Articles in the Privatization category

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|

Facts on vouchers to counter National School Choice Week

As the National School Choice Week begins, the Voucher Strategy Center at the National School Boards Association (NSBA) recommends several resources to counter arguments for vouchers and the privatization of K-12 education.

Patte Barth, director of NSBA’s Center for Public Education (CPE), recently wrote an editorial for the Huffington Post outlining many of the problems with vouchers and other forms of choice that do not hold private and parochial schools accountable for their students’ learning. In  “School Choice Does Not Mean All Choices are Equal,” Barth  discusses recent research that shows many school options have not lived up to their promises, and instead merely drain resources and funds from each community’s public schools.

Barth also wrote a blog for CPE’s EDifier this week discussing recent allegations that a cybercharter school in Pennsylvania inflated enrollment numbers to gain taxpayer funds.

Americans United for the Separation of Church and State (AU) is promoting a Twitter hashtag, #Vouchersfail, to share stories where school vouchers have proven problematic.

The AU has also set up a website, www.au.org/voucherFAIL, with research debunking propaganda being put forth by voucher proponents.

“No matter their motivation, these organizations share the same goal: shifting as many tax resources as possible from the public school system, which serves 90 percent of America’s schoolchildren, to private academies that play by their own rules and aren’t accountable to the taxpayer. Proponents of ‘School Choice Week’ would rather not talk about the many problems inherent in voucher programs,” the website states.

The Voucher Strategy Center also has resources and articles on the evolving field of school choice.

Joetta Sack-Min|January 26th, 2013|Categories: Budgeting, Center for Public Education, Charter Schools, Conferences and Events, Educational Finance, Educational Legislation, Educational Research, Federal Advocacy, Governance, Online learning, Policy Formation, Privatization, Public Advocacy, Religion, School Vouchers|Tags: , , , , |

School choice doesn’t lead to equal choices, CPE director writes for Huffington Post

Patte Barth, director of the Center for Public Education at the National School Boards Association, writes about the perils of the school choice movement in a new blog for the Huffington Post. Barth, a leading researcher, takes on claims that more choices lead to a better education for children.

She writes: “Unfortunately, the opportunities choice advocates propose do not bring a guarantee that the choice will be a good one for kids, and it can even be worse. School districts have been experimenting with choices for over 20 years, first in the form of charter schools and vouchers that individuals can take to private schools, and more recently, virtual schools. Clearly, some myth-busting schools of choice have demonstrated that low-income children can absolutely achieve to the highest levels — just as some noteworthy traditional public schools have. But research to date has not produced any evidence that ‘choice and competition’ in itself produces consistently better results.”

With the exception of schools such as KIPP Academies and the Harlem Children’s Zone, many alternative schools have not produced better academic results than the students’ previous schools, Barth notes.

Read the full article in the Huffington Post.

 

Joetta Sack-Min|January 9th, 2013|Categories: Center for Public Education, Center for Public Education Update, Charter Schools, Educational Finance, Educational Research, Governance, Policy Formation, Privatization, Religion, School Boards, School Vouchers|Tags: , , , |

NSBA President writes about Louisiana voucher ruling

C. Ed Massey, president of the National School Boards Association, has written “Lessons Gleaned from the Louisiana School Voucher Ruling” for the Transforming Learning blog. The blog is a project of the Learning First Alliance, a partnership of 16 national level education organizations, and hosted by Education Week.

Massey wrote, “While this particular battle is far from over — Gov. Bobby Jindal and State Superintendent John White have vowed to appeal — this decision is a major victory for all school boards and public education advocates across the United States. (NSBA) supported our state affiliate, the Louisiana School Boards Association, because we saw the case as a direct threat to public education. The pro-school choice advocates were flooded with outside money and have put forth a sophisticated public relations operation.”

Massey is also a member of the Boone County (Ky.) Schools Board of Education. Read more at Transforming Learning.

Joetta Sack-Min|December 11th, 2012|Categories: Board governance, Educational Finance, Educational Legislation, Governance, Policy Formation, Privatization, Religion, School Law, School Vouchers|Tags: , , , , |

NSBA supports Louisiana school boards in voucher case

A lawsuit filed by school boards will determine the fate of Louisiana’s school voucher plan, which may already be jeopardized after a federal court ruling this week.

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) is supporting a lawsuit filed in state court by the Louisiana School Boards Association (LSBA), the state’s main teachers’ organizations, and 43 school districts that challenges the constitutionality of a plan to provide vouchers to Louisiana students in low-performing schools. The first hearing on this lawsuit is scheduled to begin on Wednesday, Nov. 28, in the 19th Judicial District Court in Baton Rouge, La. LSBA’s Legal Counsel Robert Hammonds will be arguing the case on behalf of LSBA’s members.

The law allows students to attend any private or parochial school that is approved by the Louisiana Department of Education, and many of these teach specific and in some cases extremist religious philosophies. Further, the program does little to hold these schools accountable for student learning or financial management of taxpayer funds—for instance, schools that accept less than 40 students with vouchers are not subject to rigorous accountability requirements for student achievement. State legislators and educators have questioned the state’s process to choose the private and parochial schools that are eligible for public funds, while state officials have launched an advertising campaign to promote the plan, which was pushed by Gov. Bobby Jindal.

In a separate but related court ruling on Monday, a federal judge halted the voucher program in Tangipahoa Parish schools, saying that portions of Jindal’s education plan conflicts with a desegregation agreement because the school choice provisions would lead to more segregation in schools. That ruling in New Orleans-based U.S. District court could affect other school districts that are under desegregation orders. State superintendent John White has said the administration will appeal that ruling. It was unclear what the ruling would mean for the students who are already attending schools with vouchers this year.

In a letter to the editor of the The Advocate in Baton Rouge, LSBA Executive Director Scott Richard notes that the voucher program will siphon resources away from public schools with little or no accountability to local school district governance.

The program “is diminishing public school systems’ ability to provide necessary services for all students by diverting public funds to private and parochial entities under the guise of ‘choice,’” he wrote. “What’s wrong with giving parents a choice of where their children go to school under the current voucher program? The private or parochial schools that accept vouchers will not be held to high standards for students’ learning nor the taxpayer dollars they spend — if at all.”

Public schools—governed by local school boards—are best equipped to meet the needs of all students, Richard continued. But those schools need a resources to implement programs that will improve student achievement, including early education, strong interventions for students who are falling behind, and highly qualified teachers and staff.

“LSBA is not defending the status quo in our public schools,” Richard wrote. “We need our elected officials to commit to ensuring that Louisiana has the best public school system available to all of its families and the infrastructure to support it — for the sake of our children and our state.”

NSBA President C. Ed Massey will attend the state trial and bring a letter of support from NSBA to Baton Rouge at the start of the trial on Wednesday.

“It is clear this law was not created with the best interest of all children in mind; instead it promotes a narrow political agenda and will harm community public schools that serve the best interest of all children,” Massey said. “It also deprives the public schools of valuable resources that are necessary to carry out the mandate to provide a free and appropriate public education.”

 

 

Joetta Sack-Min|November 27th, 2012|Categories: Board governance, Budgeting, Diversity, Educational Finance, Educational Legislation, Federal Advocacy, Legislative advocacy, Policy Formation, Privatization, Public Advocacy, Religion, School Board News, School Boards, School Vouchers|Tags: , , , |

Virtual Learning: Growing but untested, NSBA report says

Do K12 students benefit from taking some or all of their classes online? A new report by NSBA’s Center for Public Education, Searching for the Reality of Virtual Schools, says that while online education holds promise for 21st century learning, researchers know relatively little about the performance of virtual schools, and the studies that have been done are troubling.

“Virtual learning is the future. It’s increasing,” said Patte Barth, director of the Center. “But we don’t have a lot of information about its effect right now, so I would caution people to start slow and monitor it very closely.”

“Online learning” can refer to anything from a single class, such as an Advanced Placement class that is not available at a school or a credit recovery class, to full-time K-12 virtual schools, to a combination online and face-to-face instruction. Programs can be created and operated by school districts, states, non-profit or for-profit entities, as well as a host of other sources, which can blur the lines of accountability. 

While the information on online learning is incomplete, several studies on the practice are not encouraging. For example, a Stanford University study covering the period 2007-2010 found that 100 percent of virtual charters schools in Pennsylvania performed significantly worse in math and reading than traditional schools in terms of student gains.

The research also shows that full-time K-12 virtual schools tend to show the least effective results in graduation rates, course completion, and test scores.  While full-time virtual schools enroll less than two percent of the nation’s public school population, that number is rapidly increasing, and much of the growth is with for-profit providers.

“A full-time experience is much different than one class, and the overall data for full-time virtual schools tends to be where the wheels fall off,” Barth said. “Most of the research we found raises serious questions about the accountability and monitoring of some of these schools.”

The report also examines the funding streams of four states: Colorado, Ohio, Florida, and Pennsylvania, and the researchers found that in most cases funding is not based on the actual cost to educate a child through virtual schools. Determining budgets—and sometimes, enrollments—of virtual schools is often difficult.

The report gives school board members and the public a list of questions to ask to ensure their taxpayer’s funds are being used by programs that produce better results for students.

The report was written by Barth, the Center’s Managing Editor Rebecca St. Andrie, and the Center’s Senior Policy Analyst Jim Hull.

 

Lawrence Hardy|May 14th, 2012|Categories: 21st Century Skills, Board governance, Center for Public Education, Charter Schools, Computer Uses in Education, Curriculum, Educational Technology, High Schools, Online learning, Privatization, School Board News, Student Achievement|Tags: , , |

The week in blogs: High school reports spark more discussion

Two reports on high school rigor, which came out within hours of each other last week, have sparked an online discussion about the need to make secondary school more relevant for all students. 

“Are Disparities Creating an Educational Caste System?” the provocative title of Maureen Downey’s Get Schooled blog in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, quoted reports on the status of high school from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, and NSBA’s Center for Public Education. Among the more striking statistics from the government report — 3,000 high schools serving almost 500,000 students don’t offer algebra II – a gateway course to college and career success.

“Without algebra II, you probably don’t go to college,” Center director Patte Barth told Downey and other reporters. “If you go, you are probably going to end up in remediation. Without it, you don’t become an auto mechanic. You don’t get into one of the growing service jobs in growing fields like communications.”

The Center’s report notes that a rigorous math curricula, Advanced Placement courses, dual high school-college enrollment, and early college programs can all enhance the curricula of American high schools.

Moving on, we turn to a blog we missed last week but is too important to let slide: Diane Ravitch, who recently addressed the Louisiana School Boards Association, speaking on Gov. Bobby Jindal’s truly draconian plan to privatize education.

And lastly, concerning the latest skirmishes in the parenting wars, we’ve written about “Tiger Mothers” and the new homeschooling trend among progressives (or is that “mini-trend?”). Now it’s time to consider the French. The French? Well, do they do parenting any better over there? Apparently not, writes blogger Joanne Jacobs, who links to a new commentary in the Atlantic magazine.

 

Lawrence Hardy|March 16th, 2012|Categories: 21st Century Skills, Center for Public Education, High Schools, Privatization, School Vouchers|Tags: , , , |
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