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

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Charter hustlers launch ad campaign attack on de Blasio

Eva Moskowitz leading the attack.

New York's deep-pocketed charter school hustlers and privateers have launched a multi-million-dollar ad campaign against Mayor de Blasio. They are also using the ads to make wild, unsubstantiated claims about the benefits of charters over community-based public schools. No mention, of course, of massive suspension and expulsion rates or any other charter negatives.

They claim de Blasio is "kicking them out" of THEIR school buildings. Translation -- the mayor is asking the privateers to pay rent for the building space they themselves expropriated from public schools during the Bloomberg/Klein regime. BdB wants to divert the city's rent subsidy for charters towards the expansion of early childhood education and universal Pre-K for all city families (Oh, the horror!).

The privateers are playing the victims, threatening to sic their team of stickpin lawyers on the school system to tie things up in the courts. As expected, crying the loudest and making the gravest threats is New York's chief charter hustler Eva Moscowitz who runs the so-called Success Academy charter chain. Socialite and Bloomberg pal Moscowitz, who pays herself a hefty $500,000/year salary, says she's "stunned" by the mayor's rent-collecting policies. I guess I'm stunned that she's stunned. De Blasio is doing exactly what he said he would do when he ran for mayor. Remember he won in a landslide over Moscowitz' candidate.

Huffington post reports:
During his campaign, De Blasio called for a moratorium on co-location, although he recently lifted that moratorium in favor of a community-based approval process for allocating space to charter schools. De Blasio also questioned whether charters shouldn't be charged rent. His rhetorical target in arguing for these changes was Moskowitz: At a June forum, he said, "There is no way in hell that Eva Moskowitz should get free rent, okay?"
I don't often have cause to say this anywhere, but --Okay, Mr. Mayor.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

New religious charter believes in Value-Added

Students participating in By the Hand Club's after school program, say a prayer at the end of their chapel session before returning to their classrooms to begin their homework. | Jessica Koscielniak / Sun-Times

“My faith motivates me to do more,” says Donnita Travis, the founder and executive director of By the Hand and the charter’s chairman of the board. The politically-connected Travis claims that God spoke to her and told her to start the BTH after-school program.

Her newly-approved CPS charter school is affiliated with Moody Church and will be housed along with a religious prayer-based after-school program. According to the Sun-Times, classrooms have religious posters on the walls, and "the group tracks how many kids in their program attend church" (not test scores?).
The charter school would be housed in a new building adjacent to the current $6 million, 26,000-square-foot Austin facility, and the charter would lease its space from the nonprofit for $750 per student, officials said. It plans to enroll 90 children per grade and would initially open with just two grades.
For those of you who don't have your calculator handy, if the school goes K-8, the rent will come to $540,000. Tax free. Not bad. And they say there's no money to be made in charter schools. #ReligiousValueAdded

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Why Cerf jumped ship in N.J.

Cerf bails on Christie

If Jersey Jazzman tells me that the Christie's Bridgegate scandal has nothing to do with the timing of Chris Cerf's jumping ship and heading for Murdoch (see comments) I believe him. There's no one who knows N.J. ed politics better than JJ.

I never meant to imply that the bridge scandal and Christie's zero chances of running for president in 2016 were the main reasons, anyway. We all know by now what drives guys like Cerf. Like his former boss, Joel Klein, who left his post as Bloomberg's school chief in N.Y. for Murdoch's greener pastures, only to return with Amplify contracts in hand, Cerf has dollar signs in his eyes.


NJEA Pres.Wendell Steinhauer expressed concerns that Cerf’s new position will allow him to profit from the “misguided mandates” he has brought to New Jersey schools, including the new teacher evaluation system linked to upcoming PARCC standardized tests.
“While it is clearly a very good career move for Commissioner Cerf, he leaves New Jersey at a time when schools, educators and students are struggling with these new mandates. As a result of his rush to impose costly and unproven high-stakes testing in New Jersey, districts are spending money they don’t have to implement testing they do not need,” Steinhauer said in a statement released today. “Educators are being subjected to a poorly understood and badly implemented evaluation system that relies far too heavily on the kind of costly assessment and student data systems that Mr. Cerf’s new employer helps districts implement, for a cost.”
I don't know, but I think "concern" may be to soft a word here. It's this revolving door between the ed bureaucracy and ed corporate complex that makes the Ownership Society's wheels go round.


Funniest moment (as least for me) came yesterday during Christie's visit to Chicago on a fundraising trip for the RGA, when he blamed his Bridgegate scandal on the "lack of civility" in Washington. Does he think we've forgotten? In case you have, here's a reminder:

 I can use a lot of words for Washington D.C. ‘civilized’ would not be one of them.” -- Chris Christie 

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Cerf jumps Christie's ship in N.J. Goes to work for Murdoch

Cerf hooks up with Murdoch

Darling of scandalized Gov. Chris Christie and the state's corporate school "reformers," Chris Cerf is out as New Jersey schools chief. Cerf said Monday he will leave his $141,500-a-year job on Feb. 28 to become chief executive of  international criminal Rupert Murdoch's Amplify Insight ed tech firm. He's following his old boss, Joel Klein, who was New York City schools chancellor, over to Murdoch. Cerf was Klein’s deputy from 2006 to 2009.

It was 59-year-old Democrat Cerf who brokered a landmark tenure law with AFT Pres. Randi Weingarten, a contract which bases teacher evaluation largely on student test scores, and who has approved 37 N.J. charter schools. He was also a key player in the deal to bring $100 million in Mark Zuckerberg money into the corporate reformers' pockets.

Cerf said the timing of his decision had nothing to do with the gov's fall from grace and praised Christie for being “truly an authentic believer in school reform.”
“None,” he said of the timing in relation to the burgeoning scandals. “The answer is none, absolutely none.”
Translation: Of course it has everything to do with it.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Billionaire corporate school reformer Mandel, buys a 'pipeline' to CT Gov. Malloy

Stephen Mandel, Jr. Net Worth $1.8 B (Forbes)
If you're a billionaire hedge-funder and corporate school reformer like Stephen Mandel, and you want a direct line to the governor's office, you buy one.

Mandel, the founder of the Lone Pine Capital hedge fund in Greenwich, is one of the biggest financial backers of CT Gov. Malloy, having  spent over $500,000 supporting the governor's agenda.

He's also chairman of the board of trustees at Dartmouth College and a member of the Harvard Business School’s board of dean’s advisers as well as member of the board of directors at Teach for America. Mandel, a one-time Goldman Sachs analyst, became a managing director at Tiger Management, a now-closed hedge fund whose especially high returns often made headlines. Business writers as a result often have referred to him as a “tiger cub” since his founding of Lone Pine Capital in 1997.

Gov. Malloy
His private foundation is paying three “fellows” to develop public policy in Malloy's office and two state departments. The foundation and its executive director, Meghan Lowney, has played a major role in shaping Connecticut’s education policy — particularly in the state’s failed takeover of the Bridgeport Board of Education.

That's the one that led to the illegal hiring and then un-hiring of Paul Vallas.  

Writes Wait, What? Blogger Jonathan Pelto:
Mandel and his aide, Meghan Lowney, played the pivotal role in the creation of Excel Bridgeport, Inc. the corporate funded education reform advocacy group that supported Malloy’s education reform bill, worked to pass Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch’s failed charter revision proposal to do away with an elected board of education in Bridgeport and has been the biggest boosters for Paul Vallas and Kenneth Moales Jr, the disgraced former chair of the Bridgeport Board of Education.
Lowney, together with Nate Snow, the executive director of the Connecticut chapter of Teach for America, had founded Excel Bridgeport, a proponent of the state takeover. One of the biggest opponents of that move, retired state Superior Court Judge Carmen L. Lopez, dubbed Lowney “the conspirator in chief”’ of the “coup that led to the illegal removal of a democratically elected Board of Education by the state.” 

The foundation claims its fellowship program is designed to select “emerging leaders from across the nation” so that they can have “the opportunity and support to further develop leadership skills while working in high-level projects in Connecticut.”

Those chosen receive annual salaries of between $50,000 and $70,000 plus medical and other benefits and function as “employees on loan, in-kind to the partnering public office,” according to the foundation. 
“Fellows work with senior officials on policy projects that address ever-changing issues and challenges,” it says, adding that they “may perform research relative to legislation, serve as an intermediary between different agencies or offices, or lead special projects.”
The foundation adds that one of its goals is to “develop a sustainable public leadership pipeline in Connecticut,” and that another is to “provide ad hoc support for the office in which they are placed.”

Yes, sustainable -- big time. 

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

How the early small schools movement was 'reformed' to death

If you're interested in the history of the early Small Schools Movement and how it was, to quote Michelle Fine, "coopted and commodified", by corporate school reformers and the power philanthropists, get a copy of Critical Small Schools: Beyond Privatization in New York City Urban Education Reform (edited by Maria Hantzopoulos, Alia R. Tyner).

CUNY Prof Michelle Fine, one of the movement's dynamic leaders, writes a powerful and sobering foreward. It's a great companion to our own book, Small Schools: Public School Reform Meets the Ownership Society. If you're a New Yorker, get a copy of each  for Mayor de Blasio and Carmen Fariña too, please.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Bruce Rauner's charter school, a pawn in his political game

Rauner boasts that he started a charter school.

Billionaire candidate for governor, Bruce Rauner and charter operator Mike Milkie, are trying to play Rauner Charter School for all its worth. Rauner's using it for political reasons, Milkie, it seems, for personal gain.

The school's teachers and students have become pawns in Rauner's campaign publicity game. Until today that is, when an expose in the Sun-Times could bring the game to a grinding halt.

Although he brags in his campaign commercials, about starting a charter school (because, "there’s no excuse for failing schools. Zero. None. Period") he, along with CEO Mike Milkie and the school's operators are now forced to put a little distance between Rauner and the Rauner College Prep.

From the Sun-Times
Rauner, a venture capitalist and member of Noble’s 20-member board, says: “I’ve never had a role in day-to-day operations at Noble or, frankly, in almost anything I get involved with. My role is generally as a board member or kind of an adviser providing overall strategic advice or feedback. . . .
The S-T says, Rauner has given about $2.5 million to Noble. His family foundation has also given about $4 million to other organizations that operate or support charter schools.
Though Noble teachers make less than those at CPS, Milkie makes nearly as much as Chicago schools chief executive Barbara Byrd-Bennett, who is paid $250,000. 
Milke milks his charters

Ironically, it's Chicago who's made out like a bandit off Rauner.
Ironically, it's Gery Chico who seems to be making out like a bandit off of Rauner's charter. Ironically because Chico was appointed chairman of the Illinois State Board of Education by Rauner's likely opponent, Gov. Quinn.  Charter operator Milkie has thrown a lot of school business Chico's way. The S-T reports their relationship dates back to 1998, when Chico was president of the Chicago Board of Education — which gave Milkie permission to start Noble. After leaving the school board, Chico and his law firm were paid $239,363 by Noble for legal work in the 2009-10 school year. Chico’s firm has continued to work for Noble even after he was appointed by Quinn in May 2011.

Milkie and Rauner have also been able to get the state of Illinois (Quinn and Chico) to loan Noble $42 million by issuing bonds, which could cost the school $85 million in principal and interest by the due date of 2040, bond records show. The bonds are repaid with taxes. Noble also borrowed $13 million through the Mayor's tax-credit financing program. Not a bad deal for the charters as Rahm is closing dozens of schools in the city's black and Latino neighborhoods. Rauner claims he didn’t know Chico had worked for Noble.

Yeah, right.

Interesting stat:  Milkie and Rauner like to boast that their charter sends 90% of its kids to college. But the S-T reports that 2/3 of them fail to earn a degree within 6 years. 

Then there's the question of whether Rauner would ever send his own kid to Rauner Charter School or to any charter? Remember, he used his clout and a phone call to Arne Duncan to get his daughter into Walter Payton, a selective enrollment school, through the back door.

Also see the accompanying S-T piece on how the would-be Republican candidate for Illinois governor took control of the Academy of Communications and Technology Charter School that teachers Sarah Howard and Michelle Smith started, dumped Sarah as executive director, and then suspended operations for two years, before handing the teacher-led school over to a national charter school operator.

And then there's the UNO connection.
Rauner’s family charity has contributed $800,000 to the scandal-tarred United Neighborhood Organization in recent years, including $750,000 to help expand the Hispanic community group’s network of 16 charter schools in Chicago
 Rauner says he wasn’t aware UNO used some of his money to make up for the suspended state funding.

Yeah right. And Chris Christie didn't know about the bridge.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Suit: D.C. charter operators dumping 350 special needs kids after diverting funds to their for-profit company

Options former chief executive Donna Montgomery
In D.C., Attorney General Irvin B. Nathan filed a civil lawsuit against several Options Charter School  managers and a former board member accusing them of diverting millions of dollars from the school to two for-profit companies they owned and operated.

He's trying to stop the Public Charter School Board (PCSB) from closing of the school, which would leave hundred of special-needs kids out in the cold.
It’s enough that they face enormous challenges, including blindness, dyslexia and severe emotional disorders. Now, the more than 350 special-needs children at Options Public Charter School must suffer cavalier charter officials who apparently have little regard for their academic futures. -- Washington Post
In her Post opinion piece, Jonetta Rose Barras asks:
Is the PCSB dumping children to improve its schools’ ratings? In 2013, Stanford University researchers found, “The charter sector [nationwide] is getting better on average not because existing schools are getting dramatically better. It is largely driven by the closure of schools.” The District has closed 35 charter schools since 1996. 
 In the comments section of the article, drbilllemoine writes:
It should be plain by now that charter schools favor those evading majority black schools, old and poorly maintained buildings, aiming to discredit public schools and legally populate elitist school enrollments. I was there when home schooling started and saw charter schools start in the deep south, but it's not limited to the old confederacy states as we know. Instead of rehashing the processes of re-segretation by some dimension, let's look at the alternative that works for everybody.