Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Ownership Society gathering at the Phoenician

At the Phoenician
Thanks to Gary Stager for the heads-up on the upcoming GSV Education Innovation summit, which he describes as a corporate takeover of public education being plotted in the open, is held at The Phoenician Resort in Scottsdale.

Stager writes:
The Phoenician is a monument to its builder, Charles Keating, a criminal who helped destroy the United States economy during the Savings and Loan crisis of the 1990s. Surrendering the future of public education to Jeb Bush and the greedy cynics partying with him in Arizona is as vulgar and misguided as trusting Charles Keating with government backed banks.
The sponsors list reads like an Ownership Society who's who list, including Gates, Pearson, Kaplan, McGraw... Well, you get the picture.

Speakers include: Jeb Bush, Chris Cerf, Reed Hastings, Penny Pritzker, Cami Anderson, Margaret Spellings, Tom VanderArk... Yuck!  Kind of a rogues gallery of privateers, charter hustlers, union busters and Bush bureaucrats.

Spears must be checked at the door.

Follow up on the scrubbing of the Academica Charter story

Following up on the feds' investigation of Academica Charter Schools in Florida, and the scrubbing of the original Miami Herald story. Here's Bob Sikes' updated report in Scathing Purple Musings along with Kathleen McGrory's revised story in the Miami Herald.

Sikes writes:
Its hard to count the number of times that McGrory used “conflicts of interest” in her story. No word yet of whether or not the Federal Department of Education will use its SWAT team to raid the Zulueta compound. Or any of the offices belonging to the three Florida republican legislators with close ties to the Zuluetas.
According to McGrory:
A preliminary audit report obtained by the Herald/Times identified potential conflicts of interest between the for-profit company Academica and the Mater Academy charter schools it manages. One example the auditors cited was the transfer of money from Mater Academy to its private support organization, which shares the same board of directors. When asked about the potential conflicts of interest raised in the report, Academica attorney Marcos Daniel Jiménez, in an email to the Herald/Times, touted the charter school network's academic record and commitment to its students.
 Charter school critics said the Inspector General’s findings were a reason to push back on HB 7083, the bill that could weaken the power of school districts over new charter schools.
I suspect it was Jiménez' hollow denial of impropriety that caused the Herald to scrub McGrory's original story, although I still don't understand why they did it. The denial could have easily been reported in a follow-up story.  There must have been a phone call from somebody with clout. I suspect Rep. Frisen. Highly unusual.

Kenneth Wright, victim of D.O.E. raid in 2011. 
In some ways, it reminds me of a previously scrubbed article involving Duncan's I.G. troops invading  the Stockton, CA home of Kenneth Wright at 6 a.m. on a Tuesday morning in 2011. As I recall, Wright was wrongly suspected of reneging on his student loans. The original ABC News story was scrubbed after a phone call from the D.O.E. The next day it was re-posted, minus an interview with victim Wright.

The Washington Post picked up my story (without crediting me) and then waffled after receiving the same call from the D.O.E.'s clean-up man Justin Hamilton. While a few papers and some bloggers ran with Hamilton's sanitized version of the raid, he couldn't make it go away. Chalk one up for the independent media.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

What happened to McGrory's Miami Herald story on Feds' charter investigation? I asked...

Fernando Zulueta, president of Academica, gets a drink at the bar in Cain at The Cove, an exclusive beach club in the Bahamas' Atlantis resort. Academica held a leadership retreat for principals of several charter schools there. MIAMI HERALD PHOTO

Last month I wrote about Florida's great charter school profiteers, Rep. Erik Fresen, his sister Maggie, and brother-in-law, Fernando Zulueta who runs Academica Charter Schools, one of the largest charter chains in the country.

Today, Bob Sikes at Scathing Purple Musings re-posts a story which he credits to columnist Mary McGrory from the Miami Herald, "Academica Charter Schools Under Federal Investigation." Actually, Sikes got it wrong. The great Washington Post Reporter Mary McGrory has been dead for 10 years. The piece on Academica was written by Tampa Bay Times/Miami Herald staff writer Kathleen McGrory. Regardless, it's a good, solid news piece about the Education Department’s Inspector General Office audit of the South Miami-based Academica Corp. as part of a broader examination of school management companies nationwide. The story implicates the powerful Zulueta family as well as Fresen.

McGrory writes:
The auditors found that three of the schools in the network — Mater Academy, Mater High and Mater East — entered into leases with development companies tied to the Zulueta family. Two of the leases were executed while Zulueta sat on the Mater board. In addition, Mater Academy hired an architectural firm from 2007 through 2012 that employs Fernando Zulueta’s brother-in-law, state Rep. Erik Fresen, the report said.
“We identified four related-party transactions, two of which indicated, at a minimum, the appearance of conflicts of interest between Mater Academy and its CMO [charter-management company],” the auditors wrote. Fresen declined to comment Friday.
But when I went to the Herald's site to look for McGrory's original piece, it was no longer there. Nor were there any links to it in any of the search engines. Was it scrubbed? Why? Did clout-heavy Rep. Fresen make a phone call? I wondered.

To find out, I called the Herald's news room and asked them what happened. I was told by Herald Editor Jeff Kleinman that the paper had "jumped the gun" and that the story was pulled because it was "incomplete" and would reappear in tomorrow's paper. Strange! Usually if a story is incomplete (which every news story is), you run a follow-up. You don't scrub the story and all the search engines.

But okay. I'll look tomorrow to see if and how McGrory's  piece been rewritten and find out what "jumped the gun" means.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Rauner makes big profits off the jailing of children

Thanks to a lucrative state contract given him by none other than Gov. Quinn, Republican billionaire Bruce Rauner is making millions in the prison/industrial complex. Quinn says he didn't know Rauner was still associated with GTCR. 
Rauner formerly headed GTCR LLC, a Chicago private equity firm in which he still holds a stake as an investor. Since December 2012, GTCR has owned Correctional Healthcare Cos., which got a five-year contract with a five-year renewal option from the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice in February 2013 to provide medical, dental and mental health evaluations and treatment for the approximately 900 inmates, ages 13 to 20, of six state-run youth detention centers in the Chicago area and downstate. The state deal is worth as much as $99.3 million. -- Politics Early & Often
That would put him in the position, if elected in November, of overseeing a state contract he and his business partners stand to profit from. Rauner says he has no plans to divest himself of these holdings.
The for-profit company employs medical professionals who treat an average of 70,000 inmates a day at more than 250 correctional facilities around the United States. In Illinois, the company has drawn criticism in connection with a federal lawsuit filed in 2012 by the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois against the state Department of Juvenile Justice, accusing the state agency of inadequately treating detainees with mental health conditions. 

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Charters in the 'Era of Accountability'

More than $900 million in state and local tax dollars, some of it approved by local voters, will be transferred this school year from local schools to nonprofit, publicly funded Ohio charter schools that did not exist 20 years ago. Who is watching how all of that money is spent? -- Columbus Dispatch
I'm just reading one of those tracts, attacking the idea of elected school boards, from a right-wing think tank, the Fordham Institute. The tract refers to this as "the era of accountability" and in this particular report uses the word accountability no less than 14 times or about twice per page. Another of Fordham's anti-school board screeds is actually called: Governance in the Accountability Era.

Coming from them, that phrase always makes me laugh. Why? Because the think tank also doubles up as as a school voucher proponent and one of the main sponsors of privately-run charter schools in the state of Ohio. And as I have pointed out before, here, here, and here, Ohio is the state with arguably the worst charters in the nation and the ones with the least public accountability. The Institute itself, has even referred to Ohio charters as "a laughing stock". And while Fordham talks a lot about Public accountability & private-school choice, they have also provided cover for some of the worst operators in the state, like White Hat's David Brennan. 

Part of the problem is that there's no school board oversight of privately run charters and the think-tankers want to keep it that way.

SEE HOW THEY RUN...Watch how operator Jim Sinclair of Lorain Preparatory Academy of Excellence, practically goes underground when a reporter tries to find out some basic information about his school. And...
That was not out of the ordinary in calls to nearly 300 Ohio charter schools — funded with state and local tax dollars and, by law, subject to the same transparency rules as traditional schools. The calls were made as part of a school-choice project by the Akron Beacon Journal and the News­Outlet, a consortium of journalism programs at Youngstown State University, the University of Akron and Cuyahoga Community College.  
Tea-Party Gov. John Kasich, speaking at the February meeting of the Ohio Newspaper Association, responded to a Beacon Journal editor’s question about inability to obtain basic information from charter schools.
“We’ll work with you any way we can. I’m not going to hide from you,” Kasich said. “In terms of this specific information, where you can’t get anything about these charters, we have to dig into that."
But why do we have to "dig", Governor? Isn't this the era of accountability?

Saturday, April 5, 2014

How Cuomo engineered de Blasio's defeat on charters with help from Wall St.

Cuomo at staged rally: “You are not alone. We will save charter schools.”

Javier Hernandez and Susanne Craig, writing in the New York Times, tell an eerie tale about how Gov. Cuomo backed by powerful Wall Streeters and hedge-funders was able to defeat Mayor de Blasio's effort to hold back the charter operators' assault on public schools. 

The Governor, who has always been in Wall Street's pocket, even had chief charter hustler Eva Moskowitz stage a protest of charter school supporters for the media in Albany, one at which he "spontaneously" appeared, telling the crowd that he would be their savior. Moskowitz runs a group of charters and pays herself nearly a half-million/year salary.

According to Hernandez and Craig:
As the governor worked to solidify support in Albany, his efforts were amplified by an aggressive public relations and lobbying effort financed by a group of charter school backers from the worlds of hedge funds and Wall Street, some of whom have also poured substantial sums into Mr. Cuomo’s campaign (he is up for re-election this fall). The push included a campaign-style advertising blitz that cost more than $5 million and attacked Mr. de Blasio for denying space to three charter schools. 
 A lot was riding on the debate for Mr. Cuomo. A number of his largest financial backers, some of the biggest names on Wall Street, also happened to be staunch supporters of charter schools. According to campaign finance records, Mr. Cuomo’s re-election campaign has received hundreds of thousands of dollars from charter school supporters, including William A. Ackman, Carl C. Icahn, Bruce Kovner and Daniel Nir.
Right-wing billionaire Ken Langone organized Republicans for Cuomo earlier this year knowing that a real Republican had no chance of defeating him. He's donated lots of money to Cuomo's war chest in exchange for the governor's support for charter schools, and issue near and dear to Langone's heart.
Langone: "I talk to him about charters. He gets it."
Kenneth G. Langone, a founder of Home Depot who sits on a prominent charter school board, gave $50,000 to Mr. Cuomo’s campaign last year. He said that when the governor asked him to lead a group of Republicans supporting his re-election, he agreed because of Mr. Cuomo’s support for charter schools.
“Every time I am with the governor, I talk to him about charter schools,” Mr. Langone said in an interview. “He gets it.” 
Noticeably missing from de Blasio's rearguard were AFT and UFT leaders Randi Weingarten and Michael Mulgrew. Without the teacher unions at his back, and in order to salvage his expanded Pre-K program,  the mayor obviously was forced to make a tactical retreat on charters.

My takeaways from this early defeat in de Blasio's battle to redefine New York politics:
  1. The election of a progressive mayor means little if the grass-roots movement that elected him returns to the barracks when the election is over. 
  2. So-called mayoral control of the schools is a myth. What we saw in N.Y. last week was an exercise in corporate control of the schools. So long as the Wall  Streeters and hedge-funders own the governor and most other state politicians, the cities and their schools will be largely at their mercy. 
  3. Mayor de Blasio must pick and choose his battles carefully in accordance with how many troops he has behind him. His election shows that he has the support of the city's poor and working families. But to maintain that support he has to rely on them and organize them to win victories for them. 
  4. While BdB enjoys support from most rank-and-file teachers and other unionists, AFT and UFT leaders or unreliable allies at best. 

Thursday, April 3, 2014

My memo to Sheldon Adelson

The wing-nut billionaire is in the market for a few good Republican pols. I guess his stable is running low on horses. He's got a few old nags but no winners in his gold-plated paddock. So when they read his want ads, GOPers sprinted as fast as their hooves would carry them, out to Vegas to kiss Adelson's ass ring.

On the outside is Romney running neck and neck with Jeb Bush. Chris Christie is wheezing as he rounds the turn. Then there's Rand Paul and the guy from Wisconsin (whatshisname?) bringing up the rear.

And the winner is --- oops, there ain't no winner.
“I don’t want to spend millions on another loser,” said Adelson, who purchased both Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney in 2012. The casino magnate was scathing in his assessment of the candidates he declined to buy, calling them “a third-rate grab bag of has-beens and dimwits.” -- Borowitz
Forbes reports that in the two days since he hosted the Republican Jewish Coalition’s meeting with all these losers and ne'er-do-wells, at his Venetian Resort and Hotel,  Adelson personally made $2.1 billion — 21 times the $100 million he reported giving away during the 2012 presidential election. So he can easily afford to buy a potential winner. So I decided to drop Adelson a line and offer some suggestions.

Here's my memo to Sheldon: 

Mr. Adelson (or may I call you Sheldon?),

I sympathize with you in your effort to purchase a potential 2016 GOP winner among this gaggle of cretins and boneheads. Here's my advice to you. Believe me Sheldon, I may be broke, but I know what I'm talking about.

Don't get hung up on party labels. We've got a mayor here who's a Democrat in name only and who would be a perfect buy for you. He's a proven winner with the Chicago corporate big boys and local 1%ers. A big cog in the Chicago machine (remember they all turned Republican the day that a black guy, Harold Washington, won the party primary back in '83) so they've had plenty of experience being Republicans. He's a pension grabber and union buster like you. He'll do anything to keep from taxing the wealthy and the corporations. And his brother is Ari, who I know you've done some casino business with in Vegas.

Rahm and Rauner
Rahm was a big supporter of the war in Iraq just like you. and he's even a veteran of the Israeli Defense Forces (volunteered not once, but twice) which I know is dear to your own heart. I'm sure your pal Netanyahu will recommend him highly.

I know Rahm has said some unkind things about you in the past, but believe me, he's for sale --always has been-- and you guys can let bygones be bygones for the good of the cause. Bill Clinton got him for a steal back in the '90s, getting him a retainer from your friends at Goldman Sachs while he was still working on Clinton's campaign. When Rambo (he likes to be called that) resigned from his position in the Clinton administration, he joined Bill's pals at the investment banking firm Wasserstein Perella, where he worked until 2002. Although he didn't even have an MBA or prior banking experience, they still made him managing director at the firm’s Chicago office in 1999 when he made $16.2 million in his two-and-a-half-years as a banker. It's nice to have friends in low high places.

At Wasserstein Perella, he worked on eight deals, including the acquisition by Commonwealth Edison of Peco Energy and the purchase by GTCR Golder Rauner of the SecurityLink home security unit from SBC Communications. So if you need any references (besides mine), talk to your billionaire Republican buddy Bruce Rauner who I'm sure will give Rahm an A+ rating. It was Rauner who bankrolled his last mayoral campaign.

Your pal (I wish),
Mike Klonsky

P.S. Oh yes, and there's no delivery charge on purchases of $20 million or more.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Next frontier for the charter school hustlers, 'Inner Ring' Suburbs

For those of you who aren't fluent in post-racial-era reform/speak, inner-ring is code for black and Latino suburbs. As the inner cities become whitenized, with hundreds of thousands of African-Americans being pushed out because of lack of jobs, limited access to social services, and unaffordable housing costs, these suburban districts are growing rapidly and are now being targeted for takeover by competing charter companies.

Local school districts, like Dist. 149 in south-suburban Dolton/Calumet City, IL are facing an all-out assault by the big charter chains. So far they've beaten back the attack but only by diverting much of their energies away from educating children to defending themselves before groups like the IL State Charter Commission. That Commission has the power to override decisions about charter expansion made by local school districts. In other words they can approve a charter school application whether a community wants it or not.

At the upcoming National Charter School Conference at the Mandalay Bay Hotel in Las Vegas, Allison Jack from the Illinois Network of Charter Schools will be presenting on "Inner Ring Suburbs: The Next Frontier of Charter Growth."

It's the next frontier, get it? And who knows what or who these new frontiersmen will find out there?

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The sun continues to shine on Florida's charter school hustlers

Barbara Smaller, New Yorker

Attention charter operators and ed profiteers. Florida is the place if you like warm weather and easy money in real estate. I got to see how the charter game is played in the Sunshine State during my days at USF when Jeb Bush was the guv. Now, under Rick Scott and his ed adviser Michelle Rhee (not to mention disgraced former ed commissioner Tony Bennett), the state has opened up even wider for charter expansion.

Fresen (R) chairs the Education Committee
Florida Rep. Erik Fresen,  a Tea Party Republican, chairs House Education Appropriations hearings on charter expansion. But his sister Maggie, and brother-in-law, Fernando Zulueta  run Academica Charter Schools, one of the country’s largest and wealthiest for-profit charter school management firms, with more than 90 schools in Florida alone. Fresen also has worked as a land-use consultant for Civica, an architectural firm that has designed several Academica schools. Really?

Fresen is pushing a bill HB 7083 that would require school districts to make public school buildings available to charters and turn over closed public school to charters. It would also make it easier for out of state charter operators to compete for schools and school real estate.

Does this sound like N.Y.? It should. Only FL has no pols like N.Y. Mayor de Blasio ready or able to really take on the powerful charter hustlers like their state's versions of Eva Moskowitz. Florida charters are among the worst in the country. Gee, I wonder why.

The most recent windfall for Fresen (who also represents the state's gaming interests) and family came when Palmetto Bay council members on Monday unanimously approved plans for a 1,400-student charter school within a residential and commercial complex development. The charter school will be part of the Somerset Academy Inc. franchise managed by Academica. Fresen’s district includes a part of Palmetto Bay and in 2011, he sponsored changes in state law to limit municipal power over charter schools.

The Miami Herald reports:
According to Palmetto Bay Mayor Shelley Stanczyk, the property’s zoning designation and laws governing charter schools all converged in “a perfect storm” to force the council’s hand to approve, with no guarantees that the school would adequately address the traffic and congestion issues sure to arise with an added influx of 1,400 students every work day...
...“If you want a place with as little control as possible, put it in an Enterprise Zone. And then if you’ve got a school with legislated protection, so that [municipal] control over approving and not approving is very limited, you’ve got a double whammy of not being able to control any of the effects,” Stanczyk said.
BASEBALL CHARTERS...Bloomberg News reports that the politically connected Zulueta is working on a deal with Major League Baseball and celebrity (why?) Pitbull to have his charter school company partner with the Washington Nationals on a D.C.-based charter operation. The Rhee connection with D.C. pols and Sec. Duncan, should play a big role here. Academica opened Somerset Preparatory Academy in Washington last September as a toe-hold in the region. Pitbull opened up last year's National Charter Schools Conference and was introduced by Zulueta.

Names that pop up in the deal include Nina Rees, president of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, who insists "it’s not a gimmick. Since most charters don’t have a building when they receive authorization, she said, they need a cash infusion up front..." AND Greg Richmond, president of the National Association of Charter School Authorizers, who "agrees that celebrity-brand schools are not to be dismissed."

I think Richmond, Zulueta, Rees, Fresen, Duncan, Scott, Pitbull... and their whole gang need to be dismissed.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Moscowitz' gang won't pay rent. Drop $3.6M on TV ads attacking BdB

Instead of paying their share of rent for co-occupying N.Y.C. public school buildings, Eva Moscowitz and her hedge-fund friends, have spent $3.6 million over the past 3 weeks, for TV ads attacking Mayor de Blasio.

According to the Daily News:
Families for Excellent Schools — founded by a deep-pocketed group of current and former financiers — has run a series of ads, including a heart-wrenching spot blaming de Blasio for taking away the “hopes and dreams” of 194 students by blocking Success Academy Harlem Central’s co-location plan. De Blasio earlier this month blocked three Success charter schools from co-locations in public school buildings while allowing five others to go ahead.

De Blasio signs paid sick leave bill into law.
“They have parents believing there’s no way they’re going to find space for these 194 students,” said Zakiyah Ansari, advocacy director for the labor-backed lobbying group Alliance for Quality Education. “Do they tell them they’re spending $3.6 million on these ads in less than a month? Put that into the building that you say you can’t find.”

In the mean time, the mayor is moving ahead with his plan to offer prekindergarten to all 4-year-olds in New York City. He also signed the Paid Sick Leave Bill into law. Combined with previous legislation, more than a half-million New Yorkers will now be able to take up to five sick days without fear of losing their job.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

DFER brags: Our money beat Travis

Mitchell on the make and on the take.
School privatizers and charter hustlers from DFER are all over Twitter, taking credit for Christian Mitchell's  questionable narrow victory over progressive candidate Jay Travis. The IL branch of the N.Y.-based hedge-fund-started group dropped more than $50,000 into the Mitchell campaign through its newly-activated Chicago school reform PAC.

Instead of boasting, they should be headed back to the drawing board wondering why, with all their money and lots more from the likes of the likes of JPMorgan Chase & Co.PAC, Illinois Energy Association, Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce PAC, and California billionaire Eli Broad, an incumbent like Mitchell was is this close to losing his seat to underdog Travis. 

Mitchell, backed by House Speaker Michael Madigan was leading Travis by only a few hundred votes as polls closed. But reports of widespread voting "irregularities" have thrown the outcome into question. Travis has not conceded. 

DFER's State Director Rebeca Nieves-Huffman, says her PAC will now turn its attention to Chicago’s 2015 aldermanic elections which she says will be a referendum on the future of education in the city.
“We are committed to supporting candidates in the upcoming city elections who share our vision, and we intend to hold elected officials accountable for their opposition to the policies our students need to succeed,” Nieves-Huffman said.
Huffman is an old hand at union-busting and comes to DFER from the National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA) where she managed the grant-making work of the organization through its Fund for Authorizing Excellence and before that, from the KIPP Foundation.

In addition to Nieves-Huffman, the PAC has hired a Stakeholder Engagement Director, Sean Harden, who was Mayor Richard Daley‘s executive assistant and liaison to the interfaith community. They have also snagged Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle‘s budget spokesman, Owen Kilmer, who previously worked as a campaign operative for the Illinois Senate Democrats and as deputy press secretary for Gary Chico‘s 2011 mayoral campaign, to be the group’s communications chief.

According to the right-wing Illinois Observer, the PAC which was formed in 2011 but has lain dormant for nearly two years, has recently pulled in $60,500, including $21,000 from James and Paula Crown and $5,000 from Jennifer Steans, the sister of State Senator Heather Steans (D-Chicago).

The Crowns are also big financial backers of the statewide school reform PAC Stand for Children Illinois.

Its leaders expect to raise more than $1 million for 2015.

For a better sense on how DFER operates, see my blog post from last April. 
Here's more on DFER from School Finance 101.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Netflix education: Favoring markets over democracy

What's the No. 1 problem afflicting schools? According to Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, it's elected school boards...Fickle voters create too much churn. You know, the darn democracy thing. So uncontrollable.-- San Jose Mercury News
Thanks to Diane Ravitch for calling out Netflix founder and CEO Rod Hastings as a major player in corporate-style school reform. Hastings, says Ravitch, is on the board of various charter schools and charter chains, including Rocketship and KIPP.

Hasting's goal is to get government out of schooling, get rid of publicly elected school boards, and turn schools over to private operators.

Ravitch writes:
ALEC has pushed the idea of a state charter panel, appointed by the governor (and sometimes the legislature), whose decisions override local control. The problem with school boards is that the local populace can replace them by vote. In other words, as Chubb and Moe argued 25 years ago in their book advocating for vouchers, Politics, Markets, and Schools, markets are better than democracy.
Here it is, right from the horse's [Hasting's] mouth.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

The privatization of science replaces public good with super-profits

INTEL billionaire Gordon Moore and his new Thirty Meter Telescope which will sit on a Hawaii mountain top.
In Washington, budget cuts have left the nation’s research complex reeling. Labs are closing. Scientists are being laid off. Projects are being put on the shelf, especially in the risky, freewheeling realm of basic research. Yet from Silicon Valley to Wall Street, science philanthropy is hot, as many of the richest Americans seek to reinvent themselves as patrons of social progress through science research. 
American science, long a source of national power and pride, is increasingly becoming a private enterprise. This according to New York Times science writer William Broad who reveals that while government financing of basic science research is plummeting, private donors have filled the void, raising questions about the future of research for the public good.

According to Broad, this is philanthropy in the age of the new economy — financed with its outsize riches, practiced according to its individualistic, entrepreneurial creed. The donors are impatient with the deliberate, and often politicized, pace of public science, they say, and willing to take risks that government cannot or simply will not consider.

Growing health & wealth gap... Among the consequences of the growing privatization of scientific research, a widening of the historical racial inequalities in health care and disease research, disparities that decades of studies have shown to contribute to higher rates of disease and death among blacks, Hispanics and other minority groups.

Among the biggest players: Michael R. Bloomberg, the former New York mayor (and founder of the media company that bears his name), L.A. philanthropist Eli Broad, James Simons (hedge funds), David Koch (oil and chemicals), Bill Gates (Microsoft), Eric E. Schmidt (Google) and Lawrence J. Ellison (Oracle).

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

I can almost hear Bill Gates saying, "What do you mean you don't want our money?"

Vicki Phillips, who runs the Gates Foundation’s education division, said her team is “disappointed by Randi’s decision.” -- Politico
Our big investment in school reform. "hasn't led to significant improvements." --Bill Gates
I'm still learning on this one, but I have some idea what it was that prompted Randi Weingarten and the AFT leadership to turn their back on millions of dollars in Gates funding. Politico's Caitlin Emma with help from Stephanie Simon report that the break came "after rank-and-file union members expressed deep distrust of the foundation’s approach to education reform." But that rank-and-file anger has been simmering in the union for years, ever since 2009 when the so-called Innovation Fund partnership was first sealed with a $2 million kiss from Bill and Melinda. So why now?

Of course, the revolt has grown louder these days, especially in N.Y. where thousands of union members are ready to go to the barricades in Albany over Common Core testing and teacher evaluation. Not to mention the  inner-Democratic Party battle is raging between Gov. Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio over charter school expansion which could spill out into the upcoming national elections.

Gates at 2010 AFT Convention
Resentment over Gates influence within the union has spread way beyond the small group of activists who first stormed out of the AFT convention in 2010, when Bill first unveiled his model for teacher development and his so-called Value-Added Model (VAM) of evaluation based largely on student test scores. In recent months, Gates has used that funding as a lever, threatening to pull it from districts who oppose VAM.

It was also at this convention where Gates expressed his disappointment with the small schools movement and explained why he had shifted funding away from creating smaller learning communities over the past decade, focusing instead on testing and teacher evaluation.
Our work in schools began with a focus on making high schools smaller, in the hope of improving relationships to drive down dropout rates and increase student achievement. Many of the schools we worked with made strong gains, but others were disappointing. The schools that made the biggest gains in achievement did more than make structural changes; they also improved teaching.
Bill & Randi at Dec. 2010 Newsweek interview
Soon after, Gates and Weingarten gave this joint interview to Newsweek which had the aura of a puppet show with Bill's hand operating Randi's mouth.
Weingarten: What we’re seeing is that the United States, instead of moving ahead, is actually stagnating. We’re basically in the same place we’ve been, and these countries have moved forward. They’ve spent a lot of time investing in the preparation and support of teachers. Many of them teach a common curriculum, very similar to the common standards that Bill Gates and the Gates Foundation have been supporting. And they create the tools and conditions that teachers need to teach, and they have mutual respect and accountability.
Since then, Gates has handed over $11 million in AFT funding. Pocket change for Bill to be sure, but more than enough to influence union policy, despite Randi's denials. She still denies the obvious, saying she doesn't believe Gates funding influenced the Innovation Fund’s direction. Hopefully the rift with Gates will create space for her to move further on Common Core and other issues, as she appears to be slowly doing, if her appearance at last week's NPE Convention is any indication.

At the 2012 AFT Convention there were already indications of rank-and-file pressure on the leadership. First there was the presence of the Chicago delegation, led by CTU President Karen Lewis. Gates was nowhere in sight and Diane Ravitch gave the keynote.

Now Diane Ravitch blogs about the break:
[Randi] understands that many members of the AFT do not trust the Gates Foundation, do not like Bill Gates’ public statements such as encouraging larger class sizes, or his unwavering commitment to measuring teacher quality by student test scores, despite the lack of evidence for its efficacy. I welcome this change and thank Randi and the AFT for severing ties with the Gates Foundation. Gates and Pearson have bought most of American education. Those who represent teachers should be free of their influence.
That's a bit of an overstatement. The AFT hasn't actually severed its ties with the Gates Foundation, which, according to Politico, funds other union projects besides the Innovation Fund.
The AFT’s executive council hasn’t formally voted to reject Gates funding for other projects, but Weingarten said she would be very cautious about taking such grants. “I don’t want to say ‘never never ever ever,’” she said, but “this is a matter of making common bond with our members and really listening to the level of distrust they have in the philanthropies and the people on high who are not listening to them.”
We're still watching of course.

Monday, March 10, 2014

No Austin City Limits at Rahm's fundraiser in Texas

Cash cow for Rahm's Texas pals.
What's Rahm doing at SXSW? What else? He's stuffing his election war chest at an Austin fundraising party put on by a group of heavy hitters who do bazillions in business up in Chicago.

According to Sunday's Trib:
The event will be held Monday evening at the home of Charlie Jones, one of the co-founders of C3 Presents, according to an invitation to the fundraiser that Emanuel campaign consultant John Kupper provided when contacted by the Tribune. Also listed as hosts are C3 co-founders Charles Attal and Charlie Walker. The concert promotions company has run Lollapalooza since 2005. It signed a contract with the Chicago Park District in 2012, during Emanuel's term, to continue operating it until at least 2021.
Other hosts at the Austin fundraiser include Ben Barnes, former Texas lieutenant governor and founder of political consulting, lobbying and crisis management agency Ben Barnes Group, which has offices in Austin and in Washington, D.C. Wyeth Wiedeman, a partner at the firm, is also a host, as is venture capitalist Tom Meredith, the former acting chief financial officer of Motorola and former CFO of computer giant Dell Inc.
Wow, 16-year run (hopefully Rahm will be long gone by 2021) and they pay virtually no taxes to the city. Who gets contracts like that these days? Well, the 3 Charlies do. Okay, I know what you're thinking. The mayor promised not to take any campaign contributions from from city contractors.

No prob, says Rahm flack Sarah Hamilton who claims that the rule does not apply in this case because C3 Presents has its deal with the Park District -- not the City. Oh and Emanuel's travel to Texas will be paid for by the mayor's political campaign and not taxpayer dollars, says Hamilton.  Uh, yes, but that's a few hundred bucks he laying out in order to raise millions.

A difference without a distinction, you say? Tell it to the judge.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Big shake-out in the test-prep industry predicted as SAT is revamped

The College Board is going to "radically revamp" the SAT — with the goal of putting SAT test prep companies out of business and aligning the test to the Common Core academic standards. But as long as Common Core is chained to high-stakes standardized testing, test-prep will continue to trump authentic classroom teacher and assessment.

According to Politico,
The overhaul reflects deep concern — among students, parents, teachers and college admissions officers — that the SAT did not fairly reflect the work teenagers did in school. It stems as well from a concern that the proliferation of pricey SAT tutoring services gave the wealthy a leg up over the meritorious.
 In a step toward that goal, College Board Pres. David Coleman announced a partnership with Khan Academy to provide free, online test prep materials — including thousands of practice problems and instructional videos. The College Board plans to train tutors and counselors to help students from low-income households to access the online test prep.

FairTest not impressed...Public Education Director Bob Schaeffer says,
“Providing free SAT prep is laudable, but it already exists through programs such as Number2.com. The partnership with the Khan Academy is unlikely to make a dent in the huge market for high-priced, personalized SAT workshops and tutoring that only well-to-do families can afford."    
Standardized tests continue to be a  lousy predictor of college success and a new study released last month by the National Association for College Admission Counseling found that students who are admitted to college without submitting SAT or ACT scores do just as well as their peers in terms of college grades and graduation rates.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

IFT leader claims ALEC leader Dillard as his champion -- "A strong voice for teachers." Really?

Dillard (left) and Rauner. They're both worse. 

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) represents the most reactionary, anti-people, anti-teacher, racist sector of the corporate establishment. They are the architect of  Stand Your Ground and a host of recent legislation aimed at restricting the voting rights of black and Latino voters and increasing the black prison population. Then there's Arizona’s punitive SB1070 immigration bill. They are strongly anti-union and have pushed legislation nationally to dis-empower teacher unions and take away collective bargaining rights of all public employees.

The Arizona-based Goldwater Institute and the Michigan-based Mackinac Center between them successfully shepherded five model bills through ALEC’s Commerce, Insurance, and Economic Development Task force — all targeting public sector unions.

The list goes on and on.

The Illinois Charter Quality Act, passed in 2011, expanded the authority to approve charter schools from school districts to an appointed state commission. On ALEC’s website, a similar bill is filed under “model legislation.” ALEC helped fund the effort to pass the Illinois Charter Quality Act. After the act was signed into law, the state created the Illinois Charter School Commission, which was then given authority to approve charter school applications. The rest is dismal history.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Kirk Dillard, until quite recently, was ALEC's state chairman and is still an active member and supporter of ALEC. ALEC once named him “Legislative Member of the Year.” While he voted recently against the pension-busting SB7 bill in exchange for support from the IEA in his run against even-worse(?) union-buster Bruce Rauner, he is still on record supporting pension-cutting measures, like placing salary caps on pensions, raising the retirement age for teachers, and replacing the pension system entirely with 401K stock-market investment plan.

On social issues, he's Tea Party all the way, supporting concealed-carry gun laws and capital punishment and opposing marriage equality for gay couples. You name it.

OK, enough said about ALEC and Dillard, most of which is old news anyway. But yesterday, the IFT leadership followed the lead of the IEA in endorsing Dillard in the Republican primary and dropping lots of money ("six figures") into his campaign coffers. That alone should be shocking to IFT's own union members, who unlike the mainly suburban and rural IL teachers in the IEA, are nearly all urban democrats.

I wasn't shocked by the IFT's decision to back Dillard. I hate it but expected it and can even understand their rationale. It's basically the lessor-of-two-evils theory (on crack). After all, there are many compromises and tactical diversions that union leaders have to make, hopefully with the understanding and support of their rank-and-file members, especially if they truly believe that Rauner is qualitatively worse or more of a threat than Alec Dillard. I'm not so sure.

Montgomery applauds SB7, calls it a "model."
IFT President Dan Montgomery says the endorsement of Dillard "comes not only with significant resources, obviously, but the hearts and minds of our members who will work, have conversations with families and colleagues around the state to hopefully have Sen. Dillard be the winner in the Republican primary."

But even if you accept the Rauner-is-worse proposition, Montgomery goes way over the line in calling Dillard a "strong voice for teachers and retirees." 

That's not just about a lessor-of-two-evils tactical approach. It's a statement that is not only misleading and dishonest, but a sellout of everything teachers here and throughout the state of IL have been fighting for and against.

Shame on him.

Rahm and Rauner ride the same money train

There's a Republican Party in Chicago. It's called the Democratic Party.

Among it's top leaders are Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Republican candidate for governor, billionaire union buster, Bruce Rauner. Both are backed by the same wealthy corporate donors, especially those who are corporate school "reformers" and public school privatizers like Ken Griffin and Eric Lefkofsky —both on the 2013 Forbes list of billionaires. Members of Chicago’s Crown family, which has an estimated worth of $4 billion, also contributed to both campaigns. The Crown family also contributed to former Mayor Richard M. Daley. They have no problem with either's Democrat or GOP labels.

Remember, it was Griffin, J. Crown and Rauner himself who were among those who bankrolled the teacher union-busting group Stand For Children's incursion into Chicago.

Today's Sun-Times shows how both Rauner and Rahm ride the same corporate money train.
An analysis of campaign contributions since Emanuel ran for mayor and since Rauner launched his gubernatorial campaign shows an overlap of more than 100 campaign contributors...Chicago-based political consultant Don Rose said there’s another reason that goes back to an old idiom: “The common interest of which we speak is neither red nor blue but green. 

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Charter hustlers launch ad campaign attack on de Blasio

Eva Moskowitz leading the attack.

New York's deep-pocketed charter school hustlers and privateers have launched a multi-million-dollar ad campaign against Mayor de Blasio. They are also using the ads to make wild, unsubstantiated claims about the benefits of charters over community-based public schools. No mention, of course, of massive suspension and expulsion rates or any other charter negatives.

They claim de Blasio is "kicking them out" of THEIR school buildings. Translation -- the mayor is asking the privateers to pay rent for the building space they themselves expropriated from public schools during the Bloomberg/Klein regime. BdB wants to divert the city's rent subsidy for charters towards the expansion of early childhood education and universal Pre-K for all city families (Oh, the horror!).

The privateers are playing the victims, threatening to sic their team of stickpin lawyers on the school system to tie things up in the courts. As expected, crying the loudest and making the gravest threats is New York's chief charter hustler Eva Moscowitz who runs the so-called Success Academy charter chain. Socialite and Bloomberg pal Moscowitz, who pays herself a hefty $500,000/year salary, says she's "stunned" by the mayor's rent-collecting policies. I guess I'm stunned that she's stunned. De Blasio is doing exactly what he said he would do when he ran for mayor. Remember he won in a landslide over Moscowitz' candidate.

Huffington post reports:
During his campaign, De Blasio called for a moratorium on co-location, although he recently lifted that moratorium in favor of a community-based approval process for allocating space to charter schools. De Blasio also questioned whether charters shouldn't be charged rent. His rhetorical target in arguing for these changes was Moskowitz: At a June forum, he said, "There is no way in hell that Eva Moskowitz should get free rent, okay?"
I don't often have cause to say this anywhere, but --Okay, Mr. Mayor.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

New religious charter believes in Value-Added

Students participating in By the Hand Club's after school program, say a prayer at the end of their chapel session before returning to their classrooms to begin their homework. | Jessica Koscielniak / Sun-Times

“My faith motivates me to do more,” says Donnita Travis, the founder and executive director of By the Hand and the charter’s chairman of the board. The politically-connected Travis claims that God spoke to her and told her to start the BTH after-school program.

Her newly-approved CPS charter school is affiliated with Moody Church and will be housed along with a religious prayer-based after-school program. According to the Sun-Times, classrooms have religious posters on the walls, and "the group tracks how many kids in their program attend church" (not test scores?).
The charter school would be housed in a new building adjacent to the current $6 million, 26,000-square-foot Austin facility, and the charter would lease its space from the nonprofit for $750 per student, officials said. It plans to enroll 90 children per grade and would initially open with just two grades.
For those of you who don't have your calculator handy, if the school goes K-8, the rent will come to $540,000. Tax free. Not bad. And they say there's no money to be made in charter schools. #ReligiousValueAdded

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Why Cerf jumped ship in N.J.

Cerf bails on Christie

If Jersey Jazzman tells me that the Christie's Bridgegate scandal has nothing to do with the timing of Chris Cerf's jumping ship and heading for Murdoch (see comments) I believe him. There's no one who knows N.J. ed politics better than JJ.

I never meant to imply that the bridge scandal and Christie's zero chances of running for president in 2016 were the main reasons, anyway. We all know by now what drives guys like Cerf. Like his former boss, Joel Klein, who left his post as Bloomberg's school chief in N.Y. for Murdoch's greener pastures, only to return with Amplify contracts in hand, Cerf has dollar signs in his eyes.


NJEA Pres.Wendell Steinhauer expressed concerns that Cerf’s new position will allow him to profit from the “misguided mandates” he has brought to New Jersey schools, including the new teacher evaluation system linked to upcoming PARCC standardized tests.
“While it is clearly a very good career move for Commissioner Cerf, he leaves New Jersey at a time when schools, educators and students are struggling with these new mandates. As a result of his rush to impose costly and unproven high-stakes testing in New Jersey, districts are spending money they don’t have to implement testing they do not need,” Steinhauer said in a statement released today. “Educators are being subjected to a poorly understood and badly implemented evaluation system that relies far too heavily on the kind of costly assessment and student data systems that Mr. Cerf’s new employer helps districts implement, for a cost.”
I don't know, but I think "concern" may be to soft a word here. It's this revolving door between the ed bureaucracy and ed corporate complex that makes the Ownership Society's wheels go round.


Funniest moment (as least for me) came yesterday during Christie's visit to Chicago on a fundraising trip for the RGA, when he blamed his Bridgegate scandal on the "lack of civility" in Washington. Does he think we've forgotten? In case you have, here's a reminder:

 I can use a lot of words for Washington D.C. ‘civilized’ would not be one of them.” -- Chris Christie 

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Cerf jumps Christie's ship in N.J. Goes to work for Murdoch

Cerf hooks up with Murdoch

Darling of scandalized Gov. Chris Christie and the state's corporate school "reformers," Chris Cerf is out as New Jersey schools chief. Cerf said Monday he will leave his $141,500-a-year job on Feb. 28 to become chief executive of  international criminal Rupert Murdoch's Amplify Insight ed tech firm. He's following his old boss, Joel Klein, who was New York City schools chancellor, over to Murdoch. Cerf was Klein’s deputy from 2006 to 2009.

It was 59-year-old Democrat Cerf who brokered a landmark tenure law with AFT Pres. Randi Weingarten, a contract which bases teacher evaluation largely on student test scores, and who has approved 37 N.J. charter schools. He was also a key player in the deal to bring $100 million in Mark Zuckerberg money into the corporate reformers' pockets.

Cerf said the timing of his decision had nothing to do with the gov's fall from grace and praised Christie for being “truly an authentic believer in school reform.”
“None,” he said of the timing in relation to the burgeoning scandals. “The answer is none, absolutely none.”
Translation: Of course it has everything to do with it.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Billionaire corporate school reformer Mandel, buys a 'pipeline' to CT Gov. Malloy

Stephen Mandel, Jr. Net Worth $1.8 B (Forbes)
If you're a billionaire hedge-funder and corporate school reformer like Stephen Mandel, and you want a direct line to the governor's office, you buy one.

Mandel, the founder of the Lone Pine Capital hedge fund in Greenwich, is one of the biggest financial backers of CT Gov. Malloy, having  spent over $500,000 supporting the governor's agenda.

He's also chairman of the board of trustees at Dartmouth College and a member of the Harvard Business School’s board of dean’s advisers as well as member of the board of directors at Teach for America. Mandel, a one-time Goldman Sachs analyst, became a managing director at Tiger Management, a now-closed hedge fund whose especially high returns often made headlines. Business writers as a result often have referred to him as a “tiger cub” since his founding of Lone Pine Capital in 1997.

Gov. Malloy
His private foundation is paying three “fellows” to develop public policy in Malloy's office and two state departments. The foundation and its executive director, Meghan Lowney, has played a major role in shaping Connecticut’s education policy — particularly in the state’s failed takeover of the Bridgeport Board of Education.

That's the one that led to the illegal hiring and then un-hiring of Paul Vallas.  

Writes Wait, What? Blogger Jonathan Pelto:
Mandel and his aide, Meghan Lowney, played the pivotal role in the creation of Excel Bridgeport, Inc. the corporate funded education reform advocacy group that supported Malloy’s education reform bill, worked to pass Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch’s failed charter revision proposal to do away with an elected board of education in Bridgeport and has been the biggest boosters for Paul Vallas and Kenneth Moales Jr, the disgraced former chair of the Bridgeport Board of Education.
Lowney, together with Nate Snow, the executive director of the Connecticut chapter of Teach for America, had founded Excel Bridgeport, a proponent of the state takeover. One of the biggest opponents of that move, retired state Superior Court Judge Carmen L. Lopez, dubbed Lowney “the conspirator in chief”’ of the “coup that led to the illegal removal of a democratically elected Board of Education by the state.” 

The foundation claims its fellowship program is designed to select “emerging leaders from across the nation” so that they can have “the opportunity and support to further develop leadership skills while working in high-level projects in Connecticut.”

Those chosen receive annual salaries of between $50,000 and $70,000 plus medical and other benefits and function as “employees on loan, in-kind to the partnering public office,” according to the foundation. 
“Fellows work with senior officials on policy projects that address ever-changing issues and challenges,” it says, adding that they “may perform research relative to legislation, serve as an intermediary between different agencies or offices, or lead special projects.”
The foundation adds that one of its goals is to “develop a sustainable public leadership pipeline in Connecticut,” and that another is to “provide ad hoc support for the office in which they are placed.”

Yes, sustainable -- big time. 

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

How the early small schools movement was 'reformed' to death

If you're interested in the history of the early Small Schools Movement and how it was, to quote Michelle Fine, "coopted and commodified", by corporate school reformers and the power philanthropists, get a copy of Critical Small Schools: Beyond Privatization in New York City Urban Education Reform (edited by Maria Hantzopoulos, Alia R. Tyner).

CUNY Prof Michelle Fine, one of the movement's dynamic leaders, writes a powerful and sobering foreward. It's a great companion to our own book, Small Schools: Public School Reform Meets the Ownership Society. If you're a New Yorker, get a copy of each  for Mayor de Blasio and Carmen Fariña too, please.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Bruce Rauner's charter school, a pawn in his political game

Rauner boasts that he started a charter school.

Billionaire candidate for governor, Bruce Rauner and charter operator Mike Milkie, are trying to play Rauner Charter School for all its worth. Rauner's using it for political reasons, Milkie, it seems, for personal gain.

The school's teachers and students have become pawns in Rauner's campaign publicity game. Until today that is, when an expose in the Sun-Times could bring the game to a grinding halt.

Although he brags in his campaign commercials, about starting a charter school (because, "there’s no excuse for failing schools. Zero. None. Period") he, along with CEO Mike Milkie and the school's operators are now forced to put a little distance between Rauner and the Rauner College Prep.

From the Sun-Times
Rauner, a venture capitalist and member of Noble’s 20-member board, says: “I’ve never had a role in day-to-day operations at Noble or, frankly, in almost anything I get involved with. My role is generally as a board member or kind of an adviser providing overall strategic advice or feedback. . . .
The S-T says, Rauner has given about $2.5 million to Noble. His family foundation has also given about $4 million to other organizations that operate or support charter schools.
Though Noble teachers make less than those at CPS, Milkie makes nearly as much as Chicago schools chief executive Barbara Byrd-Bennett, who is paid $250,000. 
Milke milks his charters

Ironically, it's Chicago who's made out like a bandit off Rauner.
Ironically, it's Gery Chico who seems to be making out like a bandit off of Rauner's charter. Ironically because Chico was appointed chairman of the Illinois State Board of Education by Rauner's likely opponent, Gov. Quinn.  Charter operator Milkie has thrown a lot of school business Chico's way. The S-T reports their relationship dates back to 1998, when Chico was president of the Chicago Board of Education — which gave Milkie permission to start Noble. After leaving the school board, Chico and his law firm were paid $239,363 by Noble for legal work in the 2009-10 school year. Chico’s firm has continued to work for Noble even after he was appointed by Quinn in May 2011.

Milkie and Rauner have also been able to get the state of Illinois (Quinn and Chico) to loan Noble $42 million by issuing bonds, which could cost the school $85 million in principal and interest by the due date of 2040, bond records show. The bonds are repaid with taxes. Noble also borrowed $13 million through the Mayor's tax-credit financing program. Not a bad deal for the charters as Rahm is closing dozens of schools in the city's black and Latino neighborhoods. Rauner claims he didn’t know Chico had worked for Noble.

Yeah, right.

Interesting stat:  Milkie and Rauner like to boast that their charter sends 90% of its kids to college. But the S-T reports that 2/3 of them fail to earn a degree within 6 years. 

Then there's the question of whether Rauner would ever send his own kid to Rauner Charter School or to any charter? Remember, he used his clout and a phone call to Arne Duncan to get his daughter into Walter Payton, a selective enrollment school, through the back door.

Also see the accompanying S-T piece on how the would-be Republican candidate for Illinois governor took control of the Academy of Communications and Technology Charter School that teachers Sarah Howard and Michelle Smith started, dumped Sarah as executive director, and then suspended operations for two years, before handing the teacher-led school over to a national charter school operator.

And then there's the UNO connection.
Rauner’s family charity has contributed $800,000 to the scandal-tarred United Neighborhood Organization in recent years, including $750,000 to help expand the Hispanic community group’s network of 16 charter schools in Chicago
 Rauner says he wasn’t aware UNO used some of his money to make up for the suspended state funding.

Yeah right. And Chris Christie didn't know about the bridge.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Suit: D.C. charter operators dumping 350 special needs kids after diverting funds to their for-profit company

Options former chief executive Donna Montgomery
In D.C., Attorney General Irvin B. Nathan filed a civil lawsuit against several Options Charter School  managers and a former board member accusing them of diverting millions of dollars from the school to two for-profit companies they owned and operated.

He's trying to stop the Public Charter School Board (PCSB) from closing of the school, which would leave hundred of special-needs kids out in the cold.
It’s enough that they face enormous challenges, including blindness, dyslexia and severe emotional disorders. Now, the more than 350 special-needs children at Options Public Charter School must suffer cavalier charter officials who apparently have little regard for their academic futures. -- Washington Post
In her Post opinion piece, Jonetta Rose Barras asks:
Is the PCSB dumping children to improve its schools’ ratings? In 2013, Stanford University researchers found, “The charter sector [nationwide] is getting better on average not because existing schools are getting dramatically better. It is largely driven by the closure of schools.” The District has closed 35 charter schools since 1996. 
 In the comments section of the article, drbilllemoine writes:
It should be plain by now that charter schools favor those evading majority black schools, old and poorly maintained buildings, aiming to discredit public schools and legally populate elitist school enrollments. I was there when home schooling started and saw charter schools start in the deep south, but it's not limited to the old confederacy states as we know. Instead of rehashing the processes of re-segretation by some dimension, let's look at the alternative that works for everybody.