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Is the Kentucky GOP Trying to Intimidate Democratic Teachers Into Not Running for Office?

It seems so.

On December 14, 2018, Kentucky’s Courier Journal reported that the Kentucky GOP has filed numerous public records requests for teacher emails, and it seems that these requests are little more than an attempt to intimidate Democratic teachers from running for office.

In November 2018, an astounding 51 Kentucky teachers ran for election for the Kentucky House and Senate, with 36 running as Democrats.

According to the October 05, 2018, Courier Journal, issues prompting Kentucky’s classroom teachers to seek to win political office include “state budgets with no money for teacher raises, the passage of a law allowing charter schools and a proposal to cut teachers’ pension benefits.” Even then, the idea that Democrats would upset the Kentucky General Assembly was considered a long shot.

And indeed, following the November 2018 elections, Republicans maintained control of both legislative chambers.

Now about those requests for teacher emails:

It seems that the Kentucky GOP began sending public records requests for teacher emails in October 2018– prior to the November 2018 election. What I believe indicates an intent to intimidate is the fact that even though most Democratic teachers lost, the Kentucky GOP continued its teacher records requests after the election, as the December 14, 2018, Courier Journal notes:

[Teacher Dustin] Allen said his superintendent informed him that he received an open records request asking for any of Allen’s emails that included a slew of different keywords, including “charter schools,” “sewer bill,” “Bevin” and “#120Strong” — a reference to a hashtag used by advocates urging teachers in all 120 of Kentucky’s counties to stand united against the controversial pension reform bill.

Republican Party of Kentucky spokesman Tres Watson confirmed that Jake Cox, deputy communications director for the party, submitted records requests to school districts but declined to say which ones or how many. He said at least two, including Laurel County, have denied the requests on the grounds that the requests were “overly broad” and “vague.”

The first records request was sent in October, Watson said, after the party got some tips “about a lot of extremely, directly political email traffic going through the school system on teachers’ emails.”

After the election, the party decided to see if there were similar issues in other counties, so it submitted more records requests, he said.

Watson denied the requests were meant as intimidation, saying they were about “information gathering, whether government resources are used for political activity, and how widespread it is.” He said the party is trying to “decide what to do with all this stuff” after seeing what it finds in the emails.

I’m not too keen on Watson’s comment about GOP’s “deciding what to do with all this stuff.”

It doesn’t seem that this “stuff” concerns emails of Republican teachers who ran for office. Note that the Courier Journal article was able to confirm GOP requests for some Democratic teacher emails but that it was not able to confirm GOP requests for any Republican teacher emails.

The publication was able to confirm that there were no GOP records requests for Travis Brenda, the Republican who unseated Kentucky House Leader, Jonathan Shell, in Kentucky’s May 2018 Republican primary:

Rockcastle County Schools — which employed Travis Brenda, the Republican who upset House Republican Leader Jonathan Shell in the primaries — said it had not received any similar records request.

Having one’s emails sifted by a political entity is intimidating. However, GOP efforts to intimidate Democratic teachers could backfire, prompting more of Kentucky’s Democratic teachers (and even Republican teachers who find this GOP ploy distasteful) to run for office in the future.

If nothing else, there might be a notable increase in Kentucky citizens who file public records requests to better understand the goings-on of their GOP politicians.

To learn more about Kentucky’s open records and open meetings act and how to access such records, see this publication from the Kentucky attorney general’s office.

boomerang

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Interested in scheduling Mercedes Schneider for a speaking engagement? Click here.

.

Want to read about the history of charter schools and vouchers?

School Choice: The End of Public Education? 

school choice cover  (Click image to enlarge)

Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of two other books: A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?. You should buy these books. They’re great. No, really.

both books

Don’t care to buy from Amazon? Purchase my books from Powell’s City of Books instead.

 

New Orleans Superintendent Sure Is Having to “Emergency Revoke” a Lot of Charters…

It seems that Orleans Parish Schools superintendent Henderson Lewis has his hands full in dealing with New Orleans charter schools that find themselves in fiscal trouble.

As the November 13, 2018, New Orleans Lens reports, Lewis has decided to close three charter schools “in the past six months,” and he threatened to close two others “last year”:

Orleans Parish schools Superintendent Henderson Lewis Jr. will seek to revoke Edgar P. Harney Spirit of Excellence Academy’s charter mid-year after financial mismanagement and leadership instability, he told Orleans Parish School Board committee members at a Tuesday meeting. …

Last year, the district began the charter revocation process at two Einstein Charter Schools after the Einstein charter network refused to provide bus service to elementary students. … Einstein ultimately moved to hire a bus company. …

Lewis announced his intention to close Cypress Academy this week. The school had been taken over by the district in May after its former charter board made the surprise decision to close due to financial problems. And last month, Crescent Leadership Academy, the city’s only alternative program that served middle school students, abruptly closed.

The Lens article continues with Orleans Parish School Board (OPSB) member Ben Kleban’s concern about OPSB ability to respond to “emergency situations” (i.e., OPSB takeover of charter schools in violation of their charters, including fiscal mismanagement/impropriety), particularly since such situations were not “anticipated in the board-approved budget.”

In May 2016, Louisiana governor, John Bel Edwards, signed into law Act 91, which transfers oversight of charter schools run by the state back to their originating districts by July 01, 2019, a law that chiefly affects all-charter New Orleans Recovery School District (RSD) since New Orleans has by far the greatest concentration of Louisiana charter schools. At the time Act 91 became law, state-run, New Orleans RSD included 54 schools (all charter). As of December 2018, New Orleans RSD includes only 8 schools (all charter).

To say that Act 91 “returns” state-takeover schools “back” to the originating districts is not accurate because the schools taken over by the state were traditional public schools, and the schools being “returned” are charter schools, complete with their non-elected boards. However, in regards to the dissolving of state-run RSD, in this May 2016 blog post, I made the following observation:

As it stands, with ACT 91, there is the possibility for a charter school that loses its charter to once again become a traditional, community school. Unless the state mandates that a charter revoked from a school acting as its own LEA be converted into another charter (which defies the goal of ending state control in favor of district control), then the conversion of failed charters back into traditional, board-run schools remains possible.

Thus far, there is no state mandate that a charter school with a revoked charter must be replaced by another charter school– which means that Lewis and the OPSB board could go beyond trying to finance emergency charter revocation and instead include in the OPSB budget finances for stabilizing failed charter schools by reestablishing these unstable, charter fiscal shocks as OPSB-run, traditional schools.

Converting failed New Orleans charter schools back into traditional, community schools:

An idea whose time is here, Superintendent Lewis and OPSB board.

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____________________________________________________________________________

Interested in scheduling Mercedes Schneider for a speaking engagement? Click here.

.

Want to read about the history of charter schools and vouchers?

School Choice: The End of Public Education? 

school choice cover  (Click image to enlarge)

Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of two other books: A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?. You should buy these books. They’re great. No, really.

both books

Don’t care to buy from Amazon? Purchase my books from Powell’s City of Books instead.

The Gimmick Behind a Walton-Featured, 100-Percent-College-Acceptance Charter School

In April 2018, the Walton Family Foundation (WFF) announced that it formed two new nonprofits for the purpose of loaning money to charter schools “to make it easier and more affordable for public charter schools to find, secure and renovate facilities.”

waltons

Siblings Robson, Alice, and Jim Walton

One particular point about the above press release caught my attention. But first, a splash of Walton ed reform history:

The Walton effort to advance school choice is nothing new. When it comes to promoting vouchers and charters, Walton money is scattered nationwide. For example, the Arkansas-based, billionaire Walton family pours millions into school choice, including its charter startup grants and even elections in other states, such as the November 2016 Massachusetts charter-expansion ballot initiative and Louisiana’s state board of education elections in 2011 and 2015. Also in 2015, WFF published its five-year plan to establish “choice ecosystems.”

In Arkansas, the Waltons purchased a “department of education reform” at the University of Arkansas (more about that here), which runs the “school choice demonstration project,” which is “devoted to the rigorous and unbiased evaluation of school choice programs and other school improvement efforts across the country.”

There is much more. (For a notable dose of that “much more,” peruse my Walton category of blog postings.)

Now, let us return to that WFF April 2018 press release on two new nonprofits formed to loan money to charter schools for facilities:

What caught my attention was the opening attraction– the featured, stellar, charter school example in the announcement– Freedom Preparatory Academy (FPA) (Memphis, TN):

April 9, 2018 — The Walton Family Foundation today announced the creation of the Charter Impact Fund and Facilities Investment Fund. The two distinct non-profit funds are supported through the foundation’s Building Equity Initiative, an unprecedented effort to make it easier and more affordable for public charter schools to find, secure and renovate facilities. The Charter Impact Fund and Facilities Investment Fund will provide quicker access to long- and short-term financing, respectively.

“Big challenges require bold solutions,” said Alice Walton, Walton Family Foundation Board Member. “This effort will allow resources that were spent on facilities to be directed back into the classrooms, back to the teachers and back to where it should be—with the students.”

Freedom Preparatory Academy Charter Schools—whose entire inaugural graduating class of 2017 was accepted to four-year colleges and universities, in a neighborhood where only 10 percent of residents earn college degrees—are growing to meet the need for quality education options for children in their Memphis, Tennessee community. When Freedom Prep was ready to open its second elementary school, the only option was to start in a temporary facility, even though it meant moving a year later. “Charter schools deserve equal and more seamless access to facilities resources so that we can meet the need in our neighborhoods,” says Charlise Clark Gwin, Chief Financial and Operations Officer, Freedom Prep.

FPA of Memphis, Tennessee, had “its entire inaugural graduating class of 2017 accepted into four-year colleges and universities.”

In fact, FPA’s class of 2018 also yielded a 100-percent college acceptance to four-year universities.

Remarkable, right? And, according to the WFF press release, a success story worthy of “more seamless access to facilities and resources.”

But here’s the catch:

FPA will always have a 100-percent, four-year-college acceptance rate for its graduating classes because it’s written into the student handbook.

There’s the gimmick, folks.

When I research a charter school advertising a 100-percent college acceptance for its graduates, the first document I seek is that charter school’s student handbook.

Even though FPA’s link to its student handbooks includes a sidebar reference to the 2018-19 school year, the only high school student handbook is from 2014-15.

And on page 18, one reads the following as part of FPA’s graduation requirements:

Graduation Requirement #5: Accepting College/University Offer

Freedom Prep requires students to have been admitted to and accepted their offer to attend a four-year college or university by the end of their senior year.

That’s right: Since FPA is not a traditional public school, it has the ability to deny graduation to any student who 1) chooses not to apply to a four-year college; 2) applies and is not admitted, or 3) applies, is admitted, and chooses not to accept the offer.

FPA appears more concerned about its PR than it does about supporting students in less sensational postsecondary plans.

Those students who fail to meet the FPA demand to four-year college admission and acceptance can just go elsewhere. Transfer to another school– a school that admits students at any time of the year and does not force students into a mold that produces sensational, misleading headlines of college acceptance perfection.

A school that the Waltons think less of.

A traditional public school.

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____________________________________________________________________________________

Interested in scheduling Mercedes Schneider for a speaking engagement? Click here.

.

Want to read about the history of charter schools and vouchers?

School Choice: The End of Public Education? 

school choice cover  (Click image to enlarge)

Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of two other books: A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?. You should buy these books. They’re great. No, really.

both books

Don’t care to buy from Amazon? Purchase my books from Powell’s City of Books instead.

 

No Matter Who Gets Credit for the Original Idea, School Vouchers Have Yet to Shake a Racist History

The history of school vouchers in American K12 education is rooted in racism.

This fact is indisputable.

Economist Milton Friedman, known as “the father of school choice,” is the name most commonly connected to the use of vouchers in K12 education. His 1955 paper, “The Role of Government in Education,” is the text often cited as central to Friedman’s views on school choice in the form of vouchers. An excerpt:

In terms of effects, the denationalization of education would widen the range of choice available to parents. …

Let the subsidy be made available to parents regardless where they send their children–provided only that it be to schools that satisfy specified minimum standards–and a wide variety of schools will spring up to meet the demand. Parents could express their views about schools directly, by withdrawing their children from one school and sending them to another….

Friedman was not the first economist/scholar to promote the school voucher concept; Thomas Paine did so in 1791, and John Stuart Mill did so in 1859. However, Friedman’s writings were the ones that coincided with the America’s Civil Rights movement– a time when many in southern, white America were keen on devising ways to thwart racial integration of public schools. Thus, it was Friedman’s school voucher writings that were newly publicized a time when many southern governors and other politicians were seeking creative circumvention for public school desegregation.

As I detail in my book, School Choice: The End of Public Education?, school voucher choice was put into practice to expressly to evade the 1954 Supreme Court desegregation ruling, Brown vs. Board of Education. Below are excerpts on how this integration dodge played out in both Virginia and North Carolina:

In an effort to bypass the 1955 Supreme Court mandate that state courts require school districts to “make a prompt and reasonable start toward full compliance with the [1954] ruling,” [Virginia’s] Gray Commission devised what became known as the Gray Plan. In short, the Gray Plan involved the repeal of compulsory education laws in order to allow for school closure as a last resort to prevent desegregation. It also allowed for state-supervised student assignment to schools and tuition grants to allow public school students to attend private schools. …

Under the advisement of the Gray Commission that he appointed, Governor Stanley called the state legislature into a special session in August 1956, as author Douglas Reed notes, “to devise a legislative response to the prospect of court-ordered desegregation.” The resulting legislation based on the Gray Plan ( …called the Stanley Plan once passed) included both school closure and vouchers to private schools as options. …

[In North Carolina,] Governor Luther Hodges… created a seven-member, all-White Pearsall Committee. In what was known as the Pearsall Plan [1956], the committee advised the North Carolina General Assembly to alter compulsory school attendance as a means of excusing students from attending desegregated public schools. The committee also recommended that the state fund tuition grants for students to choose to attend private schools so as to avoid attending integrated public schools. The Pearsall Plan was not declared unconstitutional until 1969.

Whereas supporters of school vouchers may acknowledge the Civil Rights era usage of vouchers to reinforce segregation, they also try to paint a fresh face on school vouchers as such were “revived” decades later. For example, consider the following excerpts from this Brookings Institute chapter on the “education gap”:

The nineteenth-century English philosopher John Stuart Mill suggested the first fully developed voucher proposal. …

Nearly a hundred years later, economist Milton Friedman, a future Nobel prize winner, made much the same proposal:

Governments . . . could finance [education] by giving parents vouchers redeemable for a specified maximum sum per child per year if spent on “approved” educational services. Parents would then be free to spend this sum and any additional sum on purchasing educational services . . . of their own choice.

Friedman’s ideas initially were put to ill use. In the wake of the Brown v. Board of Education decision, white southerners fought school desegregation with every legal means at their disposal—not only through delay, redistricting, and tokenism, but also by withdrawing white students from predominantly black public schools and placing them in white private schools. Courts, however, eventually struck down those practices, and today it is clear that publicly funded voucher schemes cannot pass constitutional muster if they permit private schools to discriminate on the basis of race or national origin. …

In the early 1990s, Brookings Institution scholars John Chubb and Terry M. Moe revived public interest in school choice. …

With vouchers, parents can choose schools that best address the needs of their child. Meanwhile, schools will compete with one another and come under consistent pressure to improve their services and develop more effective techniques for meeting customer demand. Bad schools, presumably, will lose customers—unless they quickly find ways to adapt and improve. Good schools, meanwhile, will flourish, and over time new schools will appear. In short, the promise of vouchers is the introduction of autonomy, flexibility, and innovation into public education.

A major problem with “the promise of vouchers” is that school voucher use does not promise racial integration. Consider this March 2017 article from the Atlantic:

new report from the Century Foundation’s Halley Potter… [examines] the empirical effects of private-school vouchers on different forms of segregation. …

A larger focus of the report is the impact of voucher programs on racial integration. In particular, Potter examines two U.S. studies, one in Louisiana and the other in Milwaukee, which each tracked students who moved from public to private schools. The first study, published in 2016, looked at the Louisiana Scholarship Program, a statewide voucher program that targets low-income students at low-performing public schools. The study originally reported that while public-school segregation decreased significantly, private-school segregation was somewhat higher. Potter found these results misleading for two reasons: First, the loss of a few students from overrepresented groups at public schools had a small effect on overall demographics. Second, the study reported the effects of voucher transfers on public and private schools separately. After crunching the numbers herself, using metropolitan demographics as a benchmark for integration, Potter’s results were quite different: Two-thirds of the school transfers had negative or mixed effects, resulting in overall increased segregation.

The second study, conducted in 2010, examined the transfer of students using the oldest school-voucher program in the country, the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program. As of the 2008-2009 school year, around 80 percent of students using these vouchers were black. According to Potter’s analysis, nearly 90 percent of the program’s students transferred from a public school where they were in the majority to a private school where they were still in the majority. This meant that although schools did not become more segregated, they also did not become significantly integrated.

Together, these studies indicate that private-school vouchers do not promote racial integration.

When it comes to racial integration, school vouchers have yet to “show promise.” Moreover, even though over 60 years has passed since vouchers were first used in K12 education to stymie the federal desegregation mandate, school voucher usage has yet to redeem its reputation as a catalyst for racial resegregation.

In the face of this reality, crediting Paine, or Mill, or Friedman with “the” idea for school vouchers matters little, for it is an idea that only fares well on paper.

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____________________________________________________________________________________

Interested in scheduling Mercedes Schneider for a speaking engagement? Click here.

Want to read about the history of charter schools and vouchers?

School Choice: The End of Public Education? 

school choice cover  (Click image to enlarge)

Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of two other books: A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?. You should buy these books. They’re great. No, really.

both books

Don’t care to buy from Amazon? Purchase my books from Powell’s City of Books instead.

Rhode Island School District to Use Collection Agency to Collect School Lunch Debt

I teach in southern Louisiana, and our school’s lunch policy does not include fronting meals to students who do not qualify for free lunch. (Over the years, I have on numerous occasions either loaned or given students lunch money or directly provided them with food. However, in all cases, this was my personal decision.)

So, the idea of a policy that allows for students (parents?) to accrue lunch debt is not part of my K12 experience either as a southern Louisiana teacher or former student.

If districts have a policy of fronting meals, those districts should also have in place a means of paying for those meals if students and parents/guardians do not pay. Otherwise, the resulting debt could put a district in fiscal crisis– one that might result in, well, employing a collection agency.

Such is the situation for the Cranston School District (Rhode Island).

The Cranston School District advertises this “unpaid meal policy”, which includes the following information for parents/guardians:

Student wanting a lunch and not having money to purchase a lunch will be allowed to charge a lunch with repayment within two (2) school days.

Once a student has charged five (5) meals (middle\high school $16.25 & elementary $12.50) and no payment has been received, that student will receive a lunch consisting of a sunny butter sandwich, fruit, and milk in place of a hot lunch. This meal maintains the USDA standards surrounding reimbursable meals and will be charged at full price to the student’s account.

Okay. Let’s see: No money; meal provided anyway with payment expected in two days– but that two-day payment isn’t really required because we’ll repeat fronting the meals four more times, and if still no payment, we’ll front a less desirable meal (but a meal nonetheless) ad infinitum as we continue to charge the full price, but not really because we’ve been giving away all of these meals without requiring any payment from student/parent/guardian prior to meal consumption.

To further dull any incentive for students/parents/guardians to pay, tell the public that the district is prepared to absorb the cost:

At the end of the school year, the uncollected meal charges must be paid to the Food Service fund from some other funding source. Funds will be designated during the budget processes for these anticipated costs.

So, it seems that the district anticipates that it will be saddled with uncollected meal debt at the end of the school year and that the district advertises (intentionally or not) that the district is prepared to foot the bill.

However, in its next statement, the Cranston School District admonishes parents/guardians that they must settle any unpaid balance by the year’s end, or…. nothing. No consequence:

Parents are expected to pay the final bill at the end of the school year. No amounts will be carried over.

Therefore, it comes as no surprise that at school year’s end, the Cranston School District faces thousands of dollars in unpaid school lunch debt.

But so much for budgeting for anticipated costs:

On December 06, 2018, NBC4.com reported that the Cranston School District has decided to retain the services of a collection agency to collect lunch debt:

The Cranston School District hired a collection agency to recover unpaid lunch balances.

In a letter to parents obtained by NBC 10 News, Raymond Votto Jr., chief operating officer of Cranston Public Schools, said the district has previously tried to collect outstanding lunch bills “without much success.” …

Votto said between Sept. 1, 2016 and June 30, 2018, the school district wrote off $95,508. He said the unpaid balance for the current academic year is $45,859. …

Votto said parents who owe $20 or more and who haven’t paid off the balance within 60 days will receive a letter from the collection agency starting next year.

Students who owe money for multiple meals won’t go hungry, the district said. Students will continue to get the same entrée that paying students receive. In the past, the district offered students who owed money an alternative meal – a sunny butter sandwich, fruit and milk — but stopped doing that when it realized parents still weren’t paying the lunch bills. …

The school district told NBC 10 it wanted to take a soft approach and said the collection agency will not be calling parents, but rather mailing them.

Here’s an idea: Revamp the policy of fronting meals to align it with district revenue to pay for those meals. If the district revenue is not there, do not advance the meal. If the district wants to advance the meals, have the revenue in place to cover those meals if parents/guardians do not pay.

In other words, align policy with fiscal capability.

And clean up the mixed messaging on that “unpaid meal policy” page.

money fishhook

___________________________________________________________________________________

Interested in scheduling Mercedes Schneider for a speaking engagement? Click here.

Want to read about the history of charter schools and vouchers?

School Choice: The End of Public Education? 

school choice cover  (Click image to enlarge)

Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of two other books: A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?. You should buy these books. They’re great. No, really.

both books

Don’t care to buy from Amazon? Purchase my books from Powell’s City of Books instead.

First-Ever Report Details Loss of Revenue to Public Ed Due to Corporate Tax Breaks

Corporate tax breaks divert public support for a state’s infrastructure into the corporate coffers.  It is a way to give away tax money without ever collecting it.

One of the lines of defense for the corporate tax break is that the tax break does not constitute giving away tax money since the money was never collected.

Nice try. However, the diverting of tax money into corporate tax breaks results in fewer dollars directly available for otherwise tax-funded entities, including public schools.

A second justification for corporate tax breaks is that the tax break will result in the indirect benefit of the corporation’s greater economic contribution, which more than offsets the tax break.

Maybe, maybe not. But how is one to know?

Answer: Track and publicize the dollar amounts of state and local corporate tax breaks in order to see exactly how much revenue is being forfeited so that one might evaluate whether the corporate tax break can be economically justified.

In 2013, the Government Accounting Standards Board (GASB) formally took up the issue of tax abatement disclosure; its Statement 77, “Tax Abatement Disclosures,” formally took effect in December 2015. According to GASB,

GASB Statement No. 77, Tax Abatement Disclosures, requires state and local governments to disclose key information about their tax abatement agreements that has not been consistently or comprehensively available before. …

Many state and local governments have tax abatement programs in place. These programs can have a substantial effect on the governments’ ability to generate revenue and their overall financial health. Without providing the kind of disclosures the GASB guidance will require, it can be difficult to determine the extent and nature of the abatements.

In December 2018, the Washington, DC-based, national policy resource center, Good Jobs First, produced “the first-ever disclosure of corporate tax abatements’ cost to public education” in its 29-page report The New Math on School Finance. Below is the December 04, 2018, press release, which includes some highlights from the report:

Subsidies Cost Schools at Least $1.8 Billion Last Year

Washington, DC—A new report from Good Jobs First finds that public schools across the country lost at least $1.8 billion last year as a result of economic development tax incentives granted to corporations. The study analyzes the financial reports of 5,600 of the nation’s 13,500 independent public school districts. The report can be found at https://www.goodjobsfirst.org/newmath

School districts in ten states, led by South Carolina, New York and Louisiana, collectively lost $1.6 billion. If this money were instead reinvested in hiring new teachers and reducing class size, these ten states alone could add more than 28,000 teachers.

Nearly 250 school districts lost at least $1 million each, and in four districts, tax abatements reduced classroom resources by more than $50 million. Hillsboro, Oregon schools lost $96.7 million as a result of extremely generous tax breaks to Intel.

The report, entitled The New Math on School Finance, was enabled by a new accounting standard adopted by the Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB), the body that sets accounting rules followed by all states and most localities.

The new rule, GASB Statement No. 77 on Tax Abatement Disclosures, requires most state and local governments to report annually on the amount of revenue they’ve lost to corporate tax abatements. The report also raises the issue of apparent non compliance with the new accounting rule by school districts in many states.

The new rule is especially important for understanding school finance, because it requires the reporting of revenue losses even if they are suffered passively by one government body as the result of decisions made by another body of government.

School boards rarely have input into abatement decisions made by city councils or county boards. Yet schools are often the most adversely affected when property tax abatements or other local tax breaks are granted.

“The numbers for Louisiana are astounding — even more so, in that local bodies are still under-reporting about $500 million in subsidies. As more school districts begin to comply with this new mandate, this report from Good Jobs First will become a treasure trove of hidden insight into how our government truly functions,” said Dianne Hanley, spokeswoman for Together Louisiana, a statewide coalition of faith communities and civic organizations.

“Even before today’s tight labor market, the supply of skilled labor was the top site location criterion used by most companies. Today, it is especially true. Yet when costly corporate subsidies undermine local schools, elected officials are actually undermining their economic development efforts,” said Greg LeRoy, executive director of Good Jobs First.

Important observation above:

“School boards rarely have input into abatement decisions made by city councils or county boards. Yet schools are often the most adversely affected when property tax abatements or other local tax breaks are granted.”

Some notable info from the report:

From Appendix G (page 25), “US School Districts That Lost More Than $1 Million to Tax Abatements in Most Recent Fiscal Year,” the top 15 districts and amounts of loss. Note that both Louisiana and South Carolina each hold four of the 15 top spots, with Louisiana outdoing South Carolina in higher dollar amounts of revenue forfeited:

  • Hillsboro School District (OR): $96.7M
  • Philadelphia Public Schools (PA): $61.9M
  • Ascension Parish Schools (LA): $58.3M
  • St. Charles Parish Schools (LA): $54.8M
  • Calcasieu Parish Schools (LA): $45.4M
  • Port Arthur Independent School District (TX): $44.5M
  • Berkeley County Schools (SC): $43.6M
  • Storey County School District (NV): $38.6M
  • Chicago Public Schools (IL): $37.5M
  • Cleveland Municipal Schools (OH): $34.2M
  • Iberville Parish Schools (LA): $31.7M
  • Greenville County Schools (SC): $30.4M
  • Aiken County Schools (SC): $25.6M
  • Charleston County Schools (SC): $25.3M
  • Ossining Union Free Schools (NY): $25.1M

Also from Appendix G, the bottom 15 districts losing more than $1M in tax abatements:

  • Oklahoma County Schools I-89 (OK): $1,100,376
  • Bossier Parish Schools (LA): $1,096,322
  • Houston County Schools (GA): $1,085,047
  • Spokane School District No. 81 (WA): $1,067,885
  • Lefourche Parish Schools (LA): $1,059,000
  • Richmond County Schools (GA): $1,057,977
  • Park Hill School District (MO): $1,057,096
  • St. Tammany Parish Schools (LA): $1,039,100
  • Coxackie-Athens Central School District (NY): $1,036,756
  • Grand Ledge Public Schools (MI): $1,031,078
  • Mahomet-Seymour Comm Unit School District 3 (IL): $1,029,908
  • Red River Parish Schools (LA): $1,015,000
  • Niagara Falls City Schools (NY): $1,014,490
  • Gloucester Township Schools (NJ): $1,013,166
  • Shippensburg Area School District (PA): $1,010,685

With 4 districts listed, Louisiana makes the most appearances in the bottom 15.

Out of curiosity, I examined Appendix G’s full list to see how many Louisiana districts were included. I counted 21.

Given that Louisiana has 80 school districts, this means that one in four is forfeiting over $1M (many well over $1M) in the name of corporate tax breaks, for a total of $268M in forfeited public school revenue for a single fiscal year. (Appendix F on page 23 provides this total and notes that only 42 districts– just over half– reported info). One of the non-reporters was Jefferson Parish Schools. From page 11 of the report:

Jefferson Parish Schools, Louisiana – In 2014, Jefferson Parish awarded a 100 percent property tax abatement to Entergy Louisiana to support the company’s expansion of its Nine mile 6 natural gas-powered electric plant. The abatement was estimated to be worth over $111 million over 10 years. Property taxes account for about 15 percent of the District’s revenue. Still, the school district has not disclosed any abatement losses in school revenue.

Also regarding Louisiana, on page 16:

Louisiana schools have suffered some of the greatest revenue losses as a result of corporate tax subsidies. In 2016, an effective campaign by the faith-based community group Together Louisiana led Gov. Jon Bel Edwards to sign an executive order giving local school boards the right to opt out of abatement deals granted by the state board that oversees subsidies.

Finally, from page 16, some info on Alabama’s tax laws and why when it comes to the negative effects of tax abatements, Alabama is no Louisiana:

In Alabama, state law requires the school increment of property taxes be shielded from economic development deals offering tax abatements.

I cannot do this report justice in a blog post. There is much info to pore over, including info about which states try to offset the revenue loss to districts due to tax breaks. For example, this from a footnote (page 24) regarding Arizona:

Arizona’s primary abatement program, the Government Property Lease Excise Tax, requires an abating government to implement an excise tax on other taxpayers to offset the losses to school revenue caused by abatements.

In Arizona, other taxpayers are taxed more to offset the tax abatement.

There is also this offset info from page 10, related to California:

In our aforementioned study on corporate tax breaks and school board powers, we documented how in many states local tax breaks are partially offset by state funds, typically via per-pupil equalization formulas. Rarely do such offsets make school districts whole, however. This tension persists and figured prominently in one of the largest changes to incentive law in recent U.S. history. In 2011, California terminated its tax increment financing (TIF) program as part of a budget-balancing legislative package. That gave the Golden State enormous budget relief because it was reimbursing school districts more than $2 billion annually for their TIF-generated losses.

The report also includes suggestions for citizens endeavoring to increase the degree to which states and districts comply with tax abatement disclosure. Thus, not only does the report offer information; it also offers practical advice for improving tax abatement disclosure accountability.

In providing this first-ever report on the impact of corporate tax abatement on public education, Good Jobs First has provided valuable information to citizens concerned about adequately funding their public schools.

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Interested in scheduling Mercedes Schneider for a speaking engagement? Click here.

Want to read about the history of charter schools and vouchers?

School Choice: The End of Public Education? 

school choice cover  (Click image to enlarge)

Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of two other books: A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?. You should buy these books. They’re great. No, really.

both books

Don’t care to buy from Amazon? Purchase my books from Powell’s City of Books instead.

 

Nation’s First Charter School Teachers Strike Heads for Day Three

Charter school teachers are not supposed to strike.

They are supposed to be at-will employees, able to be fired at the will of their employer, without due process.

Such is the dream of market-based ed reform: Power concentrated at the top, with the average worker discouraged (prevented?) from any collective negotiations.

However, those on the losing end of market ed reform’s doormatism become tired, and, well, if they are teachers– charter school teachers– they might just decide that bowing to the demands of the top dogs presents a final straw and unionize— which is what the teachers at UNO charter schools in Chicago) (now Acero by name, with the name change following such remarkable events as UNO’s defrauding bondholders in 2014).

And as of December 04, 2018, the teachers of Chicago’s Acero charter school chain (15 schools) have been on strike, for the following:

CTU (Chicago Teachers Union) said the network’s 500 teachers are demanding smaller classes, more special education staff, salary increases and guaranteed protections for students and families living in the country without legal permission. …

Acero’s teachers are paid up to $13,000 a year less than their counterparts at Chicago’s traditional public schools, while working 20 percent more hours, according to the Chicago Teachers Union. The union also argues that with only one adult for up to 32 children per class for kindergarten through second grade, Acero’s classes are too large.

The striking teachers are also demanding that Acero agrees to not share information with federal immigration enforcement officials or allow them into the schools without a warrant.

Acero is posting updates about the strike on Twitter:

On Day Two of the strike, negotiations are ongoing.

It looks like Acero management is sitting on millions that it is preventing from traveling to the classroom, according to the December 05, 2018, Chicago Sun Times:

…Jesse Sharkey, CTU’s president, appeared in front of the Chicago Board of Education, to express his dissatisfaction with how Acero has managed its money and why it forced the strike of 550 workers.

“The latest audit of Acero shows that they have $10 million of additional revenue year over year, yet classroom spending in that network has decreased by nearly $1 million, or 6 percent of their budget,” Sharkey said. “In other words, [CPS] is handing over piles of cash and less of it is going into the classroom.”

Sharkey said a recent audit showed Richard Rodriguez, Acero’s CEO, made more than $260,000, a slightly higher salary than CPS CEO Janice Jackson. Rodriguez watches over 15 schools whereas Jackson oversees more than 500.

Rodriguez has not attended any of the 30 bargaining sessions that have been held in the past seven months, according to Baumgarten [an Acero teacher who has been sitting at the bargaining table for seven months.]

Those meddling, collective-bargaining teachers make it more difficult for a charter chain CEO to be paid an oversized salary. (According to Acero’s 2016-17 tax form, CEO Rodriguez was paid $260K plus another $20K in “other compensation” for a total of $280K. That makes for some pretty sweet top-downism.)

The strike continues. Stay tuned.

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____________________________________________________________________________

Interested in scheduling Mercedes Schneider for a speaking engagement? Click here.

Want to read about the history of charter schools and vouchers?

School Choice: The End of Public Education? 

school choice cover  (Click image to enlarge)

Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of two other books: A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?. You should buy these books. They’re great. No, really.

both books

Don’t care to buy from Amazon? Purchase my books from Powell’s City of Books instead.