Category Archives: Charter Schools

Chicago: Charter Schools Suspend and Expel Minority Students at Extremely High Rates

Privatization transfers public funds, assets, and authority from the public sector to the private sector. This typically erodes the voice of workers, increases corruption, lowers accountability, raises costs, fragments services, undermines flexibility, diminishes transparency, reduces efficiency, decreases the quality of services, and intensifies inequality.

By removing socially-produced value from the economy and further concentrating it in the hands of private competing interests, privatization ultimately harms the economy, undermines the national interest, and enriches a handful of people at the expense of the public. The public would benefit vastly more if the wealth produced by workers stayed in the hands of workers and in the public purse. Socially-produced wealth could then be used to serve the common good. For its part, the United Nations reminds us that privatization violates human rights and devalues the public interest.

While practically every sector is being rapidly privatized at home and abroad, privately-operated charter schools are the main expression of privatization in the sphere of education in the U.S. These outsourced privatized schools siphon billions of dollars a year from public schools and seize many public school assets and facilities for next to nothing. In this connection, every week the news is filled with stories about corruption, fraud, and arrests in the crisis-prone charter school sector. Thousands of such stories can be found at the Network for Public Education.

Even though they are called “public schools of choice open to all,” privately-operated charter schools are notorious for routinely cherry-picking students through a variety of mechanisms, including suspending and expelling poor and low-income black and brown students at extremely high rates, including kindergarteners. It is well-documented that privately-operated charter schools intensify segregation and few are truly diverse (see here, here, and here). The charter school sector is more segregated than the public school sector. New York City, for example, is home to some of the most intensely segregated charter schools in the nation (see here and here). It is also worth noting that all charter schools in the U.S. are run by unelected individuals, generally employ fewer experienced teachers than public schools, and regularly perform poorly. In addition, charter schools tend to pay teachers less than their public school counterparts and hire fewer nurses than public schools.

Chicago is home to more than 100 privately-operated charter schools but it is not the only city in America full of charter schools that suspend and expel poor and low-income black and brown students at much higher rates than public schools. 1 For example, Legal Prep Charter Academy, “which is about 99% Black, issued 190 out-of-school suspensions during the 2019-2020 school year. Community organizers and students say the harsh discipline tactics make students less engaged with school and feel unwanted.” This means that Legal Prep Charter Academy, “suspended students at a higher rate than any other school in Chicago.” The school also “issued 13 expulsions during the 2019-2020 school year, meaning almost one out of every 20 students was expelled.” Not surprisingly, Legal Prep Charter Academy is in legal trouble on other fronts as well. In the U.S., “no-excuses” charter schools have come under heavy criticism over the years for their harsh consequences, antisocial policies, and authoritarian practices.

Even during the height of the covid pandemic:

the [Chicago] district’s charters issued an average of 130 suspensions per 1,000 students. (Students can be suspended multiple times). That rate is nearly five times that of non-charter schools in Chicago, according to new analysis of disciplinary data obtained online from the Illinois State Board of Education and Chicago Public Schools. (emphasis added)

According to the same source, expulsions have been going on for years:

Of the schools in Chicago issuing the highest number of expulsions in 2019-2020, eight of the top 10 schools were charter schools, according to data from the Illinois State Board of Education. In 2018-2019, all 10 were charters. Legal Prep was on both of those lists.

To be sure, charter school suspensions and expulsions is a long-standing national problem. Charter schools do not accept or retain all students. Many students pushed out of charter schools return to their home public school.2 Chalkbeat noted in 2015 that New York City charter schools also suspended students at a much higher rate than the city’s public schools. On a national scale, a 2016 study by The Civil Rights Project at UCLA found that charter schools suspended a range of students at higher rates than public schools. The report, which examined more than 5,000 charter schools across the country, also stressed the intensely segregated nature of charter schools. It is well-known that students who are suspended and expelled at high rates are more likely to become part of the school-to-prison pipeline.

Unlike privately-operated charter schools, public schools accept all students at all times and have far fewer suspensions and expulsions; they are not as heavy-handed as charter schools. Charter schools are deregulated schools, which means that they are exempt from many public standards, laws, and rules. Deregulation is a key feature of the privatization agenda of neoliberals. This “autonomy” and “freedom” allows charter schools to engage in punitive practices in the name of “innovation” and “high expectations.” In practice, privatization incentivizes both nonprofit and for-profit charter schools to cherry-pick students, cut corners, and underinvest. Privatization does the same in other sectors as well, resulting in a lowering of the level of society and the economy.

Despite efforts to reduce extremely high suspension and expulsion rates, charter schools in Chicago and elsewhere are not known for vigorously embracing sustained pro-social improvements, let alone on a broad and rapid scale. They cannot do so because they operate mainly as profit-maximizing private enterprises, regardless of whether they are classified as nonprofit or for-profit schools. Profit maximization and human social responsibilities like education do not go together; they negate each other. The notion that the broad aim of the public can be reconciled and harmonized with the narrow aim of owners of capital is straightforward disinformation; they are contradictory aims.

Many have publicly stated that cashing in on kids is immoral and self-serving. In theory and practice, justice cannot be upheld or restored in entities set up to operate on the basis of individualism, consumerism, competition, the “free market,” and exclusionary practices. Privatization is designed for profit, not equity or justice. Privatization fosters exclusion and a hierarchy of rights, not the opposite. In legal, philosophical, operational, and other ways, charter schools are set up very differently from public schools. It is problematic to even compare them or to call charter schools public schools. Charter schools and public schools are apples and oranges.

A modern public education system in a society based on mass industrial production can and must be world-class, fully-funded, inclusive, universal, non-punitive, publicly controlled, and never allowed to fall into the hands of private interests. Owners of capital have no legitimate claim to public funds, assets, or enterprises because these all belong to the public and are meant to serve the common good, not the narrow aim of profit maximization.

There are roughly 100,000 public schools and approximately 7,500 privately-operated charter schools in the United States. Around 3.4 million students attend charter schools and about 50 million youth—90% of students—attend public schools. Roughly 150-250 charter schools close every year due to financial malfeasance, mismanagement, or poor academic performance, leaving many poor and low-income minority families out in the cold. Despite the oft-repeated promise of better results for students and schools, about 5,000 charter schools have closed in the U.S. over the course of nearly 31 years.

  1. It is critical to appreciate (1) that charter schools in Chicago came about by closing dozens of public schools in the city and that (2) the closure of public schools in mainly Black communities has caused harm on many levels (see here).
  2. It is important to appreciate that charter schools choose parents and students, not the other way around.
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Elusive Transparency In Charter Schools

Even though they make up less than 7% of all schools in the U.S., every year hundreds of news articles highlight the persistent lack of transparency and accountability in the crisis-prone charter school sector.

Even worse, everyone is under pressure to stand passively on the sidelines and watch as these outsourced privatized schools, which siphon billions of dollars a year from public schools, operate with impunity.

Nearly 31 years after they first appeared in the U.S., privately-operated charter schools remain immune to pro-social reform and are plagued by endless problems. Ceaseless reports from the mainstream press and the alternative press on the lack of charter school transparency and accountability have not translated into meaningful and lasting reforms. Governments at all levels have failed to defend the public interest and reign in charter schools. More charter schools equal less money, fewer facilities, and diminished authority for the public schools that educate 90% of the nation’s youth. Far from solving any problems, school privatization has created new problems and exacerbated existing ones.

Chalkbeat recently reported that Some Newark charter schools fail to fully comply with transparency rules. In reality more than just “Some Newark charter schools fail to fully comply with transparency rules.” Every state with charter schools has many charter schools, not just “some,” that abdicate basic responsibilities. And if past experience is any indication, accountability and transparency will remain elusive in the charter school sector for years to come.

One of the main ways charter schools in New Jersey and elsewhere evade openness and honesty is by not informing parents or the community about certain meetings and events even though open-meeting laws require such public announcements in a timely fashion. This is one of the many ways privately-operated charter schools differ from public schools even though they are called public schools. Privately-operated charter schools are frequently not open or forthright about their activities and leave the public out of the equation. Many charter schools in Newark and elsewhere do not even post updated and recent meeting minutes on their website. Chalkbeat reports that:

Shannon Francis Esannason, whose son is in eighth grade at one of the group’s [charter] schools [in Newark], said she had no idea the board met last week. The meeting was not advertised on the school’s Facebook page, Instagram account, or calendar, and Francis Esannason said she did not receive an email notice. “They don’t invite us to the meetings,” she said. “It would be nice to know what’s going on.

New Jersey law requires charter schools to post “board meeting minutes online and releasing agendas at least 48 hours before public meetings.” In a review of numerous charter school websites, Chalkbeat found that:

many Newark charter schools had not posted the agendas or minutes of recent board meetings. By contrast, Newark’s traditional school district publishes detailed meeting agendas and minutes online, as well as videos of every board meeting.

When Chalkbeat reviewed the websites of Newark’s 17 charter schools it discovered many problems with transparency and information accuracy. Here is a short list:

  • only two schools had posted agendas for their most recent board meetings
  • 12 schools had not posted meeting minutes since November or before
  • nine schools did not appear to post any meeting agendas

Chalkbeat stresses that:

Charter schools’ failure to keep the public informed about their board proceedings is significant, as more than a third of Newark’s public school students attended charter schools last year and $300 million, or 28% of the district’s budget this school year, will go to charter school students.

Julia Sass Rubin, a Rutgers University professor who has studied New Jersey charter schools, asserts that, “Whenever public money is involved, I think you expect to have a high level of transparency. If there’s no transparency, it’s very difficult to have effective oversight.” For his part, David Sciarra, executive director of the Education Law Center, points out that the state education department in New Jersey “does not always fulfill its duty to monitor charter schools’ compliance with the law.” This lack of charter school oversight and accountability is certainly not unique to New Jersey, it permeates the whole charter school sector; many states overlook or ignore violations in the charter school sector.

At the end of the day, funneling enormous sums of public money away from public schools and into the hands of private interests that run nontransparent charter schools is a serious violation of the public interest.

In this context, it is worth recalling that, unlike public schools, none of the nation’s roughly 7,500 privately-operated charter schools is run by a publicly elected school board and about 90% have no teacher unions. On average, charter schools also hire fewer nurses and more inexperienced teachers than public schools. It is also important to appreciate that New Jersey’s charter schools intensify segregation. Further, in 2020, investigative reporters at North Jersey Record updated an extremely detailed multi-part report on widespread fraud, waste, corruption, lies, and mismanagement in New Jersey charter schools.  Again, such problems and crimes are not unique to charter schools in New Jersey, they plague the entire crisis-prone charter school sector coast to coast.

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Governor Of New York Promotes School Privatization

Public and private refer to two different things. Public and private are antonyms. Public refers to everyone, the common good, non-rivalry, inclusion, broad accessibility, transparency, and more. Private means that something is not for everyone, it is not for the common good, it is exclusive. Private can also mean confidential, secret, off the record, or privileged. Neoliberals regularly blur the critical distinction between public and private for self-serving reasons.

One of the key features of privatization is that it shifts money and authority away from the public sector and into the hands of narrow private interests. In this way, privatization restricts and weakens the public while enriching and empowering narrow private interests. This is often done under the veneer of high ideals to fool the gullible. It is presented as a good thing, as a “win-win” for everyone. This disinformation is best captured in the notion of public-private “partnerships.”

In two major pro-privatization moves, Governor Kathy Hochul of New York State recently announced that more public funds will be funneled to privately-operated charter schools in New York City. She also empowered the Mayor of New York City to continue to exercise mayoral control of New York City schools for four more years. Eric Adams, a retired police officer, became the mayor of New York City on January 1, 2022.

Hochul nonchalantly repeated worn-out pretexts for sending more public money to privately-operated charter schools. This included throwing around words like “innovate” and “educational options,” which are straight out of the school privatization neoliberal playbook. Hochul seems to be unaware of the extensive research on the many problems in the crisis-prone charter school sector, as well as all the serious problems associated with government takeovers of public school systems.

Thousands of students, teachers, parents, and education advocates in New York City and across New York State more broadly have been opposing charter schools and mayoral control of public schools for years. Their efforts and determination are relentless. The public does not support more anti-democratic arrangements and the gutting of public schools to enrich narrow private interests.

Research and experience show that government takeovers of public school districts generally make everything worse. Their main benefit is for the rich who use mayoral control to restrict democracy and engage in neoliberal restructuring of public schools in the name of “improving schools,” which usually means creating more charter schools. For their part, charter schools, which are intensely segregated in New York City, have wreaked havoc on public schools while enriching major owners of capital. No amount of disinformation about increasing charter schools “to give parents choices” can cover up these harsh realities.

Even more disturbing is the prospect of Governor Hochul raising the cap (limit) on the number of privately-operated charter schools than can operate in New York City. This will further degrade everything while funneling more public money into private hands. It will not serve public schools and the public interest in any way.

Currently, there are about 270 privately-operated charter schools in New York City. The cap on charter schools in the City has been frozen for several years. Statewide, the charter school cap is set at 460. New York State passed its charter school law in 1998.

For extensive data on poor academic performance in charter schools across the country, see Thousands of Charter Schools Perform Poorly (2019) and Widespread Poor Performance Persists in Charter Schools (2019). It should also be noted that many charter schools have inflated student waiting lists, which makes it look like charter schools are in greater demand than they actually are.

School privatization in its many forms is a top-down neoliberal strategy, not a grass-roots pro-social phenomenon. The main way to improve education in New York City is to stop the flow of all public funds to charter schools and return control of public schools to the public. Private interests have no valid or legitimate claim to public funds, facilities, or authority.

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Persistent Discriminatory Enrollment Practices In Charter Schools

Privately-operated charter schools are notorious for consistently under-enrolling different groups of students, even though they are ostensibly public schools that are said to be tuition-free and open to all. Few charter schools have a truly diverse student body.

Students with special needs, English language learners, and homeless students are the three main groups of regularly under-represented students in charter schools. Students who are “poor test takers” and students who have “behavior problems” are also frequently excluded from charter schools, leaving charter schools with a reputation for intensifying segregation. In Los Angeles, California, for example, privately-operated charter schools “suspended black students at almost three times the rate of traditional schools; students with disabilities were suspended at nearly four times the non-charter school rate.” Suspensions and expulsions are two key ways these unregulated schools cherry-pick their students.

To this day, 30 years after they first appeared in the U.S., there remains no effective mechanism to hold these outsourced privatized schools accountable in a meaningful way, even though they collectively receive billions of public dollars every year and are routinely mired in scandal, corruption, and controversy.

The most recent example of dozens of charter schools cherry-picking students comes from Colorado. On January 13, 2022, Chalkbeat carried an article titled  “Colorado: Charter school applications can’t ask about disability“. The article states that:

Colorado charter schools will no longer be able to ask on their applications whether students require special education services. The rule change brings Colorado into compliance with federal rules issued more than five years ago. It was approved unanimously by the State Board of Education Wednesday. Charter schools will also have to make it clear on their websites that they don’t discriminate and train employees to accurately answer questions about admissions policies in ways that don’t deter the families of students with special needs, including those with disabilities and those learning English.

Nearly 30 Colorado charter schools illegally “asked questions about disability status on their applications.” It comes as no surprise that Colorado charter schools under-enrolled these students “at a lower rate than the state average — and at a lower rate than charter schools in most other states.”

According to the Colorado Department of Education, there were more than 260 charter schools in Colorado serving students in the 2019-2020 school year. The state does not have a cap on the number of charter schools allowed. Nor does it set enrollment limits for virtual charter schools. Further, both nonprofit and for-profit companies may apply to open a charter school in Colorado.

The rise and expansion of charter schools across the country has degraded the overall level of education in society while enriching a handful of people.

The post Persistent Discriminatory Enrollment Practices In Charter Schools first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Persistent Discriminatory Enrollment Practices In Charter Schools

Privately-operated charter schools are notorious for consistently under-enrolling different groups of students, even though they are ostensibly public schools that are said to be tuition-free and open to all. Few charter schools have a truly diverse student body.

Students with special needs, English language learners, and homeless students are the three main groups of regularly under-represented students in charter schools. Students who are “poor test takers” and students who have “behavior problems” are also frequently excluded from charter schools, leaving charter schools with a reputation for intensifying segregation. In Los Angeles, California, for example, privately-operated charter schools “suspended black students at almost three times the rate of traditional schools; students with disabilities were suspended at nearly four times the non-charter school rate.” Suspensions and expulsions are two key ways these unregulated schools cherry-pick their students.

To this day, 30 years after they first appeared in the U.S., there remains no effective mechanism to hold these outsourced privatized schools accountable in a meaningful way, even though they collectively receive billions of public dollars every year and are routinely mired in scandal, corruption, and controversy.

The most recent example of dozens of charter schools cherry-picking students comes from Colorado. On January 13, 2022, Chalkbeat carried an article titled  “Colorado: Charter school applications can’t ask about disability“. The article states that:

Colorado charter schools will no longer be able to ask on their applications whether students require special education services. The rule change brings Colorado into compliance with federal rules issued more than five years ago. It was approved unanimously by the State Board of Education Wednesday. Charter schools will also have to make it clear on their websites that they don’t discriminate and train employees to accurately answer questions about admissions policies in ways that don’t deter the families of students with special needs, including those with disabilities and those learning English.

Nearly 30 Colorado charter schools illegally “asked questions about disability status on their applications.” It comes as no surprise that Colorado charter schools under-enrolled these students “at a lower rate than the state average — and at a lower rate than charter schools in most other states.”

According to the Colorado Department of Education, there were more than 260 charter schools in Colorado serving students in the 2019-2020 school year. The state does not have a cap on the number of charter schools allowed. Nor does it set enrollment limits for virtual charter schools. Further, both nonprofit and for-profit companies may apply to open a charter school in Colorado.

The rise and expansion of charter schools across the country has degraded the overall level of education in society while enriching a handful of people.

The post Persistent Discriminatory Enrollment Practices In Charter Schools first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Poor Working Conditions Widespread In Charter Schools

About 3.5 million students currently attend roughly 7,400 privately-operated charter schools in the U.S. This represents around 7% of all students and 7% of all schools in the country. Unlike public schools, all charter schools are run by unelected individuals.

Approximately 90% of these outsourced privatized schools have no teacher unions. The vast majority of charter school teachers have no collective organization or unified voice that represents and defends their legitimate and valid interests. As a general rule, the overwhelming majority of charter school owners and operators work overtime to block teachers from forming unions and having greater control over their working conditions. Further, most state laws on charter schools are written in a way to undermine the formation of teacher unions in charter schools. In this way, privately-operated charter schools are set up to undermine the ability of workers to embrace their social responsibility to resist poor working conditions.

Nonetheless, to their credit, over the past 30 years many bold teachers in numerous privately-operated charter schools across the country have successfully fought back against marginalization, poor pay, poor working conditions, and burnout by organizing their peers to form a union so that they can collectively affirm their rights and better serve their students. Unions negate a fend-for-yourself ethos and recognize that an injury to one is an injury to all. Unionized workers typically have higher levels of compensation, better benefits, and greater security than non-unionized workers.1

Charter school owners and operators repeatedly insist that their “innovative,” “flexible,” “autonomous,” “independent,” “market” character is a strength that purportedly allows them to hire the best teachers and provide the best education arrangements and results possible. But teacher turnover in nonprofit and for-profit charter schools is very high. By far, the main reasons teachers leave charter schools are poor management, poor pay, poor benefits, and poor working conditions.2 Teacher retention remains a problem in many charter schools, which is why countless charter schools regularly hire uncertified and inexperienced teachers. Some states with charter school laws do not even require teachers to be certified or licensed.

On January 7, 2022, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that:

Teaching staff at Carmen Schools of Science and Technology — a group of six charter schools in Milwaukee [Wisconsin]— are attempting to unionize, and CEO Jennifer Lopez says she won’t stand in their way. If successful, organizers believe they will be the first to unionize an independent charter school in Wisconsin.

Given the well-established opposition to teacher unions by charter school owners and operators, CEO Lopez’s assertion that “she won’t stand” in the way of teachers forming a union needs to be taken with a grain of salt. Does Lopez have a trick up her sleeve? Does she think the union drive is too powerful to stop? Does she believe that mis-rendering the issue of unionization as “an individual decision” will blunt the drive to form a union? Neoliberal forces routinely use language like forming a union should be a “fully informed, personal choice” to create space for disinforming workers and blocking unionization efforts. Regardless, union “organizers are asking the nearly 200 teachers, social workers and specialists of Carmen Schools to sign union authorization cards.” And in all likelihood, the majority will.

One of the most basic and revealing demands of teachers is for better pay and workloads capped at 40 hours a week. This last point is particularly significant because many, if not most, nonprofit and for-profit charter schools have longer school days and school years than public schools, and they generally pay their teachers noticeably less than their public school counterparts. In addition, longer school days and years do not generally translate into improved academic achievement. More time in school does not necessarily produce more learning and achievement. Every year, numerous charter schools from coast to coast fail and close due to poor academic performance. Many others perform poorly for years but are not closed. So much for “market accountability.”

Pointing to other long-standing problems in Carmen Charter Schools, teachers are also demanding that teachers and students have a greater say in decision-making. Workplaces characterized by top-down exclusionary decision-making processes—a key feature of neoliberal managerialism—are never a good place to work. It is one of the main reasons workers leave their job. “Input” and “consultation” are not the same as real decision-making power, which all workers have a right to. The absence of a real say in things naturally leaves a bad taste in the mouths of workers. “I see so many passionate, dedicated, and excellent Carmen staff come and go,” Carmen Southeast High School teacher Leland Pan said in a news release. A main union organizer highlighted “massive, concerning turnover” as a major reason for fighting for a union. High teacher turnover rates undermine stability, collegiality, continuity, and learning, not to mention the ability to form a union. What parent wants to send their kid to a school where teachers are constantly coming and going?

It is important to stress that the just struggle of workers in Carmen Charter Schools is the result of poor working conditions that characterize much of the crisis-prone charter school sector. Thousands of workers in nonprofit and for-profit charter schools across the country are disempowered and have no meaningful say in their own working conditions. The conditions in Carmen Charter Schools in Wisconsin are not unique. Instability and anarchy are widespread.

The only way for workers to improve their lives and the success of their students is by joining together to fight for their rights. No one else is going to fight for their rights. It is an illusion to think that neoliberals and privatizers exist to affirm the rights of workers, which is why neoliberals and privatizers spend a lot of time promoting “feel-good” rhetoric but routinely engage in anti-social policies and practices in real life.

  1. For extensive information on the many benefits of unions, see the work of the Economic Policy Institute.
  2. 5,000 privately-operated charter schools have closed since their inception in 1991, leaving many poor and low-income minority families disillusioned and out in the cold. The three main reasons for frequent charter school closures are financial malfeasance, mismanagement, and poor academic performance. See: “5,000 Charter Schools Closed in 30 Years,” September 18th, 2021,
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Twenty Years of Teaching Science in Public School Down the Covid Drain

These are snooping, snitching, massive canceling, censorious times.

I just talked with a friend who is in San Francisco who has been working hard as a science teacher. He has opened up the curriculum, has worked to be in his school’s union and he has just gotten married. That’s 55, now, and he has to step down from teaching since the school teacher mandates for California are going into effect January 4 or thereabouts.

He might be against mandates because a mandate is oppressive, a dead-end to critical thinking, critical engagement. The mandates, the masking, the social distancing, the forced PCR tests, the constant fear-fear-fear. He sees what this has done to teaching, teachers, students and staff.

But the cat is out of the bag, because the National Union and his state union all are on the same sheet of Moderna-Pfizer-Fauci music. For a science nerd, someone who ended up in physics at Harvard, who has undertaken teaching high school students science, including physics, well having a one size fits all formula,  without a scientific robust challenge to any theory, sticks in his craw.

Criminalizing thought, that’s what this Planned Pandemic is about: no pushback. We have talked, and I have been the liberal arts dude, with some notion that critical thinking can only be gained from liberal arts within the system of education. STEM is fine, but not in a vacuum. How we got here, today, how we are products of the history of everything.

Here, Hedges and Lowkey, and I am not sure of Hedges’ position on the vaccination mandates, and Lowkey, well, who knows. But the interview is powerful in that both talk about the prison industrial complex, and about education, and about deep thinking, truly. Literacy beyond being a serf of the ruling class and the warehouse employment class system.

Education as a key component of resistence.  Resistence and pushing back on the corporate, elite paradigms. And some of those elites and oppressive paradigms are in academe/academia.

The discussion of topics in science is also something we talked about, how there are off-limits discussion, and we talked about how teachers in the old days, if they were valuable and valiant and honorable and truly mentors, that they were honored. That students and parents looked at teachers as guides, as facilitators of inquiry, learning. Showing the stepping stones to life-long learning. As elements in the pathway from youth to participatory democracy. Giving an open hand to youth as a place of dissident thinking.

But the pressure from this gentleman’s school district, the union, the honchos, is to vax up, mask up, and booster up. Schools, where the least vulnerable are being forced to take not one, not two, but many shots in this grand experiment of the SARS-MERS-CoV2-DARPA kind.

As if refusing to get a vaccination, when he is healthy, and capable of doing his own health screens at home. Imagine, how much the landscape of the Delta, Omicron and now Omega-crons have changed. How it is now a cold, or where oh where do the variants go? The seesaw, yo-yo, 180-degree turnaround of the science. Follow the science.

And he is not going to be forced to vax. And, his 20 years teaching in public school is now ended. i am not sure how much he gets from the 20 year “pension/retirement,” but he states it’s like collecting his unemployment. He has just taken a job at a very very small school.

Charter school, a tuition free charter school covering 7th and 8th grades. Two hundred students. Mostly African-American and Latinx youth. And, my friend says, right now, there is a don’t ask, don’t tell approach to Corona Madness.

You know, no mask mandates, but option. No tracking of health records. No mandates for jabs.

Yet. This is December 30, 2021. The courts have ruled against workers, and the mandates for businesses in places like WA, OR and CA are about to go wide and far. So, he is now ending his public education career.

Newly married, my friend is thinking that he is only biding his time. That the charter school, private, with parents and youth, BIPOC, and in liberal (sic) San Fran-Oakland area will be subject to the mandates.

He thought he’d be retiring at 62 with a semi-decent pension. He doesn’t want to leave the Bay area because he has to. He knows the clock is ticking. He talks of creating a pod of other like-minded teachers to open up a free school. Tutoring.

He knows that I look at things asymetrically. That the reality is this is a universal vaccination, testing, digital dashboard (health, banking, jobs, education, purchases, etc)  future. You can’t get a job without being a member of the test-shot-record-big data frame. No subsidized housing without test-shot-record-big data. Proof of life, test-shot-record-big data frame, for your college course. This proof of compliance, test-shot-record-big data frame, for getting health insurance. Move this test-shot-record-big data frame to car insurance, even getting a driver’s license. Social seruit? Proof of this test-shot-record-big data cohersion compliance.

And, what if these smart students ask my smart friend, their teacher, about virus research, about big tech, about the politics of climate change, and, well, about other things that might go contrary to the test-shot-record-big data frame of things? Questioning any number of paradigms and theories and cultural expectations and prejudices and blind spots? And, these youth, many want to know what they should do after high school. How many will go from a charter school to a public school? How will they navigate mandates? And, what about what to major in if they go to college? Would all those years of school, from age 6 to 22, or to 24 or 28, be worth it? What is the value of things now and what about the future?

We talked about how young people this age want answers, want leaders, want direction, demand options and want to work with alternative solutions to today’s problems, and we know today’s supposed solutions will be problems of tomorrow.

Even questions about climate change, globalization, and where this CoV2 came from. Lab experiment gone bad? Intentional outbreak? These youth are smart.

Elaine DeWar

These kids want answers, and they want to rumble in the jungle, truly, with smart teachers willing to take risks, willing to lead.  Yet, we are in sniping times. We are in superficial thinking times. Black v. White times.

So where oh where do we go with teaching, and now, Charter Schools, and that is one messed up economic and education and investment model in most cases — Dissident Voice, Shawgi Tell!

He talked about getting farther away from urban centers, into red counties, red states, as a way to insulate himself from the inevitable. He is a Marxist, and that has been his huge disappointment — how the left has abandoned questioning authority, science, elites, agendas, mass media, propaganda, prevailing commercial interests, and more!

Of course, we could be dealing with Ayotzinapa, and the Mexican oligarchs and narcos and others hating these rural normal colleges where young people go to learn how to teach in order to teach youth and communities  how to stand up to the powers. Resistance. Worker rights. Land rights!

Mexico: Documentary looks at lives of 43 missing Ayotzinapa students — A documentary will premier this week at Mexico City’s Cineteca Nacional on the lives of the 43 missing Ayotzinapa students. Filmmaker Rafael Rangel says that the full-length documentary, “A Day in Ayotzinapa 43”, featuring first hand accounts of the events and interviews with classmates and family members of the disappeared students, aims to boost awareness of another reality of Mexico that often remains hidden from the broader public.

The petition, which already has more than 1,650 signatures, aims to ensure that the "truth prevails" and that respect is shown to the "memory of the fallen, the injured ... the parents, mothers, sons, daughters, wives, brothers, sisters, friends, colleagues, and for all those who were directly or indirectly affected by that tragic night." EFE/File

So it goes — we can always find other people’s realities much more dramatically harsh than our own. And, teachers get these shots for other things, and, well, there is so much swirling around about how the bat virus got to this highly infectious state, who had the blood and feces of people who got infected almost a decade ago, who was funding the gain of function research. So so much, here, rightly set straight into a world of skepticism.

But, all of them in on it — the vaccination paranoia is real, and the stories, well, we are in a time of shut down, zero critical thinking, echo chambers, and this is a military propaganda campaign.

How many more shots are we to take now that we are in this Virus World?

Here, Sonia Shah, who I interviewed several times in person in Spokane on the stage and in my radio studio. We are talking January 2020. This is a time capsule moment, since so much has changed in two years:

The number of coronavirus cases has overtaken that of the 2003 SARS epidemic. Officials and scientists are racing to track the path of the virus and develop a vaccine. Twenty-two countries have reported finding people sickened with the virus. The WHO has announced a “public health emergency of international concern.”

We’re in a relatively new era of infectious disease outbreak, said prominent science journalist Sonia Shah. Diseases are sequenced faster and tracked more accurately than ever before – but they also arise more frequently, as humankind and nature collide often and with greater intensity.

Shah knows her way around infectious disease outbreaks – along with the public health, epidemiology, and social consequences surrounding them. She’s the author of the 2010 book The Fever: How Malaria Has Ruled Humankind for 500,000 Years, along with 2016’s Pandemic: Tracking Contagions from Cholera to Ebola and Beyond.

She sat down with Direct Relief this week to talk about the likely scope of the coronavirus outbreak, the public health response – and the potential impacts.

Direct Relief: Your book, Pandemic, is a look at the major contagious disease outbreaks of modern history, including Ebola, MERS, and SARS. Considering what you’ve seen so far, how does the new coronavirus outbreak compare to other infectious disease outbreaks – in transmission, scope, or public perception?

Shah: It’s obviously one that’s causing a lot of alarm, and there’s been a very vigorous public health response, so in some ways that makes it unusual. There are a lot of outbreaks of a disease where you don’t see a big public health response, so I think that’s actually a positive.

China is doing a lot to contain it. And I think you can debate whether all those measures are worthwhile or not, but there’s no lack of attention to this outbreak.

Direct Relief: How are the epidemics of modern history different from those of, say, the 1918 Spanish influenza pandemic? Why are there more frequent disease outbreaks, and what are the challenges of fighting them in the modern world?

Shah: About 60% of these new pathogens that we’re seeing, that have come out in the last 50 years or so, they derive from the bodies of animals. About 70% of those derive from the bodies of wild animals.

And that’s because people and wild animals are coming into novel, intimate contact. That allows the microbes that live in their bodies to cross over into our bodies.

Ebola, Zika virus, SARS, West Nile virus – there are any number of novel pathogens that have emerged in the past few decades that come from the bodies of animals.

Animals and people are coming into new kinds of contact because of a variety of reasons, the biggest one being that we are essentially destroying so much wildlife habitat.

What that means is a lot of animals are going extinct, but the ones that remain have to crowd into ever-tightening little patches of habitat that we leave for them. That’s more frequently not in some distant, intact forest. Instead, it’s our farms and gardens and our towns and cities.

Direct Relief: Are we better at fighting infectious disease over the past couple of decades?

Shah: I think there are some ways in which we’re getting better. The fact that we had a diagnostic for this new coronavirus so fast, that’s amazing, and that means that you can track it.

I think in terms of scientific collaboration, discovery of how these pathogens work, diagnostics, and genotyping, those are happening a lot faster now as the technology gets better. We just have so much more knowledge.

But then I think there are valid questions to be asked about whether we’re using that knowledge effectively. Just because we can know that this novel coronavirus is causing this pneumonia – not some other pathogen – is that actually helping us to contain it, or not?

I don’t think we know the answer to that question yet, and we won’t for some years, until after this whole thing blows over and we have time to analyze how it went down.

We saw this in Haiti with the cholera outbreak after the [2010] earthquake. Cell phones were relatively new at the time and it was possible for people to map how cholera was spreading just based on cell phone data.

They could see, “OK, it’s coming down this road, it’s going to be going down this trucking route, it’s probably going to lead to this village in the next week or two.”

All of that…was amazing, scientifically, but it didn’t actually help anyone prevent cholera from breaking out. We knew it was coming, but it happened anyway.

Direct Relief: Why do you think this virus has inspired such a media frenzy and such widespread fear?

Shah: I think there are some good reasons. One is that it’s similar to SARS – it’s a coronavirus, like SARS – and we know that SARS was very virulent and it spread pretty well and it got pretty far. It got to dozens of countries really rapidly and killed 800 people, and this virus is in the same family.

That said, it’s a pretty big family. There are some coronaviruses that are very mild and some that are very virulent, so just the fact that it’s in that family of viruses doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s going to kill a lot of people.

And I think the other good reason is that it’s respiratory. There isn’t a lot of evidence that we know how to control the spread of respiratory illnesses. Seasonal flus every year take out hundreds of thousands of people.

We try. We have vaccines, we tell people to wash their hands, we tell people to stay home when they’re sick. Do they make any headway at all? It’s hard to know. With the huge scale of flu every year, it would be hard to argue that those measures actually work.

Direct Relief: If coronavirus continues to spread into a pandemic on the level of SARS, what are the likely long-term economic and social impacts?

Shah: There’s going to be huge economic fallout from this. It’s only just starting. SARS had a huge economic impact, and that wasn’t nearly as widespread as this thing will probably be. China is clamping down on its trade routes and travel routes. How do you function in a global economy without China? We don’t know.

All of these outbreaks, when they go global, just show us again and again how interconnected we are, and how much we really rely on each other for all of our essential services.

Direct Relief: Why do you say it’s going to be bigger than SARS?

Shah: Well, because it’s only just starting. New outbreaks are being seeded right now. We know 5 million people left Wuhan before the travel restrictions were put into place, and that’s a lot of people.

Each of those people could seed new outbreaks if they are carrying the virus, and I think we’re seeing the first signs of that.

It appears to be carried by people who are non-symptomatic. That means it’s going to be really hard to contain it. I don’t think we’re anywhere near the peak or end of this thing. If it goes on on the current trajectory it’s going to be bigger than SARS.

[The virus is] not necessarily more deadly. It always seems more virulent at the beginning, because all you see are the worst cases. So as we get more information, it will probably become clear to us that it’s less virulent than we originally thought, but that doesn’t mean it can’t have a huge toll.

Because if something’s really catchy, even if it’s only slightly more deadly than a regular flu or respiratory illness that we’re used to, a lot of people can get sick and can die.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

Science, and science journalists. Interesting — “The Coronavirus in Context: A Q&A with Sonia Shah, Author of Pandemic

 

Sonia Shah delivering a TEDMED talk. (Photo courtesy of Sonia Shah)

How does my friend field questions from youth who are on the Internet, who are on social media and the dark web and so on? How does the world shape up with all these curriculum controls, when at times, our times seem chaotic, and fearful? Youth are directionless. Attacked by Democrats and Republicans.

Biggest issues with youth is “the GAD” — generalized anxiety disorder. Big problems with the dirty water, dirty air, polluted food, contaminated oceans and repulsive airwaves and entertainment rackets.

My friend is on his journey, and he is fighting for his small family’s survival. This is not what many of us thought would play out in our lives in our 50s and 60s, but in reality Western Lives/Western Culture/Western Privilege has come at a price — all those billions of people we have stolen futures from. Capitalism. Rapacious consumerism. Rapacious tourism. Wars, war machines, subjugation by proxy.

From 10 years ago — Haeder and Real Change News, Seattle!

Drawing on Plato and Malcom X, West said the death process is part of real education — paideia — a concept developed by Socrates that means deep, critical thinking.

It is the antithesis of contemporary culture: “The problem in American society is we are a culture of death-denying, death-dodging… a joyless culture where pleasure-seeking replaces what it means to be human.”

Fresh from a trip to Occupy Seattle earlier in the day, West praised the movement, which he said represents “a deep democratic awakening where people are finding the courage to find their voice.”

Greed has corroded society, he said.

“Market moralities and mentalities — fueled by economic imperatives to make a profit at nearly any cost — yield unprecedented levels of loneliness, isolation and sadness. Our public life lies in shambles, shot through with icy cynicism and paralyzing pessimism. To put it bluntly, beneath the record-breaking stock markets on Wall Street and bipartisan budget-balancing deals in the White House, lurk ominous clouds of despair across this nation.”

West said that in this age of fear, economic instability and employment challenges, young people must learn “to have a love of wisdom, love of your neighbors and love of justice.”

Such love, embedded in our cultural and social justice traditions, is powerful, he said.

“That Coltrane love, that subversive love. It’s there in the Occupy Wall Street movement. … When it’s organized and mobilized, love is a threat.”

Alas, privatizing schools, for investment and control, especially children, BIPOC, to militarize and technotize their minds, is the goal. Check out this site: Network for Public Education!

And, here, again, Alison McDowell, on monetizing poverty, struggle, students, for not just social control, but Internet of Bodies control.

The post Twenty Years of Teaching Science in Public School Down the Covid Drain first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Charter School Corruption Will Increase In 2022

While corruption and fraud have been widespread and relentless in the charter school sector for several decades, both appear to be increasing with each passing year.1  The year 2022 promises to bring even more corruption and scandal to this crisis-prone sector that is rapidly undermining public schools and lowering the level of education in society.

As the economy continues to decline, as democracy and accountability further deteriorate, and as the private profit motive remains center-stage, major owners of capital will become more desperate, reckless, and greedy in their quest for profits. They will become more emboldened to dictate affairs with even greater force and impunity. In many states powerful forces behind privately-operated charter schools are increasingly using the state to create new non-public entities or mechanisms that can quickly and unilaterally override democratic decisions made by mayors, voters, or elected bodies such as public school boards when they reject charter school applications or decide to close a corrupt or failing charter school. If they do not like a decision rendered by elected public officials, or even a judge, the rich and their representatives will rapidly circumvent it or overrule it no matter how damaging or unconstitutional such a decision is. Neoliberals and privatizers will not tolerate any democratic pro-social decisions that interfere with their antisocial aim to create more pay-the-rich schemes like privately-operated charter schools, which is why charter schools are continually multiplying despite more and more damning and indicting evidence against them. Major owners of capital are determined to preserve their class privilege and have no interest in a modern public education system. To fool the gullible, they will continue to over-promise and under-deliver.

In this context, it is more critical to expose and oppose school privatization, while also stepping up efforts to defend public education and the public interest.

A useful tool in this regard is the newly-improved Charter School Scandals website organized by the Network for Public Education. The public can use the website to obtain more granular state-by-state information about various crimes and scandals in the charter school sector. While the updated site contains links to endless old and recent news articles exposing different crimes and scandals in nonprofit and for-profit charter schools coast to coast, it does not come close to collating all the disturbing news on charter schools, partly because a lot of bad news on charter schools never even makes it to the news. Suffice it to say, probably no other sector or institution in society comes close to having the volume of corruption and fraud found in the charter school sector, which does not even make up 7% of schools in the country.

To be sure, more individuals and organizations will take on the social responsibility of opposing charter schools in 2022 because social consciousness of long-standing problems in the charter school sector is increasing and more people are realizing that neoliberals and privatizers are driven by maximizing profit with greater avarice and impunity. The fact that privatization increases corruption and violates the public trust is not lost on many.

There is an alternative to school privatization and the suppression of the public interest by narrow private interests. People can and must create spaces to discuss all the affairs that concern them. They can represent themselves and put forward their own views and demands on what is needed to advance education and society. No one is under any obligation to accept any of the retrogressive ideas and arrangements embraced by the rich and their entourage. The crisis in education and society cannot be overcome by further privileging private interests over the public interest.

  1. For endless reports and articles documenting charter school corruption in detail, search for “charter school corruption” here.
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Will Charter Schools Improve Education in France?

Charter by definition means contract, a legally binding agreement between two or more parties to do or not do something within a specified period of time. Typically, contracts also enshrine a set of rewards and punishments.

Contracts are the quintessential market category. They govern how relations work in the marketplace and ensure exchange relations occupy center-stage in contemporary capitalist societies. Contracts are a key mechanism used often to outsource and privatize public services, programs, and enterprises. Contracting, especially in the neoliberal period, is a way to expand the claims of private interests on public funds, assets, and authority while restricting the claims of the public to public funds, assets, and authority.

Charter schools are contract schools. They are outsourced privatized schools that use public money that belongs to public schools.1  Charter schools are not public schools in the proper sense of the word. In the U.S., for example, charter schools differ dramatically from public schools. Among other things, charter schools are run by unelected individuals, cannot levy taxes, are not state agencies, oppose unions, frequently hire many uncertified teachers, spend a lot on advertising, are exempt from numerous public laws, and are often run openly as for-profit entities. They also have a very high failure rate: five thousand charter schools have closed since their inception in 1991.2 Financial malfeasance, mismanagement, and poor academic performance are the three most common reasons nonprofit and for-profit charter schools close regularly in the U.S., leaving many minority families out in the cold.

The relentless pressure of the law of the falling rate of profit is forcing major owners of capital in more countries to use the state to establish and expand privately-operated charter schools as a way to counteract the inescapable decline in the rate and mass of profit. Owners of capital see the public education budget as a large pool of money they can seize in the context of a continually failing economy.

Presently, the U.S. is home to the largest number of charter schools in the world, with about 7,400 privately-operated nonprofit and for-profit charter schools strewn across the country. Only about half a dozen other countries have privately-operated charter schools and none have close to the number of charter schools found in the U.S.

France, a major European country, is now considering establishing privately-operated charter schools. Unlike the U.S., France has long enshrined the claim to public education in its constitution. Unlike many constitutions, the U.S. constitution does not even contain the word education in it. For 60 years, however, France has also funneled enormous sums of public money to private Catholic schools so long as these schools hire state-certified teachers and use the national curriculum. “About 15 percent of France’s primary and secondary schools fall into this category,” says the National Center for the Study of Privatization in Education.

Valérie Pécresse is presently the candidate of the Republicans for France’s presidential election in April 2022. She is described as the first woman nominated by the Republicans as a presidential candidate. The New York Times reports that Pécresse, 54, is “the current leader of the Paris region and a former national minister of the budget and then higher education, has risen to second place behind Mr. Macron in the polls among likely voters in the election”

Among other things, Pécresse is described as a right-winger who proudly and publicly declares that she is inspired by Margaret Thatcher, the former Prime Minister of Britain who vigorously promoted a neoliberal outlook and agenda at home and abroad.

Recently, Pécresse proposed establishing charter schools in France. According to a November 30, 2021, article in the French newspaper LeMonde:

In outlining the educational platform for her presidential candidacy in a speech in Venoy (Yonne) on October 12, Valérie Pécresse proposed transforming 10 percent of the nation’s public schools into “a new kind of public school under contract, inspired by ‘charter schools’ found in England and Sweden.” These schools, which would be primarily located in marginalized neighborhoods, would benefit, Pécresse declared, from the managerial autonomy currently exercised in France by private schools under contract, which account for 15 percent of the nation’s 60,000 primary and secondary schools. In these charter schools, “enrollment will depend on parents and students abiding by a charter of commitment.

To add insult to injury, Pécresse seems to favor the infamous and heavily-criticized “no-excuses” charter school model found in the U.S. These schools are so authoritarian that they have had to rebrand themselves to project a “softer” and more humane public image.

While Pécresse is often described as a right-winger, this may make very little difference in the scheme of things because the ruling elite are comfortable using politicians of all stripes to advance the neoliberal antisocial offensive. In the U.S., for example, both Democrats and Republicans have been long-time supporters of privately-operated charter schools that siphon billions of dollars a year from public schools. The main point is that the idea of privately-operated charter schools is now out there and the door has been opened to introducing them in the future.

France would do well to learn from the negative experience of other countries with “autonomous” charter schools, especially the U.S. and New Zealand. Privately-operated charter schools not only possess the non-public features listed above, they also intensify segregation, reduce accountability, and increase corruption. In addition, they leave public schools and the public sector with less money to function and excel. They also reinforce the ideologies of consumerism, competition, and individualism. Charter school advocates and operators treat parents and students as consumers, not humans or citizens. They promote the illusion that education is a business, not a social responsibility that society must guarantee for all for free. Treating a social responsibility like education as a business opportunity has been a disaster for people nationally and internationally.

The new year should be a time for all forces in all countries to renew and step up their demands for an end to the commodification of education. Governments around the world must take up their social responsibility to provide people’s rights, including the right to an education, with a guarantee in practice. No one should have to fend for themselves when it comes to securing a high quality education in the 21st century.

  1. Workers (along with nature) are the only source of wealth. All funds used to run public enterprises and the entire society come from the labor-time of workers. Wealth is not produced by owners of capital.
  2. See “5,000 Charter Schools Closed in 30 Years” (2021) here.
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New Zealand: Charter School Corruption

The U.S. is home to the largest number of privately-operated charter schools in the world (about 7,400). While they take different forms and are called different things, charter schools also exist in much smaller numbers in New Zealand, England, United Arab Emirates, Australia, and Canada.

Charter schools are privatized, marketized, corporatized school arrangements buttressed by the ideologies of individualism, consumerism, and competition. Charter school promoters openly, frequently, and publicly embrace “free market” ideology and see no problems with an obsolete “survival of the fittest” outlook; they are comfortable with a win-lose perspective.1

Since privatization produces the same problems everywhere, charter schools everywhere are often riddled with fraud, corruption, and scandal—more than what is typical and standard in most sectors and institutions.

One of the most common and persistent forms of corruption in the crisis-prone charter school sector is the misuse and mismanagement of public funds by owners of capital. Charter school owners, operators, and managers regularly “innovate” new ways to funnel public funds into private hands, which is bound to happen when schools operate mainly for financial gain instead of operating to meet social needs.

Every week, the news is full of articles on financial malfeasance and mismanagement in charter schools, especially in the U.S.

New Zealand is no different. A recent audit of two former charter schools by the New Zealand Office of the Auditor General examined “$450,000 in management fees the Combined Establishment Board of South Auckland Middle School and Middle School West Auckland paid to Villa Education Trust in 2018.” Not surprisingly, and as is so often the case with charter schools elsewhere, “The trustees of the Establishment Board were also the trustees of Villa Education Trust, which was the sponsor for the charter schools. This meant that the trustees were effectively wearing two hats.” This is what many charter school researchers have repeatedly identified as “self-dealing” and “shady arrangements” in the charter school sector.

“Such an obvious mishandling of public money that should be spent on benefiting the schools, educators and tamariki is shameful and the Board needs to be held to account,” said Liam Rutherford, president of New Zealand’s largest education union

Accountability in general, and financial accountability in particular, have always been weak in the charter school sector. In the U.S., even the National Association of Charter School Authorizers, a major advocate of privately-operated charter schools, has indicated on numerous occasions that weak accountability characterizes the charter school sector. This goes hand in hand with poor transparency.

A 2021 report by the Network for Public Education (NPE) reminds the public that non-profit and for-profit charter schools, unlike public schools, operate for financial gain. Such schools typically “maximize their profits through self-dealing, excessive fees, real estate transactions, and under-serving students who need the most expensive services”.  In short, charter schools are plagued by many conflicts of interest, unethical practices, and irresponsible behaviors.

Charter schools in New Zealand, also known as “Partnership Schools” or Kura Hourua, were terminated at the end of 2018 because of all the problems associated with them.

  1. See 5,000 Charter Schools Closed in 30 Years, September 18, 2021.
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