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Los Angeles School Funding and the “Bait and Switch”

On June 13, 2019, I posted about Measure EE, the proposed parcel tax that was supposed to fund K12 education for the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD). The measure was not approved, with very few voters showing up to the polls either in support of or in opposition to the measure.

It seems that part of LAUSD’s funding problems has to do with the superintendent and board’s desire to sit on surplus money as well as a remarkable imbalance in overspending on administration (including having to pay the state penalty fees for having excessive administrators) at the expense in adequately paying teachers and hiring enough teachers so that class sizes are conducive to teaching and learning.

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In response to my post, Los Angeles teacher, Linda Bassett, offered the following informative, insider commentary in which she discusses a Measure EE-related “bait and switch” (I added links to aid in communicating the backstory):

I am a teacher in UTLA (United Teachers of Los Angeles). What I see is a bait and switch. When we were striking, our union was calling out the school district for sitting on 1.7 billion dollars. That was an outrageous amount of money to sit on and would go far to help buy support personnel and reduce class sizes.

They also called out the billionaires for draining money from our public school system for their union busting, rip-off charter enterprises using public money to line their pockets and that they were going to pass legislation to stop this drain of public finances for public schools.

Reforming prop 13 was emphasized to go after commercial properties that are still paying 1978 taxes to continue to lower class sizes and raise teacher salaries and add support personnel.

Not until the very last day was any mention made about raising property taxes by 16 cent per square foot as necessary to fund education. It was announced as a great victory between the mayor, [Eric]Garcetti, [LAUSD superintendent Austin] Beutner and the negotiating team. Many students and parents were there on the line with us. The public was watching as well. There was no questioning, or discussion just a lot of hooplah at what a great deal it was.

So after this rah rah speech, teachers were given a few hours to return to their school site and decide whether to accept the new contract. After so many days of standing in the pouring rain and traveling back and forth to the downtown rally from school sites far away, they were exhausted. It was not enough time to think about the terms of the agreement. I do not even recall one mention of the bond measure as something to consider as a reason to agree or not to agree.

So to me, it is no wonder people did not vote for it. They were never told during the rallies and speeches during the strike that this was a factor to consider. It was all about the existing billions, the regulation of charter schools, and reforming prop 13. The public and teachers want more money for sure, but they were not expected to have to foot any of the bill. They already are paying way more than their fair share. So that they rejected it is no surprise to me. It was the right reaction to a bait and switch maneuver.

Beutner and the LAUSD board majority that chose him (5 – 2) in May 2018 as LAUSD superintendent are quintessentially market-ed-reform: Beutner is a former investment banker with no background in education and a bent toward school choice. In July 2018, board member Ref Rodriguez pleaded guilty to felony and resigned; his vacant seat was filled by former board member and charter school critic, Jackie Goldberg, in a special election in May 2019. Goldberg’s election has shifted the dynamics of the pro-school-choice LAUSD, chiefly as concerns any plans Beutner has regarding charter school expansion.

As for Measure EE: Goldberg supported it even as she reportedly believes the LAUSD budget crisis is “exaggerated.” Goldberg also identified Proposition 13 passage as problematic for educational funding.

As for those squirreled-away, LAUSD billions, Goldberg had this to say in an April 2019 interview:

There’s a difference between a reserve and a surplus. OK, a reserve is exactly what they said, a reserve is money that has been pretty much allocated, but you didn’t spend it during the year you allocated it. So you’re reserving it to pay those bills as they come in.

A surplus is money that’s unallocated, and they had a $2 billion surplus, which they called a reserve. That kind of ticked me off a little bit — because I was there, I know the difference.

On its website, ULTA counts the Measure EE defeat as a “tough loss.” However, it seems that Bassett’s point about “bait and switch” is well taken. With Measure EE defeat in the past, it seems logical to turn attention from those 16 cents and once again focus on issues like the frozen commercial property taxes enabled by Proposition 13 as well as that $2B reserve– I mean– surplus.

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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.

LAUSD’s Parcel Tax Failure and the *Reasonableness* of Teacher Pay in L.A.

Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) includes “most of the city of Los Angeles, along with all or portions of 26 cities and unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County. About 4.8 million people live within the District’s boundaries.” In 2018-19, LAUSD’s estimated enrollment was 694,096 students.

On June 04, 2019, voters within the LAUSD boundary could have voted to approve or reject Measure EE, a school parcel tax measure authorizing LAUSD to levy 16-cents-per-square-foot tax over 12 years to fund the LAUSD as follows, in brief:

Proceeds from the Tax shall be used for: lowering class sizes; providing school nursing, library, and counseling services and other health and human services for student support; providing instructional programs, school resources, and materials; retaining and attracting teachers and school employees; and providing necessary administrative services. …

This Measure requires a two-thirds (2/3) vote for passage.

The opportunity to vote was there, but oh so few chose to take it.

Measure EE failed, 45.68% to 54.32%. However, the greater failure of Measure EE is in its incredibly low voter turnout.  According to Los Angeles Almanac, 5.3M individuals were registered to vote at the time of the 2018 general election. So, even if all were not eligible to vote on Measure EE– even if only half were eligible– that would have been over 2.5M voters.

For Measure EE, only 304,321 voters participated (139,027 “yes”; 165,294 “no”).

One could think of that as one voter turning out for every two LAUSD students.

This appears not so much a rejection of Measure EE as it is a rejection of the right (and responsibility) to vote.

Unfortunately, low turnout is common in local elections. (In 2015, to entice voter turnout for a school board runoff between Bernard Keyser and Ref Rodriguez, LAUSD District 5 even entered voters in a lottery offering cash prizes. Even so, voter turnout was only 10%.) However, reading comments/opinions about Measure EE’s low turnout has introduced potential issues, such as an apathy that might be related to already high property taxes, a bloated LAUSD bureaucracy, as well as confusion around campaigning.

I haven’t seen any comments about LAUSD teachers being paid enough or overly paid.

In his June 06, 2019, Forbes piece about the failure of Measure EE, American Enterprise Institute (AEI) career think-tanker Frederick Hess does not address the issue of low voter turnout. Instead, he focuses mostly on the teacher salary component.

Hess implies that the average LAUSD teacher salary of $74,000 a year “strikes a lot of Americans as pretty reasonable.”

Let us take a moment to contextualize AEI and Hess.

The mission of AEI as listed on its tax forms is as follows:

The American Enterprise Institute is a community of scholars and supporters committed to expanding liberty, increasing individual opportunity, and strengthening free enterprise. AEI pursues these ideals through independent thinking and the highest standards of research and exposition.

It should be noted that in 2018, Hess drew a comfortable $235K (up from $197K in 2013) as an AEI “resident scholar,” which has our armchair educator hovering nowhere near that “pretty reasonable” $74K he mentions. Furthermore, AEI president Arthur Brooks garnered an amazing salary boost from 2017 to 2018, doubled from $1.1M to $2.2M, and executive VP David Gerson also doubling his salary, from $526K to $1.1M.

At the end of 2018, AEI listed total net assets of $321M.

Hess pens his think-tankery about education from a plush perch.

He suggests that “when things get real… things can look very different in a place like L.A.” As his evidence, Hess relies on a 2018 Education Next survey in which participants thought that average yearly teacher salaries were thousands lower than the actual average teacher salary in their respective states; when participants were then informed of the actual average teacher salary for their state and subsequently asked if they thought the actual average salary should increase, decrease or stay the same, “support for higher pay dropped sharply—from 67 to 48%.”

Hess closes his piece as follows:

It’s entirely fair to argue that schools deserve more funds. But advocates, educators, and supposedly disinterested reporters have a bad habit of portraying even seemingly reasonable outlays and salaries as outrageously low. When things get real, and signs, radio spots, anti-tax advocates, and local chatter starts to flesh out the messy details, things can look very different to voters in a place like L.A.

This doesn’t mean Americans are penurious or unconcerned about schools. It just may mean that, when push comes to shove, it’ll take more than cheerleading and scare tactics to convince them that the money will be spent wisely and well.

But did support for higher teacher pay drop in Los Angeles?

This is not a national question. Thus, the national-level survey Hess references cannot answer it, which makes referencing it pointless as pertains to Measure EE.

As for that “reasonable” average LAUSD annual teacher salary of $74,000, let us consider how those $74,000 L.A. dollars translate into a salary elsewhere.

Even with a Ph.D. and 24 years of full time experience, I do not make $74,000 as a St. Tammany, Louisiana, public school teacher. In fact, I make $14,000 less.

Or do I?

According to NerdWallet’s Cost of Living Calculator, my current annual salary of $60,000, St. Tammany, LA, dollars buys the same lifestyle as would $92,716 in Los Angeles, CA. (In L.A., median 2-bedroom apartment rent is $2,757; in St. Tammany, it is $1,087.)

Let’s go the other way with that L.A. average annual salary of $74,000: How do those dollars translate into St. Tammany, LA, dollars?

According to NerdWallet, that $74,000 L.A. salary would buy as much as $47,888 does in St. Tammany, LA.

I would be hard pressed to live on an annual salary of $47,888 mid-career and would consider it an embarrassment and insult to be asked to do so. And yes, Mr. Hess, I would consider such a salary to be “outrageously low.”

But there is good news for Hess: If he moves to LA, according to NerdWallet, he only needs to earn $214K to maintain the buying power of his $235K DC salary. (Toungue in cheek, my friends. Tongue in cheek.)

Yet salary is only part of the Measure EE story. Class size reduction and addition of needed personnel were also a part. And then there is this:

Moreover, L.A. Unified must address its ongoing structural deficit so that it may continue offering high-quality educational programs to all of its students. A major shortfall and reductions are anticipated in Fiscal Year 2021-2022 and beyond. If not addressed, it will be necessary to implement harmful cuts to L.A. Unified programs, schools, and employees, including possible teacher and employee lay-offs and increased class sizes.

Possible increased class sizes in two years? Class size is already such an issue at LAUSD that it considered “capping middle and high school English and math at 39” as a January 2019 “significant reduction in class sizes” bargaining point.

Still, for Measure EE, multiple millions of L.A. voters did not show up, and of those who did, 165,294 said “no” to the additional funding, and so, the “no” has it.

Meanwhile, questions continue as to whether LAUSD officials “are artificially inflating the deficit” by over-budgeting and then under-spending. If that is what is happening, such a practice could well be putting the squeeze on classroom teacher salaries and untenable class sizes. Superintendent Austin Beutner notes that $42M has already been “saved” by cutting central office staff. What complicates the admin cost is that LAUSD employs more admin per student than California allows, which means LAUSD must pay $35M in penalties to the state. Beutner states that LAUSD has petitioned the state for an exemption to the rule of max 8 admin per 100 teachers. (LAUSD has 9.5 admin per 100 teachers.)

LAUSD’s three-year budget projections do not include adding staff and reducing class sizes.

Regarding his three-year budget projections, Beutner says, “We’d expect to provide a wage increase to those who work in schools.”

Not sure what Beutner’s “expecting” means, but it seems that an average annual salary of $74,000 L.A. dollars is only “reasonable” to those of notably loftier financial realities.

cutting the dollar

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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.

Elizabeth Warren Has a Former TFAer Advising Her on Education

According to his Linkedin bio, Joshua Delaney is Democratic presidential hopeful, Senator Elizabeth Warren’s, senior education policy advisor. He describes his job as follows:

Advise United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) on all matters pertaining to early, elementary, secondary, and higher education, including college affordability and student loan debt.

“Advise… on all matters pertaining to early, elementary, secondary, and higher education.” That’s quite a responsibility. No problem: Delaney has put in his two years (2011-13) as a Teach for America (TFA) temp teacher as a “ninth-grade special education algebra co-teacher” (his bachelors degree is in “journalism, advertising, new media, and theater”; he held a patchwork of Georgia teaching certifications which one can look up here).

While doing his TFA stint (with one year in), in 2012, Delaney turned his attention toward education policy, serving as a sort of TFA policy incubator:

Co-founder & Vice-Chairman, Metro Atlanta Policy Leadership Track

Jun 2012 – Jun 2013 (1 yr 1 mo), Greater Atlanta Area

Founded and led a board of six members to create programming for Teach for America (TFA) corps members with an interest in education policy and advocacy. Hosted monthly events including lectures, panels, debates, and networking nights with education advocates and policy leaders. Secured sponsorship from national organization (Leadership for Educational Equity) for advocacy training sessions for TFA corps members and alumni to engage with educational issues in Georgia General Assembly Legislative Session and with local elections

Following this leading of a six-member board to advance TFAers onto ed policy (and roughly corresponding to the end of Delaney’s TFA stint), Delaney spent one month as a poicy fellow helping implement Common Core in Georgia.

Next, Delaney earned a masters of ed policy from TFA ed-policy credentialing favorite, the Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE); interned for a summer (May – August 2014) with the Alliance for Excellent Education. Then, in August 2014, he landed in Elizabeth Warren’s office as education fellow (August 2014 – July 2015), then legislative assistant (August 2015 – July 2016), and, finally, as senior education policy advisor (August 2016 – present).

And so, this is who is in Elizabeth Warren’s ear advising her on All Things Education:

A former TFAer who rode in on the ed policy express.

Warren has yet to crystallize her position on K12 education. She publicly supported Bernie Sanders’ nebulous, loaded statement against “for-profit charter schools” and said that”pubic tax dollars should stay in our public schools.”

Does this mean that she is fine with nonprofit charter schools? What about nonprofit charter schools with for-profit management? Does Warren consider charter schools to be “public” schools since they take public money?

Warren’s campaign website offers no specifics on her K12 education position.

She has publicly stated that as president, she “will not appoint anyone to be secretary of education who has not taught in a public school.” However, that is a pretty loose qualification; Every TFAer who even completes a semester or year of that two-year stint has technically “taught in a public school.” Such a qualification might rule out Betsy DeVos, but that is not saying much.

Warren is excellent at offering policy solutions and positions for numerous issues.

As a career classroom teacher, I would like to see her formally post her ideas, policies, and positions on K12 education on her campaign website. And I am hoping those ideas are not laden with TFA-friendly whisperings.

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Elizabeth Warren

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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.

Louisiana Teachers Are Getting a Raise!

In the final vote on the matter, on June 03, 2019, the Louisiana House voted 104:0 to approve the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) proposed 2019-20 Minimum Foundation Program (MFP) funding, which includes an across-the-board, $1000 pay raise for teachers and other certificated personnel, plus 26% for employer contribution to the appropriate retirement system.

Non-certificated personnel will receive a $500 raise plus 29.4% for employer contribution to the appropriate retirement system.

The base per-pupil amount has also been increased from $3,961 to $4,015, or 1.375%.

Details of the approved 2019-20 MFP are in this 31-page copy of the legislation (SCR 3).

In September 2018, Louisiana governor, John Bel Edwards, said he would advocate for the teacher pay raise in Louisiana’s 2019 legislative session.

Though Melinda Deslatte of nola.com describes “weeks of bickering behind the scenes,” the MFP was passed. In Louisiana, BESE’s MFP proposal is a “take it or leave it” piece of legislation for lawmakers; they cannot amend it, and BESE was not willing to amend it.

In the end, SCR 3 had 129 sponsors. While on June 03, 2019, the Louisiana House voted unanimously to pass SCR 3 (140:0), on May 15, 2019, the Senate approved it 37:1. Senator Conrad Appel cast the lone “no” vote.

Apparently no one else wanted to be on the wrong side of this teacher pay raise approval in an election year.

money apple

__________________________________________________________________________________

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.

Hanna Skandera: Her Consulting Firm and Her Mystery “Initiative”

Former New Mexico chancellor of education, Hanna Skandera, has been trying to re-establish herself as an ed reform name since her June 2017 departure from the New Mexico ed department.

hanna skandera

Hanna Skandera

 

In April 2018, she produced a Walton-funded video about the “next step” for ed reform to “connect to real-life issues and needs,” words in step with the Walton goal of trying to appear grass roots rather than top-down (see the Walton Family Foundation 2015 report and my October 2015 post about the report for more). (The 74 is also credited with funding Skandera’s video, though the Waltons also fund The 74; so, it’s like the Waltons are paying themselves.)

In June 2018, Skandera became editor-in-chief of The Line, a K12 ed publication whose former editor-in-chief was former Los Angeles schools superintendent, John Deasy.

According to the Colorado secretary of state, on January 18, 2018, Skandera filed articles of incorporation for Mile High Strategies, LLC (limited liability company). The organization is in good standing (filing up to date): however, it is unclear whether Mile High Strategies is anything more than Skandera alone offering consulting.

On her Linkedin bio, Skandera also advertises herself as founder of Pathway 2 Tomorrow: Local Visions for America’s Future. The organization’s website advertises $100,000 grants and 72 “partners,” including the following:

  • Education Commission of the States,
  • Education Trust,
  • National Alliance for Public Charter Schools,
  • College Board,
  • ACT,
  • Chiefs for Change,
  • Democrats for Education Reform,
  • Teach for America (TFA),
  • TNTP,
  • New Schools Venture Fund,
  • Achieve,
  • 50CAN,
  • Data Quality Campaign,
  • Teach Plus,
  • Foundation for Excellence in Education,
  • Thomas Fordham Institute,
  • Walton Family Foundation,
  • Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO),
  • and Frontline Research and Learning Institute (for whom Skandera serves as The Line editor-in-chief)

Note that the Walton Family Foundation (WFF) supports 39 of the remaining 71 of Pathway 2 Tomorrow “partners.” (Not all “partners” are nonprofit orgs; some, like HCM Strategists and SOVA Solutions, are consulting firms.) Note also that exploration of all of WFF’s 2018 grantees includes no reference to either Pathway 2 Tomorrow or its website– a website lacking in any identifying information, including copyright information.

And consider who is missing from among these 72 “partners”:  the Gates and Broad foundations. Among the 72, Walton is the major money source.

There is also no obvious “about” link regarding who, exactly, is in charge of Pathway 2 Tomorrow. The information about “our team” is buried in the “approach” link and includes two individuals: Skandera and Kristen Lozada Morgan:

Hanna Skandera

Having worked in numerous states and organizations, most recently in a state leadership role, Hanna has witnessed firsthand the importance of alignment between education policy and local needs and priorities. Over the last year, she’s had the privilege of working with leaders from across the country and heard the local voices reflect on the state of our education system. The consistent theme of an evolving localized education landscape and a need for fresh ideas acutely resonated with her. She believes the time is right to support states and local communities as they lead to impact education policy.

Hanna brings over two decades of executive leadership experience to a variety of private, public and non-profit organizations. In addition to serving as New Mexico’s Secretary of Education from 2011-2017, Hanna served as Undersecretary of Education in California from 2004-2005, Deputy Education Commissioner of Florida from 2005-2007, and Deputy Chief of Staff at the U.S. Department of Education from 2007-2009.

Kristen Lozada Morgan

Kristen’s career has been dedicated to building the capacity of organizations to serve students equitably and effectively. Currently, Kristen consults nationally with government agencies and education nonprofit organizations to provide expertise on operations, strategy, and organizational improvement.

Previously, Kristen served as a founding math teacher at a charter school in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. She then led the finance and operations teams through the organization’s growth to a network of schools, earning recognition including an Excellence in Government — Innovation Award for the use of innovative solutions to solve pressing problems. Subsequently, Kristen led EnrollNOLA, the unified enrollment system at the Louisiana Recovery School District, improving operations while promoting access and transparency for families.

Originally from Hawai’i, Kristen earned her bachelor’s degree from Harvard College, and an MBA from the A.B. Freeman School of Business at Tulane University. Kristen is the proud parent of two soon-to-be school-age daughters.

Kristen Lozada and her husband, Colleston Morgan, were both Teach for America (TFA) recruits in New Orleans. For some reason, Lozada Morgan chose to omit direct mention of TFA from her Pathway 2 Tomorrow bio. Her Linkedin bio includes Lozado’s TFA experience (June 2007 – June 2009). What it does not include is any mention of Pathway 2 Tomorrow. Instead, she merely identifies herself as “education and nonprofit consultant” (October 2015 – present).

On the Pathway 2 Tomorrow site, neither Skandera nor Lozado Morgan is identified by a professional title. However, Skandera nebulously mentioned as a “visionary” in the article featured on the home page, “$100,000 Innovation Award Winners Announced!”:

$100,000 Innovation Award Winners Announced!

P2T is excited to announce the recipients of the $100,000 Innovation Award.  The Innovation Award Committee selected two proposals addressing the authentic engagement of students as partners in education policymaking. The Prichard Committee Student Voice Team and the Iowa Department of Education will share the award capturing students for impact in their communities and across the country.

“These two proposals provide a roadmap for building authentic student ownership in decision making and school transformation,” said Hanna Skandera, former New Mexico Secretary of Education and P2T visionary. “While we have always said that students matter and that we have a desire to incorporate their perspectives, these proposals provide game-changing impact for scale.”

Over the next year, P2T and its Partners will drive progress on the critical areas that emerged from the Call for Proposals, inclusive of the solutions selected for expansion, to leverage broader impact in states and communities across the country.

Also, Via the “news” link, one can glean some of this information via article authors and press release contacts, and the “partners” page includes names and affiliations of numerous “review panel participants” and “supporters and advisors.”

The IRS has no record of a nonprofit named “Pathway 2 Tomorrow” or “Pathway2Tomorrow,” though it does include info on nonprofits with variations on the name (e.g., Pathways 2 Tomorrow; Pathway to Tomorrow). Neither the Colorado Secretary of State nor the Delaware Secretary of State (a popular state for LLC filings) has any LLC registered under the names “Pathway 2 Tomorrow,” “Pathway2Tomorrow,” or “Pathway to Tomorrow.”

Pathway 2 Tomorrow does not seem to be an organization in its own right but rather a program operated by an organization that prefers to conceal itself from public view.

Based on internet archives of its home page, it seems that Pathway 2 Tomorrow went live around July 2018— and with 55 partners already on board.

On June 28, 2018, The 74 featured an “exclusive” article on Pathway 2 Tomorrow. Interestingly, the article identifies Pathway 2 Tomorrow only as an “initiative”– all the while craftily avoiding the question of who, exactly initiated this “initiative”:

An initiative launching today is issuing an open call for proposals to match community needs with innovative education policy solutions.

Led by former New Mexico secretary of education Hanna Skandera and education consultant Kristen Lozada Morgan, Pathway 2 Tomorrow: Local Visions for America’s Future “is an inclusive approach to education solutions and is interested in hearing from voices not always heard – those of educators, practitioners, parents, researchers, advocates, nonprofit and business leaders, and entrepreneurs.”

“What’s really unique about Pathway 2 Tomorrow is the local grounding,” Skandera told The 74. “It comes out of local voice and demands, and the way these ideas are shared in states and communities is through partners. People don’t go to a policy catalog to create their next policy agenda. They go to the places and the coalitions that they build at the local level and the people they trust.”

P2T has signed on nearly 50 bipartisan partners and even more supporters and advisers, ranging from school chiefs to political leaders. Among the partners are Teach for America, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Data Quality Campaign, and the College Board.

Amid an evolving education landscape that is clamoring for solutions to prepare for the growing needs of an unknown future economy, coupled with new requirements for state-driven policy under the Every Student Succeeds Act, P2T launched as a response to the changing needs of state and local business, government, and education leaders.

Time for some conclusions:

Based upon the details presented in this post, my first guess is that Pathway 2 Tomorrow is a Walton-directed “initiative” to try to drum up some semblance of nationwide grass roots support for school choice and other Walton-favored ed reforms, all the while concealing from the public the top-downness of its efforts to “create” local-level ed reform.

I also think the absence of Gates and Broad funding has to do with no need for billionaires to donate to the “initiatives” of other billionaires.

As for The 74’s “exclusive” on Skandera’s mystery initiative: I believe The 74 knows full well who is behind Pathway 2 Tomorrow and was willing to conceal the identity of the actual “initiator” from the public.

Finally, concerning Skandera’s starting a consulting LLC around the same time: It seems likely that she will use the LLC as an “independent contractor” to receive her compensation. Benefits of such an arrangement include receiving regular pay and making regular tax payments.

If I am wrong about Pathway 2 Tomorrow’s being a Walton front and her LLC being related to it, I am happy for Skandera to set me straight by providing the details about just who initiated her initiative, who handles its finances, and who is paying her salary as its “founder/visionary.”

Better yet: Include such information on the Pathway 2 Tomorrow website.

*Locals* like knowing such things.

waltons

_______________________________________________________________________________

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.

Pearson Wants to Expand Its Virtual Schools Market; Its “Connections Academy” in Louisiana Is No Selling Factor

Connections Academy is a virtual K12 (and possibly pre-K12) school operated by education business mammoth, Pearson.

According to Pearson’s February 2019 earnings call, Pearson is focused on expanding its Connections Academy market. Pearson is undergoing restructuring; it has (and continues to) reduce its workforce and has been selling off less-profitable companies in an effort to recover from unrealized profits, including those Pearson expected from Common Core (CC) and CC-related PARCC testing.

(For Pearson’s market performance over the last decade, click here.)

Pearson reports that the US virtual schools market is worth more than $1.5B and that it sees a “strong pipeline of 2 – 5 new schools in 2019,” with a plan to “scale up in existing states [and] target states with high growth potential.”

In April 2018, Pearson announced opening three new Connections Academies. The way that Pearson establishes its virtual schools in the US is as charter schools:

In our virtual schools business we partner with charter boards to run fully online schools.

Regarding its virtual-ed Connections Academies, Pearson also reports a “competitive advantage” in its “strong brand” and “good learning outcomes.”

Good learning outcomes. Reads like Pearson is aiming for increasing sales of (at best) a mediocre product.

Just so long as it sells, amIright?

Louisiana has one of Pearson’s Connections Academies. It filed documents with the Lousiana Secretary of State in April 2009 as a limited liability company (LLC) and also as an associated nonprofit in March 2009, with the nonprofit (“Friends of Louisiana Connections Academy”) paying the LLC as an “independent contractor” (see the nonprofit’s 2012 tax form as an example of the nonprofit paying the LLC).

In November 2018, the Connections LLC dissolved, and a second nonprofit was created in February 2019, “Louisianans for Quality Virtual Education, Inc.”

In August 2016, Louisiana Connections Academy registered a new logo, and in 2016-17, the school was renamed University View Academy, Inc.

The University View Academy website reflects Louisiana Connections Academy’s name change; however, the page touting its academics is seriously out of date, showcasing the Class of 2016:

A TRADITION OF ACADEMIC EXCELLENCE AND ACHIEVEMENT

University View Academy has consistently improved its state performance score over the past five years, jumping 8 points higher in 2016. Also, our students logged one of the top five growth rates in the state in the number of successful test takers for Advanced Placement exams, a growth rate twice that of the state’s average in the same time period.

Class of 2016 Student Achievement:

  • $1.7 million in college scholarships

  • 91% enrolled in college

  • 60% AP pass rate for University View Academy test takers

Below is a list of the Universities and Colleges where our 2016 graduates were accepted:

Baylor University, California Institute of the Arts, Washington University of St. Louis, Vanderbilt University, Louisiana State University, Tulane University, Xavier University, Louisiana College, Rhodes College, Southeastern Louisiana University, University of Louisiana Lafayette, Loyola University, Louisiana Tech University, The University of New Orleans, Millsaps College, Spring Hill College.

The above page is a reference to the school’s C-letter grade (75.6), which can be found here by searching “2015-16”; “Louisiana Connections Academy.”

In 2016-17, University View Academy (aka Louisiana Connections Academy) also received a C (80.8).

In 2017-18, the school grading formula was changed; according to the new formula, University View Academy received a D (59). It would have had a C using the old formula, but a lower C (71.5) than in both 2015-16 and 2016-17.

Showcasing school score declines isn’t so much of a selling factor. Neither is drawing attention to a sharp decline in an already-below-average graduation rate.

In 2015-16, University View Academy had a four-year graduation rate of 62% (below the state average of 78%). In 2016-17, University View’s graduation rate dropped to 54% and continued its decline to 43% in 2017-18.

Interestingly, the last academic updates in the University View Academy website (those for the Class of 2016) include messaging about “91% enrolled in college.” However, according to the Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE), University View Academy only had 50% enrolled in college, with that percentage declining to 43% in 2016-17 and 37% in 2017-18.

What has increased over time is University View Academy’s/ Louisiana Connections Academy’s total revenue:

  • 2011: $44,503
  • 2012: $5,245,008
  • 2013: $10,848,970
  • 2014: $11,001,043
  • 2015: $16,526,434
  • 2016: $19,830,912
  • 2017: $21,201,688

According to the University View Academy’s 2016 audit report, Glenda Jones is listed as “school leader”; she received $132,511 in total compensation for overseeing the online education of 2,102 students.

By 2016-17, the online school had a superintendent. According to University View Academy’s 2017 audit report, superintendent Alonzo Luce received $221,040 in total compensation for overseeing the online education of 2,231 students.

Two years later, in August 2018, Luce was replaced by Michelle Clayton. In May 2017, Clayton was serving as East Baton Rouge (EBR) Schools deputy superintendent; her ascendancy as the next EBR superintendent was assumed to be a given when she surprised her colleagues with her departure. After serving as assistant superintendent for University View Academy for one year, Clayton became Luce’s successor.

The question is how long Clayton will remain as University View Academy superintendent if the school grade continues to be D (or drops to F) and if the school’s graduation rate continues to sink in the boggy waters of Beyond Too Embarrassing for Updating Our Website.

As it stands, Pearson’s Louisiana-based  Connections Academy product is losing its luke-warmness to qualify even for the middle-of-the-road, slightly-committal phrasing, “good learning outcomes.”

But it is profitable, and profit is what Pearson is after.

rotten apple

_________________________________________________________________________________

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.

John White Co-Founds His Own Nonprofit: Propel America

On June 06, 2018, Louisiana state superintendent John White filed this business registration in order to co-found his own nonprofit, Propel America (EIN 83-1867782), with former Camden, NJ, superintendent, Paymon Rouhanifard.

White mentions himself as a Propel America “officer” on his 2018 Louisiana ethics disclosure form.

john white 2

John White

Both Rouhanifard and White are Teach for America (TFA) alumni, and both were officials at the New York Department of Education (White, from 2006 to 2011, and Rouhanifard, from 2009 to 2012).

In April 2018, Rouhanifard resigned as Camden’s superintendent effective June 30, 2018; according to his Linkedin bio, he then became a Walton Family Foundation “entrepreneur in residence.”

The point of White’s and Rouhanifard’s Propel America nonprofit is “supporting high school students transition to career”:

Propel America connects employers, high schools, training providers, industry-experienced mentors and technology in a scalable, low-cost system of skill-building, job training and placement that engages young adults at the critical transition between high school and post-secondary life.

Propel America is not a program operated in certain sites by one non-profit organization. Instead it is a model that brings together local, pre-existing institutions into unified systems of job training, job placement, and ongoing education. The Propel America model can be adopted in any community, urban or rural, red or blue.

Here is White’s and Rouhanifard’s letter promoting their successes as superintendents in concert with failure to make that *equipping students for college and career* transition. But it is no failure– just an opportunity to bridge the gap with a new ed-reform nonprofit:

We have served at the forefront of the nation’s most ambitious efforts to improve education for children of all backgrounds – in New York City, Camden, New Orleans, and across Louisiana. Because of those efforts, more young people in those communities are proficient readers, have high school diplomas, and have gone on to higher education.

At the same time, we realize these improvements within the four walls of classrooms have yet to translate into a more equitable system of income mobility for our country’s most economically disadvantaged students.

America’s education and workforce systems have been failing to support low-income Americans, and it is hurting employers and our economy alike. Despite progress in national high school graduation and college enrollment rates, college dropout rates are tragically high – 40% at 4-year institutions and 70% at 2-year institutions – with the average dropout burdened by significant debt. Meanwhile, many employers struggle to find and sustain entry-level talent, especially in mid-skill jobs requiring a postsecondary credential.

We believe the answers to addressing these systemic challenges already reside within local communities throughout our country. High schools, employers, community colleges, and other training organizations have yet to maximize their collective impact because each institution, while uniquely powerful, is siloed and disconnected from the other.

Propel America brings together these local, pre-existing institutions into a unified system of career navigation, job training, job placement, and ongoing education. By systematizing the transition from high school to a career, we believe we can develop a new generation of upwardly mobile young adults throughout our country.

And we will do this by leveraging America’s greatest local assets, which simply need to be reoriented — and not “disrupted” or “reinvented.” Ultimately, we believe our work will allow for the whole of communities to be greater than the sum of their current parts, ensuring the next generation of low-income youth will fulfill their potential and lead prosperous lives.

John White
Propel America Co-Founder, Board Chair

Paymon Rouhanifard
Propel America Co-Founder, CEO

Both White and Rouhanifard list their association with Propel America as “volunteer experience” on their Linkedin bios.

As CEO, Rouhanifard will likely draw a paycheck; as board chair, White will likely not.

And now, let us consider the Propel America “approach”:

Propel America connects employers, high schools, training providers, industry-experienced mentors and technology in a scalable, low-cost system of skill-building, job training and placement that engages young adults at the critical transition between high school and post-secondary life.

Propel America is not a program operated in certain sites by one non-profit organization. Instead it is a model that brings together local, pre-existing institutions into unified systems of job training, job placement, and ongoing education. The Propel America model can be adopted in any community, urban or rural, red or blue.

Propel America has a three phase approach to supporting high school students transition to career:

1. Core

During the senior year of high school, selected participants engage in a high school course to prepare them to transition into a career pathway when they graduate. This includes exploration of their job interests, selection of a career path, and professional skills development.

2. Specialization

Fellows enroll in a 3 – 9 month credentialing program provided by a community college bootcamp, or private training provider. While out of high school and not drawing down a paycheck, they benefit from a stipend to minimize opportunity cost, one-on-one navigator supports, and ongoing peer-support meetings.

3. Credential, Interviews, and Transition

Fellows who earn a credential through the specialization period are guaranteed an interview with a partner employer. Navigator, industry mentorship, and cohort supports continue for the first 6 months of employment, so that Fellows persist in their jobs and plan for the next phase of education and professional advancement.

Propel’s navigator function is integrated throughout the program and leverages technology, industry mentors, teachers and Propel Staff to support fellows in their transitions

Pathways

Students participating in Propel as high school seniors will identify a pathway of interest. The pathways are based on the opportunities within a community and will leverage existing public funding streams to cover costs where possible. For more information on our 2019 Pathways, please visit People and Places.

In reading the Propel America “approach,” it seems as if White is already assuming that Louisiana will participate, with participation including White’s overseeing a high school course tied to his nonprofit and “leveraging public funding streams to cover costs where possible.” Also, the Propel America plan includes a post-secondary stipend and a post-secondary credentialing program. Whether White’s nonprofit plans to collect fees from participating businesses is unclear.

What is clear is that White is a current state superintendent who has started a nonprofit that promotes high school seniors taking a class tied to his nonprofit– which puts oversight of the program just out of the reach of a publicly-elected board and into the hands of White in double-dipping fashion: White is chairman of the Propel America board. He is also in a position to promote his nonprofit in his position as state superintendent.

Propel America has no pilot and no detailed business plan available for the public, but it is ready to jump in, as its “people and places” page notes:

Pathways 

Propel is working to connect communities and build systems of low-cost and publicly funded pathways for young people to obtain credentials and economic mobility. To do this we are building prototypes of a funding and programmatic model that can be replicated by any community in the U.S.

Propel is launching in New Jersey and Louisiana in 2019 with pathways in skilled trades and healthcare. We are excited to engage with a number of employers and training partners as we strive to create a system that seamlessly connects education and work, equipping young people with the skills, social networks, and supports they need to attain economic stability and upward mobility

The site then lists six “pathways” to date: pipefitting, mental health technician, pharmacy tech, sterile processing technician, medical assistant, and electric, and three more “future pathways”: retail banking, advanced manufacturing, and cybersecurity.

At the bottom of the page is this note:

These pathways provide Propel graduates with jobs that make between $30k-40k per year with benefits

By creating a nonprofit, White is able to sell an idea that looks fine on a website but has no pilot program backing its sale– just a statement implying a desire to scale the program.

There are a lot of critical components that appear assumed to fall into place and remain in place over the long term, including but certainly not limited to approval and delivery of a high school course (e.g., state and local funding for a teacher for the course; curriculum for the course), criteria for student acceptance into the program, fiscal controls for tracking stipend funds, suitable philanthropic funding, public funding, sufficient and committed business sector involvement.

This Propel America “approach” is complex, unproven, and immediately on the market–

–with Louisiana apparently set to be an official Propel America guinea pig.

guinea pig

____________________________________________________________________________

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.