Monday, July 29, 2019

In Case You Missed It – July 29, 2019

Here are links to last week's articles receiving the most attention in NEIFPE's social media. Keep up with what's going on, what's being discussed, and what's happening with public education.

Be sure to enter your email address in the Follow Us By Email box in the right-hand column to be informed when our blog posts are published.


All over the country, legislators are diverting tax dollars to vouchers, charter schools, and home schoolers. Why aren't those dollars subject to the same accountability and/or transparency that public schools must provide?

As we approach the next election season, this should be #1 in the list of "Questions asked by Education voters."

Vouchers, Discrimination And Corruption

From Sheila Kennedy
Indiana has the largest, most costly school voucher program in the country.

How wasteful/counterproductive is our state’s largesse to private (mostly religious) schools? Let me count the ways: the promised improvement in student achievement did not materialize; badly-needed funds have been diverted from the public schools that most Hoosier children still attend; taxpayers are subsidizing discrimination (schools getting millions of dollars are discharging teachers and counselors for the “sin” of being in same-sex marriages); and there are no requirements that recipients of vouchers teach civics.

Now we also find that the lack of oversight has facilitated a massive rip off of Hoosier taxpayers.

Portrait of a Charter Entrepreneur: Ron Packard

From Diane Ravitch
When we consider the charter industry, it’s hard not to notice how it has become fertile territory for entrepreneurs with no education experience.

Take a case in point: The meteoric career of Ron Packard.

Begin by reading this dated biography, posted on SourceWatch.

When it was written, Ron was making $5 million a year as CEO of the online charter chain K12 Inc. The company had a market value of more than $1.25 billion. Ron and former Secretary of Education Bill Bennett founded with startup money supplied by ex-felon and junk bond king MIchael Milken and Larry Ellison of Oracle.

California: Public Pays for Home School Trips to Disneyland

From Diane Ravitch
It is very cool to home school in California! There are charter schools for home schoolers where you don’t have to go to school!

Home schoolers get a list of approved expenses, and they can decide how to spend the public’s money. How cool is that! This is a program that Betsy DeVos must love! True educational freedom on the public’s dime!

Two Indiana virtual schools face swift closure as they shrug off blame for enrollment scandal

From Chalkbeat
The superintendent of a tiny Indiana school district that oversaw two scandal-plagued virtual charter schools read Thursday night from an eight-page script, recounting a series of missteps at Indiana Virtual School and Indiana Virtual Pathways Academy.

Those schools, which had been slated to close by the end of the 2019-2020 school year, had “let their students down,” Daleville Community Schools Superintendent Paul Garrison said at the sparsely attended meeting. “There are many things that led us to this place, but that has been the most disappointing failure of them all.”

That latest blunder — failing to tell students and families that the schools would be shutting their doors — will likely hasten the schools’ demise...

Georgia: K12 Inc. Proposes Another Virtual Charter School, for 8,000 Students

From Diane Ravitch
The Virtual Charter schools of for-profit K12 Inc. have been noted for high attrition, low test scores, low graduation rates, and high profits.

The corporation currently operates a virtual charter school in Georgia which is the largest “school” in the state but of course low-performing. Now it proposes to open another K-12 online charter that will eventually enroll 8,000 students. It will be career-focused, so even children in kindergarten can begin planning their careers.

Fortunately, even the charter advocates in Georgia are having second thoughts.


Ex-union chief for Indianapolis Public Schools teachers pleads guilty to embezzlement

Bad actors always need to be weeded out, but it is hoped that people are smart enough to realize that unions are still important.

Public school privatizers choose to divert money to charters and vouchers rather than to improve public schools. Instead, we ought to fix what might be broken. Similarly, our unions must be strengthened and leaders must be subject to the same accountability as in any other area of society.

From Chalkbeat
The former head of the Indianapolis Public Schools teachers union pleaded guilty Monday to embezzling more than $100,000, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Indiana.

Rhondalyn Cornett wrote checks from the union’s bank account and used the union’s debit card for personal expenses and cash withdrawals, the U.S. attorney’s office said, stealing more than $100,000.

Cornett, 54, resigned from the teachers union in November when her alleged mishandling of funds came to light.

Cornett, who led Indianapolis Education Association for five years, faces up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.


Justin Parmenter: Mega-Corporation Threatens Legal Action Against 3 North Carolina Teachers

From Diane Ravitch
Under normal circumstances, when a teacher disagreed with the state education department’s decision to switch from one test to another, it would be called a difference of opinion. Under normal circumstances, when teachers called attention to the state chief’s decision to ignore the recommendations of his evaluation team and pick a different assessment, it would be treated as criticism and grounds for debate.

When NBCT teacher Justin Parmenter and two other teachers in North Carolina called out their state superintendent for disregarding the recommendation of his evaluation committee and for choosing a product they rejected, the corporation owning the winning product threatened legal action to silence the teachers.


Monday, July 22, 2019

In Case You Missed It – July 22, 2019

Here are links to last week's articles receiving the most attention in NEIFPE's social media. Keep up with what's going on, what's being discussed, and what's happening with public education.

Be sure to enter your email address in the Follow Us By Email box in the right-hand column to be informed when our blog posts are published.

Read about charter scandals from NPE


New Orleans: One of City’s Oldest Charter Organizations Closes Down Amid Multiple Scandals

From Diane Ravitch
After allegations of grade-fixing and a major fiasco involving class credits that left dozens of students unable to graduate, the public charter board overseeing John F. Kennedy High voted Thursday night to surrender its charters to operate both of its schools.

The surrender of the charters, which will take place at the end of the 2019-20 school year, was approved unanimously by the New Beginnings Schools Foundation board.

The decision stemmed from a lengthy investigation into management problems at the charter network that led earlier to the resignation of its CEO, career educator Michelle Blouin-Williams, and the firing of five high-ranking administrators at Kennedy…


‘Teaching penalty’ large in Indiana

From School Matters
The salary gap between teachers and comparable professionals is larger in Indiana than in most other states, according to a new report from researchers at the Rutgers Graduate School of Education and the Albert Shanker Institute.

The report, “School Finance and Teacher Pay Competitiveness,” supports the argument that Hoosier teachers have fallen behind their peers in other states, despite Indiana’s healthy state budget.


Harvard graduate tapped to be South Bend schools’ empowerment zone chief

From the South Bend Tribune
Cheryl Nneka Camacho, who recently earned a doctoral degree in educational leadership at Harvard University, has been tapped to become director of the empowerment zone that is managing five struggling schools in the South Bend Community School Corp.

At a meeting early Wednesday, the seven-member empowerment zone board unanimously voted to approve a letter to Camacho offering her the job.


Pay grade: Teachers get minimal input on raises

As usual, teachers aren't invited to participate in a commission which has an impact on, and directly impacts them.

From the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette
Gov. Eric Holcomb's teacher pay commission seems determined to do its work without interference by, well – teachers. After the seven-member panel, which includes no teachers, met for months in secret, it finally scheduled three public input sessions. But the meetings begin after most teachers return to school.


Democrat, schools chief in city to talk education: McCormick says it's become big business

McCormick and Melton agree that public education is bipartisan!

From the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette
Jennifer McCormick, the state schools chief, said she agreed with Melton during their joint appearance in Fort Wayne.

“You've got a lot of money on the line” in education funding, McCormick said. “You've got a lot of lobbyists and a lot of people who are making a lot of money. I mean, it's a big business.

“I would argue in Indiana it's kind of the Wild, Wild West of choice,” she said. “In other states, there's more parameters around it, there's more quality controls around it. And we've tried to push that.”


Bill Phillis: Who Is Protecting Imam Gulen?

From Diane Ravitch
For reasons unknown to the public, the U.S. government gave Turkish Islamic leader Fethullah Gulen asylum several years ago. Gulen operates his worldwide religious/political movement from Saylorsburg PA. His movement includes nearly 200 tax-supported charter schools which help fuel a vast business/political/religious enterprise in the U.S.


D.C.: Famed Philanthropist Jeffrey Epstein Endorses Charter School Dominance In D.C.

From Diane Ravitch
To understand the charter industry, you must appreciate that it is driven by extremely wealthy people and has no grassroots. It has mastered the arts of marketing and branding, but does not have a plan to improve education other than to draw students and resources away from public education, which belongs to all of us.

People often ask me, “Why do the super-rich cluster to the cause of privatization?” The Answer is not simple because many different motives are at work. Some see giving to charters as a charitable endeavor, and their friends assure them that they are “giving back,” helping poor children escape poverty. Others want to impress their friends in their social strata, their colleagues in the world of high finance. Being a supporter of charter schools is like belonging to the right clubs, going to the right parties, sharing a cause with other very rich people.


Monday, July 15, 2019

In Case You Missed It – July 15, 2019

Here are links to last week's articles receiving the most attention in NEIFPE's social media. Keep up with what's going on, what's being discussed, and what's happening with public education.

Be sure to enter your email address in the Follow Us By Email box in the right-hand column to be informed when our blog posts are published.


Your tax dollars at work. The big news last week was the loss of $40 million to virtual charter schools in Indiana. BJ Watts, chair of the State Board of Education, wondered, "How did we miss this?"

The blame for this situation is squarely on the backs of the legislators (and those who elected them) for setting up a system with a glaring lack of built-in oversight, in order to bolster a choice system that both fails to educate and steals funding for resources from our public schools.

It also reminds us of the $91 million in loans from the state to failed charter operators that was forgiven in 2013.

Maybe it is time to rethink funding any charters at all!

Indiana: State Tries to Recover $40 Million from Virtual Charter Frauds

From Diane Ravitch
Indiana is one of the state’s that has been all in for choice. One of the choices pushed by former governors Mitch Daniels and Mike Pence is Virtual Charter Schools. These are online schools that allegedly enroll home-schoolers or students who prefer not to attend a Brick-and-mortar school.

Study after study has found that these online schools have high attrition, low test scores, and low graduation rates. However they are very profitable since their operators are paid far more than their actual costs.

The name of their game is enrollment, since their costs decline as enrollment grows, and they must constantly replace those who drop out.

Unfortunately, the incidence of fraud is high since the online schools are seldom auidited.

Indiana is currently trying to recover $40 million from two online charter corporations and their authorizer, which was stolen by inflating enrollments.

2 virtual schools' misdeeds stun state: Charters' inflated data drew millions in funding

From the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette
That was the question on everyone's minds during Wednesday's State Board of Education meeting discussing two virtual charter schools that vastly inflated enrollment numbers and took millions in undeserved state funding.

Also, a deceased student was found on the rolls, according to a state audit, as were other students who had been removed years before.

Board Chairman B.J. Watts asked the question as members seemed perplexed by the depth of the problems. This was despite stories going back several years from news publication Chalkbeat Indiana about staggering enrollment growth and a limited number of teachers at the schools.

‘How did we miss this?’ Indiana officials blast lack of oversight in $40M virtual school scandal

From Chalkbeat
Facing a $40 million enrollment scandal at two virtual charter schools, Indiana State Board of Education chairman B.J. Watts had a big question at a meeting Wednesday:

“How did we miss this?”

The question tipped off a round of finger-pointing. The schools’ oversight agency, Daleville Community Schools, bore the brunt of the board’s blame for the online schools’ alleged abuse of millions in public dollars.

But Indiana Virtual School and Indiana Virtual Pathways Academy officials remained quiet. The schools’ superintendent Percy Clark watched the discussion from the audience but offered no public comments and later declined to answer questions from Chalkbeat

State could seek $40M after probe finds Indiana Virtual School inflated enrollment — even counting a student who had died

From Chalkbeat
Two school years after a student died, Indiana Virtual School kept him on its rolls and received state funding to educate him.

Five years after two students moved to Florida, they reappeared on enrollment records for Indiana Virtual School and its sister school.

And nearly every one of the more than 900 students kicked out of Indiana Virtual School and its sister school in the 2017-18 school year for being inactive were re-enrolled the next school year, included in per-pupil funding calculations that netted the two online schools more than $34 million in public dollars last year.

These were among the ways that Indiana Virtual School and Indiana Virtual Pathways Academy allegedly inflated their enrollment to at least twice its actual size, according to the findings of a state examiner’s investigation released Monday.


In budget pie, public schools given crumbs: Accountability still scant at virtual, charter sites

State Representative Phil GiaQuinta (D-Fort Wayne) has some words about lack of accountability.

From State Rep. Phil GiaQuinta in the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette
...nearly half of the education portion of the funding pie – baked with your taxpayer dollars – is giving unaccountable virtual schools a public funding increase of 15%, privately run charter schools a public funding increase of more than 20%, and privately run voucher schools a public funding increase of nearly 15% over the next two years.

Meanwhile, traditional public schools will see a funding increase of just about 2% each year, which narrowly hovers above the change in the cost of living – commonly known as the rate of inflation – from one year to the next.

Many schools, including Fort Wayne Community Schools, won't even reach that 2% threshold.

Mercedes Schneider: Corey Booker’s Brother Was Surprised When Tennessee Expected His Charters to be Accountable

From Diane Ravitch
Mercedes Schneider wrote a post about Cory Booker’s brother, Cary, who opened two charter schools in Tennessee with an ally. His application had lofty goals. He pledged that 95% of his students would score proficient on state tests. He and his partner were astonished when the state took their promise seriously.


Despite Cruel Conditions at the Border and Threatened ICE Raids, Educators Across U.S. Strive to Serve Immigrant Children

From Jan Resseger
There is a disconnect between the education policy debates and what is really happening in public schools. In Wednesday’s NY Times, Miriam Jordan captured that reality. Jordon’s story describes public school educators’ work across the country to serve the needs of children whose schooling has been delayed and interrupted by the journeys they and their families have undertaken.

While legislators have been haggling over the state budgets that generally underfund our public schools, and while our U.S. Secretary of Education and her fellow advocates promote various kinds of school vouchers and privately operated charter schools, Jordan describes the hard work of school district professionals trying to serve the needs of immigrant students who may worry about threatened ICE raids, who may have survived harrowing border crossings, or who may have endured long stays in the detention centers where children are being warehoused.


Melton and McCormick launch their bipartisan listening tour with conversations about charters, pay, and diversity

Nice to see that someone is listening! But high time for politicians in our state to stop listening to charter and voucher supporters. If you have a chance to attend one of these listening sessions, please make sure to stress how important PUBLIC education is!

From Chalkbeat
Democratic Senator Eddie Melton told a crowd of more than 100 people Thursday that good education policy only happens when public officials ask for help: From the experts, yes, but also from the communities that will be affected.

So when Melton decided last month to launch an exploratory committee around a potential bid for governor, he asked State Superintendent Jennifer McCormick, a Republican, to join him on a statewide listening tour to explore Indiana education policy. Their bipartisan collaboration drew curiosity and, among Indiana GOP leaders, criticism. Some of her critics say McCormick is vying to become Melton’s running mate.


Angie Sullivan: The Great Charter Scam in Nevada

From Diane Ravitch
Angie Sullivan teaches children in a Title 1 elementary school in Las Vegas. Many of her children are poor and don’t speak English. Her school is underfunded. Angie frequently sends blast emails to every legislator in the state, as well as journalists. She refuses to allow them to ignore her students, while they cater to the whims of billionaire casino owners, like the chair of the state board of education.


Mitchell Robinson: Tax Credits Are a Zombie Idea

From Diane Ravitch
Mitchell Robinson of Michigan State explains why “tax credit scholarships” are a zombie idea. They are consistently rejected by voters, they fail to educate students, yet they never die.


Monday, July 8, 2019

In Case You Missed It – July 8, 2019

Here are links to last week's articles receiving the most attention in NEIFPE's social media. Keep up with what's going on, what's being discussed, and what's happening with public education.

Be sure to enter your email address in the Follow Us By Email box in the right-hand column to be informed when our blog posts are published.


Jennifer McCormick: Proud to work in bipartisan manner instead of partisan posturing

The last elected State Superintendent of Public Instructions is traveling around the state pushing for bipartisanship in education policy!

From the Muncie Star Press
...This bi-partisan approach positions Indiana to become a national leader in opposition to an unflattering hyperpartisan environment. The Hoosier Community Conversations model is a purposeful and positive collaboration in the spirit of student success. Sen. Melton understands our state’s educational landscape and the inefficient, expensive governance structure. Thus, he is eager to build on successes and find solutions to the concerns of Hoosiers. He appreciates the Indiana Department of Education’s aggressive strategic plan, which explains much of the State’s impressive results and national attention. Yet, Senator Melton is also aware of the challenges our students, educators, schools, and employers continue to face...


All schools using public dollars need to account for their spending.

Letter: Lack of voucher school accountability appalling

From the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette Letters
How can anyone justify the compensation of the founder of the failed Horizon Christian Academy, comprising 300 students, making more than the superintendent of FWCS, the largest school system in Indiana with 30,000?

This same co-founder is being allowed to open a new, faith-based school using the voucher program ... how ludicrous! What a travesty that we put profit above the real needs of children.


Catch up: Four takeaways from the Democratic presidential forum on education

Only three of the eleven Secretaries of Education have had any K-12 experience. It would be nice to have a career teacher in the position of Secretary of Education instead of political donors or cronies.

From Chalkbeat
...political winds have shifted in the union’s direction, with teachers’ strikes across the country drawing wide support and many Democratic voters and leaders souring on charter schools, most of which are not unionized. At the NEA’s Strong Public Schools 2020 forum, candidates vying for the endorsement of the powerful union took questions from NEA President Lily Eskelsen García. And while the candidates agreed on a lot, there were a few standout moments.

Here are four takeaways from the event.

1. More candidates agreed: The next education secretary must be an educator...

See also The Network for Public Education Action 2020 Presidential Candidates Project


When The Wall Of Separation Comes Down

From Curmudgucation
Here's what's going to happen. If you win the right to spend tax dollars on religious institutions (like, say, private schools), sooner or later you are going to be shocked to discover that your own tax dollars are supporting Sharia Law High School or Satan's Own Academy. And that's not going to be the end of it. Where resources are limited (there can only be, for instance, as many meeting opening prayers as there are meetings), some agency will have to pick winners and losers. Worst case scenario-- you get a government agency empowered to screen churches and religions. You can paper over it, as Kenai Peninsula apparently did, by turning it into a lottery (but what does it mean that God apparently let Satan's crew win that drawing).


A True American Patriot and a Hero of Public Education

From Diane Ravitch
What does it mean when the school system that you’ve poured your heart into doesn’t have the decency to consider a thoughtful transition plan before making the decision to close your school?

It means they never saw you as human in the first place.

It means that your job, then, is to make it impossible for them to look away from your humanity.


Koch Network Announces New Education Lobbying Group, Walton Funding Pact

From Education Week
Philanthropic groups associated with billionaire businessman and activist Charles Koch have announced two initiatives to deepen their involvement in K-12 education.


Ex-Governor Rick Snyder Will Not Teach at Harvard, as Backlash Grows Against Him

From Diane Ravitch
Michigan Ex-Governor Rick Snyder will not teach at Harvard,The outcry over Snyder’s role in the Flint water crisis made his position at Harvard untenable.

Former Gov. Rick Snyder has pulled out of a prestigious fellowship at Harvard University after the Ivy League school faced immense criticism for the governor’s track record in the Flint water crisis.


Debate puts ‘busing’ back in the news

From School Matters
U.S. courts have mostly abandoned school segregation, and it’s unlikely that politicians will call for a return to busing. But busing isn’t and never was the point. Research continues to show that students benefit, academically and socially, from attending diverse schools. And there are many methods, aside from busing, to promote integration, including purposeful drawing of school attendance boundaries, “controlled choice” programs and better policies for siting low-cost housing.

At the very least, candidates who profess to care about education should be addressing the fact that American schools have been growing more segregated by race, ethnicity and economic status, some 65 years after the Supreme Court ruled that “separate but equal” schools were inherently unconstitutional.


Letters: Voucher school charade draining tax dollars

From the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette
Vouchers continue to strip Southwest Allen County, East Allen County, Northwest Allen County and Fort Wayne Community Schools of valuable resources. And our public-school teachers are required to meet a growing list of standards to serve all students, not just the ones they choose to serve, or those who share their religious beliefs.

It's time for the people who want less government and government spending to step up. Let's demand the state stop funneling tax dollars to the likes of Henline and Beasley for their failing schools and giant salaries.


Monday, July 1, 2019

In Case You Missed It – July 1, 2019

Here are links to last month's articles receiving the most attention in NEIFPE's social media. Keep up with what's going on, what's being discussed, and what's happening with public education.

Be sure to enter your email address in the Follow Us By Email box in the right-hand column to be informed when our blog posts are published.

ICYMI will return to its weekly format beginning July 8, 2019.

* Editor's Choice