Despite ECOT’s Death, Ohio’s Unscrupulous Charter Schools Gobble Up State and Local Tax Dollars

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Despite the death last January of the notorious Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow, Ohio’s charter schools continue to suck money out of their host school districts, and, at the same time, many fail to educate the students for whom they are responsible.

The giant Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT) was finally shut down after the state tried to collect $80 million the Department of Education calculated ECOT had overcharged taxpayers for the past two school years alone.  ECOT, which had been billing taxpayers (on a per-pupil basis) for thousands of phantom students the school had enrolled but who were not logging on to use the school’s curriculum, couldn’t pay the bill when the state demanded that the school return the money.  ECOT descended into bankruptcy.

Because of the way Ohio funds charter schools, not only the state but also the local school district loses money when a student leaves for a…

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Michelle Rhee’s D.C. Education Revolution Continues to Collapse

“I think if there is one thing I have learned over the last 15 months, it’s that cooperation, collaboration and consensus-building are way overrated.” – Michelle Rhee

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The Associated Press‘s Ashraf Khalil explains: “As recently as a year ago, the public school system in the nation’s capital was being hailed as a shining example of successful urban education reform and a template for districts across the country. Now…. after a series of rapid-fire scandals including one about rigged graduation rates, Washington’s school system has gone from a point of pride to perhaps the largest public embarrassment of Mayor Muriel Bowser’s tenure… A decade after a restructuring that stripped the decision-making powers of the board of education and placed the system under mayoral control, city schools in 2017 were boasting rising test scores and a record graduation rate for high schools of 73 percent, compared with 53 percent in 2011… Then everything unraveled.”

Teachers jobs were threatened if they didn’t raise test scores and increase graduation rates by passing students no matter what. Money was an…

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Grand Rapids Power Structure: Part VI – The Media

Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy

Over the past few weeks we have been investigating the Grand Rapids Power Structure, beginning with a discussion about its framework in Part I; the most powerful family in Grand Rapids, the DeVos Family, in Part II and in Part III we looked at other members of the most powerful members of the private sector. In Part IV, we looked at the private sector organizations that have power and which individuals sit on the boards of those organizations. 

Last week, we looked at the next level of the Grand Rapids Power Structure, the local government, in Part VToday, we will investigate the role and function of the media, within Grand Rapids and how it serves power.

One significant misunderstanding about the media, specifically, the news media, is that it is often viewed through a liberal vs conservative lens. While there are nuances within various news…

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Can Momentum Be Sustained from the Spring’s Prophetic Walkouts by Teachers?

“The spirit is willing, but the flesh is spongy and bruised.”

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If you think about it differently, it is possible to turn Kurt Weill’s song into a story about school finance instead of love: “It’s a long, long while from May to December November, and the days grow short when you reach September.”

That is the lesson I learned 25 years ago when a friend and I co-chaired our local, November school levy campaign. Ohio law prohibits unvoted tax increases, prevents school districts from benefiting from property appreciation by capping the value of local levies at their dollar amount on the day they are passed, and therefore requires voters to come back on the ballot again and again—through failure after failure—until another levy finally passes. That is the only way for Ohio school districts to raise enough revenue to keep up with inflation.  In May of 1993, our local school levy had failed by 2,000 votes. My friend and I worked…

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Laurene Powell Jobs’ Glitzy Projects versus School Reform that Is Basic and Essential

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Here are two fascinating and radically contrasting articles on the subject of school reform. They tell us about the different ways people think about school reform, about the factors that determine which reforms begin to permeate the public mind, about what does or doesn’t seem to matter to reformers prescribing particular ideas, and about the long term political effects the language and framing by which policies are sold.

The first is David Montgomery’s Washington Post profile of Laurene Powell Jobs, her philanthropy—the Emerson Collective, and several of the Emerson Collective’s projects, including the XQ Institute and College Track. Laurene Powell Jobs is Steve Jobs’ widow, and among America’s tech-multi-billionaire philanthropists. Montgomery describes the way Powell Jobs has structured her philanthropy: “She set up the collective as a limited liability company rather than a foundation, not unlike the three-year-old Chan Zuckerberg Initiative established by Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg. This…

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Betsy DeVos and the Covert Privatization of Grand Rapids Public Schools: Part III

Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy

(The following three part series, was written by Jack Prince. Jack is a retired educator with 30 years experience on the High School and college level. He spent 10 years as a teacher with the Grand Rapids Public Schools.)

Grand Rapids Schools sells its’ property at bargain prices. The Vandenberg building went for 400 thousand on a lot of nearly three acres. The lot alone is worth more than 400K. Shawnee Park was sold to a private Christian school for 50 K less than the appraised value in 2014.  After the contentious sale of Oakdale, Lexington, and Eastern schools, school board Vice President Maureen Slade said, “We learned our lesson, referring to the sale of the Shawnee Park and Hillcrest Schools. Evidently the lesson she referred to was gained after the Oakdale School ended up in a charter schools’ hands and was mentioned in an Feb. 11

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Betsy DeVos and the Covert Privatization of Grand Rapids Public Schools: Part II

Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy

(The following three part series, was written by Jack Prince. Jack is a retired educator with 30 years experience on the High School and college level. He spent 10 years as a teacher with the Grand Rapids Public Schools.)

On May 7th a group of protestors, special education parents from the Disability A Team, challenged GRPS board members to explain their position on how their public superintendent could support Betsy DeVos, the most anti public school secretary of education in history.  This challenge came after reading Neal’s quote, “Neal thinks DeVos can hold up GRPS as a model of what can be done at other struggling districts.”  “She knows education.”  “She knows what it’s going to take in order for our kids to be helped.”  Neal sees the politically conservative family’s focus on education as their commitment to the, “greater social good”. 

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Social Efficiency, Workforce Development, and the Threat to the Humanities and Social Sciences

“A teacher who is attempting to teach without inspiring the pupil with a desire to learn is hammering on cold iron.” – Horace Mann

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In Aristotle’s Wrongful Death , NY Times columnist Frank Bruni contemplates the retreat by colleges and universities from the liberal arts: “History is on the ebb. Philosophy is on the ropes. And comparative literature? Please. It’s an intellectual heirloom: cherished by those who can afford such baubles but disposable in the eyes of others. I’m talking about college majors, and the talk about college majors is loud and contentious these days. There’s concern about whether schools are offering the right ones. There are questions about whether colleges should be emphasizing them at all. How does a deep dive into the classics abet a successful leap into the contemporary job market? Should an ambitious examination of English literature come at the cost of acquiring fluency in coding, digital marketing and the like?”

Bruni describes how the University of Illinois is combining majors like anthropology and linguistics with computer science, how Assumption…

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Students confront Rep. Huizenga on his lack of action on school shootings

Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy

Earlier today, a group of students organized under the name of West Michigan March for Our Lives, took action at the Grandville office of Representative Bill Huizenga.

About 20 students participated in the action, all carrying signs and a piece of tap across their mouths.

The students entered Rep. Huizenga’s office in silence, standing with their signs, while one member of the group made an opening statement about school shootings and what they wanted from the Congressman.

As you will see and hear in the video below, the student who spoke, read a list of the names of those killed in school shootings (223) since Columbine. The students also ended with a clear message for Rep. Huizenga.

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Grand Rapids Power Structure Part V: Local Government

Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy

In the past few weeks, we have been looking at the Grand Rapids Power Structure. In Part I, we provided a framework for the local power structure in Part I, the most powerful family in Grand Rapids, the DeVos Family in Part II and in Part III we looked at other members of the most powerful members of the private sector. In Part IV, we looked at the private sector organizations that have power and which individuals sit on the boards of those organizations. 

As we mentioned in Part I, there is a hierarchy of power, which starts with Economic Power, followed by Political Power and then State Power. In this article, we look at local government in the role it plays within the Grand Rapids Power Structure. 

There are numerous functions that local government plays in supporting the Grand Rapids Power Structure. One primary function of…

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