Category Archives: Education

The case against Chartwells

Source: CBS News, August 17, 2018

… Imagine the only meal a schoolchild ate came from a school’s kitchen dishing out spoiled and rotten food. It happens, Mills found out. … In 2010, he took a hefty paycut to take a job as director of food services for Washington, D.C.’s public schools, where he would oversee feeding some 50,000 students. … He took over a system where the food was supplied by Chartwells, a multibillion dollar company that managed the menus and made all the purchase agreements for the food. He was shocked by what he saw. … Mills found the food was poorly prepared, not healthy and, in some cases, unsanitary. … He took his concerns to Chartwells with no real change. Then the contract was up for renewal by the District, and Mills called for an audit. He maintained the school district was being overcharged millions. The school district removed Mills and his team from oversight of the auditors. Mills was told to back off. Three years after he was hired, he was fired. He then sought an attorney for wrongful termination – and as a whistleblower. …

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Auditor: DC Schools Should Stop Outsourcing Food Service
Source: Associated Press, October 8, 2016

A report from the District of Columbia auditor said the city’s school system should stop turning over food service to outside contractors. The report released Friday said outsourcing food service has not saved the city money as school officials promised and will continue to cost the system millions of dollars a year. In their response to the auditor’s report, school officials said they continue to oppose bringing food services back in-house. Former schools chancellor Kaya Henderson repeatedly argued that food service was not a “core competency” of the school system. …

Chartwells Era Ends As DCPS Selects New Food Providers – Following a whistleblower lawsuit last year
Source: Andrew Giambrone, Washington City Paper, May 23, 2016

The school-food provider at the heart of a whistleblower lawsuit in 2015 that revealed substandard food quality and fraud will not serve D.C. Public Schools students next academic year. DCPS announced in a statement on Friday that it has chosen DC Central Kitchen and SodexoMagic, with Revolution Foods as a subcontractor, to provide meals at more than 110 facilities. … The announcement follows a request for proposals DCPS posted in December, featuring a one year contract with four options years to renew. Still, which entities applied for the RFP won’t be publicly available until the contracts are approved because of procurement rules. Under the proposal, 12 schools in Ward 7 would be served by DC Central Kitchen, while the rest would be served by SodexoMagic and Revolution Foods. DC Central and Revolution served hundreds of thousands of meals last year. ….

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Columbia Public Schools bus driver removed from route after kindergartner got off on wrong stop

Source: Emma Veidt, August 22, 2018

… Meela Walker said she thinks Student Transportation of America, which is contracted by the Columbia Public School District to provide transportation, was negligent and that the bus driver failed to follow company protocol. “The bus driver was horrible during the whole situation,” she said. “I felt like I wasn’t getting any cooperation from STA.” … Baumstark said Student Transportation of America, not the Columbia Public School District, hires, fires and disciplines bus drivers. According to a statement released by Student Transportation of America yesterday, the driver has been removed from the route. …

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Blue Ridge parents dissatisfied with school bus system
Source: Elise Brisco, KOMU 8, August 21, 2018

Samantha McCormick says she no longer trusts the school bus system to get her second grader where he’s supposed to be and when. Another Blue Ridge student was dropped off at the wrong stop Monday. …”We have had several incidents ourselves in the neighborhood where we actually had to request that the bus driver come and drop him off in front of the house because we kept missing him or they would not drop him of,” McCormick said. Columbia Public Schools contracts with a third party company, Student Transportation of America, to get students to and from school. McCormick said the company changes drivers often, which leads to confusion over where students should be dropped off. …

40 cities in 10 years: Leaked presentation offers more details on new group’s goals to spread charter (and charter-like) schools

Source: Matt Barnum, Chalkbeat, August 21, 2018

The new organization aiming to spread a mix of charter schools, school autonomy, and unified enrollment across the country wants to reach 5 percent of low-income students in the U.S. within five years, according to a presentation obtained by Chalkbeat. The City Fund, whose formation was announced late last month, has already amassed over $200 million and a well-connected staff, making it poised to influence education policy in cities across the country. The full presentation, used a few months ago to pitch potential funders, offers the most detailed available blueprint of the group’s goals and strategies, which include expanding charter schools or charter-like alternatives. Known as the “portfolio model,” it’s a controversial approach that has faced skepticism from both critics and supporters of charter schools. The academic success of the approach remains hotly debated. …

Calif. Legislature Approves McCarty Measure to Ban For-Profit Charter Schools – AB 406

Source: Christopher Simmons, California Newswire, August 23, 2018
 
The California State Legislature today approved AB 406 by Calif. Assemblymember Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento), which would prohibit for-profit corporations from managing and operating charter schools in the Golden State. This bipartisan measure was approved by the State Senate on a 28 to 7 vote and by the State Assembly on a 49 to 15 vote. … A broad alliance across the state also supported AB 406 including the California Teachers Association, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the Association of California School Administrators, the California Labor Federation, the California School Boards Association, the California School Employees Association and the California State PTA. …

Signs protest Davenport school district’s outsourcing initiative

Source: Linda Cook, Quad-City Times, August 22, 2018
 
Last week, Davenport Schools Superintendent Art Tate floated the idea of outsourcing some services, if the district could save money and maintain or improve the quality of the service. Teaching jobs would not outsourced. Since then, signs saying “Protect Our Kids, No Outsourcing in our Schools” have appeared along West Locust Street and West Central Park Avenue opposing the concept. Union officials were aware of the signs, but said they have not taken an official stance on the issue. Earlene Anderson, the union representative for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME,) for East Central Iowa, which represents the district’s para-educators, security, custodial and food service-workers, among others, said “everything is still evolving.” …

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Orange Signs Popping Up Around Davenport
Source: Angie Sharp, WQAD, May 1, 2013

It’s a community campaign that is growing every day. Bright orange signs are popping up in front yards across the Davenport Community School District, reading “Protect Our Kids. No Outsourcing In Our Schools.” The signs are part of an effort to stop the District from outsourcing jobs such as custodians, nurses, security staff, maintenance crews, and more. The District’s Resource Allocation Committee, which looks at ways the District can reduce spending and save money, has recommended the possibility of conducting outsourcing studies…

Davenport school board hones in on $3.2 million in budget cuts
Source: Tara Becker, Quad-City Times, March 26, 2013

…To address the uncertainty in state funding, the district’s Resource Allocation Committee recommended that the district cut $3.25 million per year for the next five years to make sure the budget stays in the black. The committee, which is made up of 25 representatives of the school district and the community, recommended several budget reductions and other areas of study. One such recommendation by the committee is to outsource nursing, janitorial and other positions. The board has not yet to direct Tate to do a study on the issue….

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Puerto Rico’s High Court Clears Way for Vouchers, Charter Schools

Source: Andrew Ujifusa, Education Week, August 10, 2018

Puerto Rico’s Supreme Court has dismissed a legal challenge to the U.S. territory’s plans to allow charter schools and vouchers, spelling a potential end to one of the biggest controversies about the island’s education system since two major hurricanes hit the island last year. Earlier this year, the island’s government approved a plan to create “alianza” schools, which are intended to be like charter schools, as well as a “free school” selection program similar to vouchers. …

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Puerto Rico’s Teachers Battle for the Schools Their Students Deserve
Source: Jesse Hagopian, The Progressive, May 9, 2018
 
On May Day, thousands of Puerto Rican teachers, parents, and students launched strikes and boycotts to push back against austerity measures that would close nearly 300 schools, lay off 7,000 teachers, convert public schools into privatized charters, and cut public sector pensions. I spoke with Mercedes Martinez, President of Teachers Federation of Puerto Rico, about the neoliberal attack on the schools and public sector, the worker strikes and boycotts of May Day, and the brutal response of the police. …

Puerto Rico Plans to Shutter 283 Schools
Source: AJ Vicens, Mother Jones, April 6, 2018
 
The Puerto Rico Department of Education announced late Thursday that it would close 283 public schools next school year, citing a decline in enrollment of nearly 39,000 students and the island’s ongoing budget crisis.  “Our children deserve the best education we are capable of giving them taking into account the fiscal reality of Puerto Rico,” Puerto Rico Secretary of Education Julia Keleher said in a statement issued in Spanish Thursday evening. “Therefore we are working hard to develop a budget that will allow us to focus resources on student needs and improve the quality of teaching.” In early February, Keleher and Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló introduced a sweeping education reform plan that called for closing several hundred schools over the next several years and introducing charter schools to the island. The governor estimates the plan will help save $466 million per year by 2022, according to figures in his most recent fiscal plan meant to address the island’s staggering $120 billion in outstanding debts and obligations. Those figures do not take into account the estimated $95 billion in damage caused by Hurricane Maria. …

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The State Lawsuit That Could Set a Precedent for Nationwide Student-Loan Refunds

Source: Natalia Abrams and Senya Merchant, The Nation, August 9, 2018
 
Lawsuits against one of the largest servicers of federal student loans, Navient, have garnered headlines in recent weeks. Following the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s groundbreaking lawsuit against the company in 2017, four additional states have followed suit, including California, in an effort to enforce state consumer laws and protect student-loan borrowers from unscrupulous business practices. Navient, a publicly traded company hired by the Department of Education to service over $100 billion in federal student loans, is the most criticized company in consumer finance. Now, one of the most consumer-friendly states in America is taking the company to court. Should California Attorney General Xavier Becerra prove successful, attorneys general around the country willing to take a stand against Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and her efforts to decimate state-level student-loan protections would be able to use this as a model to check abusive student-loan companies. …

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Have a student loan? There are some lawsuits you need to watch
Source: Michelle Singletary, Winston Salem Journal, July 8, 2018

If you have a student loan, there are some lawsuits you need to watch. Navient, the country’s largest servicer of student loans, is facing several lawsuits by state attorneys general accusing the company of, among other things, steering borrowers to payment options that cost them more money. Last week, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra filed a lawsuit against Navient and two of its subsidiaries, Pioneer and General Revenue Corp., alleging misconduct that included misrepresenting the order in which the company would apply extra loan payments and failing to properly discharge federal student debt for borrowers with a total and permanent disability. …

Former Rep. Kline Continues Shilling for For-Profit Education
Source: David Halperin, Republic Report, June 20, 2018

Rep. John Kline (R-MN) defended and protected for-profit higher education businesses while chairing the House education committee, even after many companies in the industry were caught engaging in widespread predatory and deceptive practices. Now that he’s retired, Kline is cashing in, serving on the board of Education Corporation of America (ECA), which operates poorly-performing for-profit colleges, and, in a new op-ed in The Hill, arguing that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau should drop a lawsuit charging giant student loan company Navient with deceiving and cheating borrowers across the country. …

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White Hat Management Leaves Ohio Charter Industry

Source: Mitch Felan, WKSU, August 8, 2018
 
White Hat Management, the once-prolific Ohio charter school operator and early advocate for school choice in the state, is leaving the charter school business. The company has been steadily losing contracts over the past few years in the competitive market. …

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When it comes to facing down Ohio’s well-heeled charter school lobbyists, will state lawmakers be leaders — or lapdogs?
Source: Brent Larkin, Northeast Ohio Media Group, July 24, 2015

…… In the past 17 years, Ohio’s two largest charter school management companies — David Brennan’s Akron-based White Hat Management and William Lager’s Columbus-based Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT) — have funneled more than $6 million to Republican candidates and causes. In the last election cycle, ECOT alone gave more than $400,000. The payoff? About $1.76 billion in taxpayer money has flowed into charter schools run by Brennan and Lager since 1998.

Start the investigation of the state Department of Education
Source: Editorial Board, Beacon Journal, July 18, 2015

Let the formal investigation begin, preferably by David Yost, the state auditor, or an independent investigator tapped by the State Board of Education. The target? The Ohio Department of Education, its director of school choice admitting last week that he removed or ignored failing grades for online and dropout recovery charter schools as part of evaluating the performance of sponsors, those organizations that oversee the publicly funded yet privately run schools.

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ALEC Sets the Table for Gerrymandering, Union Busting, Protecting Fossil Fuels, and Privatizing Schools

Source: Mary Bottari, PR Watch, August 7, 2018
 
When the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) convenes its 45th annual meeting of legislators and corporate lobbyists at the swank Hilton New Orleans Riverside hotel on August 8, it will serve up a veritable banquet of union-busting, gerrymandering, pro-fossil fuel, and school privatization proposals for lawmakers to take back home. … With citizens turning to the courts and ballot box in a growing number of states to clamp down on hyper-partisan “gerrymandering” schemes, ALEC members will instead be voting on a resolution to defend the right of politicians to keep hand-picking their voters. … ALEC’s latest union-busting bill, which would force unions to hold recertification elections every other year, has long been pushed by anti-union PR man Richard Berman and others. … Over the years, ALEC has worked hand-in-hand with the DeVos family’s group, American Federation for Children, to advance a “cash for kids” model of school privatization, including dozens of bills promoting school vouchers. For decades, ALEC billed vouchers as a civil rights ticket for low-income kids, but then ALEC’s “Education Savings Account Act” created a “universal” system that siphons off public education dollars to private school parents of any income level. Now ALEC is debating a new bill, the “Economic Development Zone ESA Act,” to require the state to pay the equivalent of public school aid toward any private school for students who live in majority low-income economic development zones. Given the cost of a private school education, the likely effect would be to subsidize the ability of middle- and upper-income families in economically distressed areas to pull their kids out of public school. …

Principals’ Union to Go After New Members in Charter Schools Post-Janus

Source: Arianna Prothero, Education Week, July 30, 2018
 
The national union for public school principals plans to launch a recruitment program for charter school leaders.  The initiative comes as unions are anticipating steep membership and funding losses as a result of the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Janus v. AFSCME. The largely non-unionized charter sector could present ample—albeit rocky—territory for expansion for unions. … The American Federation of School Administrators voted last weekend on a resolution to create a charter school recruitment program at its convention in Washington. This is the first concrete move by a union of educators to focus on organizing charter school personnel post-Janus. Neither of the national teachers’ unions offered up such resolutions during their conventions earlier this month. …