Crony Capitalism

Deregulation in education has led to cronyism, corruption and conflicts of interest. Dr. Preston Green sees a familiar pattern and a cautionary tale…

Jennifer Berkshire: Our Secretary of Education is visiting a Florida charter school that is best known for being started by rap-u-preneur, Pitbull. But a lesser known true fact is that the school’s powerful and politically connected management company, Academica, ran afoul of the feds for a little something something called *related-party transactions.* What is a related-party transaction? And why do I have the feeling that Betsy DeVos didn’t drop by to, um, continue the investigation?

Preston Green: Related-party transactions occur when you have two entities that have a pre-existing relationship. For example, if two entities have common management, or in the charter sector context, you could have an EMO that also has a real estate arm, which then leases property back to the charter school at a greatly inflated rate. In the case of Academica, which is the management company that runs the school Secretary DeVos visited, it’s *all of the above.* You see different entities sharing the same board of directors, conflicts of interest and questionable real estate dealings, including charter schools paying rents that are well above the market rate to companies that Academica owns.     Continue reading →

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Like a Laundromat for Tax Dollars

In episode #15, Have You Heard talks to tax policy expert Carl Davis about the scam known as tax credit scholarships or *neo vouchers*… 

In this episode of Have You Heard, we explore the the complex, controversial craze that’s sweeping the land: tax credit scholarships. These *neo-vouchers* send taxpayer dollars to private religious schools, while allowing wealthy donors and corporations to make money in the process. If it sounds rotten, that’s because it is, says tax policy expert Carl Davis. As Davis explains, tax credit scholarships have more in common with money laundering than with traditional charitable giving. And he instructs listeners on what to keep an eye on when one of these schemes pop up in your state. The full transcript of our interview is available here

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Private Practice

I talk to Professor Ken Zeichner about how the push to deregulate teacher preparation fits into our privatized, for-profit times…

Image result for relay gse

JenniferBerkshire: You’ve been leading a one-man crusade to expose what you say are false claims being made by the Relay Graduate School of Education and other startup teacher training programs. How’s it going?

Ken Zeichner: Not well. Although the state of Pennsylvania recently denied Relay’s application to offer a graduate degree upon completion of its program in the state on the grounds that it isn’t actually a graduate school, Relay has just signed a contract with the Philadelphia schools to run a teacher residency in Philly with the goal of increasing teacher diversity in the city. The issue of diversifying the teaching force is extremely important, but if you’re going to place your resources somewhere in order to reach this goal, the research suggests that you would invest in grow-your-own programs, high-quality teacher residency programs (which Relay is not), induction and mentoring, and improving working conditions and access to high quality professional learning opportunities in the high-poverty schools in which many teachers of color work. You wouldn’t bring in a program like Relay that can provide no evidence at all that their teachers stay, even though they’ve been in existence since 2007. What good is it if you bring in teachers but aren’t able to retain them? Continue reading →

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For Profit U

In episode #14, Have You Heard talks to Tressie McMillan Cottom about her new book, Lower Ed, and the push to make education *risky*…

In this episode of Have You Heard, we talk to Tressie McMillan Cottom about the rise of for-profit colleges, and *risky* higher ed that saddles low-income students with debt and questionable credentials. And we discuss the growing push to make K-12 more risky, including busting up public institutions and shifting the burden of choosing an *education option* as Betsy DeVos likes to call it, onto parents. Cottom’s new book Lower Ed is a must read, and this episode of Have You Heard is a must listen. As she points out, the same free market that we’re now entrusting with the futures of kids and adolescents also gave us cheese whiz. Cottom’s book and our conversation threatened to deplete my store of adjectives (*fantastic*!) and inspired Jack to make one of his famous charts.

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Change a School’s Structure, Change the World: An Exchange

In which Empower School’s Brett Alessi and I go back and forth about whether the Springfield Empowerment Zone is *all that*… 

Image result for unicornEditor’s note: I recently wrote about the much-hyped Springfield Empowerment Zone, arguing that there isn’t enough *there there* to merit its coronation as the next big thing, and that the zone’s eye-popping suspension numbers are a serious red flag. Brett Alessi, head of Empower Schools, the nonprofit that is helping to empower the Empowerment Zone, responded and asked if he might respond to my piece, giving readers a fuller account of what’s happening in Springfield than my *negative Nancy* portrayal. (My description, not his). I eagerly obliged but requested that Alessi focus on the two specific issues I raised: the high student suspension numbers in the Zone’s schools, and whether the push to *scale up* the Zone is warranted given that the Zone has yet to do what its architects claimed that it would do. Alessi’s response is below, and my response to his response is below that… Continue reading →

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