Damage control at the NEA.

 

A couple of days ago a reader sent me a video of a speech NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia made to the Campaign for America’s Future.

The CAF is a liberal Democratic Party group. The Nation editor Katrina vanden Heuvel, former AFL-CIO president John Sweeney, and former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa  have served on its board of directors.

The video began with Eskelsen Garcia telling some silly story about being on a plane with a guy who called her “darling’ and who challenged her as to what teachers did.

The NEA President then proceeded to list all the things teachers do, listing them in a rapid fire way.

My reader included a copy of a statement from a national group of lawyers that represent parents of special needs students. It condemned Eskelsen Garcia’s speech.

There was horror, angst and disgust felt this past weekend when Lily Eskesen, the President of the National Education Association gave a speech about all the tasks teachers do and listed the “chronically ‘tarded” and the “medically annoying” as part of her list.

In the days since, a number of national organizations representing people and students with disabilities have voiced outrage and issued statements demanding an apology.

I listened and watched the video several times. I wrote my friend back and said that I was skeptical Eskelsen Garcia said what they said she said. It was hard to make out because Eskelsen Garcia was speaking so fast. I don’t believe the NEA President would have used the offensive term “chronically ‘tarded.” It sounded to me that in her speedy delivery she had stepped over the word “tardy.” I mean, whoever heard of the phrase “chronically ‘tarded”? As for “medically annoying”? I couldn’t even figure out what she meant.

I didn’t post anything. I wanted to wait and see.

Well the stuff hit the fan. The Youtube video of her speech got a million hits.

Garcia had to offer an apology. And she did.

Epic fail. In my attempt to be clever and funny, I stepped on a word in one phrase, and I created another phrase that I believed was funny, but was insulting. I apologize.

Fair enough. Her speech was clumsy and offensive. But it wasn’t policy.

It will be up to the families of children with special needs to decide if the apology is accepted.

This week the NEA has been asking members to call Washington in support of the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).

Yet there has been not a word from the NEA or President Garcia about the spectacular weaknesses in the bill when it comes to special needs students.

The weaknesses include language that approves of Pay for Success initiatives for special needs students. Pay for Success is the program that pays a bounty to Wall Street investment firms like Goldman Sachs for every needy student not receiving special education services.

There has been no apology for that. And it will really hurt students with special needs in ways that a mispronounced word or a thoughtlessly awkward phrase won’t.

Both House and Senate versions of ESEA include Pay for Success and profits for Goldman Sachs. Act now.

LLOYD BLANKFEIN

Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankhein. Double back earnings for “curing” special education students.

-Bev Johns

Education Week blog:http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/campaign-k-12/2015/10/whats_the_state_of_play_on_ese.html

The pending departure of Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, the speaker of the House seems to have lit a fire under negotiations on reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

In fact, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said Monday that it could actually “help” ESEA’s chances if Boehner stuck around for a few more weeks.

Aides for all four of the lawmakers that will be involved in crafting a “conference report” (that’s Congress-speak for a compromise bill developed after both the House and Senate have passed competing versions) have been working very, very hard behind the scenes to reach agreement. The key lawmakers here are: Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Reps. John Kline, R-Minn., and Bobby Scott, D-Va.

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As of now both the House and Senate ESEA bills include Federal funding for Pay for Success.

Below are actions YOU can take, and then my arguments for removing Pay for Success from ESEA as it is in Utah and Chicago aimed directly at vastly reducing special education (by 99 percent in Utah).

These are the parts of the U.S. House and U.S. Senate ESEA bills that need to be removed in the Conference Committee.

House ESEA (was No Child Left Behind): HR 5 – Student Success Act, Title II Subpart 1 Grants to States, Sec. 2113 (b)(2). “(F) support State or local Pay for Success initiatives that meet the purposes of this part.”

Title II Subpart 1 Formula Grants to States Sec. 2211 (d)(3)(A). “(ix) Supporting State or local Pay for Success initiatives that meet the purposes of this part.”

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Senate ESEA (was No Child Left Behind): S.1177 – Every Child Achieves Act (1) allows states and local school districts to invest their Title I, Part D funds (Programs for Neglected, Delinquent, and At Risk Children and Youth, $47.6 million in FY15) in Pay For Success initiatives; (2) allows local school districts to invest their Title IV, Part A funds (Safe and Drug Free Schools and Communities, $70 million in FY15) in Pay For Success  initiatives; and (3) allows states to invest their early childhood coordination funds (Early Learning Alignment and Improvement Grants, newly authorized program) in Pay For Success initiatives

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In the Conference Committee between the US House and the US Senate we must get Pay for Success out of ESEA/NCLB as it is now in both the House and Senate versions.

It can be done, but it will not be easy.

Have you made any contact with the National organizations that you belong to?

Have you contacted your own US Representative and your 2 US Senators?

SAY TO YOUR TWO US SENATORS:

In Conference Committee on S.1177, please remove Pay for Success as an allowable use of funds through Title I, Part D (Prevention and Intervention Programs for Children and Youth Who are Neglected, Delinquent, or At-Risk) and Title IV, which funds programs addressing student health and safety, from the Senate version of ESEA on the ESEA bill.

SAY TO YOUR US REPRESENTATIVE:

In Conference Committee, please remove from H.R. 5, the Student Success Act, the provisions that make Pay for Success initiatives an allowable use of state and local funds in Title II and in the Teacher and School Leader Flexible Grant.

Pay for Success has been used in Utah to prevent 99 percent of children supposedly headed for special education from actually being identified for special education, and paid Goldman Sachs and other investors for each child NOT placed in special education. This is a huge financial incentive to NOT identify children as needing special education, and there is absolutely no research stating 99 percent of students in special education should not be there.

In Chicago, Pay for Success may allow Goldman Sachs to double its investment, depending on how many students are NOT identified for special education.

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Pay for Success reminds me of RTI (Response to Intervention) now often called MTSS (Multi-Tiered System of Support).

It sounds great, until you see what actually is happening in too many schools in too many States.

In an email discussion last week I received the following: “but from what I thought, Goldman Sachs and other investors get back money until the loan is repaid — and there is no big profit,just normal interest almost like a non-profit — but I may have it wrong”

I replied: You have it completely wrong. I had sent earlier a New York Times article on Utah, and a Catalyst (specialized education newspaper in Chicago) on CPS – Chicago Public Schools.

For Chicago, the deal is structured almost completely in Goldman Sachs (and their partner, the Pritzker Family Foundation – owner of Hyatt Hotels and of many other corporations) favor: almost no risk and possibly MORE than double their money back (more than 100 percent profit).

Read the New York Times article and Salt Lake Tribune articles on Utah.

Goldman Sachs is taking very little risk ($1 million is immediately paid back to Goldman by United Way) and with 99 percent of the students suspected of being eligible for special ed NOT being identified. Goldman would easily make more than double their money back (far more than 100 percent profit). Goldman is getting an immediate $1 million from the United Way? Not only will Goldman get public money each year that a student is NOT identified, but Goldman is getting charitable money immediately.

Non-profit Goldman Sachs? Hardly.

It is like getting $100 today and giving back $200 in public taxpayer money tomorrow.

Or having a credit card with a 100 percent interest rate. Identifying almost no one as having LD or any other disability is not progress.

Have you seen any program anywhere that has a 99 percent success rate?

Do you believe we can “cure” 99 percent of special ed children with LD or any other disability?

Or prevent 99 percent of children from having LD or another disability?

What would motivate a school district to NOT identify 99 percent of students earlier suspected of having a disability?

The answer ranges from the idealistic, I would say Utopian, to simple avoidance of Federal and State law and regs:

(1) they think (and say) that disability does not exist and now they are going to prove it and; (2) they really do believe (and say) that Each and Every child can be proficient on State or Multi-State tests and should be able to go to college: that special ed is counterproductive; (3) because they think it is the right thing to do for all children; (4) they think far too much is spent on kids in special ed when it should be spent on all kids; (5) this is a natural extension of RTI whose original promoters promised a significant reduction in identifications for special ed; (6) if a student is not identified as needing services under IDEA, the school does not have to provide specialized instruction, nor an IEP, nor an FBA or BIP even if needed, etc.; (7) if not identified, or if in RTI, the school is not subject to IDEA or its regs for that child, and neither the parent nor the child have any legal rights under IDEA .  

In fact IDEA so states.

(8) Another direct incentive for schools to non-identify is that they then are NOT subject to State laws and rules, such as any limits on special education class size, etc.

Get Goldman Sachs and Pay for Success out of ESEA reauthorization.

Sign-at-Goldman-Sachs-133-Fleet-Street

-By Bev Johns

We are used to grandiose claims in special education and in education generally.

Now, in Utah, Goldman Sachs Pay for Success claims a success rate of over 99 percent – reducing the need for special education by over 99 percent.

PAY FOR SUCCESS IS NOW IN BOTH THE HOUSE AND THE SENATE ESEA BILLS.

On July 16, 2015, U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) issued a news release stating:

  • The Every Child Achieves Act, as passed by the Senate HELP Committee, includes language that would make Pay for Success initiatives an allowable use of funds through Title I, Part D (Prevention and Intervention Programs for Children and Youth Who are Neglected, Delinquent, or At-Risk) and Title IV, which funds programs addressing student health and safety.
  • On February 26, 2015, the House of Representatives approved a bipartisan amendment to H.R. 5, the Student Success Act, that would make Pay for Success initiatives an allowable use of state and local funds in Title II and in the Teacher and School Leader Flexible Grant, supporting states and school districts in improving student outcomes and saving resources by training and supporting educators.

Please read the following excerpts from the New York Times article on Pay for Success in Utah:

Among the 110 students who had been expected to need special education had they not attended preschool, only one actually required it this year….

Gov. Gary Herbert of Utah and Goldman’s chief executive, Lloyd C. Blankfein, lauded the outcome on Wednesday as a victory for public-private partnerships. 

It is also a public relations victory for Goldman, which has been trying to reform its reputation as an institution focused solely on the bottom line….

The $4.6 million put up by Goldman— and the $2.4 million invested by the Pritzker Family Foundation — went toward expanding an existing preschool program for poor children in Salt Lake County.

The program had already been shown to decrease the need for special education, but it had not been able to expand to meet all of the demand.

The Goldman money — which is more of a loan than a bond — allowed another 595 3- and 4-year-olds to attend preschool last year, in addition to the 2,400 or so other children who were already enrolled.

Of those new students, tests indicated that without preschool, 110 were likely to need special education.

This year, teachers determined that 109 of those pupils did not need special services. 

For each one of them, Goldman and its partner got about $2,500, and will receive that each year, through the six grade, that the students avoid special education, with the amount decreasing in the years after that.

The State of Utah, and some local private charities, are still paying 95 percent of what it would have cost for the special education. But Mr. Roman, at the Urban Institute, said the state would reap significant other savings if the students continued to avoid special education, which is generally associated with higher levels of truancy, juvenile crime and other problems.

Have you made any contact with the national organizations that you belong to? Have you contacted your own US Representative and your 2 US Senators?

Saying to your US Senators: Please remove Pay for Success as an allowable use of funds through Title I, Part D (Prevention and Intervention Programs for Children and Youth Who are Neglected, Delinquent, or At-Risk) and Title IV, which funds programs addressing student health and safety, from the Senate version of ESEA in Conference Committee on the ESEA bill.

Saying to your US Representative: In Conference Committee, please remove from H.R. 5, the Student Success Act, the provision that make Pay for Success initiatives an allowable use of state and local funds in Title II and in the Teacher and School Leader Flexible Grant.

Pay for Success has been used in Utah to prevent 99 percent of children supposedly headed for special education from actually being identified for special education, and paid Goldman Sachs and other investors for each child NOT placed in special education. This is a huge financial incentive to NOT identify children as needing special education, and there is absolutely no research stating 99 percent of students in special education should not be there.

In Chicago, Pay for Success may allow Goldman Sachs to double its investment, depending on how many students are NOT identified for special education.

Logan Square Neighborhood Association among two dozen community organizations opposing Duncan’s turnaround strategy.

The Logan Square Neighborhood Association is a long-time community organization based in the northwest side of Chicago. Logan Square is also where I have lived for the past 35 years.

Yesterday LSNA joined with two dozen other statewide and national community organizations calling themselves Communities for Excellent Public Schools. They issued a report which blasted the Administration’s school turnaround strategy.

In a section of the report called “Top down turnaround – Defying the research,” the organizations say:

Many education experts and advocates have expressed concern over the narrow range of options for school turnaround. Others have decried the lack of mandated public involvement in determining and implementing the interventions. Communities for Excellent Public Schools concurs. Although we wholeheartedly agree with the need for dramatic and meaningful improvements, we believe there are several reasons why the Administration’s limited top-down mandates are both bad policy and bad educational strategy.

NEA on R2T and ESEA.

A friend sent me a column from Huffington by NEA prez Dennis Van Roekel on ESEA reauthorization.

In the typical style of Van Roekel, it is not exactly hard hitting. He’s no Richard Trumka.

There is no place for tyranny — of any type — in our schools. As we move forward to reauthorize this important legislation, we should do so with President Johnson’s words echoing in our hearts. We cannot accept a law that still blames and labels, or establishes winners and losers. Instead, we need a new ESEA that instills a sense of shared responsibility. We must return to the original focus of ESEA — our children — and ensure that the next version of ESEA allows ALL of our children “to scan the farthest reaches of thought and imagination.”

Vague enough for you?

Cut through all that fog and you might find a criticism of the whole notion of competitive grants that was introduced in Race to the Top and looks to be something Arne Duncan wants in ESEA.

But sharp and pointed criticism it is not.

You won’t find much criticism coming from either the AFT or NEA leadership of Race to the Top either. Although ten states affiliates of the NEA wouldn’t sign on to R2T, others did, including the IEA, giving up important collective bargaining rights in the process.

10 million say no to ESEA competitive grants.

17 national education organizations, representing 10 million people, issued a statement expressing their disapproval of R2T style competitive grants as part of ESEA reauthorization.

WASHINGTON, April 7 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Today, the Learning First Alliance, a partnership of 17 national education associations representing over ten million parents, educators and policymakers, released the following statement:

“The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) has been a critical instrument in the federal government’s efforts to promote equity in education. The Learning First Alliance (LFA) believes equity must remain a non-negotiable goal of ESEA reauthorization. We applaud the Obama Administration’s proposal to increase federal resources for public schools in 2011. But we urge Congress to avoid provisions that could undermine, rather than support, equity.

For this reason, ESEA should not divert substantial federal resources into competitive grant programs. This strategy threatens to penalize low-income children in school districts that lack the capacity to prepare effective grant proposals. It risks deepening the disparities between rich and poor districts, effectively denying resources to the students who need them most.”

The Learning First Alliance is a permanent partnership of 17 leading education associations with more than 10 million members dedicated to improving student learning in America’s public schools.  Alliance members include:  the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, American Association of School Administrators, American Association of School Personnel Administrators, American Federation of Teachers, American School Counselor Association, Association of School Business Officials International, Council of Chief State School Officers, National Association of Elementary School Principals, National Association of Secondary School Principals, National Association of State Boards of Education, National Education Association, National Middle School Association, National School Public Relations Association, National Staff Development Council, National PTA, National School Boards Association and Phi Delta Kappa International.  The Alliance maintains www.publicschoolinsights.org, a website that features what’s working in public schools and districts across the country.