NY Times: Walton Family Foundation Funds Charter Movement

By Diane Ravitch, April 27, 2014

Readers if this blog have long known that the Billionaires Boys Club has pledged its allegiance to the privatization of American public education. Among the Billionaires Boys Club, we include the Gates Foundation, the Broad Foubdation, the Walton Family Foundatioon, and hedge fund managers. They are allied with ALEC and other rightwing “think” tanks, all of which are in live with charters and vouchers.

Motoko Rich wrote in Saturday’s Néw York Times about the dedication of the vastly wealthy Walton Family Foundation. The Waltons do not like public education. They do not like unions. They like charters and vouchers. They spend $160 million every year to spread the gospel of privatization and to destroy the public schools that are the heart of most communities.

With their support, the US is recreating a dual school system: one that chooses its students and the other that accepts all. Further, they have got the media cheering for segregated schools, determined as the Waltons are to establish the success of all-black schools.

They use their vast wealth not to pay their workers a living wage but to destroy their communities, killing off mom and pop stores, and destroying their local public school, replacing it with a corporate chain school.

Altogether a great triumph for the cold and mean face of American capitalism, which cares not at all for family , community, tradition, or humane values.

Bombshell Report: $100 Million in Taxpayer $$ Wasted or Stolen by Deregulated Charter Industry

Diane Ravitch, May 5, 2014

A new report reveals massive waste, fraud, and corruption in the charter industry, where private corporations control public funds with minimal oversight or accountability.

“FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 5, 2014

CONTACT:

Kyle Serrette: KSerrette@populardemocracy.org, 202-304-8027
Sabrina Stevens: media@integrityineducation.org, 720-295-0238

A new report released today reveals that fraudulent charter operators in 15 states are responsible for losing, misusing or wasting over $100 million in taxpayer money.

“Charter School Vulnerabilities to Waste, Fraud And Abuse,” authored by the Center for Popular Democracy and Integrity in Education, echoes a warning from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of the Inspector General. The report draws upon news reports, criminal complaints and more to detail how, in just 15 of the 42 states that have charter schools, charter operators have used school funds illegally to buy personal luxuries for themselves, support their other businesses, and more.

The report also includes recommendations for policymakers on how they can address the problem of rampant fraud, waste and abuse in the charter school industry. Both organizations recommend pausing charter expansion until these problems are addressed.

“We expected to find a fair amount of fraud when we began this project, but we did not expect to find over $100 million in taxpayer dollars lost. That’s just in 15 states. And that figure fails to capture the real harm to children. Clearly, we should hit the pause button on charter expansion until there is a better oversight system in place to protect our children and our communities,” said Kyle Serrette, the Director of Education Justice at the Center for Popular Democracy.”

“Our school system exists to serve students and enrich communities,” added Sabrina Stevens, Executive Director of Integrity in Education. “School funding is too scarce as it is; we can hardly afford to waste the resources we do have on people who would prioritize exotic vacations over school supplies or food for children. We also can’t continue to rely on the media or isolated whistleblowers to identify these problems. We need to have rules in place that can systematically weed out incompetent or unscrupulous charter operators before they pose a risk to students and taxpayers.”

“The report can be found at http://www.populardemocracy.org and http://www.integrityineducation.org.

Reed Hastings is wrong: A school board member’s defense

By Matt Haney, San José Mercury News, 03/14/2014 [n.b. see “Charter Schools goal: Get rid of School Boards'” on YouTube for an excerpt from Hastings’ statement]

Earlier this month, in a keynote speech before the California Charter Schools Association, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings called for the end of democratically elected school boards.

As he put it, the “fundamental problem” with school districts is that they “do not get to choose their boards,” leading to poor long-term planning and less stable governance. He then announced a goal to grow charter schools in California from 8 percent to 90 percent of all students, essentially eliminating the role of elected school boards and replacing them with privately appointed charter boards.

Hastings isn’t just doing his best impression of Frank Underwood from the Netflix show “House of Cards.” He is a billionaire former member of the California State Board of Education, and he is part of a powerful national movement to reduce the role of local school boards and rapidly grow corporate school governance.

So it is important to make something crystal clear: School boards are not an anachronistic carry-over from the years of the one-room schoolhouse. The role of school boards is inextricably linked with the very existence and purpose of public schools.

School boards exist because public schools belong to and are directly accountable to the communities they serve. That is what makes them public.

When a perspective is missing from the board, a community can elect someone to represent it. When the curriculum, budget or policies don’t reflect the values or priorities of a community, such as discipline policies that push out black and Latino students, the people can change that.

Bureaucrats or benevolent billionaires alone will never suffice. Without elected school boards, there is no accountability to the community. It doesn’t work perfectly, but that’s our collective challenge as a democracy. As Winston Churchill said, “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others.”

Charter boards, often comprised of the wealthy and connected, are no guarantee of sound long-term planning and governance either. Just as there is no evidence that charter schools outperform district schools, there is no evidence that charter boards are more effective, informed or strategic than elected school boards.

In fact, poor financial management has plagued countless charter boards. Even at their best, they are structured to focus on their financial or organizational interest rather than the public interest. …

read more at San José Mercury News

Charter School Magnate Wants to End Local School Boards: Democracy is the Problem

Diane Ravitch, 3/14/14

Reed Hastings, the founder and CEO of Netflix, is a major player in the corporate reform movement.

He is on the board of various charter schools and charter chains, including Rocketship and KIPP.

The organization fighting the proliferation of Rocketship charters forwarded his address to the California Charter School Association:

Watch the 2 minute synopsis video.

Get the story and the full keynote.

The long-term goal is to replace most locally elected school boards with charters, all operated by independent boards, all competing for higher test scores.

And the longer term goal is to replace our present system of democratically-controlled schools by a system of privately-managed charters.

Underlying this plan is the assumption that the main problem in American education is democracy, since school boards are elected.

Other corporate reformers prefer mayoral control or governor control, whereby a single chief executive can override objections to open charters at will.

ALEC has pushed the idea of a state charter panel, appointed by the governor (and sometimes the legislature), whose decisions override local control.

The problem with school boards is that the local populace can replace them by vote.

In other words, as Chubb and Moe argued 25 years ago in their book advocating for vouchers, Politics, Markets, and Schools, markets are better than democracy.

No high-performing nation in the world has handed its schools over to private management; instead, they have a strong and equitable public school system, with a respected teaching profession and a well-prepared staff.

Why Does PBS Ignore the Assault on Public Education? Can You Guess?

Diane Ravitch’s blog: A site to discuss better education for all, February 16, 2014

In the aftermath of David Sirota’s exposé of PBS accepting $3.5 million for a series about pension reform, funded by the Arnold Foundation (and since returned), another question naturally arises: why has PBS shown little or no interest in the corporate takeover of and turmoil in public education?

I appeared on Charlie Rose last year for about 15-20 minutes. But otherwise the viewers of PBS have not had any in-depth investigation of the corporate-funded assault on one of our nation’s most crucial democratic institutions. Why isn’t PUBLIC television interested in PUBLIC education?

Here is one lead, sent to me by blogger Jonathan Pelto, who received it from Oakland parent activist Sharon Higgins. This was a letter she wrote in 2009:

It begins like this:

“Last summer you initiated a series of conversations, underwritten by the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, about the “crisis” in our public schools.

“In the past nine months, it appears you have had three of these full-hour conversations: Wendy Kopp (with Bob Wise on 7/1/08), Michelle Rhee (7/14/08), and Arne Duncan (3/11/09). Have I missed anyone?

“As a longtime viewer, I am extremely disturbed that you are now limiting your education interviews to pro-charter school forces only. This clearly reveals a problem with your journalistic standards.

“I am even more disturbed, but sadly not surprised, to find that the funding for these interviews is being provided by a pro-charter school organization, The Broad Foundation. Either you have not researched how this organization is influencing the public’s view of charter schools, or you are intentionally delivering their propaganda to the American public.”

Since Higgins wrote, Charlie Rose has interviewed Bill Gates, Joel Klein, and other leaders of the corporate takeover.

Clearly, balance is needed.

NAACP discussion on PA SENATE BILL 1085

JOIN THE PUBLIC DISCUSSION

PA SENATE BILL 1085
THE CHARTER SCHOOL EXPANSION BILL

IF PASSED, UNDER THIS LAW
YOU WILL PAY, BUT YOU WILL HAVE NO SAY!

FREE AND OPEN TO PUBLIC
Saturday, Jan. 18, 2014

Campbell AME Church
33 W Third St (near Olive Street)
Media, PA 19063

1:00 PM – 2:00 PM
LIGHT LUNCH AT 12:30

AN EXPERT PANEL WILL INFORM TAXPAYERS. YOU WILL LEARN ABOUT THE PLAN TO:

CREATE PRIVATE CHARTER SCHOOL AUTHORIZERS – NO LOCAL SCHOOL BOARD INPUT

LIFT ALL ENROLLMENT CAPS FOR STUDENT RECRUITMENT – DRAINING LOCAL BUDGETS

ALLOW CHARTER SCHOOLS TO CHANGE THE GRADES SERVED WITHOUT APPROVAL

ELIMINATE TAX PAYER INPUT ON WHO CAN PROVIDE EDUCATION IN THE LOCAL DISTRICT

THE THREAT TO LOCAL SCHOOL DISTRICT BOND RATINGS

THE THREAT TO LOCAL PROPERTY VALUES

SPONSORED BY THE MEDIA AREA NAACP TO PROTECT THE INTEGRITY OF THE VOTE!