Category Archives: education

GOP Gubernatorial Candidate Fastens Onto Public Funds For Private Schools

Nevada gubernatorial candidate Dan Schwartz has planted his pennon securely on the so-called “Educational Savings Account” hill.  [RGJ] Schwartz’s enthusiasm hasn’t waned even though ESAs are of highly questionable constitutionality.

“Schwartz, a Republican who currently holds the office of state treasurer, told reporters in Las Vegas while announcing his candidacy that, if elected, he would not sign any bills from the Legislature without first seeing an “acceptable” ESA bill on his desk.” [RGJ]

The ESA program failed to secure enough support for enhancement in the last session of the legislature, which instead enacted tax credits for scholarships.  The “school choice” advocates saw this as a blow to their advocacy goals — specifically to the proposition that private schools are ‘better’ than public ones.  Perhaps it’s time to review the issues raised by the opponents?

The narrative, as framed by the proponents, is that private education is (1) better and (2) parents should have a choice to send their children to private schools.  The first proposition is dubious.  Private schools do send more of their students to college, but the reason may well be (and often is) that the schools themselves are selective in the first place.  When considering NCES reports on achievement the following caveat is of extreme importance, which is why it is reprinted here in full:

“When interpreting the results from any of these analyses, it should be borne in mind that private schools constitute a heterogeneous category and may differ from one another as much as they differ from public schools. Public schools also constitute a heterogeneous category. Consequently, an overall comparison of the two types of schools is of modest utility. The more focused comparisons conducted as part of this study may be of greater value. However, interpretations of the results should take into account the variability due to the relatively small sizes of the samples drawn from each category of private school, as well as the possible bias introduced by the differential participation rates across private school categories.

There are a number of other caveats. First, the conclusions pertain to national estimates. Results based on a survey of schools in a particular jurisdiction may differ. Second, the data are obtained from an observational study rather than a randomized experiment, so the estimated effects should not be interpreted in terms of causal relationships. In particular, private schools are “schools of choice.” Without further information, such as measures of prior achievement, there is no way to determine how patterns of self-selection may have affected the estimates presented. That is, the estimates of the average difference in school mean scores are confounded with average differences in the student populations, which are not fully captured by the selected student characteristics employed in this analysis.”  (emphasis added)

Those “patterns of self-selection” are “not fully captured” when the results of testing are reported, or this can be stated as: How private schools select attendees and the population from which they are drawn leaves some wide open questions about the conclusions offered on the effectiveness of instruction in private vs. public schools.

Secondly, the notion that there is no “school choice” at present is misleading in itself.  There is school choice, any parent may send a child to a public school, a private school, or choose to home school — the question is who pays for this.  What the “choice advocates” are saying is that taxpayers should fund the choice of a family to send children to private schools. A tangential argument is often raised that we should ‘expand the number of families who can choose to send children to private schools.’  Left unspoken are some of the practical issues — private schools can limit their enrollment, and if enrollment is limited then what of that “choice” being offered to their parents? Unlike public schools, private ones may select who is accepted for enrollment.  The decision not to offer special educations services is essentially self-selective.  There are some rural areas in which private education at the elementary and secondary level is non-existent or very limited.  In these instances there are few if any choices to be had.  Previous posts, here and here have addressed this issue in more detail.  (See also “Testing Turmoil,” and more on Schwartz’s previous advocacy here.)

Schwartz appears ready to ride this well worn draft horse throughout the campaign season.  It has some appeal — to those who sincerely wish to provide a religiously based curriculum for their offspring as well as to those who sincerely wish their children didn’t have to attend schools with members of other communities with whom they have little in common.  Compared to the economy, taxation, and other more relevant issues, this isn’t usually at the top of any voter’s list of primary concerns and Schwartz’s selection of it is more dog whistle (to ultra-conservatives) than a bull horn to the majority of Nevada voters.

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Quick note: $29,400

That $29,400 figure is the new average student debt, via NPR.  Money spent paying off student debt is money not spent on transportation, clothing, housing, and other basic elements of the economy. It’s rising, and the question is whether there’s the political will to do something about it.

Meanwhile,  the technical issues persist so posts will be short. Thanks for your patience.

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The Privatization Scam Continues: Clark County Schools Version

“Five Clark County schools are still in the running to partner with charter operators as part of the new, controversial Achievement School District after a state Board of Education meeting Thursday.

From a list of nine, state board members removed four middle schools, citing those schools’ higher ratings on the state star system. The final decision of which schools will be in the inaugural run will be decided by achievement district officials before Feb. 1.”  [LVRJ]

Background

According to the Nevada Department of Education the Achievement School District has the following task:

The Nevada Achievement School District exists to partner with communities to provide vibrant, high-quality, in-neighborhood alternatives for students in the State’s underperforming schools in order to strengthen the educated, healthy citizenry across the State. Our purpose is critical: to provide students in persistently struggling public schools with the opportunity to attain an education that will prepare them to be college, career and community ready. Currently, over 57,000 students in Nevada attend persistently struggling schools. We must reduce that number; and, we will work to do so by recruiting excellent educators and empowering them to partner with neighborhoods to transform the educational experiences of these students. [DoENV]

Translation: The Department of Education would like to find private sector “operators” to take over the management of “struggling” schools.  Applicants are asked to contact Jana Wilcox Lavin, whose background is in marketing.  Leaving a person to ask what qualifications she might have as the “superintendent” of a school district with a BA from Tulane and an MA in Integrated Marketing Communication from Emerson College.  Not that those aren’t fine institutions, but exactly how this prepares a graduate and board member of a college prep boarding school in Connecticut (Hotchkiss) to run a charter system isn’t all that clear.  As a prep school product I’m not knocking the prep part, but there’s no Public in Hotchkiss, Tulane, or Emerson.  As close as Wilcox-Lavin has come to the Public part of the equation may be a stint as the executive director for a charter school operator in Memphis, TN.

Last August, the Comptroller of the State of Tennessee released its audit of the TN Achievement School District, and was less than pleased.  Among the findings:

“The first comprehensive performance audit of the state-run Achievement School District shows a lack of adequate control over processes in human resources and payroll, including reimbursement of excessive travel claims and payments for alcohol at an office celebration.”

According to the audit, the ASD, which operates 31 schools in Memphis and two in Nashville, failed to verify the education credentials of central office staff, and employees were able to approve their own travel expenses. Inadequate procedures for departing employees also resulted in overpayment of salary and benefits, according to the audit.

The audit states that management did not properly approve nine expenditure transactions totaling $83,363 and seven travel claims totaling $2,460.

Claims deemed “excessive” by the audit included a $698 expense for a single day of transportation services to drive the deputy superintendent from Nashville to Memphis and a $2,500 holiday party held at the Sheraton Hotel in Memphis for all ASD schools and staff and to recognize outgoing superintendent Chris Barbic.  “The event included expensive finger foods, alcohol, and a bartender,” the audit states.

In addition, “in recognition of ASD school leaders and support staff, management purchased $1,631 of alcohol using a purchasing card and charged the expense to Charter School Grant Funding, a private grant that provides restricted funding for operating expenses for school year 2015-16 Achievement Schools … .”  [Tennessean]

Perhaps someone with some public school experience might have guessed that spending $1,631 on booze probably wasn’t going to be met with applause in Tennessee.   “Inadequate internal controls” is an accountant’s polite way of saying that there’s no way to effectively monitor spending and control waste, fraud, and abuse.  Tennessee’s ASD lacked adequate “internal controls.”

“The Achievement School District’s management did not establish adequate controls over several key human resources and payroll processes
According to Section 49-1-614 (g) (1), Tennessee Code Annotated, “The ASD [Achievement School District] shall develop written procedures, subject to the approval of the commissioner, for employment and management of personnel as well as the development of compensation and benefit plans.” During our audit, we found seven key areas where ASD did not establish processes over key human resources and payroll functions, including segregating duties; maintaining personnel files; verifying education credentials; documenting time and attendance; completing performance reviews; documenting approvals of bonuses and pay raises; and exiting employees (see page 14).” The full report is available at this link as a PDF.

In a word – ouch.  With a performance audit such as this it’s hard to understand why Nevada would tout conformance with the Tennessee Achievement School District model?

Then there’s the What Do You Get For The Money question?

A 2015 study by Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College frankly didn’t find much in the way of significant progress among the students, finding more in locally operated “i-Zone” schools.  [Full report here pdf]  There were “small positive effects in math and science; overall the “i-Zone” schools had moderate to larger positive effects in reading, math, and science. “Overall ASD schools did not gain more or less than other priority schools that were in an “i-Zone.” [Vanderbilt pdf]  The TN ASD pleaded for “patience.” [Nashville NPR]

However, let’s not focus on Tennessee’s ASD to the exclusion of taking a more attentive look at the charter operators approved to function in Nevada.   Three were selected in November 2016:  Democracy Prep Public Schools, Futuro Academy, and Celerity Schools. [LVRJ]   Of the three, Celerity, granted conditional approval, is subject to the most questions.

On October 18, 2016 The Los Angeles Unified School District board revoked the charters of Celerity schools citing  “severe concerns about oversight and transparency from the parent company, Celerity Global…” [CBS]  More specifically, the Board was concerned about:

…Celerity, though a review of correspondence indicates the district is interested in three corporate entities closely linked with the school group. Officials appear to be concerned about conflicts of interest and whether senior officials inappropriately enriched themselves.

…The district faults both organizations for not providing requested documents to investigators. Their listed deficiencies will include incomplete descriptions of job duties and of suspension and expulsion procedures. [LATimes]

Tangled Alliances and Corporate Complexity?

If the LAUSD is concerned about transparency in Celerity Schools management, the Celerity Global home page doesn’t offer much in the way of information.  The Who We Are links describe services, not management or other personnel associated with the organization.  A bit of digging yields that the Chief Operating Officer is Vielka McFarlane, Los Angeles, CA.  Craig Knotts is listed as Regional Vice President (Louisiana), Kendal Turner is listed as CFO (CA) (AR app 2016).  Board members are listed here – none of whom have a background in education.

We can easily discover that McFarlane’s compensation for 2012 totaled $438,730.00 (990 part VII(a)); her compensation for 2015 is given as $227,306, with another $13,332 compensation for the “organization and related organizations.”  Celerity Global Development (501c(3)) reported assets of $11,127,842 in June 2014, and income of $10,834,558 as of June 30, 2014. [Guidestar] Other information on the form is either not digitized or not available.  Digging down to the pdf filing with the IRS, the 990 for 2015 lists associated contractors as Savantco Education (Los Angeles, CA) which provided “business management services” for $478,320 in compensation and CSMC, Temecula, CA which received another $288,600 in compensation for “business management services.”

Savantco  Education offers human resources, accounting, attendance accounting, business consulting and training, and grant writing as part of its services.  It is related to Savantco Financial and Savantco Global Enterprise. [CA registry]  Savantco has not been without its controversies, and one implosion in San Bernardino County, CA:

“On November 23, 2015, the Morongo Unified School District superintendent wrote a letter to the superintendent of the San Bernardino County Superintendent of Schools expressing concerns regarding conflict of interest. The concern focused on the involvement of the former superintendent/executive director of Hope Academy serving as a majority owner in SavantCo Education, the charter school’s back-office service provider. The master services agreement with the academy called for SavantCo Education providing finance, accounting and payroll services, business consulting, board meeting support, attendance and student information system management, charter development, grant administration, as well as financing support.
According to the auditors with the Fiscal Crisis and Management Assistance Team, Mecham, while yet serving as charter school superintendent, used Hope Academy’s relationship with SavantCo Education to reap hundreds of thousands of dollars in profit for himself and his wife.”  [SBCS]

CMSC is the Charter School Management Company, “CSMC is the nation’s premier business back-office provider to charter schools. We are committed to helping charter schools overcome the challenges they face by offering our expertise and solutions at an affordable price. Our charter school services include charter development, payroll, governance, finance, back-office, and a full range of business services.”

And, with contractors providing back office services we find more potential for a lack of – as the accountants say — “internal controls.”  The Inspector General’s Report (2016) on its review of charter school management wasn’t pretty, as evidenced in this chilling finding:

“We determined that charter school relationships with CMOs posed a significant risk to Department program objectives. Specifically, we found that 22 of the 33 charter schools in our review had 36 examples of internal control weaknesses related to the charter schools’ relationships with their CMOs (concerning conflicts of interest, related-party transactions, and insufficient segregation of duties).5 See Appendix 1 for details regarding the State summaries of 6 States and 33 charter schools we reviewed. We concluded that these examples of internal control weaknesses represent the following significant risks to Department program objectives: (1) financial risk, which is the risk of waste, fraud, and abuse; (2) lack of accountability over Federal funds, which is the risk that, as a result of charter school boards ceding fiscal authority to CMOs, charter school stakeholders (the authorizer, State educational agency (SEA), and Department) may not have accountability over Federal funds sufficient to ensure compliance with Federal requirements; and (3) performance risk, which is the risk that the charter school stakeholders may not have sufficient assurance that charter schools are implementing Federal programs in accordance with Federal requirements.” [Ed.gov. Inspector General/ pdf]

The Inspector General determined that not only did the schools, school districts, and states not have sufficient safeguards in place to prevent waste, fraud, and abuse, but that the Federal agency wasn’t prepared to fully audit and monitor this potential as well.  [Full report here IG/DoE pdf]

The Bottom Line

Nevada would do well to curb its enthusiasm about the expansion of charter schools in this state.

There is ample room to question the results of the experiment in Tennessee.  The gains have been small when compared to the expenditures involved. Further, for those who are concerned with waste, fraud, and abuse of taxpayer money – either state or federal – there are far too many examples of just such waste, fraud, and abuse by entirely too many non-profit organizations to lull any sentient observer into complacency.

Nevada officials are correct in being very careful of the corporate entanglements of management companies and charter school managers and operators.  California officials are correct in weighing the fiscal management of charter operators and questioning the corporate relationships between school and business operations.   There is no excuse for a “lack of internal controls,” these practices create havoc in both our public and private sectors, and any bid by any charter operator should satisfy the most detail oriented accountant.

Those who call for the mitigation of waste, fraud, and abuse; and, who clamor for transparency and accountability must demand that public funds used for any “Achievement School District” or charter operation be fully and completely audited – and the results available for public scrutiny.

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Friday Didjah Know?

Didja Hear Maybe “I Regret” wasn’t enough?MGM Resorts CEO Jim Murren announced on Monday that, despite being a lifelong Republican, he is backing Democrat Hillary Clinton for president. Murren has never publicly endorsed a candidate before but said that he felt he needed to lend his voice to “some of the bigger issues” this election cycle after an “accumulation of vitriol” from Trump.” Full article at the Las Vegas Sun.

Those Naked Truth Statues are products of a Las Vegas artist.  Well done sir! And, a hand clap to the now famous line from the NYC Parks Department: “NYC Parks stands firmly against any unpermitted erection in city parks, no matter how small,” parks spokesman Sam Biederman joked.”

The Nevada Board of Examiners has approved another $125,000 to an outside law firm (Bancroft Associates – Paul Clement) to defend the public school fund gutting voucher education program. The firm has already gotten $420,000 from Nevada and the recent increase will mean a $545,000 total payout. [LVSun]  This would be the same Paul Clement whose firm has been tapped by North Carolina Republican leadership to appeal the NC Voter ID law targeting African Americans.

Former solicitor general during the Bush administration, and current professor at Georgetown Law School, Clement has spent much of the Obama administration working with conservatives on several prominent Supreme Court cases, including arguing in favor of overturning the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), fighting to preserve the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), and helping Arizona defend its controversial immigration law. Clement won the Hobby Lobby case at the Supreme Court for religious conservatives. [TNCRM]

The Smoking Gun Memo from North Carolina Republicans isn’t going to make Clement’s task any easier.

Yes, Donald Trump is now running adsa new Dog Whistle to the Far Right. Did we expect anything else?  Thus much for the pivot, unless by “pivot” means a 360 degree turn. By the way, the ad offers up an Old Hoary GOP line about undocumented immigrants soaking up Social Security Benefits – they don’t. This talking point has been floating around since at least the 2006 mid term elections.  Ten years of the same lie is enough! [factcheck]

An Hispanic couple’s truck was vandalized in northwest Reno (can you guess what happened?) “A Hispanic couple’s truck was vandalized Wednesday night in Northwest Reno with graffiti including Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s name, in what one of the victims said was a hate crime.”

“Esmeralda Estrada, 31, of Reno, said the truck, which is only about two months old, was fine when she and her husband went to sleep around 10 p.m. Wednesday. When they woke up Thursday, it was keyed several times, including the word “Trump” scratched into the side. The tailgate was also spray-painted with “VOTE TRUMP.” [RGJ]

The Estrada’s are the only Hispanic couple in the neighborhood.

Trump and Entourage arrived in Baton Rouge, LA and was met by GOP office holders. They met with volunteers at a church which had been cooking meals for displaced persons.  [AP] The GOP has slammed the President for not appearing, however “Louisiana’s Democratic governor defended the administration’s response Thursday, saying he has spoken daily with the White House and would prefer Obama hold off on visiting because such stops pull local police and first responders into providing security.” [AP]  Nothing like barging in?

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Grab the Money and Go: Nevada School Funding Case Scheduled

Turkey

It’s a turkey, no matter how one looks at it – the proposal for parents to be able to grab public money for “private” education in the state of Nevada and run off to do heaven only knows what with it.  And, now the case comes to the courts.  [LVRJ]

“The law passed by the Republican-controlled 2015 Legislature and signed by Gov. Brian Sandoval allows parents to set up education savings accounts to receive a portion of state per-pupil funding and use the money, about $5,100 annually, to send their children to private school or pay for other educational options. The program, administered by the state treasurer’s office, has received more than 6,000 applications.

A group of parents sued in Carson City, arguing it will illegally divert money from public schools. A Carson City judge in January agreed and issued an injunction.

The ACLU challenged the law on separate grounds, claiming it violates a constitutional prohibition against using money for sectarian purposes. A Clark County judge last month rejected those arguments and upheld the law.” [LVRJ]

I’m not at all sure why the ACLU case didn’t have a better outcome, because the Nevada Constitution is very clear about prohibiting public funds for sectarian use.   Additionally, I’m a bit fogged about why the ultra-conservatives in Nevada would want to allow funds for potentially radical religious instruction of any stripe.  There’s a question here – would these same people be so supportive if the private school receiving the money were, say, a madrasah?

And, it’s notable that we aren’t talking about peanuts here.  If 6,000 families each grab $5,100 every year from taxpayer funds for private schooling, then we’re speaking of some $30,600,000, or $61,200,000 for the biennium.

If  the idea is to bankrupt public education and then privatize the remnants, this is a perfect formula.  Complain that the public schools are not performing to some artificially established standard, then promote the creation of private schools, followed hard by the transfer of funds away from public education into those private “reformers,” and perpetuate the cycle of under-funded public  schools trying to compete with corporation sponsored private ones.  There’s no way for the public schools to win, and that’s precisely what the privatizers have in mind.

Stay tuned, the Nevada Supreme Court will hear the case on July 29, 2016.

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Kids and Cattle: Washoe County School Bond Issue

cattle grazing The concept of an AUM is well understood in northern Nevada, that’s the Animal Unit Month, or the amount of forage needed for one cow and calf, one horse, or five sheep or goats for one month. The current grazing fee for 2016 is $2.11 per AUM.  Further, not all grazing land is created equal. First class produces enough feed on 4 acres or less for one grown cow. Second class during an average year produces enough feed on 4 to 6 acres for a grown cow. Third class during an average year will sustain a grown cow on 6 to 12 acres, and fourth class during an average  year produces enough feed on 12 acres or more for one grown cow (1/12 or less animal units per month.) [AgBulletin pdf]  The point here is that good grazing land sustains one animal/month on four acres.  Would that we were this concerned about our children.

School crowding The Washoe County School District announced that there are several schools in the Reno/Sparks area which are on pace to require double sessions and year round scheduling to meet their demands.  There are eight schools hovering near the “trigger.”

“Tuesday’s trigger, detailed in Regulation 6111, puts middle and high schools on double sessions once they exceed campus capacity by 20 percent. Portable classrooms are not counted in these campus capacities.

No schools meet the trigger, yet. But four middle schools and four high schools are projected to get there over the next five years. All these schools are already over capacity or near it.”  [RGJ]

squeeze chute Not that children and cattle are analogous, but we do recognize that cattle need at least a minimum amount of space for grazing while the file photo shot from the Reno Gazette Journal above seems to indicate that a few squeeze chutes might be handy for funneling the little calves into their classrooms.  Might be handy? We could vaccinate them while they’re in the chutes? Check their vital signs? Wash and brush them if necessary? Check for medical and dental problems?

Back to the serious side for the moment – The Washoe County School District is asking voters to support a bond issue in the next election for capital improvements and renovations.  

“The committee based its requested increase on tax revenue projections, which would allow the district to issue $781 million in bonds over the next decade for school renovations and new campuses. District officials have said $781 million is what they need to meet demands of student enrollment forecasts. The district would pay off the bonds over 20 years using proceeds of the sales tax increase.” [RGJ]

There are always excuses for a “no vote.”  Some people would vote “no” on any proposal if it requires a penny more in sales or property taxes.   This, in spite of the fact that northern Nevada has one of the lowest tax burdens in the entire country:

“As compared to other major cities around the country, Reno property tax rates are some of the lowest in the United States at an effective rate of about a dollar per $100 of assessed value. While supporting an especially high sales tax rate of 7.75%, much of that bite is ameliorated by the fact that Nevada only taxes 37.4% of its goods at sale. Further savings are found in a state tax code that allows for the deductions of state and local sales tax payments.” [movoto]

Those facts won’t prevent some people from loudly complaining, “They’re Taxed Enough Already.”  Then, there’s the always provocative and ever annoying, “Why should I pay for someone else’s kids?”   Gee, I don’t know, perhaps it’s because we don’t want to be known as the Land That Education Forgot, populated with the ignorant and ill-educated.  Or, the antagonizing, “The Schools waste money on _____________.” Fill in that blank with, say, “administration,” or “football fields,” or any other convenient complaint.

Another obstacle is the “alternative” suggestions popping up before election day.  “Why don’t we have year round schools?” Or, “Why don’t we do double sessions and year round schedules?”  The only one I haven’t heard yet is for about $1700 a school could install a squeeze chute to handle the crowding in the hallways —

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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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