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

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


"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.