The latest cash grab : Teacher/charter school villages



TFA recognizes the value of the Centers concept and has entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with Seawall Development Company to replicate the Centers for Educational Excellence model across the country. Philadelphia, along with Washington, D.C. and New Orleans, is a TFA-identified growth area, and TFA has committed to being the lead commercial tenant in these developments, with their corps members making up the majority of residential tenants.

TFA: The New Gentrifiers

As I noted in a previous article titled The Battle in Seattle Against Yet Another Charter School Invasion, a developer plans to build a project that includes retail, low income housing and at one time, a charter school, the Green Dot charter school chain, in Southeast Seattle.

Based on further research, I found this is not an anomaly but a national trend.

Bankers, developers and real estate brokers are working together with Teach for America (TFA) and charter school enterprises to offer low income housing mainly for Teach for America recruits and other teachers who do not have adequate pay for clean and safe housing along with free space for charter schools through city and state support. These are our tax dollars paying for highly lucrative business ventures where all the profit goes back to the bankers, developers and brokers.

These people are not developing these projects out of the goodness of their hearts, they are doing it for, of course, the money.


So how does this work?

Basically, developers will get money from the city or state to provide low income housing in blighted areas or low-income communities. A charter school is brought in to sweeten the pot along with teachers who will begin the process of gentrification.

In a few years, the local community becomes popular for basically the creative class or white middle and upper classes and before you know it, you have a Soho, a Mission district in San Francisco, a Northeast Portland.

Property values begin to rise and an investment made with public money goes into the pockets of the bankers, developers and brokers.

For Teach for America, Inc. it’s a perk. They can retain recruits at very low pay because they now have “affordable housing” for the working poor and charter schools can come in with little to no cash required because of city and/or state subsidies.

Sweet deal for the 1%, not so good for the rest of us.

When the value of the property around the school begins to skyrocket, those who were to benefit from the developments will not be able to afford to live anywhere near the original charter school/low income housing sites.

And, if a charter school goes belly up, as a large percentage of them do, less money has been lost and the space is move-in ready for the next charter school venture.

According to an article titled Why Are Community Development Lenders Financing Charter Schools?  published in ShelterForce:

Some CDLF [Community Development Lenders] practitioners also believe that charter schools are conducive to urban revitalization because they provide middle-class families with “safe” educational alternatives that encourage them to move to and stay in urban areas, helping to break up the concentrated poverty found in many of those areas. Research documents that charter schools are used by higher-income, primarily white urban residents who do not want to send their children to local public schools serving large numbers of low-income, black and brown students.

Other studies provide evidence that charter schools are used by more affluent whites in non-urban communities as well, as a means of facilitating segregation. More generally, numerous studies have found that charter schools lead to increases in segregation in education by race, ethnicity, and income, across metropolitan areas

  1. It’s Where the Money Is

CDLFs are mission-driven organizations, but they also respond to the market. There are substantial and growing public and private incentives for investing in charter schools. Those incentives are particularly attractive given the limited availability of other forms of subsidy.

One of the most effective forms of subsidy to encourage CDLFs to support charter school expansion is the U.S. Department of Education’s (USDOE) Credit Enhancement for Charter School Facilities (CECSF) program. The USDOE awarded $280.9 million in CECSF grants between 2002 and 2015 “to public and nonprofit entities to develop innovative credit enhancement models that assist charter schools in leveraging capital from the private sector.” CDLFs received at least 75 percent of these CECSF grant dollars

Indeed, the program has been very successful in leveraging private capital with federal funding sources. LISC calculated that, through 2012, approximately $250 million in CECSF dollars leveraged an additional $3.2 billion in charter school facility financing, with private investors attracted by the lower risk and greater financial profitability.


Before heading to other cities where this is happening, I thought it would be worth noting that the Homesight low-income housing development in Southeast Seattle that was to house Green Dot charter school and populated by Teach for America recruits has one financial backer of note, Bill Gates. Bill Gates is a proponent of school privatization. The Gates Foundation provided Homesight with $100,000 to support the Regional Equity Network to advance a community-led agenda in the Puget Sound region”* and $16 million to Green Dot “to support the expansion of Green Dot Public Schools into the state of Washington”. Also of note, two of Washington Teach for America’s “Supporters” are Goldman Sachs (who finances several of these charter school/low income developments around the country) and Avenue Properties.

So, let’s see what’s been happening elsewhere.


One of the first examples of these business ventures was one Cory Booker pushed back in 2012. Cory Booker is no friend of public education because of his ties to the donor class so this comes as no surprise to those who have been following him.

As the then Mayor of Newark, Cory Booker stated at the groundbreaking of the Teachers Village per NBC New York:

“This is how we reinvent and rebuild a great American city,” Mayor Cory Booker declared when ground was broken for Teachers Village, a downtown development of eight buildings planned to have 200 apartments for teachers, three charter schools, a day care center and stores. It’s being designed by architect Richard Meier, a Newark native best known for designing the Getty Center in Los Angeles. The $150 million price is being covered by a combination of private and public funds.

In the next paragraph, the reporter writes:

The hope is that schools will be better with teachers who live in the community, and that it will create a middle-class enclave in a city where nearly one-third of families with children live in poverty. Middle-class residents can bring neighborhoods stability, attract more businesses and ultimately improve tax revenue.

Per New Jersey Business:

The project was awarded nearly $40 million in Urban Transit Hub tax credits from the state Economic Development Authority and allocated $60 million in federal New Markets tax credits for the school portion. Other public financing came from the city of Newark, the state Casino Reinvestment Development Authority, and federal Qualified School Construction Bonds, according to an EDA memo. Private financing came from Goldman Sachs, Prudential Financial Corp., TD Bank and New Jersey Community Capital, Beit said. In the early months of the recession, Beit said, Berggruen’s unwavering commitment to the project — Berggruen said he considers his investment “long-term” — brought everyone else together.

Teachers Village now has three charter schools.

All of this out of public coffers at an estimated $200 million.

Originally, leaders of the teachers’ unions were all for Teachers Village until they came to realize the concept was not for public school teachers but for Teach for America recruits. (It’s hard to imagine these folks were that naïve.)

According to Ed Week in an article titled Projects Couple Affordable Teacher Housing With New School Construction:

Newark Teachers Union President John M. Abeigon says the union, an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers, initially backed the project because it thought it would benefit more traditional public school teachers. At the start, he says, the developers had emphasized its planned support for such educators.

But Abeigon contends that the project then became aligned with what he calls the “corporate charter school movement.” For evidence, he cites the complex’s three charter schools and the fact that most of the apartments are rented to charter teachers and staff.

Abeigon’s concerns are echoed by Randi Weingarten, president of the AFT.

“This was supposed to be a way to recruit and support and retain Newark public school teachers,” she said. “That was the basis on which then-president of the Newark Teachers Union Joe Del Grosso [now deceased] and the AFT said this makes sense, because we really do believe in the idea of teachers living in the communities in which they teach. But Teachers Village came to be about charter teachers alone and that was dead wrong.”

Abeigon also argues that the complex’s close ties to charter schools belie the developers’ professed commitment to the long-term health of the community—a sentiment shared by other critics of the project.

“It’s a known fact that traditional public school teachers, who I refer to as career educators, stay longer than charter school teachers, so their commitment and investment in the community is that much greater,” he said. “Those living in Teachers Village are going to be turnaround tenants. They’ll do their two-year stints with [Teach For America] or a charter school, beef up their résumés, and then go get a job elsewhere. They aren’t going to really be invested in Newark.”

And in New York, another housing development. Per Affordable Housing Finance:

A new vibrant, mixed-use development that is providing much-needed affordable housing, a charter school for underserved students, and nonprofit office space has been built on an underutilized area of a New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) site in East Harlem.

Jonathan Rose Cos., Harlem RBI, and Civic Builders partnered to create the East Harlem Center for Living & Learning on the site of George Washington Houses. The development includes the 89-unit Yomo Toro Apartments; the DREAM Charter School…

The total development cost for the project was approximately $84 million, including $30 million for the Yomo Toro Apartments. The affordable housing portion was financed through low-income housing tax credit equity provided by Enterprise Community Investment and sourced by JPMorgan Capital Corp., first and second mortgages from the New York City Housing Development Corp. (HDC), a loan from New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development, Reso A funding from City Council speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, and a grant from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.

In San Diego, there was a push to revise code requirements that would allow a charter school to be a part of a low-income housing development.

The community had issues with the school bringing with it additional unwanted traffic to the neighborhood causing the variance for the charter school to be tabled.

The difference between what happened in San Diego and what occurred in Seattle is that the variance request was reviewed by way public meetings in San Diego, not behind closed doors as was done in Seattle.

Thanks to the efforts of former School Board Director Sue Peters, the school board and the public were alerted to the second attempt by Green Dot charter school to receive special treatment by the City of Seattle in terms of receiving a code variance.

RBHGroup-logoThe RBH Group, who were the developers for the Newark project and whose CEO Ron Beit sits on the board of Teach for America, Inc. in New Jersey, then went to Hartford, Connecticut.

According to a report published by Goldman Sachs:

RBH Group, the developer of Newark’s Teachers Village, announced the completion of financing and the start of construction on Hartford’s Teachers Corner, a mixed-use apartment complex in downtown Hartford aimed specifically at teachers

RBH Group’s founder and president Ron Beit said, “Teachers Corner represents a public and private partnership committed to urban reinvestment, building affordable and workforce housing and contributing to revitalizing the center of the city.

Following the Teachers Village project in Newark, NJ, the RBH Group, through its joint venture with the Goldman Sachs Urban Investment Group, partnered with Prudential Social Investment Group, the City of Hartford and State of Connecticut to build the $20M project

Funders include City of Hartford, Connecticut Housing Finance Authority, State Department of Housing, Capital Region Development Authority CRDA, State Department of Economic and Community Development, Prudential Social Investment Group and Goldman Sachs Urban Investment Group.

In Baltimore, per Urban Land magazine:

The $21 million renovation of a long-vacant, century-old former tin box manufacturing plant in Baltimore’s Charles Village neighborhood was completed in summer 2009 by Seawall, founded by father and son Donald [Previously on the Teach for America, Baltimore Advisory Board] and Thibault Manekin. The project includes 40 apartments—ten reserved as affordable—and 35,000 square feet (3,250 sq m) of commercial space.

All the apartments are rented to school teachers at substantial discounts to market rental rates, and all office space—with the exception of Seawall’s headquarters—is leased to education-related organizations, including Teach for America.

Over 70 percent of the residents are members of Teach for America who work in Baltimore’s public school system, Morville notes. Several others are participating in the Baltimore system’s City Teacher Residency program, and some teach in parochial schools…

The financing mechanism that really made the project pencil out was the pairing of the New Markets Tax Credit (NMTC) with federal and state historic tax credits, Morville says. The project is located in a census tract defined as “highly distressed” under the NMTC program.

And in San Jose:

Developer proposes project with charter school, affordable housing for San Jose ‘urban village’.

With affordable housing and a [Aspire] charter school, the mixed-use project would be a first for San Jose and transform a currently vacant industrial property in the Alum Rock area.

As with charter schools and the Common Core Standards, venture capitalists are cashing in on public school funding making school districts even more strapped for cash while desperately trying to keep schools together, employ certified teachers and adequately staff their schools.

Make no mistake about it, these “teacher villages” are not about the children or the communities they live in. This is yet another big grab for cash by financial enterprises.

Dora Taylor

*Post Script:

It’s a devious web that Bill Gates and others weave particularly in the Seattle area where many of us caught on several years ago to the efforts by a few to privatize public schools in the US.

For that reason, it’s important to explain some connections.

Homesight and Regional Equity Network (REN):

Tony To, the Executive Director of Homesight is a co-chair for REN. Thus, the grant from Gates describes two receiving parties, Homesight and REN.


Recommended articles:


This Is What Happens When You Criticize Teach for America: An internal memo reveals how TFA’s obsessive PR game covers up its lack of results in order to justify greater expansion.

Why Are Community Development Lenders Financing Charter Schools?

Public Schools to Community Development (A highly recommended deep dive into what the thinking is on the part of the moneyed community.)

Critics rip plans for $22M charter school at Cayce Homes

Who Will Live In Newark’s Teachers Village? TFAers

TFA: The New Gentrifiers

Policy Link: A recent find that shows who is connected to what organizations in Washington State

Projects Couple Affordable Teacher Housing With New School Construction

WHEDco Bard Academy Charter School to share space in Bronx with affordable housing and music center in 2013  

It’s an East Harlem DREAM come true: a new charter school beneath affordable housing 




Washington State: Charter School Backers Want to Oust Judge Who Authored Anti-Charter Decision










The Battle in Seattle Against a Charter School Invasion


Originally published on The Progressive.

Charter schools and other market-based forms of “school choice” have been touted as ways to make education more responsive to “market demands.” But when you look at the latest attempt to force these schools onto the citizens of Washington state, you have to ask, “Just who is demanding these schools?”

Washington State has been pushing back against charter schools for a decade.

Three times, between 1996 and 2004, the state held ballot initiatives allowing charter schools in the state. Three times the voters said “No.”

In 2012, Bill Gates, Wal-Mart heiress Alice Walton, Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos, and other wealthy education “reformers” made a concerted effort on a fourth try to bring charter schools to the state. The public received a barrage of TV ads, forums, and mailers sponsored by organizations such as the League of Education Voters and Stand for Children, both of which are financially backedby Bill Gates.

Initiative 1240 passed 50.7 percent to 49.3 percent, only squeaking by despite the enormous financial advantage of the “Yes” campaign, which outspent the “No” campaign by a margin of 12 to 1.

Charter schools remain a controversial and unpopular concept in the state of Washington particularly in Seattle where over 60 percent of the voters were against the initiative.

After Initiative 1240 passed, a special commission was established to approve charter schools in the state. It is comprised of politically appointed members with no accountability to the general public with the ability to circumvent oversight by local school boards.

The commission recently approved the Green Dot charter chain, despite its checkered history. Green Dot has been faulted for poor test score results, loss of accreditation, low SAT scores, teachers cheating on student’s tests, poor teacher pay, high teacher turnover, student free speech violations, and misleading parents.

The Green Dot charter chain got its foothold in Seattle by subterfuge.

When community members in Southeast Seattle, a neighborhood of minority cultures and immigrants, found out a Green Dot middle school was part of a development plan there, citizen activists pushed back.

Former Seattle School Board member Sue Peters, who helped block Green Dot from receiving a zoning variance, told me in an interview: “Green Dot is violating the law. They have no legal right to make that request, yet someone in the City worked with Green Dot behind the scenes and granted them one waiver already and want to grant them another . . . So Green Dot is committing violation after violation.”

“Too often [charters] want rules and laws broken or special treatment that public schools are not granted,” she summed up. “And then they have the audacity to claim to make apples to apples comparisons with truly public schools.”

In May, 2017 Green Dot managed to push through a different zoning variance—this one to have “greater than allowed” building height for a high school—and, again, by operating under the radar and with the assistance of the City of Seattle’s Department of Neighborhoods division of Major Institutions and Schools.

When community advocates called attention to Green Dot requesting a second variance, the Seattle School Board unanimously passed a resolution that charter schools should not be afforded a variance because they are not considered public schools.

On the board of the company Homesight, which is the developer of the site in Southeast Seattle, is an executive from Impact Public Schools, which advocates for charter schools, Natalie Hester, who also serves on the board of the Washington State Charter Schools Association.

There were no representatives from Seattle Public School district on the board of the company.

With the variance for the high school successfully pushed through, but the variance for the middle school stymied by the school board’s resolution, Green Dot has decided to co-locate the high school with the junior high school.

Local citizens protested at the construction site.

And once again, the legality of charter schools is being challenged at the level of the State Supreme Court.

Seattle citizens voted three times against charter schools and there is no indication that opinions have changed. Only a select few backroom operators want the privatization of public schools in Seattle so the battle in Seattle continues.

Dora Taylor

Six reasons why we don’t want Green Dot charter schools in Seattle


The Green Dot charter chain tried to sneak through a project to open a high school in Seattle’s south end as they had done with a middle school last year. Southeast Seattle is made up of minority communities which create a rich and diverse culture adding to the fabric of Seattle. Green Dot charter school franchise targets minority communities with the promise that they, and they alone, can provide for students the best education possible. This has not been the case.

When some community members found out about a plan that the Green Dot charter chain was to be part of a development in Southeast Seattle, red flags were raised and a zoning variance that Green Dot charter school was trying to push through the city came to a halt.

It was pointed out that the requested variance, which was being pushed through by someone in the Department of Neighborhoods with no authority to do so, was only applicable to public schools under the purview of the school district and therefore Green Dot, being a charter school, could not receive a zoning variance for the location they had chosen.

The Green Dot middle school received a variance for the Southeast Seattle location last year but that was done under the radar and illegally with the assistance of the Seattle Department of Neighborhoods.

As former Seattle School Board Director and co-founder of this blog Sue Peters states about the charter high school which is applicable to the junior high charter school as well:

Green Dot is violating the law. They are asking for a waiver from zoning law called a departure. But they have no legal right to make that request. Only the Seattle School District can legally do so, according to city law — specifically Seattle Municipal Code 23.79.002. Yet someone in the City worked with Green Dot behind the scenes and granted them one waiver already and want to grant them another.

City law (SMC 23.79) also states that the advisory committee that makes these zoning determinations must include a representative from the Seattle School District. That did not happen. So it was convened unlawfully by the Department of Neighborhoods.

Charter schools are also required to comply with local and state and federal law (See RCW 28A.710.040).

So Green Dot is committing violation after violation. It is never a level playing field with charter operators and backers. Too often they want rules and laws broken or special treatment that truly public schools are not granted. And then they have the audacity to claim to make apples to apples comparisons with truly public schools.

When the flag was raised about the Green Dot charter franchise requesting a variance for a high school in Southeast Seattle, the Seattle School Board unanimously passed a resolution  that charter schools should not be afforded a variance because they are not considered public schools. For this school board vote, Director Zachary DeWolf recused himself because of his involvement as a Commissioner with the Seattle Housing Authority, the governing body that approved to sell city land to Homesight which is a development and financial group.

You can view that portion of the Seattle School Board meeting at 1:04:00:

It is interesting to note who is on the board of Homesight. On the board are Natalie Hester, Co-founder and Director of Impact Public Schools, an organization that promotes charter schools and is also on the board of Washington State Charter Schools Associations (WA Charters), Jen Wickens, CEO of Impact Public Schools, who was formerly with Summit charter schools and Virginia Freeburg, Director of Individual Giving at Seattle Preparatory School which is a private school. It is interesting to note there is no representation of Seattle PUBLIC schools are on this board.


Along with the school board’s resolution, there have also been protests at the construction site where the Green Dot junior high and high school are now to be co-located. Apparently Green Dot charter schools has decided to co-locate the high school with the junior high school rather than try again for a variance at the Othello location.

While all of this is happening, the legality of charter schools is again being challenged at the level of the State Supreme Court and is slated for review in April of this year.

The people of Seattle have voted three times against having charter schools in the state of Washington and it’s obvious that opinions have not changed. No one wants the privatization of public schools in Seattle. The few who do want charter schools stand to make a profit on the privatization of a public good.

Some of the people associated with Green Dot charter schools and its history

Green Dot charter schools have less than a stellar history.

ben-austin  I originally took notice of Green Dot during the time of the scandal in South Los Angeleswhen Ben Austin was hired by Green Dot founder Steve Barr to promote the school by any means necessary and that’s exactly what he did. Parents were duped into signing a petition to “turn around” their school. What the parents did not understand is that according to a new California law, that meant closing the school and thereby providing the opportunity for that school to be converted into a charter school. The parents were extremely upset about this once they discovered that their school was to be closed.

It was a scam.

This was termed the “Parent Trigger” and was written into legislation in Washington State with Initiative 1240.

The charter school established by Green Dot Corporation in Watts, California closed.

As Brett What wrote in his article Green Dot Public Schools, Teacher Retention, and the Failure of Past Models:

This is a story of a charter school in the Green Dot Public School system which, after four years of operation, is coming to an inglorious end. It is not an end to the system, or even to school itself, but an end in name and in so many exhausted careers used by Green Dot to experiment with failed policies in Watts, California.

Since then I have been following the Green Dot charter franchise and consider them on par with the KIPP charter school chain, both bottom feeders in the world of charter schools.

To follow are three key people associated with what is happening in Seattle.

Steve Barr

Steve Barr, Founder of Green Dot and Future Is Now (FIN)

After being caught with his hand in the Green Dot cookie jar in 2009, Green Dot founder and CEO Steve Barr, who is married to Wendy Kopp, founder of Teach for America, an organization that populates charter schools with unqualified “teachers”, branded a new organization called Future is Now (FIN) and opened two charter schools in New Orleans while maintaining a seat on the Green Dot board.

Things didn’t go well for Barr’s new financial venture, even in a town where charter schools thrive. Barr’s new brand failed miserably where his school, John Mcdonogh High School, brought the School Performance Score down to a 9.3 out of 150. Two years after the school was established, Barr pulled up stakes again and the students once again became part of the diaspora that is the school population in New Orleans since Katrina.

From Diane Ravitch’s blog, Oprah’s Charter Schools Star in New Orleans is Closing Down:

It seems like only yesterday that the Oprah television network featured an exciting new charter school in New Orleans that promised to turn around the John McDonogh school. The new charter group was led by Steve Barr and his Future Is Now organization.

“One year after the Oprah television network featured New Orleans’ John McDonogh High School in “Blackboard Wars,” hoping to depict a successful charter school turnaround, the Recovery School District is dissolving the school. All staff members will lose their jobs.

“A fresh start. This school needs a fresh start,” Recovery School District Superintendent Patrick Dobard said of the school run by Future Is Now.

“Struggling charter schools have three years to prove themselves, and they can lose their authorization to operate after the fourth. However, the school known as John Mac is closing after only two years. The high school had the lowest performance score in the state in 2013, after alternative schools.

Marco Petruzzi, CEO of Green Dot charter chain.

Marco Petruzzi

Mr. Petruzzi is a former hedge fund manager who took over the role of CEO for the Green Dot Corporation when Steve Barr founded FIN.

He will be discussed under the six reasons why Seattle does not need Green Dot charter schools anywhere in the vicinity.

Bree Dusseault

Locally there is Bree Dusseault who founded four charter schools in New Orleans before moving to Seattle with her husband. Her first job in Seattle was with Bill Gates’ funded think tank the Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE). Soon after Broad Superintendent Goodloe-Johnson hired her to be part of a new layer of bureaucracy as an Executive Director overseeing schools in a portion of the district. Ms. Dusseault immediately created quite the kerfuffle when she tried to oust a well loved high school principal based on student test scores. This was an attempt to instill the policy of Race to the Top (RTT) that Goodloe-Johnson was basically placed in Seattle to implement by the Broad Foundation. It didn’t work out for Goodloe-Johnson or Bree Dussault. After Goodloe-Johnson’s departure, Ms. Dussault founded WA charters in Seattle and is now Executive Director for Green Dot charter schools in Washington State. 


Now getting to the seven reasons why Green Dot has no business in Seattle or any other city or town for that matter.

1. The impact of charter schools on the surrounding community

An example of the effect of a charter school on a community is exactly what we are seeing in Seattle now.

Sue Peters states the following about the impact a charter high school would have on Seattle’s Southeast community and the school district.

Pretend for a second that the proposed Green Dot school was not a charter school, but a proposal for just another public high school. Who in the city or district could justify spending taxpayer funds to build another high school within 1-3 miles of three other existing public high schools which all have space for more students? It would be fiscally irresponsible. This is no different. This is taxpayer money we are talking about, and public land it would occupy. Another school in that area is not needed. Furthermore, it will almost certainly negatively impact the existing neighboring schools by draining resources and students from them.

Now return to the fact that it is a charter school. What would it offer that Rainier Beach with its IB program, its aerospace program, its School Improvement Grant (SIG) and high graduation rates doesn’t already offer? What would it offer that Cleveland High School, with its successful STEM program, diversity, decent grad rates and popularity not offer? What would it offer that Franklin High School, one of the truly diverse high schools in the district – meaning, the student body is not comprised of any one, racial majority – academies and popularity offer? The answer is nothing. It is not needed.

2. Questionable practices:

Being a charter school franchise with little to no public oversight and no opportunity for parents and students to turn to a district school board or other outside governing body for relief, the CEO and internal board do as they see fit with little to no regard for city, state or federal regulations.

To follow are three examples of what Green Dot has tried to get away with.

Inappropriate behavior by staff:

Parents of a student who attended Green Dot charter school in Tacoma, Washington testified in a Charter School Commission meeting this January that their daughter had been sexually molested and the school’s response they felt was inadequate. They moved their student out of the school because the issue had not been dealt with, there had been no disciplinary process put into place and “race issues were thrown back in our faces”. The parents said that Green Dot was “not a steward of the community”.

Teachers changing answers on students tests:

From the Los Angeles Times:

Cheating on state tests found at two Los Angeles schools

The state has thrown out the test scores of a top-performing Los Angeles school and of the highest-scoring campus in the nationally known Green Dot charter group after cheating was uncovered involving several teachers.

Short Avenue Elementary in Del Rey and Animo Leadership Charter High School in Inglewood were barred from receiving academic rankings released last week by the California Department of Education. That action deprived the schools of the state rating that has become the key figure used by parents and officials to judge campuses in California.

At Short, three teachers are accused of changing answers or coaching students to the correct answers or both. At Animo Leadership, a science teacher is accused of fixing wrong answers.

The violation of students’ and parents’ rights:

From Green Dot charter schools and freedom of speech:

Now, Green Dot, the retail chain that poses as an institution of education is facing new charges of gross misconduct: political repression of both students and retaliation against one particular teacher as well as Constitutional violations of the law.

Students,   parents, staff & teachers are engaged in a campaign to protest the   planned firing of Science Department Chair Mr. Friedman.  Friedman is well respected and a “fabulous   teacher” according to GD Human Resources Director Kelly Hurley. He has   brought many science programs, scholarships to Anímo and has helped hundreds   succeed and go on to college.

[Green Dot’s] Anímo Leadership students’ Constitutional Rights were violated by the on campus   seizure in early May (by Principal Murcia) of student petitions collected   outside school to protest the firing of History Department chair Sonia Del   Pino.  Students were called into the   office, intimidated, forced to sign statements & petitions confiscated.  

This violated CA Education Codes 48907 & 48950, US Supreme Court Decision Tinker vs. Des Moines and the US   constitution. In response, Mr. Friedman called the American Civil Liberties   Union & National Lawyers Guild to help protect students’ free speech   rights. He helped organize a student/parent/ staff committee to defend their rights, the teachers’ contract & fight the Del Pino firing.

3. Lackluster overall performance:

The Green Dot charter school franchise promotes itself as a college-ready preparatory chain of schools promising high test scores and IB classes although the opposite is true.

As Sue Peters points out in her argument that placing a charter middle school and high school in a community already served by public schools:

We already have an example of a Green Dot charter school in WA–Destiny Middle School in Tacoma – and its state test results are not impressive. As many as 64 percent of their students failed the Smarter Balanced Language Arts test and 78 percent failed the SBA math test. Why replicate this?

And from Schools Matter:

The Schools Steve Barr Made: Green Dot Charters post NINE of the lowest SAT scores

Green Dot Corporate Charter Schools hold the dubious record of NINE of the lowest fifty average SAT scores in Los Angeles County for 2015. The billionaire backed charter chain, founded by corporate executive Barr and run by hedge fund manager Marco Petruzzi, group of SAT bottom dwellers leads all other charter chains in comprising 18% of the fifty worst. These schools were (lower numbers are worst performing):

• 4. Animo Locke Charter High School #1 (Los Angeles): SAT Composite 1033

• 12. Animo Watts Charter High (Los Angeles): SAT Composite 1092

• 14. Animo Locke Charter High School #2 (Los Angeles): SAT Composite 1104

• 16. Alain Leroy Locke High (Los Angeles): SAT Composite 1107

• 19. Animo Ralph Bunche High (Los Angeles): SAT Composite 1117

• 25. Animo Locke Technology High (Los Angeles): SAT Composite 1129

• 26. Animo Oscar De La Hoya Charter High (Los Angeles): SAT Composite 1129

• 34. Animo Jackie Robinson High (Los Angeles): SAT Composite 1150

• 50. Animo South Los Angeles Charter (Los Angeles): SAT Composite 1180

The privately managed charter chain’s marketing slogan is “…all students graduate prepared for college, leadership and life.” These dismal SAT scores would seem to indicate otherwise. For context 1500 is considered the minimum threshold for college readiness, while 2052 was the composite average for Freshmen accepted into UCLA in 2013.

You can find a list of the SAT scores here.

4. The churn

There is the constant opening and closing of charter schools, many times with little to no notice to parents of the closing and the churning of teaching staff creates instability for students and the communities they live in. You can read what happened to Locke High School in Watts, California that was taken over by Green Dot which was led by Marco Petruzzi in the article Green Dot Public Schools, Teacher Retention, and the Failure of Past Models by Brett Wyatt. To follow is an excerpt.

I began to question the effectiveness of the Green Dot model after the first year, when over 30% of the teachers resigned. By my second year of teaching for Green Dot, both of the administrators whom hired me had to resign, as had the dean of the school. At the end of the first semester of my second year, another 30% of the teachers had left. Now, at the end of my second year, the school is being re-organized, only a small fraction of the remaining staff will transfer with it, and I have been re-assigned to a different and currently re-organized academy. First, I want to explore the numbers. Only two of the sixteen teachers from the original Locke Ace, who transferred to Locke II, will be moving on to Locke B academy. The new cluster re-organization will dis-aggregate the ninth grade into a separate academy to be housed in the main Locke HS building with the two of the grade10-12 academies. Locke A academy will move to the bungalow area in the back of the school. 

Here is the churn that occurred at Green Dot’s Amino Locke II charter school in Los Angeles:

ANIMO LOCKE II ADMINISTRATION NOTICE OF TRANSFER Locke Cluster Coordinator Chad Soleo – Moved to a national outreach position of VP of Advancement due to his excellent service as Locke Cluster Coordinator.

FORCED RESIGNATION (2008-2012) Principal – Discrepancies in practice, test scores did not improve

FORCED RESIGNED (2008 -2012) Assistant Principal – There was a discrepancy during state testing, he left three days later.

RESIGNED (2008 – 2012) DEAN – Multiple incidences of being beaten by students

TRANSFER (2012-2013) Assistant Principal– Transferred from Locke Tech where he was reportedly attacked by students to Locke II, and now transferred to be the principal at an Animo middle school.(2012 – Present) INTERIM PRINCIPAL – Position to be made permanent 2013-2014 (2012 – Present) DEAN , being promoted to Administrator in Residence.

COUNSELORS (2011-Present) Three full time counselors have been at the school since 2011, no reports on their placements for 2013-2014

FULL TIME TEACHERS Note: Teach for America (TFA) Full Time Educator (FTE) Provisional – Teacher does without a clear credential

SPECIAL EDUCATION RESIGNED (2008-2013) TFA – Moving out of state

RESIGNED (2009-2013) FTE – Hired into another district

RESIGNED (2011-2012) TFA – Left mid-year for personal reasons

RESIGNED (2010-2012) Provisional – Left mid-year for personal reasons (2010 – Present) FTE (2010 – Present) Provisional

MATH RESIGNED (2011-2013) TFA – Leaving for personal reason, possibly leaving profession

TRANSFER (2010-Present) FTE – Transfer to Animo Pat Brown

TRANSFER (2010-Present) TFA – Transfer to 9th Grade Academy

TRANSFER (2010-Present) TFA – Transfer to 9th Grade Academy (2012-Present) TFA (2012-Present) TFA (2011-Present) TFA

SCIENCE RESIGNED (2002 – 2012) FTE – Moved out of state

RESIGNED (2009-2012) TFA – Left teaching profession

RESIGNED (2011-2012) Provisional – Left teaching profession

MEDICAL LEAVE (2010 – 2013) FTE – Return is uncertain (2011-Present) FTE (2011-Present) TFA (2012-Present) TFA and Provisional

HISTORY RESIGNED (2011-2013) TFA – Hired into another district as administrator (2008 – Present) FTE (2010 – Present) TFA (2010 – Present) TFA (2011 – Present) FTE

ENGLISH RESIGNED (2008 – 2012) TFA – Left teaching profession

RESIGNED (2009-2012) TFA –Hired into another district

RESIGNED (2010-2012) FTE – Left teaching profession, resigned mid-year

RESIGNED (2011-2012) TFA and Provisional – Left teaching profession

RESIGNED (2012) TFA – Injured by student, Left mid-year for personal reasons

RESIGNED (2012) TFA – Left mid-year for personal reasons

RESIGNED (2012) TFA – Left mid-year for personal reasons (2010-Present) TFA

RESIGNED (2011-Present) TFA – Hired into another district.

TRANSFER (2011 – Present) TFA – Transfer to 9th grade academy

RESIGNED (2011) FTE – Left without a new assignment, (2011-Present) TFA (2012-Present) TFA (2013 – Present) TFA

SPANISH TRANSFER (2010 – 2013) TFA – Taking new position at Animo Pat Brown (2011-Present) TFA (2012-Present) TFA (2012 – Present) TFA

PHYSICS MEDICAL LEAVE (2011-2013) FTE – Injured after battery by student, left in January 2013

PE (2006-Present) FTE (2011 – Present) TFA

TECHNOLOGY RESIGNED (2011-2012) FTE – Left mid-year for personal reasons (After a series of long term subs, a new full time teacher has been hired in April)

DRAMA RESIGNED (2009-2013) FTE – Moving out of state

ART (2011 – Present) FTE

ENGINEERING RESIGNED (2011- 2012) TFA – Left for personal reasons

LONG TERM SUBSTITUTE TEACHERS – Used to fill in for resignations and accounted for about 15% of the teachers at Locke II.

LONG TERM SUB (2011-2012) CLEAR CREDENTIAL- Left to be full time PE teacher and athletic director in another district.

LONG TERM SUB (2011-2012) PROVISIONAL– Hired into Locke Tech

LONG TERM SUB (2012 – 2013) PROVISIONAL – Birth of child





Regarding little to no notice given by Green Dot charter schools to parents when a school is to be closed, or in the following case a public school being “reconstituted” by Green Dot,  Fremont High, Ánimo/Green Dot Social Justice Charter, Menlo Adult School: SOUTH CENTRAL PROTESTS SCHOOL CLOSURES + smf’s 3¢.

An excerpt:

Mirna Rico, a Fremont High School parent and activist, said, “The district still hasn’t notified us parents or the community. We heard about the reconstitution on the news. They’ve been stonewalling us, and it doesn’t give us a chance to decide what to do.”

School reconstitutions, like charter takeovers of public schools, are extremely disruptive to students and their families. Fremont representatives discussed the ongoing community efforts to save the school and invited people to go to their Web site.

Marlon Silva, a junior at Ánimo Justice and one of the student leaders, described the march to Green Dot. He explained how Petruzzi told all the press to leave before agreeing to meet with students and parents.

“Green Dot’s motto is parents and students have a voice and input,” Silva said, “but when this decision was made, the only thing Green Dot cared about was money. It’s a business behind a mask of a school.”

For more on charter school churn, see:

Charter Schools Are Constantly Burning Out Teachers—And They Often Like It That Way

5. The use of public dollars with little to no oversight:

The Green Dot charter chain of schools has a CEO and an unelected in-house board. There is no oversight provided by a local school board. In this type of system, parents, students and teachers have no where to go with grievances outside of the charter school. This makes for frustrating circumstances for parents and students.

The example I used previously in this article is the incident that occurred at a Green Dot charter school in Tacoma. According to Melissa Westbrook who attended a charter school commission meeting recently, parents of a student who attended Green Dot testified that little to nothing had been done in response to their daughter being sexually assaulted at the charter school. The parents stated they withdrew their daughter from the school out of fear that something might happen again to their child.

They began to understand that the charter school commission had little to no say over what happens at a specific charter school, it is only the charter school and they are in complete control.

This is a lesson everyone needs to remember.

Ironically, the public money that went with the student to the charter school will not be returned to the school district even if the student returns to a public school. It’s just one less student the charter school has to worry about and yet they get to keep the cash for that school year.

There is also a lack of transparency in how the public dollars are used.

6. The money

The people who establish a charter school and run it, generally referred to as CEO’s and synonymous with Principals at a public school, pay themselves very well.

Mind you, the teachers are poorly paid and there is always skimping on books and supplies but there is a reason these folks establish charter schools and it’s all about the money.

Marco Petruzzi, CEO of the Green Dot Corporation, in 2013 made $279,478. Most charter schools do not post salaries as they do in public schools.

In 2014, CEO’s representing various charter school brought home the following:

Image 3-18-18 at 4.12 PM

There are many reasons why we don’t need the headache of a Green Dot charter school in our school district and probably more than I have outlined here.

Let’s just not look backwards one day and find new reasons why Green Dot was a bad idea.

Dora Taylor

Note: Melissa Westbrook at the Seattle Schools Community Forum is keeping up on this issue and is a recommended follow.

Recommended reading:

GREEN DOT CHARTER SCHOOLS: A CAUTIONARY TALE: This is a story of a charter school in the Green Dot Public School system which, after four years of operation, is coming to an inglorious end.

The Inside Story of a Green Dot charter school: Green Dot Public Schools, Teacher Retention, and the Failure of Past Models

The schools Steve Barr made: Green Dot Charters post NINE of lowest fifty SAT scores: “The lowest-performing, based on test scores, is the large Green Dot chain.” — Los Angeles Times

Steve Barr Bails on McDonogh: Surplus Laptops Sold Bearing Student Data

14 of 15 Green Dot schools are “failing” by Parent Revolution’s definition by Caroline Grannan and originally posted in the San Francisco Chronicle

Ben Austin: The Six Figure Salary Man – Green Dot

The Miracle That Wasn’t: Steve Barr’s Failure in New Orleans

Green Dot charter schools and freedom of speech

Another charter school scam?… ‘Parent Revolution’ charged with misleading parents about signatures on ‘close this school’ petition

Connections between Eli Broad, the Parent Union (aka Parent Revolution, the creators of the “Parent Trigger”), and Green Dot

Parent Empowerment or Parent Manipulation?

Signing Their Rights Away:A series of court rulings suggests that students who attend charter schools do not have the same rights as public school students…

The Racist History of the Charter School Movement:Touted as the cure for what ails public education, charter schools have historical roots that are rarely discussed.

Updated: Hostile Charter Takeovers Sideline Communities: One of the top-down, private control education reformers most prominent tenants are hostile takeovers of neighborhood schools and turning them over to charter corporations. 

Charter Schools:What is a charter school?

Do Profits Drive Desire for LAUSD Board Seat? Most of the time the charter school industry’s corporate leadership is able to craft their messaging so as to distract the populace from the real purposes undergirding their projects. But occasionally, someone in their sector goes off script and tells the truth about what chartering is all about.

Charter School Gravy Train Runs Express To Fat City 

K12 Inc.: Virtually Failing our Students: Yale Education Studies students research on equity, policy, school choice and desegregation





Parent Guide to the Broad Foundation’s – Parents Across America




Hmm, I didn’t know our State Superintendent was in the business of selling charter schools and Teach for America, Inc.

this one.jpg

We sent the following question to then Candidate for State Superintendent Chris Reykdal on October 6, 2016:

“Given the legal uncertainty of charter schools in our state, as head of the (Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction) OSPI, would you distribute the Federal money to the existing charter schools and provide funding to set up new charter schools?”

This was Mr. Reykdal’s response:

“I am very troubled that our state pursued federal funding for charter expansion before the substantial legal questions surrounding charter schools in our state have been resolved.”

He continued:

I do not think it is appropriate to allocate these funds to existing charter schools or expansion of charters until our courts have ruled on the pending lawsuit.  That said, this allocation question will most certainly be settled before the next Superintendent is in place.  By then, the courts may have also settled the constitutional questions.  So the question, as posed, gets at our philosophy as OSPI candidates, but not likely our ability to influence this grant, short of a court determination that charters in our state are unconstitutional.”

(The underline is by Chris Reykdal.)

Now, even though the Supreme Court in Washington State is to hear arguments this month or next on the constitutionality of charter schools in our state, the following flyer was tweeted out by the now State Superintendent Chris Reykdal’s office recently:

OSPI -TFA and Charter Career Fair.jpg

(Please note: The tweet shown above was deleted on the OSPI twitter account after this post was published. Fortunately we captured it before it was taken down.)

This flyer targets teachers and the hiring event is sponsored by a group calling themselves the Washington State Charter School Association, which is heavily funded by Bill Gates, along with Teach for America, Inc., a company that hires recent college graduates, no experience of certification necessary, to populate charter schools as teaching staff.

What OSPI fails to mention in their tweet is the present court challenge on the constitutionality of charter schools in Washington State led by the League of Women Voters, El Centro de la Raza and the Washington Education Association.

We know Bill Gates, a proponent of charter schools, has been giving money to OSPI for years, even though we question a private foundation donating to a public, and state, institution. Could it be this reflects Gates’ influence on Chris Reykdal and OSPI?

Charter schools are a privatization of a public good where money trumps students and TFA, Inc. churns unqualified teachers through charter schools and all at a price to school districts and communities.

To contact State Superintendent Chris Reykdal, you can send an email to


For more on charter schools, see:

On Contact with Chris Hedges: The Rise of Charter Schools with Diane Ravitch

The NAACP calls for a moratorium on charter schools

How privatization of schools (charter schools) works: An infograph

What is a charter school?

Firing Day at a Charter School


For more on Teach for America, Inc. see:

Teach for America

Lawsuit: TFA not interested in equity and access — Truth For America

Colonizing the Black Natives: Charter Schools and Teach for America

Does Teach For America advocate for equity and access? Whistleblower says no, files lawsuit

10 things you should know about TFA corps member realities


-Dora Taylor


Parents Across America national survey shows parents disagree with lawmakers’ approach to education




“Too much of the current education policy making happens without any meaningful parent input, and often in complete opposition to parents’ priorities and concerns.”

Parents Across America (PAA), a national network of public school parents from all backgrounds across the United States, recently carried out its first national parent survey, “Real Parent Voice – Real Parent Choice.” Our goal was to hear directly from parents about what really matters to them in public education, and to share their voices with our political and policy making leaders.

584 people from 33 states responded to the survey. Nearly all of them were current (68%) or former (27.5%) public school parents.

The survey reinforced PAA’s contention that too much of the current education policy making happens without any meaningful parent input, and often in complete opposition to parents’ priorities and concerns. The survey found little resemblance between what many parents think and want and what Congress or education entrepreneurs and philanthropists claim that we think and want.

Respondents’ top priorities and concerns are in clear conflict with many of the actions of Congress and state legislatures. For example, our survey identified adequate school funding as respondents’ top concern, with the need for programs beyond the so-called “core curriculum” coming in a close second. Yet many states and districts have cut school budgets, some drastically, over the past few years. The current federal administration has proposed a 13% overall cut in federal school funding. A large percentage of respondents also expressed concern that too much money was being directed towards privatization including charter schools and educational technology. The survey also reflected parents’ growing alarm and anger about the EdTech takeover.

Comments on charter schools mirrored the national controversy along with the special dilemma many parents face – do they trust a local public school that’s been undermined by inappropriate top-down mandates and Scrooge-like funding, or take a chance on a charter school that may have outside resources or a push-out policy to get rid of discipline problems?


The key take-away from this survey is that parents have strong opinions about public education which are formed in the context of their deep love for their children. For that reason alone, parents’ opinions matter, and are worthy of being taken into serious consideration when decisions are being made that affect their children.

PAA’s role is to help promote an informed parent voice. We will take into account the results of this survey – the parent voices that it has gathered – as we continue to create informational materials, fact sheets and position papers that can be used in our outreach to Congress and other policy makers, to reflect the concerns and hopes of parents whose input is too often neglected. Well-informed and well-supported parents are the best equipped to challenge threats to our children’s educational opportunity, well-being and happiness. And when parents join together, we are definitely a force to be reckoned with.


PAA is a grassroots organization that connects parents of all backgrounds across the United States to share ideas and work together to improve our nation’s public schools. PAA is committed to bringing the voice of public school parents – and common sense – to local, state, and national education debates. PAA currently has 47 chapters and affiliates in 26 states.


The press is invited to join a teleconference with PAA members to discuss the survey results.

When: Tuesday, August 15, 2017 1 pm ET
Call-in number: 515-604-9727 access code 728537#



The scoop on Seattle School Board Candidates Chelsea Byers and Omar Vasquez: Buyer Beware


Beginning in 2008, many of us saw the tsunami of charter schools and the complete privatization of school districts coming our way in Seattle with the appearance of former Broad-trained school superintendent Goodloe-Johnson.

Many of us had questions about this superintendent because her actions did not make sense in terms of the best interest of students and the communities they lived in.

After much research, we discovered a link between former school board president Don Neilson, Stand for Children, Teach for America, Inc., which staffs charter schools with uncertified college grads, League of Education Voters, Democrats for Education Reform (DFER)the Broad Foundation, Bill Gates and the push to privatize our schools. People in Seattle and Washington State had made it very clear that we did not want charter schools in our state by voting three times against it up to that point but there were outside forces who either thought charter schools would benefit students or had dollar signs in their eyes. Most saw the money.

There is a second lawsuit in the courts now in Washington State challenging the constitutionality of charter schools so if you are a parent considering enrolling your student in a charter school in the state, take heed, the school may be closed unexpectedly due to a court decision.

Because of the experiences we have had with the organizations listed above, we are wary of people connected to any of these groups which are funded by wealthy donors and corporate money. Their agendas have been made very clear, the privatization of everything connected with public schools.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at two of the following Seattle school board candidates:

Chelsea Byers supports charter schools.  She checked the “NO” box on the King County Democrats’ questionnaire, but later explained that she does not support for-profit charters. Thing is, all charter schools are for-profit and making them “non-profit” makes it easier for people to accept. The CEO’s are well paid while siphoning off tax dollars earmarked for public schools.

Ms. Byers is a former Teach for America recruit and there is no indication she has children in Seattle Public Schools.

Omar Vasquez used the same strategy with the King County Democrats. This Teach for America alum told the group that he opposes charter schools…the for-profit ones. After Mr. Vasquez filed to run for Seattle School Board, he deleted all references from charter schools on his bio. Mr Vasquez also sits on Washington State’s Summit charter school board. Summit is a charter school making a profit by having students on computers at home, therefore only a small amount of space is needed to lease, and hiring “teaching” staff who are not certified and therefore inexpensive to pay.

Summit charter school is also racially biased.

From Mr. Vasquez’s profile:

Omar has experience advising education-related nonprofits, ed tech startups, and charter schools. Prior to law school, Omar taught AP Calculus for six years in Arizona through Teach for America.  

To top things off, Candidate Omar Vasquez is now on the Teach for America Board in Washington State.

Teach for America is very clear that they groom their un-certified recruits to be in positions of determining education policy. What better way to keep Teach for America in business populating charter schools?

There is no indication Mr. Vasquez has children in the Seattle Public School system.

Both candidates will push the agenda of charter schools as well as technology being the central aspect of our students’ lives. This is in concert with IT Lead John Krull’s vision of brick and mortar buildings and libraries, along with social interaction with students and teachers, being replaced by computers.

Buyer beware. These two candidates and their backers have more than just the best interests of your children in mind. Our students are only seen as a rung on the ladder.

Dora Taylor

Recommended reading:

Colonizing the Black Natives: Charter Schools and Teach for America

A professor’s encounter with Teach for America

A checklist for parents considering Summit Sierra charter school in Seattle

Serious student privacy concerns with new Summit/Facebook platform

The endgame of corporate reform in public school education: Part 1, What do Betsy DeVos and Seattle Public School’s IT Lead John Krull have in common?

McD Happy Meal online schools for all in Seattle with SPS IT Officer John Krull

Stand for Children Stands for the Rich and the Powerful…

The deets on DFER, Democrats for Education Reform

The NAACP calls for a moratorium on charter schools

Video: John Oliver on Charter Schools

Green Dot charter schools: A cautionary tale

Charter schools and corruption

Students’ rights in charter schools: There aren’t many

A Sea of Charter Schools in Detroit Leaves Students Adrift

Two Former New Orleans Charter Principals Exploited SPED Students for Money, Among Other Issues

Ten reasons not to hire Goodloe-Johnson as Florida Education Commissioner






An Interview with Kenneth Zeichner: Relay Graduate School of Education



The reason that I use Lisa Delpit’s term “other people’s children” here is to underline the point that few if any Relay staff and advocates for the program in the policy community would accept a Relay teacher for their own children.

Ken Zeichner is the Boeing Professor of Teacher Education at the University of Washington. He is a member of the National Academy of Education and a Fellow at the National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado.

A former elementary teacher and longtime teacher educator in NY, Wisconsin, and Seattle, his work has focused on creating and implementing more democratic models of teacher preparation that engage the expertise of local communities, K-12 educators and university academics in preparing high quality professional teachers for everyone’s children.

He has also challenged the privatization of K-12 schools and teacher education by exposing the ways in which venture philanthropy has sought to steer public policy in education, and the ways in which research has been misused to support the privatization process. His new book “The Struggle for the Soul of Teacher Education” will be published later this year by Routledge.

This interview took place via email between January and February of 2017. It’s presented in full, with only very slight editing for style.

Editor’s Note: On March 8th, the Senate  voted to roll back the Obama Administration teacher education regulations. Ken contacted me to say this regulatory change will NOT affect what he said in this interview about Relay and the teacher preparation academy provisions in ESSA.  -Carolyn Leith

As an introduction, could you explain for our readers: What is the Relay Graduate School of Education and why we should be concerned.

Relay Graduate School of Education is an independent institution not affiliated with a legitimate college or university that prepares new teachers and principals and provides professional development services for teachers and principals to school districts and charter networks. It was founded in 2007 by three charter school networks (Uncommon Schools, KIPP, and Achievement First) within Hunter College’s Education School and became independent in 2012 changing its name to Relay Graduate School of Education.

Until recently, its teacher preparation programs were all “fast tracks” preparing uncertified teachers who were fully responsible for classrooms after only a few weeks of preparation. Among those who they prepared were many TFA (Teach for America) teachers in NYC. Recently, they have begin offering a “residency” option in certain locations where during the first year of the two year program their teachers are not fully responsible for classrooms and are mentored by a licensed teacher. In both the fast track and residency versions of the program teachers receive a very narrow preparation to engage in a very controlling and insensitive form of teaching that is focused almost entirely on raising student test scores. Relay teachers work exclusively with ‘other people’s children’ and provide the kind of education that Relay staff would never accept for their own children. The reason that I use Lisa Delpit’s term “other people’s children” here is to underline the point that few if any Relay staff and advocates for the program in the policy community would accept a Relay teacher for their own children. Most parents want more than a focus on standardized test scores for their children and this measure becomes the only definition of success in schools attended by students living in poverty.

The evidence is clear that the kind of controlling teaching advocated and taught by Relay has often resulted in a narrowing of the curriculum (1), and in some cases in “no excuses” charters, in damage to the psychological health of children as evidenced in research of Joan Goodman at Penn in Philadelphia.(2)

We should be worried about Relay because it prepares teachers who offer a second class education to students living in poverty, and in my opinion based on examining the evidence, it contributes to exacerbating existing educational inequities in both student opportunities to learn and in the equitable distribution of fully prepared professional teachers.(3)

According to their website, it appears Relay was founded by three charter
school networks: Uncommon Schools, KIPP, and Achievement First. Can you explain for our readers what student populations these charters serve and their approach to student instruction?

These charters exclusively serve students living in poverty, most of whom are of color. Relay teachers also work in other charters however, and in some cases they may also teach in public schools.

Relay originally received NY State approval when they were still part of Hunter College.They have used this approval and their accreditation by the Council for Accreditation of Educator Preparation the Middle States Commission on Higher Education Accreditation to gain approval to operate in other states. One could legitimately raise the question- how can a program gain approval from states and accrediting agencies that prides itself in having no theory, where few if any of its instructors have advanced degrees in education, and where much of what most people believe teachers need to know and learn how to do is missing from their curriculum, The answer is that Relay is very good at packaging and selling itself to others as offering successful teacher education programs despite the lack of any credible evidence supporting their claims. Their mumbo jumbo and smoke and mirrors game did not work however, in either CA or PA where the states ruled that Relay’s programs did not meet their state standards for teacher education programs.

One of the more shocking parts of the Relay story is the use of Doug Lemov’s book Teach Like A Champion (TLC) as an instructional bible for the Relay program. Can you explain who Doug Lemov is and why TLC is such a toxic approach to student instruction.

Doug LeMov is currently a “faculty member” at Relay and the managing director at Uncommon Schools, one of the charter networks that formed Relay. Lemov’s “Teaching like a Champion” is the basis for the Relay teacher education curriculum. These generic management strategies are highly controlling and are dangerous when they are the main part of what teachers receive in their preparation. Relay has argued that the choice is between theory or practice and that they focus on practice. This is a false choice, and while I agree that teacher education needs to focus on practice, and that some of these strategies are useful if they are used in the proper context, it matters what practices you focus on. Additionally, teacher preparation also has to provide teachers with theoretical background in learning, development, assessment, language, and so on. There is no attention to context, culture, or even subject matter content in LeMov’s strategies. There is also no credible research that supports their use with students.

Relay’s list of philanthropic investors reads like a who’s who of education reform. The Gates Foundation is on the list, along with the Walton Foundation, and The Learning Accelerator – which is all about blended learning and the development of human capital. What do you think these groups hope to gain by supporting Relay?

Yes, Relay has been heavily supported by philanthropists like the Gates and Schusterman Foundations and by venture philanthropists such as the New Schools Venture Fund as well as by individual hedge fund managers.(4) The funding of non-college and university programs that are linked to charter school networks helps these individuals and organizations further their goals of deregulating and privatizing public schools. As the charter networks continue to expand across the country and replace real public schools, there is more of a need for teachers who want to work in these schools that are often tightly regimented.  Many graduates of professional teacher preparation programs in colleges and university do not want to work in these charter schools. Foundations that want to expand the proportion of charter schools throughout the country must help create a parallel set of charter- teacher education programs to prepare teachers for charter schools.

The failing school narrative is one of the media’s go to frameworks when covering public schools. In contrast, reporters give Relay the hands-off approach. Hard questions about Relay’s questionable credentialing, focus on test scores, and the use of Teach Like A Champion don’t get asked.

I agree. The hard questions do not get asked about Relay. This is because Relay has done a very effective job of branding and marketing its programs and in getting the Education Department in the Obama administration to do the same. They have flooded the media with “puff pieces” that tout the alleged success of their programs in preparing high quality teachers. The fact is however, that there is a total lack of credible evidence that supports their claims. My recent policy brief published by the National Education Policy Center in September details the inadequacies of Relay’s claims.(5)

Can you explain Relay’s credentialing process and instructional focus? Also, why do you think reporters let Relay off the hook?

I think that the media has let Relay off the hook because they have been taken in by the slick “puff pieces” that keep rolling out about how great the program supposedly is. Most media outlets do not have the capacity to do a more in depth look at the program. Relay also has been very good in linking to currently popular issues such as teacher residency programs, diversifying the teaching force, and addressing teacher shortages. As I argue in my testimony to the CT State Board of Education, it makes no sense to accept Relay’s claims about being able to help districts and states address teacher shortages and diversify their teaching staff without examining retention data on Relay program graduates.(6)

Another media favorite is the “bad teacher” narrative. For instance, under NCLB Title 1 schools had to provide parents the opportunity to review the credentials of their kid’s teachers. The unspoken message being “bad teachers” have traditionally hidden out in Title 1 schools.

Under NCLB the U.S. Education Department violated an order of the 9th Circuit Court in CA that ruled against the Department’s waiver in administrative rule of the requirement that  “highly qualified teachers” have completed their certification programs.(7) They implemented this rule after being urged to do so by TFA and other fast-track programs that send underprepared teachers into public schools as teachers of record. The court had ruled that the certification status of teachers had to be made transparent to families and that only certified teachers could be called “highly qualified.” The court ruling would not have prevented TFA teachers from teaching in public schools, but it would only have required schools to be transparent with families about the certification status of teachers. After the court ruling, the Department inserted waivers to the court ruling three times (for one year at a time) as one of hundreds of amendments in general spending bills that were designed to keep the government operating. The real goal of the Department of Ed and programs like TFA and Relay was to get rid of the label highly qualified and focus on teachers’ effectiveness that was defined as teachers’ abilities to raise student test scores. In the new elementary and secondary education act, ESSA, the term highly qualified teacher has been eliminated.

Here’s the ironic twist, at least in Colorado. Relay – with all its questionable credentialing practices – is allowed by Colorado’s Department of Education to provide intervention services for public schools that fall under the turnaround school designation. How can this be?

This is the case because they were approved by the Colorado state education department to provide these services. Yes, their practices are very questionable, but because of their very strong branding and marketing they have managed to convince states (with the exception of PA and CA) to let them operate. Relay also has very influential supporters in CT including the governor, the state superintendent, and the director of Achievement First, one of its three founding charter school networks. In CO, they went through the approval process under the radar and the colleges and universities that operate teacher education programs did not find out about it until it was too late.

Relay operates schools in Baton Rouge, Chicago, Denver,Houston, Memphis, Nashville, New Orleans, New York, Newark, Philly/Camden, San Antonio and the state of Delaware.

Yes, Relay has programs operating in these places, but the schools in which they teach are not necessarily those in the original three charter networks. For example, in Chicago Relay partners with the Noble charter network. Also, because Relay was denied approval in PA their Camden/ Philly site can only operate in NJ. They were also recently approved to operate in CT and will be opening a program soon there. In addition to having their application to operate programs rejected in PA, their application was also rejected in CA. Last year they doubled the number of program sites and they plan to continue to expand.

Finally, can you speak to the recent controversial approval of Relay by the Connecticut Board of Education? Also, do you know of any plans to introduce the Relay Graduate Program in Washington State?

Relay’s application to operate a program in CT was strongly opposed by K-12 educators and teacher educators throughout the state because of the program’s performance elsewhere. I was asked to submit written testimony in opposition to their application and did so. (8)

Despite the lack of any evidence about the claims that that Relay makes about the performance of its teachers, and their failure to release any retention data on program graduates, their application was approved.  One of the arguments that they made to support their application was that they will bring more teachers of color into the state. Given the increased attention and funding available in the nation to teacher residency programs and recruiting and preparing more teachers of color. Relay has very influential supporters in CT including the governor, the state superintendent, and the director of Achievement First, one of its three founding charter school networks. I think that these connections made the difference between the outcome in CA and PA and the outcome in CT.

I do not believe that Relay would gain approval to operate a teacher education program in Washington. Our state standards for teacher education are too high and the standards board unlike states like TX and FL does not allow lower standards for alternative programs. All programs, including the TFA program at UW have to meet the same PESB standards to gain and maintain approval. A few years ago when they were only operating fast track teacher education programs, I learned that they were considering coming to Washington. It was my impression that the tremendous opposition to TFA in Seattle discouraged them from coming. 











Thanks to the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), It’s a Year Too Late for Hand-Wringing over Charter Schools


Last year, I wrote an open letter to Senator Patty Murray pleading with her to reconsider the lavish financial support charter schools were slated to receive in the soon to be re-authorized ESEA.

My argument:

The Supreme Court has found the Washington State Legislature in contempt for not fulfilling its duty to fully fund basic education.

The federal government made this situation even worst when it allowed aid to states to expire in 2012. This money was being used by states to keep our public schools running.

Given the precarious state of public school funding in Washington State, I’m confused by your willingness to include generous funding for charter schools in the ESEA.

Not only did the Supreme Court rule Washington State’s charter law unconstitutional, but charter schools have a track record for all kinds of financial scandals. Don’t believe me? Just google “charter school scandals” and take a look.

We can’t afford to have any dollars diverted from our classrooms. Any dollar lost to scandal is one not being spent on the 1 million public school students in Washington State.

The rest is history.

The ESEA sailed through Congress and with President Obama’s signature – became law as the ESSA.

In November, Patty Murray – supporter of the TPP and co-author of the ESSA – skated to another term with 59% of the vote.

The only kink was Trump’s victory and his selection of Betsy DeVos to be the new Secretary of Education. THAT was a buzz kill.

Suddenly, Democrats and progressives (whatever that means anymore) couldn’t stop talking about charters and the evils of privatization.


Here’s the thing: Democrats are just as into charter schools as Republicans. The only difference is the language they use to sell the idea to their supporters. Democrats talk about gaps while the Republicans complain about the public education monopoly.

Don’t believe me?

In September, President Obama’s Secretary of Education, John King, sent out a press release announcing $245 million in new grants for charter schools. $245 million !?!

“Ensuring that all students have access to an academically challenging and engaging education is critical to preparing them for college and career success,” said U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. “Innovative charter schools are continuously developing new and impactful practices to close achievement gaps and provide all students with the skills and abilities they need to thrive. We are proud to support these efforts along with strong charter school authorizing and accountability, particularly given these grantees’ commitment to communities facing steep academic challenges.”

(Did you see the word gaps?)

Selective Outrage

I’m done with Democrats who only activate their moral compasses when a Republican is President. I don’t have the time or patience to support an organization that puts scoring political points over principles.

Remember when Hillary Clinton made big headlines by trying to sell NEA members on the lesser of two evils argument that non-profit charters were a vast improvement over the garden variety charter school?

Think about it: The Democratic Party’s candidate for President of the United States, Hillary Clinton, was campaigning as a supporter of charter schools — to an audience full of teachers. You can’t be more pro-charter than that.

But now – with a Republican President and a potential Education Secretary who LOVES all things charter – Democrats and their progressive minions are beside themselves. Outraged, even.

Sorry to be a downer, but I can’t help wondering where all of these VERY concerned Democrats were a year ago.

Oh, I remember, they were in Congress, working with the charter lobby to re-write the ESSA, so privatization supporters could get EVERYTHING on their wish list.

It’s Worst Than You Think

Now, we come to the really bad part of the story. The ESSA – constructed in a bipartisan manner – is a doomsday device for public education AND it’s the law of the land. 

Here’s the ESSA’s three arms of destruction:

  • Accountability measured designed to create turn-around schools which are ripe for charter conversion.
  • Innovative assessments to usher in online learning software, ELOs, and “anytime, any place learning”.
  • Infusion of big federal dollars so charters can push out resource starved public schools

It appears the school privatizing lobby – within the Democratic Party – was so sure of a Clinton victory, they rushed to pass the ESSA – never considering the possibility of a Clinton loss.

Well, it happen.

Instead of the happy face of privatization offered by the Democratic Party, we’re faced with a Betsy Devos who can’t wait to push the red button and could care less about human suffering or the rubble left behind.

Charter Lobby Victory

The ESSA gave the charter lobby everything they wanted and then some. Take a look:

Specifically, changes to the Charter School Program (CSP) include the following:

The CSP now includes dedicated funding for the replication and expansion of high-performing charter schools. In addition, state grants can also be used for the same purpose.

The state grant program can now be administered by governors and charter support organizations in addition to state educational agencies.

The state grant program prioritizes funding to states that provide equitable resources to charter schools and that assist charters in accessing facilities.

The state grant program provides schools with additional spending flexibility for startup funds. For example, they will be allowed to use CSP funds to purchase a school bus and make minor facility improvements.

The state grant program includes new protections to ensure funds go to charter schools with autonomy and flexibility consistent with the definition of a charter school.

Charter school representatives must be included in Title I negotiated rule-making and must be included, like other stakeholders at the state and local level, in the implementation of many federal programs.

CSP recipients will have more flexibility to use a weighted lottery to increase access to charter schools for disadvantaged students. CSP grantees will also be permitted to use feeder patterns to prioritize students that attended earlier grades in the same network of charter schools.


Other provisions that affect charter schools include:

New and expanding charter schools are required to receive timely allocations of Title I allocations and to be “held harmless” in the same manner as other eligible Title I traditional public schools.

The highly qualified teacher requirement has been repealed. Charters are free to design personnel systems and hire staff that meet the unique needs of their school.

States are required to administer annual reading and math assessments in reading and math in grades 3-8, and once in high school. Science assessments are required once in each grade span: 3-5, 6-9 and 10-12.

States must hold all public schools accountable for improving student achievement of all students, as well as all subgroups of students.

Schools are also accountable for adjusted four year and extended cohort graduation rates.

LEAs have flexibility to use Title I funds for school improvement to increase the number of high-quality charter schools serving students attending failing schools.

New provisions to demonstrate compliance with the “supplement not supplant” requirement include additional flexibility in aligning federal program funds with their educational programs.

What can we learn from all of this?

Neoliberalism – and school privatization is straight out of the handbook – hurts people and the public institutions humans depend on.

The particular political leader pushing the neoliberal agenda doesn’t matter. Some will appear progressive, others conservative. It doesn’t matter.

Blind partisan loyalty is sucking the legitimacy out of our political process.

This has got to stop.

When your political team embraces part of the neoliberal agenda, you need to speak up and say “NO” – just as loudly as when the the other team does.

Otherwise, we’ll continue to be rewarded with dumpster fires like the ESSA.

-Carolyn Leith




The Attack on Teachers Goes to College

Originally published on The Progressive website.


The Attack on Teachers Goes to College

The dramatic lockout of faculty at Long Island University in Brooklyn this fall brought home the reality that what is happening in higher education is closely related to the attack on education in our K-12 public schools.

On August 31, 2016 the contract between the faculty on the Brooklyn campus and Long Island University (LIU) was due to expire. The negotiating team was told on that day if they did not accept the contract, faculty would be locked out.

The faculty members turned down the contract offer but did not vote to strike. In response, LIU cut off professors’ email accounts and health insurance. The professors were locked out of their classrooms and told they would be replaced. If faculty members went into the university buildings where their offices and classrooms were, they were told they could be criminally charged for trespassing.

Some of those faculty members had been teaching at LIU for twenty or thirty years.

As I listened to some of them express their shock at being treated so poorly to Amy Goodman on Democracy Now!, I was reminded of what I have heard K-12 teachers in schools across the country say about endless budget cuts, union-busting, and the threat of being replaced by less-skilled (and cheaper) employees.

One of the issues of concern in the LIU contract was a two-tier wage system that would pay new full time and adjunct instructors less. In addition, the university wanted to stop funding the Adjunct Benefits Trust Fund which helps adjunct professors buy health insurance.

After the lockout was announced, the school administration replaced the faculty with non-faculty employees, and placed advertisements on for replacement instructors.

The students did not stand for the actions taken by the school administration and joined the teachers in protest, chanting,” LIU professors locked out, students walkout!”

On September 15, the twelve-day Long Island University lockout of the school’s faculty ended, but none of the issues in the dispute were resolved. The current contract was extended until May 31, 2017.

Faculty members were docked a full week of salary, which amounted to approximately the same value as the 2 percent raise they had asked for in contract negotiations. As LIU Professor Michael Pelias stated during an interview on Democracy at Work with Economist Richard Wolff, that same 2 percent raise, which would have gone to 600 people, is also equal to LIU President Kimberly Cline’s annual salary.

Undergraduates at LIU pay $33,678 per year in tuition. This does not include room and board. Students borrow approximately $35,000 to $45,000 by the end of four years.

The two-week conflict at LIU mirrors what has been happening in K12 public schools across the nation over the last ten years.

As Srividhya Swaminathan told Amy Goodman on Democracy Now!,

“The whole notion that you could replace a faculty by advertising on just flies in the face of what academia is actually about.

Public school teachers make a similar case about Teach for America, Inc., an organization that recruits recent college grads, provides them with five weeks of training and then populates charter schools and sometimes whole urban public school districts with these amatuer teachers. The recruits sign a two or three-year contract to remain in the program, and they are not required to have a degree in education or a related field, any expertise in the subjects they are teaching, or a desire to stay in the profession.

Consequently, TFA recruits add to churn and stress in the lives of our most vulnerable students. By design, TFA teachers have no particular loyalty to the community where they work, and they provide a loophole to allow “alternative certification” and waiving licensing criteria for states and schools that receive Title I funding.

Another goal of the LIU lockout was “keeping workers unorganized … even as their institutions are corporatized,” according to Deborah Mutnick– Academe magazine blog.

In K-12, charter schools generally do not allow unionization of school staff, and some promoters of charter schools openly express a desire to crush teachers’ unions. Stuart Fishelson told Democracy Now!,

“This is what corporations are trying to do to education. They’re trying to corporatize and remove the familiar and the important parts of learning.”

The same is true in K-12.

Charter schools are run by CEOs, not principals, along with an appointed board that imposes a corporate, top-down management style.

There are charter school chains such as Greendot, Imagine and the Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP) that draw profits from the school system. Teach for America had revenues of $318 million in 2012.

This is the corporatization of our public schools.

Charter schools receive very little public oversight, even though they are funded by public tax dollars. Charter schools also can be co-housed in public schools while paying little or no rent. They can use a school district’s website to advertise for students and benefit from other public resources. But charter-school students and parents do not have recourse to democratic mechanisms such as hearings by the district school board.

Other corporate interests that seek to make a profit from our education system—at the expense of real teaching and learning in the classroom—include such companies as Pearson, that sell standardized tests. In Seattle last year fifth graders took eight standardized tests and eighth graders took nine standardized tests. This did not include quizzes or tests created by a teacher directly relating to what was taught in the classroom. These were tests paid for by school districts and required by politicians who get donations from corporations with a stake in testing.

Then there are businesses, such as Zynega, which groom students for jobs in their companies through specialized education programs.

In public schools, and, increasingly, at the college level, crucial decisions are being made by people with little or no experience in education. In the case of LIU, according to Sealy Gilles on Democracy Now!, the LIU president has very little in the way of academic background. She sees herself as a corporate turnaround artist..”

We see the same scenario in the Los Angeles school district, where Eli Broad, the founder of the Broad Foundation, is a proponent of charter schools and believes schools should be run like a business. He favors retired military personnel and people with backgrounds in business, and wants them to run the nation’s schools. So he created the Broad Superintendents’ Academy, which produced several school turnaround “experts” such as Marie Goodloe-Johnson who was briefly Superintendent in the Seattle Public School district but was fired due to a financial scandal; Beverly Hall, former Superintendent of Atlanta public schools who was indicted by a grand jury in a cheating scandal; Jean-Claude Brizard,who received a vote of no confidence with the Rochester City School District and resigned from chief of Chicago Public schools after only seventeen months; LaVonne Sheffield who as Superintendent of Rockford Public Schools (RPS) was the subject of a lawsuit and soon resigned and left the district; and  Robert Bobb, the former Emergency Financial Manager for Detroit who also became the subject of  a lawsuit  because he was receiving money from the Broad Foundation during his tenure, which represented a conflict of interest.

These people were placed in school districts to close public schools and convert them into charter schools. They and others have been the “turnaround artists” of K-12 public schools.

“The other issue was academic freedom,” explains Deborah Mutnick on Democracy Now!. “This management has attempted more and more to encroach on curricular issues that really are the purview of the faculty.”

The same could be said of corporate-run K-12 schools. Standardized testing leaves much less room for K-12 teachers to develop and use their own lesson plans and curriculum.

Because of the pressure on districts to use tests associated with the Common Core or lose Title I funding, teachers are focusing more of their attention on test prep than providing a well-rounded education that includes the development of critical and creative thinking

Finally, the LIU walk-out resembles recent teacher strikes which have drawn the support of students and parents. Whether at LIU or in public schools across the country, when teachers go on strike not only for fair wages but also to fight for a better learning environment for their students, students, parents and the community stand with them.

We saw that in Chicago where parents and students marched with their teachers and in Seattle where parent groups formed quickly to join the strike lines and serve hot coffee and soup to the teachers.

It’s time for the teaching community, students, and parents to stand together in all realms of education and ensure the development of a well-rounded education that addresses the needs of all students.

-Dora Taylor

Dora Taylor is a Northwest Regional Progressive Education Fellow. She is a founding member and President of Parents Across America, and has co-authored two books, Digital Networking for School Reform and Left Behind in the Race to the Top: Realities of Education Reform

The deets on DFER, Democrats for Education Reform



The following is the most comprehensive investigation and reporting that I have read so far about Democrats for Education Reform (DFER), a group disguising themselves as a Democratic political group. DFER is a group working for business interests that pushes all things corporate education reform including charter schools, the dismantling of the teachers union, and support for Teach for America along with the Common Core Standards, among a myriad of other actions that are not in the best interest of students in public schools.

To follow is the white paper written by two teachers on Democrats for Education Reform also referred to as DFER:

The Intended Consequences of the DFER Education Agenda

By: Marla Kilfoyle and Melissa Tomlinson

Peer Reviewed by Dr. Deborah Cornavaca and Dr. Mitchell Robinson

The Democrats for Education Reform have initiated a shameless war on public education, even as they claim to support children, teachers, and schools.

DFER History and Background

The purpose of this report is to expose that the education platform of the Democrats for

Education is not one rooted in research or supportive of sound pedagogical practice. In

their mission statement the organization claims to be the champions of high-quality

public education for every child, but we will show that much of what they champion,

regarding policies and positions, are not rooted in best practices. We believe that

hedge fund managers, business executives, and privately-run corporations should not

be involved in creating or implementing education policy. Teachers, administrators,

parents, communities, and elected school boards should be the stakeholders

responsible for creating and implementing education policy in this country.


The Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) was founded in 2007 by hedge fund

managers, including Whitney Tilson, R. Boykin Curry IV, and John Petry.


Democrats for Education Reform is a political action committee that uses its immense wealth to lobby for specific policies in public education. In some states, DFER is called Education Reform NOW. Former T.V. reporter Joe Williams was the first executive director of Democrats for Education Reform (2007 to 2015). The organization is now led by Shavar Jeffries. The Board of Directors and Advisory Board of this hedge-fund-financed political action committee includes some of the top managers in the country. As Danielle Beurteaux noted, “Boykin Curry of Eagle Capital, Charles Ledley of Highfields Capital Man. Whitney Tilson of T2 Partners, David Einhorn of Greenlight Capital, Michael Novogratz of Fortress Investment Group, Greenblatt and Petry on its director and advisory boards” ( Beurteaux, 2011).

Whitney Tilson stated in the film, A Right Denied,

“The real problem, politically, was not the Republican Party, it was the Democratic Party. So it dawned on us, over the course of six months or a year, that it had to be an inside job. The biggest obstacle to education reform was moving the Democratic Party, and it had to be Democrats who did it, it had to be an inside job. So that was the thesis behind the organization. And the name – and the name was critical – we get a lot of flack for the name. You know, ‘Why are you Democrats for education reform? That’s very exclusionary. I mean, certainly, there are Republicans in favor of education reform.’ And we said, ‘We agree.’ In fact, our natural llies, in many cases, are Republicans on this crusade, but the problem is not Republicans. We don’t need to convert the Republican Party to our point of view…”


Lisa Graves, in her article for PR Watch, How DFER Leaders Channel Out-of-State Dark Money”, wrote, “DFER co-founder…Whitney Tilson explained the hedge funders interest in education noting that “Hedge funds are always looking for ways to turn a small amount of capital into a large amount of capital” (Graves, 2016).


DFER defines their organization: “We are Democrats leading a political reform

organization that cultivates and supports leaders in our party who champion America’s

public schoolchildren.” Their vision as stated on their website is, “To make the

Democratic Party the champion of high-quality public education.” Their education vision

involves test-based accountability for students and teachers, school choice and

vouchers, support of Common Core, and private (charter) schools funded by public

money (Democrats for Education Reform, 2016). Democrats for Education Reform

currently has chapters in eleven states. Most of the state directors and staff are

business people or persons with ties to organizations whose understanding and

commitment to public education was difficult to identify beyond their profit motive.


DFER staff/board of advisors with business/corporate backgrounds (Democrats

for Education Reform, About Us, 2016

Victor Contreras (AZ), real estate

Marti Awad (CO), founding partner Cardan Capital Partners – securities, mergers,

acquisitions law firm

Patrick Byrne (CO), CEO of Overstock

Josh Hanfling (CO), co-founder of Sewald Hanfling – public affairs firm, former member

of Clinton Global Initiative

Hollie Velasquez Horvath (CO), manager of political engagement for Xcel Energy

Tom Kaesemeyer (CO), Executive Director, Fox Family Foundation

Jason Andrean (DC, assistant vice president and relationship manager at Capital One

Commercial Bank

Joy Arnold Russell (DC), founder of Jonathan Arnold Consulting

Victor Reinoso (DC), Senior Advisor to Bellwether Education Partners, an Entrepreneur

in Residence at the NewSchools Venture Fund, and the co-founder of Decision Science

Labs, a K-12 analytics and budgeting platform, investor and advisor to leading edtech

startups including TenMarks, LearnZillion and Ellevation Education

Liam Kerr, management consultancy The Parthenon Group and the national venture

philanthropy fund New Profit, Inc.


DFER staff/board of advisors with ties to corporate education reform:


Rhonda Cagle (AZ), Chief Communications & Development Officer, Imagine Schools

(charter management corporation)

Lindsay Neil (CO), Chief External Affairs Officer Strive Preparatory (Charter) Schools

Mary Seawell, (CO), Senior Vice President of Education, Gates Family Foundation

Amy Dowell (CT), prior director for StudentsFirst in NY

Catharine Bellinger, (DC Students for Education Reform, KIPP

Jason Andrean (DC), chairman of the proposed Legacy Collegiate Academy Public

Charter School

Mikaela Seligman (DC), The Broad Center for the Management of School Systems

Shawn Hardnett (DC), a founding teacher and administrator for KIPP Bayview Academy

in San Francisco, CA; later served as Founder and Head of School at the first single

gender academy within the KIPP Network, KIPP Polaris Academy for Boys in Houston

Texas; past Director of Charter Leadership Development; served as Chief of Schools for

both Friendship Public Charter Schools and Center City Public Charter Schools;

currently partnered with the DC Fund of New Schools Venture Fund

Maya Martin (DC), Chief of Staff at Achievement Prep (charter management


Paula White (NJ), charter school founder, previous member of NJ Charter School Task


Nicole Brisbane (NY), Teach for America (TFA)

Natasha Kamrani (TN), Teach For America (TFA)

Jennifer Kohn Koppel, (TX vice-president of Growth for IDEA Public Schools (charter

management corporation)


The list above represents more than 75% of the DFER staff and board of advisors. As

seen from the list above DFER is clearly not a group of individuals who should be

working on legislation to protect and provide for our public school system. For a

complete list of the candidates that DFER currently supports, visit their website

( ).


DFER Supports the Expansion of Private Schools Funded by Public Money (Charter Schools) 

One of the main platforms of DFER is support of charter schools. In August of 2015,

the delegates for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People

(NAACP) issued a statement recommending a moratorium on charters, demonstrating

critical and thoughtful leadership. (Heilig, 2016) DFER quickly refuted this resolution by

stating, “Across the country, particularly in our urban communities, public charter

schools are a beacon of hope that empower parents and families with greater control

over their child’s future.” (Jeffries, 2016) On October 15, 2016, the NAACP Board of

Directors issued a moratorium on charters schools nationwide (NAACP, 2016).


It has, however, been found that private schools funded by public money (charters) are

ripe with fraud and mismanagement. (Strauss, 2015) It has been noted that charters

sort and segregate students. In The Dirty Dozen: How Charter Schools Influence

Student Enrollment, Kevin Welner points out that, “the patterns are particularly stark

when we realize that such at-risk students are disproportionately enrolled in a small

subset of ‘mission-oriented’ charters – those dedicated to serving a particular type of

at-risk student” (Welner, 2013). Welner also shared that journalist Stephanie Simon

discovered how charters “cherry pick” the students they want. Simon noted that

“applications are made available just a few hours a year, there is a lengthy application

form that is often printed only in English.” Simon further revealed that charters require

“student and parent essays, report cards, test scores, disciplinary records, teacher

recommendations and medical records.” Charters also demand that “students present

Social Security cards and birth certificates for their applications to be considered, even

though such documents cannot be required under Federal law.” Even more egregious,

Simon points out that for students to get their spot in a charter school lottery they must

have “Mandatory family interviews, assessment exams, academic prerequisites, and

requirements that applicants document any disabilities or special needs.” (in Welner,



Frankenberg, Hawley, and Wang stated in Choice without Equity: Charter School

Segregation and the Need for Civil Rights Standards, “as the country continues moving

steadily toward greater segregation and inequality of education for students of color in

schools with lower achievement and graduation rates, the rapid growth of charter

schools has been expanding a sector that is even more segregated than the public

schools. The Civil Rights Project has been issuing annual reports on the spread of

segregation in public schools and its impact on educational opportunity for 14 years.

The report states, “We know that choice programs can either offer quality educational

options with racially and economically diverse schooling to children who otherwise have

few opportunities or choice programs can increase stratification and inequality

depending on how they are designed. The charter effort, which has largely ignored the

segregation issue, has been justified by claims about superior educational performance,

which simply are not sustained by the research. Though there are some remarkable and

diverse charter schools, most are neither. The lessons of what is needed to make

choice work have usually been ignored in charter school policy. Magnet schools are the

striking example of and offer a great deal of experience in how to create educationally

successful and integrated choice options” (Frankenberg, 2012).


One has to wonder, given the preponderance of evidence, why DFER has not backed

away from their support of charter schools, like the NAACP, ACLU, and Black Lives

Matter who have all issued a moratorium on charters, and focus their resources toward

a rebuilding of community public schools designed for all children (Katayama, 2016).

Knowing the history and background of DFER’s board members, this is unlikely to

happen. Funneling money out of public education and into charter schools guides their

decision-making practices, not educational theories and pedagogy.


DFER Supports the Use of Standardized Tests for Accountability


DFER supposedly was founded based on the need to make schools more accountable

for meeting the needs of all students. DFER took a readily available tool, standardized

tests, and pushed them into the spotlight with the claim that they would be the panacea

to identifying schools with poor performance, thereby allowing them to be labeled as

“failing.” DFER’s continued emphasis on testing ignores sound educational practice and

learning theories, and denies the fact that basic human needs must be met for effective

learning to occur in the classroom. However, what they have failed to do is to effectively

put any legislation into action that provides necessary resources to school districts that

are in need of funding to provide pathways to provide the “wrap-around” services that

students need. In doing this, the organization can deny their culpability in the failure of

our government to create a system of supports and services that raise each generation

to become healthier and more self-sufficient, with the needs of the collective population

as the driving force of improvement.


In an attempt to give credit to standardized testing, DFER created an infographic to

show how parents feel about standardized tests (Democrats for Education Reform,

2015). Missing from this graphic is information that shows the effectiveness of

standardized tests in increasing a student’s educational performance. Also missing is

information about how using standardized tests has brought more resources to

classrooms or improved teaching methods. Of course, data and infographics showing

how these improvements were brought about by standardized tests are not being

promoted because no such data exists! DFER was only able to create this particular

infographic because parents have been fed the myth that the use of these tests for

accountability is the answer to what they perceive as an educational issue, distracting

them from the real issue of poverty and inequity in our nation. Instead, as stated in their

reaffirmation of belief in the PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for

College and Careers) exam, DFER wants us to believe that high expectations and rigor

are the keys to preparing students for the future, that some educators really don’t want

parents to know how their students are doing, and that a computer test is the true

measure of a student’s preparedness for life after high school (LeBuhn, Barone, 2014).


DFER Refuses to Acknowledge that Standardized Testing Does Not Close the

Achievement/Opportunity Gap 

Instead of being the key to a better education, when analyzing the results of

standardized tests, several studies have shown that standardized testing does not close

the achievement gap. Nichols, Glass, and Berliner used an Accountability Pressure

Index to measure state-level policy pressure for performance on standardized testing,

and correlations between high-stakes testing accountability and student performance.

Their findings show that the achievement gap is not reduced by the use of standardized

tests. Specifically, African-American students had the lowest average NAEP scores in

both fourth and eighth-grade math.


Additionally, the authors noted that fourth and eighth-grade average math scores rose

more dramatically before NCLB than after. Also noted is the fact that pressure for high

performance from 2004 is associated with decreased performance in math for the years

2005-2009. The authors of this study state that it ‘s hard to form a definite conclusion

regarding the relationship of accountability pressure and student achievement. We

maintain that this finding alone is evidence that the overemphasis on standardized

testing needs to be decreased, especially in a time where budgetary decision-making

results in the allocation of more funds towards testing, and fewer funds toward

programs and services that directly help students and their families (Nichols, Glass, and

Berliner, 2012).


Furthermore, in Closing the Achievement Gap: A Metaphor for Children Left Behind,

Giroux and Schmidt found that, “when state tests are viewed as the sole indicator of

student learning, especially when attached to academic promotion and high school exit

criteria, less than positive effects on students’ opportunities for learning have been

reported.” The authors further contend that “The most fundamental element of school

reform is improving educational opportunities for all children who attend public schools,

but this would demand more than simply tougher accountability schemes, expanded

choice programs and more testing.” Giroux and Schmidt reference Gutman (2000)

when calling for powerful systemic education reforms for all children, specifically

underserved children that DFER members continue to ignore. Gutman makes the

following recommendations: ‘‘decreasing class size, expanding preschool programs,

setting high standards for all students, engaging students in cooperative learning

exercises, empowering principals and teachers to innovate, increasing social services

offered to students and their families, and providing incentives to the ablest college

students to enter the teaching profession and, in particular, to teach in inner city

schools” (Giroux & Schmidt, 2004).

DFER also promotes the use of standardized testing to evaluate teacher quality, while ignoring the trauma that underserved children come to school with on a daily basis, trauma that adversely impacts test scores.

Recent research has shown that trauma experienced during childhood can impact concentration, memory and language development that children need to be successful in school. The foundation that a child needs for learning, the ability to form relationships, trust, and communication skills can be affected, resulting in lower assessment results. To rate teachers based upon a test that does not account for these facts is not a valid measurement of a teacher’s ability to teach.(“Traumatic experiences can impact learning,” 2016) The American Statistical

Association noted in 2014 that, “most VAM studies find that teachers account for about

1% to 14% of the variability in test scores and that the majority of opportunities for

quality improvement are found in the system-level conditions. Ranking teachers by their

VAM scores can have unintended consequences that reduce quality” (American

Statistical Association, 2014). Children who are poor come to school with the trauma of

food insecurity, shelter insecurity, and family disruption. For teachers who teach in

high-needs districts with high populations of underserved children, this is a recipe for

disaster for the child, the teacher, and the district.


The Economic Policy Institute’s Problems with the Use of Student Test Scores to

Evaluate Teachers found that “there is not strong evidence to indicate either that the

departing teachers would be the weakest teachers, or that the departing teachers would

be replaced by more effective ones. There is also little or no evidence for the claim that

teachers will be more motivated to improve student learning if teachers are evaluated or

monetarily rewarded for student test score gains.” On evaluating teachers using test

scores, the report also contends that,

“VAM (Value Added Measure) estimates have proven to be unstable across statistical

models, years, and classes that teachers teach. One study found that across five large

urban districts, among teachers who were ranked in the top 20% of effectiveness in the

first year, fewer than a third were in that top group the next year, and another third

moved all the way down to the bottom 40%. Another found that teachers’ effectiveness

ratings in one year could only predict from 4% to 16% of the variation in such ratings in

the following year. Thus, a teacher who appears to be very ineffective in one year might

have a dramatically different result the following year. The same dramatic fluctuations

were found for teachers ranked at the bottom in the first year of analysis. This runs

counter to most people’s notions that the true quality of a teacher is likely to change

very little over time and raises questions about whether what is measured is largely a

‘teacher effect’ or the effect of a wide variety of other factors.”


On student achievement, the authors state that “ these factors also include school

conditions—such as the quality of curriculum materials, specialist or tutoring supports,

class size, and other factors that affect learning. Schools that have adopted pull-out,

team teaching, or block scheduling practices will only inaccurately be able to isolate

individual teacher ‘effects’ for evaluation, pay, or disciplinary purposes. Student test

score gains are also strongly influenced by school attendance and a variety of

out-of-school learning experiences at home, with peers, at museums and libraries, in

summer programs, online, and in the community. Well educated and supportive parents

can help their children with homework and secure a wide variety of other advantages for

them. Other children have parents who, for a variety of reasons, are unable to support

their learning academically. Student test score gains are also influenced by family

resources, student health, family mobility, and the influence of neighborhood peers and

of classmates who may be relatively more advantaged or disadvantaged” (Baker et al.,



Linda Darling-Hammond noted in Can Value Added Add Value to Teacher Evaluation?

that “the most tragic outcome will be if VAM measures are used to ensure a spread in

the ratings of teachers so as to facilitate dismissals, but the teachers who are fired are

not the ‘incompetent deadwood’ imagined by advocates. Instead, they are the teachers

working with the most challenging students in the most challenging contexts and those

whose students are so far ahead of the curve the tests have no items to measure their

gains, and perhaps those who eschew test prep in favor of more exciting, but less

testable, learning experiences. If value-added measures continue to prove

untrustworthy, the likelihood that they can be used to improve the quality of teaching, or

of the teaching force, will be remote” (Darling-Hammond, 2015).


One need only to reference the case of New York teacher Sheri Lederman to note the

ineffective nature of VAM and its ability to distinguish teacher quality. Dr. Lederman, an

award-winning teacher, sued the New York State Department of Education over her

evaluation score. Valerie Strauss highlighted the case on her blog, “The Answer

Sheet”, for The Washington Post. Strauss noted the history of the suit: “In 2012-13,

68.75 percent of her New York students met or exceeded state standards in both

English and math. She was labeled ‘effective’ that year. In 2013-2014, her students’ test

results were very similar, but she was rated ‘ineffective.’ Meanwhile, her district

superintendent, Thomas Dolan, declared that Lederman — whose students received

standardized math and English Language Arts test scores consistently higher than the

state average — has a ‘flawless record.’” Strauss further noted that “Lederman’s suit

against state education officials — including King — challenges the rationality of the

VAM model, and it alleges that the New York State Growth Measures actually punishes

excellence in education through a statistical black box which no rational educator or fact

finder could see as fair, accurate or reliable.” In May 2015, New York Supreme Court

Judge Roger McDonough ruled that Lederman’s evaluation was “arbitrary” and

“capricious” (Strauss, 2015).


In the larger context, the DFER support of test-based evaluations for teachers is not

only flawed but dangerous to children and public education. Promotion of such policies

that educational experts repeatedly demonstrate as flawed can arguably be considered

educational malpractice. Since most of DFER members are hedge funders, this

approach to teacher evaluation would be like firing a trader based on one day of

performance on Wall Street.


DFER Supports Common Core

Part of the myth that DFER tries to sell is that there is a “magic bullet” answer for what

they feel is wrong with our schools. DFER tries to tell the public that if our schools have

more “rigorous” standards that are composed of more “grit”, our students will be better

prepared to compete in the future workforce. They tout these reforms as “necessary

recalibration”. (Johnson, 2013)


Hiebert and Mesmer noted in Upping the Ante of Text Complexity in the Common Core

State Standards: Examining Its Potential Impact on Young Readers that the drive to set

the bar so high in the younger grades, as the Common Core State Standards (CCSS)

does, will have more negative consequences than positive results. Hebert and Mesmer

state strongly that, “we believe that the evidence cited by CCSS writers to verify

declining levels of text complexity pertains to middle and high schools, not the primary

grades. Some overgeneralizations of the textbook simplification research have resulted

in large changes in the primary grades. The early acceleration of text complexity takes

the focus off of secondary level where the patterns of declining challenges in texts have

been clear and consistent for a 40-year period” (Hiebert & Mesmer, 2013).


Hiebert and Mesmer found “text that the CCSS offers as an exemplar for the Grades

2–3 band—Bats: Creatures of the Night (Milton, 1993)—has the same mean log word

frequency as an exemplar for the Grades 11–12 CCR band—Common Sense (Paine,

1776/2005).” In regard to making young children deal with such high level text

complexity, they further stated, “at present, there is research indicating that motivation

decreases when tasks become too challenging and none that indicates that increasing

challenge (and potential levels of failure) earlier in students’ careers will change this

dismal national pattern of disengagement with literacy.” (Guthrie, Wigfield, & You, 2012)


In The Common Core State Standards’ Quantitative Text Complexity Trajectory :

Figuring Out How Much Complexity Is Enough, Williamson, Fitzgerald and Stenner

point out:

“The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) set a controversial aspirational, quantitative trajectory for text complexity exposure for readers throughout the grades, aiming for all high school graduates to be able to independently read complex college and workplace texts. However, the trajectory standard is presented without reference to how the grade-by-grade complexity ranges were determined or rationalized, and little guidance is provided for educators to know how to apply the flexible quantitative text exposure standard in their local contexts. We extend and elaborate the CCSS presentation and discussion, proposing that decisions about shifting quantitative text complexity levels in schools requires more than implementation of a single, static standard” (2013).

Finally, with the emphasis on reading and math, and increased “test prep” for standardized testing, the fine arts have been pushed out of schools across America. Alice Wexler states in Reaching Higher? The Impact of the Common Core State Standards on the Visual Arts, Poverty, and Disabilities: “While the numbing conformism of the Common Core State Standards that has transformed education into test preparation puts all children at risk, the poor and the disabled are inevitably its target. While all children need the arts, these populations are socially and psychically equalized and empowered by them. Children who flourish when engaged in autonomous acts of discovery, experimentation, and hypothetical thinking rather than passive submission to expository teaching, might not necessarily succeed in academics, let alone meet the unreasonable demands of the new tests. Educators need to believe in the educational merits of unpredictability, uncertainty, and risk-taking, all of which good art teachers embrace” (Wexler, 2014).


DFER’s continued support of the CCSS, which has not been adequately researched or

vetted, speaks to the organization’s lack of knowledge about the complexity of

educating children. The continued push by DFER members, and groups that they

finance, for the untested CCSS has had a detrimental impact on teaching and learning

in the United States. If the CCSS are so amazing, one has to ask why private schools

that do not have to adhere to CCSS are not suffering the challenges of achievement

gap. CCSS is not a solution, rather a symptom of a misdiagnosis of the real issue.


DFER Perpetuates a “Failing Schools” Narrative


One of DFER’s most significant accomplishments to date was the feat of pulling the

wool over everyone’s eyes, shifting the blame from where it should be (i.e., the failure of

the government to fully fund schools, provide necessary resources, and address

structural poverty), and placing it in the schools themselves. DFER blog posts and

position statements are full of language that perpetuates the failing schools rhetoric.

After two years of failing to meet annual yearly progress, a school is identified as a

“school in need of improvement”. Lists of these schools are published and plans made

to overhaul the current systems in place, with sometimes drastic changes, that

potentially destroy recent progress. When responding to the recent passage of the

ESSA legislation, DFER praised the legislation for the maintaining of annual statewide

testing and funding to new differential pay and human capital management systems for

teachers and principals (Barone, 2015) despite the fact that there is no evidence to

support annual testing as improving educational outcomes.


What has been created in our nation is a constant market of supply and demand for our

corporate education suppliers that sell products offering the magic-bullet solution for

remediation to learners that perform poorly on standardized assessments. Schools are

encouraged to purchase new curriculums, supplemental materials, technology hardware

or software, classroom management systems, or hire consultants; all of which can be

done, for a price. When that is not enough, new benchmarks are created, proficiency

score levels are changed, and revised standardized tests are created, giving birth to a

resurgence of the education product market.


Monetary resources for education should be spent in ways that will truly benefit

students. Published by the Albert Shanker Institute, a report by Bruce D. Baker explores

the question, “Does money matter in education?” One of his conclusions states that:


“Schooling resources that cost money, including smaller class sizes, additional

supports, early childhood programs and more competitive teacher compensation

(permitting schools and districts to recruit and retain a higher-quality teacher workforce),

are positively associated with student outcomes. Again, in some cases, those effects

are larger than in others, and there is also variation in student population and other

contextual variables. On the whole, however, the things that cost money benefit

students, and there is scarce evidence that there are more cost-effective alternatives”

(Baker, 2016).


Card and Payne further contend in School Finance Reform, the Distribution of School

Spending, and the Distribution of SAT Scores that spending equalizations that occurred

in 12 states in the 1980s after unconstitutional court rulings resulted in children from

highly-educated and low-educated parents closing the gap in SAT average by 5% (or 8

points) (Card & Payne, 1998). Downes and Figlio further support this finding by showing

that the test scores of high school seniors in low spending districts rose after a

court-mandated and legislatively induced finance reform (Downes & Figlio, 1997).


Glaringly absent from the DFER “What We Stand For” statement is any mention of the

following items, as recommended by the National Education Policy Center in 2014:


➤Class size is an important determinant of student outcomes and one that can be

directly determined by policy. All else being equal, increasing class sizes will harm

student outcomes.

➤The evidence suggests that increasing class size will harm not only children’s test

scores in the short run, but also their long-run human capital formation. Money saved

today by increasing class sizes will result in more substantial social and educational

costs in the future.

➤The payoff from class-size reduction is greater for low-income and minority children,

while any increases in class size will likely be most harmful to these populations.

➤Policymakers should weigh the efficacy of class-size policy against other potential

uses of funds carefully. While lower class size has a demonstrable cost, it may prove

the more cost-effective policy overall. (Schanzenbach, 2014)


When discussing education policy-making and how it is conducted, another glaring void

is apparent within DFER. Missing from their conversations are a call for the most

important stakeholders of education to have a prominent voice in policy writing and

decision making: teachers, parents, and students. Their focus on testing without equal

attention towards creating spaces for stakeholder input and collaboration on solutions

allows them to perpetuate the narrative of failing schools.


DFER Believes our Public School Systems are in Decline 

Another part of the DFER narrative is that our school system is in decline. The

Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) is a test that was designed by

the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development to test the skills and

knowledge of 15-year old students. Prominent education historian, Dr. Diane Ravitch,

notes, “Never do they explain how it was possible for the U.S. to score so poorly on

international tests again and again over the past half century and yet still emerge as the

world’s leading economy, with the world’s most vibrant culture, and a highly productive

workforce. From my vantage point as a historian, here is my takeaway from the PISA

scores: Lesson 1: If they mean anything at all, the PISA scores show the failure of the

past dozen years of public policy in the United States. The billions invested in testing,

test prep, and accountability have not raised test scores or our nation’s relative standing

on the league tables. No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top are manifest failures at

accomplishing their singular goal of higher test scores” (Ravitch, 2013).


Furthermore, Des Griffin points out in What’s wrong with PISA: Why condemning

international tests is a distraction, and what we really should be worried about that

“there are other lessons aimed at the US coming from PISA rankings that perhaps the

US, and other countries such as Australia, should be paying attention to. How many

times does it have to be pointed out that ‘socio-economic disadvantage has a notable

impact on student performance’”? Also, PISA 2009 asserted local funding of education

exacerbates inequality and ‘may be the single most important factor for the US.’ But it

seems impossible for Americans to come to grips with these findings” (Griffin, 2015).


Democrats for Education Reform continues to ignore researchers, who repeatedly point

out that the U.S. system of education must address inequality, and that inequity has

been detrimental to education policy and public education.

DFER billions fund local, state, and federal political races and use “the sky is falling” rhetoric to fuel their continued efforts to control public education. As a result, we have seen elected lawmakers, funded by DFER money, work to slash school aid budgets. DFER continues to ignore that equity funding is essential to help our most struggling students and schools. They continue to influence these lawmakers to slash public education budgets in their states, starving the schools of the resources they need to operate.

Decreased class sizes and more certified teachers per pupil are resources that increase

the value of school for all children, especially for our most needy children.

In Evaluating the Recession’s Impact on School Finance Systems, Bruce Baker notes,

“the recent recession yielded an unprecedented decline in public school funding

fairness. Thirty-six states had a three-year average reduction in current spending

fairness between 2008-09 and 2010-11 and 32 states had a three-year average

reduction in state and local revenue fairness over that same period. Over the entire

19-year period, only 15 states saw an overall decline in spending fairness. In years

before 2008 (starting in 1993), only 11 states saw an overall decline in spending

fairness.” Baker further contends that “while equity overall took a hit between 1997 and

2011, the initial state of funding equity varied widely at the outset of the period, with

Massachusetts and New Jersey being among the most progressively funded states in

  1. Thus, they arguably had further to fall. Funding equity for many states has barely

budged over time, and remained persistently regressive, for example in Illinois, New

York, and Pennsylvania” (Baker, 2014).


Baker, Farrie, and Sciara contend in The Changing Distribution of Educational

Opportunities: 1993–2012 that, “over the past ten years, state average staffing

increases have been much more modest, and over the past five years, nonexistent.”

They further point out that, “equity and adequacy of financial inputs to schooling across

states are required if we ever expect to achieve more equitable access to a highly

qualified teacher workforce (as dictated in part by the competitiveness of their

compensation) and reasonable class sizes” (Baker, Farrie, and Sciarra, 2016).

As we have seen over the last decade, corporate education reform proponents such as DFER members continue to ignore the importance of equal and equitable funding.

Research has shown that when children are provided with schools that are funded

equally and equitably, they do well. Research has also shown that when class sizes are

small, and children are taught by qualified teachers, they will thrive educationally,

resulting in improved test scores and future success. DFER continues to ignore this

research. They continue to ignore that you cannot test your way out of poverty, that

CCSS will not cure poverty, and that school choice will not cure poverty. The result of

this ignorance will have a lasting impact on our children, and specifically our children

who live in poverty.


DFER Believes in School Choice

To give parents the illusion that they have a voice in the educational decision making for

their children, DFER relies heavily on the narrative of school choice.


Different states have different programs or a combination of different programs in place that all fall

under the category of school choice. The proliferation of these different programs is due

to the “word manipulation” that DFER members use to pass legislation that allows their

agenda to flourish. School choice can be identified as vouchers, education savings

accounts, tax-credit scholarships, or even as individual tax credits or deductions. The

offering of school choice paves the way for families to enroll students in charter schools.

But, the name chosen for the particular program does not matter; the end goal is all the

same. Financially, this is another way that our public school system is being starved.

Educational dollars remain with each student, so where the student attends school is

where the money goes as well.


Stemming from the narrative that public schools are failing, school choice has become a

way to sell a quick solution to parents and communities. Charter schools, with the

original intent, to allow for educational innovation to occur under a less restrictive

environment, freed from regulations and oversight, have been compromised into an

alternative education system that funnels public funds to private interests. With the

recent induction of Shavar Jeffries into the ranks of DFER, the push for the charter

school agenda has been renewed. Jeffries has argued that increasing school choice is

necessary for closing the income gap (David, 2016).


With the backing of corporate money, the marketing plan for school choice and charter

schools rivals those of large corporations, with DFER doing their share of promotion

(Doctrow, 2014). But parents and communities should take a close look at the results of

school choice in different locations. In 2009, researchers reported that voucher

programs have led to “increased stratification across public and private schools.”


In The impact of school choice and public policy on segregation: Evidence from Chile, Gregory

Elacqua found “that Chile’s unrestricted flat per-pupil voucher program has led to

increased stratification across public and private schools. What has been overlooked,

however, is segregation between schools within a sector and variation within private

voucher for-profit and non-profit (religious and secular) school sectors.” Elacqua further

noted “that public schools are more likely to serve disadvantaged – low-income and

indigenous – students than private voucher schools. I also find that the typical public

school is more internally diverse with regard to ethnicity and socioeconomic status than

the typical private voucher school.” Finally, Elacqua notes, “despite having a mission to

serve the needy, Catholic voucher schools enroll, on average, fewer disadvantaged

students (vulnerable and indigenous) than public and other private voucher school

types” (Elacqua, 2009).


As we have seen in the United States, school choice is not a choice when parents have

to make decisions to send their child out of their neighborhood to a school far from their

home. An example of the impact of “choice” on children is the story of one child in New

Orleans. A student who attended the all-charter district in New Orleans shared his story

at a conference held at Texas Christian University. He spoke of rarely seeing his

mother when he was growing up because he had to catch a city bus at 6 a.m. to get to

school, which was over 20 miles from his home. He played sports after school so did

not arrive home until 8 p.m. He saw his mother for 30 minutes a day, as she went to

bed at 8:30 to get up for her job early in the morning. In the end, this young man said

that school choice was not a choice for him as he was not accepted at the school that

was just 2 miles from his home. Public schools take in, and keep, all children, unlike

charter schools. In a debate with Dan Senor on the Bill Maher Show, D.L. Hughley said

of school choice: “Why do I have to leave my neighborhood to go to school? What is it

about my neighborhood that is so bad that I have to leave it to attend school?”


A study on school choice in New Zealand shows that “choice” is not the route to travel if

we want to make equitable decisions about education. Helen Ladd and Edward Fiske

highlighted in Does Competition Improve Teaching and Learning? Evidence from New

Zealand “that New Zealand’s introduction of full parental choice in 1992 increased

competitive pressures more for some schools than for others. With careful attention to

various potential threats to validity, we conclude that competition—as perceived by

teachers—generated negative effects on the quality of student learning and other

aspects of schooling in New Zealand’s elementary schools” (Ladd & Fiske, 2003).


Hansen and Gustafsson also found in Sweden that school choice leads to segregation.

Hansen and Gustafsson concluded “that school segregation with respect to migration

background and educational achievement had increased over time, while social

segregation remained rather constant. The degree of school segregation varied largely

across different municipality types, and it was concluded that school choice was a

determinant of school segregation” (Hansen & Gustafsson, 2015). Finally, Dennis

Epple and Richard E. Romano found in Competition between Private and Public

Schools, Vouchers, and Peer-Group Effects “that tuition vouchers increase the relative

size of the private sector and the extent of student sorting, and benefit high-ability

students relative to low-ability students” (Epple & Romano, 1998).


DFER’s education policies would have us believe that the voucher system gives all

children choice, when in fact, it provides choice to a few children. Like their Republican

counterparts, DFER continues to support a system that hyper-segregates the school

population, rolls back advances made possible by Brown V. Board of Education, and

destabilizes households when children must leave their neighborhood to attend schools

in areas they are not familiar with. Also, the voucher system in most states depletes

money from traditional public schools that serve, and keep, all children.


DFER Education Policy Fosters an Anti-Union Platform 

Democrats for Education Reform has not come out and directly stated that they would

like to see a reduction in the effectiveness of teachers unions to advocate for what they

feel is in the best interest of the students. All of the above agenda items on the DFER

platform are known to lead towards a reduction in the strength of teacher unions. Their

push for school choice leads families to schools that are not unionized, support merit

pay, and ignore the benefits that experienced teachers bring to the classroom by

denying seniority rights.


As advocates for students, and the last line of defense for children, teachers unions

have developed platforms or position statements against DFER’s policies.


In Do Teacher Unions Hinder Educational Performance? Lessons Learned from State

SAT and ACT Scores it was found that “states with greater percentages of teachers in

unions reported higher test performance” on the SAT and ACT (Steelman, Powell, and

Carinin, 2000). Burroughs noted in Arguments and Evidence: The Debate over

Collective Bargaining’s Role in Public Education that Grimes and Register (1981) found

SAT scores for African-Americans were higher in union schools. In 1990, Grimes and

Register also found that students in unionized schools scored higher on measures of

economic literacy (Burroughs, 2008).


Outside of school walls, unions have been good for American society. Noted for

building and sustaining the middle class, of which teachers are often members, unions

not only sustain a living wage for workers but also have leveled, somewhat, the playing

field for minorities and women. Mishel summarized in The State of Working America,

12th Edition that “unionized workers have a higher wage premium, are more likely to be

covered for health insurance, and have a pension to sustain them in their later years.


With the decline of unions (from 1973-2011 it declined 13.6 percent) we have seen

wage inequality has continued to grow between those at the top and those in the

middle.” Mishel further warns, “together with other laissez-faire policies such as

globalization, deregulation, and lower labor standards such as a weaker minimum

wage; deunionization has strengthened the hands of employers and undercut the ability

of low- and middle-wage workers to have good jobs and economic security. If we want

the fruits of economic growth to benefit the vast majority, we will have to adopt a

different set of guideposts for setting economic policy, as the ones in place over the last

several decades have served those with the most income, wealth, and political power.

Given unions’ important role in setting standards for both union and nonunion workers,

we must ensure that every worker has access to collective bargaining” (Mishel, 2012).



The Democrats for Education Reform have initiated a shameless war on public education, even as they claim to support children, teachers, and schools. 

Essentially, the basic reason DFER was formed was to undermine the strengths of the public school

system and the strength of unions in public education. As Tilson noted, the mission of

DFER was, “to break the teacher unions’ stranglehold over the Democratic Party, NOT

to create equitable schools for our children” (Miller, 2016). Public education is the

bedrock of democracy. It is the one public sector institution that can level the playing

field for black and brown children in America. It is the one institution that can be the

center of communities, both in service of education and a wide range of other societal

needs. What DFER has adopted, as seen in this meta-analysis, is a course of

destruction for public education. The policies DFER lays out for education (i.e., school

choice, support for the Common Core, a “failing schools” narrative, and the overall

decline of public education) are all smoke and mirrors for an agenda that seeks to

privatize public education in order to generate massive amounts of profit for their

wealthy founders and investors. This deceptive campaign has most Americans duped

into believing their disingenuous rhetoric about public education. We believe that this

analysis of the research around DFER’s agenda debunks much of what the organization

supports, and will begin a real conversation about the strengthening of public education

for all of America’s children.



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The NAACP calls for a moratorium on charter schools


On October 15, 2016, Members of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Board of Directors ratified a resolution Saturday adopted by delegates at its 2016 107th National Convention calling for a moratorium on charter school expansion and for the strengthening of oversight in governance and practice.

To follow is the resolution:

“The NAACP has been in the forefront of the struggle for and a staunch advocate of free, high-quality, fully and equitably-funded public education for all children,” said Roslyn M. Brock, Chairman of the National NAACP Board of Directors. “We are dedicated to eliminating the severe racial inequities that continue to plague the education system.”

The National Board’s decision to ratify this resolution reaffirms prior resolutions regarding charter schools and the importance of public education, and is one of 47 resolutions adopted today by the Board of Directors. The National Board’s decision to ratify supports its 2014 Resolution, ‘School Privatization Threat to Public Education’, in which the NAACP opposes privatization of public schools and public subsidizing or funding of for-profit or charter schools. Additionally, in 1998 the Association adopted a resolution which unequivocally opposed the establishment and granting of charter schools which are not subject to the same accountability and standardization of qualifications/certification of teachers as public schools and divert already-limited funds from public schools.

We are calling for a moratorium on the expansion of the charter schools at least until such time as:
(1) Charter schools are subject to the same transparency and accountability standards as public schools
(2) Public funds are not diverted to charter schools at the expense of the public school system
(3) Charter schools cease expelling students that public schools have a duty to educate and
(4) Cease to perpetuate de facto segregation of the highest performing children from those whose aspirations may be high but whose talents are not yet as obvious.

Historically the NAACP has been in strong support of public education and has denounced movements toward privatization that divert public funds to support non-public school choices.

“We are moving forward to require that charter schools receive the same level of oversight, civil rights protections and provide the same level of transparency, and we require the same of traditional public schools,” Chairman Brock said. “Our decision today is driven by a long held principle and policy of the NAACP that high quality, free, public education should be afforded to all children.”

While we have reservations about charter schools, we recognize that many children attend traditional public schools that are inadequately and inequitably equipped to prepare them for the innovative and competitive environment they will face as adults. Underfunded and under-supported, these traditional public schools have much work to do to transform curriculum, prepare teachers, and give students the resources they need to have thriving careers in a technologically advanced society that is changing every year. There is no time to wait. Our children immediately deserve the best education we can provide.

“Our ultimate goal is that all children receive a quality public education that prepares them to be a contributing and productive citizen,” said Adora Obi Nweze, Chair of the National NAACP Education Committee, President of the Florida State Conference of the NAACP and a former educator whose committee guides educational policy for the Association.

“The NAACP’s resolution is not inspired by ideological opposition to charter schools but by our historical support of public schools – as well as today’s data and the present experience of NAACP branches in nearly every school district in the nation,” said Cornell William Brooks, President and CEO of the NAACP. “Our NAACP members, who as citizen advocates, not professional lobbyists, are those who attend school board meetings, engage with state legislatures and support both parents and teachers.”

“The vote taken by the NAACP is a declaratory statement by this Association that the proliferation of charter schools should be halted as we address the concerns raised in our resolution,” said Chairman Brock.

The Resolution

WHEREAS, charter schools have been a rapidly growing sector of the education system, increasingly targeting low-income areas and communities of color; and
WHEREAS, charter schools with privately appointed boards do not represent the public yet make decisions about how public funds are spent; and WHEREAS, charter schools have contributed to the increased segregation rather than diverse integration of our public school system; and

WHEREAS, research and reports have documented disproportionately high use of punitive and exclusionary discipline in addition to differential
enrollment practices that violate protections of student rights for public schooling; and

WHEREAS, research and civil rights organizations have documented violations of parent and children’s rights, conflicts of interest, fiscal mismanagement, and psychologically harmful environments within several rapidly proliferating charter management organizations; and
WHEREAS, analyses on annual missing charter funds have been estimated at nearly half a billion dollars nationally; and
WHEREAS, researchers have warned that charter school expansions in low-income communities mirror predatory lending practices that led to the sub-prime mortgage disaster, putting schools and communities impacted by these practices at great risk of loss and harm; and
WHEREAS, current policies force district campuses to accommodate co-locations of charter schools, resulting in shortages of resources and space and increasing tension and conflict within school communities; and
WHEREAS, weak oversight of charter schools puts students and communities at risk of harm, public funds at risk of being wasted, and further erodes local control of public education; and
WHEREAS, the NAACP shares the concerns of the Journey for Justice Alliance, and alliance of 38 organizations of Black and Brown parents and students in 23 states, which has joined with 175 other national local grassroots community, youth, and civil rights organizations calling for a moratorium on the Federal Charter schools program, which has pumped over $3 billion into new charter schools, many of which have already closed or have failed the students drawn to them by the illusive promise of quality.
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the NAACP reaffirms its 2014 resolution, “School Privatization Threat to Public Education,” in which the NAACP opposes the privatization of public schools and/or public subsidizing or funding of for-profit or charter schools; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the NAACP will continue to advocate against any state or Federal legislation which commits or diverts public funding, allows tax breaks, or establishes preferential advantages to for-profit, private, and/or charter schools; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the NAACP calls for full funding and support of high quality free public education for all children; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the NAACP calls upon units to seek to pass legislation at the State and Local levels that will ensure that parents have access to Charter School Advocacy Boards and that Charter Schools be required to provide schooling for students that are dismissed from school for disciplinary reasons; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the NAACP will seek legislation to strengthen investigative powers of those bodies that oversee charter school fraud, corruption, waste, etc.; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that, as a tool to help address exclusionary student disciplinary policies and practices of publicly funded charter schools, NAACP units should: a) review the US Department of Justice-US Department of Education joint guidelines on school climate and school discipline b) encourage charter school administrators to apply that guidance to its student disciplinary practice; and c) work with parents of charter school students in appropriate cases to file complaints with the Office of Civil Rights, US Department of Education, to challenge unwarranted exclusionary practices (e.g., suspensions and expulsions); and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the NAACP hereby supports a moratorium on the proliferation of privately managed charter schools; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the NAACP opposes bills that would weaken the investigative powers of any legislative body from uncovering charter school fraud, corruption, and/or waste; and
BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED that the NAACP supports legislation AND EXECUTIVE ACTIONS that would strengthen local governance and transparency of charter schools, and, in so doing, affirms to protect students and families from exploitative governance practices.”