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$1.3M Wasn’t Enough: Still More Walton Money Appears in La.’s October 2019 Elections

Arkansas billionaire siblings Alice and Jim Walton pumped $1.3M into Louisiana’s October 12, 2019, primary elections, which included elections for 7 out of 11 state ed board (BESE) seats.

But there’s more.

An October 09, 2019, filing by the Louisiana Charter Schools in Action (LCSA) PAC indicates that Jim and Alice Walton spent yet another $200K ($100K apiece) on September 20, 2019, to promote two particular BESE candidates: Sandy Holloway (District 3) and Ronnie Morris (District 6).

LCSA PAC is chaired by Louisiana Association of Public Charter Schools (LAPCS) executive director, Caroline Roemer, whose brother Charles was a member of the BESE board. (To read about that conflict of interest, see my March 2013 post.)

Holloway won her seat, and Morris will be in a runoff against Gregory Spiers on November 16, 2019.

According to its September 03, 2019, filing, the LSCA PAC had a balance of $1,718 and had not received any contributions since January 2019, related to its support for two candidates for East Baton Rouge (EBR) school board, Tramelle Howard (District 3; elected the primary on November 06, 2018) and Dadrius Lanus (District 2; elected in a runoff on December 08, 2018). (On October 01, 2018, Jim Walton donated $25,000 via LSCA PAC towards that election. The only other contributor to LSCA PAC for that election was Stand for Children, at $12,000. And not to leave Alice Walton out: She donated $30,000 to LCSA PAC in November 2016.)

Despite LSCA PAC laying dormant for nine months between the 2018 EBR and 2019 BESE elections, LSCA PAC continued to name Howard and Lanus as the candidates they were supporting. It looks like the report preparer did not bother to remove Howard’s and Lanus’ names from subsequent monthly reports.

Nor did the report preparer bother to update the candidates supported section of the report when the Walton $200K arrived on September 20, 2019. Still, Howard and Lanus (now EBR board members and longer candidates) were identified as the candidates supported– and were mismatched with the expenditure details, which indicated that $22,400 was spent on radio ads for Holloway and $169,265, for TV ads for Morris.

All ads were purchased on September 23, 2019, three days after arrival of the Walton funds.

That Arkansas Walton money just needed a Louisiana ed-reform place to land.

What better place that Roemer’s charter-promoting PAC.

This latest Walton election-purchase update brings the Arkansas-billionaire total contribution to Louisiana’s October 2019 elections to $1.5M.

Don’t ever believe that corporate ed reform is a grass roots effort.

money roll

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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.

You Can Tell That *Charter Schools Are Public Schools* by Their Marketing (um…)

Charter schools are public schools. No, really.

So, when charter schools sound more like businesses recruiting and retaining customers, just remember that all public schools do such things. (Ahem….)

Consider this job listing for a Dean of Operations (2020-21; Jackson, MS) for the RePublic charter chain.

RePublic introduces the Dean of Operations position as follows:

At RePublic, our school-based operations teams exist to block and tackle for staff to ensure that they can focus on what matters most each day – teaching and learning. Equal parts data mastermind, systems tuner, community builder, and leader in training, the Dean of Operations reports directly to the school-based Director of Operations. He/she works to implement and maintain crucial systems that enable our schools to run like clockwork to create an academic environment in which instruction is top priority – and does whatever it takes in service of this goal.

Strong operations allow our schools to be more academically successful – and our Ops teams do whatever it takes in service of this goal. Masterminds behind the scenes, the scene is better planned, organized, executed, documented, and communicated because of each school’s Operations Team.

Dean of Operations, “works to implement and maintain crucial systems that enable our schools to run like clockwork to create an academic environment in which instruction is top priority – and does whatever it takes in service of this goal.”

No mention of student recruitment and retention as part of the job.

However, in the “key responsibilities” summation that follows, “student recruitment and enrollment” is top of the list– just like it is in other sales jobs public schools:

Key Responsibilities

Student Recruitment + Enrollment

Lead the school-based team in all year-round student enrollment initiatives and activities including, but not limited to, phone banking, canvassing, visibility campaign planning, community event participation, and strategic social media marketing.

Manage the student enrollment process and drive enrollment results by converting potential applicants to fully enrolled scholars through phone calls, in-person meetings, and other strategic methods that build family investment in the school and RePublic model.

Plan and host major enrollment milestone events and assist families in completing enrollment paperwork, including, but not limited to, Lottery Events, New Student Orientation, and School Information Sessions.

Manage student retention risks. Collect, organize, and analyze data to determine school-wide trends and to identify individual students who are at risk of unenrolling from RePublic’s schools. Use data to lead and drive daily student risk meetings with the school-based leadership team. Invest leaders and manage action around attrition risks daily.

Build strong intentional relationships with new and returning scholars and families to ensure they persist year to year within the RePublic Schools network, through middle and high school.

Identifying students who are at risk– of unenrolling. Just like at any other public school.

Next comes what one from a public school might expect in a job description for a Dean of Operations (except for the mention of “school marketing materials” and creating “on-brand content”):

School Culture + Community Building

Develop a strong school community and identity by planning and owning the execution of school-wide and off-site events (ex. field trips, Family Nights, Spirit Weeks, school dances, and Parent Involvement Committee meetings), student athletic programs, and extracurricular activities and clubs.

Increase agency and access for families- produce high-quality written communication on the behalf of the school (family newsletters, flyers, school marketing materials, etc.).

Cultivate strong relationships with community partners, advocate for students and their parents; help provide access to multiple types of resources for our families.
Build and execute social media strategy. Generate, edit, publish and share on-brand content weekly (original text, images, and video) with the intent of showcasing the school’s greatest assets and to clearly communicate with families about upcoming events, calendar changes, and updates.

Student Data + Compliance

Serve as resident expert on and key manager of the district and school-facing student information management systems, and ensure accuracy of these systems.
Manage accurate submission of student attendance, grades, and behavior.
Ensure school is adhering to all local/state compliance and reporting requirements.

School Operations Support + Professional Development

Support the school-based operations team to ensure seamless execution of all operational systems each day, including, but not limited to, food provision, transportation (arrival and dismissal), emergency plans, facility maintenance and upkeep, school decor and beautification, supply and asset inventory and maintenance (technology, books, classroom supplies, etc.).

Work with the school operations team to manage logistical elements of major student assessments; collect and track important school paperwork from scholars and teachers.

Continuously seeks feedback for improvement with the ultimate intent of taking on increased operations leadership responsibilities in the future.

That last duty, regarding the “utlimate intent of taking on increased operations leadership,” sounds like an agreement to ultimately travel the unbalanced life-path toward professional burnout.

One of the “strong preferences” for job candidates is in “phone banking, canvassing, campaign strategy.”

Marketing to parents and students to convince them that they want you as their school choice.

Just like other businesses public schools do.

However, be sure, O Prospective Dean o’ Operations, to take a lesson from your counterparts in Nashville. From the September 15, 2017, Tennessean:

A Nashville-based charter school network has agreed to pay $2.2 million to settle a class-action lawsuit filed by parents who objected to a series of mass text messages they received from the charter organization promoting enrollment at its schools.

RePublic Schools Nashville announced the settlement agreement in a statement late Friday that made clear they are not accepting fault. The school’s insurance policy would cover the full amount as well as RePublic’s attorney fees, the school said, and no tax dollars would go toward the settlement.

The settlement — which would deliver financial relief to 5,319 Metro school parents — comes amid an ongoing debate over the district’s sharing of student data and contact information with publicly-financed, privately-led charters.

RePublic has agreed to stop sending text messages to Metro school parents without permission. …

The lawsuit against RePublic, originally filed in January 2016, alleged that RePublic violated the federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act by sending messages through a commercial auto-dialing service without the consent of recipients. It claimed parents received the first set of mass text messages on phones on Nov. 16, 2015, and that three additional installments were made through January 2016.

One text message read: “4th-grade parents, your child is eligible to attend Nashville Academy of Computer Science next year. Please call us at 615-873-0484 to tour our facility!”

The lawsuit, which referred to the text messages as “spam,” took a significant turn in March when U.S. District Court Judge Waverly Crenshaw granted class-action status to the plaintiffs.

The law firm representing the parents, Nashville-based Branstetter, Stranch & Jennings, had sought up to $12 million in relief, $500 per text, or $1,500 per person.

“The plaintiffs are very pleased with the settlement, which if approved by the court will result in one of the largest recoveries on a per-class member basis ever in a spam text messaging lawsuit,” attorney Gerard Stranch said in an emailed statement. “It is also significant in that RePublic Schools Nashville has agreed to cease sending text messages to MNPS parents and guardians without first obtaining their express consent.”

Spamming parents and students already attending public schools via a commercial dialing service to try to convince them to attend your “public school”?

Why, that seems more like the practice of an education business than it does a public school.

Marketing is a charter school practice.

Charter schools are public schools. RePublic Schools are charter schools.

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.

Common Core Salesman Michael Petrilli: *Economics Affect NAEP, but Stay the Ed-Reform Course*

On October 15, 2019, I read a report produced by Thomas B. Fordham Institute (TBF) president, Michael Petrilli, entitled, “Fewer Children Left Behind: Lessons from the Dramatic Achievement Gains of the 1990s and 2000s.”

This 2019 report builds on a 2017 report by Petrilli in a TBF commentary piece prior to release of the 2017 National Assessment of Educational Progress [NAEP] scores, in which Petrilli et al. concluded the following:

  • There have been [NAEP score] gains almost across the board since the 1990s.
  • Most of the gains happened in the 1990s and early 2000s.
  • Progress in math has been especially remarkable.
  • Children of color are reading much better in the early grades than before.

Right out of the starting gate, I took issue with the likes of Michael Petrilli issuing such a report because of his history as an ed-reform salesman.

Before proceeding with discussion related to TBF’s “fewer Children Left Behind” report, I’d like to brief readers on what comes to my mind when I think of Petrilli and TBF.

TBF: Common Core Opportunists

Michael Petrilli and former TBF president, Chester “Checker” Finn, accepted $2 million dollars (see here and here) from billionaire Bill Gates to promote the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), and in that position, these two had no qualms about shaping the image of CCSS into a marketable product, despite the fact that TBF itself did not even rate CCSS as better than all other state standards. It did not matter. These two rode the “standards experts” wave right into statehouses, with the specific goal of selling CCSS. On December 26, 2013, I wrote a pointed post in which I highlight TBF’s slanted, pro-CCSS language. An prime example is how TBF redefined letter-grade terminology in referring to state standards that were not CCSS, which was obvoiusly meant to demean standards other than CCSS and favor CCSS. Some excerpts:

In 2010, in an effort to promote the “clearly superior to standards in most states” CCSS, Fordham assigned letter grades to CCSS and to all state standards.

They gave CCSS an A-minus in math and a B-plus in English Language Arts (ELA). Fordham notes, “Neither is perfect. Both are very, very strong.”

The Great Propaganda of the Fordham “Bottom Line”

The central element of the Fordham “bottom line” is its biased judgment of what its letter grades mean. Traditionally, the A-F letter grades hold the following meanings:

A = excellent or outstanding

B = very good or above average

C = average or satisfactory

D = below average or needs improvement

F = failing or unsatisfactory

However, in Fordham’s “bottom line,” traditional meaning is replaced with the following biased terminology (or not discussed at all):

A = Letter grade not included in “bottom line.”  (A-minus, B-plus, and sometimes B are also not included in “bottom line.”)

B = “decent”

C = “mediocre”

D = “among the worst in the country”

F = “among the worst in the country”

Fordham’s “bottom line” letter grade setup allows for no state to outdo CCSS– not even California, Indiana, and DC– which Fordham gave A’s in both ELA and math in the body of each state’s report but did not dare list those two A’s in the “bottom line” discussion. Instead, CCSS is compared to California, Indiana, and DC in a manner that makes CCSS appear comparable.

(Massachusetts’ ELA standards are the exception: Fordham includes no letter grade in its “bottom line” for Massachusetts and also does not state any “on the other hand” for Massachusetts’ ELA. However, this is a safe bet since CCSS “outscores” Massachusetts’ math standards.)

In other words, what California, Indiana, and DC need according to Fordham’s own assessment is to go backwards, trade those two A’s for Fordham’s A-minus and B-plus, in order to “take one for the pro-privatizing team” and enable complete national standardization of American public education.

In April 05, 2014, I wrote a post about TBF’s marketing CCSS even in states that with standards that TBF had graded as better that CCSS. From that post:

And, perhaps that for which Fordham is best known: It loves grading state standards and even giving some states higher marks than the Common Core State Standards (CCSS)– and still promoting CCSS in statehouses across the country.

In promoting CCSS, Fordham is only doing what Bill Gates has paid it to do: “track state progress towards implementation of standards….”

Fordham takes its CCSS “tracking” seriously– to the point of manipulating states with standards that it graded as “superior” to CCSS into clinging to CCSS.

Recall that 2010 Fordham report in which Fordham graded all state standards as well as CCSS and compared all state standards to CCSS.

CCSS did not receive the highest marks, yet it is continuously pushed by Fordham in statehouses around the country (see here and here and here and here for examples). …

In January 2013, Petrilli testified in Indiana and offered these points to talk Indiana out of any return to their CCSS-superior standards and into retaining CCSS:

1. First, you have already invested time and money into implementing the new standards. They have momentum. Calling for a do-over would waste the millions of man hours already invested—and potentially cost the state of Indiana more money than proceeding with the Common Core. …

2. Second, it’s not clear that returning to your old standards would put Indiana on a path toward higher student achievement. For while you had some of the best standards in the country for over a decade, you also had one of the worst student achievement records on the National Assessment of Educational Progress. Indiana was a classic case of good standards not actually having an impact in the classroom. You need a different way forward.

What a crock this point is. “A different way forward”?? Is “forward” higher test scores? Petrilli assures Indiana’s Senate education committee that “forward” is the direction CCSS will take them– even though Indiana’s “superior” standards did not take Indiana there. It is not clear that putting any state on the CCSS path will improve achievement– yet here we are, a nation on the unproven CCSS path… and Petrilli doing his best to sound knowledgeable as he talks unresearched, unanchored nonsense.

In its 2010 grading of standards, Fordham ignored comparing state scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) with its state standards ratings. The result was no logical connection whatsoever between NAEP scores and Fordham’s ratings of state standards. Indeed, some states with standards that Fordham rated poorly actually had high scores on NAEP.

The mention of NAEP brings me to another critical point:

Prior to promoting CCSS, TBF did not bother to address the fact that their 2010 state standards grades showed no connection to state-level NAEP scores.

Is there or isn’t there a connection between NAEP scores and a common standards push? If not, then why the push? What is the justification? If so, then why wait until 2019 to produce a report on two decades of NAEP scores and conclude that economic conditions impacted those scores?

About That “Fewer Children Left Behind” Report

And now, to the heart of TBF’s October 2019 “Fewer Children Left Behind” report:

That message– that economic conditions impact NAEP scores– is the major message of the October 2019 TBF report– and one that would have been addressed by a responsible, unbiased, organization that really wanted what the best for the American K12 classroom prior to TBF’s 2010 CCSS promotional.

If TBF truly desired to do right by K12 education in the US, it would not have chosen to go the market-based, ed-reform route and actively work to sell the CCSS product. But that is what Finn and Petrilli did.

And selling ed-reform positions is what Petrilli continues to do.

TBF’s “Fewer Children Left Behind” report examines NAEP scores from the mid-to-late 1990s to 2010 (the year CCSS was released) for various subgroups of students, including Black, Hispanic, and low-achieving students.

The report includes a number of graphs (graphs that include NAEP scores up to 2017), and what is clear in the 4th and 8th grade math and reading NAEP scores is that NAEP scores had been increasing prior to “test and punish” No Child Left Behind (NCLB), and prior to the CCSS that followed it.

Petrilli weakly offers the suggestion that in addition to the influence of improved economic conditions, rising NAEP scores can also be attributed to the pre-NCLB standards push, the Improving America’s Schools Act (IASA):

Though No Child Left Behind gets all the attention, 1994’s Improving America’s Schools Act (IASA) put most of the key pieces in place for the “consequential accountability” policies that we now associate with NCLB. It required states to set uniform standards in reading and math; to develop statewide tests to assess students against those standards; and to report the results for all schools. While annual testing, disaggregated data, and a federally mandated cascade of sanctions came later, they came as enhancements, as an evolution. The real revolution began with IASA.

That sounds good, and it serves as a fine “uniform standards” save, except that NAEP scores had been rising for Black students since (and the Black-White NAEP score gap closing) since the 1970s— long before IASA, and NCLB– and CCSS.

Moreover, for as much as Petrilli pushed CCSS in its 2010 – 2013 heyday, he is notably silent on the CCSS lack of connection in his October 2019 NAEP score analysis. Petrilli only mentions CCSS one time, and there is certainly no encouragement to further examine any connection between his Gates-purchased CCSS push and NAEP subgroup scores.

Petrilli had yet another opportunity to do so in his 2017 “Lost Decade” piece about NAEP scores from 2007 to 2017, which Petrilli links to in his October 2019 report. No mention of CCSS at all.

It is noteworthy that Petrilli’s “lost decade” begins with 2007, the year that NCLB was supposed to be reauthorized, but lawmakers could not seem to make that happen; the bipartisan honeymoon that produced NCLB had apparently ended.

NAEP scores soared prior to NCLB and continued to do so for several years after NCLB authorization in 2001, but then came a leveling off, and for all of TBF’s selling of a CCSS, the NAEP “lost decade” continued.

Petrilli does not bother to consider whether the standards-and assessments push has negatively impacted NAEP scores. Instead, he assumes that pre-NCLB IASA was the beginning of “the real revolution.”

No word why that standards-and-testing “revolution” has not continued to raise NAEP scores even though standards-and assessments continue to be the end-all, be-all of American K12 education.

However, in convoluted and contradictory fashion, Petrilli does include standards and assessments in the NAEP-subgroup-score-raising “secret sauce,” even though he has already spent the bulk of his argument justifying the mid-1990-to-2010 NAEP subgroup-score rise as related to improved economic conditions for school children.

So, NAEP subgroup score rises appear to be correlated with socioeconomics, but a slice of credit must also go to the standards-and-assessments push, but not beginning with NCLB, sooner than that– 1994– but let’s ignore rising NAEP scores of Black students in the 1970s and 1980s.

But let us not forget the ed reformers, because they must be the reason for some improvements, right?

That doesn’t mean education policy or reforms like charter schools or Teach For America and the like don’t matter. Some states have consistently beaten the socioeconomic curve. And I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the states that made more gains than one would predict over this past quarter-century—like Florida, Indiana, and Massachusetts—are the ones that embraced education reform. They weren’t immune to the larger social and economic trends. But thanks to strong leaders and smart policies, they did better than expected.

Indiana and Massachusetts– two states with standards that TBF graded as better than CCSS– but that TBF sold CCSS to anyway.

No mention of that. Instead, Petrilli goes CCSS milquetoast, with his single, CCSS honorable mention and soft-boiled mea culpa:

I’m chagrined to admit that I really believed, back in the heady No Child Left Behind days, that it was policy that was leading to those test score gains among the neediest kids. And to be sure, solid research indicates that NCLB and similar state policies do deserve some credit. But only some. Somehow I—we?—missed what was happening in society at large— the declining poverty rates, the increasing supports for needy families, the plummeting crime rate. Of course those things would affect student learning.

And we did it again when the progress stalled around 2010. Some of us claimed that
happened because we took the foot off the gas of accountability reform. Others said it was Common Core’s fault, or the flaws in new teacher evaluation systems. Those are all reasonable hypotheses, deserving of analysis. But what if it was mostly about the Great Recession, the spike in the unemployment rate, the increase in child poverty, and the decline in school spending? In other words, fellow reformers, it’s not all about us!

TBF is a think tank. Petrilli is regarded as an expert, and he used that label to his advantage in promoting a Common Core that Gates paid TBF $2M to promote.

That is why he can end the likes of his “Fewer Children Left Behind” report with a shrug and still collect over $300K per year in total compensation.

And it is way he can continue to push accountability. It is his product.

Once a Salesman…

Here’s Petrilli again, this time from September 23, 2019, Phi Delta Kappan, in a piece entitled, “Stay the Course on Standards and Accountability”:

So what kind of changes do we now hope to see in practice?

Here’s how we might put it: By raising standards and making the state assessments tougher, we hope that teachers will raise their expectations for their students. That means pitching their instruction at a higher level, giving assignments that ask children to stretch, and lengthening the school day or year for kids who need more time to reach the higher standards.

Gotta love the “we.” Must be the royal “we” because it sure is not “we” as in “we who work directly with children.”

For all of his promotion of “accountability,” Petrilli is accountable to no one– a hypocrisy with which he is apparently comfortable enough to *stay the course.*

salesman

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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.

La. BESE Has Been Bought Once Again (Maybe Not Completely)

UPDATE 10-13-19: THERE WILL BE A RUNOFF between Ronnie Morris and Gregory Spiers (District 6). Spiers was endorsed by the Louisiana Federation of Teachers (LFT).

_______________________________________________________________________________

Well, Louisiana. The state ed board (BESE) has been (mostly) bought yet again.

Eight (make that seven) for eight, the BESE candidates preferred by out-of-state billionaires, like the Waltons, and by out-of-state, ed-reform election-shapers, like Education Reform Now and American Federation for Children, will hold BESE seats and will cast votes that almost certainly bend Louisiana education in favor of testing, school choice– and retaining TFAer John White as state ed superintendent.

The following three ed-reform diehards have been re-elected a third time and, as such, are not eligible to run for a fourth term:

  • James Garvey (Dist 1),
  • Kira Orange-Jones (Dist 2), and
  • Holly Boffy (Dist 7).

Also re-elected, for a second term, are ed-reform supporters

  • Sandy Holloway (Dist 3), and
  • Tony Davis (Dist 4– unopposed).

And, for their first appearance after being given the corporate-ed-reform, campaign-cash-flush nod, are

  • Ashley Ellis (Dist 5), and
  • Preston Castille (Dist 8).

As for Louisiana’s gubernatorial race, there will be a runoff between Democrat incumbent, John Bel Edwards, who garnered 47% of the vote, and Republican Eddie Rispone, at 27% (98% reporting)

Louisiana’s BESE board is comprised on 11 members, three of whom are appointed by the governor. Edwards’ last three appointees, along with one other BESE member, prevented John White from having his contract renewed in 2015 for 2016-2020. As such, White became a month-to-month employee.

If Eddie Rispone becomes governor, he will surely appoint individuals favorable to the school choice agenda espoused by US ed sec Betsy DeVos, since Rispone is a past chairperson for Louisiana Federation for Children Action Fund (see here and here and here), an offshoot of DeVos’ American Federation for Children.

If Edwards is reelected as governor, he will likely not appoint individuals who would vote to renew John White’s contract. However, since White’s contract renewal requires a BESE supermajority of eight votes, Edwards’ three appointees would not be sufficient to prevent such a renewal.

It is possible that a BESE member whose campaign was financed by out-of-state ed-reform cash could defy falling in line with the preferred agenda of the purchasers. It is even possible that the purchasers tried to purchase a candidate despite candidate resistance to being bought. Such was the case of BESE member Carolyn Hill (District 8), in the 2011 BESE race.

The one person I wonder about in this regard is Ashley Ellis (District 5). In reading Ellis’ campaign postings on Facebook and reporting on her history (see here also), Ellis does not strike me as an ed-reform “given.” My impression is that Ellis might prefer to form her own decisions about her BESE vote and not just fall in line with a majority vote.

If that is true, and if Edwards wins the gubernatorial runoff, then it is possible that four out of 11 BESE members might hesitate to renew White’s contract without the support of the governor.

And then, there’s the District 6 runoff. Spiers would not likely vote in favor of renewing White’s contract, and Morris’ position on White is unknown. (Too, the newest BESE members might defer to holding a vote on the governor’s preference for state superintendent rather than continuing to push former governor Bobby Jindal’s superintendent preference from 2011.)

Such uncertainties could make things interesting.

White supporters on the 2015-elected BESE purposely dodged holding a formal vote related to White’s contract since the majority in favor of White was not the necessary supermajority of eight needed to renew White’s contract, and an August 12, 2019, Advocate article has those folks on record as saying such a vote would happen:

Incumbents who hope to return to Louisiana’s top school board say resolving the job future of state Superintendent of Education John White should be a top priority when the new board convenes in January.

“If I am back, we will deal with John White’s contract very quickly,” said Jim Garvey, a BESE member who lives in Metairie and is one of five current members who qualified for re-election last week. …

“I feel that we owe it to our state to really sit down and talk,” said Sandy Holloway, a BESE member from Thibodaux who faces one opponent in the Oct. 12 primary. “It is time to make a decision there,” said Holloway.

Davis also said the issue needs needs closure. “Something will give one way or another,” he said.

Holly Boffy, the board’s vice president, said White’s contract needs to be resolved by the new board.

We’ll see what happens here.

First things first: The gubernatorial runoff and BESE District 6 runoff will both take place in November 2019.

john white 5

John White

_____________________________________________________________

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.

Over $3M in Out-of-State Cash Poured into La. BESE Election; Waltons Pay $1.3M

Seven seats for Louisiana’s Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) are among the contests to be decided by Louisiana voters on Saturday, October 12, 2019.

(Usually eight of the eleven seats are on the ballot, but this election one BESE member, Tony Davis of District 4, is unopposed. Davis is an ed-reform favorite. The remaining three BESE seats will be filled by the governor, a contest also on the October 12, 2019, ballot.)

For the 2011 and 2015 BESE elections, the out-of-state billionaire-enabled, corporate-ed-reform cash flowed freely.

Such is the case in 2019, as well.

money in safe

First of all, here is who the out-of-state, corporate-ed-reformer financiers want as Louisiana’s 2019 BESE board:

  • James Garvey (Dist 1)
  • Kira Orange-Jones (Dist 2)
  • Sandy Holloway (Dist 3)
  • Tony Davis (Dist 4– unopposed)
  • Ashley Ellis (Dist 5)
  • Ronnie Morris (Dist 6)
  • Holly Boffy (Dist 7)
  • Preston Castille (Dist 8)

According to its 09/10/19 filing, Oregon-based Stand for Children’s Louisiana-financed PAC, Stand for Children Louisiana (SFC LA) IEC, spent $168K in August on six BESE candidates (all of the above except Orange-Jones). However, according to SFC LA IEC’s October 10, 2019, filing, not only has Orange-Jones been added to the list; its Oregon main office has spent an additional $383K in September 2019 on the Louisiana’s BESE candidates it prefers, including $231K on Orange-Jones and Castille for radio and television ads and $85K on Garvey for “broadcast media placement” and mailers.

The SFC goal appears to be to manufacturing grass roots support for issues like Common Core, charter schools, and union busting.

But there’s more:

Another ed-reform PAC is very much in the mix: Louisiana Federation for Children (LFC) Action Fund, an extension of the American Federation for Children (AFC), a pro-voucher, pro-charter org formerly chaired by US ed sec Betsy deVos. Once DeVos was headed to DC in November 2016, AFC founding board member, William Oberndorf, became AFC chair.

In August 2019I wrote about the AFC/LFC influence on the October 2019 BESE election; in December 2018, Arkansas billionaire Jim Walton donated $100K to LFC Action Fund.

According to LFC Action Fund’s October 10, 2019, filingJim Walton and his billionaire, school-choice-promoting sister, Alice, each dropped a cool $562,500 into LFC Action Fund coffers to promote election of 24 candidates to Louisiana offices on October 12, 2019, including support for five BESE candidates (Garvey, Boffy, Holloway, Ellis, and Morris).

On its October 10, 2019, filing, LFC Action Fund reported a total of $2.4M in contributions for the month of September; aside from the Waltons’ combined $1.1M, Oberndorf contributed $275K, and a Virginia-based group, Public School Allies, tossed in $1M. Public School Allies is a lobbying nonprofit associated with the City Fund. From the December 09, 2018, Chalkbeat:

A new group that’s raised millions to promote its brand of school reform has begun spending that money in seven cities — and its staff may be planning to try to influence elections, too.

The City Fund has already given grants to organizations and schools in Atlanta, Indianapolis, Newark, Denver, San Antonio, St. Louis, and Nashville, according to one of the group’s founders, Neerav Kingsland. Those grants amount to $15 million of the $189 million the group has raised, he told Chalkbeat.

City Fund staffers have also founded a 501(c)(4) organization called Public School Allies, according to an email obtained by Chalkbeat, which Kingsland confirmed. That setup will allow the group’s members to have more involvement in politics and lobbying, activities limited for traditional nonprofits.

The details — some first reported by The 74 on Sunday — offer the latest insight into the ambitions of The City Fund, which is looking to push cities across the U.S. to expand charter schools and district schools with charter-like autonomy.

That “push” takes quite a load of ed-reform-loving cash.

Even though BESE candidates Orange-Jones and Castille were omitted from that beefed-up, $1M Walton dollar drop to LFC Action Fund, do not think that the Waltons have forgotten them. As I posted on October 07, 2019Alice and Jim Walton donated $100K apiece to Education Reform Now (ERN) Advocacy, yet another ed-reform PAC that receives its sustenance from a national org not located in Louisiana, and which is promoting a slate of candidates in the Louisiana’s October 12, 2019, elections, including ed-reform-pleasing BESE candidates. Why, ERN Advocacy and SFC LA IEC are even paying a common consultant for its Orange-Jones and Castille ads (Berni Consulting).

When it comes to purchasing a state board of education majority, astroturf orgs and the out-of-state national orgs and billionaires behind them must coordinate their efforts, n’est ce pas?

three-waltons-e1570841229275.jpg

Jim and Alice Walton

The SFC, AFC, and ERN money into Louisiana’s 2019 elections– much of it directed towards BESE campaigns– easily exceeds $3M to date. (Based on the Walton involvement in the 2015 BESE election, I am hard pressed to imagine that the Walton money is meant for any races other than BESE races.)

In contrast, the Washington, DC-based American Federation for Teachers (AFT) has contributed $361K to Louisiana’s October 12, 2019, elections– just over half of the amount that a single billionaire Walton has spent to date:

  • $100K to LA Democrats PAC (07/2019)
  • $51.3K to LA Fed of Teachers PAC (03/2019)
  • $76K to LA Fed of Teachers PAC (08/2019)
  • $35K to LA Fed of Teachers PAC (08/2019)
  • $100K to the State Democratic Campaign Committee of LA (09/2019)

DC-based American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees also contributed $100K to the State Democratic Campaign Committee of LA in September 2019.

Election purchasing power is clearly in favor of corporate ed reform, and such a board would likely keep John White in place as state superintendent for another four years.

However, that does not mean that Louisiana voters must acquiesce to the glossy ads  enabled by the ed-reform money dump.

Below are BESE candidates who are also on the ballot, and who are not part of the Walton et al., market-based ed reform attempted purchase, though some are pro-charter-school.

Click links to better know these BESE candidates:

District 1:

District 2:

District 3:

District 5:

District 6:

District 7:

District 8:

Voting is Saturday, October 12, 2019.

Don’t be fooled by the expensive BESE ads.

Vote informed.

ballot-box

______________________________________________________________

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

.

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

School Choice: The End of Public Education? 

school choice cover  (Click image to enlarge)

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

both books

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

The DC Voucher Story Finds Its Way to the Silver Screen, Sort Of.

There’s a movie about the DC school voucher program scheduled for release on October 18, 2019: Miss Virginia, produced by the nonprofit, Moving Picture Institute.

See a 2-minute trailer below:

The the individual who is the focus of the film, Virginia Walden Ford, was among the first students chosen to desegregate Little Rock, Arkansas, schools in the 1960s. Ford was a high school student at the time. She later advocated for the DC school voucher program, the only federally-funded school voucher program, created in 2004. From Ford’s website:

While she was raising her three children in Washington, D.C., Virginia was shocked that so many children were forced to attend failing, crumbling schools simply because they lived in the “wrong” ZIP codes. In fact, she worried that her own son, William, was falling through the cracks of a system that wasn’t focused on the best interests of children.

In 1998, she took action, forming a grassroots organization, D.C. Parents for School Choice. Along with a group of dedicated parents, Virginia went door-to-door, neighborhood-to-neighborhood, recruiting and training thousands of other parents to stand up for their children’s futures.

In 2003, with the support of national education organizations and lawmakers, Virginia and her courageous group of parent advocates succeeded in convincing Congress and President George W. Bush to enact the nation’s first-ever Opportunity Scholarship Program for low-income children, a program that set into motion a complete overhaul of Washington, D.C.’s education system.

This program provides scholarships for low-income children to attend private schools, while boosting federal funding for traditional public schools and public charter schools. Since the program’s inception, thousands of students have received Opportunity Scholarships, and the program boasts a 91 percent high school graduation rate.

After the program’s passage, Virginia worked to encourage families to learn more about their school choice options, conducting information sessions across the city. Later, she played a key role in the Congressional reauthorization of the program.

Ford’s story sounds compelling– a school choice happy ending.

“Opportunity Scholarships.”

But what, exactly, of that “opportunity”?

As part of its authorization, the DC school voucher program must offer formal evaluation of the program. The sixth such report (following the program’s 2011 reauthorization), published in May 2019, offers the following research findings by way of its associated summary:

DC VOUCHERS HAD NO IMPACT ON STUDENT ACADEMIC ACHIEVEMENT

  • There were no statistically significant impacts on either reading or mathematics achievement for students who received vouchers or used vouchers three years after applying to the program.

  • The lack of impact on student academic achievement applied to each of the study’s eight subgroups of students: (1) students attending schools in need of improvement when they applied, (2) students not attending schools in need of improvement when they applied, (3) students entering elementary grades when they applied, (4) students entering secondary grades when they applied, (5) students scoring above the median in reading at the time of application, (6) students below the median in reading at the time of application, (7) students scoring above the median in mathematics at the time of application, and (8) students below the median in mathematics at the time of application.


DC VOUCHERS DO NOT PROVIDE GREATER PARENTAL SATISFACTION

  • The program had no statistically significant impact on parents’ satisfaction with the school their child attended after three years.

  • The program had a statistically significant impact on students’ satisfaction with their school only for one subgroup of students (those with reading scores above the median), and no statistically significant impact for any other subgroup.


DC VOUCHERS DO NOT PROVIDE A GREATER SENSE OF SCHOOL SAFETY FOR PARENTS

  • The program had no statistically significant impact on parents’ perceptions of safety for the school their child attended after three years.


DC VOUCHERS DO NOT INCREASE PARENTAL INVOLVEMENT

  • The program had no statistically significant impact on parents’ involvement with their child’s education at school or at home after three years.


DC VOUCHERS DO NOT PROVIDE MORE CLASSROOM INSTRUCTION TIME OR SCHOOL-WIDE RESOURCES

  • The study found that students who received a voucher on average were provided 1.7 hours less of instruction time a week in both reading and math than students who did not receive vouchers.

  • The study found that students who received a voucher had less access to programming for students with learning disabilities and for students who are English Language Learners than students who did not receive vouchers.

  • The study also found that students who received vouchers had fewer school safety measures in place at their schools than students who did not receive vouchers.


DC VOUCHER SCHOOLS ARE PREDOMINANTLY RELIGIOUS AND THE VAST MAJORITY CHARGE TUITION ABOVE THE VOUCHER AMOUNT

  • The study found that 62% of the schools participating in the voucher program from 2013-2016, were religiously affiliated.

  • The study found that 70% of the schools participating in the voucher program from 2013-2016 had published tuition rates above the maximum amount of the voucher. Among those schools, the average difference between the maximum voucher amount and the tuition was $13,310.


MANY STUDENTS REJECT THE VOUCHER OR LEAVE THE PROGRAM

  • The study found that three years after applying to the voucher program, less than half (49%) of the students who received vouchers used them to attend a private school for the full three years.

  • The study also found that 20% of students stopped using the voucher after one year and returned to public school, and 22% of students who received vouchers did not use them at all.

Based upon its trailer, I do not expect that Miss Virginia will highlight how the DC school voucher program has fared as per the details of the May 2019 research report, which is not the substance of compelling triumph.

missing the target

___________________________________________________________________________

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.

Jim and Alice Walton Drop $200K to Support (In Part) La. BESE Candidates Kira Orange-Jones and Preston Castille

Well. It was too good to be true to believe that the Waltons would stay out of Louisiana’s October 12, 201,9 BESE election.

On September 13, 2019, billionaire siblings and Arkansas residents Jim and Alice Walton each contributed $100K to the Louisiana PAC operated by NY-based Education Reform Now (ERN) Advocacy.

Among the 21 candidates ERN Advocacy PAC is promoting are two BESE candidates: Teach for America (TFA) exec director, Kira Orange-Jones (Dist 2) and Baton Rouge lawyer, Preston Castille (Dist 8).

Donating on September 13, 2019– one day after “30 days prior to election”– allowed the ERN Advocacy and the Waltons to keep the news out of the public eye until 10 days prior to election. (The Walton donation was made public in ERN Advocacy’s October 02, 2019, filing.)

The Waltons push for charter schools, vouchers, and TFA, including Louisiana’s chief TFAer, John White.

alice-and-jim-walton

Alice and Jim Walton

______________________________________________________

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.