Friday, May 15, 2015

Shared Commitment to High-Quality Public Education

0> AFT and SNTE Sign Declaration to Forge Shared Commitment to High-Quality Public Education

0> La AFT y el SNTE (Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores de la Educación) firman declaración para forjar un compromiso compartido para la educación publica de alta calidad

WASHINGTON, DC (PR) — Statement from American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten on the Declaration in Defense of Public Schools she signed today with Juan Díaz, president of the Mexican National Educational Workers Union (Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores de la Educación, or SNTE):

“This declaration is a testimony to our shared commitment to reclaim the promise of public education, not as it is today or as it was in the past, but as it can be—to fulfill our collective obligation to help all children succeed. It reaffirms our commitment to work together toward a better future for every child—in the United States, in Mexico and throughout the region. Our teachers face many of the same challenges whether they are in Juárez or El Paso, Durango or Florida, Mexico City or New York City. Teachers need to have the necessary tools, time, training and trust in order to do their job well. And this declaration is a powerful testimony to the friendship between our two unions, a friendship forged by our shared challenges and our shared aspirations. We both believe that access to a high-quality public education is a key civil and human right—particularly for vulnerable youth, children with disabilities, bilingual and multilingual learners, and those from indigenous and minority communities, both rural and urban.”

WASHINGTON, DC (PR) – Declaración de la Presidenta de la AFT, Randi Weingarten, sobre la Declaración en Defensa de las Escuelas Publicas, firmado hoy por Weingarten y Juan Díaz de la Torre, Presidente del SNTE:

“Esta declaración es un testimonio de nuestro compromiso compartido para recuperar la promesa de la educación pública, no como es ahora o como lo fue en el pasado, sino como puede ser - para cumplir con nuestra obligación colectiva de ayudar a que todos los niños tengan éxito. La declaración reafirma nuestro compromiso de trabajar juntos hacia un mejor futuro para cada uno de nuestros niños - en los Estados Unidos, en México y en toda la región. Nuestros maestros enfrentan muchos de los mismos desafíos, no importa donde estén, sea en Juárez o El Paso, Durango o Florida, Ciudad de México o en la ciudad de Nueva York. Los maestros necesitan tener las herramientas, el tiempo, la formación y la confianza con el fin de hacer bien su trabajo. Y esta declaración es un poderoso testimonio de la amistad entre nuestros dos sindicatos, una amistad formada por retos comunes y aspiraciones compartidas. Ambos creemos que el acceso a una educación pública de alta calidad es un derecho civil y humano clave – particularmente para los jóvenes de bajos recursos, los niños con necesidades especiales o discapacidades, estudiantes bilingües y multilingües, y aquellos que pertenecen a comunidades indígenas y minoritarias, tanto rurales y urbano.”

MADISON, WI –The federal government has spent more than $3.3 billion over the past two decades creating and fueling the charter school industry, according to a new financial analysis and reporters' guide by the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD). 

Despite the huge sums spent so far, the federal government maintains no comprehensive list of the charter schools that have received and spent these funds or even a full list of the private or quasi-public entities that have been approved by states to "authorize" charters that receive federal funds. And despite drawing repeated criticism from the Office of the Inspector General for suspected waste and inadequate financial controls within the federal Charter Schools Program—designed to create, expand, and replicate charter schools—the U.S. Department of Education (ED) is poised to increase its funding by 48% in FY 2016.

CMD’s review of internal audits reveals that ED did not act quickly or effectively on numerous reports that state education officials had no idea where the federal funds ended up. The documents also show that ED knowingly awarded grants to states with no statutory oversight over charter authorizers and schools as the grant applications are evaluated based on how much "flexibility" from state laws charter schools have.

As a result of lax oversight on the federal level, combined with many state laws that hide charter finances from the public eye, taxpayers are left in the dark about how much federal money each charter school has received and what has been wasted or spent to enrich charter school administrators and for-profit corporations who get lucrative outsourcing contracts from charters, behind closed doors.

"The Department of Education is pushing for an unprecedented expansion of charter schools while paying lip service to accountability, but independent audit materials show that the Department's lofty rhetoric is simply not backed up by its actions," noted Jonas Persson, a writer for the Center for Media and Democracy, a national watchdog group that publishes,, and, adding, "the lack of tough financial controls and the lack of public access to information about how charters are spending federal tax dollars has almost inevitably led to enormous fraud and waste."

CMD's guide, "New Documents Show How Taxpayer Money Is Wasted by Charter Schools—Stringent Controls Urgently Needed as Charter Funding Faces Huge Increase," analyzes materials obtained from open records requests about independent audits of how states interact with charter school authorizers and charter schools.

These documents, along with the earlier Inspector General report, reveal systemic barriers to common sense financial controls. Revealing quotes from those audit materials, highlighted in CMD's report, show that too often states have had untrained staff doing unsystematic reviews of authorizers and charter schools while lacking statutory authority and adequate funding to fully assess how federal money is being spent by charters.

In many instances, states have no idea how charter schools actually spent federal monies and they have no systematic way of obtaining that information or making sure it is accurate.

Meanwhile, charter school advocates within state agencies and private entities have sought to prevent strong financial controls and reporting systems backed up by government oversight.

"It is astonishing that the federal government has spent more than $3 billion dollars directly on charter schools and is poised to commit another $350 million on their expansion this year, even though charters have failed to perform better than traditional public schools overall and have performed far worse when it comes to fraud and waste," noted Lisa Graves, CMD's Executive Director.

She added: "This result is not surprising since many charter school advocates have pushed to create a system that allows charters to get federal funds without federal controls on how that money is spent--but it should not be acceptable for so much of taxpayers' money to be spent this way, with no requirement that the public be told how much money each and every charter school receives, how much each spends on high-paid charter executives, how much money makes it to the classroom, and how much is outsourced to for-profit firms."

In CMD's view, "There is no doubt that American school children and American taxpayers are getting short-changed by the charter school system that is siphoning money away from traditional public schools."

In Georgia: Suspicious of Government Take Over

ATLANTA, GA (PR) - Gov. Nathan Deal last month signed the legislation that would implement an Opportunity School District (OSD) to turn around failing schools. This law provides the framework for how the OSD would work should voters approve a constitutional amendment in 2016.

"By signing the Opportunity School District bill, we are promising better days ahead for students trapped in failing schools,” Deal said. "The power of positive change now rests in the hands of Georgia’s voters, and I know they share my belief that every child can learn and should have access to a high-quality education that prepares them for the workforce or for college.

"There are currently 139 schools across Georgia that have received a failing grade from the state accountability system for at least three consecutive years. Too few of these students go on to higher education, too few attain job skills and too few get a high school diploma. Too often this leads to a life that never fulfills its potential. With this new system, we can and will do better."

The OSD legislation requires a constitutional amendment to be enacted. The General Assembly passed the constitutional amendment resolution and the implementing legislation during the 2015 legislative session. It now requires a majority approval by Georgia voters in the 2016 general election.

Deal also signed HB 372, the Utopian Academy for the Arts Act. The need for this law stems from efforts by Clayton County officials to obstruct the opening of a state-approved charter school, preventing children from attending class and costing the schools hundreds of thousands of dollars.

In Augusta

Critics of the OSD met in Augusta last week to officially kick-off a statewide campaign "to kill the bill" and some of them said that Governor Deal gave teachers and parents, after signing the OSD bill, "an opportunity to fight once again and even harder for our students" in public schools.

o-> Edited by Anibal Ibarra

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