Thursday, March 12, 2009

The National Scene on a Local Scale

On March 6, the Oakland Tribune’s education reporter wrote about a performance pay award which had just been given to two Oakland charter schools by something called the “Effective Practice Incentive Community.” Teachers at Monarch Academy and Lighthouse Community Charter School received roughly $3,500 each. It was reported that the money came from the U.S. Department of Education’s Teacher Incentive Fund.

The article reminded readers that the Oakland Unified School District wrote a $19 million grant proposal in 2007 to get some money from that same DoE fund, but it did not win the grant. It said the Oakland teachers’ union refused to "sign on" because the money would have had performance-pay strings attached.

Being wary about how things are being manipulated these days, my antennae perked up when I read the words “Effective Practice Incentive Community.” This is just the type of lingo which today's public education destroyers tend to use for their initiatives.

In a press release from New Leaders for New Schools (NLNS), I learned that EPIC (Effective Practice Incentive Community) is “funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s Teacher Incentive Fund (TIF), school district and charter school partners, AND private philanthropic funders.” The Oakland Tribune reporter left out an important detail.

I haven’t yet researched who exactly those “private philanthropic funders” might be, but looking at the NLNS Board of Director members list reveals the usual edu-philanthro-manipulate-preneur billionaires and company:

  • Josh Bekenstein, Managing Director, Bain Capital, LLC
  • James A. Bell, Corporate President & Chief Financial Officer, The Boeing Company
  • John E. Deasy, Deputy Director, US Program, Education, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
  • Domenic Ferrante, Managing Director, Bain Capital, LLC
  • Libia Gil, Senior Fellow, American Institutes for Research
  • Kevin Hall (Board Observer), Chief Operating Officer, The Broad Foundation
  • Barbara Hyde, President, J.R. Hyde III Family Foundation
  • John King, Managing Director of Excellence & Preparatory Networks, Uncommon Schools; Founding Co-director, Roxbury Preparatory Charter School
  • Vanessa Kirsch, President and Founder, New Profit Inc.
  • S. Joshua Lewis (Board Chair), Founder & Managing Partner, Salmon River Capital
  • Sandra Licón (Board Observer), Policy Officer, US Program Advocacy, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
  • Lory Pilchik (Board Observer), Portfolio Director, US Education, Michael & Susan Dell Foundation
  • Jonathan Schnur, CEO & Co-Founder, New Leaders for New Schools
  • Naomi O. Seligman, Senior Partner, Ostriker von Simson, Inc.
  • James Shelton, Program Director, Education, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
  • Joanne Weiss, Partner and Chief Operating Officer, New Schools Venture Fund

The paths of these ultra-powerful people and their friends crisscross before the future of our nation's public education, again, and again, and again.

A February 14, 2005 press release from NSNL states:

“New Leaders for New Schools today announced they have formally selected the Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) as a partner district, and have also entered into a new partnership with the statewide California Charter Schools Association. These two major initiatives will have a great impact on education in the Bay Area and, over time, throughout California. This is first in a series of national New Leaders’ announcements throughout the country this month.

New Leaders also announced a major grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation which will support this work along with $200,000 from local funders, and $75,000 from the CA Charter Schools Association.”

It's been relatively recently that the billionaires, investors and businessmen have become so interested in getting involved with public education, and the "Why Now?" intrigues me. Their care and attention to the welfare of urban public school children could have been used many decades ago.

I posted my findings above in the article’s comments section of Katy Murphy’s blog. Today, I noticed that Jose, a regular comment-submitter to the online Education Report and a sharp, recent high school grad, had posted this simple question:


Why is Lighthouse Charter school getting money with such low academic scores on the state test?

So I thought I’d poke around some more. Here’s what I discovered in about three hours. (Remember the old days when news agencies were healthy and were likely to have a staff of investigative journalists who would try to get to the truth?)

If one goes to the Lighthouse Community Charter School website and looks at its board of directors’ page, they’ll notice that the president’s name is Brian Rogers. The SF Business Times reported in October 2006 that he was the executive director of the T. Gary Rogers Family Foundation. He was also the Oakland school board candidate who recently lost to Jody London.

Now, if one goes to the website of the National Center for Charitable Statistics and looks at the page for the Rogers Foundation, the Form 990’s (Return of Organization Exempt From Income Tax) – and the grants which have been awarded over the past several years – can be seen. The most recent tax return is for 2007, which summarizes the spending for the previous year.

In 2006, this foundation gave $50,000 to the California Charter Schools Association and $30,000 to New Leaders for New Schools. Remember the connections these organizations have to the EPIC award? The foundation also gave $25,000 to the Alliance for School Choice, the “nation’s premier nonprofit organization promoting school vouchers and scholarship tax credit programs.”

The T. Gary & Kathleen Rogers Family Foundation (Dreyer’s Ice Cream, etc.) has regularly given money to Aspire Public Schools, the charter management organization which sponsors Monarch Academy (the other recipient of the award). In addition, you’ll see that the Rogers Foundation gave Lighthouse Community Charter School $50,000 in 2006, 2005, and 2004, and $250,000 in 2003.

By the way, the Aspire Public Schools organization has a very strong charter school presence in Oakland. Its co-founders Don Shalvey and Reed Hastings (a $250,000 donor to O'Connell's campaign) organized a movement which led to the passage of the Charter Schools Act of 1998; this lifted the cap of the number of charter schools permitted in California. In addition to Monarch, Aspire also manages Wilson (Lionel) College Prep, Millsmont and Millsmont Secondary Academies, Berkley Maynard Academy, and California College Prep Academy.

In 2006, the Rogers Foundation gave Aspire $65,000 for Millsmont. It also gave them $30,000 in 2005 (for L. Wilson and Millsmont), and $25,000 in 2004 (for Monarch).

Other Oakland charter school direct beneficiaries of the foundation’s largess in 2006 include the EC Reems Academy of Technology and Arts ($10,000), Envision Academy ($10,000), Oakland KIPP Bridge College Prep ($20,000), Oakland School for the Arts ($10,000), and Oasis High School ($10,000). Adding Aspire and Lighthouse donations brings the grand total for direct charter school donations to $175,000 for 2006. Charter schools teach about 17% of OUSD’s kids.

The Rogers Foundation gives a lot of money away to a variety of schools, but not directly to many of the standard OUSD type, most certainly because few (or zero) people at the regular school sites have the gobs of time or know-how to write grants, nor are they correctly “connected.” That year the foundation, however, did give the Oakland Small Schools Foundation money for literacy programs at four sites: $10,000 for BIT/Castlemont, $20,000 for Think College Now Elementary, $10,000 for ASCEND, and $10,000 for EXCEL). They also gave $10,000 to Oakland Tech’s PTSA, $10,000 to Life Academy, and $5,000 to Sequoia. The total given directly to OUSD's non-charter schools was $75,000. Non-charter schools teach about 83% of OUSD’s kids.

The foundation also gives to organizations that connect with OUSD. In 2006, the Oakland Small Schools Foundation received $30,000 for “general support,” HEROES (OUSD’s now defunct volunteer office) got $10,000, and the Marcus A. Foster Educational Institute got $40,000 (for something listed as the "OUSD Board of Education project").

By the way, Brian Rogers was quite involved with "Expect Success!" when it was going strong. That’s the Oakland redesign “initiative” created by the Broad folks who were sent to OUSD by State Superintendent Jack that O’Connell in 2003. Remember how Eli Broad and friends gave O’Connell a bunch of campaign contributions?

Now just expand the scale of what’s going on in Oakland to the national scene.

I hope it's clear to you by now that the charter school pushers are a wealthy force with millions, I daresay billions, to spend on propaganda and their charter schools. Shiny baubles of “new and improved” are dangled before parents eyes, which makes the schools very tempting to them. Without having even yet opened their doors, the charter schools are made to appear to outshine the regular public schools.

These pushers have been planting charter schools for years now, targeting low-income communities of color and extracting the most educationally-engaged parents who live in them. Some people still think their only motive is to "help" the families in those communities, but if that was the case, why didn't these supposed do-gooders use their massive amounts of money and know-how to help the traditional public schools before now? Think of how many beneficial things they could have accomplished.

No, the primary purpose of this movement was never to "help" families and children; it was to gain control over a huge piece of the public pie. And if you're wondering about who will be running the schools of those communities in the future, sometime just take a look at the members on the boards of directors of both the charter schools – and of the extensive network of foundations which support them. It will give you the general idea.

Ultimately, elected school boards will no longer need to exist in cities like Oakland, there won't be any schools left for them to work for. The management of schools in urban areas – which are likely to be all charter before too much longer because there isn't much public awareness or resistance – will be done by boards of directors who are primarily members of the non-public-school-attending business-power-elite. And even though they will receive the public's money for their schools, the charter arrangement grants them a great deal of flexibility and they will not need to be accountable to anyone. They will do exactly whatever they wish.

And that will be the end of that.


Unknown said...

Thanks for all your work!!

Anonymous said...

Great work Sharon!

Anonymous said...

wow, what you don't know is a lot, but that doesn't dent your sense of scorn and superiority. Once again, charters are not trying to destroy public education, it is already a big mess! Oakland schools were AWFUL before charters and the state takeover happened, and they are BETTER now. Brian Rogers is a good person who wants to improve schools. Argue with his or his grantee approaches if you like, but all you know how to do is class war character assasination - if you're rich, you must be evil...bwha hah hah.

Unknown said...

Rich people tend to be more evil, yes!

caroline said...

Just FYI, A news story landed in my inbox about concerns about Aspire's East Palo Alto Charter school, so out of curiosity I went to look up the school's achievement. Hmm:

This school (or the district on behalf of the school) has concluded and reported to the California Department of Education that during the 2008 Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) testing an adult irregularity in testing procedure occurred at the school affecting 5 percent or more of pupils tested. Therefore, this school does not have a valid API for 2008.

Cheating much, Aspire folks?

Here's the news story:

The Perimeter Primate said...

People like Anonymous just don't appreciate the fact that I am offering people a look at facts which are totally public information. The interpersonal connections of charter school supporters is a dynamic which is certainly legitimate to reveal. So why do they feel threatened? Do these things need to be tucked away?

As far as I am concerned, the class warfare started when wealthy, powerful people started having private meetings with each other to plan and implement major changes to institutions of the People.

As for the people who want to blame the schools for low student achievement in the urban schools, their assignment from the Primate is to read the entire report by David Berliner(3/06), "Poverty and Potenial: Out-of-School Factors and School Success."

Anonymous said...

What is this power you are so afraid of having bestowed on these people who are trying to help our community? Your judgment shines through your presentation of "the facts" and reveals a distinct lack of appreciation for the funds donated by these people. Since when is learning from otherwise successful people such a bad thing?

The Perimeter Primate said...

Anonymous: As I posted on the NovoMetro piece this morning, I would not be this upset if a proposal for transforming our school district into a charter school district had been placed before the citizens of Oakland, and they had voted for it after a sufficient amount of informed discussion and debate. Something of this magnitude should have been a decision made by Oakland’s residents, after they had been made aware of the many long term implications (both pro and con) that this major change would mean.

But that was not how things were done. This was planned and implemented behind closed doors and was generated by a set of extraordinarily wealthy people, almost all of whom live somewhere other than Oakland, and none of whom use the public schools here. So I find it very odd that you charge me with paternalism.

No, this alteration to our city’s 156-year-old public school district was done by NOT informing the citizens about it, and then asking them to vote for their consent. It was the result of a district take-over, which was determined to keep public discussion completely blocked. Maybe the points and alternative views I’m trying to reveal are just making up for years of lost time; no one is used to hearing much opposition, are they?

Apparently, the charter school pushers feel they need an authoritarian situation to make things go their way, because they are doing the same thing in NYC and DC. Please tell me why are they so reluctant to let the general public decide about formally going down the-charter-school-road, or not, if everything about the schools they want are so great?

As the students at Roosevelt Middle School are learning, “Jefferson believed in the People. They can make good decisions when given enough information.” I just happen to believe this is the place where we need to return.

andrew said...

Budget Outlines Funding for Teacher Merit Pay Programs

By Maria Glod
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, May 7, 2009; 7:21 PM

President Obama is seeking to add hundreds of millions for teacher merit pay programs, an investment in a reform that has often drawn criticism from teachers unions.\

Comment posted to this story in the Washington Post.

Teacher pay has always been based on merit.

A teacher with more experience, more seniority, is paid more. A teacher who works a longer day, or sponsors a club, or coaches a team is paid a supplement. A teacher who gets an advanced degree or National Board Certification is paid more for it. It's merit pay that makes sense.

Every other merit pay scheme is advanced for the purpose of dividing teachers, undermining their unity and their unions, and preparing the ground for the destruction of the public schools and the abolition of universal public education in America.

The strangulation of the public schools was supposed to be financed by private money. That's the way in has been since the Business Roundtable's Education Summit in 1989 in Charlottesville, Virginia. But that effort has faltered with the collapse of the global economy. For instance, Bill Gates has lost over $18 billion of his personal fortune since last year. Many of the other well heeled public education attackers; Eli Broad, Micheal Dell, Donald Fisher, are under financial duress.

And so just like America's insolvent banks, the privatizers have turned to the Obama Administration and the US taxpayers now to finance their plan. And in the same manner the "zombie banks" are being transfused with hundreds of billions of the American people's money, the dimming dreams of the Business Roundtable are now on welfare.

Teachers have a lot of things to worry about these days but the actual intrusion of merit pay into the classroom and into their lives is way way down on the list. If ain't gonna happen.

The Perimeter Primate said...

Social Capitalists

Don Shalvey, Cofounder and CEO

Don Shalvey's founding of Aspire Public Schools in 1998 came on the heels of a 35-year career in California public education, first as a classroom teacher and administrator, spanning primary- through college-level education, then later as the superintendent of the San Carlos School District, a California district of 2,600 students and six elementary schools. Shalvey was an early pioneer of the charter-school movement, founding the first charter school in California (and the second in the nation). Shalvey holds an EdD in educational leadership and administration from the University of Southern California and a master's of education in counseling from Gonzaga University.