Category Archives: Education and schools

Pennsylvania: Speaker of the House Berates Public Schools and Their Teachers, Praises Charters

By dianeravitch, September 22, 2019

Once again, we are reminded that charter schools are a Republican cause, and their champion is Betsy DeVos.

Mike Turzai, Republican Speaker of the House in Pennsylvania, was on his way to a meeting with Betsy DeVos when he encountered some public school teachers, who were picketing with signs saying they loved their public schools.

Turzai found this deeply offensive, and he proceeded to lambaste the teachers as a “special interest group” defending a “monopoly.”

In the video, Turzai praised charter schools, which receive government funding but operate independently of the public school system, saying that in charter schools. “you have to care about each child, not about the monopoly.” He then claimed that the public school advocates were part of a monopoly

“What you care about is a monopoly and special interests,” said Turzai, whose district encompasses the North Hills municipalities of McCandless, Pine, Marshall, Bradford Woods, and Franklin Park.

One of the advocates then said, “I am little offended from that,” to which Turzai responded, pointing to the posters they were holding, “Oh, I am offended by your posters.”

One poster read “I love public schools.” The other read “Public Money for Public Schools.”

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Carol Burris: Don’t Let Democratic Candidates Get Away With: “I’m Against For-Profit Charters”

By dianeravitch, July 7, 2019

Carol Burris, executive director of the Network for Public Education, writes here about the efforts by most Democratic candidates to avoid confronting the dangers of privatization:

When Democratic candidates are questioned about charter schools, many typically reply, “I am against for-profit charter schools.” Everyone cheers. Politicians have created a convenient (and false) dichotomy that says nonprofit charter schools are good, and for-profit charter schools are bad.

Don’t be fooled. There are now only 2 states that allow for-profit charter schools—Arizona and Wisconsin. California changed its laws.

However, 35 states allow for-profit Charter Management Organizations (CMOS) to run their nonprofit charter schools.

40% of the charter schools in Florida are run by for-profit charter management companies. While the individual charter is a nonprofit, it can turn over everything from hiring, to curriculum, to financial management to a for-profit corporation. In Michigan, 80% of the so-called nonprofit charter schools are run by for-profit companies.

To understand how this arrangement works, read this blog I wrote for the Answer Sheet on Florida’s charter schools. You will read about the Zulueta brothers who were on the board of an Academica charter school even while their for-profit real estate companies, including one in Panama, were leasing property to the schools.

Let me shock you a bit more. The National Alliance for (so-called) Public Charter Schools recently gave the controversial profiteer, Fernando Zulueta, an award at its national conference!

You probably know the names and reputations of the other big for-profit CMOs—BASIS, National Heritage, Academica, K12 and more.

The question candidates need to answer then are:

“Do you support for-profit Charter Management Organizations, and if you do not, what are you going to do about them?”

The most important questions to ask, however (and don’t let them off the hook), are whether they support the NAACP moratorium on new charter schools and “Will you stop the the federal funding of new charter schools?”

There is a reason the charter lobby never complains when a candidate says that he/she is against for-profit charter schools. It means nothing will change.

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A Culture War Against Tolerance – An Analysis

By Lawrence Davidson, To the Point Analyses, 7/16/17

Part I – Tolerance Amid Growing Intolerance

In case you haven’t noticed, the United States is a country deeply divided on a large number of basic issues: racial issues, gender issues, issues of sexual preference, the role of government in society, the role of religious views in shaping laws, and so on. Influential Institutions, such as media outlets, are being labeled as “left” or “right” depending on how they report or relate on these issues. Battles now rage on these topics in the halls of Congress. Finally, the Supreme Court’s legal decisions on cases that reflect these questions have been trending toward the “conservative” end of the spectrum. All of this makes it quite difficult to have a meaningful discussion or debate about such issues in the public realm. Such attempts have often led to further divisiveness instead of reconciliation – reflecting what some might describe as an ongoing culture war.

The one place where thoughtful debates are usually encouraged is on the university and colleges campuses. This is particularly so in the “humanities” and “social sciences” classrooms, where you find courses in history, English, foreign languages, sociology, anthropology, political science and the like. Such areas of study draw on diverse source material and examples. And so, running against the popular grain, so to speak, divisive issues often become legitimate aspects of study.

This process of study and discussion concerning controversial topics has been going on on U.S. campuses at least since the end of World War II. By the 1970s clear preferences as to how these issues should be thought about appeared. And, they consistently agreed with a tolerant stand that maximized the virtues of equality and social justice….

continue reading at To the Point Analyses

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The Network for Public Education Issues its Position Statement on Charter Schools

Network for Public Education, 5/31/17

The Network for Public Education believes that public education is the pillar of our democracy. We believe in the common school envisioned by Horace Mann. A common school is a public institution, which nurtures and teaches all who live within its boundaries, regardless of race, ethnicity, creed, sexual preference or learning ability. All may enroll–regardless of when they seek to enter the school or where they were educated before.

We believe that taxpayers bear the responsibility for funding those schools and that funding should be ample and equitable to address the needs of the served community. We also believe that taxpayers have the right to examine how schools use tax dollars to educate children.

Most importantly, we believe that such schools should be accountable to the community they serve, and that community residents have the right and responsibility to elect those who govern the school. Citizens also have the right to insist that schooling be done in a manner that best serves the needs of all children.

By definition, a charter school is not a public school. Charter schools are formed when a private organization contracts with a government authorizer to open and run a school. Charters are managed by private boards, often with no connection to the community they serve. The boards of many leading charter chains are populated by billionaires who often live far away from the schools they govern.

Through lotteries, recruitment and restrictive entrance policies, charters do not serve all children. The public cannot review income and expenditures in detail. Many are for profit entities or non-profits that farm out management to for-profit corporations that operate behind a wall of secrecy. This results in scandal, fraud, and abuse of taxpayer funds. The news is replete with stories of self-dealing, conflicts of interest, and theft occurring in charter schools [1].

We have learned during the 25 years in which charters have been in existence that the overall academic performance of students in charter schools is no better, and often worse, than the performance of students in public schools. And yet charter schools are seen as the remedy when public schools are closed based on unfair letter-based grading schemes.

By means of school closures and failed takeover practices like the Achievement School District, disadvantaged communities lose their public schools to charter schools. Not only do such communities lose the school, but they also lose their voice in school governance.

There is little that is innovative or new that charter schools offer. Because of their “freedom” from regulations, allegedly to promote innovation, scandals involving the finances and governance of charter schools occur on a weekly basis. Charter schools can and have closed at will, leaving families stranded. Profiteers with no educational expertise have seized the opportunity to open charter schools and use those schools for self-enrichment. States with weak charter laws encourage nepotism, profiteering by politicians, and worse.

For all of the reasons above and more, the Network for Public Education regards charter schools as a failed experiment that our organization cannot support. If the strength of charter schools is the freedom to innovate, then that same freedom can be offered to public schools by the district or the state.

At the same time, we recognize that many families have come to depend on charter schools and that many charter school teachers are dedicated professionals who serve their students well. It is also true that some charter schools are successful. We do not, therefore, call for the immediate closure of all charter schools, but rather we advocate for their eventual absorption into the public school system. We look forward to the day when charter schools are governed not by private boards, but by those elected by the community, at the district, city or county level.

Until that time, we support all legislation and regulation that will make charters better learning environments for students and more accountable to the taxpayers who fund them. Such legislation would include the following:

An immediate moratorium on the creation of new charter schools, including no replication or expansion of existing charter schools
The transformation of for-profit charters to non-profit charters
The transformation of for-profit management organizations to non-profit management organizations
All due process rights for charter students that are afforded public school students, in all matters of discipline
Required certification of all school teaching and administrative staff
Complete transparency in all expenditures and income
Requirements that student bodies reflect the demographics of the served community
Open meetings of the board of directors, posted at least 2 weeks prior on the charter’s website
Annual audits available to the public
Requirements to following bidding laws and regulations
Requirements that all properties owned by the charter school become the property of the local public school if the charter closes
Requirements that all charter facilities meet building codes
Requirements that charters offer free or reduced priced lunch programs for students
Full compensation from the state for all expenditures incurred when a student leaves the public school to attend a charter
Authorization, oversight and renewal of charters transferred to the local district in which they are located
A rejection of all ALEC legislation regarding charter schools that advocates for less transparency, less accountability, and the removal of requirements for teacher certification.

Until charter schools become true public schools, the Network for Public Education will continue to consider them to be private schools that take public funding.

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