Kirner Update and Charter School Follies in the Nevada Legislature

Kirner There’s a difference between stale bread and stale politics; stale bread is useful.

“Well, this: Assembly Member Randy Kirner (R-Reno) is trying hard (perhaps too hard?) to be a “play-a”. He flippantly confirmed to Riley Snyder what we’ve been reporting about him killing Senator David Parks’ (D-Paradise) sexual orientation conversion therapy ban (SB 353). He then claimed he was “worried about litigation costs”, despite the Senate removing the law suit portion of the bill. The truth came out in private later, when he told a visiting constituent he just doesn’t like Senator Parks (and he’s just too obsessed with raiding PERS & busting unions to allow LGBTQ lives to be saved).” [LTN] (emphasis added)

The first indication of threadbare banality is Assemblyman Kirner’s worry about “litigation costs” in regard to SB 353.  This is the second to last resort into which a member of the GOP will dock when a bill or policy is presented that might protect potential victims of discrimination or abuse. (The last resort is “God Says…”)

Our second clue revealing  Assemblyman Kirner’s platitudinous and unoriginal offerings is his adherence to ALEC’s talking points about public employee retirement programs and labor organizations.  It’s fairly easy to spot a Talking Point Politician – when he or she is faced with current facts and social needs, our undaunted culture warrior reverts to hackneyed and uninspired reiterations of someone else’s phrases.  “I’m worried about the costs of litigation,” applied to everything from civil rights law to equal pay for female employees. “I’m concerned about the effect this will have on the free market,” applied to everything from environmental standards to the appointment of consumer protection advocates.   This isn’t politicking, it’s sloganeering.  Real players bring something to the table for discussion – something besides personal animosities and stale talking points.

Industrial education isn’t the same thing as industrialized educationSB 509 is still alive and in the Assembly Education committee. There’s a phrase in the bill which should catch our attention, here’s the LCB analysis:

“Existing law requires an application to form a charter school to be submitted by a committee to form a charter school. (NRS 386.520, 386.525) Sections 21 and 22 of this bill authorize a charter management organization to apply to form a charter school. Section 2 of this bill defines the term “charter management organization” to mean a nonprofit organization that operates multiple charter schools. Section 21 also revises the required contents of an application to form a charter school. Sections 21 and 36 of this bill authorize a charter management organization to request a waiver of requirements concerning the composition of a governing body. Section 22 revises the manner in which a sponsor is authorized to solicit and review applications to form a charter school.” 

Let’s differentiate between EMO’s  (Educational Management Organizations) which are for-profit educational enterprises and CMO’s which are non-profits.  While there is this crucial difference, they share some corporate interests.  One of those interests is the promotion of schools – not school districts.  This becomes an important point when we’re discussing overall school administration because when comparing “successes” schools and school districts are very different creatures.

For example, KIPP (a CMO) operates individual schools in urban areas. However, KIPP doesn’t run school districts. Recently a KIPP school in New Jersey was touted for it’s high performance in Newark, but when a bit of expertise was injected from Rutgers University scholars the results were less than stellar:

“The bottom line is that KIPP schools performance on comparable measures of student growth, controlling for demography, resources, etc., are relatively average (marginally above average). Many district schools, including ones in Newark, far outperform them.” [SchoolFinance]

In other words, anecdotal evidence of high performance (without running a model of demographics across the district to see deviations)  doesn’t mean a particular charter school operation is necessarily “successful” or that its operating plan is better than that which might be achieved by a local district itself.

A few years ago, another CMO, Rocketship was supposed to be achieving “astronomical” results, and was all the rage. [WaPo]  Rocketship used an “industrial model” with lots of computers and an equally large contingent of inexperienced teachers.  Rocketship moved into San Jose, California, but a year later the San Jose Mercury News was headlining, “Rocketship we have a problem.”  It seems that corporations like Rocketship DO have to follow local zoning regulations.  More issues arose with the charter non-profit, and by May, 2014 the Alum Rock CA Board of Education rejected a Rocketship charter, saying (1) it had not made Adequate Yearly Progress, there was no assurance made to investors that the schools would make AYP in the future, students spent a large portion of their day with no licensed teacher (a violation of state law), the CMO offered misleading figures on student-teacher ratios by not including Learning Lab Students in the calculations (creating a 1:37 ratio), and while Alum Rock School District spends about 6% on overhead costs, the Rocketship school was required to set aside 15% for its corporate headquarters.  The final point in the rejection was that for all the Wonders of Technology described in the Rocketship process, the students were actually encouraged to be passive rather than active users of the technology.

A third CMO, Green Dot Schools, has had a similar rocky history.  After much initial ballyhoo, Locke High School in Watts, CA was subdivided into segments under the management of Green Dot. Two years later the segments were themselves closed – for lack of “success” – the result?

“In fact, Animo Locke II, Animo Locke III, and Animo Locke Tech all failed the 2012 WASC accreditation. forcing Green Dot to merge all of the campuses, operationally, into the one school to receive accreditation. Animo Watts will continue to operate independent of the schools located at the main Locke campus.” [Ravitch

Eli Broad and other Silicon Valley ‘reformers’ were challenged by the LA Times:

“Charters claim that their schools score far better than traditional public schools serving similar students. That’s not true. The students at Locke or any of the other at-risk high schools in LAUSD are not “similar students” when compared to those who have left the public schools and moved to the charters. What Broad, Green Dot and the others do not reveal is the scores of those charter students when they were in regular public schools. It’s our belief that those students were already outscoring their fellow students in the traditional schools before they moved into charters. Low-scoring students do not enroll in Broad’s charters. His charters have skimmed off the education-oriented kids who otherwise would be raising test scores for traditional public schools.”

Cracks were showing in 2010, when it was reported that by Parent Revolution’s own definitions 14 out of 15 Green Dot Schools weren’t reaching their promised levels of success, [examiner] and to add substance to the LA Times critique, Green Dot Schools were targeting schools for takeover which were already exceeding Green Dot results. [SeattleEd] (More at MJ 4/1/2011]

By 2013 the Green Dot experiment in Los Angeles was plagued by high teacher turnover, inadequate administration, and unstable evaluation policies.  Meanwhile, a Tacoma, WA middle school is being taken over by Green Dot Schools, but parents are advised that “space is limited.”  [TNTRib]  — not an admonition which can be pronounced by public schools.  The Seattle Times reported that most seats were already taken by April 29, 2015 — ‘lotteries were held for 6 of 8 charter schools.”  There are no “enrollment lotteries” for public schools.

It would indeed be interesting, if JUST ONCE some legislative body decided to put the kind of care, attention, concern, (and potential funding) in the hands of its public school districts as it does into the hands of privatizing and elite exclusionist interests.

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