Mercury News attacks Bymaster for supporting his community’s Latinos

Mercury News Editorial staff goes after San Jose Community member Brett Bymaster, with inappropriate name calling and false claims

Please support Latino public education in the Washington community by doing one (or all) of the following:

No DCP2

A Latina parent protests a plan to put a DCP charter school on the Washington Elementary Campus

The Mercury News went on the attack today in a staff editorial.  The editorial attacked Brett Bymaster for his role in supporting his Latino community members and neighbors.  Bymaster lives in the downtown San Jose Washington community, a low income community comprised primarily of Spanish speaking Latinos.  Bymaster and his wife Angela are two of a small number of English speaking college educated parents at Washington Elementary, a school that is 97% Latino and 95% socioeconomically disadvantaged.  Their adopted son attended Washington and is currently a successful student at Willow Glen High School.  Their 3 year old son hopes to attend Washington in the coming years.

Washington Elementary has a fantastic leadership program that has home-grown Spanish speaking leaders.  Those leaders have proven to be eloquent speakers in community meetings, expressing their independent views.   The Mercury News attack on Bymaster discounts the strong voice and independent leadership at Washington (it should be noted that Bymaster has never served in a leadership position at Washington).

NoDCP

Washington parents request a dependent school on the Washington Elementary campus, not an independent charter

We are deeply worried about the editorial board’s attack on Bymaster.  The San Jose Mercury News operates in a city that demographically splits roughly in thirds evenly between Latinos, Asians, and Whites.  You can see the Mercury News Editorial staff’s pictures below.  We question their commitment to meaningful grassroots educational change, when they appear unwilling to interview and include the views of the majority of the Latino parents at Washington who were against the DCP plan.

Bymaster’s wife, a local family medicine physician, had the following to say in a posting responding to the editorial:

More than simply defaming Brett Bymaster, both this article and the recent Sharon Noguchi article regarding the Washington neighborhood’s opposition to hosting DCP on their campus grossly disrespect our Latino Washington community. It is appalling to me that in America in 2014, Mercury News writers assume that the one white man in a sea of Mexican voices opposing a charter school must be their leader. Washington has an extensive, organized parent leadership structure which meets regularly to make plans and discuss issues. This assertion that the white man must be in charge of them is degrading to the intelligent, thoughtful Mexican parents who met repeatedly over months with multiple parties and came to their own decisions. Their subtle, complex decisions were expressed in eloquent Spanish at public meetings. They discussed their valid concerns about creating a unified culture with two schools with separate administrations on the same campus. They discussed the fact that the cafeteria and library are already at capacity with the current students, and that it would be difficult to add a large number of students to the campus. They asked DCP leadership how many students they would be adding, and that is where they got the 420 number. They considered all types of middle schools, thought about advantages and disadvantages of each type, and decided to ask San Jose Unified School District for a dependent district charter middle school. The overwhelming majority of Washington parents at community and board meetings politely but firmly asked the leadership for this. It is clear that no one at the Mercury News thought it would be beneficial to talk to any of them.

It is lazy journalism, even juvenile, to call a person an insulting name because one disagrees with his point of view. It would be convenient for the writers of the Mercury News if Brett Bymaster were simply a crazy conspiracy theorist who riles up a bunch of thoughtless Latinos. But unfortunately he is perfectly sane and our Mexican neighbors are wise and conscientious individuals who make their own decisions.

 

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San Jose Mercury News Editorial Board
Name
Position
Photo
Ed ClendanielMercury News Editorial Writer
Barbara J MarshmanEditorial Page Editor
Sharon RyanPresident & Publisher
David J ButlerBANG Editor in Chief

 

Bymaster’s reply to the claims in the editorial

  • Bymaster is a conspiracy Theorist
    Before Reed Hastings’ call to end school boards, this might have been justified.  But the fact is that very rich people like Hastings are overtly trying to end democratically controlled education. They’ve made the claim publicly and privately, and have put huge sums into political action committees.  It’s not a conspiracy theory.  It’s just a fact.  We have to be honest with ourselves.
  • Bymaster misled the community into believing the DCP school would have 420 students.
    Direct quote from the SJUSD DCP charter petition, page 16,
    “Over the term of the charter, the [DCP] School will enroll approximately 420 students in grades 6-8. Students will come from all neighborhoods within the geographic boundaries of San Jose Unified School.”  Note that the intent to enroll 420 students was confirmed by DCP officials.  Changing the figure would require a material charter revision, such a revision was never proposed to the Washington community.  DCP and SJUSD officials had the opportunity to present a plan for a material charter revision at public meetings, but never did so.
  • Bymaster’s biggest complaint is they skim the best students
    Simply not true.  Bymaster’s biggest complaint is bad governance and lack of oversight that comes along with the privatization of education.  Wouldn’t it be amazing if the Mercury News were looking into that?
WashingtonNoDCP

Washington Elementary parents gather at a San Jose Unified School board meeting to request that the Downtown College Prep charter school be placed elsewhere

 

Nashville Ledger: Is Nashville Rocketship’s Nonprofit status a myth?

Rocketship responds to our criticisms, scrapping online learning labs and plans to send CA tax funds out of state.  But can they be trusted?

NashvilleLedger

Are nonprofit charter schools a myth? Big tax breaks, revenue shifting fuel growing charter school industry

“There’s not much difference in profit and nonprofits,” says Gary Miron, an education professor at Western Michigan University.  Funds also can be moved or paid into a web of for-profit sister companies that have contracts with the nonprofit charter school.  “It’s really a scam,” Miron says of the many different scenarios that can be used. “To really follow the money, you would have to really understand the facilities companies.”

Rocketship alters course as scores drop

Rocketship Education, a charter school company known for pioneering the use of computers to boost the academic achievement of low income students, is dumping a controversial online teaching program before it opens a school in Nashville, company officials say.

Charter company dumps plan to redirect funds

The Rocketship plan to fuel growth through local schools called for cutting staff to save money, and taking an additional $200,000 per year from each of the company’s existing schools to use as seed money. “It’s called ‘cross subsidization,’ and whether it is legal or not is very questionable,” says Gary Miron, an education professor at Western Michigan University whose research includes the monitoring of more than 300 charter schools around the United States. “Why would taxpayers in Tennessee want to pay for schools in another state,” he asks. The plan was first found on the company’s website, but was removed when it became ammunition in a California neighborhood fight over whether Rocketship would be allowed to open a second school in the community.

While we’re happy to hear that Rocketship is dumping online learning, and abandoning plans to siphon California tax payer money out of the state, we also know that Rocketship has a bad habit of making promises it doesn’t intend to keep.  With Rocketship’s rich patron, Reed Hastings, fighting to eliminate local school board accountability, we worry that our ability to hold Rocketship accountable will only get worse.

  1. Broken Promise #1:  Rocketship made big performance metric promises in order to get 20 Santa Clara County charters approved, promising to relinquish future charters if they didn’t meet their goals.  Not a single K-5 charter has made their goals, but Rocketship continues to grow without relinquishing charters.
  2. Broken Promise #2:  Rocketship promised to relinquish charters if districts approved local Rocketships.  San Jose Unified approved a local Rocketship, and Rocketship returned the favor by refusing to meet with San Jose Unified, and then letting the local charter lapse.
  3. Broken Promise #3:  Rocketship promised the community it would give each school ultimate local control with a stand alone local board.  But less than 2 years later, Rocketship quietly slipped a provision into a material charter revision that stripped all local control, and transferred the power to the national Rocketship board.

 

Reed’s World Part 1: Hastings, Mayor Reed & Sam Liccardo conspire against democracy

Multipart Series:  Silicon Valley’s power brokers conspire to hand the keys of education over to the One Percenters

ReedHastingsCCSA

Reed Hastings speaking to the California Charter School Association

A group of powerful and wealthy Silicon Valley leaders are working to radically alter the education system across the nation.  They hope to eliminate local governing school boards, replacing those boards with privately held charter school corporations supported by government funds.  If successful on a grand scale, it would represent the biggest change in education since our founding fathers laid down the ideal of free public education as the cornerstone of strong democracies.  The mandate to eliminate school boards comes from wealthy and powerful leaders who have no experience or background in education. What would happen if Silicon Valley’s wealthy elites got their way, ending local school boards?   That’s a question that the editorial staff of StopRocketShip.com hopes to answer.  We’ll tackle the question, and illuminate the consequences over a series of ten posts.

The bigger story starts in the mid 90′s when education reformers started a campaign to create fear, uncertainty and doubt that America’s public education system was deteriorating; an argument that in retrospect was largely unfounded.  That campaign launched with a right wing thrust for a voucher system, but later morphed into a bi-partisan campaign for charter schools.

Our story starts with a 2008 San Jose City Hall meeting of millionaires, billionaires, and power brokers, notably lacking educators.

Billionaire Reed Hastings, Mayor Chuck Reed, and Mayoral hopeful Sam Liccardo collude to end school boards

CouncilmemberSamLiccardo

City Councilman & Mayoral Candidate Sam Liccardo pictured with his wife, Jessica Garcia Kohl, former Rocketship head of Community Relations

On February 7th, 2008, San Jose City Councilman Sam Liccardo, now a Mayoral frontrunner, convened a meeting with the leaders in the education privatization movement.  The meeting roster reads like a who’s-who list of the Silicon Valley Bourgeoisie who’d like to end democracy in education.  The meeting launched an all out assault on public education in the South Bay, culminating in billionaire Netflix CEO Reed Hasting’s 2014 address to the California Charter School Association.  In that address Hastings outlines the road map:  Over the next 30 years, slowly replace public schools with charters.  The goal:  shut down school boards by the end of the century.  Hastings admitted that it would be too unpopular to accomplish all at once, so he suggested a favorite tactic of the One Percenters — quietly make slow and steady change until the public has forgotten why they had elected school boards to begin with.

2008:  Hastings, Liccardo, Mayor Reed and the dirty half-dozen

The City of San Jose’s sunshine calendars tell the story.  In 2008, Mayor “Chuckie-Baby” Reed’s sidekick Sam Liccardo and the dirty half-dozen sat in San Jose City Hall conference room 1854 to hash out their dirty little plan.  Little did the public know at that time that the goal of the meeting would be to setup the mechanisms required to transfer the power of education from school boards to private corporations.

Launching the Anti-Education Democracy Movement:  February 7th, 2008

Name
Title
Teaching Experience
Degree/Background
Notes
Photo
Chuck Rufus ReedMayor of San JoseNonePublic Affairs & AttorneyMayoral tenure characterized by anti-union campaign
Sam LiccardoSan Jose Mayoral candidate & City CouncilmanNoneHarvard Law SchoolRocketship supporter, wife was head of Rocketship's Public Relations
John DannerRocketship CEO2 years of teachingElectrical EngineeringFounded Netgravity, Sold in 1999 for $530 million
Jim BlewWalton FoundationNoneB.A. from Occidental College and an MBA from Yale UniversityConsultant to Walton Foundation -- Walmart's $1.5 Billion foundation.
Gary RummelhoffFormer Santa Clara County Office of Educaiton board memberrNoneSouthern Methodist University - Cox School of Business
MBA, Finance
Rocketship Audit Committee, ACE charter school board member
Reed HastingsCEO NetflixNoneMS. from Stanford University in Computer ScienceServed on California State School Boards, net worth of more than $1 billion
Matt HammerCEO of Pro-Charter Innovative SchoolsNoneStanford University Graduate School of BusinessSon of former San Jose Mayor Susan Hammer. Former CEO of pro-charter PACT

2009:  Silicon Valley 2020 — Closing the achievement gap by 2020 or ending school boards by 2050?

sj2020San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed and Santa Clara County Office of Education Superintendent Weis launched SV2020.  It was an audacious plan to end the achievement gap by 2020 through a collaborative process of engaging all 19 school districts in San Jose, or at least that’s what we were told.  Dr. Weis was eased out by the board of education in 2012, his replacement Xavier De La Torre quit just weeks ago.  De La Torre left his post as superintendent largely because of the County Board’s vote to approve 20 Rocketship schools, a vote which took place before his tenure.  That vote alienated local school boards, making Dr. De La Torre’s job nearly impossible.  But more importantly, the vote set up the mechanisms necessary to eliminate local school boards, as the County Office of Education started approving charter schools en mass.  The County Board approved 38 charter schools in a row, more than twice that of any other county school board in the state.  The real goal of SV2020 started to become clear as local districts were largely left out of the planning process.  What started in 2008 with Councilman Liccardo and Mayor Reed was laid bare in Hastings’ 2014 address to the CCSA.  SV2020 with all of its rhetoric on closing the achievement gap has become nothing more than a thinly veiled ruse to end public education as we know it.

2014: Now we’re paying attention

More than 6 years after Liccardo’s fateful meeting, we’re finally starting to pay attention.  San Jose’s Mayoral race will be the first political race featuring charter schools.  Sam Liccardo outlined his primary Mayoral goals in a recent Mercury News Op-Ed, “Expand innovative, high-performing public charter and other public schools, secure sites and permits for new campuses.”  It’s a statement written only 1 month before Hastings’ declaration of war on public education.  The implications are crystal clear, just as they were in the 2008 meeting Liccardo hosted at City Hall.  The solution to the public education problem is eliminating school boards.

Ten Part Series on the End of School Boards

The future of our children and our democracy is at stake.  We want to think clearly, ask good questions, and clearly articulate the consequences of bad decisions.  We hope to do that in a ten part series.  Our outline follows.

Part 1:  Hastings, Mayor Reed & Sam Liccardo conspire against Democracy

Part 2:  History of Democracy in Education

Part 3:  Extremism and privatization: Is our democracy safe without school boards?

Part 4: High Stakes Testing:  Education corporations will drop well rounded liberal arts education, focusing on drill & kill

Part 5:  Forcing Dropouts:  Corporations will drive out low performers, expanding the achievement gap

Part 6:  Special Education:  Ed reformers will have little tolerance for expensive and “inefficient” special education students

Part 7:  Money, Money, Money:  How the rich hope to suck the cash out of students

Part 8:  Corruption:  Private ed corporations will lie, steal, and corrupt our schools once publicly elected school boards are eliminated and there is no accountability

Part 9:  Walmartizing Education:  Do we really want the Walton Foundation deciding how to educate the next generation?

Part 10:  This is Still a Democracy and We Get to Decide:  Do we follow the lead of the 1% or should we keep democratic school boards around?

Morgan Hill Unified: Rocketship illegally segregates and required volunteer hours are illegal

California Dept of Ed & County Board of Ed side with Morgan Hill, denying Navigator & Rocketship.  Morgan Hill raises serious legal concerns with Rocketship.

Morgan Hill Unified School District’s incredibly detailed charter analysis led to a board vote of 6-1 to deny Navigator Charter School’s petition on October 8th, 2013.  The same vote to deny Rocketship followed a few weeks later.

Rocketship and Navigator both appealed to the Santa Clara County Office of Education.  Rocketship withdrew their appeal just days before the scheduled vote, presumably to prevent the county staff’s report from going public; a report which would have brought significant issues to light.

Navigator proceeded to the board on the appeal, which they lost on a vote of 4-3.  Navigator’s leader, James Dent, again appealed the decision to the State Board of Education.

StopRocketShip.com has just learned that the CDE staff has denied Navigator’s appeal on technical grounds.  Navigator changed their charter petition when submitting to the county and state on appeal, since they had failed to consider the new Local Control Funding Formula in their petition.  We have learned that the state staff rejected Navigator’s appeal last week on grounds that the appeal appeal cannot be altered after the local district’s vote.

StopRocketShip.com has obtained a letter from Morgan Hill’s attorney through a freedom of information request that outlines a litany of problems with Navigator and Rocketship’s petition.  The letter written by Morgan HIll attorney, Laura Schulkind, provides a legal justification for the county board to deny both charters.  The full letter is available here.

The letter to the county office of education outlines a few very significant points.

  • Both the Navigator and Rocketship Programs segregate Latino students, Offending Principles of Equal Protection, Equal Educational Opportunity and Nondiscrimination in Educational Programs, causing segregation of EL students in substandard facilities
128139_ImageUpload

Morgan Hill’s attorney, Laura Schulkind, in a letter sent to the Santa Clara County Office of Education

The Rocketship petition is profoundly deficient in this regard. Not only does it fail to provide the required plan, it’s program would cause further, significant segregation of English Language learners. Even worse, it proposes isolating ELs in substandard facilities far below what student’s receive in the District.The District submits that the inevitable, segregative effect of Rocketship’s proposed education program is unlawful.  Apart from the legitimate educational concerns of this proposal, the discrepancies raise equal protection concerns. Here is a snapshot of the discrepancies that would exist:

RS_MHUSD

  • Rocketship and Navigator required volunteer hours are tantamount to a fee; violating the Education Code requirement to be tuition free.  This is particularly important in light of a recent ACLU lawsuit which brought illegal donation practices in California schools to light, and inspired additional legislation to ensure that public education is free of charge.
Applying the State Board’s own standard here: although each petition included the statement that it would not charge tuition, the statement is contradicted by the content of the petitions. Specifically, both Navigator and Rocketship require all parents to provide a minimum number of hours of service to the school Rocketship-30 hours, Navigator 20 hours). This time/labor requirement is essentially an in-kind fee and one that disproportionately and unfairly impacts poor working families with less flexibility and/or leisure time. Meeting this requirement would effectively require many working parents to forego work hours and wages as a condition for their children to attend. Morgan Hill asserts that mandated parent service constitutes in-kind
  •  Petitioners May Not Correct Deficiencies in the Petition on Appeal
Here, it is our understanding that the Navigator petitioners have attempted to make a material change to the petition on appeal. Specifically, we have been advised that it may have tried to address its failure to utilize the local control funding formula (“LCFF”) in its budget assumptions. This was improper and its attempt to fix on appeal a defect identified at the District level should be disallowed. Otherwise, the District will be deprived of its right to review a district charter petition in the first instance.

Rocketship applies to Alum Rock, in spite of falling test scores, legal problems and Morgan Hill rejection

Rocketship submits a charter petition to Alum Rock Union School District with fading hopes of opening Jackson St School for 2014/15 school year.

AlumRockIn February 2014, Alum Rock Union School District filed suit against Rocketship’s attempt to open 20 new charter schools in Santa Clara County.  Since then, the Santa Clara County Superior court ruled against Rocketship’s attempted zoning exemption in a separate suit filed by San Jose Unified and a community member.

Rocketship’s February board materials indicated that they would press forward in opening the Jackson St school approved by City Council in December of 2013 in spite of the pending litigation.  Rocketship CEO Preston Smith said that he would “definitely be opening Rocketship Jackson in August of 2014 as over 600+ parents have applied (400 have already been accepted) and moreover, the San Jose City Council approved the facility (it is going to be awesome!) on a 9-1 vote in December of 2013. I look forward to opening the school in August”.

However, it appears that Rocketship will be unable to use the County Office of Education charter approved in Dec of 2011 due to Alum Rock’s lawsuit.  Instead, the organization has presented a charter petition to Alum Rock.  An initial hearing on the Rocketship petition will be held on April 10th at 5:30pm.

Rocketship hopes to finance the Jackson St facility using a financial tool opposed by California State Treasurer Bill Lockyer.  Pending litigation will presumably make the sale of Rocketship’s risky CMFA bonds nearly impossible, as Rocketship would risk default if the court upheld the challenge to their charter.

Rocketship’s petition will be heard in light of falling test scores, teacher discontent and a recently rejected charter petition to Morgan Hill Unified.  Rocketship appealed the Morgan Hill rejection, but suddenly withdrew the appeal after fierce community backlash.

Rocketship’s petition puts the Alum Rock school board in a difficult position.  They are suing Rocketship on grounds that they should have petitioned directly to the school district instead of going through the County Office of Education.  Now Rocketship is doing what they should have done in the first place.  Having said that, Alum Rock is saturated with 3 existing Rocketship schools within a mile radius.  It’s hard to imagine a school board approving the application given Rocketship’s lackluster performance with major structural and financial issues,

Matt Hammer’s extremely pro-charter “Innovative Schools” report had to give credence to Alum Rock Union’s skyrocketing performance, saying the following about the district.  Alum Rock student performance is rising as fast as Rocketship’s student performance is falling.

There are surprises at the top and the bottom. From the perspective of a low-income Latino family looking for good schools, one of the best places to live is now Alum Rock, where there are high-quality charter schools and several of the top district-run schools in the region. Innovative Schools Report

Watch the Mayfair community’s protest against Rocketship Jackson St.

Read Rocketship’s full Alum Rock petition here.

San Jose’s Washington Community wins major lawsuit against Rocketship

San Jose Unified and Washington community win lawsuit against Rocketship and the Santa Clara County Office of Education

RocketshipFreddiShadedSmall

A local student’s depiction of the powerful and wealthy Rocketship organization uprooting the planned park at the Tamien site

Santa Clara County Superior court judge Franklin E. Bondonno has just issued a final ruling in favor of the Washington community, disallowing Rocketship to place a charter school on the Tamien site.  Rocketship had hoped to bypass the local community and gain zoning approval directly through the County Office of Education.  Community member Brett Bymaster and pro-bono attorney Christopher Schumb filed suit against Rocketship in February of 2013, along with San Jose Unified.  On October 7th, 2013, Judge Bondonno issued a preliminary ruling in favor of the Washington community.

The ruling is another in a series of setbacks for Rocketship’s Education company.  Rocketship lost a crucial vote at City Council in November 2013, when the company attempted to erase Tamien’s open space designation, changing the general plan from a park to a school.  Then in February of 2014, four other school districts filed suit against Rocketship.  All this comes on the heels of falling test scores and teacher discontent within the Rocketship system.

The ruling has significant implications since it ensures that charter school location decisions are made by the most local authority — either by the local city council or local school board.  This is especially important for distant rural communities in Santa Clara County, such as Morgan Hill and Gilroy.

SuperiorCourtSantaClaraResizedCounty boards of education generally do not fulfill the same unique mass educational functions which are the duty of school districts. In short, there is such sufficient difference between what a county board of education does and what a normal “school district” does that the Court believes that if the Legislature had intended to grant the power to override local zoning to county boards of education, the Legislature would have so stated. It has not done so….The Court will grant the requested writ of mandate. The Honorable Franklin E. Bondonno
TVincentMatthewshis lawsuit was intended to correct the County Board’s exercise of a power only granted to school boards. It was not intended to prevent the growth of charter schools within the county.  San Jose Unified Superintendent Dr. Vincent Matthews

 

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Washington community members celebrate their City Council Victory against a proposed 3rd Rocketship in the tiny Washington Community. November 22, 2013

You can read the entire ruling from The Honorable Judge Bondonno here.

Rocketship’s Rich Patron, Reed Hastings, Drops a Bombshell: “You should get rid of School Boards”

Billionaire Netflix CEO, Reed Hastings, provides the Charter School Roadmap:  Replace elected school boards with large non-profits run by rich oligarch magnates

Reed Hasting

Reed Hastings, Credit: James Duncan Davidson/O’Reilly Media, Inc.

Reed Hastings has just over a billion dollars, riches built on software companies and the entertainment giant Netflix.  Mr. Hastings also sat on the California State Board of Education from 2000 to 2004, when he stepped down amid controversy.

Hastings, who sits on Rocketship’s national strategy advisory board, has invested millions in Rocketship.  He’s also made significant political action committee contributions on Rocketship’s behalf, most recently, he poured $50,000 into a PAC to support pro-charter Santa Clara County Office of Education members.

On March 4th, 2014, Mr. Hastings delivered the keynote speech to the California Charter School Association’s annual conference.  In that keynote speech, Mr. Hastings made a shocking statement:  Democratically elected school board members are the problem with education, and they must be replaced by privately held corporations in the next 20-30 years.

Mr. Hastings’s vision of the bourgeoisie controlling education is, frankly, frightening.  We fear a system controlled by out of touch billionaires who subordinate and subvert the masses through Hastings’s “large non-profits”.

As Winston Churchill said, “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms”. Note to Mr. Hastings: Aristocracy and Oligarchy have been tried plenty of times, our predecessors got on a boat to escape them.  We don’t want our progeny to have to do the same.

And so the fundamental problem with school districts is not their fault, the ReedHastings2fundamental problem is that they don’t get to control their boards and the importance of the charter school movement is to evolve America from a system where governance is constantly changing and you can’t do long term planning to a system of large non-profits…The most important thing is that they constantly get better every year they’re getting better because they have stable governance — they don’t have an elected school board.  And that’s a real tough issue.  Now if we go to the general public and we say, “Here’s an argument why you should get rid of school boards” of course no one’s going to go for that. School boards have been an iconic part of America for 200 years.  So what we have to do is to work with school districts to grow steadily, and the work ahead is really hard because we’re at 8% of students in California, whereas in New Orleans they’re at 90%, so we have a lot of catchup to do…So what we have to do is continue to grow and grow…  It’s going to take 20-30 years to get to 90% of charter kids….And if we succeed over the next 20 or 30 years, that will be one of the fastest rates of change ever seen around the world for a large system, it’s hard. [applause]

Reed Hastings Keynote speech to the CCSA, March 4, 2014

You can watch the full 17 minute keynote speech here.

 

This story, first broken by StopRocketShip.com, is trending in print, blogs, editorials, and throughout social media!

The Washington Post:  Netflix’s Reed Hastings has a big idea: Kill elected school boards

Esquire:  What Does The Netflix Guy Have To Say About Public Education?

San Jose Inside/San Jose Metro:  Netflix CEO Reed Hastings: Get Rid of School Boards

San Jose Mercury News: Reed Hastings is wrong: A school board member’s defense

San Jose Mercury News Internal Affairs

The Raw Story:  Netflix CEO Reed Hastings wants to ‘steadlily’ replace school boards with charter schools

Diane Ravitch: Charter School Magnate Wants to End Local School Boards: Democracy is the Problem — Diane Ravitch & many others cancel their Netflix Subscription!!

EduShyster:  Education Reform, Inc. vs. democracy—now playing on a screen near you

The Left Hook

Beyond Chron

The San Francisco Chronicle:  Keep the ‘public’ in public school boards

MLive:  School districts succeed when board members focus on academics, Fordham report says

EdWeek:  Living in Dialog — Why Do Corporate Reformers Hate Democracy?

Media contacts should email editor@stoprocketship.com

 

Rocketship flex model gets poor ratings by Teachers, Students & Parents

Parents, Students, and Teachers at Rocketship admit flex model is struggling.  Rocketship should be commended for publishing the results.

In a rare move, Rocketship Education recently admitted that the blended learning flex model is getting poor ratings.  Rocketship’s flex model puts 120 kids in a large classroom with 3 teachers; you can view an excellent EdWeek interactive description hereBoard materials indicate that less than half of Rocketship teachers think that the flex model is accelerating achievement.  Parents and students both rate the non-flex model better than the flex model.

We at StopRocketShip.com want to commend Rocketship for publishing the results in public board materials.  They could have hidden it or downplayed it, but they wisely chose to publish the results.  This builds trust within the community and provides a framework for working towards fixing the problems.  Our hope is that Rocketship would slow or stop its growth plans in order to focus its time, money, and energy and fixing the problems in the schools it already runs.

Across all summary measures and over 90% of individual questions, students in the flexible model provide less positive feedback than students in the non-flexible model.  Parents of non-flex model students tend to provide higher ratings than parents of flex model students.  Read the complete survey results in the 2/13/14 achievement committee board material, page 11.

TeacherSurvey

Board Materials from 2/13/14 showing teacher survey results.

Despite falling scores, Rocketship hopes to take over schools in D.C. and Nashville

We wish Rocketship would focus on fixing the schools it already operates in our communities instead of growing.

Rocketship announced plans this week that it intends to take over a failing school in Nashville Tennessee in addition to opening new schools in Washington D.C.  and San Jose CA in the 2015-16 school year.  Rocketship’s aggressive growth plan continues unabated, even as teachers within the chain express serious concerns with the viability of the model.  In 2013, only half of Rocketship students test proficient in English, bringing the chain down to the California state average for low income students.  Many observers are surprised that Rocketship continues to pursue exponential growth with the lagging performance of its existing schools.  We wish that Rocketship would focus on fixing the problems in its current model before growing.

Charter school network Rocketship Education will be opening five new schools in 2015-16, one of which will be located in the District of Columbia, the first time the network has expanded to that city. …The move comes amid criticism lobbed at the network for expanding too rapidly and a steady decline in students’ standardized test scores in recent years. Part of that downward trend correlates with the rollout of the network’s new flexible classrooms, in which more than 100 students may be broken into groups to work on different lessons in separate parts of the same classroom.    Read the story on EdWeek.
NashvilleRendering

Rendering of the Nashville Rocketship school with funding from Andre Agassi’s for-profit charter venture, which will generate millions in investor profits.

Yes Magazine: The Myth Behind Public School Failure

Yes Magazine exposes the Rocketship Style corporate reform movement:  profiteering instead of education

Yes Magazine’s February 2014 article exposes charter school operators like Rocketship and their underlying interests to privatize the education market.  Rocketship’s founder, John Danner, recently left Rocketship to found the for-profit Zeal Corporation in hopes of tapping into the $4 billion education market.  Billions of dollars are at stake, and we’re left to answer the question:  will corporations in search of profits best serve our children? Continue reading

Outgoing CountySuperintendent sends strong message to Charter Schools

De La Torre sends a strong message to Bullis Charter School over admission discrimination and Brown Act violations

Lame Duck County Office of Education Superintendent supt_imgXavier De La Torre is sending a strong message to charter schools as one of his final acts of office before departing to run a district in Texas. Continue reading

Districts file lawsuit against the SCCOE & Rocketship Education

Rocketship’s drive to circumvent local communities lands it in more legal trouble

SuperiorCourtSantaClaraResizedRocketship’s pattern of circumventing local agencies and communities has yet again landed it in court.  The first lawsuit came in 2013, as Rocketship circumvented San Jose City Council, opting to gain zoning approval through the Santa Clara County Office of Education (SCCOE).  The judge ruled in favor of the Tamien community, stating that Rocketship and the SCCOE overstepped their bounds.  Now four school districts have filed suit against Rocketship’s 2011 application to the SCCOE to open 20 new schools. Continue reading

San Jose #1 in Social Mobility Thanks to Public Schools!

New study shows that San Jose tops American big cities in social mobility

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Lighter colors represent areas where children from low-income families are more likely to move up in the income distribution, with San Jose topping the charts

Harvard and Berkeley researchers have found that San Jose has the highest social mobility of any large city in the United States.  The study  measured the statistical probability of a low income youth rising to the middle class.  The study found a strong correlation between city’s social mobility and educational opportunities.  You can read about the study at http://www.equality-of-opportunity.org/, or view an interactive New York Times map. Continue reading

Rocketship Schools Inspire “The Stop Corporate Exploitation of Charter Schools Act”

Rocketship’s questionable business practices inspire a new ballot initiative

voteA ballot initiative critical of Rocketship’s business practices has just been submitted to the California Office of the Attorney General.  The full text of the initiative calls out Rocketship, Oakland’s American Indian Charter Schools, and the now defunct California Charter Academy for “documented abuses … that take money away from our children”

Before the initiative is certified for the ballot, it must garner half a million signatures.  We’re sad to see that Rocketship’s poor behavior makes the list of the top three worst offender as compiled by this initiative. Continue reading

EdWeek: Growing Pains for Rocketship’s Blended-Learning Juggernaut

Rocketship Education’s Falling Test Scores Incomprehensibly propel dramatic growth

One classroom, 109 children.

For the next 40 minutes, half the 4th graders here at Rocketship Sí Se Puede Academy, a charter elementary school in a low-slung building nestled below Highway 680, will be split between the language arts and mathematics sections of the large room, working with two-dozen similarly skilled classmates and a credentialed teacher.

Read the entire EdWeek article at
http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2014/01/21/19el-rotation.h33.html?tkn=PTMFSG1VBxf%2BfBAbTLIuukmOBQdTbNc61sCr&cmp=clp-edweek

 

Navigator Morgan Hill Denied

Santa Clara County Board of Education votes 4-3 to deny Navigator Morgan Hill, the first denial after 38 approvals in a row

In a late night Jan 14th vote, the Santa Clara County Board Of Education (SCCBOE) voted to deny Navigator’s Morgan Hill charter application.  Morgan Hill Unified had voted to deny Navigator in October of 2013; Navigator immediately appealed to the SCCBOE. Board members Anna Song, Joseph DiSalvo, Michael Chang, and Darcie Green voted to listen to the Morgan Hill Community and follow the staff’s recommendation to deny the petition.  The Morgan Hill community came out in force to support their local democratically controlled schools, and were pleased to see the board and staff support their arguments against a corporate takeover of Morgan Hill’s education system.

 

Navigator Charter Gets Denial Recommendation

Navigator: Deny, Rocketship: Withdrawn
Could this be the first charter turned down by the SCCOE after 38 approvals in a row?

The County Office of Education staff has followed Morgan Hill Unified’s lead, issuing a staff recommendation to deny Navigator’s appeal after Morgan Hill voted 6-1 to deny Navigator in October.  Navigator is another aggressive charter chain, not unlike Rocketship.  The staff denial recommendation comes just after Rocketship withdrew their charter petition.  It appears that the County staff was going to give a thumb’s down to Rocketship as well.  Rocketship withdrew ostensibly to avoid a public outing of its weak petition and unsound educational model.  It’s quite possible that the County Office of Education would have covered a new research finding from the Institute of Educational Sciences, which showed that software used extensively in Rocketship schools was ineffective. Continue reading

Rocketship withdrawls Morgan Hill Request

MORGAN HILL COMMUNITY STOPS ROCKETSHIP

After fierce community, regional, and national resistance, Rocketship has decided to pull its application to open a new charter school in Morgan Hill, as reported in the Morgan Hill Times, and in a statement released today by Rocketship.  It’s another in a string of setbacks for the national charter operator, as their efforts to open a charter in the Downtown San Jose Tamien neighborhood was also recently derailed by community opposition.

Continue reading

Will the Corporate Education Reformers replace Morgan Hill’s Schools?

It’s a narrative playing out in districts across the nation.  Private corporations come into communities with strong messages on the inadequacy of public education, and then provide the end-all solution.  They say that public education should be turned over to competitive metric-based corporations.  They tell us the problem is the inefficient school districts whose boards act too slowly and whose unions call the shots.  They mislead and frighten the public into action, grease political wheels with hundreds of thousands in campaign contributions, and make empty accountability promises.  When their schools are built, it becomes clear that they have two competing aims: making healthy profits for their subsidiaries and providing education for their students.  In our case, the wrong aim prevails  and the public educational institutions that have been decades in the making are devastated.

Today that narrative is playing out in Morgan Hill, California.  Morgan Hill is a semi-rural/suburban community of forty thousand some miles south of San Jose, the first farmland south of the sprawling San Francisco Bay region.  It’s home to 8 elementary schools under the innovative leadership of Morgan Hill Unified School district, and dynamic superintendent Stephen Betando.  Morgan Hill Unified has spent considerable resources developing new and exciting school options, including STEAM academies.  They’ve registered some impressive test score gains as a result of their innovative schools.

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Innovative Morgan Hill Schools under the leadership of Superintendent Betando

Continue reading

Rocketship’s Broken Promise #3: Local Control

In the late night of Dec 14th, 2011, the SantRocketship Broken Promisesa Clara County Office of Education approved 20 Rocketship county charters. Rocketship bypassed the local district, going straight to the county for approval, short circuiting the local community’s ability to hold Rocketship accountable.

During that meeting, Rocketship made a number of promises, which they have subsequently broken. This is the third in a series of 3 posts outlining Rocketship’s broken promises.

Rocketship promised full local control of schools.  During public testimony, board members engaged in a lengthy discussion of Rocketship’s  governance board.  The national board meets in Redwood City — a location which is more than 30 miles from Rocketship’s schools.   Rocketship, which serves low income Latino families, is run from a wealthy community far from the people it serves, in more than one way.  It also came to light that some of Rocketship’s national board meetings, supposedly open to the public, were held in the Silicon Valley Capital Club, a members only club that costs more than $200 a month with a dress code that outlaws jeans. Continue reading

Rocketship’s Broken Promise #2: Working with local districts

In the late night of Dec 14th, 2011, the SantRocketship Broken Promisesa Clara County Office of Education approved 20 Rocketship county charters. Rocketship bypassed the local district, going straight to the county for approval, short circuiting the local community’s ability to hold Rocketship accountable.

During that meeting, Rocketship made a number of promises, which they have subsequently broken. This is the second in a series of 3 posts outlining Rocketship’s broken promises. Continue reading

Rocketship’s Broken Promise #1: API Contract

In the late night of Dec 14th, 2011, the SantRocketship Broken Promisesa Clara County Office of Education approved 20 Rocketship county charters.  Rocketship bypassed the local district, going straight to the county for approval, short circuiting the local community’s ability to hold Rocketship accountable.

During that meeting, Rocketship made a number of promises, which they have subsequently broken.  This is the first in a series of 3 posts outlining Rocketship’s broken promises.

Rocketship promised that if it didn’t meet a performance contract it would relinquish future charters.  Each school not meeting the contract would result in a future charter being lost.  It was a promise that we believed, sold to the public in a Mercury News editorial and discussed at length in the public hearing.  As of today, it stands as a broken promise. Continue reading

Andre Agassi set to make millions off Rocketship, Taxpayers

High student-to-teacher ratios and lack of transparency enable healthy profits for tennis great Agassi and investors.

Andbildere Agassi, tennis great turned charter backer, has secured a third Rocketship school in Nashville Tennessee, adding to schools he financed in San Jose (Spark Academy) and Milwaukee.  Agassi’s for-profit equity fund, Canyon-Agassi, is set to make millions on these projects, with taxpayers footing the bill.  Rocketship’s controversial Nashville school was approved without even notifying local districts, sidestepping local communities in favor of state approval. Continue reading

Rocketship Attorney Reprimanded for defending embezzling charter operator

Yevgency Selivanov, guilty of embezzling charter school funds, sentenced to 4 years in prison

An attorney who also represents Rocketship, Paul Minney, recently filed an Amicus Brief on behalf of the California Charter School Association. The brief defended Ivy Academia’s executive director, Yevgency Selivanov, who was sentenced to 4 years in prison for embezzling state funds, and ordered to pay back $300k in embezzled funds. Continue reading

Rocketship hopes to be the largest school district in Santa Clara County by 2018-19

Has there been a robust public debate on the consequences of privatizing education in Santa Clara County?

Officials in Sweden, a country where a quarter of the students attend privatized government funded schools, have recently publicly apologized for privatizing their education system with charter/voucher schools.  Tomas Tobé, head of the parliament’s education committee said, “I think we have had too much blind faith in that more private schools would guarantee greater educational quality,”  The Swedish Green Party last month said about the privatization mistake, “Forgive us, our policy led our schools astray”. Continue reading

City Council: Rocketship looks to model itself after Daycares instead of Schools

Rockteship Eschews School Facility Standards, Models Itself Instead After Daycares

The Dec 10th, 2013 City Council meeting focused largely on the need for guidelines and regulations on charter school facility development.  It was mentioned several times that the City Council is not a school board, and is ill-equipped to make school decisions.  Rocketship responded, requesting that the city adopt daycare standards for charter schools. Continue reading

Council approves first phase of Rocketship Jackson St

Council goes against Mayfair community, approving Rocketship zoning.
Conditional Use Permit to be heard next Tuesday

On Dec 10th, 2013, the City Council heard several Rocketship items.  First, the council approved $35 million in conduit financing for Rocketship.  The financing will come from the CMFA, an organization that State Treasurer Bill Lockyer has railed against, a story we broke earlier this week and San Jose Inside repeated.

The council went on to approve a zoning change for the Rocketship St. Jackson site, against the wishes of the community.  Continue reading

Support Mayfair community’s campaign against Rocketship Jackson This Tuesday at City Hall!

Rocketship is crashing down in the Mayfair community, with the critical vote likely to be held at San Jose City Council this Tuesday, Dec 10th.

Send an email to San Jose City Council in opposition to a new Rocketship on Jackson St.  They already have two Rocketship’s within a few blocks, this would be the 9th elementary schools and 4th Rocketship within a 1 mile Radius.

Send an email today, by clicking on the link below or copying the list of emails!

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