs.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Chicago's school-closing consultants

Consultant Avani Patel, left, talks with mayoral adviser Desiree Tate after a school utilization meeting. (Armando L. Sanchez, Chicago Tribune / December 9, 2012)
Byrd-Bennett's rump panel on Chicago school closings may not be paying much attention to the growing revolt in the neighborhoods, but they are listening to a gaggle of high-priced consultants with connections to the mayor.

The Tribune reports:
The commission's hearings are being organized by public relations executive Desiree Tate, a member of Emanuel's "kitchen Cabinet" of African-American advisers who received more than half a million dollars in contracts from Chicago Public Schools before he became mayor. 
Tate claims she is working for free for the commission. Right.
The commission also is being advised by the Civic Consulting Alliance, which has provided free advice to Emanuel since the start of his administration and has links to an organization pushing to replace the traditional neighborhood schools with privately run charters.
The consulting alliance is a pro bono government consulting arm of the Commercial Club of Chicago that has worked with the mayor's office and school officials since the days of Emanuel predecessor Richard M. Daley. But the Commercial Club also founded an organization called New Schools for Chicago, which has the expansion of charter schools as its goal. New Schools President Phyllis Lockett is a former leader of the consulting alliance who still sits on its board; she is credited by New Schools with helping triple the number of charters in Chicago in recent years. The consulting alliance shares a downtown office suite with New Schools.
"New Schools for Chicago and the Civic Consulting Alliance are two distinct and separate organizations, each with their own priorities and governed by their own boards," Lockett said. "New Schools for Chicago is not involved in any way with the Utilization Commission or school actions."
Right.
The CEO of the consulting alliance, Brian Fabes, dismissed any suggestion that his group favors charter schools and said New Schools is not a client. "CTU can make whatever connections they decide they want to make," he said.
Right.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Rauner still ranting against unions

Fred Klonsky drawing.
Republican union-hater and charter school maven, Bruce Rauner is at it again. In a Sun-Times Op-Ed piece, Thursday, Rauner let loose his venom towards labor uniona and collective-bargaining rights and called for turning Illinois into a right-to-work state like Tea Party guvs did in Michigan and Indiana.

Rauner claims that busing the unions will make Illinois a more attractive place for corporate investment. 
"As employers and jobs leave, our tax burden is spread over fewer taxpayers, increasing the costs for all of us who choose to remain in Illinois. The result is a long-term death spiral that can be reversed only by becoming much more attractive to businesses and their investors..."
If it weren't for his money, his close ties with Rahm Emanuel, and his intention to run for governor, Rauner could easily be dismissed as just another right-wing kook. Then again, after saying all that, I'll still dismiss him as such.

Byrd-Bennet's "independent" panel on school closings

Ha!
The news keeps getting worse for Byrd-Bennett's "independent" commission of school closings. First, the Tribune gets hold of a secret CPS document revealing a list of targeted schools in black and Latino communities slated for closing and/or charter-izing. But if the list is already in play, than what's the point of Frank Clark's panel and all the phony public hearings?

Then comes the revelation of Commission head, Clark's contract with the Civic Consulting Alliance.
The Civic Consulting Alliance and New Schools for Chicago share a suite on the 43rd floor of the Chase Building. They also share some board members. Phyllis Lockett, the founding president and CEO of New Schools for Chicago, sits on the Civic Consulting Alliance’s board and used to be CCA’s executive director. The New Schools for Chicago website says Locket has helped triple the number of charter schools in Chicago. -- WBEZ
Clark, the former ComEd CEO, who pulls down over $2 million/year in compensation, has a Chicago charter school, Rowe-Clark Math & Science Academy, named after him. And despite having just 44.1 percent of its students meeting or exceeding state standards on the Prairie State Achievement Exam, Clark's namesake school sports the Level 1 badge, having earned the district's highest rating.

He says the school district invited the consulting firm in. But says it should raise no questions of independence. “Their work is impartial, it has a high degree of accuracy, it doesn’t hurt that it’s pro-bono, and I’ve never detected a bias.”

Puhleeze!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Why is Advance Illinois still running corporate reform?

Daley
Bill Daley, writing in Crain's on behalf of his powerful Advance Illinois corporate reform pals, bemoans the state's flat test score performance and lack of college readiness.
The single most reliable indicator of long-term success is whether a child can read proficiently by third or fourth grade. Just 33 percent of all Illinois students, 12 percent of African-American, 18 percent of Latino and 16 percent of low-income students achieve that milestone by the end of fourth grade.
Worse still, these numbers have remained virtually flat for the past decade. And their consequence is clear: Too few students complete post-secondary education, and of those who try, too many require remediation and ultimately drop out.
Daley omits the fact that his brother and former Chicago mayor, Richie, along with this same Advance Illinois gang, have been in charge of the state's reform efforts for the past decade. If there was an ounce of accountability in the state's education system, Advance Illinois would be long gone.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Walton's fueling of charter school operators -- the Mexico connection

A view of Wal-Mart’s distribution center north of Mexico City, in the municipality of Cuautitlán Izcalli.

With a combined fortune of more than $90 billion, the Waltons–the immediate heirs of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton–are the richest family in the world.  Wal-Mart became the nation’s largest private employer and as the Nation's Lisa Featherstone calls them, "a flytrap for much-deserved criticism."
Philanthropy obscures the often unseemly process by which the money was made–and for Wal-Mart that’s at least part of the point.  
The Walton Family Foundation has also become the single largest source of funding for the voucher and charter school movement. But here's something for charter schools running on Walton money to think about. A big chunk of that fortune, hidden for tax purposes inside their foundation, comes from Wal-Mart's corrupt penetration (no pun intended) of Mexico.

An expose in yesterday's NYT reveals:
 Wal-Mart de Mexico was not the reluctant victim of a corrupt culture that insisted on bribes as the cost of doing business. Nor did it pay bribes merely to speed up routine approvals. Rather, Wal-Mart de Mexico was an aggressive and creative corrupter, offering large payoffs to get what the law otherwise prohibited. It used bribes to subvert democratic governance — public votes, open debates, transparent procedures. It used bribes to circumvent regulatory safeguards that protect Mexican citizens from unsafe construction. It used bribes to outflank rivals.
Subverting democracy, circumventing regulatory safeguard, lack of transparency -- these sound like essentials for private charter operators applying for Walton money.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

TFA rakes in the cash

Diane Ravitch posts:

TFA may be the most effective fund-raising operation in the education sector. Between 2006 and 2010, TFA raised $907 million dollars in gifts from foundations, corporations, and other sources. -- Hats off to TFA

J. Crew...
is selling a $32.50 cotton t-shirt with a giant orange apple on the front to benefit Teach for America. (JCPenney has also supported Teach for America; earlier this year, the retailer asked customers to make donations to the group.) Only x-small and xx-small are available on JCrew.com now, but don’t worry, says: You can always shop the Norma Kamali fashion line with special ties to the American Federation of Teachers, the nation’s second largest teachers union. -- State Impact

Monday, December 10, 2012

Chicago's version of 'choice'

Excelon CEO John Rowe, former COMED CEO Frank Clark, Senator Dick Durbin, and  Senate Pres. John J. Cullerton, celebrate the grand opening of Excelon Gymnasium on the campus of Rowe-Clark charter school. 
A CPS-promoted school fair featuring "some of Chicago's great public school options, including charter schools," advertised almost no traditional schools -- but still found space for dozens of charter schools with the district's lowest ranking. -- Gapers Block

To Rahm's crew at CPS. a "great" school is any school that bans the teachers union.

CPS announced Friday that  it plans to add four more privately-run charter schools to the nine non-union charters previously approved for the coming year, despite its plan to close more than 100 neighborhood, "underutilized" schools.
"It simply makes their argument, 'We have to close schools,' sound ridiculous," said Julie Woestehoff, executive director of Parents United for Responsible Education. "It would be one thing if charter schools were vast improvements, but what we know is they're not. Essentially (CPS) is cannibalizing the system to privatize it." -- Chicago Tribune
And why did they pick this corporate reformer to head Rahm's rump group that meets in secret to decide which schools will be closed? Frank Clark is the former chairman and CEO of ComEd who, along with John Rowe, CEO of ComEd’s parent Exelon Corp, operate a charter school named after them. Rowe is also the former chairman of the Commercial Club of Chicago.

Isn't it obvious?

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Is CREDO really part of the charter in-crowd? You bet.

Chris Cerf claimed CREDO wasn't part of the charter bandwagon. He lied. 
The CREDO study in 2009 found that nationally only 17% of charter schools were outperforming their public counterparts. This, even though CREDO is a group connected with the right-wing, pro-charter Hoover Institute and funded by the likes of  Walton and Pearson. Problem is that facts, as they say, are stubborn fellows.

What followed the study was an attempt to discredit the report led by charter sucks like New Jersey Commissioner Chris Cerf. Recently Cerf claimed said he was "nervous" to have CREDO perform a more recent analysis of New Jersey's charter schools, which was misleadingly reported as being favorable to N.J. charters.  He claimed CREDO was "not part of the bandwagon" and made a point to say that the national CREDO study is often cited by charter opponents.

But Mother Crusader sets him straight.
With all of these connections, can Cerf really say with a straight face that CREDO is NOT part of the bandwagon?  Funded by Walton and Pearson; employees with ties to KIPP and Center for Education Reform; using the services of the reformiest of reformy PR firms; AND partnered with both of the major national charter advocacy organizations on a USDOE funded project.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Nowack departure from Penn Fund raises deeper question

Helen Gym
As I reported last week, Jeremy Nowak is out as president of the William Penn Foundation. But Helen Gym, from the ed activist group Parents United for Public Education in Philadelphia, writes that in light of his abrupt departure, deeper questions emerge about the role the foundation played under his tenure.

On a national level, a number of public education observers and public interest advocates have raised serious concerns about the role of “philanthropic” investments into education reform. From the Broad Foundation to the Waltons and Gates Foundations – what we’re seeing across the country is an unprecedented level of private money shaping public policy under the guise of philanthropy. Too often that agenda has centered around a radical dismantling of public education, increased privatization, and disruptive reform that has sent many districts spiraling into chaos and sustained turmoil.
We have no idea whether our complaint about lobbying had any influence on Mr. Nowak’s departure. Whether or not it did, foundations and “reformers” everywhere need to sit up and look critically at practices that risk substituting private agendas for true public purpose. -- "The new “philanthropy”: private agendas vs. public interest"