Search results for 'retooling'

Destroy Public Education Forces Retooling for 2019

26 Dec

The destroy public education (DPE) national coordinating organization, Education Cities, has been closed, with its assets and personnel distributed to three new organizations; The City Fund, School Board Partners and Community Engagement Partners. And there is more. In an interview with The 74, City Fund’s Managing Partner, Neerav Kingsland, revealed the establishment a new political action committee under IRS code 501 C4 called Public School Allies.

In October, the California Charter Schools Association (CCSA) announced that its leader for the past 10 years, Jed Wallace, would step down in January, 2019. The new President of CCSA will be Myrna Castrejón who is currently Director of Great Public Schools Now (GPSN). The announcement says of Wallace’s future, “He will move onto a new role advising charter school organizations across the United States.” Under Wallace’s leadership the CCSA replaced the California Teachers Association as the state’s largest lobbying effort on education issues.

The LittleSis map below shows the money coming into The City Fund and the new postings for the former Education Cities’ staff. During the interview cited above, Kirkland said, “Along with the Hastings Fund and the Arnold Foundation, we’ve also received funds from the Dell Foundation, the Gates Foundation, the Walton Family Foundation, and the Ballmer Group.” The amount of money given by the Walton family and Ballmer is unknown.

Little Sis Map of Reorganization

Reorganizing DPE Forces (see Interactive Map here)

Matt Barnum of Chalkbeat reported that City Fund has started spending to promote the “portfolio model” of education reform. Barnum stated,

“Kingsland said The City Fund has given to The Mind Trust, which focuses on Indianapolis Public Schools; RootED in Denver; City Education Partners in San Antonio; the Newark Charter School Fund and the New Jersey Children’s Foundation; The Opportunity Trust in St. Louis; and RedefinED Atlanta. In Nashville, The City Fund gave directly to certain charter schools.”

The City Fund’s central agenda is promoting the portfolio model of school reform. The portfolio model posits treating schools like stock holdings and trimming the failures by privatizing them or closing them. The instrument for measuring failure is the wholly inappropriate standardized test which reflects student family wealth but does not identify education quality. Testing and the portfolio model inevitably lead to an ever more privatized system – especially in poor communities – that strips parents and taxpayers of their democratic rights. Objections to the portfolio model include:

  1. It creates constant churn and disruption. Students in struggling neighborhoods need stable environments they can trust.
  2. Democratically operated schools are the foundation of American democracy. The portfolio model ignores the value of these democratic incubators.
  3. Parents and taxpayer lose the ability to hold elected officials accountable for school operations.

Even voucher enthusiast Jay P. Greene of the University of Arkansas wrote an open letter to John Arnold warning against the portfolio model. He noted, “The Arnold Foundation invests heavily in another initiative that promotes rigorous science for medical and policy decision-making, yet they do not seem to apply that same standard of proof to their own education strategy.

Myrna Castrejón and Great Public Schools Now (GPSN)

Myrna Castrejón attended college at the flagship Seventh-day Adventist school Andrews University. From there she matriculated to the University of Wisconsin where she took graduate work in Anthropology and Border Studies. She has spent time at various non-profits focused on education reform in both El Paso, Texas and Los Angeles, California. In 2003, she went to work for the CCSA.

By 2015, Castrejón was the Senior Vice President, Government Affairs, at CCSA where she led their Advocates group. At the end of the year, she left her $231,000 position to establish GPSN where her  pay raised to $255,133 for the first year.

GPSN was a start-up non-profit in 2016, however, it was extremely well financed. The Walton family gave $400,000 and Eli Broad sent $4,927,500 but the big money came from Bill Gates a whopping $24,985,965. With this money, Castrejón was able to finance a public relations campaign that gave her amazing access to the Los Angeles Unified School District’s board, especially Ref Rodriguez and Monica Garcia at the start and later with Nick Malvoin, Garcia and Superintendent Austin Buetner.

That first year, she was able to grant Teach for America $4,200,000 in order “to increase the pipeline of high quality teachers in LA schools.” She also sent $500,000 to Boston’s Building Excellent Schools to recruit two fellows for founding, opening and leading “high achieving charter schools” in LA.

This past October she organized a “town-hall meeting” with “250 parents” to promote the charter industries dream of a common application for all schools. LAUSD Board President, Monica Garcia, Board member, Nick Malvoin and Superintendent Austin Buetner were all there to support her agenda.

Buetner at Great Schools Now Event June 29_2018

GPSN One Application Event with Austin Buetner (picture from #onecityallkids)

Myrna Castrejón has been a very effective leader in the DPE effort to privatize schools in Los Angeles and throughout California. That is why she will be the next leader of CCSA, the big dog among California’s DPE forces.

School Board Partners

Matt Barnum a reporter for Chalkbeat obtained a trove of emails between Myrna Castrejón and officials at LAUSD through a public information request. He made the 315 pages of emails accessible in his article, “New group will try to connect school board members pushing for ‘dramatic change’ in these 10 cities.”

The emails show that Ref Rodriguez, Monica Garcia and Nick Malvoin were more like partners with Castrejón than public representatives. This August, Castrejón messaged Garcia and Malvoin about the Launch of School Board Partners. She wrote,

“I am forwarding a networking and support opportunity that one of our partners is launching to advance the work of quality and equity in urban districts. School Board Partners is a new, spin off organization of the former Education Cities network, of which GPSN is a member. As you can see from Carrie’s description, their aim is create a Board level community of practice and make available resources and support for participating members on site and remote.

“This is at NO cost to participating Board members. If this is of interest to you, the initial cohort will launch October 1-3 in Denver. Let me know if I can connect you more directly. See the general description below, and the link to the live page that explains their work in more detail. I hope you find this helpful!

“Myrna”

The email that Castrejón forwarded was from Carrie McPherson Douglass, the CEO, of School Board Partners, which was in its first month or two of operation. The key portion of Douglas’s message reads,

“For year 1, our list of priority cities is: Atlanta, Baton Rouge, Denver, Detroit, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, Memphis, New Orleans, Oakland, San Antonio and Stockton.

“In each of these cities, we plan to support 1-3 school board members by providing these three sets of supports:

“1.  A national community of diverse school board members who are working to lead bold change in their respective communities. The network will meet annually in person and communicate virtually throughout the year as needed. Members of the network will learn together and support each other, as well as benefit from the support and resources of the team at School Board Partners.

“2.  A personal coach/mentor to support each individual school board member as they develop as an elected official and leader of change in your city.

“3.  Pro-bono consulting services to help school board members research, plan and execute thoughtful change initiatives specific to your board and city. Our first national convening of school board members will be held in Denver Oct 1st-3rd.”

Both Garcia and Malvoin indicate great interest in the group but cited a conflict with the October date. Garcia said her Pahara group was meeting then and Nick said a looming strike and some board business would make those dates difficult. Castrejón agreed to put them both in direct contact with Carrie Douglass.

Carrie McPherson Douglass from EC bio

Carrie Douglass’s Profile Picture on the Education Cities Cyber sight

Carrie Douglass was the Managing Partner at Education Cities. She signed their tax forms and made really good money. The tax form’s list her 2014 salary at $154,343, her 2015 salary at $168,942 and her 2016 salary at $182,595.

Before Education Cities, Carrie served as the Senior Director of Strategy and Innovation at the Rogers Family Foundation in Oakland, an Education Cities member, where she developed a blended learning pilot. Prior to joining Rogers, Carrie was the Director of Human Resources at Aspire Public Schools.

Carry earned a B.A. from the University of Portland, Oregon, in Education and Music. She was awarded an M.B.A. at Boston University specializing in Finance, Strategy and Non-profit Management.

Douglass lives and works from the beautiful little city of Bend, Oregon on the eastern side of the Cascade Mountains. Last year she was elected to the local school board.

This founding leader of School Board Partners is a “Broadie.” She completed the two year Broad Residency program (2007-2009) while working at Aspire. Her quote on the Broad Alumni page reads,

“I am amazed that Americans have accepted mediocrity from our public school system for so long. The status quo must end. The Broad Residency provides an opportunity for professionals with a wide variety of experiences to bring innovative solutions to the table, while simultaneously developing a deep understanding of the historical context to ensure appropriate solutions for urban education.”

In other words this very white woman from an extraordinarily white area of the United States believes Broad gave her the kind of “deep understanding” required for saving the black and brown children in Atlanta, Baton Rouge, Denver, Detroit, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, Memphis, New Orleans, Oakland, San Antonio and Stockton. What could go wrong?

In a private email, Peter Greene responded to the establishment of School Board Partners with, “I call BS.” The point being that every state requires school board members to go through training and existing reputable private organizations like the California School Board Association also make many training and research resources available to board members. California’s Department of Consumer Affairs provides a plethora of training opportunities and informs all new Board members, “California … requires every appointed board member to complete a training and orientation program offered by the Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) within one year of assuming office.

School Board Partners is not a good Samaritan group filling a void. It is a DPE organization looking to co-opt elected board members into furthering the portfolio model of education reform.

Community Engagement Partners

This new organization is not well defined and their web presence is not much more informative than the non-existent web presence of The City Fund. Three former employees of Education Cities are developing this new DPE organization.

Kevin Leslie “provides finance and operations support to Education Cities and its two new initiatives: Community Engagement Partners and School Board Partners.

Rebecca Weinberg Jones is the Deputy Director of Community Engagement Partners (CPE). She attended Vassar College and earned a Masters in Urban Education Policy from Brown University. Her LinkedIn page says of CEP,

“Community Engagement Partners, an initiative of Education Cities, supports education organizations and leaders as they partner with and learn from their local communities with the goal of creating and sustaining great schools. We believe that the change necessary to ensure that every child has access to a high-quality school is only possible and sustainable when those most impacted by educational inequity are partners in the work and decision making.”

Charles McDonald is the Executive Director for CEP. In the past, he served as Senior Managing Director, External Affairs for Teach For America – South Carolina. He also served as Program Manager for Education Pioneers Greater Boston Analyst and Graduate School Fellowship programs for two years.

A paper McDonald wrote while at Education Cities is the only document linked on the CEP web page. It purportedly points to their purpose. In it he obseved,

“After nearly a decade of catalyzing and implementing nationally-recognized education reforms, The Mind Trust made an intentional shift from solely focusing on grasstops-driven reform efforts to recognizing the need to partner with key grassroots stakeholders and civic leaders with deep ties to the communities most impacted by educational inequity. In 2013, the organization hired Indianapolis native Kameelah Shaheed-Diallo [now at The City Fund] to help lead efforts to better align The Mind Trust’s strategy to the needs and values of the community and build a base of community support for educational equity.”

It seems like the CEP purpose will be to continue Education City’s efforts to organize and support on the ground DPE forces in America’s cities.

Some Final Comments

This October, Diane Ravitch addressed #NPE2018Indy asserting, “We are the resistance and we are winning!” 2018 certainly was a hopeful year for the friends of public education and professional educators. Charter school growth has stagnated and “choice” has been shown to be a racist attack rather than an expanded right. In Arizona, an ALEC driven voucher scheme was soundly defeated and in California, Tony Thurmond turned back the nearly $50 million dollar effort to make a charter school executive Superintendent of Public Instruction.

The DPE response is a new more opaque and better funded effort narrowly focused on its theory of quality schools through the portfolio model. It is yet another effort to transform education with no input from educators. Without billionaire money tipping the scales of democracy; vouchers and charter schools would disappear because they are bad policy. Educators ache to focus on improving public education but must use their energy fighting for the survival of America’s public education system, the world’s greatest and most successful education institution.

America’s teachers are educators who will continue sharing lessons on how to recognize highly paid political agents and profitable propaganda centers masquerading as “think tanks.” I predict, even with the greater spending and reorganization, 2019 will be an awful year for the DPE forces.

Virulent Destroy Public Education Movement Rampaging in Texas

3 Mar

By T. Ultican 3/2/2019

Top leaders of the Texas Republican Party have joined with the Chamber of Commerce and other wealthy business groups to undermine democratic control of local schools. Eschewing long held conservative principles of liberty from the tyranny of big government and a reverence for democratic local governance, these odd Republicans are joining with like minded Democrats to arrogate power over public schools to themselves. Wielding new legal tools they designed and an old education funding law, politicians are forcing privatization upon the 1025 independent public school districts in Texas.

The Legal Heist

Legal Privatization Incentives.

Legal Framework Forcing Privatization of Public Education in Texas

In 1989, the Texas Supreme Court ruled that public education was inequitable and ordered the state to remedy the situation. A new school finance system, commonly referred to as ‘Robin Hood,’ required property wealthy districts to help equalize funding with property poor districts. The wealthy districts that provide money are known as Chapter 41 school districts, which is the chapter in the Texas education code where the law exists. The mechanism for taking the money is called “recapture.”

In 1993 there were 34 Chapter 41 school districts sending 130-million recapture dollars. Since then, the State has quit providing its share of school funding which caused the number of schools subject to Robin Hood to increase dramatically. Today, more than 371 school districts qualify as Chapter 41 school districts.

Lori Kirkpatrick a Dallas area school board candidate in 2017 writes an informative blog focused on Texas public education policies. She writes here about charter school funding and recapture,

“I reached out to Chandra Villanueva, school finance expert at the Center for Public Policy Priorities, and here’s what she had to say when I asked about the recapture dollar amount for the state of Texas ($2.8 billion) being eerily similar to the charter school budget ($2.7 billion). (Emphasis added)

[Villanueva said] “‘Statute says all the dollars collected by the state through recapture may be used only for foundation school purposes – it does not say anything about property-poor districts. A lot of people believe that recapture doesn’t go to education because it supplants rather than supplements education funding. So I like to point out the connection between recapture and charters for two reasons.

“‘1.       Charter school operations are 100% state funded – and like you pointed out, the funding for charter schools is just slightly under what is collected in recapture, this makes it easy to draw a line to which schools exactly are getting most of those dollars.’ (Emphasis added)

“‘2.       This is probably the most important point, recapture is determined by wealth per student. When a student leaves a traditional ISD for a charter school, the home districts wealth per student goes up – if this happens enough times a district can be pushed into recapture. This is exactly what happened in Houston – charters drained the student population, making the wealth per student of the district fall into recapture territory. If all the charter students were still enrolled in HISD, the district would be entitled to more funding than it is currently paying in recapture. So if you live in a recapture district that has charters you can think of your tax dollars being sent directly to the charter.’” (Emphasis added)

Lori noted that Dallas has 35,000 students in charter schools. The property tax per public school student has increased which increases recapture payments to the state. Money is taken out of the public system and transferred to the privatized system. When this happens, taxpayers lose their democratic control over the schools they are financing.

In 2015, the Texas House of Representatives introduced and passed HB 1842, which is the school district “death penalty” bill. Governor Abbott signed the bill into law that same year. It mandatesintervention in and sanction of a public school that has received an academically unsuccessful performance rating for at least two consecutive school years ….” (Emphasis added)

The law says that if a district does not implement an approved plan to turn the school around “the commissioner shall [may] order:

  • appointment of a board of managers to govern the district ….;
  • alternative management of the campus under this section; or
  • closure of the campus.”

Districts that present an approved turnaround plan are designated an “innovation district.” If after five consecutive years of bad test scores at any district campus an “innovation district” would lose its designation and be subject to the above sanctions.

HB 1842 passed by large margins; 26-5 in the senate and 125-18 in the house. Governor Abbott signed this bipartisan legislation requiring districts to be taken over by the state if just one school in the district is labeled “failing” as measured by State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STARR) testing.

It has been known for some time that even good standardized tests are NOT capable of measuring either school or teacher quality. (See evidence here, here, here, here and here.) In 2012, when the current version of the STAAR tests came out, Texas A & M researchers said the reading tests were testing at a level two grades above the students. In 2016, researchers at University of Mary Hardin-Baylor, in Belton, Texas confirmed the A & M study. The headline in February’s Texas Monthly asks the obvious, “Are Texas Kids Failing? Or Are the Tests Rigged?

In 2017, Senate Bill 1882 incentivized privatizing schools predominantly in minority neighborhoods. Sarah Becker a Houston parent and school psychologist explains,

“In the spring of 2017, just months before the sanctions of HB1842 were slated to go into effect; the legislature passed Texas Senate Bill 1882, which gave school boards another option for these so-called failing schools. SB1882 encouraged school districts to hand over control of these neighborhood schools to charter operators (referred to as “partnerships”) the year before schools would get ratings for the fifth year. In exchange, the school and its board would get a reprieve from Representative Dutton’s death penalty for two years and, as a bonus, would receive extra funding for every student enrolled in one of these charter-controlled schools.

“With one law the death penalty (1842) and the other law the price of clemency (1882), these two laws now work together to coerce local school boards to be the hand of privatizing their own neighborhood schools.”

Bipartisan Attack on Public Education

Public School Political Privatize Leaders

Texas Politicians Promoting Public School Privatization

Governor Greg Abbott is the first paraplegic governor since George Wallace of Alabama. A tree fell on the then 26-years old future Governor damaging his spinal column. Abbott is a white anti-abortion Catholic married to an educator of Mexican descent.

He was appointed to the Texas Supreme court by former Governor, George W. Bush. After leaving the court he was elected state Attorney General, a position he held for 13-years. He famously or infamously – depending on your position on the separation of church and state – successfully protected the right of Texas to keep its 6 foot tall 3 feet wide granite 10-commandments monument in front of the state capital. The court split 5-4 in Abbott’s favor.

As Attorney General, Abbott brought over 30 suits against the Obama administration. In a 2013 Texas Monthly article he was quoted, “I go into the office in the morning, I sue Barack Obama, and then I go home.” The article went on to report, “… he has gleefully battled perceived federal overreach in matters of environmental regulation, redistricting, and voter ID.”

A Houston Chronicle editorial noted, “… Texas Governor Greg Abbott hasn’t issued any public statements on the withdrawal from the Paris agreement, but he led the charge against Obama-era climate regulations.” Abbott also filed suit against the Affordable Care Act (Obama Care).

The Governor believes that state’s rights are being abused by both the federal executive and legislative branches of government plus the Supreme Court. In 2016, he called for a convention of U.S. states to adopt nine new amendments to the U.S. Constitution limiting the powers of the federal government.

It is shocking that a conservative republican with Abbott’s credentials would sign and champion legislation like HB 1842 taking away the democratic rights of Texas residents to govern their own schools. His Trumpian Tweet sent in January reeks of “Big Brother,”

“What a joke. HISD leadership is a disaster. Their self-centered ineptitude has failed the children they are supposed to educate. If ever there was a school board that needs to be taken over and reformed it’s HISD. Their students & parents deserve change.” [HISD is Houston Independent School District]

Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick grew up in Maryland with the given name Dan Goeb. He changed his name to Dan Patrick when he moved to Houston. His career as a bomb throwing talk radio personality provided him with the required name recognition to become a successful conservative politician.  Patrick founded the Tea Party caucus in the Texas legislature. He calls Ronald Reagan and Donald Trump the two greatest Presidents of his lifetime. He opposes abortion rights for women.

Patrick has a knack for alienating his fellow legislators. He accused Republican State Senator John Corona of spreading rumors about his marriage. Corona responded,

“Though I have heard rumors regarding your marital status and sexual preferences for a while now, at no time have I told anyone that you are either separated, divorced or gay. As you know, if you truly believed I had said something unflattering, you could have simply asked. I’ve never been shy about sharing my dislike and distrust of you. Put bluntly, I believe you are a snake oil salesman, a narcissist that would say anything to draw attention to himself.”

One of Patrick’s first acts as a State Senator was to introduce legislation lifting the Texas charter school cap. Patrick also champions school vouchers which he calls “the civil rights issue of our time” and he encourages the teaching of creationism. These are radical positions that deliver harm. They violate the establishment clause the US constitution, would force taxpayers to pay for religious schools and will financially devastate public school districts. When did being a radical become a conservative principle?

Commissioner of Education Mike Morath was a Dallas Independent School District (DISD) Trustee when picked to be Commissioner by Governor Abbott. Morath’s only education experience is as a substitute teacher in one class for part of one year. When he ran for school board in 2011, he was the first of a new wave of business community PAC supported candidates who now dominate the DISD board. While on the board, Morath discovered a never used Texas law that made privatizing a school district possible and he led a failed effort to do just that in Dallas.

Morath continues a fifteen year period in which Texas has not had an experienced education professional leading its schools. Billionaire businessmen like Eli Broad discount the value of education leaders having deep education knowledge and experience. Broad who established the un-accredited Broad Superintendents academy claims that education leaders without education experience can hire consultants for that.

Morath’s primary agenda is a statewide effort to institute the portfolio school district management model using his System of Great Schools Network program. The portfolio model promotes disruption as a virtue and posits no value for stable neighborhood schools. Under this model, as schools are closed or reconstituted because of poor standardized testing results, the replacement schools are controlled by private concerns. Local citizens’ have their democratic rights purloined in favor of private companies.

Jimmy Don Aycock Republican State Representative from Killen joined with Harold Dutton Democratic State Representative from Houston to create and pass HB 1842, the state school district death penalty law signed by Governor Abbott in 2015.

Paul Bettencourt Republican State Senator from Houston and Jose Menendez Democratic State Senator from San Antonio wrote and passed SB 1882 the “Partnerships” law. Menendez was the lead author. Governor Abbott signed it into law in 2017.

Wealthy Texans and Billionaire Outsiders Finance the Destroy Public Education Agenda

In 2013, the Texas Observer published “Meet the New Money Behind School Reform in Texas.” Author Patrick Michels reported on the launch of Texas for Education Reform (TER) with deep-pocketed donorslike Dick Weekley, Ray Hunt and Doug Foshee who helped the education group raise nearly $1 million for its new political action committee.

By 2016, TER was spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on individual state representative and senate seats to defeat pro-public education candidates and replace them with candidates that will vote to cut spending on education. For example, the Texas State Teachers Association reported in January 2016, on two public education supporters – Democratic Representative Mary Gonzalez in House District 75 and Republican Representative Gary VanDeaver in House District 1 – that were targeted. The report said, “So far, TER has contributed almost $300,000 in advertising and other services to Gonzalez’s opponent, former Rep. Chente Quintanilla, and more than $100,000 to VanDeaver’s challenger, former Rep. George Lavender.

Billionaire John Arnold the former Enron trader from Houston is spending heavily to promote the “portfolio model” of education governance. Billionaire Michael Dell of Austin is spending heavily promoting charter schools and education technology. He has also sent $9 million to Arnold’s “portfolio model” agenda. These examples go on and on.

This is not altruistic philanthropic spending. These people are opening new lucrative markets while they reduce their own tax burdens. They are destroying public schools because it is worth billions to them.

This article wraps up a series of articles over the last seven months about the Destroy Public Education movement in Texas. Here are links to the other five posts:

A Texas Sized Destroy Public Education IDEA: The large profits and huge funding behind selling a subpar school system to destroy public education are documented here.

Big Spending on Privatizing Public Schools in San Antonio: How a local business woman and an Eli Broad/Arne Duncan trained superintendent are speeding the privatization of public schools in San Antonio.

Texas Public Schools in Portfolio District Crosshairs: Details about how Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath is driving the privatization of all of the state’s schools.

Texas Hangs Sword of Damocles Over Houston Schools: Describes how the state’s new legal powers are being used to force Houston to privatize schools in minority zip codes.

Dallas Chamber of Commerce Disrupts Dallas Schools: Provides details about how Dallas’s country-club set is pushing the privatization of public schools in that city’s almost exclusively in minority neighborhoods.