Category Archives: Schools.K-12

Privatization Plan Defeated in NH

Source: Melissa Weinstein, AFSCME Now, May 30, 2018
 
What if you and your co-workers were forced to leave a job you loved, to which you’d dedicated your career, so that non-union private contractors could be hired for a fraction of the cost? More than 100 Nashua, New Hampshire, School District custodial workers had been facing that prospect for the past 2½ years. Until recently, that is.  Members of AFSCME Local 365 (AFSCME Council 93) finally won the battle against privatization of Nashua School Custodian services. Faced with the threat of politicians putting corporate interests before quality public services, members successfully mobilized to elect Nashua School Board members who understand the value and commitment of public service workers. Following that victory, the board voted 6-1 in late February to negotiate a new contract with AFSCME members, whose contract had expired in 2016. …

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Nashua BOE rejects privatization plan
Source: Hannah Laclaire, The Telegraph, February 28, 2018 (Abstract)
 
The Nashua Board of Education has rejected privatization, ending two and a half years of discussion about the topic and protecting more than 100 union service-based jobs within the district. … Last fall, the Supreme Court of New Hampshire sided with the Nashua School District in an appeal from the union that the district committed an unfair labor practice by refusing to bargain with the Nashua Custodial/Janitorial Staff concerning the district’s plan to move toward privatization at the end of the term of the “collective bargaining agreement between the parties.” …

School board-custodian case moves close to Supreme Court
Source: Tina Forbes, The Telegraph, September 22, 2016 (Abstract)

The Nashua School District is one step closer to having its case considered by the New Hampshire Supreme Court after the state Public Employee Labor Relations Board denied the district’s request for a rehearing on its plan to privatize some of its custodial workforce. The labor board handed down its decision on Tuesday, more than a month after the school board voted to appeal the labor board’s initial decision in favor of the district’s custodians.

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Young Boy With Autism Abused By His School Bus Aide And Driver

Source: Dave Savini, CBS Chicago, May 11, 2018

Nicky O’Toole has autism and struggles to communicate. For months, when he was just nine years old, he was hit and threatened by his school bus aide and driver. … O’Toole said as she struggled to figure out why her son’s behavior was changing, she initially did not suspect the First Student bus employees. … She says months of disturbing videos are in First Student’s possession. … There are training questions too. First Student’s contract with the District says they provide, “..a well-developed special-needs training program.” The bus aide says otherwise, according to O’Toole’s team of attorneys, Michael Krzak of Krzak and Rundio Law and Robert Clifford from Clifford Law Offices.

Kentucky’s first charter school director resigns after less than a year. Here’s why.

Source: Valarie Honeycutt Spears, Lexington Herald-Leader, May 9, 2018

Less than a year after he was hired as the first director of the Kentucky Department of Education’s charter school division, Earl Simms said he is resigning May 25 so that his wife can go back to her previous job in St. Louis. Simms told WDRB-TV in Louisville and the Herald-Leader that he was not leaving because former Kentucky Education Commissioner Stephen Pruitt suddenly resigned in April at a state school board meeting, one day after Gov. Matt Bevin appointed several new board members. The board of all-Bevin appointees that same day hired charter school proponent Wayne D. Lewis Jr. as an interim Commissioner. … Though the charter school movement appears to be stalled, Lewis has said he will work with Kentucky Department of Education officials to determine if there is a path for charter schools that doesn’t require the General Assembly to approve a funding mechanism. …

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A closer look at the future of charter schools in Kentucky
Source: Emilie Arroyo, WKYT, April 18, 2018

The Kentucky Board of Education is taking a new direction after the resignation of education commissioner Dr. Stephen Pruitt and Gov. Matt Bevin’s appointments of new board members this week. Many expect that direction to be a stronger push for charter schools, but Kentucky’s legislature ended its 2018 session with no funding process in place. … While it’s unclear when Kentucky will see it’s first charter school, we do know how it will work. …

Kentucky Lawmakers Approve Charter School Law
Source: Lesli A. Maxwell, Education Week, March 15, 2017

After years of failed attempts, Kentucky lawmakers have approved a charter school law. The measure passed the state Senate on a vote of 23-15 Wednesday afternoon, largely along party lines. Republican Gov. Matt Bevin—an enthusiastic supporter of charters—is expected to sign the measure. The Kentucky House approved the bill—HB 520—last week and will still have to sign off on changes made by the Senate. … Kentucky has been one of the hardest places to pass a charter law, but with the 2016 election, Republicans in the state took control of the legislature and the governorship, clearing the way for a charter bill to succeed. The bill says nothing about how charters in Kentucky will be funded. Under its provisions, there will be no limit on the number of charter schools that can be authorized. … And while the bill says that parents, community members, public organizations, school administrators, and nonprofits can apply to operate a charter school, there is nothing in the legislation that prevents charter school operators from contracting out all of their management and operations to a for-profit entity. …

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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. …

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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. …

6 Months After Maria, Puerto Ricans Face a New Threat—Education Reform
Source: Yarimar Bonilla, Rima Brusi and Natasha Lycia Ora Bannan, The Nation, March 21, 2018
 
Six months after Hurricane Maria, Puerto Ricans are understandably frustrated with their government officials. One might expect discontent to center around the head of the power company who oversaw months of blackouts or the governor who awarded hundreds of millions of dollars in private contracts with little or no oversight. But instead it is the secretary of the department of education, Philadelphia-native Julia Keleher, who has become the focus of people’s anger. In the past few weeks, Puerto Ricans have been calling for her resignation, making her the object of a viral hashtag campaign, #JuliaGoHome. On Monday, the school system was paralyzed by a strike as thousands of teachers protested the education-reform bill her office has spearheaded. …

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Charter schools cost three California school districts more than $142 million, think tank claims

Source: Lisa Fernandez, KTVU, May 9, 2018
 
Three California school districts, including two in the Bay Area,  lost a total of  $142.5 million to public charter schools during the 2016-17 school year, according to a report conducted by a think tank that critics claim is politically biased. The Oakland Unified School District lost $57.3 million and San Jose’s East Side Union High School District $19.3 million, according to In The Public Interest, a nonprofit centered on ” privatization and responsible contracting.” The report, “Cost of Charter Schools for Public School District,” published Tuesday, compared the school districts’ 2016-17 budgets to what they could have been if 15,487 students in Oakland’s charters and 4,811 in East Side Union’s charters enrolled in traditional public schools instead. The report also found that the San Diego Unified School District lost $65.9 million by the “unchecked expansion of privately managed charter school.” …

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Amid National Uprising, Teachers Just Took a Major Step Toward Organizing Charter Schools

Source: Rachel M. Cohen, The Intercept, May 2, 2018
 
The fight over charter schools is often just as much a battle over unions. Charter school operators and funders take relatively clear anti-union positions, and the absence of organized labor is often a selling point for charters, which boast flexible hours and pay schedules as paths toward quality education. Teacher unions, meanwhile, tend to oppose charter schools as a drain on needed resources for traditional schools and as centers of educator exploitation. In the 2016-2017 academic year, just 11 percent of charter schools were unionized. Yet in Los Angeles, teachers just took a big step toward reversing that trend. … On Wednesday morning, a legal representative for a majority of teachers at three of the network’s 25 campuses filed union authorization cards at the state’s Public Employment Relations Board. Once the signatures are verified, the new Alliance Educators United union will be official. …

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Calif. Charter Network Can’t Block Union Organizers, Emails, Judge Rules
Source: Stephen Sawchuk, Education Week, June 8, 2016

California’s labor-relations board for public employees issued a mixed ruling on whether a major California charter management organization illegally tried to quash a unionization drive at its schools. The battle over unionization at the 27-campus Alliance College-Ready Public Schools has been ongoing for more than a year, ever since teachers submitted a “mission statement” outlining their intent to unionize last March. … Judge Kent Morizawa ruled that Alliance officials impermissibly blocked union organizers from schools, and interfered in the drive by redirecting emails from United Teachers Los Angeles into teachers’ “spam” folders. And in one instance, the PERB ruled, an Alliance employee talked about a teacher’s evaluation and employment status in a conversation about the teacher’s support for United Teachers Los Angeles. … But the ruling sided with the Alliance on other matters. For instance, the PERB ruled that many of the Alliance’s other communications to teachers and parents—including statements suggesting that unionization would result in a loss of flexibility and autonomy at the schools—were not coercive or threatening. …

Legislature Orders Audit of LA Charter Chain for Spending Taxpayer Funds to Block Union Drive
Source: Steven Rosenfeld, Alternet, May 26, 2016

The Joint Legislative Audit Committee (JLAC), composed of members of the Assembly and Senate, voted 8-3 Wednesday to authorize the audit of Alliance College-Ready Public Schools, which has 11,000 students in 27 schools. The audit comes after a Los Angeles County Court issued a temporary restraining order against the taxpayer-funded but privately run school to stop its anti-union actions, which include not only intimidating and threatening teachers but also working with the California Charter School Association (CCSA) to recruit parents and alumni to fight the union drive. … The chain has received hundreds of millions in public funds. How much was spent fighting the union drive, including hiring consultants, legal fees, producing media, running phone banks and other outreach activities will be investigated by the state’s auditor. … In March 2015, when teachers and counselors at the chain began a unionization campaign—which is legal under state labor law—the charter school chain responded with aggressive tactics, including illegal surveillance, interference with union meetings, phone calls to parents attacking teachers involved in the campaign, blocking teacher emails and retaliation against organizers. …

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Opinion: Do Taxpayers Know They Are Handing Out Billions to Corporations?

Source: Nathan M. Jensen, The New York Times, April 24, 2018
 
Every year, states and local governments give economic-development incentives to companies to the tune of between $45 billion and $80 billion. Why such a wide range? It’s not sloppy research; it’s because many of these subsidies are not public. For the known subsidies, such as Maryland’s recent $8.5 billion incentive bid for Amazon’s second headquarters, the support includes cash grants for company relocations, subsidized land, forgiving company taxes on everything from property taxes to sales taxes and investments in infrastructure for the company. …

… Economic development all across the country is getting less open — and both Democrats and Republicans are doing it. In fact, in many cases, the politicians themselves aren’t even the ones negotiating for the public. How do communities balance the tremendous opportunity of attracting a world-class company against the taxpayer costs, the pressures on our infrastructure and our struggles of providing affordable housing? … Another strategy to avoid transparency in a competition like this is through complexity. The idea is to make economic development so twisted that it’s nearly impossible to figure out who is responsible for it. If governments aren’t submitting these bids, with taxpayers’ money, who is responsible for economic development? In many states, companies are wooed by getting a break on paying local taxes. In some of these cases, local interests get overlooked — in particular, schools. There are school districts where economic developers were empowered to give away the tax revenues without the input of educators. …

Schools sign new janitorial contract

Source: Amelia Harper, Rocky Mount Telegram, April 16, 2018

Nash-Rocky Mount Public Schools now has a contract with a new janitorial service provider after spending more than a year trying to make the switch. The Nash-Rocky Mount Board of Education voted Thursday to approve a nearly $2.5 million contract with Beck Education Services to provide cleaning services for 37 buildings owned by the school district. … According to the the termination document presented by the school board to SSC, several issues led to the contract termination. The document stated that an SSC manager had placed a custodial worker on a school campus without the required and contracted background checks, including criminal check, sex offender registry check or E-verify work authorization check, and was paying the individual “cash under the table.” The document also claims that the custodial company had been the cause of numerous complaints, primarily regarding lack of communication and the “failure to fill custodial staff vacancies within a reasonable time period.” Some school board members said Thursday that they had also heard employees of SSC express concerns over lack of training and the poor quality of cleaning supplies provided. …

Whittier-area schools have new bus provider — it’s the high school district

Source: Mike Sprague, Whittier Daily News, April 14, 2018

When Hun Joon “Paul” Lee, a 19-year-old special needs Whittier Union High student, died after being left inside a parked, hot school bus in 2015, his death sparked a movement that culminates with what is essentially a new bus provider for seven Whittier-area school districts. Whittier Union High School District has left the Pupil Transportation Cooperative, or PTC, which had been providing bus transportation since 1984. Instead, starting July 1, it will run the buses for all seven PTC member districts — East Whittier City, El Rancho, Little Lake, Los Nietos, South Whittier and Whittier City. … After his death, Lee’s family received $23.5 million in a settlement with the PTC. In turn, the PTC sued the high school district last year for partial compensation of the settlement. That lawsuit since has been dismissed. Now, with the contracts approved Tuesday, the changeover from the PTC to the high school district is nearly ready to go. …

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Bus Company to upgrade safety policies after death of special-needs student in Whittier
Source: Miriam Hernandez, ABC7 Eyewitness News, September 16, 2015

Immediate safety upgrades will be put into place by Pupil Transportation Cooperative following the tragic death of a 19-year-old man with special needs in Whittier, the company announced during a press conference Wednesday. … PTC will be pushing for electronic notification devices to be placed in school buses and two adults will now monitor every bus to ensure no student is left on board. … DeLapp said the substitute driver was a 10-year veteran who may not have known Lee’s limitations. Yet there is evidence the driver ignored what is characterized today as a standard child check procedure, which is spelled out in the bus operator manual. “Walk the entire length of the bus interior, front to rear, and check for students who may still be on board,” the manual states. DeLapp said the procedure was signed off, but yet Lee was still inside the bus. …

Special Needs Student Found Dead on School Bus May Have Been Waiting for Instructions: Family
Source: Hetty Change and William Avila, NBC Los Angelos, September 14, 2015

When family members learned that Lee had been left on a school bus on a hot Friday afternoon, they thought he may have stayed there waiting for a cue. The 19-year-old was found alone and unresponsive. Police could not revive him. Lee, or Paul to those who knew him, had a severe form of autism. Leslie Perez’s mom was his caregiver. She says her mom waited outside for Lee’s bus to drop him off at 3:30 p.m., like she does every afternoon, but it never showed up. Police found the adult school student lying in the aisle near the front of the bus parked in a Whittier school district parking lot. He was declared dead — less than two weeks before his 20th birthday — after lifesaving efforts failed. … It’s also unclear whether drivers with the bus company, Pupil Transportation Cooperative, are required to do head counts. Family members say a different bus driver had picked him up that morning.

CPS fails to count schools in janitorial contract, costing millions

Source: Lauren FitzPatrick, Chicago Sun-Times, April 12, 2018

It’s the latest wrinkle in a controversial contract to privatize custodial management with Aramark, which has faced sharp criticism for failing to keep schools clean. Aramark was supposed to save CPS $18 million this year. But the district understated the square footage that would need cleaning in its request for proposals, spokesman Bill McCaffrey said, at a cost of $7 million over the projected $64 million CPS expected to spend this year. … Chief Administrative Officer Tim Cawley sold the $260 million Aramark deal to the Board of Education and the public by saying it would free up principals from managing custodians, result in cleaner schools and save the cash-strapped district millions of dollars. Some of the savings was to come from layoffs of hundreds of custodians. But the district was on the hook for some $20 million more to Aramark than it promised, essentially wiping out the $18 million Cawley said the district would save in its first of three years, as first reported by WBEZ. …

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CPS to spend additional $7M to hire 200 more custodians to tackle dirty schools
Source: Lauren FitzPatrick, Chicago Sun-Times, April 12, 2018

Two days before most of the school janitors’ union planned a strike vote, the union says Chicago Public Schools officials agreed Thursday to hire 200 more custodians to tackle dirty schools. … The Chicago Sun-Times has documented filthy conditions in schools where the custodians are managed by Aramark, a private contractor for CPS. Of 125 schools examined in “blitz” cleanliness inspections, 91 failed. Janitors have said they can’t keep up with cleaning schools because Aramark and another company that oversees additional facilities work, SodexoMAGIC, cut too many of them since taking over in 2014. They had asked for 500 more janitors to clean the schools. Two of them also accused their supervisors of cheating on the independent inspections CPS paid for to monitor the cleaning. CPS has since made changes to that inspection process and stepped into the recent negotiations between SEIU Local 1 and Aramark and SodexoMagic. …

CPS inspections ‘blitz’ finds rat droppings, bugs, filth in schools
Source: Lauren FitzPatrick, Chicago Sun-Times, February 28, 2018

The discovery of rats and rodent droppings throughout the building at Mollison Elementary School in Bronzeville and two failed health inspections there last fall prompted Chicago Public Schools officials to declare they were ordering an all-hands-on-deck series of inspections citywide. That “blitz” was supposed to inspect 220 schools to start, CPS said. But despite initially finding that problems such as rodent droppings, pest infestations, filthy food-preparation equipment, and bathrooms that were dirty, smelly and lacked hot water, CPS quietly halted the inspections before completing them all, records obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times show — shortly after the newspaper requested information on the early results. CPS provided blitz reports from 125 facilities that show only 34 of those schools passed inspection by inspectors from the district’s facilities department and Aramark, the private company that manages the custodians and oversees food service. And not all of the schools that were re-inspected passed the second time around, according to hundreds of documents and photos taken at nine schools that were provided under the state’s public records act. …

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