The Cost of Choice

A new study finds that charter school expansion in Michigan has meant financial chaos for a growing number of school districts…

detroit_damage2_640-900x570.jpg (900×570)EduShyster: Your new study looks at why certain school districts in Michigan have descended into a state of, as I like to describe it, *smoking ruin.* To keep the suspense alive, tell us what you found DID NOT contribute to the severe financial distress of these districts.

David Arsen: The question we looked at was how much of this pattern of increasing financial distress among school districts in Michigan was due to things that local districts have control over as opposed to state-level policies that are out of the local districts’ control: teacher salaries, health benefits, class size, administrative spending. We also looked at an item that the conservative think tanks are big on: contracting out and privatization. We found that, overwhelmingly, the biggest financial impact on school districts was the result of declining enrollment and revenue loss, especially where school choice and charters are most prevalent. We looked at every school district in Michigan with at least 100 students and we followed them for nearly 20 years. The statistics are causal; we’re not just looking at correlation.  Continue reading →

License to Loot

How Michigan charter schools became prime feasting ground for edu-vultures.

turkey vultureBy Tim Fournier
I started teaching in the Detroit Public Schools in 1993, the very year that Michigan approved its first charter schools. Last week The Detroit Free Press published the results of a year-long investigation into the state’s now 20-year old experiment with charters. The series confirms what many of us predicted back then: that freeing these schools from oversight has left them uniquely vulnerable to profiteers, hucksters and charlatans. *Vultures* was the word I used in this letter to the editor I wrote back in 1996. Continue reading →

If It Smells Like a Skunk…

Michigan officials have launched a bold and secret project known as Skunk Works to create “value schools.”

Someday, in our bold choice-tacular future, once-stifled students will be able to choose the educational option of their choice. Choice chosen, they will then swipe their EduCards to pay for 21st century skills building served up steaming and blended. And should they have any Edu Bucks left after choosing their choice, they can spring for extras like AP courses, athletics or super cool cyber courses. What’s that, you say? Such a choice-tacular future is already in the werks in none other than Michigan, USA? Why we must go there directly to smell the odeur de choix for ourselves… Continue reading →

Michelle Rhee’s Hero Problem

Does heroism hold value in Michelle Rhee’s measure of a teacher’s worth?

In the annals of tin-eared condolence statements, the one released by Michelle Rhee in the wake of the Newtown school shooting stands out. Her very word choices felt stilted and wrong, evoking a strange world in which children are “assets,” stunned and reeling teachers are “colleagues,” and family are the members of Rhee’s own “team.” But if the statement began on an off note, worse was still to come. The lesson of the hours-old tragedy, Rhee seemed to conclude, was that she’d been right along. “Improve schools for children,” (read, eliminate tenure and other workplace protections for teachers) and thereby “improve entire communities” (read, prevent senseless slaughter). As for her parting, there was nothing left for Rhee to do but double down, announcing that she and the entire StudentsFirst organization—”including the members of our team in Connecticut“—were recommitting to their mission today. Not two days from now, when the first of the unending series of memorials would begin, not a week from now when the funerals would at last be over, but today.
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From Michigan, Rephorm Turducken

Reader: an idea for how to rescue our union-stifled public schools is generated roughly every 3.5 seconds. Most of these are almost nonsensically bad. Still, there is a category of edu-idea so catastrophically ill-informed, so stuffed with rephorminess and drenched with what the French call sauce privatisation that it deserves our special attention today. I give you rephorm turducken. Continue reading →