Articles in the Privatization category

Report: Pennsylvania’s charters are costly to traditional public schools

Pennsylvania’s growing number of charter and cyber-charter schools do not save school districts money and, in many cases, add to their expenses, says a new report from the Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA).

“Charter schools do not charge a standard rate for their educational services,” says the report by PSBA’s Education Research and Policy Center. “In fact, the amount paid to charter schools varies greatly by school district, and is often completely unrelated to the actual operational costs incurred by charter schools.”

Tuition payments to Pennsylvania charter schools rose from $960 million in 2010-11 to more than $1.15 billion in 2011-12.

The tuition calculation for charter schools is much the same as for the per-student Actual Institutional Expense (AIE) of traditional schools; however, several cost elements excluded from the AIE —  for example, early intervention, vocational expenditures, and selected federal revenue — are included in the charter school tuition formula, thus driving up the cost of this subsidy, the report said.

“The problem is compounded by the fact that in most cases, less than 30 students from each district building attend charters, meaning districts are unable to reduce overhead costs, such as heating and electricity,” the report said. “Neither are school districts able to reduce the size of their faculty or staff.”

In addition, many students choosing to attend charter or cyber-charter schools were previously attending private schools or being home-schooled, meaning that these tuition payments are “an entirely new expense for school districts,” the report said.

PSBA’s report made several recommendations, among them requesting that the state set “reasonable limits” on the amount of unexpended tuition funds charters can receive from school districts and that these schools be required to return any unused balances to the district that sent them the money.

 

 

Lawrence Hardy|February 12th, 2014|Categories: Budgeting, Educational Finance, Educational Legislation, Privatization, School Vouchers, State School Boards Associations|Tags: , , |

NSBA featured in major media on school choice concerns

After Republicans introduced legislation that would allow states to send up to $24 billion in federal funding toward school choice programs, National School Boards Association (NSBA) Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel offered a reality check on the performance of charter schools, vouchers, and other measures. Gentzel appeared on Fox News and was quoted in The Washington Post and The New York Times stories on the measure.

“We certainly haven’t seen any consistent evidence anywhere in the country that these kinds of programs are effective or producing better results,” said Gentzel, who appeared on a segment during Fox News’ Special Report with Bret Baier on the Senate proposal, introduced this week by Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.). Rep. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) has introduced legislation in the House that also would include some students with disabilities and use funds from the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Watch the video segment.

In the New York Times article, Gentzel countered proponents of school choice who claim that traditional public schools have not improved fast enough, and that low-income families should have other choices.

“The big issue is really that lack of accountability,” Gentzel told the Times. “Frankly, our view is every child should have access to a great public school where they live.”

In The Washington Post, Gentzel discussed Alexander’s proposal, the “Scholarships for Kids Act,” which would allow states to create $2,100 scholarships from existing federal K-12 programs, including Title I, to “follow” 11 million children whose families meet the federal to any public or private school of their parents’ choice. The total cost would be $24 billion—41 percent of the current federal education allotment.

“School choice is a well-funded and politically powerful movement seeking to privatize much of American education,” he told the Post. “We’re not against public charters, and there are some that are well-motivated. . . . But our goal is that public schools be schools of choice. We need to invest and support public schools, not divert money and attention from them to what amounts, in many cases, to experiments.”

Reginald Felton, NSBA’s Interim Associate Executive Director for Federal Advocacy and Public Policy, also told Governing magazine that Title I would inevitably face cuts under Lamar’s plan, along with other programs that benefit disadvantaged children. For states that would choose not to opt into the proposed program, that means less money is available for their most vulnerable populations, he said.

“It’s hard for us to believe that a $24 billion reallocation could exist without drastically reducing funding for Title I students,” he told Governing.

The Ohio Schools Boards Association (OSBA) recently showcased how funding to choice programs hurts neighborhood public schools. In its December newsletter, OSBA notes, “Ohio Department of Education data shows traditional public schools will lose more than $870 million in state funding to charter schools in fiscal year (FY) 2014. That’s an increase of 5.4 percent over FY 2013, when approximately $824 million was transferred from traditional public schools to charters. This increase comes amid ongoing reports of charter school mismanagement, conflicts of interest and felony indictments and convictions.”

According to CREDO (Center for Research on Educational Outcomes) research on charters, states that empower multiple authorizing agencies are more likely to report the weakest academic results for charter schools. Local governance – enacted by local school boards – offers transparency and accountability along with a direct focus on student achievement versus profit.

In 2008, 64 percent of Ohio’s charter schools were on academic watch or emergency status, compared to 9 percent of traditional public schools, according to “The Regulation of Charter Schools” in the Jan./Feb. issue of American School Board Journal.

While the state changed its regulations in 2008, ASBJ cites the case of Hope Academy Cathedral, a K-8 charter school in Cleveland, as an example of the loopholes that exist in Ohio’s charter law. The school was ordered to close in 2011 after repeatedly being rated as in “academic emergency.”

Less than two months later, a new K-8 charter — Woodland Academy — opened in the same building, with 15 returning staff members, the same authorizer, and the same for-profit management firm, wrote ASBJ Senior Editor Del Stover. In its first year of operation, the new charter school also was judged to be in academic emergency.

 

 

Ravitch: We can learn a lot from Finland — and from our own public schools

Diane Ravitch praised the Finnish schools in a recent speech in Washington, D.C. But it was another nation’s public education system — and the remarkable progress it has made over the past 40 years — that most impressed the celebrated author and education historian.

What country is this? The United States, of course. During that time, student achievement has increased overall, even as today’s student population has become more racially, economically, and culturally diverse. Graduation rates also are rising. And “dropout rates,” said Ravitch, a keynote speaker at NSBA’s 2013 Annual Conference in San Diego, “are the lowest they’ve been in history.”

But if you read some of the anti-public school literature out there, or watched some purportedly “balanced” news reports, you could easily be fooled into thinking something much different, said Ravitch, who spoke at the Economic Policy Institute about her new book on public school reform, Reign of Error.

As an example, Ravitch cited a 2012 report called “U.S. Education Reform and National Security,” by former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and former New York City Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein, now head of Rupert Murdoch’s strongly pro-voucher News Corp. The report claims, contrary to the evidence Ravitch cites in the Long-Term Trend report of National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), that U.S. schools are so bad they have “become a grave security risk.”

Ravitch devotes much of her new book to the high performing public schools in Finland, a place where she says teaching is a highly respected — and highly selective — occupation, where teachers and principals belong to a common union, and where public education of the highest quality is seen as a national obligation.

“They don’t have charters,” Ravitch said. “They don’t have vouchers. …. There is no Teach for Finland.”

U. S. schools are doing a lot right, too, Ravitch said. In fact, some of the highest-scoring nations on international tests — Singapore among them – are looking at how U.S. schools embrace creativity and teach problem-solving skills. Ironically, with the recent emphasis on high-stakes testing, she added, “We’re moving in the opposite direction.”

“And now we have kindergarten children taking bubble-in tests,” Ravitch said. “This is insane.”

Ravitch criticized the Obama administration’s Race to the Top program, which she said “has put $5 billion into the pursuit of higher test scores.” She said the money could have been put to better use in efforts to address the growing segregation of many public schools by race and income, particularly in the South and West.

“We’re not trying to solve the real problem, which is child poverty,” Ravitch said. “Poverty is the elephant in the room.”

Elaine Weiss, national coordinator for the Broader Bolder Approach to Education, and Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, also spoke at the event. Weingarten said budget cuts have harmed school systems across the country, opening them up to criticism and threats of privatization. However, studies consistently show that privatization does not lead to higher student performance while resulting, in many instances, in greater economic and racial segregation.

Lawrence Hardy|October 22nd, 2013|Categories: 21st Century Skills, Board governance, Charter Schools, Comparative Education, Conferences and Events, Curriculum, Diversity, NSBA Annual Conference 2013, Privatization, Race to the Top (RTTT), School Board News, School Vouchers, Student Achievement, Student Engagement|

LSBA: U.S. Justice Dept. action in Louisiana vouchers shows weakness of law

The U.S. Department of Justice has filed a lawsuit against Louisiana to stop a voucher program spending millions in taxpayer funds to send low-income students to private and religious schools, saying that the vouchers have impeded long-standing desegregation orders in many of the state’s school districts.

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) joined the Louisiana School Boards Association (LSBA) in a lawsuit last year challenging the legality of the voucher plan, which was pushed by Gov. Bobby Jindal and GOP lawmakers. The LSBA lawsuit ultimately prevailed when the state’s Supreme Court found the funding mechanism to be unconstitutional but the GOP-led legislature is attempting to keep the program alive through alternative funding sources.

LSBA has closely monitored desegregation litigation in Louisiana for many years. LSBA Executive Director Scott Richard noted that many school boards have spent millions of dollars in order to attain unitary status and freedom from federal oversight due to past discriminatory practices—and this latest round of legal problems with the Louisiana voucher program only exacerbates the issues raised in the recent state Supreme Court ruling that struck down the law and highlighted the program’s illegal funding schemes.

“The fact that the U.S. Department of Justice has to get involved at this point again punches holes in the flawed legislation,” Richard said. “It is irresponsible that state government in Louisiana, with all of the legal resources available, would move forward with this effort fully knowing that many school districts continue to be under federal desegregation orders – basically ignoring federal law.”

Proponents for the voucher plan have decried the federal government’s move and argued that the vouchers help low-income students “escape failing schools.” However, LSBA and other education groups have countered that the plan actually allows kindergarteners zoned for high-achieving public schools—those graded A or B—to receive vouchers as well.

Thirty-four school districts, of which 22 send students to private schools using voucher funds, would be subject to the Justice Department’s ruling, according to the New Orleans Times Picayune.

 

 

 

Joetta Sack-Min|August 28th, 2013|Categories: Educational Finance, Governance, Privatization, School Boards, School Law, School Reform, School Vouchers, State School Boards Associations, Uncategorized|Tags: , , |

NSBA’s President discusses the New NSBA and school board leadership on Education Talk Radio

David A. Pickler

David A. Pickler, President of the National School Boards Association and member of Tennessee’s Shelby County Board of Education, was a guest on Education Talk Radio for a two part interview. Pickler discussed the “New NSBA,” school board leadership, vouchers,  the Local School Board Governance and Flexibility Act, and his experiences and leadership on his local school board.

Listen to the interviews:

Part 1:

Listen to internet radio with EduTalk on BlogTalkRadio

Part 2:

Listen to internet radio with EduTalk on BlogTalkRadio
Alexis Rice|May 30th, 2013|Categories: Board governance, Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs, Legislative advocacy, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, Privatization, Public Advocacy, School Buildings, School Vouchers|Tags: , |

Interview with NSBA Conference speaker Diane Ravitch: ‘Schools belong to the people and not to corporations’

From 1991 to 1993, Diane Ravitch served as Assistant Secretary of Education in President George H.W. Bush’s administration. Today, the author and education historian says the institution she served at the federal level is under an unprecedented threat from powerful interests intent on privatizing public schools.

In 2010, Ravitch published The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Undermine Education. A keynote speaker at the 2013 NSBA Annual Conference in San Diego, she recently talked with ASBJ Senior Editor Lawrence Hardy.

Why is this a dangerous time for the public schools?

I see the trends intensifying, and there is now a full-blown privatization movement. At the time I wrote my last book, I thought there was some kind of an accidental convergence between, on the one hand, the testing movement associated with No Child Left Behind, and a growing, nascent privatization movement. I now have concluded that these are not an accidental convergence, and that one feeds into the other: The testing is being used as part of a larger narrative about the alleged failure of American education.

Charter schools — especially for-profit ones — are a challenge to public schools, but they still serve only a small fraction of students. Why are they such a big threat?

We’re going to cross a threshold. The charter movement began with the idea that educators were so incompetent that if you could just turn over the schools to private managers, whether they were educators or not, they would do a better job, and that they would perform miracles. It began with this rhetoric of saving minority kids from failing schools — that’s sort of standard lingo. And so there are many cities now where charters are not an inconsequential part of the education spectrum.

Proponents of vouchers and privately run charter schools say they want to give parents more choice. Isn’t that a positive message?

They use all the progressive language to do things that, distinctly, are not progressive. When you close down public education, that’s not progressive. If the American public understood what was really happening, there would be this huge outcry, but it’s always bathed in the rhetoric of, “We want to help minority kids, save them from failing schools.”

And public education’s response?

We don’t have all that wonderful messaging. Instead, we’re constantly playing a game of saying, “Stop saying these things. You’re wrong.” It makes you sound very defensive. And they say, if you don’t agree with them — this is one of their favorite lines — you’re a defender of the status quo.

So if you believe in public education, if you believe in democratic control of local schools, if you believe in local school boards and state school boards, if you believe the people who are members of the community should have some say in what happens to the schools their children attend, you’re a defender of the status quo. If you believe that teachers should have a professional preparation and that they should be committed to the classroom, you’re a defender of the status quo. If you believe teachers should have some academic freedom and some protection for their freedom of speech and their right to teach, then you’re a defender of the status quo.

How should supporters of public education respond?

First of all to call it what it is, to recognize that what’s going on is a conscious effort to privatize American public education — and the public doesn’t want that. I think it helps to show that, even by the “reformers’” own measures, privatization does not produce better education. It leads to terrible consequences.

You say charters are already weeding out disabled children, who cost more to educate and tend to bring test scores down. What are some other consequences?

We now have many studies showing that charter schools are more segregated than public schools, even in districts that already have a high degree of segregation. This is something that under Brown v. Board of Education shouldn’t be permitted. And yet it’s going on. The UCLA Civil Rights Project has done studies showing that charters are more segregated, both for black and Hispanic kids. We’re rolling back some of the most important gains in our history.

What’s the role of school board members in confronting all this?

We have to reclaim the democratic aspect of public education: Schools belong to the people and not to corporations.

Lawrence Hardy|March 14th, 2013|Categories: American School Board Journal, Board governance, Charter Schools, Leadership, No Child Left Behind, NSBA Annual Conference 2013, Privatization, School Boards, School Reform, School Vouchers|Tags: |

School board members need to be aware of ALEC, other anti-public education groups

Once upon a time there was a rather odd North Carolina school board member who proposed that all purchasing orders in his very large district — from pencils, to books, to paper clips, to cleaning supplies — be posted online. It was a move that, not surprisingly, would have required the cash-strapped district to hire several additional central office staff, just to keep up with the paperwork.

If this sounds like a very bad fairy tale, well, it isn’t. The board member in question was no ordinary public servant, but a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), an ultraconservative advocacy group whose main tactic is to introduce literally thousands of bills each year in state legislatures across the country, many aimed at privatizing public education. Three years ago, ALEC called for the abolishment of school boards, so you have some idea where it stands.

“So if you see something that looks, I would say, overly bizarre, ask some questions,” said Leanne Winner, director of governmental relations for the North Carolina School Boards Association.

Better yet, go to an ALEC meeting. Really. At least you’ll know what they’re up to – and what kind of legislation could be headed to a statehouse near you.

“Knowing what the conversation is — [that’s] the first step to fighting the legislation,” said Janice Palmer, director of governmental relations for the Arizona School Boards Association.

Palmer and Winner joined Roberta E. Stanley, NSBA’s director of federal affairs, for a Monday morning session at NSBA’s Federal Relations Network (FRN) meeting called “Molding the K-12 Debate,” which dealt with the outsized influence of ALEC and the slightly-less-radical Foundation for Excellence in Education (FEIE), founded by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

“One thing they have is money,” Stanley said of ALEC, which is backed by the owners of Wal-Mart and other billionaires. “Copious amounts of money.”

Typically, the bills ALEC introduces in state legislatures come from the same template, barely tweaked to fit a particular state. Sometimes lawmakers introduce them virtually verbatim. Arizona has been a target for years.

“ALEC has seen Arizona as an incubator for model legislation, especially in the area of school choice,” Palmer said.

The state has more than 500 charter schools of varying quality, and statewide public school choice – with districts paying the cost of transportation. Arizona’s public schools are the second worst funded in the country. Yet about $60 million that could have gone to public schools has been funneled to private and religious schools via tax credits.

Lawrence Hardy|January 28th, 2013|Categories: FRN Conference 2013, Governance, National School Boards Action Center, Privatization|Tags: , , , , , , |

Expanded K-12 privatization on the horizon

School board members can expect continued political activity to promote charter schools, vouchers, school choice options, and to expand the privatization of K-12 education.

That was the message of Roberta Stanley, NSBA’s director of federal affairs, who gave a political update on these issues Monday at the Federal Relations Network (FRN) Annual Conference in Washington, D.C.

The charter school movement currently dominates efforts to redesign the traditional public school system, she told conference attendees. At least 1.8 million children—or 4 percent of the K-12 student population—currently are enrolled in publicly funded charter schools.

“Charters are the big name in the game today,” Stanley said, noting that they enjoy strong political support from some urban mayors, governors, state lawmakers, and such federal officials as Education Secretary Arne Duncan and President Obama.

Helping fuel this policy push is money from several large foundations, as well as private entrepreneurs who see the opportunity to tap into billions of dollars in education funding.

NSBA policy isn’t to oppose charter schools but to insist that their authorization and their accountability be the responsibility of school boards, so that the future of children’s educational opportunities remains under the control of the local community, she said.

Accountability is an issue that’s going to continue to surround the charter school movement in the years ahead, Stanley said. More data is needed on the academic performance of these schools, and state and federal lawmakers will need to address better procedures for closing down poor-performing charters.

Although school voucher advocates still are active, school board members will find that a more fast-growth phenomenon is the “explosion of cyber, virtual, and online schools,” Stanley said.

Enrollment in virtual schools is growing at a rate of about 3 percent annually, yet some studies suggest these schools aren’t successful for all students, she said.

That’s not to say that online schools have no future role in K-12 education, Stanley added.

“I understand one of the best [roles] for cyber schools is credit recovery, working with kids who lag behind or are homebound or sick,” or to expand course offerings in smaller or rural schools, she said.

Where school leaders need to watch carefully is in states where state policymakers are too eager to push all-day online learning or seek to use virtual schools as a cheap alternative to brick-and-mortar schools.

“Students need oversight. Students need to be taught to be civic-minded, to learn teamwork-building skills,” Stanley said. “We don’t get that with a child sitting in his or her bedroom at a computer.”

To strengthen its advocacy efforts on these issues, NSBA works with a coalition of 60 education and civil rights groups to broaden the message that serious issues remain to be addressed regarding school choice, she added. This coalition also seeks to block poor policy decisions that will hurt public education.

“This is as sharp a coalition as I’ve ever worked with,” Stanley said. “And we are right on top of it, so we can try to nip these things in the bud.”

Del Stover|January 28th, 2013|Categories: Charter Schools, Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs, FRN Conference 2013, Governance, Legislative advocacy, Online learning, Privatization, School Boards, School Reform, School Vouchers|Tags: , |

Ravitch wants school boards to speak up for their rights

Diane Ravitch

Diane Ravitch

Education researcher Diane Ravitch has posted in a recent blog some provocative questions for U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and other federal officials when they speak at the National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) Federal Relations Network conference later today. Ravitch, who will be a keynote speaker at NSBA’s 73rd Annual Conference in San Diego in April, wants to query the leaders about their stands on local governance and school boards. She writes:

In the last few years, there has been an all-out attack on local control. Most of the attack comes from the privatization movement, which thinks that school boards debate too much, listen too much, move too slowly. The privatizers prefer mayoral control in cities to get fast action. And they push laws and constitutional amendments allowing the governor to create a commission to override local school boards that reject charters. This is the ALEC agenda.

Happily, leading members of NSBA will have a chance to ask Arne Duncan why he pushes mayoral control, which has done so little for Cleveland and Chicago–and is now approved in NYC by only 18 percent of the public.

And they can ask Sen. Johnny Isakson of Georgia what he thinks about that state’s recent drive to strip local school boards of control of their districts. They might also ask him what he thinks of the re segregation that charters are promoting.

Stay tuned for more coverage of the federal leaders’ speeches at the 2013 FRN Conference, taking place Jan. 27 to 29 in Washington.

Joetta Sack-Min|January 28th, 2013|Categories: Federal Advocacy, FRN Conference 2013, Leadership, NSBA Annual Conference 2013, Privatization, Public Advocacy, School Boards|Tags: , , , , , |

FRN meeting kicks off with rally to protect federal funds, promote school board governance

Participants in the National School Boards Association’s Federal Relations Network will focus on stopping planned budget cuts to federal K-12 programs, advocating for a bill to promote local school board governance, and pushing yet again to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

At the opening session the more than 700 attendees also learned about what NSBA leaders are calling the “New NSBA,” the organization’s plan to focus further on advocacy for school board governance and public education.

With Congress having “kicked the can” on dealing with the debt ceiling and sequestration’s across-the-board program cuts now slated to take effect around March 1, FRN attendees have come to Washington at an opportune time to influence members on Capitol Hill, said Michael A. Resnick, NSBA’s associate executive director for federal advocacy and public policy. The session served as the kick-off point for the annual FRN conference meeting, where attendees selected by their state associations spend two days being briefed on current topics and then lobby their members of Congress.

On sequestration, Resnick noted that after the deal reached to raise tax levels at the new year, federal programs will be subject to an across-the-board cut of 5.9 percent on March 1, and those cuts will continue for the next nine years. That means for every 5,000 students in a school district, those districts will lose about $250,000, or more if they receive Title I funds for disadvantaged populations.

But keep in mind K-12 programs make up less than one percent of the entire federal budget, and while cuts would be significant to school operations it would be miniscule to managing federal debt, Resnick said.

“When it comes to education we will not sacrifice the vehicle our children need to tackle the economic situation ahead,” he said. “A child does not get to re-do an inadequately funded third-grade education, or the years after.”

NSBA President C. Ed Massey emphasized that public education is being attacked by people who want to privatize systems for their own profit.

“I am so tired of hearing about the cost or expense of education,” Massey said. “Education is not a cost or expense—it is the greatest investment our public can make.”

NSBA has also proposed legislation that would seek to prevent the U.S. Department of Education from overreaching its authority. The proposed bill prohibits the Education Department, in the absence of specific legislation, from issuing a regulation or grant condition that would interfere with local governance, require the Education Department to go through a more rigorous process that would allow school boards and others to comment, and each year require an annual report to Congress on public education law.

Massey also introduced new NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel, who joined the organization in December. Massey noted that the NSBA Board of Directors undertook an exhaustive process to find a leader.

Gentzel spoke about the increased legislative advocacy of the new NSBA based on the phrase “from, with and through.” That means more legislation and other initiatives will come from NSBA, the organization will partner with other like-minded groups to promote legislation and other initiatives. Most importantly, he noted, NSBA will mount a strong defense against any proposal that would harm public education or school board governance.

“They’re going to have to come through us to get that done,” Gentzel said. Further, he added, “We are facing a critical moment right now in terms of public education.”

Resnick also noted that in spite of naysayers who use terms such as “failing schools,” data and test scores show that public school students are improving.

And while some naysayers criticize the institution of school boards, Resnick noted that local school board members, the vast majority of whom are elected to their jobs, have proven to be a far more effective governance structure than Congress, which continues to stall on dealing with the debt ceiling and budget cuts, favors continuing resolutions instead of new budgetary guidelines, and has not reauthorized ESEA in 11 years.

 

 

Joetta Sack-Min|January 27th, 2013|Categories: Board governance, Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs, FRN Conference 2013, Governance, Legislative advocacy, Policy Formation, Privatization, School Reform, State School Boards Associations|
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