Right Wing School Daze in Nevada

School Corridor Lockers And now the National School Boards Association weighs in – along side the National Education Association – that’s not a combination one sees all that often. What might bring them together?  Nevada’s egregious Strip The Schools Funding scheme, or SB 302. (pdf) [RGJ]  Others who’ve found the new private/home school funding scheme an atrocious way to funnel funds away from public education include the NAACP, the SPLC, and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund.  All these organizations oppose the right wing privatization plan.  They’re right.

The brain fart  child of Republican Scott Hammond (NVS-18) who has an interest in the Somerset Academy (as a founding member), is yet another way to line the pockets of  Floridian entrepreneurs, specifically the Zuluetas who control about $115 million in south Florida real estate, all exempt from property taxes as “public schools.”  [MiamiHerald]  The Zuluetas’s little empire has a fairly broad reach, as explained by the Miami Herald:

Academica’s reach extends from Florida to Georgia, Texas, Nevada, Utah and California, where the company also manages charter schools. But Academica is best known for managing four prominent school networks in Miami-Dade and Broward counties: the Mater Academies, the Somerset Academies, the Doral Academies and the Pinecrest Academies.

In the 2010-11 school year, these four chains had 44 South Florida schools with about 19,000 students. Each network of schools is run by a nonprofit corporation, which in turn is run by a volunteer governing board. These boards set policy for the schools, and also approve the management contracts and property leases — including the land deals with the Zulueta companies. While the teachers and principals work for the nonprofits, Academica routinely vets personnel and recommends principals from within its stable of schools.

As much as the principal characters in the Academica wish to claim altruistic motives and concern for the education of their little enrollees, there have been serious questions about the  “land deals” in Florida – since when have there not been questions about land deals in Florida? – and the connectivity between the academies and the corporation…a corporation which on at least one occasion held a lovely  corporate session in the Bahamas at the expense of the schools. [MiamiHerald] [CIOK] Enough questions were raised to grab the attention of the Feds who investigated Academica. [EdDive]

By April 20, 2014 the Department of Education’s office of inspector general had heard enough to begin an audit of Academica’s dealings. [MiamiHerald]

Little wonder some major organizations have questions regarding the transfer of funds – tax dollars – away from public schools whose lease arrangements, contracts, funds, and all other operations must be conducted in public, as matters of public record, complete with audits.

The byzantine labyrinth of connections between land developers in Florida and education in Nevada might be sufficient to call this inane bit of legislation into question – but wait, there’s more:

“Unless otherwise stated in the legislation, nothing in the legislation will be deemed to limit the independence or autonomy of any participating entity.” [edchoice]

If my reading skills haven’t escaped me this means that the State Treasurer can’t object to public funds being shipped off to the “Flower Child School of Sensitivity and Sensations,” the “Spartan Academy for Children in Need of Physical Restraint,” or parents who believe that everything a child needs to know in life can be taught by learning to knit.  There’s another item in the list that might give some serious militarists pause: What would prevent a “school” from encouraging a “gap year” for a student to “study with ISIS in Syria?”

However, the dubious intent of some recipients of Nevada tax dollars may be a side show.  The real intent is the privatization (and profitization) of American public schools.  If sufficient funds are stripped away from public schools, then their overhead expenses and personnel costs will be such a burden as to precipitate a financial collapse and consequent “need” for “flexible” charter/private education.  The plan is relatively simple, just flood a market with private schools, “market share demonstration sites,” – or call them “investment sites” – and those vulnerable markets will pave the way for the privatization process. [CashKids]

There’s nothing secret about this, the privatization contingent has a road map:

“First, commit to drastically increasing the charter market share in a few select communities until it is the dominant system and the district is reduced to a secondary provider. The target should be 75 percent. Second, choose the target communities wisely. Each should begin with a solid charter base (at least 5 percent market share), a policy environment that will enable growth (fair funding, nondistrict authorizers, and no legislated caps), and a favorable political environment (friendly elected officials and editorial boards, a positive experience with charters to date, and unorganized opposition). For example, in New York a concerted effort could be made to site in Albany or Buffalo a large percentage of the 100 new charters allowed under the raised cap. Other potentially fertile districts include Denver, Detroit, Kansas City, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, New Orleans, Oakland, and Washington, D.C.” [EdNext]

Proponents of privatization toss the usual buzz words into the discussion: Choice, Flexibility, Market Share, Free Markets, etc.  What they are NOT inserting is also germane:  Shareholder Value Theory, and Return on Investment.  If privatization is the model, then current financial theory is part of that system, and it isn’t too far fetched to believe that the insertion of the Shareholder Value Theory is part of the mindset of those advocating private education services.   Is it too difficult to imagine what a Martin Shkreli could do with a few schools?

In short, the “Nevada System” under SB 302 is an invitation to corporate cronyism, corporate malfeasance, theoretically valid but ethically unspeakable administration, and good old fashioned chaos.  The National School Boards Assn. and the other organizations are correct in pushing back against this disturbing trend.

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