Cyber Charters: The Crack Cocaine of #SchoolChoice?
Keystone State Education Coalition December 3, 2016
What would persuade state lawmakers to bring greater accountability to the nation’s troubled cyber charter sector?”
Blogger Commentary (the opinions expressed herein are my own and are not necessarily representative of any organization I may be affiliated with):
In reading several news and commentary pieces covering the policy positions of the Trump Administration’s choice for Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, my impression is this: That parental choice is paramount regardless of resulting academic performance or fiscal transparency, and that taxpayers who are footing the bill should have virtually no say, via their locally elected school boards, in how their tax dollars are spent. I was particularly struck by the fact that 80% of charters in Michigan are run by for-profit organizations, in no small part due to lobbying and contributions by the DeVos family. In Pennsylvania, for-profit charters have been a wellspring of fraud, waste and abuse of tax dollars.
BY ROBERT SWIFT, HARRISBURG BUREAU CHIEF / PUBLISHED: DECEMBER 4, 2016
Times Tribune BY SARAH HOFIUS HALL / PUBLISHED: DECEMBER 4, 2016
School bus drivers in Upper Merion are hoping a recent fatal school bus crash in Tennessee will give school board members second thoughts about contracting with a private company for busing services. Upper Merion Area School District board members are scheduled to vote on a proposed contract with First Student, North America's largest private busing company, Monday evening. Another provider, Durham School Services, holds the contract with the Tennessee district where the crash occurred. School bus driver Matthew Beasley is circulating a Change.org petition, highlighting the accident in Chattanooga and calling on the school board to keep its existing arrangement. The Upper Merion district has been "very hush-hush about this and it's time the taxpayers and parents know what is going on," he wrote in petition explanation. "The district has only offered the drivers two options so far. Either take a 25 percent pay cut or take a 1-year bridge contract so they can sell the fleet and allow First Student to take over," he wrote. "This is after the drivers have already had a 5-year pay freeze and are now on year 6 and working without a contract."
At separate conventions this summer, the NAACP and the Black Lives Matter Movement—the nation’s oldest and the youngest civil rights organizations—passed resolutions critical of charter schools and the privatization of education. We may have reached a watershed moment for market-based school choice.
Here are 10 things to consider about the market-based charter schools debate:
Interview from Spring 2013 issue of Philanthropy magazine
Betsy DeVos is a reformer. At Calvin College, the young Elisabeth Prince undertook her vocation, becoming involved with campus politics and remaining politically active ever since. For more than 30 years, Mrs. DeVos has led a variety of campaigns, party organizations, and political action committees, including six years as chairman of the Michigan Republican Party. The reforming tendency runs in her family—in 2006 her husband, Dick DeVos, was the Republican nominee for Governor of Michigan. In business as in politics, the DeVoses look for innovative solutions to social problems. Betsy serves as chairman of the Windquest Group, a privately held, multi-company operating group that invests in technology, manufacturing, and clean energy. She founded the firm with her husband in 1989. Dick DeVos is also the former president of Amway, and former president of the Orlando Magic NBA franchise.
Perhaps most importantly, Mrs. DeVos pursues reform through a variety of nonprofit roles. She is chairman of the Dick and Betsy DeVos Family Foundation, and her charitable interests range widely. She is a member of several national and local boards, including the DeVos Institute for Arts Management at the Kennedy Center, Mars Hill Bible Church, Kids Hope USA, and the Foundation for Excellence in Education. She is perhaps best known as a leading advocate for the educational-choice movement. To that end, she serves as chairman of the American Federation for Children (AFC) and the Alliance for School Choice. Philanthropy recently spoke with Mrs. DeVos about her work in educational reform generally, and school choice specifically.
Politico By BENJAMIN WERMUND 12/02/16 06:42 PM EST
Reactions to President-Elect Donald Trump’s announcement of Michigan philanthropist Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education have ranged from high praise, to wary acceptance, toimmediate condemnation. What few have noticed is how much her nomination represents business as usual in national education policy-making. This is not to normalize extremism in politics and government because DeVos certainly has extreme views on a range of issues, as explained below. But what DeVos represents in a very great sense is how rich people’s grip on the nation’s public education system has reached a choking point. No doubt, education policy led by Trump and DeVos will differ from the previous administration, but what’s staying the same is how wealthy private interests will strongly influence policies. Grasping this essential truth matters a lot in the “nasty” politics of education today, where the real debate is not so much about charters and choice as it is about who is in control.
The signature issue for Betsy DeVos, nominated to be the next U.S. Secretary of Education, is giving parents freedom of choice, either to choose charter schools or to use vouchers to buy an education at any school they like, public or private. The logical extension of such policies – permitting students to take individual courses wherever they wish, by using online options – has already begun to take root in about a dozen states. It’s called “Course Access” or “Course Choice.” Under such plans, the funding for a course taken by an individual student goes to the school or online company offering the course, often away from the student’s local district. In Nevada, in fact, parents can spend state education dollars any way they please — on private, public, online, part-time and full-time schools, on tutoring and extra books — through education savings accounts, which an advocate for them calls “the purest form of educational freedom.”
As they have emerged in some states, these programs have been assisted by conservative groups such as Jeb Bush’s Chiefs for Change and the Koch Industries-backed American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). It remains to be seen whether a Trump Administration will boost them further, using federal policy. The growth of “Course Choice” initiatives in various states was chronicled in depth by The Hechinger Report last year, in this story from our archives.
Washington, D.C. Phone:(202) 224-4944
The Department of Education (PDE) is holding a series of public events to engage the public on important education topics in Pennsylvania. The primary focus of these events will be the Every Student Succeeds Act, the federal education law signed by President Barack Obama in late 2015. A senior leader from the department will provide background on the law, and discuss the ongoing
development of Pennsylvania’s State Plan for its implementation, which will be submitted to the U.S. Department of Education in 2017. Feedback is important to PDE; to provide the best avenue for public comment as well as provide an opportunity for those who cannot attend an event, members of the community are encouraged to review materials and offer comments at www.education.pa.gov/Pages/Every-Student-Succeeds-Act
Upcoming Public Events:
Thursday, December 8- Erie- 2:30 pm- Tom Ridge Environmental Center (room TBA)
Friday, December 9- Lock Haven- 1 pm- Lock Haven University
Time and specific locations for the following events, TBA
Friday, December 16- Philadelphia
Wednesday, January 4- Quakertown
(455 Boot Road, Downingtown, PA 19335)
Join us for a public forum featuring state, city and civic leaders sponsored by Philadelphia Media Network, the Philadelphia Public School Notebook and Drexel University's School of Education.
Creese Student Center 3210 Chestnut St. Philadelphia, PA 19104
It's been 15 years since the state took control of Philadelphia's schools and created the School Reform Commission. Since then, the SRC has been a polarizing presence in the city.
With the recent resignation of two members of the commission and the term of a third expiring soon, the future of the SRC and the issue of school governance is once again at the forefront of the civic dialogue. Is the SRC the only model to consider? Should Philadelphia create an elected school board, or should the governing body be controlled by the Mayor? Are there models in other cities that could help us rethink our own school governance? The Philadelphia Public School Notebook, Philadelphia Media Network -- owner of the Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia Daily News and philly.com, and Drexel University's School of Education are hosting a public forum on this critical issue.
RSVP - Admission is free, but you must register in advance. Register now, and find out more about the panelists and other details at our registration page. https://www.eventbrite.com/e/who-should-run-philadelphias-schools-tickets-28926705555
PSBA Virtual New School Director Training, Part 1
JAN 4, 2017 • 6:30 PM - 9:00 PM
The job of a school board director is challenging. Changing laws, policies, and pressures from your community make serving on your school board demanding, yet rewarding at the same time. Most school directors – even those with many years of experience – say that PSBA training is one of the most important and valuable things they have done in order to understand their roles and responsibilities. If you are a new school board director and didn’t have the opportunity to attend one of PSBA’s live New School Director Training events, you can now attend via your computer, either by yourself from your home or office, or with a group of other school directors.
This is the same New School Director Training content we offer in a live classroom format, but adjusted for virtual training.
Fee: $149 per person includes all three programs. Materials may be downloaded free, or $25 for materials to be mailed to your home (log in to the Members Area and purchase through the Store/Registration link).
Register online: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/6607237329490796034
PSBA Third Annual Board Presidents Day
JAN 28, 2017 • 8:00 AM - 3:00 PM Nine Locations Statewide
Jan. 28, 2017 (Snow date: Feb. 11, 2017)
Calling all school board presidents, vice-presidents, and superintendents — Join us for the 3rd Annual PSBA Board Presidents Day held at nine convenient locations around the state.
This is a day of meeting fellow board members from your area and taking part in thought-provoking dialogue about the issues every board faces. PSBA Past President Kathy Swope will start things off with an engaging presentation based on her years as board president at the Lewistown Area School District. Bring your own scenarios to this event to gain perspective from other districts. Cost: $109 per person – includes registration, lunch and materials. All-Access Package applies. Register online by logging in to the Members Area (see the Store/Registration link to view open event registrations, https://www.psba.org/members-area/store-registration/)
Join school directors around the country at the conference designed to give you the tools to advocate successfully on behalf of public education.
- NSBA will help you develop a winning advocacy strategy to help you in Washington, D.C. and at home.
- Attend timely and topical breakout sessions lead by NSBA’s knowledgeable staff and outside experts.
- Expand your advocacy network by swapping best practices, challenges, and successes with other school board members from across the country.
Plan to join public education leaders for networking and learning at the 2017 NSBA Annual Conference, March 25-27 in Denver, CO. General registration is now open at https://www.nsba.org/conference/registration. A conference schedule, including pre-conference workshops, is available on the NSBA website.