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Est. April 5, 2002
February 25, 2016 - Issue 642

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Connecting the Dots
Cartel Privatization Strategies
and the
Corporate Charter Takeover
Public Schools
Part XII

"Parents have chosen and/or have been forced
into corporate charter schools in droves,
driving up charter funding and depleting the
budgets of traditional public schools."

The Cartel of advocates for the privatization of public education is placing corporate charter schools on steroids. It is moving at warp speed to turn urban public school districts into all or majority corporate charter in its present wave of education reform. As noted in previous columns, the Cartel has already converted New Orleans to 91percent charter, and Detroit, Washington, D.C., Flint (where Michigan’s governor, a Cartel Member, has simultaneously poisoned the drinking water with lead that has negative impacted the cognitive functioning of thousands of school children), and Cleveland are approximately 50 percent corporate charter as of 2016. These showcase districts have paved the way for a national corporate charter takeover of public school districts.

Elsewhere, the Cartel’s minister of education, Eli Broad, has boldly announced that he plans to transform 50 percent of the Los Angeles Unified School District into corporate charters by 2023.

The previous focus on voucher schools and education management companies has been superseded by an emphasis on corporate charters and charter management organizations (CMOs), the latter owned by the Cartel and/or its private-sector acolytes. With the assistance of President Obama and the Cartel-developed legislation, Race to the Top (RTTT), which Obama signed into law, the Cartel is off to the corporate charter school races. It is now systematically targeting large, medium-sized, and small school districts for “corporate charterization.” A few examples are discussed below.

Newark and Camden, New Jersey public schools represent the current approach to increasing charter enrollment employing a “universal student enrollment system” which registers students for both charter and traditional public schools. The recent superintendents of the Newark Public Schools, Cami Anderson (2011-2015) and Chris Cerf (2015-Present), who hired Anderson when he was New Jersey’s Commissioner of Education from 2011 to 2014, are also Cartel surrogates.

They were placed in their positions for the expressed purpose of significantly increasing the number of corporate charter schools and privatizing public school services. Cerf and Anderson (who worked for Cerf in the charter school office when he was deputy chancellor of the New York City Schools) were wildly successful in carrying out their assigned agenda. Within five short years, they have more than doubled the number of Newark charter schools; have transitioned hundreds of millions of dollars in school services into the private sector, and the corresponding jobs; and have lain off hundreds of traditional public school teachers. In addition, they plowed through the $100 million grant from Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg, without any appreciable educational outcomes other than to line the pockets of a bevy of education consultants.

As their charter accomplishments accelerated, Cerf and Anderson conspired, with New Jersey’s Cartel-backed Gov. Chris Christie, to place her deputy superintendent for innovation in Newark, Paymon Rouhanifard, who had been her direct report in New York, in the open Camden, New Jersey superintendent’s position in 2013. (He was brought to Newark as a member of Anderson’s education reform team.) Rouhanifard’s educational credentials and experience were modest at best: bachelor’s degrees in economics and political science, two years as a Teach for America (TFA) teacher in the New York City Schools (NYCS), and as a staff member in the NYCS charter school office. He possessed fewer academic qualifications than 55 percent of the teachers under his administration in the Camden City Schools.

However, like his mentors, Cerf and Anderson, he was skilled in turning traditional public schools into corporate charters, converting five of the twenty-six Camden schools into corporate charters during his first year in office, and transforming another seven to corporate charters since 2014, pushing the school budget into a deficit. These administrative actions enabled him to lay off hundreds of teachers and support staff.

Meanwhile, Newark Public Schools’ finances also had a shortfall in 2014 and 2015. In an unprecedented joint letter to Gov. Christie on February 1, 2016, a group of Newark pro-corporate charter and pro-traditional public school civic and elected leaders (89 percent of whom were pro-corporate charter) begged him to provide transitional aid to rescue the school district from its budget gap. To make their case, they cited the Camden City Schools which is in similar straits. Both situations were caused by the payments to charter schools whose rapid increase had negative fiscal impacts in each district.

However, the pro-corporate charters and pro-traditional public schools letter writers failed to mention that the major culprit in these situations is the “universal student enrollment system” employed in the respective school systems. In order to select their child’s school placement, all parents are mandated to choose from a list of corporate charter and traditional public schools. Individual schools are also required to take part in community fairs to market themselves with data on school facilities and outcomes.

Such requirements place under-funded, low-wealth, and low-performing traditional public schools at a distinct disadvantage. In addition, the Newark and Camden superintendents and their staff “place their thumbs on the scale” in favor of corporate charters by manipulating the selection process and publicly proclaiming the merits of corporate charters.

Thus, parents have chosen and/or have been forced into corporate charter schools in droves, driving up charter funding and depleting the budgets of traditional public schools. In order to encourage Gov. Christie to provide the transitional funding, the Newark Public Schools (NPS) volunteered to make additional cuts in its operational costs to place its fiscal house in order. The corporate charters only committed to continue taking the money. What is occurring here is that the NPS is essentially agreeing to commit long-term, district suicide in an effort to secure short-term economic relief.

This new strategy is being implemented and/or being pursued in Indianapolis, Indiana (with the full cooperation of Mayor Joe Hogsett and Superintendent Dr. Lewis Ferebee), the State of North Carolina, Washington, D.C., and a host of other school districts throughout the nation. It is being promoted by both Republican and Democratic elected officials and championed by previous and current Obama U.S. education secretaries, Arnie Duncan and Dr. John King, respectively. Thus, the Cartel is quietly achieving its corporate charter objectives by enlisting its targeted school districts in the facilitation of their own annihilation. “You cannot make this stuff up.”

Click here for links to all parts of this series Columnist, Dr. Walter C. Farrell, Jr., PhD, MSPH, is a Fellow of the National Education Policy Center (NEPC) at the University of Colorado-Boulder and has written widely on vouchers, charter schools, and public school privatization. He has appeared on the Today Show with Matt Lauer and National Public Radio’s The Connection to discuss public school privatization, and he has lectured to parent, teacher, and union groups throughout the nation. Contact Dr. Farrell. 

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