Tag Archives: Education Reform

Washington Post: Meet Betsy DeVos

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Betsy DeVos

President-elect Donald Trump on Wednesday said he intends to appoint west Michigan GOP mega donor and philanthropist Betsy DeVos to be his education secretary, putting an ardent supporter of school choice in charge of the nation’s education policy.

DeVos, 58, is seen as a national leader in the school choice movement, which she has called an attempt to “empower” parents to find good schools for their children, whether they be traditional public schools in other neighborhoods, charter schools, virtual schools or private institutions.

“Betsy DeVos is a brilliant and passionate education advocate,” Trump said Wednesday in a statement. “Under her leadership, we will reform the U.S. education system and break the bureaucracy that is holding our children back so that we can deliver world-class education and school choice to all families.”

Trump’s appointment of DeVos is subject to confirmation by the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate.

On Tuesday, former Washington, D.C., school chancellor Michelle Rhee took herself out of the running for education secretary, clearing the path for DeVos’ appointment.

In a statement, DeVos said she was honored to help Trump “make American education great again” — a play on Trump’s campaign slogan.

“The status quo in education is not acceptable,” DeVos said. “Together, we can work to make transformational change that ensures every student in America has the opportunity to fulfill his or her highest potential.”

Trump’s decision to have DeVos run the U.S. Department of Education comes four days after she met with the president-elect and Vice President-elect Mike Pence at Trump’s golf club in Bedminister, New Jersey.

In case you don’t know anything about Betsy DeVos, the Washington Post has a good summary. 1000px-US-DeptOfEducation-Seal.svg

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Clash in Annapolis over school air conditioning

imageA debate over whether Baltimore-area schools can spend money on portable air-conditioning units has mushroomed into a power struggle involving some of Maryland’s top elected officials.

The Board of Public Works, which oversees state funds for school construction, voted 2-1 Wednesday to withhold $15 million in capital funds for schools in Baltimore city and county until those jurisdictions produce plans to use window-box air-conditioning units as a short-term fix to address a lack of cooling systems in their schools.

Gov. Larry Hogan (R) and Comptroller Peter Franchot (D) voted to withhold the money, over objections from fellow board member and state Treasurer Nancy K. Kopp (D).

In a separate 2-1 decision, the panel voted to finalize a rule change that would allow school districts to buy portable air conditioners despite a state policy that prevents the use of state or federal money for such purchases, in part because of energy-efficiency concerns.

Franchot blasted Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) and House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) for trying to prevent the rule modification by passing legislation earlier this year that effectively nullifies any Board of Public Works decision on school construction funding-policy made after Jan. 1, 2016.

Franchot called the legislation a “highly charged, highly irregular, highly unusual intervention by the most powerful politicians — other than the governor — in the state.”

Busch pushed back Wednesday, saying it is the state legislature’s job to set policy.

“The Board of Public Works’ job is to do procurement, so I think it’s clear that policy initiatives come from the General Assembly,” he said.

Attorneys for the Board of Public Works and the legislature have traded letters arguing their positions on which body has the final say in the matter.

Hogan and Franchot described the stifling heat in Baltimore city and county schools — the only jurisdictions in the state that have a significant number of classrooms that lack air conditioning — as an issue that could affect students’ health and ability to concentrate.

Teens testifying at Wednesday’s board meeting agreed.

“It’s hot, and it’s hard to learn,” said Keami Sullivan, 17, who attends Baltimore County’s Kenwood High School.

Kopp accused Hogan and Franchot of using “fear and demagoguery” to affect local decisions. “It may be good theater, but it’s a very bad mistake,” she said.

Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz (D) has rejected plans for using $10 million in county surplus funds to install portable air conditioners.

He insists that the money would be better-spent on a plan he laid out for adding central air conditioning to all of the jurisdiction’s schools by the end of 2019.

Via Washington post

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John Deasy’s business dinners

lat-deasyhp-la0020338202-20140826 (1)former L.A. schools Supt. John Deasy

Zahira Torres and Howard Blume wrote a blockbuster assessment of John Deasy’s tumultuous tenure as superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District. Being good reporters, they bent over backwards to tell this sordid tale without rendering judgment. But the facts they present are damning. They were largely gathered from Deasy’s travel and expense records, which the reporters obtained by a Freedom of Information request.

1. He had a heavy travel schedule, which took him away from the district for 200 days. His travels interfered with his responsibilities.

“At key moments of tumult in the district, the records show, Deasy was simply not in town….

“The beginning of the end came a year ago, just before the school year started. Deasy was in New York to discuss challenges threatening education reform.

“Back at home, the city’s public schools were in disarray. By the time Deasy returned for the first day of classes, a malfunctioning scheduling system had forced students into gyms and auditoriums to await assignments. Some of them ended up in the wrong courses, putting their path to graduation in jeopardy.

“Two months later, in October, a Superior Court judge ordered state education officials to meet with Deasy to fix the scheduling problems that he said deprived students of their right to an education. But Deasy flew to South Korea the next morning to visit schools and meet government officials. A week later, he resigned, under pressure, as head of the nation’s second-largest school system.”

2. He spent lavishly on travel and meals; foundations with their own agenda subsidized his expenses.

“Deasy, who was paid $350,000 a year as superintendent, took more than 100 trips, spent generously on meals as he lobbied state and national lawmakers and wooed unions, foundations and educational leaders, according to credit card receipts, calendars and emails obtained under the California Public Records Act.

“Deasy spent about $167,000 on airfare, hotels, meals and entertainment during his tenure; half paid by philanthropists and foundations, and the other half by the district. Private foundations often make contributions to school districts, and the LAUSD’s position is that those funds can be used for the superintendent’s expenses.

“Among the philanthropists who subsidized his expenses, according to district records, were entertainment executive Casey Wasserman and Eli Broad, both of whom support education causes through their foundations.

“Deasy attended conferences and held meetings in cities including Boston, New York City, Washington, D.C., and Seattle. The tab for an evening with teachers union officers at Drago Centro in Los Angeles ran to more than $1,000. During a one-night stay at the Four Seasons hotel in New York, for which he spent $900, he met, among others, Laurene Powell Jobs, the widow of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs and president of the Emerson Collective, which awards grants and invests in education initiatives.”

3. Deasy was hired without a national search. “Influential philanthropists” and then-Mayor Villaraigosa selected Deasy. We may safely assume that Eli Broadwas one of those influential philanthropists.

4. Deasy’s pals in Silicon Valley, Wall Street, and those “influential philanthropists” poured millions into school board elections to defeat Deasy critics and elect Deasy allies.

“Groups with ties to Silicon Valley and Wall Street have played growing roles in the education reform movement by donating to school board candidates. The Emerson Collective, along with Broad and others, put hundreds of thousands of dollars into campaigns for board members who supported Deasy’s goals.”

5. Despite his large salary, Deasy asked his powerful friends to pay for some of his expenses. Here is one example, that a tuay sounds humiliating to Deasy, who extends a begging bowl to Eli Broad.

“Some board members said they also worried that by requesting and accepting reimbursement for travel from Wasserman, Broad and others who supported his reform efforts, Deasy was creating the perception that he might give a special hearing to those donors.

“In an email, for example, Deasy sought a “scholarship” from Broad to attend a dinner in New York honoring two education leaders who shared his vision for turning around troubled school districts.

“Would Eli support my attendance at an event?” Deasy wrote in October 2011 to Gregory McGinity, a senior official with the Broad Foundation. “I do not have such means to buy the ticket myself…. Do you think he would ‘scholarship’ me?”

“The Broad Foundation reimbursed the district $1,400 for Deasy’s airfare and hotel. A board member of the Aspen Institute, a nonpartisan think tank hosting the event, covered the superintendent’s $1,500 ticket for the dinner, according to the email.”

6. Deasy’s iPad fiasco was a disaster that is now being investigated by the FBI.

“Deasy’s signature effort to provide iPads to all students failed, and the cost of untangling the troubled student records system has now topped $200 million.”

7. Deasy had to go not only because of the iPad mess and the disaster with the district’s computer programming, but because he testified for the plaintiffs when LAUSD was sued in the Vergara case, instead of testifying for the district he led.

“Board President Steve Zimmer said Deasy’s confrontational approach reached a breaking point for him when the superintendent became a star witness for the plaintiffs in Vergara vs. California.

“That case, now on appeal, was heralded by national school reformers for making it easier to fire teachers and ending the current practice of layoffs based on seniority. It angered teachers who believed that they were under constant attack from the superintendent, who did not consult the board about the litigation.

“Once he chose to do what he did in the way that he did it, I knew I could no longer support his superintendency,” Zimmer said. “There was no reason he had to be on that stand.”

And where does Deasy work now? For Eli Broad, training school district leaders based on his own experience as a leader of the reform movement.

The following are excerpts from the superintendent’s expense account:

Donors and the L.A. Unified School District paid about $167,000 to cover travel and meals, usually at high-end restaurants here and elsewhere, for former L.A. schools Supt. John Deasy, related to his local and national education agenda. Here are some examples:

Date: Jan. 8, 2013

Place: Craft, Los Angeles

Cost: $248.37

Purpose: Dinner with Newark schools Supt. Cami Anderson, an ideological ally, and two others.

Date: June 19, 2013

After John Deasy, LAUSD faces a tough choice: Play it safe or take another risk?
After John Deasy, LAUSD faces a tough choice: Play it safe or take another risk?
Place: Piccolo Ristorante, Venice, Calif.

Cost: $227.91

Purpose: Dinner with Pearson executives Sherry King and Judy Codding, the day after approval of iPads-for-all contract that included Pearson as curriculum provider.

Date: Oct. 22, 2013

Place: Drago Centro, Los Angeles

Cost: $1,014.45

Purpose: Dinner with midlevel teachers union leaders; Deasy wasn’t speaking to then-union president Warren Fletcher at the time.

Date: Dec. 9, 2013

Place: Bouchon Bistro, Beverly Hills

Cost: $183.60

Purpose: Dinner with board members Tamar Galatzan and Monica Garcia.

Date: June 18, 2014

Place: Water Grill, Los Angeles

Cost: $221.84

Purpose: Dinner with Tommy Chang and Donna Muncey, two senior staff members.

Date: July 23, 2014

Place: Vincenti Ristorante, Brentwood

Cost: $311.96

Purpose: Dinner with philanthropist Megan Chernin, head of L.A. Fund for Public Education, and fund manager Melissa Infusino.

Source: L.A. Unified records and interviews.

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The case for closing charter schools

imageA first grader does his work while sitting on a bilingual rug at Enlace Academy, Tuesday, April 14, 2014. The charter school, with 70 percent English-language learners, uses a blended language learning approach. (Photo: Kelly Wilkinson/The Star)

Young and idealistic, Tim Ehrgott was zealous for education reform in the early years. Now he wants some charter schools to be shut down.

Ehrgott helped lay the groundwork for charter schools and school choice for low-income families in Indianapolis. Then he launched a charter in Irvington and ran it for several years.

But now he thinks that charter schools with low grades (D or F) should be closed. He also thinks education reformers need to tone down their rhetoric and promises.

Using a stock market analogy, he sees charter schools in an artificial bubble. Perceived value is higher than actual performance. When the bubble pops, the entire movement could be in jeopardy.

Ehrgott comes to these sobering conclusions as a friend of education reform.

He worked with the late businessman Pat Rooney in the 1980s, as Rooney and other business leaders sought school vouchers for low-income families. The General Assembly said no, and Rooney started CHOICE Charitable Trust, offering more than 2,000 private school scholarships a year. CHOICE revealed a pent-up demand for alternatives to public schools.

Then, after the state finally adopted a charter school law, Democratic Mayor Bart Peterson launched the charter movement in Indianapolis. Republicans in the Statehouse later added a voucher program, which has became one of the largest in the country.

Ehrgott says charters have promoted competition in public schools, as well as helped neighborhoods. “The Tindley school has changed the Meadows neighborhood for the better dramatically,” he said.

He also credits charters with providing alternatives for students who struggled in traditional public schools.

Yet, he doesn’t see the overall success that was promised. “Charters in the D-F range should be closed immediately. Those in the C range should not be automatically renewed,” he said. “Produce superior results or be closed.”

More than half the charters, he added, are getting D or F. “Even when you standardize the results for at risk factors, charters are failing at twice the rate of traditional public schools.”

He fears that a good reform could be defeated by lax administration.

“We had a save-the-world mentality in the early years,” he said. “Reality set in. Now, 13 years later, we need a conversation, an honest assessment about the good and bad. The only result that counts is whether students are benefiting from reform.”

Pulliam is associate editor of The Star. E-mail him at Russell.Pulliam@indystar.com. Follow him on Twitter at RBPulliam@twitter.com.

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Charter schools do not equal education reform.

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David Hornbeck was superintendent of schools in Philadelphia from 1994 to 2000. During that time, he approved 30 charter schools, hoping they would improve education for the city’s students. Twenty years later, he admits he was wrong.

Now he realizes that charters are not education reform. They are a change of governance. They get mixed results.
“In some evaluations, charter schools overall actually underperform regular public schools.”

Baltimore sun writes:

As Philadelphia’s Superintendent of Schools, I recommended the approval of more than 30 charter schools because I thought it would improve educational opportunity for our 215,000 students. The last 20 years make it clear I was wrong.

Those advocating change in Maryland’s charter law through proposed legislation are equally committed to educational improvement. They are equally wrong. New policy should not build on current inequities and flawed assumptions, as the proposed charter law changes would do.

Mixed academic results: Charters, on the whole, do not result in significant improvement in student performance. It’s mixed at best. In some evaluations, charter schools overall actually underperform regular public schools.

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Education’s Newsmaker Of The Year: Charter School Scandals.

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Since it’s the time of the year when newspapers, websites, and television talk shows scan their archives to pick the person, place, or thing that sums up the year in entertainment, business, sports, or every other venue, why not do that for education too?

In 2014 education news, lots of personalities came and went.

Michelle Rhee gave way to Campbell Brown as a torchbearer for “reform.” The comedian Louis C. K. had a turn at becoming an education wonk with his commentary on the Common Core standards. Numerous “Chiefs for Change” toppled from the ranks of chiefdom. Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett went down in defeat due in part to his gutting of public schools, as Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker remained resilient while spreading the cancerous voucher program from Milwaukee to the rest of the state. New York Mayor Bill De Blasio rose to turn back the failed education reforms of ex-mayor Bloomberg, only to have his populist agenda blocked by New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo who insisted on imposing policies favored by Wall Street. Progressives formed Democrats for Public Education to counter the neoliberal, big money clout of Democrats for Education Reform. And Kentucky Senator Rand Paul and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush emerged as rival voices in the ongoing debate about the Common Core among potential Republican presidential candidates.

But hogging the camera throughout the year was another notable character: charter school scandals.

In 2014, charter schools, which had always been marketed for a legendary ability to deliver promising new innovations for education, became known primarily for their ability to concoct innovative new scams.

>>> Read more Education Opportunity Network

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