As a nation we often talk about the importance of educating our children, but sometimes we talk the talk more than we walk the walk. In Michigan, a year-long investigation conducted by the Detroit Free Press showed that Michigan taxpayers pour nearly $1 billion a year into charter schools but fail to hold the schools accountable.
The investigation found that the lack of oversight allowed charter schools to cheat students out of a good education. The Free Press found “wasteful spending, conflicts of interest, poor performing schools and a failure to close the worst of the worst.”
In Michigan, specifically, the Free Press reports:
Technology is radically transforming the ways we work and the ways we learn, nowhere more so than in the world of online education. But will the shape of the future be drawn solely by corporate leaders in the technology industry, or will parents, students and teachers have a voice in what tomorrow’s digital classroom looks like?
As the online education sector grows, the public’s stake in that question becomes ever more paramount. One way in which virtual teachers are seeking to ensure that the pursuit of profits does not come at the expense of students, parents and educators is by organizing to join the California Teachers Association. (Disclosure: CTA is a financial supporter of Capital & Main).
Below is the first in our series of posts written by teachers at the California Virtual Academies (CAVA), an affiliate of K12, a for-profit,
On Tuesday a coalition of faculty, legislators, staff and students (pictured above) marched to Governor Jerry Brown’s office in support of greatly increased funding for the California State University system. Governor Brown’s budget for the 2014-2015 fiscal year includes $142.2 million for the beleaguered CSU system, a five percent increase in its budget. Kevin Wehr, a sociology professor at CSU Sacramento and one of the marchers, said that “the governor’s proposal is welcome but it’s not nearly enough. [The cuts to the CSU budget] were massive, deep and really hurt the ability to deliver a quality public education.”
During the recession, many state programs were hit hard by budget cuts. However, the economic downturn took a particularly devastating toll on the state university system. More than a billion dollars was slashed from its budget as California dealt with the recession. Only a small fraction has since been restored.
The CSU system faces numerous problems.
Reagan Duncan has taught a combined kindergarten-first grade class in Vista for 10 years. When she heard about Tuesday’s ruling in the Vergara v. California trial, she feared the worst. The case’s plaintiffs sought to throw out the state’s job protections for its teachers on the grounds that the safeguards make it impossible to dismiss “grossly ineffective” teachers.
“My first thought,” Duncan told Capital & Main, “was that it’s going to make it harder for well-run school districts to operate classes for our students – and worse for poorly run districts. The laws in place for dealing with teachers who struggle in the classroom have been working. I’ve seen teachers let go – it’s just not true that they never are.”
The bench trial, which began January 27 and unfolded over 10 weeks, was funded by Students Matter on behalf of nine public school students who claim that California’s policies violate the civil rights of students – particularly those of low-income and minority students – by denying them a quality education.
A Los Angeles judge ruled today that California’s public school teacher job protections are unconstitutional. The ruling, issued as a tentative decision, was immediately stayed by the Superior Court Judge, Rolf Treu, pending appeal.
The potentially far-reaching case, Vergara v. California, was brought on behalf of nine schoolchildren, who claimed the retention of “grossly ineffective” teachers through five due-process statutes violated their civil rights. They were organized by Students Matter, a Menlo Park nonprofit created by Silicon Valley entrepreneur David Welch, who had hired the white shoe law firm Gibson Dunn & Crutcher to represent the nine at the bench trial before Judge Treu.
Treu, appointed by Republican Governor Pete Wilson in 1995, found “that both students and teachers are unfairly, unnecessarily, and for no legally cognizable reason – let alone a compelling one – disadvantaged by the current permanent employment statute.”
The commission charged with accrediting California’s two-year community colleges convened its three-day semiannual meeting in Sacramento yesterday morning. Conspicuously absent from the public agenda, however, is any mention of the action that has brought down an unprecedented firestorm of controversy onto the publicity-shy agency — its disaccreditation of the state’s largest community college.
At least the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) hasn’t included the fate of City College of San Francisco (CCSF) on its schedule for Friday’s public portion of the meeting. What’s on the program for the first two days — the sessions when the agency makes its substantive findings and decisions — is anyone’s guess. That part of the meeting is conducted in secret.
What is now certain is that no 11th-hour reprieve from the school’s approaching date with de-accreditation will be forthcoming. Supporters of the embattled college had been holding out hope that the commission would use the meeting to announce an extension to the July 31 termination deadline it set for the school’s accreditation during last June’s secret sessions.
For those with Internet access, free online classes from Ivy League universities, taught by some of the world’s top professors, are just a click away. But to a grassroots coalition of organizations representing hundreds of thousands of college and university educators, there’s a reason this promise seems too good to be true.
The Campaign for the Future of Higher Education (CFHE), comprised of the California Faculty Association (a financial supporter of Capital & Main), the National Education Association, the California Community College Association and the American Federation of Teachers, along with dozens of other education and labor groups, is urging the public to not believe the hype. The CFHE is also asking the top three promoters of massive open online courses, commonly known as MOOCs, to tone down their claims and come clean about their main goal – to make a profit.
Online courses have been available since the1990s,
Twice a year Sacramento goes into a frenzy analyzing the state budget. First, in January, the Governor releases his proposed budget, then the “May Revise” appears as the Governor adjusts projections and heeds advice from Senators and Assembly members. The budget, however, is more than a long economic document. It becomes part of the Governor’s legacy, it’s a statement of his priorities, how he will want to be remembered and what he believes will be best for Californians.
Governor Jerry Brown is shaping a legacy based on fiscal responsibility. He wants to be remembered as the Governor who solved the debt crisis and bequeathed fiscal stability to California. Unlike his predecessor, Governor Brown has invested in education, by creating a solvent K-12 system and reinvesting, albeit modestly, in public higher education. However, he is missing some crucial elements that will undermine this success: namely, an investment in low-income families. The Governor forgot that it is working families who most need fiscal solvency.
Charter schools that receive public money should be held to the same standards as traditional public schools. That’s just common sense.
Unfortunately, many charter schools throughout the country don’t provide all students equitable access, and aren’t transparent and accountable when it comes to public funds.
The House Rules Committee has the opportunity to ensure that a major bill being voted on this week in Congress—H.R. 10, the Success and Opportunity through Quality Charter Schools Act—would require that public charters meet high standards of equitable access, accountability and transparency. To do that, the Rules Committee needs to allow several important amendments to H.R. 10 to come to the floor for a vote. These amendments will help reclaim the promise of public education and require publicly funded schools to operate with integrity.
Large corporate lobbies have, in recent years, accelerated their push to expand private charter schools. America spends nearly three quarters of a trillion dollars on public education annually and companies such as “cyber-charter” giant, K12 Inc., Rupert Murdoch’s Amplify and Rocketship, a darling of the venture capital industry, see a pot of gold.
A new report by In the Public Interest Scholar Network member Gordon Lafer, for the Economic Policy Institute, examines recent proposals by Wisconsin state legislators to privatize schools, particularly in Milwaukee, and finds that the proposals won’t help poor kids.
How? The proposals call for public schools in the largest and poorest school district to be replaced with private charter schools that substitute online apps for teachers for a significant part of the day. This “blended learning” model primarily focuses on math, literacy and test preparation, while paying minimal attention to other subjects. Also, money earmarked for Milwaukee students is diverted to fund the company’s ambitious growth plans in other cities.
Nina Revoyr is the author of four acclaimed novels, including Southland, The Age of Dreaming and Wingshooters. She is also executive vice president of Children’s Institute in Los Angeles and has taught at Pitzer and Occidental colleges, and at Antioch and Cornell universities. Revoyr will be this year’s keynote speaker at the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy’s Women for a New Los Angeles Luncheon on May 9. We recently spoke to her about her work and Los Angeles’ place in it.
Your first novel, A Necessary Hunger, dealt with two young girls on the cusp of adulthood. What are the particular challenges young people of color face growing up in Los Angeles today?
I can’t speak to all young people of color,
You’d think that that public television would support public education, but you’d be wrong. The Public Broadcasting System (PBS) has gotten in bed with the billionaires and conservatives who want to privatize our public schools. PBS has nary a word to say about the big money — from folks like the Walton family (Walmart), Microsoft founder Bill Gates, Eli Broad, business titan and former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, media mogul Rupert Murdoch, Joel Klein (former NYC schools chancellor and now a Murdoch employee), and their ilk — that has been funding the attack on public schools and teachers unions. They’ve donated big bucks to advocacy groups, think tanks, and candidates for school boards who echo their party line.
PBS and its local stations have fallen all over themselves to promote Waiting for Superman, a documentary film that could easily been mistaken for a commercial on behalf of charter schools.
Like thousands of family child care providers across Los Angeles County, Ramona Duran’s day begins at a frantic pace. While most Angelenos are still asleep, Ramona is up before sunrise preparing for the first family to arrive at 5 a.m. at the Long Beach day care center she operates. She checks on the status of a healthy breakfast cooking in the kitchen and makes some last minute arrangements of the play area. Ramona’s Day Care is not a baby-sitting service; it is the center of her community and a labor of love. What she loves most is taking care of the “little ones” and helping families.
“I help the family to go to school, to go to work [and] go to the doctor,” Ramona says. She truly enables families to thrive.
Unfortunately, thousands of women who serve our youngest and most at-risk children struggle to make ends meet — family child care providers earn less than $20,000 per year.
Today in Los Angeles attorneys will offer closing arguments in Vergara v. California, a lawsuit funded by Silicon Valley millionaire David Welch and others with ties to the school privatization movement under the banner of a front organization called Students Matter. The suit wrongly attacks as unconstitutional California statutes covering teacher employment, including the current two-year probationary period, the due process protections built into teacher dismissal and layoff procedures that value experience over more arbitrary factors.
That the probationary period is even an issue is a little mind-boggling; if a principal can have a teacher on staff for two years and still have no idea if that teacher is effective, he or she probably has no business being a principal. At trial, award-winning superintendents and principals have testified that two years is more than enough time to decide whether to keep a teacher on staff and,
Are job protections for teachers to blame for educational underachievement among low-income students of color in California? That’s the provocative question ostensibly at the heart of Vergara vs. California, which seeks to invalidate the tenure, due process and seniority rights of hundreds of thousands of educators.
Astute observers of the nation’s escalating education wars, however, may be asking another question: When did it become permissible to use the welfare of children as a fig leaf for an all-out legal attack on teachers?
Or, as historian and teacher John Thompson wrote recently in Scholastic, “Are corporate reformers unabashedly using the courts as a battleground for battering employees’ rights, as opposed to helping children?”
Sadly, the answer to Thompson’s question appears to be an unequivocal yes. For while the outcome of Vergara will have far-reaching national implications, it is hardly unique in its attempt to scapegoat teachers for sub-par educational performance.
Last week’s testimony in the Vergara v. California trial raised many an eyebrow when Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) Superintendent John E. Deasy testified on behalf of plaintiffs in a lawsuit whose defendants had originally included LAUSD.
Despite its supporters’ protests to the contrary, Vergara is widely seen as a frontal attack against statutory guarantees of due process and seniority rights for state teachers. The suit is the brainchild of Students Matter, a Bay Area nonprofit created by wealthy Silicon Valley entrepreneur David Welch and partly financed by L.A. billionaire Eli Broad.
Under friendly direct examination by plaintiff attorney Marcellus McRae, the superintendent offered testimony that supported the suit’s contentions that the way in which teachers are fired, laid off and granted tenure has an adverse impact on the overall quality of the teacher workforce and illegally discriminates against low-income and minority students.
Ted Mitchell, the former Occidental College president nominated by the White House to become Under Secretary of Education, is the founder and CEO of NewSchools Venture Fund, a nonprofit whose goal, according to its tax records, is “to transform public education through powerful ideas and passionate entrepreneurs so that all children – especially those in underserved communities – have the opportunity to succeed.”
Judging by a look at the group’s website, another part of its agenda may be to gut the seniority rights and other job protections currently enjoyed by California’s public school teachers.
This week the site began prominently featuring news about the Vergara v. California trial now unfolding in Los Angeles Superior Court. When called for comment, a NewSchools spokesman said Mitchell’s group was taking no position on the case.
“We believe it’s an important case with broad implications for education,” the spokesman said.
The national debate over the quality of public school education and its teachers shifts to a courtroom this morning as day one of Vergara v. California opens in Los Angeles County Superior Court.
Filed on behalf of nine student plaintiffs (including Beatriz and Elizabeth Vergara), the suit seeks to wipe out the core of state teacher employment rights by overturning five California statutes that it claims make it too difficult to dismiss ineffective teachers.
The lawsuit was originally filed in the spring of 2012 by Students Matter, a Bay Area nonprofit created by the wealthy Silicon Valley entrepreneur David Welch and financed partly by L.A. billionaire Eli Broad.
That’s when Students Matter revealed the names of an advisory committee that reads like a Who’s Who of privatized education interests. Heading the list is Students First,
The battle to keep City College of San Francisco open and accredited took a dramatic turn late Thursday afternoon. San Francisco Superior Court Judge Curtis Karnow temporarily barred the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) from revoking accreditation for the 79-year-old school that serves about 80,000 students at 11 San Francisco campuses. The ACCJC, the agency charged with evaluating California’s 112 community colleges, had sought to revoke CCSF’s accreditation by July 31; it was challenged by several lawsuits filed by San Francisco’s City Attorney and a pair of teachers unions.
Judge Karnow, while dismissing the unions’ suits, ruled in favor of the city attorney’s request for a temporary injunction against the accreditation revocation, declaring that CCSF’s shutdown would be too extreme a response to the ACCJC’s findings of administrative deficiencies at CCSF. “Those consequences would be catastrophic,” Karnow said of a shutdown.
Lawyers for the ACCJC unsuccessfully argued for a dismissal of all challenges to its institutional authority and expertise in determining accreditation standards.
Before Capital & Main emerged from our earlier blog, Frying Pan News, writers Vivivan Rothstein and Steven Mikulan took in a movie now and then. Here are excerpts from some of their 2013 reviews.
12 Years a Slave Towering profiles of moss-hung oaks, silhouetted against languid Southern sunsets, form some of the indelible images from Steve McQueen’s new film. So too do gruesome close-ups of the scarred backs of antebellum slaves, whose skin has hardened to bark by years of whippings. This is the central visual paradox in 12 Years a Slave, which contrasts quiet moments of primeval, pastoral beauty with the loud, primitive violence practiced by plantation owners. (Steven Mikulan)
Go Public I wanted to cry after watching Go Public: A Day in the Life of an American School District.