Media

Monday, July 25, 2016

Bill (and Hillary) Clinton's For-Profit College Problem

Posted By on Mon, Jul 25, 2016 at 3:00 PM

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I'm against for-profit schooling. It's possible for a school designed to make a profit to offer its students a quality education, but the lure of the almighty dollar makes the urge to recruit students who don't have the qualifications to benefit from the school and to scrimp on staff and supplies, because every dollar you don't spend is another dollar in your pocket, is nearly irresistible. I don't like it when charter schools are run as for-profit enterprises, and for-profit colleges are notorious for getting most of their money from government-based student financial aid and supplementing that with student loans, then giving their students a substandard education and leaving them in debt.

That means I don't think much of Laureate Education, a for-profit higher-education company that runs schools around the world, or the fact that Bill Clinton was paid a total of $16.5 million to serve as honorary chancellor of Laureate International Universities from 2010 to 2014.

Laureate Education has 85 campuses around the world. The greatest number are in Latin America, 31, followed by Europe, 23. The U.S. has 8. Some are brick-and-mortar institutions, others are online schools. Laureate spends more than $200 million a year on advertising, uses aggressive student recruiting techniques and sometimes increases enrollment without expanding its faculty or facilities to properly serve the larger student body.

If you want to know more details about Laureate Education, the best article I found is in a Bloomberg publication from 2014. Here's the key sentence in a very long story.
Laureate has thrived by exporting many of the practices that for-profit colleges adopted in the U.S., such as offering career-oriented courses and spending heavily on marketing. Such strategies helped build what was a booming industry until 2010, when recruiting abuses and mounting student debt spurred a regulatory crackdown by President Barack Obama’s administration.
That pretty much sums it up. The owner saw a flawed, roundly criticized, very profitable U.S. education model and decided to take it worldwide.

What did Bill Clinton do to earn his money?
In this paid position, Clinton has trekked to Laureate’s campuses in countries such as Malaysia, Peru and Spain, making more than a dozen appearances on [Laureate Education's] behalf.

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Thursday, July 21, 2016

The Republican Party's Education Platform

Posted By on Thu, Jul 21, 2016 at 11:00 AM

SHUTTERSTOCK
  • Shutterstock
A week ago I wrote about the Democratic party's education platform, which became significantly more progressive than the 2012 version as it moved from the first draft to its final form. The Republican party's education platform is pretty similar to its 2012 version, with a few changes around the edges. It added a condemnation of the move to allow transgender students to use the bathrooms of their choice, and it says an understanding of the Bible is "indispensable for the development of an educated citizenry" and encourages the study of the Bible as an elective part of the literature curriculum in high schools.

This paragraph sums up the general educational view presented in the platform.
After years of trial and error, we know the policies and methods that have actually made a difference in student advancement: Choice in education; building on the basics; STEM subjects and phonics; career and technical education; ending social promotions; merit pay for good teachers; classroom discipline; parental involvement; and strong leadership by principals, superintendents, and locally elected school boards. Because technology has become an essential tool of learning, it must be a key element in our efforts to provide every child equal access and opportunity. We strongly encourage instruction in American history and civics by using the original documents of our founding fathers. 
A few specific recommendations in the Republican platform are supported by many Democrats, like its condemnation of Common Core, its concern over "excessive testing and 'teaching to the test'” and its concern about the collection and sharing of "vast amounts of personal student and family data, including the collection of social and emotional data." The two parties differ on most other issues.

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Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Ducey 'Next Step' Watch: 2 Month Anniversary

Posted By on Wed, Jul 20, 2016 at 12:43 PM

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PHOTOSPIN
  • PhotoSpin
Two months ago when Prop 123 passed, Governor Ducey said we had taken a "first step" toward addressing Arizona's chronic underfunding of K-12 education. Everyone acknowledged it was a shaky, uncertain step. Some were pleased to see what they thought was a wobbly step forward by the young 'un, while others thought it was a dangerous step backwards, but few people thought that one step was all we needed.

On the two month anniversary, the toddler has yet to take a second step, and its fathers and mothers—the Ducey machine, the business community, education groups—appear to be neglecting their child, if not abandoning it entirely.

An acknowledgement of the two month anniversary of that first step is in order—a cake, candles, something to mark the occasion. Since the parents of the tyke don't appear to be in a celebratory mood, I will take it upon myself to blow out the candles and make a few wishes.

My first wish is that Governor Ducey reveal his plans for the next step to improve K-12 education. If he plans to increase the education budget next legislative session, that would be hopeful. If all he wants to do is shift around the deck chairs, using his Classrooms First Initiatives Council to move the cushiest chaises in the areas where the wealthiest Arizonans hang out, it would be helpful to know that so people can protest against his anti-poor, anti-minority agenda.

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Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Turkey's Failed Coup Attempt: The Charter School Connection

Posted By on Tue, Jul 19, 2016 at 3:09 PM

FETHULLAH GULEN, COURTESY OF WIKIMEDIA.ORG
  • Fethullah Gulen, Courtesy of Wikimedia.org
Some members of Turkey's military attempted a coup last week and failed. Game over? Not quite. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is arresting thousands of people who he says were connected to the coup. And he's asking the U.S. to extradite Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen who lives in Pennsylvania and has a strong following here and in Turkey, including people who are now or have been part of the Turkish government. Secretary of State Kerry says he hasn't gotten a formal request from Turkey but will review any information he receives from its government. Gulen denies he is in any way connected to the failed coup.

Here's where the charter school connection comes in. Fethullah Gulen is connected indirectly—or directly depending on who you're talking to—to the Sonoran charter schools and other charters around the country. There are three Sonoran Science Academies in Tucson, including one on the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, and three Sonoran charters in the Phoenix area.

I began writing about the Sonoran Science Academies and their connections to Gulen in 2010, as did Tim Vanderpool in the Weekly and Tim Steller in the Star. The connection was even the subject of a 60 Minutes investigation in 2012. A group of people around the country believe the charters are too closely connected to Gulen and violate the requirement that public schools have no religious affiliation. They make a strong circumstantial case, but they've never proven a direct connection.

What we know is that the Arizona charters have a strong academic reputation, especially in the areas of science and math. We also know that many of their directors and administrators are of Turkish descent, and they have a number of Turkish teachers, some of whom have been brought to the U.S. on H-1B visas for the express purpose of teaching at the schools. We also know that the schools teach Turkish culture, though it may be in a similar way that a French school teaches French culture. Some say the schools have direct links to Gulen, which the schools deny.

Expect to hear more about the schools if the story linking Gulen to the failed coup stays in the news.

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Monday, July 18, 2016

Another Look at TUSD Salary Hikes and Prop 123

Posted By on Mon, Jul 18, 2016 at 4:15 PM

COURTESY OF PHOTOSPIN
  • Courtesy of PhotoSpin
A few weeks ago I wrote a post trying to sort out what looked like contradictory information about the amount of Prop 123 money TUSD devoted to teacher salary raises. An article in the Star made it look like TUSD devoted far less of the new funding to increasing teacher salaries—about a third of the money, which amounted to a $700 raise—than neighboring districts, which would mean TUSD was shortchanging its teachers. But the article also mentioned the possibility that the district had found other ways to increase salaries. Meanwhile, the TUSD website states that returning teachers will make $2,000 more in 2016-17 than they made in the previous year. I ended the post by scratching my head and admitting I didn't know how to figure out the actual pay raises based on the information I had.

Since then, more has been written on the subject, and the pay raise situation is clearer. Here's the short version: As the TUSD website states, returning teachers will get a $2,000 raise over the previous year, which is in the same ballpark as neighboring districts. That's because, at the May 10 school board meeting a week before the Prop 123 vote, the board approved a $1,300 teacher raise. After Prop 123 passed, $700 was added to that amount, resulting in a $2,000 raise. Other Tucson-area districts created a variety of salary raise and retention incentive bonus packages, some of which are a bit more generous, and some a bit less generous, than TUSD's.

Here's the longer version, which I believe is accurate. If I've got my facts or numbers wrong, I'm sure people will let me know in the comments section.

At TUSD's May 10, 2016, board meeting, a salary raise was approved. It increased the pay for each salary step by $800, and since returning teachers move up a step which adds another $500, the total increase for returning teachers was $1,300. Since Prop 123 hadn't come up for a vote, the money for the raises was taken from maintenance and operations funds as well as Prop 301 funds. The $1,300 salary increase was guaranteed whether Prop 123 went up or down.

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Friday, July 15, 2016

The Democratic Party's Progressive Education Platform

Posted By on Fri, Jul 15, 2016 at 12:13 PM

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  • Shutterstock
In 2008 I supported Obama's primary bid, but I wrote at the time that Hillary Clinton's statement on education was more progressive and creative than Obama's. Unfortunately, as president, Obama has held true to his timid campaign statements on education and adopted a less-than-progressive educational agenda. With his appointment of Arnie Duncan as Secretary of Education and his embrace of the Democratic hedge funders and other members of the Billionaire Boys Club who created Democrats for Education Reform, he joined the Democratic wing of the "education reform"/privatization movement, even though Linda Darling-Hammond, his educational advisor during the 2008 campaign, was pulling him the other way. We ended up with an administration that continued George Bush's educational legacy by throwing its support behind high stakes testing and the expansion of charter schools.

If this year's Democratic education platform is any indication, the party may be moving in a more progressive educational direction. The tepid first draft of the education platform was revised due mainly to members of the Sanders delegation working together with some Clinton supporters. In an indication of how significant the changes are, DFER is furious.

If you want a detailed description of the changes, go to Valerie Strauss's post in her "Answer Sheet" column in the Washington Post. Here are some highlights.

While both drafts of the platform support "great neighborhood public schools and high-quality public charter schools" and "oppose for-profit charter schools focused on making a profit off of public resources," the revised draft says public schools and charters should be "democratically governed." That's a big difference when it comes to charters, since their boards are often made up of a tight group of supporters appointed by the school, and charters are notoriously opaque about their finances and operations. It also adds this.
"We believe that high quality public charter schools should provide options for parents, but should not replace or destabilize traditional public schools. Charter schools must reflect their communities, and thus must accept and retain proportionate numbers of students of color, students with disabilities and English Language Learners in relation to their neighborhood public schools."

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Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Ducey 'Next Step' Watch: Day 55

Posted By on Wed, Jul 13, 2016 at 3:00 PM

ILLUSTRATION FROM PHOTOSPIN IMAGE
  • Illustration from Photospin image
Lest we forget.
COURTESY OF PHOTOSPIN
  • Courtesy of PhotoSpin


When Doug Ducey was pushing Prop 123, he promised that it was only a "first step" toward improving Arizona education, leaving the impression that more money would be forthcoming after it passed. His actions, however—cutting the state education budget while giving tax cuts to his rich friends who invested in his campaign—made it abundantly clear, he never had any intention of spending more on education than he absolutely had to.

Once Prop 123 passed, Ducey was asked, if it was just a first step, what comes next? His answer:
“We’re going to take the rest of the day off,” he said. “We’re going to celebrate a little bit.”
That day has stretched into 55 days without a public statement about the promised next step. I've seen nothing in the news. I've received three AzAWESOME (why arizona rocks.) emails from Ducey's communications team, along with an AZ Briefing Room and a Week In Review email. Only two of them mention education briefly, and they say nothing about any plans regarding K-12 education.

The eight week silence is deafening.

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Tuesday, July 12, 2016

California Looks Into K12 Inc. The Result: a $168.5 Million Settlement (or $2.5 Million, Depending on Who's Counting)

Posted By on Tue, Jul 12, 2016 at 9:00 AM

COURTESY OF PHOTOSPIN
  • Courtesy of PhotoSpin
Imagine a group of students walk through the school doors sometime during the day, spend a few minutes lounging around the office, then leave. The school marks them present and collects their per-student money from the state.

According to an investigation by California's Attorney General, that was business as usual at K12 Inc.'s online school, California Virtual Academy—emphasis on the word "business," because K12 Inc. is a publicly traded, for-profit corporation. Students would sign into school on their home computers, then leave a few minutes later, and they would be marked present. That's not just a problem at the California school. According to a number of investigative articles about K12 Inc.'s online schools around the country, teachers are urged to hang onto students who are enrolled but don't spend enough time online or do enough work to pass their classes. Once they've been around long enough to qualify for state funding, they can be cut loose.

Misreporting attendance was only one issue that led California to reach a $168.5 million settlement with the company. According to the Attorney General,
"K12 and its schools misled parents and the State of California by claiming taxpayer dollars for questionable student attendance, misstating student success and parent satisfaction and loading nonprofit charities with debt."
The settlement is $2.5 million plus $6 million to cover legal costs to the state, and $160 million to wipe out debts CAVA owes to K12 Inc. 

Charter school supporters aren't complaining about the ruling. The California Charter Schools Association joined the California Teachers Association in applauding the decision. K12 Inc. is a major reason why some pro-charter organizations recently published a paper demanding improvement of online charter schools.

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With Respect to Plants

A Visual Conversation on Botanical Conservation, Art & Illustration featuring work by the Desert Museum’s Botany Department… More

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