Did you know that one of the fastest growing sectors of the charter school industry is the “virtual” charter school, where K-12 students learn from home in front of their computers? No school buildings, no recess with friends, no shared learning. It’s true. The largest virtual charter company, a publicly traded corporation called K12, Inc., provides education to over 120,000 public school students across the country. Last year, it made more than $900 million in revenue, most of it taxpayer money earmarked for public education.
But virtual charters are starting to pile up bad news and serious questions about their priorities. A study released last week by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) found that students attending virtual charters learn significantly less in math and reading than similar students attending brick-and-mortar schools. So significantly less that the Washington Post’s Lyndsey Layton wrote,
Eva Moskowitz’s Success Academy Charter Schools were recently exposed for having a “Got to Go” list of students, which singles out the children they would like to see leave through suspensions, counseling-out, or by not sending annual re-enrollment forms.
Charter schools receive taxpayer dollars under the premise that they will provide an education for all children. When charter schools accept the money but weed out, suspend or discourage students from attending their school using “zero tolerance” disciplinary codes, they hurt children, their families and the community — while perpetuating the school-to-prison pipeline.
This is why we’re glad to support Fatima Geidi, a mother of a Success Academy Charter School student, who has started a petition to Tell the U.S. Department of Education to Stop Funding the Kindergarten to Prison Pipeline.
Moskowitz’s aggressive suspension policies are part of a national trend of criminalizing black and brown youth,
Last month, the Los Angeles Times released a terrifying confidential roadmap for privatizing L.A.’s schools that was produced by billionaire Eli Broad. Broad plans to raise and spend $490 million to create enough privately operated charter schools to house half of the city’s public school students.
The “Broad Plan” is an ambitious, all-sided assault on public schools, potentially funded by money from a who’s who of the nation’s billionaires, including the Walton heirs, Elon Musk, and Steven Spielberg.
Broad’s strategy is to compete directly with the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) for what he calls “market share,” by more than doubling the number of charters already in the city. Diane Ravitch writes that Broad wants to “decimate the remaining public schools by draining them of students and resources.” Former LAUSD board president and state Assemblywoman Jackie Goldberg calls it a plan to “privatize and destroy public education.”
Just imagine what these resources—which are in the Broad Plan budget—could do for L.A.’s existing public schools:
“It is too far gone, let’s start over again.” That is the growing consensus of opinion after years of rising tensions and escalating concerns about the methods and practices of the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC). The organization has accredited California’s community colleges for more than 50 years, but now faces losing the authority to put its stamp of approval on the two-year colleges.
In a major policy shift, California Community Colleges Chancellor Brice Harris and a task force of administrators, faculty, trustees and accreditation liaisons have called for “the investigation of all available avenues for establishing a new model for accreditation.” In other words: Find a new commission. The recommendation is contained in the Chancellor’s Report on Accreditation, released in August.
“The time has come,” the report pointedly concluded,
If there were still any doubt about Eli Broad’s desire to gut traditional public education, it has been erased by his much-discussed “Great Public Schools Now” initiative, a draft of which LA Times reporter Howard Blume obtained last month.
Broad’s 44-page proposal outlines plans to replace half of LAUSD’s existing public schools with charter schools. “Such an effort will gather resources, help high-quality charters access facilities, develop a reliable pipeline of leadership and teaching talent, and replicate their success,” states the document. “If executed with fidelity, this plan will ensure that no Los Angeles student remains trapped in a low-performing school.”
According to the proposal, Broad wants to create 260 new “high-quality charter schools, generate 130,000 high-quality charter seats and reach 50 percent charter market share.”
(Actually, LAUSD has 151,000 kids in charters now: 281,000 out of 633,000 LAUSD students is 43 percent. This isn’t the only imprecision in the proposal.)
The estimated cost of this LAUSD transformation would be nearly half-a-billion dollars.
Last week, the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) released striking data about the rapid turnover of charter schools. CMD’s state-by-state list of closed charters shows that, since 2000, these schools have failed at a much higher rate than traditional public schools. And over this time, millions of federal dollars went to groups planning to start charter schools that never even opened.
Instead of giving children the ‘disruption’ of a school closure, we should do everything we can to give every child access to a great school.
Earlier this month, teachers and school staff in Seattle did just that. After a five-day strike, they won a better education for students at traditional public schools across the city. Elementary school students now have guaranteed daily recess, which many parents had wanted, and special education teachers will teach smaller, more individualized classes.
There now is a flow of fresh cultural monuments in Los Angeles that runs from the High School of the Arts over to Disney Hall. This includes, of course, the 36-year-old Museum of Contemporary Art, with which billionaire philanthropist Eli Broad was once deeply involved, and which Broad’s new art museum now competes with. All of a 30-year sudden, we have a cultural downtown center, complete with a hinterland of new bars, stores, costly restos and so on.
Little is left of the downtown of 40 years ago – or of its scruffy arts bohemia. But that is the way of these things: Yupster egg joints are replacing the old Grand Central Market stalls that sold fruit for 20 cents a pound, new buildings arise on former parking lots where dead people sometimes turned up in the cars of those who worked overnight nearby.
The Broad museum (it’s officially called “The Broad”) looks like a mammoth white-enameled Claes Oldenburg version of a Sur La Table cheese grater.
“We’re not here because Mr. Kaplan helped us do better on standardized tests,” said one of the nearly one thousand students, former students, teachers, and friends gathered Sunday in the auditorium of Hamilton High School on Robertson to honor the beloved teacher Alan Kaplan who died August 29th.
Mr. Kaplan taught history and psychology in Hamilton’s Humanities Magnet program for 33 years. Through his teaching Kaplan was determined to do something about the achievement gap between white students and students of color. “He was devoted to helping students understand the process, the psychology and the history of racism in our country, believing it would be therapeutic,” said a colleague. Using “The Peoples’ History of the United States” by Howard Zinn as his history text, Kaplan’s lesson plans connected students to what was happening beyond the school walls. “He opened up the world to us” was how a former student,
Next spring, the U.S. Supreme Court will decide a case that could threaten the economy and American democracy. Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association asks the justices to consider overturning a 1977 Supreme Court unanimous ruling (Abood v. Detroit Board of Education) that protected the right of teachers, nurses, librarians, firefighters and other public workers to form unions. The Abood case emphasized that these workers act as the middle class’ backbone by providing quality public services and ensuring healthy communities.
In Abood, the Court ruled that every public worker who benefits from collective bargaining could be required to pay their fair share for those efforts. It’s a basic democratic principle.
For a preview of what will happen if the Court sides with the plaintiffs in Friedrichs, we should look at Wisconsin. In 2011,
As the edge of summer burns into early autumn, students across the country are going back to school. Most are returning to friends and meeting teachers, but students at Illinois’ Barrington High School are arriving this year to signs that read, “Can’t live on $8.50,” and shouts of “Devuelvenos nuestros salarios!” (Give us back our wages!)
A majority of the school’s contracted janitors—organized by the Service Employees International Union—are striking because, after the Barrington school district renewed a contract with its employer in June, their wages were cut from $9.77 an hour. Already without sick days and health insurance, the janitors are now faced with even lower poverty wages.
As our publication, Making the Grade? Questions to Ask About School Services Privatization, discusses, school districts often don’t save money when they outsource support positions rather than keep them in-house. When contractors aim to maximize profit,
For some people, renting a house or apartment in San Francisco is easy. If your gross pay adds up to $200,000 a year, for example, you might feel fine about sinking a third of this year’s salary into a bright, one-bedroom South Beach loft, or a two-bedroom loft with a view in the Castro District . On less money – say, around $100,000 in take-home pay – you could reasonably afford a Union Square studio, or a 550-square-foot studio for $2,800 in Pacific Heights. Even if you invest no more than a third of your income in rent (the traditionally recommended ceiling), you could live in a one-bedroom apartment in Ingleside, near the San Francisco State University campus. You would have options.
But say you actually work on campus — as a teacher, librarian or groundskeeper. Say you want to go to school there, and not have to commute more than a dozen miles in the morning.
Earlier this month, in yet another win for local control, leaders in one central Florida county rejected a proposal from a for-profit library management company to take over their public library. The company, Library Systems & Services (LSSI), operates at least 80 public libraries across the country, but Marion County joins a growing list of municipalities that realized that LSSI’s claim to do more with less while still making a profit was a greater fiction than even Stephen King’s best stories.
In 2010, the chief executive of LSSI admitted to the New York Times that the company saves money by cutting overhead and replacing unionized employees. “Cutting overhead” can mean fewer services and reduced hours. Privatized libraries make up for less professional staff by depending on unpaid volunteers and automation. Of course, when outsourcing relies on cutbacks in wages and benefits to realize savings,
If it becomes law, a reform bill now in the state legislature will mark a milestone in the two-year effort to rein in the secretive but powerful private organization responsible for accrediting California’s 112 public community colleges. The target of Assembly Bill 1397 is the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC), which was recently thwarted from terminating the accreditation of the City College of San Francisco (CCSF), mostly for issues stemming from the academically high-rated school’s Great Recession-battered finances.
The political firestorm sparked by the unelected commission’s effort to effectively close CCSF turned a spotlight of publicity on the darker policy corners of the commission, revealing an almost comically rogue culture of nepotism, free-market radicalism and mandarin indifference to the lives of students and teachers. But now the commission finds itself caught in that light once more,
A recent report found more than $200 million in charter school fraud, waste and self-dealing. Headlines regularly tell the story of money stolen and sudden, midyear charter school closures that leave children without a school and teachers unable to serve their students. Meanwhile, the Walton Family Foundation is spending hundreds of millions to promote the rapid expansion of charter schools, while advocating for deregulation and minimal oversight.
Public school advocates have produced an 11-point accountability agenda that would reduce charter school corruption and stop the weakening of neighborhood public schools. The agenda calls for increased accountability (through open board meetings, publicly available budgets and contracts, and rigorous audits); protecting neighborhood schools (through impact analyses and financial assessments of the effects of local schools); and protecting taxpayer funds (by ensuring the public retains control of public property,
It’s no secret that former U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich has some misgivings about the direction of the American economy. But the prolific writer, radio commentator and longtime University of California, Berkeley professor isn’t thrilled about how we are educating our kids, either.
As part of a new project with the activist group MoveOn.org, Reich recently released a video that described our education system as “squashing passion for learning, eroding the love of teaching and grinding up generations of young people.” The critique is accompanied by a set of proposals to reinvent American education – one of 10 planks in a broader agenda titled “10 Ideas to Save the Economy.”
Reich has addressed the nation’s education challenges in his books, including 2011’s Aftershock: The Next Economy and America’s Future, as well as in his 2013 film Inequality for All (available on NetFlix,
Move lips, move minds and make new meanings flare.
— Seamus Heaney, “Beacons at Bealtaine”
During a time of political optimism in Northern Ireland when the peace process was beginning to take hold, Irish poet and Nobel laureate Seamus Heaney gave a talk at Queens University in Belfast about the potential power of poetic language. In a place where the “idioms of suspicion and accusation” were insidious and entrenched, Heaney hoped that a fluid approach to identity and language might provide an escape route from binary thinking and the “weary twisted emotions” of Northern Ireland’s “troubles.”
Heaney suggested that it was poets and other writers who could provide a “re-angling of perception” that might loosen the stranglehold the sectarian psyche had imposed upon the linguistic and political landscape. Given some room to move, a more unruly vocabulary could surface where Catholics might regard themselves as “Catestants,” and Protestants could see themselves as “Protholics” —
Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation has a digital education division called Amplify. A Bloomberg News article, “News Corp.’s $1 Billion Plan to Overhaul Education Is Riddled With Failures,” outlines the company’s efforts to cash in on education without positive results. Read more here.
Maria Bustillos shares her thoughts on our country’s failure to invest in higher education access and the mounting toll it is taking on students today.
This podcast is an encore posting from our State of Inequality series.
Elizabeth Fladung is a Brooklyn-based, CalArts-trained photojournalist. Her work has appeared in The Nation, La Repubblica, The Fader and Wax Poetics Magazine.
The latest legal assault on the right of the state’s public-sector unions to collect dues was filed in Los Angeles earlier this month by StudentsFirst, the Sacramento-based, national school-privatization organization.
The federal suit, Bain v. California Teachers Association, was brought on behalf of four California public school teacher union members who claim that the state’s current “fair share” rules infringe on their rights by forcing them to choose between paying for union-supported political causes with which they disagree or quitting the union. It seeks to bar unions from collecting dues money earmarked for political purposes as a condition of membership.
At stake are an estimated tens of millions of dollars — and a corresponding political clout — that unions stand to lose if the suit succeeds in making voluntary the 30 percent to 40 percent of dues that members currently pay for political activities.