Louisiana’s Worthless Accountability Plan for Voucher Schools Wednesday, Jul 25 2012 

Louisiana State Superintendent John White

After all that fanfare about accountability, John White has crafted a completely worthless accountability plan for the voucher schools.  It’s  a shame that so many people on the BESE can’t read.  All but 2 Board members voted to support the plan.  Only members Lottie Beebe and Carolyn Hill voted to reject this plan and send White back to the drawing board to correct some of the concerns presented by various members of the public.

Worthless parts of the plan:

  • If a school has less than 10 students per grade, the students results will not be reported publicly
  • Unless the school has 10 participating  students per grade level taking tests  AND 40 students total voucher students in the school, the test results will not be reported
  • Schools will only be required to score above 50 on the Scholarship Cohort Index
  • John White can waive any provisions of the policy without seeking approval from BESE (Board of Elementary and Secondary Education) or the Legislature

This plan is problematic because it promotes  gaming the system.  The plan clearly says the schools will determine how many seats they will accept.   All a school has to do is enroll 9 students per grade or less than 40 students total.   John White said that this plan ensures that all schools are accountable.  However, based on the criteria released,  75% of the eligible voucher schools will not fall under the guidelines of the accountability plan crafted by John White.

Over the past 4 years the Combined results for the voucher schools in the pilot program have had between 52-72% of it’s students fail to reach basic on the iLEAP and LEAP tests.  What’s the purpose of a pilot if you ignore the results and expand the program even though it’s proven to be a failure?

The first stated purpose in the plan is “a common standard for student performance across the system of traditional public, charter public, and non public schools.”  However, the plan as adopted completely ignores that purpose.  Students in voucher schools will NOT be retained as public school students in 4th and 8th grades if they fail the LEAP test.  Public schools are given a letter grade of A, B, C, D, or F, but voucher schools will NOT receive a letter grade.  The State Superintendent can’t waive any part of the accountability system for public school, but he can waive any provision in the accountability plan for voucher schools.  Another purpose of the adopted plan is to uphold the public trust when public funds are involved.   Clearly the accountability plan presented makes a mockery of the public trust.

Choice as a Red Herring Friday, Jun 22 2012 

There’s so much talk about “choice” as a strategy in public education reform. This rhetoric distracts us from the real barriers to educating ALL children. The push for school choice at any cost is very destructive to the most vulnerable children, and it leads to the destruction our democracy. Public education serves a real purpose for the common good, just like police protection and fire protection. As neighborhood residents concerned about crime, we don’t buy private patrols in lieu of public police protection for all. We buy private patrols in addition to public police protection. Private patrols and private schools are private choices and should be funded PRIVATELY. When individual choice makes education funding inadequate for children whose parents are unable to choose for them, society will suffer, so does the child.

Let us not be fooled by “choice” as the great equalizer in improving public education. We must stop the reform rhetoric and move towards REAL reform.

Privatize!! Privatize? Tuesday, Nov 1 2011 

Let nothing in this world evade Jindal’s plan to steer business to his cronies

Federal grant writers, and those who review the applications, rely on obscure language when applications are written and when terminated.  The current rescinding of an $80 million grant to Louisiana is a case in point.

The original grant approval was based upon Louisiana’s agreement to bring high-speed Broadband to universities, K-12 schools, hospitals, libraries and other hubs in unserved and underserved areas of Louisiana.  The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Agency awarded a grant for a project that proposed to construct 900 miles of new fiber-optic  infrastructure.  The new network would have connected with the Louisiana Optical Network Initiative, a more than 1,600 mile network connecting Louisiana and Mississippi to a national network.

A year after the state began the project NOAA, with $5.3 million of the initial $15 million in state funds and $431,747 in federal funds already spent, the State took control and changed the entire plan to rent rights-of-use from commercial providers.  Problem is that there are no commercial providers to provide the services required, no 900 miles of fiber-optic and few commercial providers willing to invest $90 million to do so.  Shades of the Tennessee Valley Authority in the 1930s when most farm and rural town families could get no electricity from existing electrical generating stations whose management believed it would take too long to recover the investment cost.

The federal rescission document includes in its reasoning  the “…response outlines a solutions-based procurement approach that leaves key determinants to be provided by entities responding to its IRU (Indefeasible rights of use) RFP (Request for Proposals) and therefore does not provide the details required.”  The withdrawal of grant letter also notes that the state “does not include information related to the methodology used for revenue projections related to fiber leases…”

If this sounds familiar one might remember how the administration unlocked the door to immeasurable riches by uncapping the number of charter schools allowable, or by granting charters to for-profit virtual schools that will make at least $1,500 profit on every student taken from traditional or other bricks-and-mortar charter schools.

The underlying assumption is that private interests will ALWAYS perform better than any government effort.

One might be caused to wonder how Lafayette Academy, in New Orleans, was forced to recover half of the $750,000 paid to for-profit education manager Mosaica by going to court to prove the company failed to perform.  Or how Baton Rouge’s 100 Black Men were forced to fire for-profit Edison Learning when that company said it needed another $1 million to meet teacher payroll before the school year ended, and the end result was the schools they ran performed worse on state tests than did the prior school board.

Anything that lets private business interests into reap a harvest of state or federal tax collected funds is allowable.  The Governor’s Office of Risk Management was working just fine and costing the state budget but $1.4 million a year.  All of government was self-insured and the program operating efficiently.  But, privatization brought a company that was to be paid up to $68 million over five years.  That, after six months, was judged not to be sufficient so the price tag was raised to $75 million.  At that point a company in Ohio (that was not the low bidder) bought the Louisiana-based company.  We don’t know what the sales price was, but adding that $7 million in contract had to help justify the cost.  Then the Ohio company realized it could come out even better financially if it sold itself to a company across the Pacific in India.

Then of course there is the much fought over move by the Jindal administration to sell out four prisons.  The legislature raised sufficient havoc with that proposal that the Governor postponed action.  The fact that the federal government is charged more, by one of Jindal’s chosen buyers, to operate its Oakdale prison than it costs to operate any of the four state-run prisons is apparently not relevant.

The same kind of initiative was tried in the effort to sell the Office of Group Benefits which successfully runs, on less than 3% of premiums, the health insurance coverage for state and local employees and state retirees.  The low cost, plus the build-up of $500 million in reserve that is dedicated by the State Constitution for the purpose of insuring employee coverage are testimony to the soundness of the agency.  Yet, the administration still harbors the intent of selling it out.

Perhaps it is interesting to note that the Jindal administration could not get its act together to take the offered $60 million in pre-K grants, but when the recently passed TOPA constitutional amendment freed up $80 of the general fund appropriation no thought was given to using the additional cash for the 56,000 eligible LA4 children.  Instead Gov. Jindal urges that it be put into the kitty to lay fallow until some company comes along and needs to be lured to set up shop in Louisiana.

This is a guest blog by:

Don Whitinghill


New Orleans: Beachhead for Corporate Takeover of Public Schools Friday, Oct 28 2011 

New Orleans

The national media consensus is that New Orleans has discovered the miracle cure for urban education.  Their conclusion is largely drawn from data provided by the Louisiana Department of Education, which obviously has a vested interest in emphasizing the good and ignoring the bad in the post-Katrina education changes.  New Orleans is important in the national education debate, but not for the reasons we commonly hear; it is important because it is the beachhead for a national movement to remove schools from local democratic control and accountability.  The privatization trade-off is that the public sacrifices control of schools for a privatized system that delivers better education for the same tax dollar.  While the citizens of New Orleans certainly lost control of their schools, it cannot be said that they have received a better education, if that also means an equitable education, nor can it be said that it came at the same cost.

The corporate education forces that advocate a free-market business model have developed a “beachhead” strategy in New Orleans.  Taking advantage of the evacuation of 90% of the population after Katrina, they set in motion educational changes that bypassed the elected school board and destroyed virtually all local democracy and accountability.  They hoped to use New Orleans as a showcase for a model school system they could imposed throughout the nation; one based on privatizing public schools into charter schools and shifting dependence from veteran teachers to temporary and inexperienced Teach For America (TFA) recruits.

At the heart of the beachhead strategy was a quiet policy of subsidizing select charter schools to provide them with additional instructional resources and incentives to ensure increases in high-stakes test scores.  But the flaw in the subsidy system was that the showcase model “successful schools” could not possibly be replicated on existing revenues throughout the district let alone throughout the nation.  The corporations and foundations had only enough funds to bankroll a display system in one city—not in 50,000 schools nationwide.

From the outside, it appeared that the charters and TFA have “done more with less” when in fact—if they did more at all—it was through massive subsidies from the state, corporations, and foundations, all largely concealed from the public.

The funds to prop up test scores at all the state-controlled schools and charters rolled in by the millions after the state takeover of most of New Orleans schools.  In a state that never spent much on public education, suddenly the takeover superintendent was given a blank check; he promptly doubled the expenditure per student.  Teacher salaries were increased 50% in three years; the Broad foundation gave one KIPP school $150,000 to pay students up to $50 a week to behave (it worked: Angelina Jolie toured the school and remarked on how well behaved the students were).  One charter school spent twice per pupil as the state funding formula by using corporate and foundation subsides.  In-kind subsidies flowed into the charters: AmeriCorps volunteers were used as teachers although they were classified as tutors; Konica-Minolta annually handed out $180,000 in private high school scholarships at one KIPP school ensuring that it would attract hundreds of applicants to cherry-pick from; Bill Gates made a $3 million grant to plan charters and train charter CEOs and the U.S. Department of Education recently awarded $33.6 million to develop more charter schools in Louisiana

The outcome was a handful of showcase charter schools that the corporate reform advocates market as the norm.  It was crucial for the corporate education reformers that New Orleans school privatization appear to succeed at all costs.  Still, a dual school system emerged of privileged charters for a few and the vast majority of students in struggling schools. The new education system was like a Ponzi scheme: great profits were returned to a few at first, but in the end, the architects of the system could not sustain the flow of benefits to the majority.  This month the state released a new grading system that gave a “D” or “F” to 83% of the state-controlled schools in New Orleans.

Why would Gates and Broad and Duncan promote a deeply flawed and unequal subsidized system as a national model?  Because privatizing education is primarily about shifting education from the public to the private sector, and especially removing control of public education from urban Black governance.  The New Orleans Times-Picayune reported that, John White, the new Superintendent of the state-takeover schools, “declared the old model of elected school board in urban districts to be a failed idea.”  Urban, is this case, means minority-controlled.

One of the lessons of New Orleans is that once the schools are privatized, they are never returned to local public control.  The worse, chronically failing charters have simply been given to another charter operator.  Although the state legislature in 2005 promised to return the seized schools once they were brought up to standard, that promise was broken in 2008 when the law was quietly changed to allow the state superintendent to put conditions on the return of the schools.  Those conditions in effect guaranteed that schools would not be returned.  New Orleans is a case study in the misuse of the original concept of charter schools which were intended to provide autonomy to create replicable innovations at the same cost to tax payers; the charter movement was hijacked by the free-marketers who simply wanted control of education and the profits that come with that.  Instead of serving the students with the greatest needs, showcase charters boost test scores by discriminating against special needs students and recruiting high-skills students and using special disciplinary policies to force out low-performing students.

The public can’t be blamed for the skewed view of the New Orleans education changes.   The first year that post-Katrina promotional test scores were published by the local Times-Picayune, the paper published only the top charter school scores. They did not publish the scores of the “dumping schools” within these charter networks where, in one case, 93% of the students failed the 4th grade LEAP promotional test.

New Orleans is at the center of the national debate on education because it was forced to trade democratic control of education for the illusory benefits of increased efficiency and lower costs—the promise that privatization always makes.  The danger is that rest of the nation will forsake its local control of schools in exchange for the same illusion.  In the end, the charter and on-line schools will make billions and leave the public with schools that perform at the same level but cost more as foundation and corporate subsidies disappear.   It’s a classic bait-and-switch game played on a financially stressed nation searching for low-cost solutions to high-cost problems.

New Orleans is not, as charter advocates would have us believe and Louisiana charter law mandates, an ”experiment,” in which methods are scientifically tested and bad ideas are discarded:  to the contrary, it is a carefully planned, ideologically-driven corporate takeover of public education that ignores its failures and emphasizes marketing over evidence-based science. The free market has no problem selling products that don’t work as long as they turn a profit.

Hurricane Katrina was the perfect storm for the corporate education movement: No democracy, no unions, and a goal of 100% privatization of all public schools.   It is no mystery why they chose New Orleans as their beachhead.


Guest Blog by:

Lance Hill, Ph.D.

Southern Institute for Education and Research

Poverty Skyrockets in New Orleans: 65% of Black Children Under Age of Five Living in Poverty Monday, Oct 17 2011 

Guest Blog:                                                                                                                                                  Original date  October 17, 2011

On September 22, 2011, the Census Bureau released information from their 2010 annual American Community Survey based on a poll of 2,500 people in New Orleans.  Not surprisingly, the report was ignored by the local mainstream media since it speaks volumes about the inequality of the Katrina recovery.  Despite the billions in post-Katrina federal dollars for building schools, streets and bridges, and homes, the New Orleans poverty rate has actually increased back to the highest level since 1999.  The survey revealed that 27% of New Orleans adults now live in poverty and 42% of children.  

This recent development reverses the temporary decline in poverty rates reported in 2007 and 2008 surveys when the poverty rate was nearly cut in half compared to pre-Katrina numbers.  Those early declines in poverty were probably the result of large numbers of low-income African Americans who could not afford to return or lacked housing and employment.  The new spike in poverty, despite the increase in overall education levels in the city, signals that blacks are not sharing equally in the employment benefits of recovery dollars.  Indeed, the city may be creating a new generation of chronically unemployed poor who were previously part of the low-wage working poor.

When President George Bush waived the prevailing wage provisions of the Davis-Bacon Act following Katrina, he provided employers with a financial incentive to hire low-wage outside temporary workers.  State contracts to rebuild storm-damaged schools have provided little employment for black storm victims.  The new rise in poverty can be attributed in part to the exclusion of local blacks from recovery jobs, including rebuilding school facilities and school operations.  It is self-defeating to attempt to solve the long-term public education problems while children and their parents are pushed deeper into poverty by unfair education agency employment and contracting policies.

Separating out the numbers by race shows a profound and growing racial inequality.  While the overall adult poverty rate is 27%, black poverty is nearly double the white poverty rate: 34% compared to 14%.  The child poverty rate of black children under the age of five is an appalling 65%, compared to less than 1% for whites. The Census Bureau data indicate that there are 9,649 black children under the age of five living in poverty in New Orleans in contrast to only 203 white children.

But what is truly stunningly is that the survey reveals that that while there are several thousand African American males ages 12 to 15 years old living in poverty, the survey could not find a single white male in the same age bracket in poverty.

With all the triumphal rhetoric of New Orleans as a city rising from the dead, the Census Bureau data offers the harsh truth that that some have risen while others have fallen.  We act at our own peril if we ignore these troubling developments; the problems of education and youth crime and violence cannot be solved as long as local blacks are unfairly deprived the economic benefits of  recovery jobs and contracts.

Sources:  Racial breakout data from U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey 2010 1-year Estimates (Fact Finder files); for general non-racial 1999 and 2007 data, Greater New Orleans Community Data Center which used Census Bureau reports, Numbers Talk Newsletter September 26, 2011. For Census Bureau fact-sheets on New Orleans income by race in 2010, see http://bitly.com/x1J1Be for black income and http://bitly.com/wbqhxP for white income.  For GNODC report see http://bitly.com/oiN39S


Lance Hill, Ph.D.
Executive Director
Southern Institute for Education and Research
Tulane University

Re-posted 1/26.2012

The Deception of the “Lottery” at Lycee Francais and Audubon Schools The Misuse of Charter Schools — Part II Wednesday, Oct 5 2011 

Research on Reforms, Inc.
October 2011                                                                                                                Dr. Barbara Ferguson and Karran Harper Royal

Charter schools are tuition-free, independently-operated public schools that admit students based on a lottery if more apply than can be accommodated. However, the lottery is skewed at Lycee Francais de la Nouvelle-Orleans Charter School and Audubon Charter School, each located in uptown New Orleans. Lycee Francais’ pre-kindergarten children, whose parents pay $4,570 tuition, are able to re-enroll into the tuition-free kindergarten, skipping any lottery. At Audubon, children whose parents pay $9,050 for a private pre-kindergarten, enter Tier 1 of the lottery and enroll first into the tuition-free kindergarten. Charter schools are to be open and accessible to all children. Skewing the lottery in favor of children whose parents are able to pay for pre-kindergarten is a misuse of the charter school concept.

To read the entire article, please go to: http://ResearchOnReforms.org/html/documents/DeceptionoftheLottery.pdf

Does Hurricane Katrina Have an Effect on Post-K Children? Saturday, Aug 27 2011 

The premise of this story is that the disaster of Hurricane Katrina was the weather event and that 5-year old children are unaffected today. Not surprisingly they use the example of an uptown resident who now works for the RSD. But for the 118,000 blacks who never made it back, and the tens of thousands who could never find affordable housing or work, the Katrina disaster never stopped and its emotional impact on children is as strong as ever; the same is true for those who did return only to encounter a second disaster in healthcare, housing, employment, and political dispossession.  It is inconceivable that the emotional trauma and stress on parents does not affect children; that the child does not know the origins of their own emotional stress does not mean they are unaffected.

In many ways this is a “white blind spot” story that reflects how journalism is one version of reality constructed through the eyes and experiences of the author. This points out that even the way we define disaster is colored by race and class in ways that ignore the fate of those victimized by more than wind and water.


Lance Hill, Ph.D.

Note:  This is a guest blog post from Dr. Lance Hill.  As we all watch the east coast prepare to for Hurricane Irene, we can’t help but to reflect on our own activities 6 years ago this weekend.  The story referenced in Dr. Hill’s post is particularly painful to be because I know that many of the children who are in Kindergarten now, are definitely experiencing the negative effects of  the changes made in our school system after Katrina.   We all are affected and will be for a long time to come.   We will talk about how many of our children are affected by the changes to New Orleans Public Schools after Katrina at our press conference on Monday, August 29th at 5:30 PM.  The press conference will take place in front of John Mc Donogh Senior High School, 2426 Esplanade Ave.

Broken Promises: New Orleans Public School Reform Thursday, Aug 25 2011 

Students, teachers, parents, community members and the press are invited to join the John McDonogh Alumni Association, Parents Across America NOLA, the Downtown Neighborhood Improvement Association, and the Esplanade Ridge/Treme Civic Association in front of John McDonogh High School, 2426 Esplanade Avenue, at 5:30 PM on August 29, 2011 to commemorate the sixth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, to review the state of public education in New Orleans six years later, and to set a course to save our schools.

Taking the fate of John McDonogh Senior High as an example of the failed policies and broken promises of the Recovery School District, advocates for children, teachers and community schools will gather to pray and to demonstrate our investment in our children and our schools.  We will be asking hard questions about the ways charter schools have negatively affected our children and about the scandals and failures of charter schools and RSD-run schools.  Together we will assert our right to a democratic voice in how schools are rebuilt, what schools are rebuilt, and who runs the schools in our communities.

We will look at the betrayal of public trust in the past six years as the RSD has held community meetings, promised public engagement and then disregarded the wishes of parents and stake-holders again and again.  We will examine the false choices that the school district has offered parents and children and the way school choice has divided schools from their communities and from parental oversight and involvement.  We will condemn the political influence, waste and lack of foresight that has characterized the rebuilding and renovations of schools thus far and demand a fair, equitable and transparent process going forward.  We will expose RSD’s deliberate and systematic neglect of certain schools to justify takeover and closure.  We will stand up to save John McDonogh and all of our schools from autocratic decisions made by unelected, out-of-touch and out-of-town administrators.

Please join with us on Monday, August 29, 2011 at 5:30 PM in front of John McDonogh High School to advocate for the right of every New Orleans public school child to real recovery, real reform, real improvement and real choice in their schools.

The Political Theatrics of False Community Engagement: Who’s Playing Whom in Education Downtown? Thursday, Jul 28 2011 

At a recent education summit at the healing Center on Saint Claude Avenue, Ms. Karran Harper Royal, an educational advocate, spoke frankly about the false community engagement that has become the norm in the post-Katrina educational reform environment and the battles between public schools controlled by the Recovery School District (RSD) and Orleans Parish School Board (OPSB).  She was critical of public forums that were simply staged to check off the community engagement box while closed-door decisions had already been made concerning what neighborhood was going to get what school.
She addressed the frustrations of false processes that have exhausted many communities across the city, where they have been told that their engagement was crucial to the decision-making procedure for schools in their neighborhoods—only to learn that a charter model not of their choice was moving in.  For community members in attendance from the St. Roch, Marigny, and Bywater neighborhoods, her comments could not have been more sobering.  Many concerned families in these three historic neighborhoods have been struggling with the RSD over what charter model was going into the Colton School Building, which is under reconstruction.
Describing the actual rebuilding at Colton a “renovation” is a stretch.  Sadly, the historic building is undergoing a destruction process, and it has been literally stripped to an empty concrete shell of its once regal redbrick imposing and historical characteristics.  I live two blocks from Colton on Saint Claude Avenue, and it breaks my heart everyday I pass the destruction site.  However, that’s another story altogether.
This story continues with another educational gathering concerning the Colton site and the corporate-for-profit educational behemoth know as KIPP, whose acronym stands for Knowledge is Power Program.  Apparently, KIPP is not only all-powerful but also all-knowing of the future to come because it blatantly claims the Colton facility on its web site as its own—as a done deal.  The flyer distributed at its recent Monday, July 25th meeting, where the new RSD Superintendent Mr. John White spoke, claims it again.  It literally states “Colton will house KIPP New Orleans Leadership Academy and Primary (KNOLA), temporarily operating in the Frederick Douglass Building (alongside KIPP Renaissance High School) in 2012.  At KIPP, we believe that communities and schools are partners in serving children.”
It continues, “Altogether, families living near Colton are choosing a KIPP education, making the voice of the community clear: KIPP operates schools that the people in the neighborhood want.”  It looks like the KIPP Corporate leadership team forgot to tell that to Mr. White, who clearly stated that before making a decision on Colton, he was also open to hearing from a neighborhood group that was creating their own charter.  He candidly opened by saying, “I think in the past my organization has not always done the best job of being transparent.”  He expressed “deep regrets” about questionable decision making processes that have affected neighborhood families and their children.  Quite convincingly, he portrayed himself as a leader committed to hearing all sides before making any decisions on what school gets what facility.
So who is playing whom here?  Was Mr. White putting on a public show, and did he not see the flier that KIPP distributed to all who entered the Douglass Building presentation hall?  Was this just another episode of false community engagement?  For all his seemingly genuine talk about listening to all sides from the community at large, and after more than half an hour of numerous orchestrated testimonials from KIPP parents proclaiming how great the school was for their children, Mr. White finished by saying that he was open to hearing from other community members in attendance, but that only three minutes were left.
Mr. White’s charismatic and candid approach had me convinced he was a new breed of RSD leader, but when he left all of three minutes for anyone else to question KIPP or him, it was obvious that the community was being played.  Unfortunately, it became even more apparent when I asked a critical question about whether KIPP hires novice non-union teachers who are unprepared, and in doing so have helped to cripple the African American Teachers’ Union in New Orleans.  I asked a direct hard question because these are hard times.  Our children’s future demand hard questions about who is properly prepared to take on the monumental responsibility of educating them.
Mr. White’s mood turned.  His lips became pursed, and he was dismissive of my question by simply asking the KIPP crowd, “Do you have good teachers here?”  They roared a resounding yes.  It was expected like an eerily orchestrated event, where questioning the all-mighty KIPP was not part of the community engagement process.  I continued with my line of questioning and referred to an article in the American Independent, which quoted a Southern Poverty Law Center study about many charters’ suspect security measures.  KIPP was the biggest culprit with draconian punishment of their students written into their guidebook.
Mr. White responded abruptly, “You are bringing politics into an environment that’s about kids and parents, and it’s an unfortunate occurrence.”  Dismissively, he looked away and ended the three-minutes for the community to ask questions.  He made a political choice to shut down any line of questioning that challenged KIPP, whose educational practices he applauded time and time again during his ample time professing his more “transparent” strategy to hear all sides of the educational debate.
How is it not a political struggle when the article I referenced is from a section called “State Politics in Context,” and the renowned SPLC, whose Civil Rights and social justice practices are about challenging the bad politics that affect people of color?  The RSD itself is a state governance agency from Baton Rouge, and its making political decisions on education reform in New Orleans post-Katrina.  The questions were concerned with accountability of a corporate charter that is awarded millions in public funds generated by the taxes collected from homeowners like myself.  Mr. White’s job is to develop just policies on what charters get what facilities.  It sounds like politics, but it is looking more like the same dubious politics that we, the people, have struggled with since the RSD took control of our neighborhood schools.
Colton is two blocks away from the home I own with my wife and two little boys, and the KIPP corporate charter model is not the type of school I want in my neighborhood.  The taxes I pay will go to support them, whether I want them or not.  The families in the immediate area of Colton envision a different charter model, one dramatically in contrast to KIPP and the offensive presumptuous that “all people in the neighborhood” have chosen them.  The KIPP propaganda flyer is attached.  Read for yourselves and forward it to Mr. White.  Post it on your face book accounts and distribute it to your own cyber communities.
We are being played all over again.  This is not a time for civility.  This is a time for outrage.  This is a time to demand that policy makers like Mr. White give us more than three minutes and the theatrical politics of public lip service as part of more false community engagement.
Ashé y adelante gente!
José Torres-Tama
ArteFuturo Productions
New Orleans, LA 70117
“Make art that matters!”
This is a guest blog from a gentleman I met at a community meeting last week.   I am very pleased to have inspired Mr. Torres-Tama to write this piece.   This is exactly the kind of community push back that we need  to truly reform our public education system.  We can’t allow “Fake Community Involvement”  to go unchecked.
Thank you very much Mr. Torres-Tama

Abramson Scandal Proves Democracy is the Only Solution Friday, Jul 22 2011 

A recent story on the Abramson Charter school scandal highlighted a fired state education official’s recommendations of better oversight of charters. I think it is safe to assume that the anti-democracy privatizers will spin this scandal into an argument for a special appointed board to oversee charters. We have to be anticipate and refute that argument before it takes hold.

If anything, the Abramson scandal demonstrates how appointed oversight officials are not effective and cannot ensure quality education and safe schools. Their credibility and position is dependent on presenting a public image of success and integrity for the pro-charter special interest groups. The “charter czar” concept has proved to be a failure in terms of transparency and oversight, and any appointed “privy council” will fail for the same reasons. Only locally elected officials are accountable to the public that pays for and uses public education. Unlike appointed officials and boards, elected officials can be recalled or replaced by the public. In New Orleans, the only solution to charter corruption and inequality is to return oversight to the Orleans Parish School Board which has already proven to be a self-correcting institution.

Democracy has produced it’s share of failures, but before Katrina, allegations like the ones against Abramson would have immediately been known to the parents and the board. The cure for democracy’s flaws is more democracy.

Failure is the only outcome of appointed officials charged with regulating privatized organizations that regard regulation as a violation of free market principles. That is why it has taken outside organizations like Southern Poverty Law Center, Research on Reforms, The American Independent, and other media to make public the abuses of the charter system. That these organizations did what the appointed officials would not do is the best argument for local board control.

Finally, we need to end the practice of charters firing teachers at-will (without cause). Without a union, teachers fear reporting charter mismanagement, corruption, abuses and even alleged rapes. Absent union protections, we need state laws to protect teachers from retaliatory firings for simply criticizing charter management and practices. The charters want to fire teacher at-will because they believe any government regulation encroaches on their market prerogatives. It is impossible to have transparency in public education if teachers don’t have the right to speak their minds and act according to their conscience without fear of reprisals.

The notion that the elected government, and only the elected government, has the common good as it’s responsibility and mission needs to be made crystal clear. Market–driven organizations, be they for-profit or non-profit, are guided by the bottom line and the financial survival instinct–not the welfare of our children or the desire for equitable education opportunities.
Guest Blog Post by:
Lance Hill, Ph.d.
Follow Dr. Hill on Twitter @LanceHill2011

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