3.2 The Crooks Behind the Charter School Scam

One of the first school districts in the nation to use high stakes/ high failure rate test scores to evaluate and close schools - and then replace them with private for profit charter schools - was the Chicago Public School District.

The Chicago Mob and their Hit Man... Arne Duncan
In a 2013 article, New Teachers, New Unions, New Alliances, New Politics, Michael Yates wrote:

“Chicago’s financial and political leaders have been trying to destroy the city’s public schools and the teachers’ union since 1995, when the Illinois State Legislature gave Mayor Daley the power to appoint the Board of Education and choose a CEO to run the Chicago Public Schools (CPS). The appointed board and a succession of CEOs pushed an unprecedented level of high-stakes testing and top-down corporate management. Mayoral control was the lynchpin of this process. By 2012, Chicago Public Schools had closed over one hundred schools and simultaneously opened almost one hundred privately run charter schools. In 2012, Mayor Emanuel proposed closing up to 120 more schools by fall 2013.”

The first crook behind the Charter School scam is a con artist named Arne Duncan – the current head of the US Department of Education and a close friend of Barack Obama. Arne Duncan has no training or background in education. Instead, Arne played basketball for Harvard in the 1980s. He then began his career as a professional basketball player in Australia from 1987 to 1991.

Despite having no background in education, Arne Duncan moved back to the US in 1992 and was immediately appointed Director of Ariel Education Initiative, a very strange Chicago School that taught kids a stock market based view of the world. Imagine a private religious-based school. Only in this case, the religion being preached to the children was greed and profit.

Each of 40 selected inner city First Graders at the Ariel School was given a $20,000 grant to invest in the stock market through the 8th Grade. The profit from the child's investment fund was evenly divided between the school and a college fund for the child. The plan was that after 8 years, the money would double – returning the original $20,000 to the school and creating a college fund of $20,000 for the child. Back in 1990, thanks to State support for higher education, $20,000 would actually pay for a higher education. It may seem odd giving $20,000 to a First Grader and having them invest it in the stock market. But this is actually what happened. Arne Duncan went from being a professional basketball player to a Wall Street Guru and investment advisor for First Graders. Welcome to the crazy world of charter schools!

This crazy elementary school program continued in 1995 when the mayor of Chicago, Richard Daley, got rid of the locally elected school board and replaced it with dictatorial “mayoral” control. In 1996, Mayor Daley used his new power over kids to close a public school called William Shakespeare Elementary School and give it to Ariel Investments to use as Ariel Community Academy. This was also strange because Chicago supposedly did not get any charter schools (private schools using public money) until 1997. This new school pretended to be a normal public school. But it was clearly a charter school in that it received public school funding, and private funding, but was not under the control of a local school board and had no public accountability. For example, it is unclear what Arne Duncan actually did at this charter/elementary school since there are almost no public records of this supposedly public elementary school (charter schools seem to be exempt from the record keeping rules and accountability standards of public schools). Arne never took a single course in Education and never taught in a classroom. Arne seems to have been more of a politically connected fund raiser and snake oil salesman than a school teacher or school administrator.

Also in 1996,Richard Daley, appointed a corrupt accountant Paul Vallas - who had no background in education - to run Chicago's public schools. After a corruption and kickback scandal, Paul Vallas resigned in disgrace in 2001.


On the other hand, Arne did such a great job at Ariel Community Academy (as a charter school promoter and snake oil salesman) that on June 26, 2001, Chicago's Mayor Richard Daley, one of the most corrupt mayors in American history, appointed Arne to run the Chicago Public Schools, America's third largest school district with over 400,000 students. Arne's idea of school reform was to fire teachers, close public schools and turn some of them into private charter schools with inexperienced and poorly trained and poorly paid charter school “staff” (since charter schools do not have or believe in professionally trained and paid real teachers). By the time Duncan left Chicago to help guide the national program in school destruction, Arne had closed more than 80 public schools and converted them into private charter schools.

Top down punishment driven pressure cooker schools versus bottom up local control nurturing schools
85% of the Chicago School Districts 400,000 students are from low-income families - many are living below the poverty line. Closing schools is almost as traumatic and harmful an experience for children as losing their homes. With a minimum of 500 students per school, Duncan's school closure and conversion program severely harmed at least 40,000 mostly low income students during his 8 year reign of terror in Chicago.


During his first year as CEO of Chicago schools, Duncan hired more than 30 managers at salaries of between $90,000 and $115,000 per year. Duncan refused repeatedly to provide the public with the details of the cost, qualifications, or even job descriptions of the members of his widely touted “management team.

Many of the members of the Duncan “management team” were reported to be friends and neighbors of Duncan.

What were the results of the Duncan assault on Chicago public schools? The following is a quote from a 2013 Washington Post article:
“The Consortium on Chicago School Research, a nonpartisan group of researchers at the University of Chicago, released a report in 2009 saying that the school closings during Duncan’s tenure as head of the Chicago schools did very little, if anything, to improve the achievement of students who were sent to other schools.” http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/05/30/the-biggest-irony-in-chicagos-mass-closing-of-schools/

In September 2011, the Consortium on Chicago School Research and the University of Chicago produced another summary of the impact of the changes in Chicago schools from 1990 to 2010. Here is a quote from this report:
“From 2001 to 2009, Chicago saw 155 new schools open and 82 schools close... More than 70% of 11th graders fail to meet state standards, a trend that has remained flat over the past several years.”

Many “failing” schools were closed twice... First by Arne Duncan and then after the private takeover did not succeed in improving test scores, the “charter” schools were closed again. This is clear evidence that the problem with schools in low income neighborhoods is not the school. The problem is poverty. All parents, all children and all teachers need to be treated with respect, dignity, fairness and opportunity. Closing public schools in poor neighborhoods over and over again is not the answer. It is simply another form of child abuse. Closing public schools and turning them all into private, for profit charter schools does not improve outcomes for poor inner city children because this “solution” does not address the real problem faced by poor inner city kids. That problem is poverty – their parents do not have a living wage job.

2002 Joel Klein and the New York City Charter School Scam
At about the same time that Arne was closing public schools in Chicago and turning them into private for profit charter schools, another scam artist, Joel Klein, was closing public schools in New York and turning them into private for profit charter schools. As with Chicago, New York public schools were under dictatorial “mayoral control.” In 2001, one of the ten richest billionaires in America, Michael Bloomberg spent $73 million to buy his election to be mayor of New York.

Bloomberg has a net worth of about $37 billion so $73 million meant nothing to Bloomberg. Despite a huge spending advantage, Bloomberg only won the election by a margin of 50% to 48%. In 2002, Bloomberg appointed Joel Klein to be chancellor of New York City public schools. Joel Klein was the head of the New York school system until 2011.

The New York City school district has one million students. Klein rejected the role that poverty plays in educational outcomes. Instead, he advocated a “get tough” approach to poor students claiming that he himself grew up in “working-class, poor” family in New York City and overcame poverty through his own hard work. Neither Bloomberg or Klein had any real background in education... or in poverty. Klein, who was a corporate attorney who served as a legal adviser to Bill Clinton, is fond of saying that “Poverty does not have to be destiny” and “I reject categorically the principle that poverty is an insurmountable impediment“ and You'll never fix poverty until you fix education” - as if education was the cause of poverty rather than the lack of jobs and the greed of billionaires.

Joel Klein's Fake “Poor Kid” Biography
Richard Rothstein, who grew up in Queens near Joel Klein and had the same physics teacher as Joel, exposed the fraud of Klein's “poverty” story in an article in October 2012 called Joel Klein's Misleading Autobiography. He states, “in nearly every detail, the story he tells is misleading or untrue... The discrepancies matter because they go to the heart of what is wrong with his reform agenda” Klein's father had a good paying full time job at the post office and Klein's mother was an accountant. Their combined income was well above the national average. By contrast, many families living in poverty do not have any adults with even a single full time job. The family income of the typical child who qualifies for Free or Reduced Price Lunch has less than has the median income – or less than one third of the income of Joe Klein's supposedly poor family. In fact, Joe Klein lived in a community that specifically excluded poor families including excluding “single-parent families and those with irregular employment history, out-of-wedlock births, criminal records, narcotics addiction, or mental illness—in other words, any family with the qualities we now associate with public housing. Neighborhood schools serving complexes like Woodside Houses thus didn’t have to contend with unruly adolescents; they had already been weeded out by the Housing Authority...Klein and I both attended almost entirely segregated, white schools...Klein’s story has contributed to the demoralization of tens of thousands of teachers who are now blamed for their low-income students’ poor test scores.”


How many schools did Klein change to charters?
During his 9 years as head of New York City schools, Joel Klein closed about 160 public schools – firing teachers and administrators by the thousands. Joel replaced these public schools with more than 160 privately run for profit charter schools – creating chaos and confusion for more than one hundred thousand children in New York City. http://nycpublicschoolparents.blogspot.com/2014/12/joel-kleins-failed-record-as-nyc.html

What was the result of Joel Klein's Assault on Public School Children?
On May 10, 2010, The New York Times reported: “According to the test [NAEP], New York City eighth graders have shown no significant improvement [in math or reading] since 2003.” In fact, New York City students made less progress on the NAEP test than any other major city in the US other than Cleveland.

What was left in the wreckage of New York City schools were thousands of angry parents and demoralized teachers who protested the closure and privatization of their community schools. Here is what one angry parent wrote: “Joel Klein is the biggest fake you ever want to meet. This reckless goon gutted the NYC school system and created a situation of pitting people against one another in hope of creating hostile environments. Klein is evil make no mistake - this is why you will read a story just about every day about corrupt principals (put in place by Klein) who treat people like shit - for no good reason and how the schools are a mess with a principal in place who has never taught in a school but rather graduated from the Mike Bloomberg Joel Klein so called "leadership academy" – which is now closed.”

We would like to add that the federal tax rate on the income of billionaires in the 1950's when Joe Klein went to school was 90%. Today, it is very close to 0%. The current reform agenda is not just a school privatization agenda, it is a government privatization agenda.

Paul Vallas... Corrupt Accountant and Expert at Converting Public Schools into Private For Profit Charter Schools
It is likely that no con artist in America has closed more public schools than Paul Vallas. During the past 20 years, Paul Vallas has closed public schools in Chicago, Philadelphia and New Orleans – and then converted all of them to private for profit charter schools. As we noted at the beginning of this article, in 1995, after Mayor Richard Daley assumed “mayoral control”, he appointed accountant Paul Vallas as the “Chief Executive Officer” of the Chicago public schools were Vallas was the boss for 6 years until he resigned in disgrace in 2001 (to be replaced by Arne Duncan).

Paul's job was to close public schools and turn them over to private for profit charter school operators. He was also charged with balancing the school district budget. He did this by by robbing from the Teachers Pension Fund – a financially irresponsible act that lead to billions of dollars in additional costs 10 years later.

Paul Vallas... Teacher or Con Artist?
In the above picture, Paul is taking Mayor Daley for a ride. It turns out, Paul was also taking the tax payers for a ride. It seems Paul had trouble telling the truth. Paul Vallas often claimed on his resumes and websites that he was an “elementary school teacher” from 1976 to 1980. However, in a sworn court deposition, he stated that from 1976 to 1979, he worked in his father's restaurant business. Vallas then claimed that he was a teacher in Montana for one year. After an investigation into this claim revealed it was false, Vallas claimed he was an unpaid “student teacher” in Montana for one year. Vallas later changed this story that he spent “ten weeks” as a student teacher in Montana. http://www.substancenews.com/archive/March02/index.html

Paul also seemed to have had a problem with racism.


“Of the 45 principals who had been removed from their schools by Vallas, 42 were Black. In other words, 93 percent were Black. This clearly is racial profiling... At the same time Paul was undermining the authority of Black principals and administrators, Paul was also terminating tenured teachers, large numbers of whom were Black, the heart of the school system, using equally unfair methods. Sadly, the teachers had fewer resources during those years than the principals who stood up to Vallas. Most have seen their careers finished by his policies.” Grady Jordan Chicago School District Administrator

In just a few short years, Vallas flunked over 50,000 Chicago students. Research shows that retention leads to greater academic failure, higher levels of dropping out, greater behavioral difficulties, poor attendance, negative attitudes toward school and feelings of shame and depression. So in creating the now highly profitable “school to prison pipeline”, Paul Vallas was one of its primary builders.

Vallas Refined the Art of Teacher Bashing and Teacher Firing
Paul also discharged more than 200 tenured teachers. By 1999, Vallas was firing veteran tenured teachers despite a growing teacher shortage. These teachers were not fired for cause, but because the Vallas administration worked to make sure that principals would not hire them after they had been displaced from their previous schools. In many areas of attacking teachers and their union, Paul and the Chicago School district were pioneers in the art of using chaos to close public schools and convert them into private charter schools.


Paul Vallas Wasted Millions on a Fake High Stakes Test
In the late 1990s, Paul Vallas spent more than $5 million on one of the nation’s most ludicrous standardized tests, the “Chicago Academic Standards Examinations” (CASE). Chicago schools wasted another $200 million in teacher time preparing students for this high stakes test. The CASE exam was exposed to be a fraud in 1999 by a highly respected English teacher, George Schmidt, who had more than 20 years of experience teaching in Chicago schools. The teacher published some of the more absurd test questions in his community newspaper. Paul's response was to fire the teacher and launch a 5 year million dollar litigation campaign against the teacher.

The terrible CASE tests were finally ended in 2002 – but not until after having destroyed the life savings of George Schmidt and his wife – despite the fact that more than 2,000 friends and supporters contributed to his defense – including leading opponents of school privatization Monty Neil of Fair Test and Gerald Bracey of the Bracey Reports. Here is one of the confusing CASE American History questions that appeared to be an attack against progressives: “How many U.S. presidents and leaders of the so-called “Progressive” movement in American history were supporters of Jim Crow, the segregation of the armed forces, and other forms of racial discrimination?” This absurd question attempts to link Progressives to being Racists – when in fact, nearly all progressives strongly oppose racism.

Paul Vallas and the Pension Fund Scam
One of the most serious crimes committed by Paul Vallas while he was running the Chicago public schools into the ground was a money transfer scheme that resulted in the bankrupting of the school district pension fund and permanent harm to the school district operating fund. For those who may not be aware, school districts usually have two completely separate funds. The “operating” fund is used to pay short term operating costs like teachers salaries. A different fund called the “capital” fund is used to pay for long term capital needs like building schools. To get money for the capital budget, one either needs to get money from the State legislature capital budget or pass a long term 20 year to 30 year school bond. Paul was unable to get money from the corrupt Illinois legislature and he did not think he could pass a school bond. So he came up with a “creative accounting” plan. He would simply ignore payments to the Chicago School District Pension Fund (a retirement account for teachers who taught for more than 25 years). He then put this money into the Chicago School District “operating” budget.

He then took this new revenue stream and used it to purchase long term bonds in order to have money to build new charter schools. Robbing Peter to pay Paul is also called a Ponzi Scheme. The problem is that over time the money needed to pay off the bonds and pay back the money stolen from the pension fund keeps going up. This is exactly what has happened.

Growth of the Chicago Public School Debt Bubble
The percent of general State aid (which was supposed to be the operating budget) going to debt payments was less than 2 % when Paul first started. It has now ballooned to about 20% of the total operating budget. This does not include the repayments to the pension fund – which is now on the verge of bankruptcy.

In total, Paul Vallas and his successor Arne Duncan, have borrowed more than $10 billion in general obligation bonds since 1996, debt that has contributed to the Chicago Public School District’s current financial crisis.

CPS officials have also contributed nothing toward teachers’ pensions for a decade, depriving the pension fund of $2 billion and using the money to run the district instead. Annual debt payments on bonds, have grown from $80 million in 1998 to more than $322 million in 2012. This is a great deal for Wall Street bankers who get a huge profit from these bonds – but it means that there is less money available to hire teachers and kids end up with huge class sizes.

Paul Vallas takes his Snake Oil Charter School Scam to Philadelphia
One would have thought that Paul Vallas's school boss career would have been over in 2001 after resigning in disgrace in Chicago. Given his diversion of Teacher Pension funds, he should have been charged with a crime. Instead, he was appointed CEO of Philadelphia Public Schools – a school district with 200,000 students. 70% of these students come from families that are at or near the poverty line. Per Pupil funding for Philly schools was 50% less than for neighboring more wealthy school districts. In 2002, Paul presided over one of the nation's largest and most rapid experiments in privatization. In just three years, Paul closed more than 40 public schools in Philadelphia and turned them into private for profit charter schools. Thousands of experienced teachers were fired and replaced with inexperienced non-certified “staff.” No public hearings or public votes were required to close any of these public schools.


How did the Philadelphia School Privatization Scam Turn Out?
In Pennsylvania, charter schools compete for funds with traditional public schools on an uneven playing field that exempt charter schools from serving the full range of student abilities. Charter schools are also exempt from disclosing financial details of their operations to the public. Despite this freedom from regulation, according to the Pennsylvania School Board Association, “Charter schools continue to academically under-perform traditional public schools, with fewer than half of the brick and mortar charter schools meeting acceptable benchmark scores … None of the cyber charter schools met the mark. Nearly three-quarters of traditional public schools, however, earned passing scores in the first year of the new measuring system.”


In March 2013, the chair of the Pennsylvania House Education Committee, James Roebuck issued a scathing report on the corruption and poor performance of Pennsylvania's 157 charter schools – of which 80 are in Philadelphia. Here is a quote from his report: “For 2011-12, 50% of public schools met Annual Yearly Progress (AYP). In stark contrast only 29% of charter schools met AYP and none of the 12 cyber charter schools met AYP.” The report also detailed a host of fraud and corruption and cheating scandals at charter schools: “The review of the selected Charter Schools revealed that the lack of Accountability over the Governance and Financing of Charter Schools across the Commonwealth, As a result of this ineffective oversight taxpayer funds are left extremely vulnerable to fraud, waste and abuse as demonstrated in this investigation... Taxpayers could save $365 million with a charter/cyber school reform bill.”

With a disastrous record like this in Chicago and Philadelphia, one would think that this would be the end of Paul's career. But it only got worse. Paul was just getting started closing schools and turning them into charters.

Paul Vallas Takes his Charter School Scam to New Orleans
In August 2005, Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans flooding the city and led to the evacuation of most of its citizens. While the parents were in another State, the Louisiana State legislature changed the law to allow the State to take over “failing” public schools in New Orleans. The intention was to convert them all into failing private for profit charter schools. However, they could only find charter school operators for about half of the schools. Therefore the State started their own school district called the “Recovery School District (RSD) and ran the schools as deregulated charter schools. As a result of this law, in 2006, 18 of New Orleans 23 public high schools were converted into charter high schools and a total of more than 100 New Orleans public elementary, middle and high schools were converted to charter schools. As a result of this action, which displaced tens of thousands of students, more than 7,500 experienced teachers were fired without any due process. These teachers were replaced by novice teachers with no teaching experience – and often not even any teacher training - the following year.

Many of the new teachers were from “Teach for America” and abandoned their schools and students in less than one year. The salaries paid to TFA recruits and other novice teachers were much less than those paid to real teachers.

In 2007, Paul Vallas arrived in New Orleans to finish the conversion of New Orleans Schools to private for profit charter schools. In New Orleans, Paul Vallas closed more than 100 public schools and fired teachers, custodians and administrators to create a business-friendly citywide charter school experiment.

Thankfully, in nearly every city where charter schools have been used as a weapon of mass deception to destroy and privatize our public schools, a group of concerned citizens has arisen to document the lies associated with the scam. In the case of New Orleans, two educational researchers have written a series of studies to expose the scam. Their names are Charles Hatfield MS and Dr. Barbara Ferguson. Their research is posted for free download on this page:

Their first post was on November 7 2008 about a report they wrote in July 2008. This was when Paul Vallas was boss of the New Orleans schools and in the process of converting many of the schools into private for profit charter schools. The topic of the first post was the failure of the new charter schools to enroll “at risk” youth. Here is a quote: “Louisiana’s Charter School Law, in its first paragraph, seems all about serving at-risk students. Louisiana’s charter school law says that “the overriding consideration in establishing this law is to serve the needs of at-risk students.” But further into the law, it states that charter schools “can establish admission requirements.” These purposes are contradictory. Either a school is required to serve all students who apply; or, a school is allowed to exclude certain students.”

In allowing charter schools to restrict who attends them, at risk students do not have access to charter schools because unlike public schools, charter schools in New Orleans are allowed to have “admission requirements.” The report discovered that the new charter school district established in New Orleans after Katrina, called the Recovery School District or RSD, failed to submit complete information on students for the 2006 to 2007 school year.

2007 to 2011 Disasters under the leadership of Paul Vallas as the superintendent of the Recovery School District
The second report from Research on Reform was in October 2008. It claimed that two years after the conversion of public schools to charter schools, the “state takeover was not working for New Orleans High Schools.” Specifically, the scores on high stakes tests showed almost no change. In English, in 2005, 68% were not proficient and in 2008, 70% were not proficient. In Math in 2005, 70% were not proficient and in 2008, 67% were not proficient.

The report also noted that principals and teachers were being fired in large numbers and without just cause. So despite spending millions of dollars on the new charter schools and giving them the freedom to fire hundreds of teachers, there was no significant improvement in test scores.


In subsequent reports by Hatfield and Fergeson, the authors explained why there was no improvement in test scores. One of the first problems is that nearly all of the experienced teachers had been fired and replaced with first year “Teach for America” teachers. At one middle school, within the first two months, over 70% of these inexperienced teachers had quit. There was also a lack of instructional materials and some schools lacked internet access and even phone access. Another problem has been the massive increase in “expelled” students and held back students. This has resulted in older students being placed in the same classes as younger students and severely disrupted the learning process.

In May 2010, Dr. Ferguson published another report on the New Orleans Ed Reform scams, called RSD High School Test Results Show Alarming Trend. She noted that while the Reform School District (RSD = private for profit charter schools) had three times more students than the normal school district, in the 2009-2010 school year, they each tested the same number of 10th graders. She concluded: “Large numbers of high school-aged students in the RSD did not make it to 10th grade to take the test; and at the same time, crime rates in New Orleans continue to explode. There is a strong relationship between these two factors, and there must be an urgency to address this issue.” It is difficult to imagine that two thousand of the charter school 10th graders simply failed to take the 10th grade test. But that is what happened. There are several possible reasons for the this problem. First, it appears that many of the charter school students were simply expelled from the charter school. Some were sent back to the public schools. But many more simply dropped out of school altogether. Second, it appears that many struggling students were encouraged to not come to school on the days of the tests in order to inflate the scores of the charter schools.

Dr. Ferguson believes the huge expulsion and dropout rate at New Orleans charter schools is a reason the crime rate has exploded in New Orleans. She could be right. However, since there has been a major economic crash that has disproportionately harmed young poor people, the lack of economic opportunity (no living wage jobs for young people – and especially young people without a high school diploma) could also be a factor in the increased crime rate. Either way, there appears to be a lot of corruption in New Orleans charter schools.

In June 2010, Dr. Ferguson published another report. She wrote: “When high school students graduate, the community has greater economic development. When high school students drop out, the community has greater crime. This is the importance of high schools in America. Tragically, the Recovery School District (RSD) has done nothing to improve the standing of New Orleans high schools, especially the seven lowest performing high schools.”

Dr. Ferguson presented a series of tables showing that “the percentage of 10 th graders taking the test has decreased from 85%, before the State Takeover, to 72%, five years later.” She then showed that this problem was due entirely to the charter high schools. The percent of 10th graders tested at the normal high schools had actually gone up. Dr. Ferguson concluded that the charter schools were deliberately not testing struggling 10th graders in order to inflate the average scores of charter schools. Dr. Ferguson states that these results show that charter schools are not helping at risk students – which was the claimed purpose of the charter school program when it was started in 2005. What she fails to realize is that the purpose of the charter school program was not to help students. It was to increase corporate profits. Using this as a measure of success, the charter school program is very successful.

In July, 2010, the Southern Poverty Law Center filed a legal complaint against the Louisiana Department of Education alleging that schools have been turning away parents with disabled children and shirking their responsibilities to ensure that the special-needs students they do serve actually benefit from academic instruction.

The complaint asserts that New Orleans schools are in violation of the federal Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), particularly in terms of excessive punishment of children with emotional and behavioral problems.

Under IDEA, all public schools must implement an Individual Education Plan (IEP) for each special-needs student before taking punitive measures. However, suspension and expulsion rates of these students are shockingly high in New Orleans: overall, almost a third of the city’s 4,500 special-needs students have been suspended by the Recovery School District.

In November 2010, Dr. Ferguson issued another report, this one called RSD’s 2009-10 Performance Report Omits 30% of Schools. She refuted the charter schools claim of success by noting that 30% of the charter schools did not file a report. This was at a time that the New Orleans charter schools were being hailed as a “miracle” by ed reform billionaires around the US. Apparently the miracle was too good to be true.

On April 4, 2011, the researchers issued a press release noting that the children of New Orleans had been the pawns of an education experiment lasting over five years. Here are some of the quotes from the press release: Dr. James Taylor, President of the Louisiana Retired Teachers Association, observed, “What we see in the state leadership is simple, capitalistic ideology, a kind of ‘Disaster Capitalism,’ not an emphasis on quality education... Why are we letting non-educators tell us how to educate our children?”

Charles Hatfield, Analyst with Research on Reforms, Inc., described the state’s posture on education as “market driven propaganda, a sort of ‘gain’ game with school performance scores perpetuating a myth to the public.”

Joe Potts, President Emeritus, Jefferson Federation of Teachers added
“Why should schools be run more like a business when more than half of all businesses fail?”


In July 2011, Dr. Ferguson issued another report. This one was called Dumping Kids Out –The Misuse of Charter Schools in New Orleans. Here is a quote from the report: “Selective retention, called “dumping kids out,” gives some New Orleans charter schools an advantage over other schools. Why is this allowed?... States with the highest educational attainment rates have the lowest crime rates and the highest economic development status. Louisiana continues to be at the lowest educational attainment level. And, New Orleans has the highest crime rate in the nation.”

Dr. Ferguson notes that New Orleans charter schools have expelled students for minor infractions including: “not being in assigned seats before the tardy bell rings, not bringing pencils or books to class, not raising hands before talking, not following a teacher’s directions the first time they are given, sleeping in class, failing to report to the office as directed, disobeying a teacher, cheating, or lying.”

In March 2012, Dr. Ferguson issued another report. This one was called. New Orleans Schools Should Not Serve as a National Model. Here is a quote from this report:

“There is a negative relationship between public education and crime in New Orleans. Since the years following the takeover, crime has increased dramatically, with more and more crimes involving juveniles and young adults. For the 2011 year in New Orleans, crime jumped 10 percent from the previous year, with significant spikes in murders, rapes and armed robberies. There has been a steady increase in crime during the past two years, and that increase is continuing into the 2012 year. The city has seen a significant rise in recent months in armed robberies.”

“Although the Recovery School District (RSD)'s public relations machine glorifies the tremendous gains made over 6 years, the overall performance of the RSD in New Orleans remains at or near the bottom in Louisiana, i.e., RSD received an overall letter grade of `D' as compared to the overall letter grade of `B' received by the OPSB.”

In January 2013, Dr Ferguson wrote another report. This one was called RSD Skews Its Performance Score By Omitting Nearly 20% of Schools. Here is a quote from her report:

“The 2010-11 school year is the most recent year for which the Louisiana Department of Education released the District Composite Reports, and the Recovery School District’s Composite Report omits the accountability information for twelve (12) of the seventy (70) RSD schools, thus skewing the RSD’s performance score. If these schools had been included in the calculation, the Recovery School District’s Performance Score would have declined.”

Also in January 2014, the federal court of appeals affirmed the ruling of a lower court that the due process rights of 7,500 New Orleans teachers were violated when they were fired after Hurricane Katrina. Each teacher was awarded three years of back pay and benefits. Sadly, no amount of money could compensate for the loss of their careers and their self dignity.

In June 2014, Dr. Ferguson issued another report. This one was called Closing Schools, Opening Schools and Changing School Codes: Instability In the New Orleans Recovery School District. Here is a quote from her report:

“During its first few years, the Recovery School District (RSD) simply opened schools in New Orleans, without closing any and without changing any school codes. But, five years ago the RSD began to close schools and change school codes as frequently as it opened schools. These actions compromise the RSD District Performance Score because test scores from students in closed schools are omitted. Also, when the RSD changes a school code, the old code and the test scores listed under that code are often eliminated. In addition, when schools are newly opened, many wait years to receive a School Performance Score, meaning that those students’ test scores are not calculated into the RSD District Performance Score. During the last five years, the RSD closed 25 schools, opened 23 new schools, and changed the codes of 21 schools in New Orleans.

The question is whether these actions represent the challenges of the newly created Recovery School District, or if they are a deliberate attempt to thwart research on its progress...Of the 34 schools that the RSD opened during its first full year of operation in 2006-07, only 20 remain opened in 2013-14.”

On October 1, 2014, researcher Charles Hatfield issued a report called Analysis of 2014 iLEAP Results for the Recovery School District in New Orleans. After presenting data that the Recovery School District had made little progress in the preceding 10 years, he expressed concern about the likelihood that the new Common Core standards and tests would make the plight of children in New Orleans even worse. Here is a quote from his report:

“The new Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE) goal is predicated on the successful implementation of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and the associated new assessments, (PARCC). The LDOE’s public relations spiel for adopting the CCSS and PARCC was that the existing standards were not rigorous enough and must be replaced by more rigorous ones in order to better prepare students for college and careers. Yet, no empirical evidence has ever been presented to indicate how and to what extent these new CCSS standards are superior to the LDOE’s accountability standards that were established in 1998. Is the LDOE really serious or is this just another example of the hyperboles that have been promulgated by the LDOE, RSD-NO and their advocates to continue to delude the public about the successes of this market-based reform movement? After ten years, the vast majority of the RSD-NO’s students have failed to come even close to achieving the 2014 NCLB achievement goal of 100% proficiency under the old standards. Now, the LDOE expects that students will perform at the higher mastery level in another 11 years under these rigorous standards... Sadly, another generation of students will be lost. Indeed, this is the tragedy of the market-based reform movement in New Orleans.”

In September 2014, the Recovery School District experiment was ended and the New Orleans schools were handed over to 57 private for profit charter school operators. This will make the Recovery School District the nation's first “all charter” school district. Of the 89 public schools in New Orleans, only five will not be charters in fall 2014, all 5 under the local Orleans Parish School Board. Ten of the schools will be ran as KIPP kid prisons (which we discuss in detail in another article). Thus, New Orleans has the third highest concentration of KIPP schools in the nation (the highest is Houston followed by Washington DC). About 90 percent or about 40,000 of New Orleans 45,000 students are now attending charter schools – despite the evidence that charter schools do no better and often do much worse than normal public schools.

Under Louisiana state law, the Recovery system was supposed to give buildings back to the local Orleans Parish School Board when it no longer needs them. Instead the Recovery system gave the buildings to private charter school operators. The regular school district school board is now suing the Recovery system in an attempt to get their school buildings back.

The Paul Vallas School Closure Virus Spreads to Other States
Even worse, the Louisiana Recovery School System, despite being a disaster for the students of New Orleans, has become a model for State takeovers of urban school districts and conversion to private for profit charter schools in several other States including Michigan, Tennessee and Pennsylvania. http://www.tennessean.com/article/20131215/NEWS04/312150035

In Tennessee, the new State school district is called the “Achievement School District” or ASD. The Achievement School District charter schools have suffered from the usual problems. These include misuse of tax dollars, lots of Teacher For America fake teachers, plunging test schools, upset kids, upset parents, and upset teachers. But lots of profit for the charter school operators.

Allegations of child abuse have already arisen. In one school, as a form of punishment, students were prohibited from using the bathroom! Welcome to the wonderful world of charter schools!

2011 to 2013 Paul Vallas Takes his School Closure Scam to Bridgeport CT
In 2011, Paul could see that he was running out of public schools to close in New Orleans. Thankfully, where money is to be made, there is always another target. So in December 2011, he got was appointed to be the new boss of the Bridgeport Connecticut school district by State leaders who had fired the publicly elected school board. The mission as usual was to close all of the public schools and replace them with private for profit schools. There was only one problem. It turns out that Paul Vallas never bothered to complete “superintendent training” or get a superintendent certificate. Such a minor detail was never required in New Orleans or Philadelphia or Chicago. But it was required in Connecticut.

In April 2013, a group of parents filed a lawsuit – which they won in June 2013. http://www.ctpost.com/local/article/School-s-out-for-Vallas-4637246.php

Here is what one teacher wrote about Paul Vallas: “Vallas is a product of the era of corporate “school reform.” He may be one of the more bizarre of those, but he is just another cog in that machine, just as his successor Arne Duncan... The proliferation of these snake oil salesmen and women (let’s not forget D.C., Philadelphia and of course Atlanta) is a by-product of an era... Vallas's career is a case study in the arrogance and abuse of corporate power... Looking back on it, from the beginning (Vallas began in Chicago in 1995), it’s clear that the whole thing was always about teacher bashing, privatization and union busting...Hopefully, the next generation will be inoculated not only from the Shake-And-Bake nonsense of Teach For America but also the pressure of corporate lies behind the careers of crooks and con artists like Paul Vallas.”

Summary... The charter school takeover pattern
Hopefully, you can now see the pattern of charter school takeovers. It begins with billionaires electing corrupt legislators who then change laws to take over public schools when their students are unable to pass high stakes, high failure rate tests. High failure rates are used as an excuse to close public schools. Then after closing public schools, corrupt heartless villains like Arne Duncan, Joel Klein or Paul Vallas act as hit men for the charter school mob. Public schools are closed by the hundreds and converted to charter schools regardless of the poor performance of the charter schools. Experienced teachers are fired by the thousands and replaced with fake “Teacher for America” recruits. Data is manipulated and struggling students are suspended by the thousands to deceive the public into believing that test scores are rising. So the charter school takeover has nothing to do with helping children and everything to do with increasing corporate profits. This is the reason for Common Core and Common Core tests. Their purpose is to fail 70% of all students and then convert every public school in America into a for private for profit charter school. It is up to us to stop them.

What is next?
In the next section, we will briefly review charter school corruption in the US.