Category Archives: Schools.K-12

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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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. …

Union rep: Keep food workers, hire private manager

Source: Lloyd Jones, Conway Daily Sun, July 17, 2018
 
Would the Conway School Board consider hiring a private manager for the food service program and retaining its 12 employees rather than going entirely the private route?  That’s the alternative AFSCME Council 93 Regional Coordinator Steve Lyons is proposing in order to save the jobs of his union members.  The board voted not to renew the 12 employees’ contracts and to authorize School Superintendent Kevin Richard to enter into negotiations with Cafe Service’s Fresh Picks, a Manchester-based food service provider, at its July 9 meeting. … Lyons told the district that once it goes down the path of privatization it probably cannot turn back.   “I think you are making a bad decision,” he said. “Getting out of it, you’re getting out of it for good. The companies will come in and replace your equipment. They’ll make it so it’s economically unhealthy for you to (switch back).” …

Consultant: District Wasting $1M Annually on Inefficient School Bus Routes

Source: July 10, 2018, School Bus Fleet

LAKEWOOD, N.J. — A school district here is wasting over $1 million a year, a transportation consultant has found, on inefficient school bus routes that it outsourced to private companies, while some of its own buses go unused, Asbury Park Press reports. The consultant, Ross Haber of Ross Haber Associates, was hired earlier this year to pinpoint potential cost savings in the public school transportation program, according to the newspaper. Lakewood Public School District spent about $9 million on public school transportation over the past school year. The report comes after the district took a $28 million loan from the state to settle a budget deficit for the upcoming school year, Asbury Park Press reports. … Haber’s preliminary findings are posted on the school district’s website and he shared an update on Thursday at a public meeting that was attended by school officials and dozens of district bus drivers and aides, Asbury Park Press reports. The report finds that inefficiencies include too many bus stops, empty seats on buses, and buses being contracted while some of the district’s own buses sit idle. …

Stanley County won’t outsource school food service

Source: Dave Askins, Capital Journal, July 10, 2018

Meals served to Stanley County School students and staff will continue to be prepared by district staff. At its regular meeting on Monday, the school board declined to accept a proposal to hire Thrive Nutrition to handle food services in the district. … At June’s special meeting, board members had questions about staff, their compensation and cost savings. … Asked by board members about out-of-pocket expenses for health insurance, Headlee said there is some cost to employees. Veteran SC teacher Shirley Swanson, who routinely attends board meetings, said at June’s meeting that health insurance is currently paid in full for the employee. … Thrive Nutrition’s 401K match, Headlee said, is discretionary, not guaranteed. … The cost savings a district can realize by outsourcing food service to Thrive Nutrition is based on the procurement by 30 facilities, which means more buying power. …

CPS kills $60M deal at the last minute over sexual harassment of janitors

Source: Lauren FitzPatrick, Chicago Sun-Times, July 6, 2018

Just before a scheduled vote, Chicago Public Schools officials withdrew plans to approve a $60.6 million contract for school cleaning and other facilities management work because the company set to be given the work has a poor history of protecting its janitors from sexual harassment, the Chicago Sun-Times has learned. GCA Educational Services Central States Inc. was being recommended for the lucrative, three-year deal to manage facilities services at 34 Chicago schools, including cleaning, which has become an issue amid reports of filthy schools. But at the same June 27 meeting at which the Chicago Board of Education was set to award the contract, Arnie Rivera, CPS’s chief operating officer, announced he was pulling the recommendation to hire GCA to oversee the work at a group of South Side schools where some of the worst problems were found during inspections for cleanliness.

… But the Sun-Times confirmed it was because GCA’s parent company, ABM Industries, Inc., has had a series of problems keeping its janitors safe on the job. … ABM was featured in the 2015 PBS “Frontline” documentary “Rape on the Night Shift” about women who were sexually harassed and assaulted while working as night janitors in California. Since 2000, ABM has been sued three times by the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission over such claims. While under a three-year consent decree that a judge signed in one of those cases, the company was sued again by three janitors in California who accused ABM of failing to do enough to keep them from being sexually harassed and assaulted at work. In the spring of 2017, more female janitors in California complained to the company that supervisors sexually harassed them, then sought help from the EEOC, according to the documentary. And GCA Service Group — which ABM bought in 2017 — had been sued in 2012 by a school janitor in Tennessee who said she was fired after reporting incidents to supervisors of sexual harassment and assault by a coworker. …

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1 in 4 Chicago schools fails in new inspections spurred by dirty schools reports
Source: Lauren FitzPatrick, Chicago Sun-Times, July 3, 2018

Chicago Public Schools officials say their efforts to improve school cleanliness are working, but data they released late Tuesday showed that one in four schools still failed “blitz” inspections despite heightened awareness prompted by Chicago Sun-Times reports. Just ahead of the July 4 holiday, CPS released school-by-school summary results of inspections by central office staffers and employees of Aramark and SodexoMAGIC, which have major contracts to clean and oversee facilities services in the school system. …

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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Teachers File New Labor Charge Against Cesar Chavez Charter Network and TenSquare, a Consulting Firm

Source: Rachel Cohen, Washington CityPaper, July 6, 2018

An ongoing legal battle between unionized teachers at Chavez Prep Middle School in Northwest D.C. and their charter school escalated today. The union filed a new unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board, this time naming TenSquare Group, a charter school consulting firm, a joint-employer of the school. This is the fourth charge the union has filed against the Cesar Chavez Public Charter School network since August, but the first time TenSquare has also been named liable. In its latest complaint, the union alleges that the charter network and TenSquare have illegally changed the school’s calendar for the 2018-19 school year in ways that affect terms of employment, have bargained in bad-faith (referred to as “surface bargaining”), and have walked out of a bargaining session before its scheduled end time, “thereby disregarding their bargaining obligation under the [National Labor Relations] Act.” …

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Behind the Consulting Firm Raking In Millions From D.C. Charter Schools
Source: Rachel Cohen, Washington CityPaper, May 24, 2018

“Everybody’s afraid.” That’s a D.C. charter school administrator’s assessment of TenSquare, one of the city’s most connected, lucrative, and controversial charter consulting companies. … Even in education circles, most people have never heard of TenSquare, a national for-profit consulting firm that currently operates in seven states and the District. It markets itself as a universal fixer for troubled charters—a one-stop shop for facility financing, staff recruitment, back-end operations, teacher training, and academic turnarounds. … But a five-month City Paper investigation has raised a host of questions about TenSquare’s work. Available data do not show consistent improvements across the D.C. schools that hired TenSquare, and several schools got worse. Its business dealings reveal a criss-crossing web of repeat players, potential conflicts of interest, and in one instance the recurring appearance of an alleged far-right activist. Yet it’s not a coincidence that TenSquare has landed some of the most remunerative charter contracts in the city: While not every school leader disparages TenSquare, a number have said they felt real pressure from the PCSB to hire the company. …

DC: Teachers Hit the Picket Line at First Charter School to Unionize in D.C.
Source: Liana Loewus, Education Week, December 1, 2017

A growing number of charter school teachers have begun to start seeing unionizing as an option, as we’ve written. Among the most recent charters to organize is Chavez Prep Middle School in Washington, part of the Cesar Chavez Public Charter School network. Teachers there voted in June to form a collective-bargaining unit affiliated with the 1.6-million-member American Federation of Teachers. And now those teachers are saying the charter school’s administration isn’t negotiating with them as is legally required. “By law after our vote, any changes to our working conditions have to be negotiated with us,” said Christian Herr, a science teacher who headed the organizing effort. “Our board continues to make significant changes—adding job duties without additional compensation, things like that—without bargaining with us.” …

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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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