Tag Archives: SB 302

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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Now, A Warning? SB 302 and the Privatization of NV Public Schools

vulture 2 It’s not like we weren’t warned.  Nevada’s SB 302, the notorious ESA, is a give-away to the few at the educational expense of the many.  State Senator Scott Hammond’s privatization bill is a GOP wet dream. It passed the Republican controlled Assembly on a 25-17 vote, and the Republican controlled Senate by 11-8. [NVLeg] Nevada Senators Atkinson, Denis, Ford, Kihuen, Manendo, Parks, Spearman, and Woodhouse had the foresight to vote “no.”  They were right. The law is not getting rave reviews:

“The ESA law requires the “statewide average basic support per pupil” — $5,100 per student and $5,710 for low-income, and students with disabilities — be deposited into each ESA from local district budgets, a process that will divert, over time, substantial resources from the public schools. Studies have shown that Nevada substantially underfunds K-12 public education. For example, calculations by the Guinn Center show that Nevada K-12 funding is over $3,000 per pupil, or $1.5 billion, below the amount determined adequate by a 2015 education cost study. A recent ENN analysis shows that, even after the Legislature increased funding in the biennium budget, most Nevada school districts, including Clark County, are once again facing shortfalls in their operating budgets for the 2015-16 school year.” [EJO]

But, but, but… “we increased funding for education…” Yes, I could opine that if I gave nothing to charity last year and a dollar this year then  my charity went up by 100%.  That doesn’t mean that the funding was adequate in the first place.  Nor does the law pass the Golden Rule Test: Do the Greatest Good for the Greatest Number.

There are 459,172 Nevada youngsters enrolled in K-12 schools, 318,040 were enrolled in Clark County, and 63,108 in Washoe County. There were 2,574 enrolled in WCSD charters; 6,053 in CCSD charters, and 244 in Carson charters. [NVDE]  Thus, charter school students comprise only 0.019 of Nevada’s total school enrollment.  Students enrolled in private schools constitute about 3.08% of Nevada’s total enrollment. [NVED]  The good news is that there aren’t very many students attending private or charter schools to drain resources (at the moment), the bad news is that SB 302 encourages parents to remove their children from public schools and “take the money with them” to private ones.

The devilish details: The provisions of SB 302 are not scheduled to go into effect until January 2016, but the devil, as always is going to be in the details.  The Nevada Treasurer, Dan Schwartz, appears to be most concerned that the ESA funds aren’t subject to ‘fraud.’

“We are keenly aware of how many parents have been asking for choices when it comes to their children’s education. Our team is committed to developing a quality program that avoids the mistakes of the Nevada Health Link and works effectively and efficiently to implement its objectives” said Treasurer Schwartz. “I want to see these accounts funded as soon as possible, but we must ensure that processes are in place to make enrolling simple and payment fair and devoid of fraud. Today’s announcement marks the first step of many towards true universal school choice for all Nevada families,” concluded Schwartz.” [NVT pdf]

First, there’s nothing quite like having the Tea Party Darling Treasurer take a pot shot at the ACA in a totally unrelated press release, but perhaps that’s to be expected.  Secondly, that Tea Party expression, “true universal school choice,” isn’t a dog whistle; it’s a bull horn announcement about the privatization of public education.  The Treasurer wants a “simple, fair, and devoid of fraud” system.  The problem is that “fraud” isn’t defined in this statement.  This doesn’t stop the Treasurer’s office from moving right along.

The State Treasurer expects to implement the ESA’s by April 2016, and is already accepting applications.  [STO]  The application form satisfies the “simple” part of State Treasurer Schwartz’s formula. Name, grade, address, attendance in a public or charter school for 100 days?  But now a gremlin shows up.

“The Treasurer’s Office has been notified by the Nevada Department of Education, that pursuant to NRS 388.850, a private school or “home school” student may not participate in a program of distance education (online class) to satisfy the 100 school day requirement. However, a private school or “home school” student may qualify for an ESA by taking one or more classes in a public or charter school, pursuant to NRS 386.580(5) and 392.070(3).” [STO]

And there are more pesky details.  At issue here is the “100 day” enrollment requirement, which even home-school advocates admit has been “successful” in Arizona, and which prevents “yo-yo” parenting, i.e. home-schooling a youngster, then enrolling the child in a school only to pull the child out and resuming the home-schooling.  [NHN fb] There are more difficult determinations to be made.

“Under section 12 of this bill, each child on whose behalf a grant is made must take certain standardized examinations in mathematics and English language arts. Subject to applicable federal privacy laws, a participating entity must provide those test results to the Department of Education, which must aggregate the results and publish data on the results and on the academic progress of children on behalf of whom grants are made. Under section 13 of this bill, the State Treasurer must make available a list of all entities who are participating in the grant program, other than parent of a child.” [NVLeg]

Okay, I see “mathematics and English language arts,” but I do not see Science? Social Studies?  So, could a parent enroll a child in the Fly In The Night School which doesn’t provide instruction in science or social studies? And, still apply for a grant? Or, must the schools on the approved list also comply with the state curriculum standards

If so, and most legitimate private schools do, in fact, offer much the same curricula as the public ones, then fine. However, if the answer is “no” or “maybe” then we’re treading into controversial areas like creationism, in which the radical Christian elements call for:  “Specific textbook chapters on Biblical and scientific creationism should be included in all science textbooks written for the Christian community. The rest of the textbook content, as well as all other curricular materials, should contain the principles and elements of Biblical and scientific creationism in a fully integrated form.” [ICR]  This view hinges on I Corinthians 2:14-16 and Colossians 3:2 – and that brings up the issues related to the Nevada Constitution.

“The legislature shall provide for a uniform system of common schools, by which a school shall be established and maintained in each school district at least six months in every year, and any school district which shall allow instruction of a sectarian character therein may be deprived of its proportion of the interest of the public school fund during such neglect or infraction, and the legislature may pass such laws as will tend to secure a general attendance of the children in each school district upon said public schools.” [NV Const. Art 2 Sect 2]

Now, we have to ask: If a school receives state money from the state treasury does it have to adhere to the provisions of the Nevada Constitution?  If the school doesn’t take state public funds then there’s obviously no question about what curriculum it may adopt, but if the school takes the public funding and teaches Creationism…?

Back in the Social Studies Department, NRS 389 requires instruction in the US Constitution and the Bill of Rights, the Nevada Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, and the “origin and history of the Constitution,” along with “the study of and devotion to American institutions and ideals; and Civics.”  Instruction in American History is also required.  The state legislature has also been relatively specific about what should be taught in terms of financial literacy. {NRS 389.074} These provisions include “developing financial responsibility,” managing finances, using credit and consumer protection laws and the benefits of financial regulation.

The implementation of SB 302 could get interesting, especially when discussing American History curricula.  SB 302 contains a provision which makes this tricky territory:

“The State Treasurer may refuse to allow such an entity to continue to participate in the program if the State Treasurer finds that the entity fails to comply with applicable provisions of law or has failed to provide educational services to a child who is participating in the program.” 

Remember, the law (NRS 389) requires instruction in “the study of and devotion to American institutions.”  Would a “school” which promotes the secessionists ideals of the 51st State, or the Texas Nationalist Movement, or the Alaska Independent Party, or the “A New State Initiative,” [Alternet] be in compliance with NRS 389? Or, what’s “devotional” about the ramblings of former drive-time radio jockey Glenn Beck’s version of US History in which everything’s been going downhill since the administration of Woodrow Wilson? [NewYorker]

Section 9 of SB 302 provides for funding: tuition and fees; textbooks; tutoring; distance education; test fees; special instruction for children with disabilities; the purchase of curricula and supplemental materials to administer the curricula.

Does this section mean that state funds could be allocated to schools which promote Intelligent Design? State tax dollars spent on spurious science?   [Mooney] Or, curricula/supplemental materials promoting the preservation of white male privilege and exceptionality? [Salon]  One of those pesky details the Treasurer’s Office will have to address is which educational entities are allowed to receive state funds and what the criteria will be.

On the other hand, would a school which is Afro-Centric, or Hispanic Oriented, be eligible for ESA funding? Would supplemental materials from Planned Parenthood be covered under Section 9 (SB 302) for health education?  Would the Treasurer’s office include a school on the approved list which caters to the needs and views of the LGBT community?  When the radical right demands “universal school choice” they might want to be careful what they wish for?

Lastly, there’s the obfuscating title of the great give-away: Educational Savings Accounts.  There’s no savings there. This isn’t a matter of “saving” anything – it’s simply a give-away to those who want to pull their kids out of school and take the tax money with them.

What to watch for:  (1) The criteria developed by the State Treasurer’s Office for the approval of educational entities entitled to receive funding from the ESA’s.  (2) The applicability of the state Constitutional provisions on sectarian education; and (3) The applicability of state laws (NRS 389) to the materials and curricula adopted by the entitled entities.

Put the popcorn in the micro-wave in April 2016?

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