Saturday, February 4, 2017

More Frightening Revelations About Betsy DeVos. Please Help Stop this Appointment!

This is your last chance to help stop a very dangerous anti-public education individual from being appointed to the highest education position in the nation! Betsy DeVos is not only one of the least qualified persons ever for U. S. Education Secretary (she has not one bit of training or experience in public education), but recent revelations have uncovered her investments in a highly suspicious, possibly fraudulent pseudo-educational scheme to extract high fees from parents of students and citizens with learning disabilities! Why would we appoint someone who stands to profit from highly questionable schemes possibly fleecing parents of children who are most at-risk?

I am talking about the fact that Betsy DeVos, President Trump's nominee for U. S. Secretary of Education, is a major investor in a company called Neurocore, which claims to retrain the brains of persons and children with various learning disabilities. See this article in The New York Times that highlights the fact that DeVos has refused to dispose of her investments in Neurocore. Here is the actual Neurocore web site. Look at their slick promotion and judge for yourself if this may be a scam.

This company charges very high fees to often desperate parents to "retrain the brains" of children with ADHD or autism, who have trouble concentrating in school. The problem is that there is not one shred of real, peer reviewed research showing that this "retraining" works. Yet the Neurocore company has announced plans to expand nationwide and possibly offer their services to schools in many states.The whole thing looks suspiciously like a flat out scam (sort of like Trump University). The DeVos investment company is considered the biggest investor in this "educational" company. In my opinion Trump University (which was required to refund millions in fees to its customers) looks like a much more reputable scheme than this outfit.

So here's the situation that applies to the person nominated to implement the education policies of our nation for the next 4 years:

  • DeVos is possibly the biggest national proponent of privatizing public education. The companies she has helped promote in Michigan using huge political contributions to both state and federal legislators, are mostly for-profit companies who have a very poor record of educating children
  • The DeVos fortune was accumulated mostly by an inheritance from the AmWay founder who has extracted billions from what is considered more of a pyramid scheme than an a legitimate business
  • Betsy DeVos did not attend, and has never been trained for any public education purpose
  • Now we find that she refuses to separate herself from a possibly fake education company that could stand to make millions by using her influence to greatly expand its business.
What can we do? Time is running out. The vote on the DeVos appointment is scheduled in the U.S. Senate on Monday or Tuesday of this coming week. We can all telephone the offices of our two U.S. Senators and leave a message with their staff that we want them to vote "no" on the Betsy DeVos appointment for the position of U. S. Secretary of Education. Here are the office phone for your two Senators. Office hours are 9 to 5 Eastern time:
Senator John Kennedy - Washington DC phone: 202-224-4623. Fax; 202-228-0447
Senator Bill Cassidy- Washington DC phone 202-224-5824. Fax: 202-224-9735

Many Senators have reported a huge volume of phone calls and faxes from parents and educators opposing this appointment. These calls are making a difference! Right now, we are just one Senate vote short of blocking this nomination. This is critical!

Important note: Sometimes the regular phone number for Senators are tied up or busy, so many public education supporters nationwide have resorted to sending a fax. The fax method of messaging may have the advantage that it could be sent outside of regular office hours. So you may start by sending a fax now, and then following up with a phone call during office hours.

Monday, January 30, 2017

The Hidden Facts About Cuts to Public Education

This article in the Baton Rouge Advocate by reporter Will Sentell describes the dilemma faced by Governor Edwards as he attempts to balance the out-of-balance state budget by trimming proposed funding to public schools.

As usual, the Advocate education writer omits important facts about education funding and avoids telling the truth about forces that are aligned against public education and proper funding for our children's education. Please help me inform the taxpayers, parents, and public educators about the critical facts on the continued defunding of public education at the same time that many wasteful privatization schemes are being promoted for our public school dollars. I hope my readers will share these little known facts with your Facebook friends, twitter followers, as well as in your direct contacts with educators and parents.

The important fact that is being omitted in this article, is that the legislature has chosen to saddle our local school boards with paying for another 38 million dollars in unfunded liability to our teacher retirement system. This is an extra liability that was created by the legislature itself because of benefits and costs that were never voted upon by local school boards or citizens. If the state freezes the MFP, all of the burden of this state mandated cost will have to be produced by reducing educational services to children and/or benefits to educators. But to add insult to injury, the legislature has provided an exemption  from these costs to charter schools and voucher schools. You see, charter schools are not required by the legislature to participate in the teacher retirement system, so they are also exempted from making these payments to the unfunded liability. As more and more charter schools are added by BESE, the cost of the unfunded liability assessed to our local school boards grows and grows, and our teacher retirement system is endangered.

That's why I am happy that the Louisiana Association of educators has sued to prohibit these state approved charter schools being funded using the MFP. So far the district court has ruled in favor of the LAE and local school boards, but the case is being appealed to the state supreme court and BESE continues to approve more charters.

Another insult to the real public schools is that charter schools that are approved by BESE over the objection of our local school boards are still allowed to get their full proportion of both sate and local tax dollars even though they are exempted from some of the costs of operating schools. For example, any student who resides in a particular Parish or City system that chooses to attend one of the online virtual charter schools approved by the state gets 90% of the MFP and the local school taxes from that parish even though the charter school is exempted from providing school buildings, school lunches, bus transportation, janitorial services and teacher retirement benefits. (That's a hell of a lot more than the 10% cut.) What a huge windfall of our tax dollars that are diverted as profit to the virtual charter managers! The other loophole is that even though the charter school may be non-profit, the management of the school is farmed out to a far-profit company that can keep as much of our tax money as they choose as profit by hiring the cheapest non-certified teachers and depriving students of many services required of the real public schools.

So when Caroline Roemer, Executive Director of the LA Charter Schools Association is quoted as saying "charter schools face the same concerns as traditional public schools", we need to point out that this is far from being true.

Bridgette Neiland who represents the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry (LABI) is pushing to remove as much school funding as possible from the MFP  and replacing those funds with lower amount of undedicated funds so that they can be subject to cuts in the future. She said that part of the reason for the position of the big business lobby on school funding is that education leaders have resisted reforms of the teacher retirement system. This statement is actually code for saying that educators have resisted having the retirement benefits of teachers cut as a way of minimizing school taxes on big business.  

As you can see from the previous post on this blog, President Trump believes that our public schools are "flush with cash but that is depriving our beautiful children of all knowledge", there is now both a state and national effort underway to starve our public schools while continuing to promote the raiding of our tax dollars by charter and voucher "entrepreneurs".  His secretary of education nominee ,  Betsy DeVoss is totally dedicated to privatization at the expense of the real public schools.

These are the real facts about the proposed funding cuts to public education. Please help pass them on because you cannot expect The Advocate to include them in their education articles.