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Charter School in Novato California shut down by School District
Posted: 10 July 2007 08:15 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 31 ]
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Here’s a blog item on the viewpoint of the nation’s top charter-school lobbying organization, from the http://www.sfschools.org blog:

Charter lobby’s view of presidential candidates
The brief commentary below is from the Center for Education Reform (CER), a right-wing organization that’s the primary national lobbying force for charter schools. CER, closely linked to the Bush administration, is run by Jeanne Allen, who is the source the media calls first for any comment from the pro-charter viewpoint.

Here CER gives its perspective of the views of presidential candidates who spoke to the National Education Organization’s annual meeting. CER criticizes candidates who “pandered to the unions (sic) calls for more money, less testing, and less competition.”

Once we understand where the commentary is coming from, it’s an interesting view of the candidates — and also a good look at the view from the heart of the charter movement. (This commentary came via my e-mail subscription and I can’t find a link to it.)

  UNIQUE CELEBRATION. From Bristol, RI the home of the nations oldest and longest running Fourth of July parade to Seattle WA, most of America was clapping and grinning in tribute to the nation on last weeks Independence Day. But the National Education Association (NEA) was conducting its celebration a bit differently. Every year during the week of the fourth, this labor union convenes and demonstrates why it is out of step with most of the families who lined the streets and lawns in tribute to America last week. This years annual NEA meeting hosted presidential hopefuls Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, Chris Dodd, Mike Huckabee, John Edwards, Dennis Kucinich, and Bill Richardson. All of the candidates, with a few brief exceptions, pandered to the unions calls for more money, less testing, and less competition. Obama talked of finally raising salaries across the board and fixing and improving schools instead of abandoning them and passing out vouchers; Huckabee spoke of the need for more arts and music education, dodging any of his support for greater options for children; Biden emphasized the importance of early childhood education. Hillary Clinton backed off her boastful support of charter schools delivered to the 1999 NEA convention (at which no one applauded) and instead told the convention she supported charters that dont drain public schools of their funds. (N.B. Thats code for states that dont require money to follow kids and happen to have the worst laws and least number of charters). A slight glimmer of hope for reformers came as Obama spoke of merit pay as a means of raising salaries for teachers, though that issue goes against the union brass. But sadly, the fight for independence didnt seem to rub off on these pandering presidential candidates this year. Theres always time, however if reformers get aggressive with their own demands for what they want to hear.

These quotes are from the CER dispatch. The quotes from Biden and Obama are in the spirit of vigorous disagreement, of course (as is the presence of Huckabee at a teachers’ union event):

  WORTH REPEATING:

  “Thats what candidates do when they come to the NEA.” — Michael Tobmann from Democrats for Education Reform commenting on Clinton and other Democrats criticism of vouchers.

  “We know what we need to do, and its not No Child Left Behind. We have to stop focusing on test scores.” — Sen. Joe Biden commenting before the NEA on what we need to do without explaining what we need to do.

  “I might look as out of place as Michael Moore at the NRA convention.” — Gov. Mike Huckabee, the only Republican candidate who accepted the NEAs invitation to the convention.

  “You didn’t devote your lives to testing, you devoted it to teaching, and teaching is what you should be allowed to do.” — Sen. Barack Obama commenting on testing under No Child Left Behind, which he called one of the emptiest slogans in the history of American politics.

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Posted: 10 July 2007 08:35 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 32 ]
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Despite the conservative complaints, and your previous assertion that only the laissez-faire right wing could find value in the charter idea, both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have indicated support for the charter concept, and opposition to vouchers; a position I still maintain is consistent with liberal values. Sure, they may choose not to trumpet that to the NEA in the middle of an endorsement hunt if the union largely shares your conviction that charters must by definition be anti-union, but that doesn’t mean they don’t support the idea nor that if they do they are de facto union-busting conservatives. I know there are conservatives who see charters as a way to privitize public education, but I haven’t surrendered the field to them, and I still am not convinced that they own the idea. You’re still painting with too broad a brush.

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Posted: 10 July 2007 09:15 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 33 ]
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As I’ve said, I believe that the principles and practices of the charter school movement conflict sharply with liberal/left/progressive values and that misguided liberals who don’t see that are in deep denial. And I think support for charter schools inherently empowers, supports and adds momentum to the right’s anti-public-education, anti-teacher and anti-union, pro-privatization crusade, in which charter schools are a primary weapon.

Sorry to be so confrontational, but I think this is a viewpoint that needs to be heard. I’m a tiny voice amid the loud, nearly universal cheering and praise for charters. The pro-charter PR is created, financed and spread by the right and its mighty “think tanks” (I’m now putting that in quotes, because those outfits are advocacy organizations, not the research-and-study entities they pretend to be). To me it’s important to speak up as I can to counter that. There is no comparable force putting out the countervailing view; those of us who see the charter movement for what it really is just have to speak up when and where we can, drowned out by the cheers and acclaim. 

I guarantee that Jeanne Allen and the CER love your school, which of course gets extra reverence as the venerable leader in the field. I see it praised in the same breath as Edison, by the same voices who believe teachers’ unions are the source of all evil and that the solution to the challenges of public education is to “end the government school monopoly” and fully privatize education. It is just not progressive to join hands and make common cause with those forces.

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Posted: 10 July 2007 09:34 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 34 ]
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It’s insulting, arrogant, and useless as a point of argument to keep identifying disagreement with “denial.” If you plan to convert liberals like me, you need to do so with argument, not bombast. If you’re so frustrated from your failure to do so in the past that you can only stridently repeat yourself, than you’re not doing your own cause any good. Even the NEA policy statement on charter schools isn’t as negative as you are. They recommend close monitoring of performance, equitable funding, equitable application of labor regulations and collective bargaining, and limitations on for-profit and private schools gaining access to charter status, all reasonable positions I’d support. If the conservatives love to cite our school as a success story, all that proves is they’re looking for examples of successful charter schools to promote their own idea of the concept. It doesn’t mean the school isn’t really a success, or that it fits their concept, or that the parents/teachers/administrators all support the conservative agenda.

I really am interested in the same goals for education you are, Caroline, so you need to take a deep breath and try to help me out here. If you’re right and you can convince me, I promise I have no a priori reason agenda to defend, but you can’t convince me by just repeatedly bashing me over the head with assertions that you’re a lonely voice proclaiming the truth in the wilderness and that I’m an idiot (“misguided,” “deep denial,” etc) Sheesh!

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Posted: 10 July 2007 09:47 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 35 ]
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I am not really intending or hoping to convert you. I do have some faith that at some point down the road you’ll realize I was right. I was an early and outspoken critic of Edison Schools, in the face of massive gushing, so I’ve seen that happen before.

But I assume that others are reading this exchange, so I hope it changes some perspectives. And I think it tempers some behavior to know there’s a critic watching closely. If you or just one charter advocate refrains just once from a damaging comment about how superior charters are to traditional public schools, knowing that I and (a few) others like me are watching, it’s worth my time and effort.

I’m sorry, again, to be so negative, but this is a war on public education (and on teachers and on unions), being waged by the side you’re supporting. I’m trying to do my best to fight for the right side.

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Posted: 10 July 2007 10:06 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 36 ]
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War rhetoric, martyr complexes, and a complete lack of interest in actually demonstrating a point that is self-evident to the enlightened are all the hallmarks of a fanatic. Much as I despise fanaticism in general, I find it particularly offensive coming from those who claim to represent the same progressive values I hold, since it just makes us all look bad. I doubt your “watchful eye” is going to deter true charter advocates, especially on the right, from expressing their opinion, which in any case is not what a site dedicated to open inquiry and debate should be about. And it sure makes people like me, actually looking for useful information and cogent arguments so we can make up our minds on a complicated question, think twice about the value of the positions you advocate due to the way in which you advocate them.

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Posted: 10 July 2007 10:39 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 37 ]
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Yeah, I’ve been called all the names before. “Fanatic” is a fairly mild one. Though sometimes I’ve been called a teacher by charter folks in a tone of sheer venom, as though it were the worst possible pejorative—to them, “fanatic” would be far milder. (I’m not a teacher, but I would of course be proud and honored to be one.)

But I still think you might hesitate more now before bashing traditional public schools and citing your charter as superior, which would make it worth my while to endure a little namecalling.

The other thing I’m trying to do here, and in other forums, is to call Envision Schools out on their loud public blaming of Novato Unified for the collapse of MSAT—blame that I think is orchestrated and unjust given the bountiful subsidy that NUSD’s other schools were providing to MSAT and its 50% out-of-district students—before they turn on SFUSD, where I am a parent, volunteer and advocate.

Novato Unified is a non-stressed, mostly middle-income white district in a wealthy county that supports its schools. It can weather the attacks. SFUSD, as a diverse, high-poverty urban district, faces huge challenges, and yet another bashing by another set of charter folks can really do some harm—our district already sustained a painful round of damage from Edison Schools Inc. and another from Urban Pioneer. That hurts our schools and our kids. So if I can yell “Incoming!” way ahead of time, perhaps I can help head off Envision’s likely effort to make SFUSD the new NUSD.

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Posted: 10 July 2007 10:40 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 38 ]
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(Oh, and I have recommended some information sources; hope they’ve been helpful.)

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Posted: 23 July 2007 11:29 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 39 ]
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With permission, I’m re-posting two items from Chicago veteran education activist/blogger Mike Klonsky’s blog. Mike and the sources he’s quoting make a much better case than I do that charter schools have become a right-wing, anti-public-education, anti-progressive cause—  “hijacked by conservatives” and “those who had tremendous contempt for public education.” My view is that supporting charter schools is not just inconsistent with progressive/liberal populist principles but in direct, violent conflict with them.

From Mike Klonsky’s blog:
***
July 20, 2007 Early charter school advocate

  I’m reading Tough Liberal, Richard Kahlenberg’s biography of Al Shanker, who led the United Federation of Teachers (UFT), the world’s largest union local, as well as the national AFT and was thought by many to be the most influential figure in public eduction, right up until his death in 1997.

  Progressives like me had a love/hate relationship with Shanker. Those of us who were around in the late 60’s, despised his attacks on the black freedom movement, which fought for community control of the schools in Harlem and Oceanhill-Brownsville in 1968. We also couldn’t fathom his support for the Vietnam War.

  On the other hand, Shanker was a defender of public schools in the face of the assault by privatizers, as well as a far-sighted and bold school reformer. He was jailed for leading teacher strikes and never hesitated to stand up for teachers’s rights and respect. He realized before most, that unions had to play an active and leading role in reform, while, at the same time, defending teachers’ rights, living standards, and working conditions.

  In a speech to the National Press Club in 1988, he proposed the idea of teacher-led “charter schools” where rules could be bent if the great majority of teachers in a small school approved. He called on districts to “create joint school board-union panels that would review preliminary proposals and help find seed money for the teachers to develop final proposals.” His ideas forshadowed today’s Pilot Schools and Green Dot charters.

  At the time, his idea received negative responses from today’s right-wing charter advocates, like William Kristol and Chester Finn. Finn, who at the time, was Bush’s assistant secretary of education, attacked the charter school proposal, saying it suggested that we don’t already know what works in education.

  In the coming years however, writes Kahlenberg:

      Shanker “watched with alarm as the concept he put forward began to move away from a public-school reform effort to look more like a private-school voucher plan..Shanker came to believe that the charter school movement was largely hijacked by conservatives who made many charter schools vulnerable to the same groups that made voucher schools so dangerous: for-profit corporations, racial separatists, the religious right, and anti-union activists…Shanker watched with dismay as ‘those who had tremendous contempt for public education’ jumped on to the charter school bandwagon.”

***
July 22, 2007   Chavez and DuBois rolling in their graves?

  Since we’re on the topic of teacher unions and charter schools, does anyone else think it strange that several charter schools named after the great union leader Cesar Chavez, don’t allow their teachers to join teachers union? For example, there’s the Cesar Chavez Academy in Detroit, run by the Lansing Michigan based, for-profit Leona Group for a hefty fee of $1.5 million per year. Leona is an anti-union bunch that also subcontracts to run schools in post-Katrina New Orleans.

  SmallTalk scoop on the Leona Group

      Once they got their charter application approved, the non-profit New Orleans Charter School Foundation immediately went out and hired the Leona Group, to operate their K-8 school and a high school. Leona had previously been hired by a Florida non-profit, the Athenian Academy to open two charter schools in Pasco County. They had been fired from its previous charter operations in a Michigan district after test scores plummeted. As it tured out, Leona couldn’t get it together in New Orleans in time for the 2005 opening and had to push the schedule back a year. But by hiding behind their partner non-profit, Leona suffered no consequences even though an on-time opening was desperately needed by Katrina-ravaged residents. Despite a spotty record of school management, Leona continues to thrive in the ownership society business climate. According to the Muskegon Chronicle: “Tri-Valley Academy, the county’s oldest charter school, used Lansing-based management firm Leona Group for most of its 10-year existence. Last spring, the school board fired Leona, and is expected to submit a new school improvement plan…that reflects the leadership of its new management company.”

  Then there’s the Cesar Chavez Public Charter Schools for Public Policy (that’s a lot of publics for one name, isn’t it?) with such notables on their board as Albert Lord, president of Sallie Mae, Inc., a privatized company now being investigated by congress for education loan irregularities. Hmmm, I see Eduwonk’s Andrew Rotherham is also on that board.

  Of course we can’t forget Chester Finn, whose neocon Fordham Foundation double dips as both charter school authorizer and charter school operator. Finn, a sworn enemy of teacher unions, operates the Veritas/Cesar Chavez Academy in Cincinnati.

  Finn and Fordham took some heat after raving about Cincinnati’s W.E.B. DuBois Charter (DuBois, for those who don’t know, was also a big fan of organized labor). The school’s founder and leader, Wilson H. Willard, was described as a “role model for charter schools” by Terry Ryan, Fordham’s vice president for Ohio programs and policy.

  Last year, however,Willard the role model, was indicted by the state on charges of stealing money from school coffers and falsifying enrollment records. He left the school before the start of this academic year. Fordham then became the school’s sponsor, as charter authorizers are called in Ohio. So now, neocon Finn runs schools named after DuBois and Chavez with no collective bargaining rights for teachers allowed.
***
http://blog.360.yahoo.com/blog-6z6IhP08cqXp9kfshYQPv87gCfJyFg—?cq=1

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Posted: 23 July 2007 12:07 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 40 ]
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So even though the idea was started by liberals and opposed by conservatives, you still view it as fundamentally impossible for liberals to put the idea into practice in a way consistent with their values because conservatives have decided to try to coopt the idea. Just sounds like surrender to me. I don’t see a case being made in the first section, just an unsubstantiated repetition of what you’ve already said.

As for the second section, it raises the questions of whether unions and charters are fundamentally incompatible. Granted many unions think they are, largely due to the sorts of fears and arguments you put forward. Most charter schools are not unionized, though some are (Green Dot in LA, for example). I don’t see any reason why unions couldn’t have the same access to charters as they do to traditional public schools, but only if liberals are willing to fight to make this possible under laws establishing charters. If we just give up and let the pro-privitization forces have their way, then of course they’re going to establish union-unfriendly laws. Now the separate question of whether all schools should be unionized is tougher. I tend to think unionized workforces are better protected from abuse, so generally I support unions. But one could argue that small, community-run charter schools (as opposed to corporate-run schools, which we both oppose) might function like small businesses, in which skilled workers in high demand have the power to demand fair treatment even without collective bargaining. There is evidence that in some places, charter teachers have more autonomy and better pay that unuionized teachers, though I suspect that if the charter movement were larger, and absolutely if corporations were allowed to run them, then unions would be necessary to prevent exploitation.  Anyway, for those interested in doing their own research HERE is an article talking about the tension between unions and charters and the possible ways of resolving it, and HEREare some statistics on teacher pay in charter vs traditional public schools (and yes, Caroline, I know the article is published by a conservative group, but the numbers they cite come from the National Center for Education Statistics).

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Posted: 23 July 2007 12:49 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 41 ]
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“...you still view it as fundamentally impossible for liberals to put the idea into practice in a way consistent with their values because conservatives have decided to try to coopt the idea….”

Conservatives have totally co-opted the idea, with resounding success. The charter movement has become an anti-public-education, pro-privatization weapon.

If I saw (professed) liberal/progressives in the charter community fighting that, trying to show that there is an enlightened, pro-public-education aspect of the charter movement, I might not be so forceful about this. But I do not see a PEEP out of those folks until someone like me comes along and starts talking about it, at which point they act like they never noticed that the far right and the Bush administration was right there in their bed. (And, of course, they also shoot the messenger.)

I forget if it’s here that I already mentioned that my moment of realizing this was when I saw a Center for Education Reform bumper sticker on the car of friends who think of themselves as enlightened liberals but are charter-school parents and loyalists. It was willful oblivion to the fact that this is a right-wing, Bush-linked, pro-privatization and virulently anti-union organization—it’s all about “we’re not asking any questions, because we really don’t want to know.” 
 
I know there’s extensive discussion about whether unions and charters can ever co-exist. But the charter movement is overwhelmingly hostile to unions, so of course Klonsky’s item is a comment on the irony and hypocrisy there. In fact, an MSAT spokesperson/supporter posted this comment on a blog item I posted about them:

“These students have finally experienced high quality education and are unwilling to return to sub par traditional classrooms with unionized teachers, complacency, and restrictive bureaucracy.”

“Unwilling to return to ... classrooms with unionized teachers.” That could hardly be clearer—and isn’t MSAT one of those supposedly liberal/progressive charters?

http://www.sfschools.org/2007/06/marin-charter-merging-with-sfusd.html

I appreciate that you yourself pointed out that it was a far-right organization promoting that NCES information. But if you continue to research charter schools, you will find yourself involved more and more deeply with that faction, because that’s the heart and soul of the charter movement now.

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Posted: 23 July 2007 01:01 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 42 ]
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I am generally pro-union.  I feel that working people (regardless of which workplace we are talking about) often need a way to collectively represent themselves in response to unfair treatment by corporations.

However, I have also seen the ugly side of unions.  In particular with Public Schools.

My daughter had a teacher that frequently made inappropriate remarks to girls in his class (including my daughter).  He was eventually removed from the position.  My daughter said it was for sexual harassment (which would make sense based on past behavior).  The school said it was for poor performance.

In accordance with Union rules he was allowed to substitute teach for the remainder of the school year.  My daughter was periodically subjected to his abuse over the course of the year, as he showed up in random classes as a substitute.  His behavior was worse than before, as he likely had reason to suspect my daughter as one who was complicit in his release.

So, although I generally support unions, like all things that are designed to achieve some balance, there needs to be constant vigilance, to ensure that no abuse is taking place.

As long as teachers feel they are fairly compensated, treated well and the students/parents feel that the teachers are doing a good job, union or not, the balance has been achieved.

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Posted: 23 July 2007 02:06 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 43 ]
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I consider myself as doing exactly what you’re suggesting liberals don’t do—fighting to place liberal values at the center of the charter school idea again. As well as discussing it here, I’ve raised the issue in a public forum at my daughter’s school, as well and having lengthy discussions about it with the principal, I’m involved as a parent in setting the priorities and agenda at our school. I’m not involved nationally because of other commitments, but I don’t see any reason why liberals in general, and unions, can’t be involved in setting the priorities for charter schools locally as well as contributing a counterbalancing voice to the natinal debate. You seem to suggest that the only legitimate response for the left is to abandon the concept and fight charters in every way. I disagree both for the reasons I’ve mentioned above, and also because it is a self-fulfilling prophecy that hands the field to the right.

As for the comment on unions, I agree that they are, like all human institutions, full of faults, and so while I do support them in many circumstances, I don’t think one can say that by definition a school without unionized teachers is a de facto right-wing indoctrination camp or inconsistent with liberal values.

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Posted: 23 July 2007 04:14 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 44 ]
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What I have seen is many liberal/progressives looking the other way and conveniently being unaware of much of what I’m pointing out. One example is the poster here who “didn’t know” that MSAT received $800 more per student per year than Novato’s non-charter high schools (at the expense of the students in those high schools) and “didn’t know” that MSAT had zero low-income students while Novato’s non-charter high schools served all the low-income students in NUSD.

It’s so much more comfortable to remain oblivious to those injustices when your family is benefiting from them. 

The family I mention with the Center for Education Reform bumper sticker “didn’t know” that CER is a far-right, anti-public-education organization closely linked with the Bush administration (which this family strongly dislikes). I know charter families who “didn’t know” that by not participating in the National School Lunch Program their charter school was keeping out low-income children, and who “didn’t know” their charter was serving far fewer special-ed and limited-English students than non-charter schools. A huge amount of convenient “not knowing” goes on with liberal/progressive charter-school families who otherwise COULD be working to make the charter movement a positive rather than a harmful force, a legitimate alternative within public education rather than a weapon wielded by privatizers.

If I saw charter-school families making a point of knowing these things and working for justice and fairness, rather than making a point of “not knowing,” I might have a different viewpoint. 

I don’t think it’s inherently evil not to be unionized, but the charter movement is very forcefully aimed at busting the teachers’ unions. THAT I think is evil. (Of course, many supposedly progressive charter parents “don’t know” that either.)

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Posted: 23 July 2007 08:44 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 45 ]
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Must be nice to live in that alternate reality where labels like progressive, liberal, right wing along with charter, public and private give you all you need to know in order to slam down harsh judgments on people and institutions of learning.

Too bad that the real world doesn’t work that way.

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