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Two Moody’s Reports: 2015 Michigan Schools and 2016 Charter School Ratings Criteria

In this post, I offer two documents published by Moody’s Investors Service for perusal of any readers who wish to view them.

The first is a 16-page, November 2015 report on the credit weaknesses in numerous Michigan school districts:

Moodys-sector-in-depth-k-12-public-school-districts-michigan-school

I will highlight only one section of the above report; the section is entitled, “Competition from Schools of Choice Benefits Some Districts at the Expense of Others.”  Two issues caught my attention. The first is that the article includes stats from the Mackinac Center, which I wrote about in this March 2016 post, and which has pushed for emergency managers in Michigan and is funded by the Dick and Betsy DeVos Foundation. The second is the final statement of the excerpt about school choice not being “a reliable option” for “maintaining revenue” in struggling school districts:

Competition from Schools of Choice Benefits Some Districts at the Expense of Others

Since its inception in 1996, the state’s Schools of Choice program has provided students with significant flexibility in deciding whether to attend their home district or another. The state has promoted district participation with some funding incentives in the past, though the number of seats available for out-of-district students is at each district’s discretion. The number of students opting for schools outside of the district in which they reside through Schools of Choice has risen on an annual basis over the last decade. Total participation in the program now exceeds 100,000, nearly 8% of total Michigan students enrolled in traditional publicly funded schools. According to a 2013 research study conducted by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, students in rural districts (9.7%) were more likely to participate in Schools of Choice, than students in suburbs (8.0%), towns (6.7%) or cities (2.8%). Reasons why students in rural districts participate in a higher rate include, closer proximity to neighboring districts in expansive districts or greater programming offerings, while city students are more likely to have access to charters. The relatively high participation rates in Schools of Choice has been cited as an argument for increased consolidation among Michigan traditional school districts. Given the lack of revenue-raising options for individual districts, participation in the program provides a district with an opportunity to increase, or at least maintain, operating revenue via per-pupil state funding levels. In areas with widespread competition for students, such as tri-county metro Detroit, students are more likely to seek attendance at high-performing districts. High-performing districts are more likely to offer a greater variety of services than those districts cutting service levels as a result of deteriorating finances. As such, Schools of Choice may not be a reliable option for financially struggling districts to improve bolster or maintain revenue.

The second Moody’s report in this post is from August 2016. It is Moody’s 21-page, updated “charter school scorecard,” or the updated criteria by which Moody’s rates charter school credit risk:

moodys-charter-school-scorecard

An excerpt from the report intro:

The charter schools sector is still young and growing, and as such its credit fundamentals are characterized by multiple speculative elements. Given highly competitive local market environments for charter schools, their often small scale, and in many cases their nature as start-up enterprises with often unproven management and generally narrowly balanced finances, charter schools across the nation face unique credit challenges. Those challenges have translated into an above average incidence of defaults relative to other tax-exempt credits. The overall credit quality of this sector ranges from low investment-grade into low speculative-grade categories.

The report continues with the view that the charter sector is “young” but growing and will therefore become more stable as time passes.

Moody’s charter school ratings methodology report does not assess the influence of the presence of charter schools (or the expansion of the charter sector) upon districts or states. It does explain in detail its ratings rubric, which includes four general areas:

  • Scale and Demand
  • Operating Performance and Liquidity
  • Leverage and Coverage
  • Charter Renewal Risk and Government Relations

I will close with one critical acknowledgement of Moody’s charter school ratings:

We rely on the accuracy of audited financial statements to assign and monitor ratings in this sector.

In short, Moody’s depends upon the charter sector to tell the truth about itself, for the trumpeted “greater autonomy” of charter schools often includes the school or its management organization selecting its own “independent auditor,” which begs for an independent auditor to audit the independent auditor in order to smooth out any contorted math.

There is much more to the two reports than I have highlighted in this post. Feel free to partake.

moodys

_____________________________________________________________

Released July 2016– Book Three:

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 both A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?.

both books

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

Nevada Vouchers and More: Making Public Funds Private

On September 29, 2016, the Nevada Supreme Court issued a permanent injunction against the state’s voucher, program, called the Education Savings Account (ESA) Program, also known as SB 302.

What is interesting about the ruling is that the Court did not find that the ESA Program violated the section of the Nevada Constitution prohibiting use of public money for sectarian purposes (Article 11, Section 10: “No public funds of any kind or character whatever, State, County or Municipal, shall be used for sectarian purpose.”)

As stated in the Nevada Supreme Court decision, the public money is not considered to be public because it was given from public coffers to parents:

We also conclude that funds placed in education savings accounts under SB 302 belong to the parents and are not “public funds” subject to Article 11, Section 10.

Thus, if the money does not travel directly from the public coffers to the religious school, then, according to the Nevada Supreme Court, the money is not “public money being used for sectarian purposes.”

The Nevada Supreme Court did find the ESA Program unconstitutional because it diverted money intended to fund public education from public education:

The issue remaining relates to the funding of the education savings accounts. Based on the State Treasurer’s concession that SB 302 does not operate as an appropriation bill, and that nothing in the legislative measure creating the State Distributive School Account funding for public education provides an appropriation for education savings accounts, we must conclude that the use of money that the Legislature appropriated for K-12 public education to instead fund education savings accounts undermines the constitutional mandates under Sections 2 and 6 to fund public education. Accordingly… we remand each case for the entry of a final declaratory judgment and a permanent injunction enjoining the use of any money appropriated for K-12 public education in the State Distributive School Account to instead fund the education savings accounts.

So, in order for Nevada’s ESA Program to survive, it must be funded from money specifically appropriated for the program, not from money earmarked to fund the state’s public schools.

But back to the laundering technique that makes public money “not public.”

In May 2013, the Louisiana Supreme Court declared Louisiana’s voucher program unconstitutional by a vote of 6 to 1 for a reason similar to the Nevada Supreme Court ruling: the vouchers took from funding designated for public schools. However, the single dissenting judge tried to split a fiscal hair by writing that if the students leave the public system, their per-pupil allotment reverts back to the state from the public school– which would mean that school voucher funding for that student would come from the state in general and not from money earmarked for the public school. Of course, the problem with such a conception is that public school funding would only be thinly laundered toward private schools, and the fiscal welfare of the state’s public schools would be directly tied to the state’s “generally funding” private schools.

The point is that the public needs to be aware that there are ways to semantically “make” public money “no longer public,” and the way to avoid these shady funding games is for it to be written into the law that public money is to be dispensed directly to public entity identified as the recipient.

It is also a good idea for state law to expressly clarify the conditions under which public money remains “public” (i.e., intended to serve specific, public purposes, and also subject to public scrutiny) and at which point it becomes “private” (i.e., freed from the constraints of “public” spending and scrutiny.)

Finally, in a related vein, the public needs to be aware that offering an “educational tax credit” is a means of indirectly publicly funding a program that likely would not qualify for direct/obvious/above-board public funding. In offering the tax credit, the state does not handle the money– the private individual or private entity pays the money directly to the receiving entity in exchange for a tax break. Since the state-incentivized spending does not land in the public money chest, the money is not considered public and is therefore not subject to rules governing public funds.

US Secretary of Education nominee and “true pioneer of the school choice movement across the country,” Betsy DeVos, explains how the educational tax credit enables what would be public money (collected in the form of corporate taxes) from becoming public money at minute 4:45 in the 2015 Youtube video below in which Edward Pozzuoli, the president of Florida-based Tripp Scott Law Firm, interviews then-American Federation for Children (AFC) Chair DeVos, about tax credits.

The entire 9-minute video is an eye opener; DeVos talks about how the AFC does it all: finds the school choice candidates (she’s particularly keen on private school choice); puts “political effort” behind electing/defeating candidates; “works on the policies… the actual legislation,” and “helps parents and kids to find schools and schools to find parents and kids.”

The transcript of the tax credit segment is as follows:

DeVos: …I will cite the very successful Tax Credit Scholarship Program, with over 70,000 children participating this year. That program, however, is under attack by those who are defenders of the status quo, and that will have to be litigated, but we’re very confident that as that program, and all the choices in Florida continue to grow, and as more students find success because of those choices, the constituency for choices full-range is going to continue to be very strong and grow even stronger.

Pozzuoli: So, those opportunity scholarships: Explain to our viewers what that is.

DeVos: The Tax Credit Opportunity Scholarship is a tax credit against corporate taxes in the state of Florida. So, if you have a business that pays Florida state corporate taxes, you can redesignate up to, I believe it’s 75 percent [Pozzuoli: Right.] of your corporate tax burden to the state annually into a scholarship fund. That scholarship fund is then vouchered out, or given out in incremental amounts [Pozzuoli: Right.] to low-income students and their families to choose the school or educational setting that is going to work best for them.

Pozzuoli: So then, the child and their family can use the voucher and attend a private school [DeVos: Exactly.] or parochial school or whatever?

DeVos. Exactly.

Pozzuoli: And so, since there are no state monies involved, it is all essentially all private monies with the tax credit method.

DeVos: Exactly.

Pozzuoli: Okay.

DeVos: Exactly. Because those funds never go into the state coffers to begin with.

Pozzuoli: So, for some of our corporate partners who will watch this, this is really an opportunity [to invest].

DeVos: …it’s a great opportunity. Absolutely, it is.

There is no discussion of any impact study related to the State of Florida’s losing up to 75 percent of its corporate tax revenue to this private/parochial school choice venture.

But it is an opportunity to slight public funding.

Private school choice depends upon such public coffer diversion.

__________________________________________________________

Released July 2016– Book Three:

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 both A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?.

both books

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

Step Aside, Betsy DeVos. You’re Not Extreme Enough: Featuring Asora Education.

I had an interesting comment to my post, Betsy DeVos and Her 2015-16 School Choice YearbookHere is the comment, in part:

I, for one, would go much farther than DeVos and look for systems of schools that are mostly in the for-profit arena in which the subsidies toward low income families would be similar to what we do in the area of food. Think: Education Stamps.

The comment comes from David V. Anderson, who has a website, asoraeducation.com. An excerpt from the home page:

Asora’s Campaign To End K-12 Market Failure

Perhaps more important than Asora’s activities and plans in self-paced online instruction, we recognize that reforms will be few and relatively ineffective if the economic incentives for school improvement are absent. We believe that marketplace reforms can be done locally and most easily by private education providers. Asora’s NAEP proficiency estimation methodologies can be used to provide consumer information locally, which can be an important ingredient in marketplace reform. We believe that if the marketplace for education is healthy, most of the desired reforms will arise- almost automatically.

Allow me to offer some more excerpts from Asora’s numerous web pages. I won’t comment much. I’ll just let readers take it in.

Here’s an excerpt from a page entitled, School Ailments:

Market Failure

Most Americans regard K-12 schools as special institutions that are not part of our competitive free market economy. For that reason, most observers shy away from applying the lessons of economics on this important sector of our economy. Because of this neglect, the healthy incentives usually associated with a free market of competing enterprises are not present- and dysfunction has taken its place instead.

Our approach to improving schools is thus aimed at restructuring the local marketplace in which schools operate, rather than in micro-managing the instructional systems and strategies employed in the schools. We believe the problem is macroscopic and one in which a healthy competitive marketplace has not developed.

Problems in this marketplace were understood by an early giant of economics, Adam Smith, and by a recent one, the late Milton Friedman. Consistent with their writings in this area we see at least two dysfunctional characteristics of the education marketplace:

1. Erroneous consumer information about student and school performance.

2. The distorting effects of the subsidized public monopoly in government schools.

By changing these two factors in a beneficial direction, we believe many reforms would follow with demonstrable benefits to the school children within the improved systems.Transparency and choice are the solutions we envisage for these problems.

Subsidy Reform 

We don’t disagree with the concept that there is a community or public responsibility to ensure that all children have access to a good K-12 education. Thus we agree that government has a responsibility to subsidize K-12 schooling. But if subsidies are not administered in a market friendly manner, bad things can and do happen.

Rather than subsidize only the public schools with universal (full tuition) support to all of their students, we think subsidies should follow the child. By doing so, parents are empowered to make “consumer” choices in the selection of schools. The market distorting effect of restricting the subsidies to just public schools goes away when parents are given the choices to direct their children to alternative schools. Thus we advocate for public and privately funded vouchers, scholarships, tax credits, etc that provide the means to empower these choices.

The marketplace for education is further improved if we can limit the amount of government subsidy by asking parents to use private funds to supplement the government contribution. In fact, we think means testing is a good way to award vouchers. We like the model used at the college level wherein Pell Grants (tuition scholarships) are means tested. Children of low income families would have larger grants (or subsidies) while those of middle and high income families would have increasingly smaller (or no) stipends as family affluence increased.

Choice Engenders Competition Which Fosters Successful Reforms

In any system of schools it is difficult to foreordain what reforms would best increase student performance. But in a competitive environment, trial and error, together with other experience will guide schools toward solutions that best match local circumstances. What works best will not always be the same in different schools and different communities. Rather, the best practices will evolve as local situations change. As in other industries, competitive forces will tend to grow the more successful enterprises while thwarting the expansion of the laggard performers.

So, who is the “we” behind the above market conjecture? Here’s an excerpt regarding “who we are”:

Who We Are: 

The Stellar Schools effort was initiated by David Anderson in 2003. Since that time, discussions with prospective partners have been held but to this date the effort remains a sole-proprietorship with three unpaid managers (COO, CFO and CMO) and no employees. We believe we have the intellectual assets required to move forward but have very little financial capital to continue the work. Nonetheless, we believe that our ideas and plans are sufficiently promising that it is simply a matter of “when,” not “if,” concerning the launch of this business.

Anderson’s unique life experiences, including those as a student, a teacher, a research scientist, a policy analyst, and a financial planner, have given him the insight and conviction to confidently push the Stellar Schools concepts forward.

For more about the Qualifications of our staff click the link. Also relevant and available on our website is a speech by David Anderson, available in text, view-it-here video, or download the viedo, formats. It includes descriptions of some of his relevant life experiences.

Some more about Anderson’s experiences as noted on the What’s New page, in a section on think tanks:

Where Are The Think Tanks, Education Consultants and Universities on This?

We think these institutions are mostly lost.

Obviously lost are those analysts who approach education reform without cognizance of the primary role played by the economic marketplace in which it operates. Thus those on the political left tend to be lost.

Some give credence to market influences but still want to have an education system that is operated top-down. Such advocates seek for-profit firms acting as contractors to help reach their goals.

Others see the marketplace as one that should be relatively free. It should be a place where customers can reliably compare the quality of the providers goods and services. There are many think tanks that have this philosophy.

Still many of these ostensibly qualified institutions have their idiosyncrasies that interfere with their participation in these efforts. More on this as it affects Asora follows in the next section.

CEO David Anderson Has Left The Heartland Institute

Over the years since the founding of Asora Education Enterprises in 2008 we have had a formal affiliation with two free market oriented think tanks.

One was the Ocean State Policy Research Institute (OSPRI) in Rhode Island. I was their Fellow for Education, Energy and Environmental issues. The institute became the victim of unethical threats from the Governor’s office when the latter did not like the text of an Op-Ed this author had written. I resigned over that and had the Op-Ed published in the Providence Journal without OSPRI’s participation. Not long after that unfortunate event, OSPRI closed its doors and became defunct.

Over the past year or so we have been involved with the Heartland Institute of Arlington Heights, Illinois. I was a Senior Education Fellow with them. I came to learn that Heartland is a large organization apparently devoted to publishing as many opinion pieces as possible and to such an extent that its management sometimes loses track of its publishing plans. As such it’s more a publishing juggernaut than a research institute. They gave me a project that involved hundreds of hours of research and writing. When it was finished I learned that they had inadvertently (some would say deliberately) tasked a different author with much the same project and that one turned out to be the one they published. So my time was wasted. So I resigned again.

And here is the Asora staff:

As we launch Asora Education Enterprises we are in search of founding staff members. Despite all but one position being unstaffed we list them here to give prospective “players” an idea of the roles we need filled. You can click on the links to see resumes and biographies of our staff.

CEO David Anderson Resume Biography
COO Jonathan Scott
CFO Jay Jacot
CAO David Anderson (acting)
CIO David Anderson (acting)
CMO Susan Anderson
CCO David Anderson (acting)
Lead Instructor David Anderson (acting)
Etc.

Asora is mostly David Anderson, and as of this writing, it is mostly a website. But there is promise on the horizon, and that promise comes via Trump and a Republican-dominated Congress, as Asora’s What’s New page attests:

What’s New at Asora In November 2016?

For the first time in 16 years- some would say first time ever- political control in Washington will be in Republican hands that are eager to use school choice to improve the marketplace for K-12 education. The election of Donald Trump and the election of Republican majorities in the Congress makes this not only feasible but likely. Hence our November 2016 Theme.

November 2016 Theme: 

K-12 Reform In The Trump Era

Trump seeks to expand school choice by 1000%

What’s New in 2016

By David V. Anderson

Education Reform Ala Trump

He “will be the nation’s biggest cheerleader for school choice.”

Click here to access our Reports on Reform page where you can download this Theme Discussion in the report TrumpReform.pdf

According to campaign promises made by Donald Trump and according to reports on what is popular in Congress, it is likely that the new administration will be able to signficantly expand the availability of school vouchers and other types of school choice within the 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Currently school vouchers are funded at about $2 billion when all programs are combined. Trump plans to redirect Education Department grants at the $20 billion level- that’s a 1000% increase over current levels.

Flended = Flipped & Blended Schools

Is it tradition, bureaucratic freeze, ignorance or union resistance that keeps public education stuck in the 19th century? Asora believes, “All of the above.”

Age based group instruction given for only nine months of the year worked in “farmville” in 1890 but is hardly a good fit for 2017.

New methods and new technologies are here but few schools are using them.

Most private schools imitate many aspects of this same dated and obsolete tradition.

Here and there schools are using online instruction and other forms of computer assisted learning. With these tools the traditional teacher is becoming obsolete and needs to be retrained as a tutor or in a few cases as the video instructor. There are better ways to go:

⚫️End union interference in school management.

⚫️Keep the books but put curricular content online or on the computers.

⚫️End the age based system by instructing in a self-paced learning format.

⚫️End social promotion by requiring mastery of each subject prior to advancement.

⚫️Accommodate flipped scheduling wherein lessons are received at home online while school assignments are done at school with tutorial assistance.

⚫️Consider blended scheduling in which some group instruction is taught by a live teacher to appropriate sets of cognitively “ready” students.

We dub schools that include flipped and blended scheduling as flended™️ schools. Most K-12 schools should be flended friendly.

ASORA Stellar Schools will be Flended Friendly

Asora Education has been well ahead of the curve with its Stellar Schools proposal. Developed about ten years ago, our business plan for franchised networks of modern schools has gone unfunded by investors.

Maybe it’s time for investors to wake up?

Maybe check out our business plans?

We are seeking partners and investors.

You can start at
http://asoraeducation.com/page41/page41.html

OK?

Milton Friedman Knew This

In a more general sense, education reform is about economics. Milton Friedman knew that when he first proposed school vouchers in the 1950’s. As in other industries, a properly free marketplace will lead to competition through which the better providers will be rewarded with business.

This is why Asora Education does not get too deep in the weeds about the specifics of K-12 education reform. We do know, however, that cost effective services will be chosen by such a marketplace. That helps explain our Stellar Schools proposals where various kinds of cost savings will produce better educational outcomes for lower costs.

An investment opportunity, folks. For-profit. Online. The market will run itself. Friedman knew this.

Here’s a page on Asora’s course brokerage services:

Online Courseware Brokerage Services

In the current year it is estimated that a rather small percentage of K-12 instruction is online- about 1% (compare this with 10% for post-secondary). According to sources at the Education Industry Association, the online percentage of K-12 instruction will grow to approximately 50% in ten years. By that time, most online instruction will be received within schoolrooms- unlike the current situation wherein most online instruction is received in homes. This suggests that Asora’s Stellar Schools design will become increasingly relevant going forward.

As should be evident to visitors who have reviewed our business plan for Stellar Schools (available elsewhere on this website) that one of our roles will be that of a broker of third party products and services. In doing that, we plan to acquire and integrate third party online instructional content into the courseware that we will supply to customers- including franchisees.

Given our limited financial capital, we are beginning the development of Stellar Schools by first establishing a brokerage service, which will focus on instructional formats that accommodate self-pacing and on instructional content for the core curriculum.

Identifying prospective customers of online content

We are interested in providing brokerage services primarily to physical (brick & mortar) schools for the K-12 levels of instruction. Since we intend to provide AP courses, we sometimes identify them as 13th grade level courses. This leads us to occasionally use the nomenclature K-13 to express the instructional levels we cover.

Our company is an advocate of tutorial instruction because of its several advantages over traditional age-based group instruction. The latter’s defects, including pervasive social promotion in nearly every public and private school, suggest that the tutorial alternative should be considered.

To provide that tutorial instruction requires a self-paced learning environment supported by an asynchronous (on-demand) online instructional system. Thus our preference is to work with schools seeking a self-paced instructional format within core curricular areas. There is no need to convert all courses to the new online format in one step- the transition can proceed one or two subjects at a time.

Within Asora’s Stellar Schools project, we have our own long-term plans for developing/obtaining online content covering the core curricula for levels K-13. Implementation of those plans awaits adequate financial resources. …

Again, investors needed. So, do you Want to be an Asora Player?

Advancing the Goal of Ending Education as We Know It

Asora® Education Enterprises Seek Players
in its Stellar Schools Franchising Project

If you might consider being a participant in Asora’s Stellar Schools effort, we provide some further information in this area of our website that may be of interest to you. Or if you know of others who might find this of interest you and they may also find this section to be of interest.

Here our perspective is that of an investor, granting organization, or any other interested party who wants to have a better understanding of the characteristics of Stellar Schools that would help it thrive as a business or as a service organization.

In very brief terms we answer that in our abstract– The Quest in a Nutshell.

A more detailed presentation of these considerations with respect to a number of business concerns is to be found in our report, Rationale & Motivation for Stellar Schools.

Some of the introductory material from our Rationale & Motivation report is also presented in three video clips, including one that specifically addresses investor concerns. There is a great deal of risk in such an investment. Thus one of our issues relates to what measures can be taken to reduce these risks.

An opportunity to spread for-profit education that will eclipse both public and private schools. True, we’re little more than a website just yet, but we’re on the cusp of an education privatization scheme that “would go much farther than DeVos.”

Anderson has many more web pages than those featured in this post.

Feel free to peruse them at asoraeducation.com.

betsy-devos-5  Betsy DeVos, before she came around to supporting Trump

____________________________________________________________

Released July 2016– Book Three:

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 both A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?.

both books

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

Betsy DeVos and Her 2015-16 School Choice Yearbook

On November 23, 2016, President-elect Donald Trump nominated Betsy DeVos for US secretary of education.

DeVos is zealous for school choice, and it seems that she is particularly fond of private school choice.

Below is her foreword for the choice organization, American Federation for Children (AFC) Growth Fund’s 2015-16 school choice yearbook. DeVos was the AFC Growth Fund chair:

As a result of the work of education advocates across the country and the education revolution we’ve created, our nation’s education system is changing. The antiquated, top-down model of education in this country that originated in the 1800s in order to “educate the masses” is beginning to transform to a student-centric model that respects every child’s unique learning style.

This change has come about through victories and some setbacks, with moments of pause and moments of great change, but the momentum continues to shift in our favor. Educational choice is an essential part of the solution to our nation’s education challenges, including the greater issue of education inequality in America. The idea that no child should be defined or limited by his or her ZIP code or family’s income is deeply rooted in our movement’s commitment to social justice. Every parent should be free to choose the best educational environment for their children and low-income and minority children are too often the ones without choice. The only way to truly improve and innovate our nation’s system and help these students is through educational choice. The public is recognizing that true choice will break open our nation’s closed education system, encouraging innovation and education entrepreneurs to develop new ways for children to learn and reach their full potential.

Today there are 50 private school choice programs in 25 states plus the District of Columbia. Last year alone, four states enacted their first school choice programs, and a total of eight new programs were signed into law. Additionally, half of all states passed at least one private school choice bill out of one chamber of their respective state legislatures.

With an education system that’s 200 years old, and an entrenched establishment, change can be slow, but great progress continues to be made. There’s a monumental transformation underway as more and more parents rise up, speak out and demand access to educational choices for their children.

Thank you for your steadfast support and resolve to educate America’s school children, and thank you for joining me in the education revolution!

Betsy DeVos, Chairman

DeVos’ yearbook is 59 pages long. However, it falls short of critically appraising the programs it features. There are lots of stats (numbers of students enrolled in a variety of choice programs and in what states; total funds expended), and there are the criteria for a variety of choice programs.

There is even an accountability checklist but no discussion of the implication of the results, including the finding that only 10 out of 22 voucher programs (45 percent) are required to produce proof of financial viability, or that only 13 out of 22 (59 percent) are required to produce annual financial reports, or that only 9 out of 22 (41 percent) require public reporting of results.

There is no accountability checklist for charter schools. However, there is a declaration that presumes certain charter schools are models of innovation that are the road maps to the elysian fields of Higher Test Scores and College Readiness. An enlightening excerpt:

By almost all accounts, the U.S. education system is failing its students. On standardized tests, when compared with peers worldwide, American students continue to fall in the middle of the pack. …

While proponents of the status quo may point to rising graduation rates, the fact is our nation’s education system is not preparing its students. The National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education found that 60 percent of first-year college students are not fully prepared for their college courses. Much of the mediocrity found in our nation’s education system can be attributed to its antiquated approach. Over the last 150 years, a great deal has evolved, including transportation, communication and the economy— everything except for education. The system is still modeled on the outdated Prussian education method that was implemented in the 1800s in order to educate the masses, something we have surely moved beyond.

While the U.S. education system has flatlined, there are still excellent schools offering innovate teaching methods to students; cutting-edge and impressive schools like KIPP Public Charter Schools, Success Academy Charter Schools in Harlem, Hope Christian Schools in Milwaukee, Cristo Rey Schools, Acton Academy and the new AltSchool in the San Francisco Bay Area and New York.

All of these schools have two things in common:

  1. They challenge the status quo, offering a modified way to teach students.
  2. They’re currently only available to a few students, either due to lack of capacity or the cost of tuition.

School choice, whether it’s in the form of a voucher, tax credit scholarship, education savings account, course choice, virtual school or public charter school, disrupts the status quo and offers parents the ability to choose an innovative option that best suits their child’s academic needs.

The status quo in education will not innovate on its own. There’s no incentive, and a transformation of the system threatens those who benefit from the existing monopoly in public education.

As the success and momentum for the school choice movement continues to grow, the ability to attract innovators in education will also grow. As more entrepreneurs view the U.S. as a system open to innovation, the options available will continue to evolve and create an education system that will truly put students first.

Of course, the growth of innovation is ideologically-rooted conjecture. There are no stats on how many students were stranded by charter schools that closed midyear. No stats on how many public schools had to absorb how many of those stranded students regardless of the funding availability.

No stats on the messiness that confronts a polished ideology.

No stats on how many students attending voucher schools chose to return to public schools. No stats on how many voucher schools actually rated lower than public schools in the vicinity.

No research on program quality.

There are, however, news snippets about choice as well as featured choice cheerleaders.

But no discussion of evidence that parents are really doing the choosing, or that their choices are worth the choosing, or that there is any downside to the “innovation” introduced by the likes of Success Academies or KIPP.

Certainly no discussion of student attrition at such innovative schools.

There is also no discussion of the breakdown in choice, including the impact of mid-year school closures on students, parents, and community; no discussion of sham schools, or the impact of private schools’ being able to say no to the choice idea (and leaving choice only to lower-end or storefront voucher schools, for example).

There is no discussion of students who fall through cracks in decentralized choice systems.

And there is no discussion about how many parents who choose to homeschool would not choose a state- or federally-run voucher program because they do not want the government to interfere in their children’s schooling– and are therefore critical of the portability of funding that DeVos espouses.

There is also no discussion of the impact of choice upon the public school system in a country in which every state has compulsory education requirements.

There is no discussion of the bottom-feeding nature of online charter schools.

This yearbook offers no solid evidence that choice “fully prepares” students for college courses.

In short, this yearbook includes no evidence to DeVos’ assumption, “Educational choice is an essential part of the solution to our nation’s education challenges, including the greater issue of education inequality in America.”

However, she has been nominated as the country’s secretary of education, and, with Trump’s blessing, she will be in the position to promote vouchers above all. Her platform will apparently be centered upon developing a program to entice states to bend to her private-school-voucher-favored ideology. She will dangle federal money before state governors, and she will entice them to pony up state and local money to in some way match the her federal enticement amount in order to expand and promote vouchers.

She will likely offer no yearbook examining the downside of her voucher expansion goals, and she certainly will not examine the fact that public school problems do not happen in isolation from problems evident in the communities in which they are situated.

But it sure would be nice if she stepped outside of her ideology, if only for a moment.

Therefore, in such a spirit, Betsy, here’s an assignment for you:

Provide detailed evidence to critically appraise the following opinion:

“Educational choice is an essential part of the solution to our nation’s education challenges, including the greater issue of education inequality in America.”

Publicize the resulting response in the form of a downloadable report as a pinned post on your Twitter page, and make it available by January 20th, 2017.

Look at me, giving DeVos a critical thinking assignment.

Makes me come across like a public school teacher.

Your call, Betsy.

betsy-devos-4  Betsy DeVos

___________________________________________________________

Released July 2016– Book Three:

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 both A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?.

both books

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

A Challenge for Campbell Brown’s The 74: Publicize Your Detailed History

In June 2015, former CNN anchor and anti-union, corporate reform pusher Campbell Brown officially launched The Seventy Four, which she describes as follows:

I am excited to announce the launch of a project I’ve been working on for some time now. As profiled in The Wall Street Journal today, The Seventy Four, a non-profit, non-partisan news site about education, is now a reality.

There are 74 million children under the age of 18 in the United States. And the unfortunate reality is that for many of these children, the public education system is broken.

Our mission at The Seventy Four is to lead an honest, fact-based conversation about how to give America’s 74 million children the education they deserve.

Visit our website at the74million.org.

When Michigan billionaire and democracy wrecker Betsy DeVos was nominated as US secretary of education, Brown was all in, as one might expect: DeVos is among the funders of Brown’s Seventy Four.

Brown wants the public to believe that her Seventy Four is an unbiased news source. On November 30, 2016, Politico reported that Brown decided to limit her role in covering DeVos on the Seventy Four because they “are friends”:

CAMPBELL BROWN STEPS BACK FROM COVERAGE: Campbell Brown, editor-in-chief of The 74, is “recusing herself” from her website’s news coverage of Betsy DeVos, President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for education secretary. That’s according to a note from Romy Drucker, CEO of The 74, which will post online today. The note comes after reporters and activists in the last week have raised questions about Brown’s ties to DeVos and the ethics of covering her in The 74, which Brown maintains is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news site. Critics have labeled the site as advocacy journalism.

“We’ve received some inquiries about The 74’s relationship with Betsy DeVos,” Drucker’s note says. “In particular, her family foundation’s philanthropic donations to the site, our disclosures of any possible conflict of interest, and our standing policy on editorial independence. While we typically allow our article disclosures to stand by themselves, the current situation is unexpected and unprecedented — and deserves further transparency and explanation.”

Brown and DeVos are friends, and Brown sits on the board of DeVos’ school choice advocacy group, the American Federation for Children. (DeVos resigned as chair last week after accepting Trump’s Cabinet offer.) In 2014, the Dick & Betsy DeVos Family Foundation helped launch The 74 with a two-year grant — the amount of which wasn’t disclosed to Morning Education. “The final disbursement of those funds, in the first quarter of 2016, means that the foundation is only an active donor through the end of this year,” Drucker’s note says. “Obviously, given Ms. DeVos’s potential role in the federal government, The 74 will not be seeking additional funding for 2017 or beyond.” The website receives funding from a number of other education reform organizations like the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, which has also funded education reporting at the Los Angeles Times. Last year, the American Federation for Children also sponsored a summit held by The 74 for Republican presidential candidates.

Brown has also recused herself from covering New York’s Success Academy Charter Schools because she sits on the board. Drucker writes that The 74 will continue to post disclosures on articles that mention DeVos or the American Federation for Children. In a recent op-ed for The 74, Brown defended DeVos as Trump’s pick for education secretary. But when asked if she’d consider serving alongside her friend in the Trump administration, Brown said, “Absolutely not. Definitively.”

What is interesting is that The Seventy Four will not disclose the amount of DeVos’ contribution even as Seventy Four CEO Romy Drucker tries to downplay the mysterious contribution by saying that the final payment from DeVos to The Seventy Four (nonprofit name: The 74 Media, Inc.) is set to be paid before 2016 ends.

Drucker also states that since DeVos will be US secretary of education, The Seventy Four will not seek future funding from her foundation. However, DeVos will not be sitting on the board of her foundation while she is US ed secretary, so there really is no “obviously” about the Dick and Betsy DeVos Foundation not spending their money whithersoever they will, including at The Seventy Four.

The Seventy Four will not disclose the amount of the DeVos contribution, but “obviously” The Seventy Four will take no more DeVos money.

Not enough transparency from an organization that wants the public to trust it as a credible news source.

Even so, what is interesting about the direction that Brown’s The Seventy Four is taking is that it seems to have some legitimate journalists who are willing (an apparently able) to produce articles critical of corporate reform. (To my surprise, I have found myself retweeting 74 writer Matt Barnum of late.)

Of course, the problems for legitimate journalism at The Seventy Four involve the corporate reform bent of site’s list of funders (which includes Bloomberg Philanthropies, and the Broad and Walton Foundations, hedge funder Daniel Loeb, Oxycontin’s Jonathan Sackler, and the Doris and Donald Fisher Fund); its corporate-reform-enmeshed board of directors— and its connection with polarizing Campbell Brown herself.

Brown’s history is inextricable with anti-union, neighborhood-public-school antagonism.

Indeed, there is not enough transparency regarding The Seventy Four’s history, including its connection to another of Brown’s nonprofits.

For the remainder of this post, I examine some of Campbell Brown’s nonprofits. I should not have to dig and do this. If the Seventy Four wishes to be regarded as a legitimate news site, it should clearly detail its history. The problem for The Seventy Four is that detailing its history (including its financial history) only raises questions regarding the site’s ability to be truly unbiased.

Here we go.

In June 2013, Campbell Brown formed the lobbying nonprofit, Parents’ Transparency Project (PTP), and registered it in Delaware. It reported total revenue of $1.2 million for June thru December 2013 and had one major expense of $1.1 million:

PTP is apolitical (Schneider’s note: supposedly meaning “non-political”) watchdog group whose mission is to bring transparency to the rules, deals, and contracts negotiated between our state and local governments and the teachers’ unions, and to help parents get a clear understanding of how the education bureaucracy works. PTP used media to generate public pressure against the DOE, the UFT, and city and state government of New York to be transparent and accountable in their procedures, contracts, and legislation affecting our students and their school system.

In October 2013, Mother Jones published an enlightening article on Brown’s PTP, which supposedly aimed to cleanse New York classrooms of union-protected sexual predator teachers. An excerpt:

Early one morning in July, former CNN anchor Campbell Brown appeared on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, pen in hand, notes fanned out in front of her. Viewers might have mistaken her as a fill-in host, but Brown had swung by 30 Rock in her new role as a self-styled education reformer, a crusader against sexual deviants in New York City public schools and the backward unions and bureaucrats getting in the way of firing them. “In many cases, we have teachers who were found guilty of inappropriate touching, sexual banter with kids, who weren’t fired from their jobs, who were given very light sentences and sent back to the classroom,” Brown, the mother of two young sons, explained.

Brown was there to plug her new venture, the Parents’ Transparency Project, a nonprofit “watchdog group” that “favors no party, candidate, or incumbent.” Though its larger aim is to “bring transparency” to how contracts are negotiated with teachers’ unions, PTP’s most prominent campaign is to fix how New York City handles cases of sexual misconduct involving teachers and school employees—namely by giving the city’s schools chancellor, a political appointee, ultimate authority in the process. …

Brown’s group paints the unions as the main obstacles to a crackdown on predators. Yet Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, says that the union’s New York City chapter already has a zero-tolerance policy in its contract, and that AFT only protects its members against “false allegations.” New York state law also mandates that any teacher convicted of a sex crime be automatically fired. It is the law, not union contracts, that requires that an independent arbitrator hear and mete out punishment in cases of sexual misconduct that fall outside criminal law. The quickest route to changing that policy may be lobbying lawmakers in Albany, not hammering teachers and their unions.

Brown did not want to lobby lawmakers in Albany. Instead, she pretty much closed PTP shop in 2014 in order to create another nonprofit.

According to the PTP 2014 tax form, PTP began 2014 with the $88,000 left over from 2013. Turns out PTP paid $30,000 of that $88,000 to Brown’s next nonprofit, the Partnership for Educational Justice (PEJ).

Brown began PEJ in December 2013 under a different name, All Kids Matter, Inc., and incorporated it in Delaware. In February 2014, she changed the name to Partnership for Educational Justice (PEJ).

In March 2014, Brown filed for nonprofit status for PEJ under a New York City address. Brown reported that she expected PEJ to raise $3 million in grants and contributions from 12-19-2013 to 11-30-2014; $4 million from 12-01-2014 to 11-30-2015, and $5 million from 12-01-2015 to 11-30-2016.

Brown included the following description of PEJ’s purpose on the nonprofit application:

Inspired by the work of similar impact litigation around the country, the Applicant will seek to use the litigation process, combined with a public communications campaign, to reform harmful education laws and regulations that prevent our schools and school districts from providing all students with an excellent education. Through its public communications campaigns, the Applicant will seek to build relationships with families, community stakeholders and organizations — with the goal of forming effective working coalitions that will increase pressure on lawmakers and other decision makers to reform our educational system.

The Applicant’s initial focus will be on defending human and civil rights of children in New York State public schools. More particularly, the Applicant will help fund and support litigation challenging New York State education laws that operate to keep grossly ineffective teachers in public school classrooms. The Applicant hopes to be able to build on its initial activities in New York and to expand its activities into other states around the country.

In all events, the litigation promoted, supported or engaged in by the Applicant will be undertaken to benefit the general public. For example, in selecting rights to be defended, the Applicant will consider whether the litigation will have a substantial impact beyond the interest of the specific named plaintiffs. In addition, the selection of cases will be made by the Board, which is unrelated to, and independent of, any commercial entity retained by the Applicant. The Applicant does not expect to receive financial support from any of the persons being represented.

The Applicant will not, itself, provide legal representation to others, although it will institute and support litigation in order to defend children’s human and civil rights.

The “similar impact litigation” that inspired Brown’ s PEJ likely includes the case, Friedrichs vs. California Teachers Association, which was considered a victory for organized labor when the US Supreme Court deadlocked 4-4 in March 2016 over unions’ collecting fees from nonmembers when nonmembers benefited from union advocacy, and the teacher tenure lawsuit, California’s Vergara case, which the California Supreme Court decided in August 2016 not to hear. Thus, the ruling on appeal (which was in favor of California teacher job protections) was allowed to stand.

As of this writing, Brown’s PEJ has filed lawsuits in New York, Minnesota, and New Jersey. In October 2016, a Minnesota judge tossed out the Minnesota suit for not connecting student test score outcomes with the state’s tenure laws. According to PEJ, the parents in the PEJ-backed MN lawsuit “are preparing to appeal.”

The only PEJ tax form available to date is this one spanning 12-01-14 to 11-30-16. It notes that PEJ had almost $2 million in contributions and grants from the prior year (apparently, no tax form was filed for this revenue) and $4.7 million for 2014-15. (As previously noted, Brown expected to raise $3 million in 2013-14 for PEJ and an additional $4 million in 2014-15. So, the combined, 2013-15 total is pretty close to projection.)

The surprise on the 2014 PEJ tax form is PEJ’s largest expense. It was not the New York case ($587,000), nor was it the Minnesota case ($534,000).

By far, the largest 2014-15 expense for Brown’s PEJ was a “special research project”:

The 74 Media (i.e., The Seventy Four). $2.37 million.

From the 2014 PEJ tax form:

74 Media The [PEJ] organization undertook a special research project to explore the landscape of digital media and communications about education. This research included an analysis of key stakeholders and organizations and development of several potential strategies for using digital media to inspire a conversation about education.

In the above “special project” language, Brown does not identify The 74 Media as a nonprofit in its own right, one that she also runs, and that is receiving a $2.37 million grant from arguably-union-busting PEJ. However, this does come up later on the PEJ tax form when The 74 Media is identified as a nonprofit and as PEJ’s sole grant recipient, with the purpose of the grant identified as “fiscal sponsorship & general support.”

The PEJ financing of The 74 Media is not mentioned on The Seventy Four funders page or on its “about” page.

Brown’s The Seventy Four bio includes info about her founding PEJ. But for some reason, the Seventy Four fails to mention its PEJ funding connection at all– and it should.

Furthermore, PEJ’s 2014 tax form indicates that The Seventy Four’s co-founder and CEO, Romy Drucker, worked as a “strategic consultant” for PEJ; she was paid $122,102 for her services.

Drucker’s Seventy Four bio does not mention her PEJ connection.

As previously noted, PEJ paid $2.37 million for “fiscal sponsorship and general support” at some point between 12-01-14 and 11-30-15. According to this application for recognition of exemption, The Seventy Four began January 12, 2015, as Loudspeaker Media.

The organization’s purpose and proposed activities are described as follows:

Overview

Loudspeaker Media Inc. (the “Loudspeaker”) seeks to produce and distribute journalism about America’s education system in order to improve education in America. Loudspeaker’s journalism will focus on the challenges and opportunities faced by the nearly 100,000 public schools in our country and the experiences of the millions of American children that attend public schools. Loudspeaker will closely examine major policy issues in K-12 education in our country by producing and distributing local and national stories about education policies and the roles of key stakeholders in America’s education system. Through the production and distribution of journalism focusing on America’s education system, Loudspeaker seeks to raise awareness about the state of education in America and to foster community engagement so that citizens can effect positive changes in America’s education system. A

Activities

Loudspeaker will pursue its exempt purposes through the production and distribution of news and opinion content through its website located at http://www.loudspeaker.org (“Website”). The Website will be a platform for all content developed by Loudspeaker’s staff writers and editorial contributors. News and opinion content featured on the Website will focus on local and national issues relating to America’s education system. The Website’s news content will adhere to the highest standards of journalism. The Website’s opinion content will represent different opinions in the field of education.

The Website will include interactive features which allow readers to post comments on articles and submit “letters to the editor” in an effort to encourage dialogue about education issues and allow readers to share their personal experiences with America’s schools.

In addition to the Website, Loudspeaker will actively distribute its content through social media technologies, such as Twitter, Facebook, and Youtube.

Loudspeaker will periodically host live events (such as forums and panels) for opinion leaders, policymakers, and stakeholders in the field of education to discuss education policies and the effects of education policies on American families.

Loudspeaker will pursue relationships with other media organizations for the development, distribution, and sharing of Loudspeaker’s content and content created by others that relates to Loudspeaker’s exempt purposes.

An informed understanding of America’s education system is essential to improving education in America. Loudspeaker’s activities will further its exempt purposes by providing information that raises citizens’ awareness about America’s education system and empowers communities to engage America’s education system in order to effect positive changes.

Funding

Loudspeaker will fund its activities with the financial assistance of private donors, foundation grants, and the public.

The projected funding of Loudspeaker Media was set at $3.8 million from 01-12-15 to 12-31-15; $4.1 million from 01-01-16 to 12-31-16, and a projected $4.5 million from 01-01-17 to 12-31-17.

From the outset, Brown planned on using PEJ to establish Loudspeaker Media:

Campbell Brown, who is the corporation’s President and also a director, is the founder and a director of Partnership for Educational Justice, Inc., non-profit 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization (“PEJ”). PEJ will act as the corporation’s “fiscal sponsor” until the corporation’s exempt-status is approved. The “fiscal sponsor” relationship between PEJ and the corporation will be pursuant to a written agreement duly approved by each organization’s board of directors.

Loudspeaker Media, which was incorporated in Delaware on January 12, 2015, became The 74 Media (The Seventy Four) on May 14, 2015.

According to its registration for charitable organizations, Loudspeaker Media applied for tax exempt status on February 11, 2015 (before it was renamed The 74 Media), and began soliciting contributions on March 27, 2015 (again, before it was renamed The 74 Media).

The 74 Media does not yet have its first tax form available. However, based upon its projected $3.8 million in revenue for its first year and its receipt of $2.4 million from PEJ, it seems that for 2015, The Seventy Four’s principal funder was likely Brown’s blatantly anti-union PEJ.

This brings us back to the issue of The Seventy Four’s trying to promote itself as a credible news source.

Such credibility begins with honest and clear acknowledgment of the organization’s history– which includes details of its financial history and relationships to Campbell Brown’s controversial nonprofit, PEJ.

That detailed organizational history should also include candid examination about how the public is supposed to trust The Seventy Four’s reporting given its history, the corporate reform bent of its board of directors, funders like Betsy DeVos, and of its co-founder, Campbell Brown.

It is not enough for Brown to simply recuse herself from writing about DeVos and Moskowitz, and it is not enough for Drucker to try to excuse DeVos funding by saying it will end soon, anyway.

The bottom line: If The Seventy Four wishes to discard the label of “advocacy journalism,” it needs to seriously consider who funds it and who leads it.

It’s a tall order.

However, that detailed history link would be a good start.

campbell-brown-7  Campbell Brown

___________________________________________________________

Released July 2016– Book Three:

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 both A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?.

both books

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

Donald Trump, Rebekah Mercer, Betsy DeVos, Milton Friedman, and the Education Business

President-elect Donald Trump’s plan for US education:

School choice.

The voucher.

The charter school.

Forced competition for the neighborhood school.

However, Trump does not have an established history for supporting charters and vouchers. He is new to this bandwagon. Nevertheless, as of August 17, 2016, Trump began clearly supporting school choice.

The timing appears to be tied with the involvement of hedge fund heiress Rebekah Mercer as part of his campaign.

Let’s start with Mercer.

As the September 15, 2016, Daily Beast observes:

Trump’s brand spanking new focus on charter schools coincides with the growing clout of the Mercer family in his presidential campaign. On Aug. 17, The Hill reported that billionaire family—who had previously supported Ted Cruz—was behind major staffing shifts that Trump made. Politico and The Washington Post have also explored the Mercers’ substantial influence on him.

Rebekah Mercer, who runs the family’s charitable foundation and homeschools her four children, is known as a strong supporter of school-choice policies. Her foundation is a generous supporter of the Moving Picture Institute, which has made movies that support the school-choice movement. Their foundation also gave almost $1 million to the Barry Goldwater Institute from 2011 to 2014. That organization is known nationwide for its role in supporting Arizona’s school-choice policy overhauls. Mercer is also a board member of a conservative think tank called the Manhattan Institute, which has drawn ire from national teachers unions for its support of charter schools.

And as the November 21, 2016, Politico reports:

Rebekah Mercer, a 42-year-old who homeschools her young children, rarely visits Trump Tower and has a relatively narrow official portfolio in Trump’s transition effort. Her influence comes instead from her close relationships with the people and groups carrying out the day-to-day work of building Trump’s administration and political apparatus, some of whom have been the beneficiaries of millions of dollars of funding from her family.

Mercer’s influence in Trump’s transition effort — detailed here for the first time — calls into question Trump’s campaign trail boasts that his own fortune, which he used to partly fund his campaign, would make him independent from deep-pocketed donors and special interests he railed against on the campaign trail. …

“It would be difficult to overstate Rebekah’s influence in Trump world right now,” said one GOP fundraiser who has worked with Mercer and people in the campaign. “She is a force of nature. She is aggressive, and she makes her point known.” …

Beyond Mercer’s own direct line to Trump, she played a pivotal role in persuading him to bring into his inner-most circle several close allies whose efforts her family has financed to the tune of tens of millions of dollars, including incoming White House senior counselor Steve Bannon and top campaign officials Kellyanne Conway and David Bossie. …

She has grown it in such a way that it distinguished the Mercers as major players on the right even before they became Trump’s biggest and most influential donors.

Most people contacted for this story refused to discuss Rebekah Mercer for attribution, pointing out that she is intensely private and has scolded people for calling attention to her — even to praise her. Additionally, Mercer is known within the conservative movement for harboring grievances against people with whom she disagrees on tactics or ideology, or who merely rub her the wrong way. …

Noting a campaign profile that said Mercer “exemplifies a new breed of activist donors,” [an FEC] complaint [on which the FEC has yet to publicly act] asserted that the Mercer family’s super PAC was “inextricably intertwined with the Trump campaign.”

Now, let’s go from Mercer to DeVos.

In choosing Michigan billionaire and “activist donor” Betsy DeVos as US secretary of education, Trump has nominated a woman who, like fellow “activist donor” Rebekah Mercer, is extremely rich and uses her money to push school choice. The two are part of a growing group of millionaires and billionaires who form a notable part of the Trump inner circle— and who will undoubtedly drive America in the direction of benefiting the well being and whims of the ultra wealthy. As November 29, 2016, Vanity Fair notes:

As he assembles his Cabinet, Donald Trump appears to be soliciting the consoling proximity of not millionaires, of course, but fellow billionaires. As with Trump himself, the net worth of many of his top advisers and nominees for Cabinet positions is difficult to pin down precisely, but there is no question that many of them are among the wealthiest of the wealthy. Betsy DeVos, Trump’s announced pick for secretary of education, for instance, is the daughter-in-law of the co-founder of the privately held Amway Corporation, the multi-level marketing company. (Forbes has pegged the DeVos family’s wealth at $5.1 billion.)…

…The larger point that Trump has surrounded himself largely with the wealthy remains valid. And that’s without mentioning his three children, his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, Anthony Scaramucci, the hedge-fund manager, billionaire Rebekah Mercer, and billionaire Peter Thiel, all of whom are on Trump’s transition team. …

…The problem is that working-class Americans stand to lose a lot when billionaires are put in charge of the nation’s executive branch. Running a country is not like running a business.

And yet, via billionaire ed sec Betsy DeVos, Donald Trump will push to run American education “like a business.”

Time for some Friedman.

Trying to force American education into a capitalist mold fits well with the idea of school choice. Indeed, the father of vouchers, Milton Friedman, was an economist. In my book, School Choice: The End of Public Education?, I examine Friedman in chapter four. In short, here is some of what I learned about Friedman in writing my book:

  1. Friedman published his famous 1955 essay promoting vouchers, The Role of Government in Education, at the same time that several Southern states were using vouchers to preserve and reinforce racial segregation.
  2. His ideas about voucher usage beg for a bloated government bureaucracy that feeds both for-profit and nonprofit education entities.
  3. He did not address the possibility that the for-profits, nonprofits, or even the government might serve themselves at the expense of defrauding parents and students.
  4. He assumed that parents could add their own money to subsidize a basic voucher amount, but he did not address the fact that such subsidy could separate students into tiered levels of “haves” and “have nots.” In other words, educational inequity is an unaddressed byproduct of Friedman’s 1955 voucher conception.
  5. Friedman assumed that the government would adequately finance some “minimal level of education” via vouchers. (In other words, he did not address the possibility that the voucher amount would be insufficient might therefore appeal to only more fiscally able families.)
  6. He assumed that parents would want to take part in a voucher program.
  7. He believed in the “efficiency” of “competitive private enterprise” in education “as in other fields.”
  8. He viewed compulsory education as hindering choice In other words, he viewed “private enterprise” education as superior to “a government administered system” of schools.
  9. Friedman presumed that via private enterprise schooling, not all students would be educated, or that private enterprise would be held to the obligation to educate all children. (In other words, the schools would not be bound to educate all.)
  10. In his 1970 article in the New York Times, entitled, “The Social Responsibility of Business Is to Increase Its Profits,” Friedman discounted any employee behavior that does not garner profits. Whereas he acknowledged that some entities, such as schools, are not profit-driven, he did not account for the fact that for-profit (and even nonprofit) schools could/ would indeed be profit-driven; that they could view students as either profit increasers or profit decreasers, and that social responsibility could (and would) be pushed aside at some “choice” schools for the sake of making money.

Milton Friedman was an economist, and his view of education cannot be extracted from his view of the superiority of the free market and of “effective competition.”

Preserving and promoting the neighborhood school was not Friedman’s goal.

It is not President-elect Donald Trump’s goal.

It is not Trump mega-funder, Rebekah Mercer’s goal.

It is not billionaire school choice purchaser Betsy DeVos’ goal.

And so, the fight for the neighborhood school continues.

We simply have no choice.

donald-trump-3  Donald Trump

rebekah-mercer  Rebekah Mercer

betsy-devos-3  Betsy DeVos

milton-friedman  Milton Friedman

vs

school caution sign

______________________________________________________________________

Released July 2016– Book Three:

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 both A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?.

both books

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

Trump First Offered Jerry Falwell, Jr., US Secretary of Ed Job

The Associated Press reported the following on November 26, 2016:

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. says President elect-Donald Trump offered him the job of education secretary, but that he turned it down for personal reasons.

Falwell tells The Associated Press that Trump offered him the job last week during a meeting in New York. He says Trump wanted a four- to six-year commitment, but that he couldn’t leave Liberty for more than two years.

Falwell added that he did not want to uproot his 16-year-old son.

In June 2016, Falwell and his wife met with Trump at Trump’s office in New York. Falwell tweeted a pic, which happened to include a framed Playboy cover in the background, as the Blaze reports:

Liberty University President Jerry Falwell, Jr., became the subject of some controversy Tuesday afternoon, when he tweeted a photo of him and his wife with Donald Trump.

The seemingly harmless photo, taken in Trump’s lavish New York office, garnered the attention of several Twitter users because, upon closer examination, there is a years-old framed Playboy magazine peeking around the shoulder of Falwell’s wife, Becki.

It is likely much of the criticism aimed at Falwell was about more than just the photo. Many have slammed the university president for his decision to back Trump, who is known for his brash — and often offensive — language, from his disparaging comments about women to his criticism of the Mexican-American judge presiding over the Trump University cases.

Regardless, it didn’t take long for observers to call attention to the cover.

The November 26, 2016, San Francisco Chronicle briefly examines the unsettling effects of a Trump candidacy and Falwell’s endorsement of Trump. However, the article does not mention Falwell’s declining Trump’s offer to make Falwell US secretary of education, which the Associated Press reported the same day.

According to the Associated Press, Falwell considers the person who did accept Trump’s ed sec offer, controversial Michigan billionaire Betsy DeVos, an “excellent choice.”

jerry-falwell-jr  Jerry Falwell, Jr.

___________________________________________________________

Released July 2016– Book Three:

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 both A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?.

both books

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