Thursday, April 24, 2014

Our students are NOT for sale!

A report issued today by the Economic Policy Institute raises serious questions about private companies running Wisconsin schools. Wisconsin legislators have repeatedly proposed that each year, 5% of schools with the lowest test scores should be declared failing and ultimately handed over to private charter school operators – the assumption being that somehow, improvement will follow.

The report, “Do Poor Kids Deserve Lower-Quality Education Than Rich Kids? Evaluating School Privatization Proposals in Milwaukee, Wisconsin,” was authored by Gordon Lafer and can be viewed here.

A key conclusion: turnover schemes provide no guarantee of school improvement.  What’s worse, teaching and learning is threatened at privately run charter operators whose bottom line is expansion and turning a profit for investors. 

Some of the worst conflicts of interest were found at the Rocketship charter chain, which uses a “blended learning” model to cut down on costs – placing students in computer labs run by low-paid attendants for a significant part of the school day.

According to Lafer’s report, student achievement has not improved at Rocketship – in fact, seven of its schools failed to achieve Adequate Yearly Progress in 2012-13. And, a Department of Education study showed that one of Rocketship’s key software programs, DreamBox, had “no discernible effects on mathematics achievement for elementary school students.”

But Rocketship continues to use DreamBox software despite a lack of results. Lafer connects the dots: Two major investors in Rocketship, Reed Hastings and John Doerr, are also primary investors in the DreamBox software company.

Following the money is important when it comes to our tax dollars. When Wisconsin taxpayers fund charter operators to the tune of $7,925 per student, we expect the money to be used for the child’s education. At Rocketship, not only is the money going to for-profit software companies, it’s also being used to fund Rocketship’s extensive growth plan in other states. Rocketship’s business plan states that the charter operator will pay “relatively high facilities fees” to a sister company called LaunchPad, so that “the profit margin will be used to finance new facilities.”

Parents, educators, community leaders, and legislators would do well to read this report and question proposals that turn public schools over to Rocketship or any other charter operator. The Milwaukee Common Council, in particular, should stop the blanket authorization of Rocketship expansion in Milwaukee in light of the report’s findings.

The relationships between Rocketship’s investors, the software companies they own, and the way that the software is used at the school – despite the lack of student outcomes – should raise red flags for anyone concerned about how tax dollars are spent in Wisconsin.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Senator Paul's visit to a Milwaukee voucher school criticized by community leader

The following public letter by Milwaukee community leader Tony Baez questions why supporters of private school vouchers in the Latino community would host a visit by Senator Rand Paul considering his strong anti-imigrant stance. I am reprinting it here with permission of Dr. Baez.

April 19, 2014

Dear friends,

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel published the following article announcing that Rand Paul and Rachel Duffy will be the speakers at an event of St. Anthony's School next Wednesday, April 23.  

This is truly amazing! Rand Paul, together with a few other influential Republicans in the US Senate and House, have been the stumbling block preventing immigration reform in this country. Senator Paul, in particular, has been hateful and inhumane in his references to the undocumented, and has even made proposals to take citizenship away from children born in this country to undocumented parents. Constitutionally, he can't. But that is the type of disgusting rhetoric from the mouth of this incredibly nasty and inhumane libertarian politician. Rand Paul, elected into office with the push of billionaires and the Tea Party, is definitely among this party's most extreme and insensitive members.  

Paul has also been a leader in the movement to reverse Obamacare, and return to a time when the health and insurance industries depraved 48 million Americans of insurance and health care. Senator Paul has been an advocate of the rich, and is known to promote racist thinking against civil rights legislation. In other words: Senator Rand Paul is horrible on Latino and Black issues, a racist, and an enemy of immigrants, so why bring to Milwaukee?

We have stood by to see the growth of vouchers in the Latino community and Latinos for Choice, but we can not allow insults and the manipulation of poor and working class Latinos. Most Latinos who enroll their children in voucher schools do not know that they are being used by Latinos for Choice to promote to power extremists that work against important immigration reform, health reform, necessary safety nets for the needy, and Latino empowerment. 

Since yesterday there has been a huge reaction in the Latino community by many who see this as offensive! Senator Paul's coming to Milwaukee must not be treated as an expression of "another" point of view by some in the Latino community. Persons with dignity and true concern for Latinos in this country take offense to Paul's presence and presidential campaigning. Frankly, no one in their right mind should support this racist, insensitive anti-immigrant person --and this is an objective point of view. We urge you to let people know that this is totally unacceptable. 

Never should we allow in the name of Latinos the appearance in our community-based institutions of Mr. anti-immigrant Rand Paul. It is even worse when some Latinos dare to manipulate ill-informed Latino parents and children, so as to promote a right wing political agenda. It is a sad day when anyone thinks that because Rand Paul and other extremist support school vouchers, one should support his extremist, insensitive and racist views too. The manipulation of Latinos in this day and age cannot be allowed. If those who enroll their children in St. Anthony know what this hatemonger has been doing all over this country, they would not support this event. 

We urge the organizers if this activity not to proceed with the visit by Rand Paul. We should stop this event from happening and/or picket the activity. 

Please see below. and pass this on to others...This is important!

Tony Baez

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Sen. Rand Paul coming to Milwaukee

By Georgia Pabst of the Journal Sentinel April 15, 2014

U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, the Republican from Kentucky who is considered a possible presidential contender in 2016, will be in Milwaukee April 23 for a roundtable on school choice.
His visit is sponsored by the conservative The LIBRE  Initiative and Hispanics for School Choice, a local organization that favors the expansion of school choice.
The roundtable will take place at St. Anthony's Middle School, 2156 S. 4th St. It will be from 10:30 a.m. to noon.
Rachel Campos-Duffy, a TV commentator and author, is a spokesperson for The LIBRE Initiative. She's also married to Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Wis.).