Skip to main content

Torso of a man in a suit with hands cupped, surrounded by money.
The Detroit Free Press has run an epic and important investigation into Michigan's charter schools this week. The key points:
  • Charter schools spend $1 billion per year in state taxpayer money, often with little transparency.
  • Some charter schools are innovative and have excellent academic outcomes — but those that don’t are allowed to stay open year after year.
  • A majority of the worst-ranked charter schools in Michigan have been open 10 years or more.
  • Charter schools as a whole fare no better than traditional schools in educating students in poverty.
  • Michigan has substantially more for-profit companies running schools than any other state.
  • Some charter school board members were forced out after demanding financial details from management companies.
  • State law does not prevent insider dealing and self-enrichment by those who operate schools.
The result is stuff like this:
In September 2005, Emma Street Holdings bought property on Sibley Road in Huron Township for $375,000. Six days later, Emma Street sold the parcel to Summit Academy North, a charter school, for $425,000.

Who made the quick $50,000 at the school’s expense? The founders of Emma Street, two men with close ties to the school — one was president of Summit’s management company, the other was married to Summit’s top administrator.

Michigan's largest for-profit charter chain responded with a huge ad buy. Eclectablog writes:
My friends at Progress Michigan did some research and found that the typical price for just one day of this type of advertising is $37,500. Multiply that by four days at two newspapers and NHA has spent roughly $300,00, over a quarter million dollars, on this ad campaign.

And it’s only Wednesday.

And the Free Press charter school series runs through Sunday.

Continue reading below the fold for more of the week's labor and education news.

A fair day's wage

  • Just a little local story—but play it out repeatedly around the country and think about the chilling effect it has: Workers say Manhattan's Book Culture bookstore fired them after a successful unionization vote:
    McNamara was fired just hours after the election, along with two of her coworkers at the 112th Street store. All three are now forbidden from entering the bookstore, according to e-mails obtained by Gothamist.

    In those emails, Doeblin also explicitly states that he fired his employees for voting to unionize: “It was indicated to me . . . that two people in our mangament [sic] group voted in the union and effectively undermined the interests of the store. The store always being in opposition to the Union. Unfortunately there is no other recourse but to remove these people from our employ effective immediately.”

    This kind of retaliation is all too common, but it's a shame to see it happening at the kind of independent bookstore you'd otherwise want to patronize.
  • If you're not listening to the Belabored podcast with Sarah Jaffe and Michelle Chen, you should be. This week, they talk to Dave Zirin about the World Cup.
  • Ten reasons we're against unions.
  • A little good news:
    Another major retailer in the United States is giving a boost to its base salary, although the size of the increase will vary from state to state. On Thursday morning, the Swedish furniture retailer IKEA announced that it would be adopting a new wage structure which is expected to increase pay for about 50% of its American employees. The change in company policy will take effect on January 1, 2015.

    The new policy will base entry-level compensation on the MIT Living Wage Calculator, which estimates the wages required “to meet minimum standards of living” in each county of each state. IKEA’s new compensation system will offer different base wages at different store locations, depending on the cost of living in the surrounding area. The average minimum hourly wage across all store locations will become $10.59, a 17% increase from what it is now.

    Of course, workers shouldn't have to hope for a semi-decent employer to make a semi-decent wage.
  • Rosie the Riveters storm National Zoo.
  • Labor hits $10 billion goal for Clinton Global Initiative jobs and infrastructure investment:
    In 2011, the American labor movement made a pledge to the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) to raise $10 billion over the following five years to invest in the nation’s crumbling infrastructure and to boost the sagging job market. [This week], two years ahead of schedule, that pledge was fulfilled.
    $10 billion is a lot, but America's needs are so much greater—and congressional Republicans are standing in the way of the government investment we really need.
  • When it comes to temps, who's the boss?
    Call it the “Who’s the Boss” phenomenon: The business models of many major U.S. companies depend on workers who are legally employed by someone else. Labor groups argue that such sprawling supply chains make it harder to hold companies accountable for abuse, let alone organize the workers involved. Now they’re pushing back: A California bill would put companies on the hook when employees get cheated by their contractors.
  • Women spend nearly an hour per day more on chores than men.
  • A domestic workers bill of rights in Massachusetts:
    The legislation, which passed the House overwhelmingly last week and awaits the governor’s signature, establishes basic rules on working hours, rest breaks and dealing with work-related complaints. Similar to and building upon comparable laws in New York, California and Hawaii, the bill grants domestic workers 24 hours of consecutive rest weekly for 40 hours of work per week, plus overtime for each excess hour worked. Bosses who employ a worker for more than sixteen hours per week must provide the terms of employment, including wages and working conditions, in writing up-front. Workers have formal civil rights protections through the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, giving them recourse against common problems in this sector like sexual harassment and pregnancy discrimination. Workers are also protected from retaliation for complaining about wage violations.


  • Chicago is not done with the layoffs in its schools:
    Chicago Public Schools announced staff layoffs on Thursday for 550 teachers and 600 other members of the Chicago Teachers Union.
    Then there are the teachers and staff at schools that are being closed. And that's all after massive layoffs in 2013. But tell me again how what we should be focusing on in schools is attacking teacher tenure, not fighting for better funding.
  • A teacher who got a teacher of the year award four times in six years tells why he's leaving teaching:
    Every year, our district invents new goals (such as “21st Century Skills”), measuring sticks (most recently a “Growth Calculator”), time-consuming documentation (see “SMART goals”), modified schedules (think block scheduling and an extended school day), and evaluations (look in our seventy-two page “Teacher Performance Plan”).

    As a district, we pretend these are strategic adjustments. They are not. The growth calculator was essentially brought forward out of thin air, SMART goals are a weak attempt to prove we’re actually doing something in the classroom, etc. Bad teachers can game any system; good teachers can lose their focus trying to take new requirements seriously.

    These hoops have distracted me from our priority (students). I’ve concluded it’s no longer possible to do all things well. We need to tear down these hoops and succeed clearly on simple metrics that matter.

    Over the past six years, I can’t remember a time where something was taken off my plate. Expectations continue to increase and we play along until we invent new hoops.

  • In February, Agustin Morales spoke out against "data walls" on which students' test scores were publicly displayed at a school committee meeting in Holyoke, Massachusetts, where Morales is a teacher:

    In May, he was elected president of his union local. In June, his contract was not renewed. Fellow teachers and parents of his students have spoken out in support of Morales, and close to 2,000 people have signed a petition urging the school committee to investigate what looks a lot like the retaliatory firing of an activist—an activist who happens to be one of the few Puerto Rican teachers in an overwhelmingly Puerto Rican school district.

    In New Jersey, another local union president is threatened with firing after he protested against a surveillance system his school district had installed to monitor teachers and students. That teacher, Mike Mignone, is suspended pending a hearing; if he didn't have tenure, he might have just been let go as abruptly as Agustin Morales. Mignone, too, has significant community support.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Labor on Sat Jun 28, 2014 at 10:55 AM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags


More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

  •  Thanks for summarizing, Laura (10+ / 0-)

    I wanted to read this series in depth but lacked the time. You've provided a great service on an important issue.

    And, high praise to the Detroit Free Press for investigating this important issue.

  •  Here in Louisiana Gov. Booby Jindal (11+ / 0-)

    has been trying to privatize schools for years. I think he's just trying to make his Republican buddies rich. (Besides destroying the public school system.)

    "Onward through the fog!" - Oat Willie

    by rocksout on Sat Jun 28, 2014 at 11:23:03 AM PDT

  •  And Eclectablog deserves (12+ / 0-)

    I think considerable credit for his excellent coverage of  charter school abuse in Michigan which may have been the inspiration for the Freep.  


  •  I'm amazed that charters still exist, (8+ / 0-)

    considering the hype was so much better than the outcomes.

    It is ridiculous to pretend that firing teachers based on student test scores, starting charter schools, giving out vouchers or implementing merit pay will overcome the challenges facing a child living in poverty. -Jersey Jazzman

    by Desert Rose on Sat Jun 28, 2014 at 11:29:40 AM PDT

    •  Might as well be amazed that suburbs still exist (6+ / 0-)

      and for much the same reasons.

      Some of our 1% make a ton of money operating charter schools, they are not about to step off that gravy train voluntarily.

      "The problems of incompetent, corrupt, corporatist government are incompetence, corruption and corporatism, not government." Jerome a Paris

      by Orinoco on Sat Jun 28, 2014 at 11:38:55 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Never underestimate the staying power of (9+ / 0-)

      a workable for-profit enterprise.

      Charter owners and operators are siphoning off billions from taxpayers, nation-wide, with little or no accountability.

      Why should they stop? Hell, why should they not put up the fiercest fight of which they are capable?

      To continue the money flow, it's worth using every weapon they've got, including propaganda spread throughout every available outlet.

      Sun Tsu said, among other things, that the highest form of generalship is to sap the opponents will to win. When pro-charter propaganda saturates the public consciousness, there will be less will to fight against something that should be so obviously against the public interest.

      I'm always grateful for Laura's posts, and will always be in awe of the energy of Diane Ravitch.

      •  Well, my amazement is not with the corporatists. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        bear83, quill

        It's with the people who are allowing their great public school system to be dismantled. Diane Ravitch is my personal hero too.

        It is ridiculous to pretend that firing teachers based on student test scores, starting charter schools, giving out vouchers or implementing merit pay will overcome the challenges facing a child living in poverty. -Jersey Jazzman

        by Desert Rose on Sat Jun 28, 2014 at 01:01:24 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  The carnage (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JanL, hbk, bobcat41702, bear83

    Since Bush was appointed President with the help of "Justice" Roberts who is now Chief Justice, all public sectors have been damaged not counting the massive Wall Street crime and criminal "shock and awe" in Iraq.  Once charter schools have captured public school buildings and tax-payer money,  they are in place to cherry-pick their students, hire cheap teachers and reap their profits.  Same for health care.  They bought and closed community hospitals so the big health care cartels could capture that market.  Same for prisons now private.  Same for mining in public parks and polluting rivers.  They broke it, but they never fix it.  It is all about doing the Romney and parking their profits tax-free off-shore.  The call this "free market" capitalism, but it is really modeled on the mafia power-structure or any criminal cartel.

    •  No, GW Bush nominated Roberts to court 7/19/2005 (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      When Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist died on September 3, 2005, Bush withdrew his Roberts nomination and instead nominated Roberts to be Chief Justice.

      SCOTUS's appointment of GW Bush to the White House occured under Rehnquist and predated Roberts arrival on the court.

      •  Not quite (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        Roberts headed the legal team advising Jeb and ended with bringing Bush-Gore to the SC. His payoff for winning, the Chief Justiceship.

        •  Thanks. Incredibly important link that explains... (0+ / 0-)

          why John Roberts is chief justice. Although that diary has only 23 comments, it explains with documentation why John Roberts became chief justice. of the United States.

          John Roberts reward for helping to install GW Bush in White House

          That excellent and deeply informative diary is penned by Karen Hedwig Backman

          My earlier comment was directed to the wording "Since Bush was appointed President with the help of "Justice" Roberts... " which suggests Roberts was chief justice when SCOTUS installed GW Bush in the White House. Karen Hedwig Backman's diary demonstrates that was not the case.

          More on this from The New Yorker in an outstanding profile of Ted Cruz by Jeffrey Toobin: THE ABSOLUTIST Ted Cruz is an unyielding debater—and the far right’s most formidable advocate.
          (JUNE 30, 2014)
          in which Toobin writes:

          ...When the result of the 2000 campaign devolved into a legal struggle over the vote in Florida, Cruz was well situated to play an important role. By the Thursday after Election Day, he was in Tallahassee. “Through an odd bit of serendipity, it happened that I was the only practicing lawyer, and, in particular, constitutional litigator, who had been on the full-time campaign team,” Cruz told me.

          “One of the realities of the recount and life is that lawyers and political folks don’t really speak the same language. By the accident of being in that place I found myself, there was sort of a small leadership team that consisted of Jim Baker and Josh Bolten and Ted Olson and George Terwilliger and Ben Ginsberg and me. And I’m twenty-nine years old, this kid, and all of these other folks are Cabinet members and masters of the universe.”

          Ginsberg, the national counsel to the Bush campaign, and his associates set up seven teams of lawyers to address the sprawling controversies generated by the recount, and Cruz was the only lawyer who served on all seven. His job was to encourage communication and assure consistent positions.

          “I’ve been amused at some of the subsequent descriptions of Bush versus Gore, because they sort of described us as this fine-oiled machine with a careful strategy,” Cruz said. “It was one tiny notch slightly below utter chaos.”

          Cruz’s initial assignment was to assemble a legal team. His first call was to his former mentor Carvin, who wound up representing Bush before the Florida Supreme Court. Cruz’s second call was to a Washington lawyer named John Roberts. “John had been a friend and a Rehnquist clerk—I’ve known John a long time,” Cruz said. “Everyone we called, without exception, dropped everything and came down. And for a young lawyer, I mean, it was a breathtaking and humbling experience to get the chance to carry the bag and work alongside some of the most talented lawyers in the country.”

          Conservatives have long denounced liberal judges and lawyers for judicial activism—that is, for using the courts to overrule the work of the democratically elected branches of government. Roe v. Wade, which invalidated state laws banning abortion around the country, is the consummate act of liberal judicial activism. In the eighties and nineties, however, as Reagan nominees began to dominate the federal judiciary, conservatives began to use the courts for their own political ends as well. Conservatives like Cruz never stopped denouncing liberals for their efforts to use the courts to promote their ideological agenda, even as they began to do much the same thing themselves. The heart of Cruz’s legal career was a sustained and often successful undertaking to use the courts for conservative ends, like promoting the death penalty, lowering the barriers between church and state, and undermining international institutions and agreements.

          So, John Roberts and Ted Cruz, two peas in a pod.
          •  Florida Law (0+ / 0-)

            Florida law required a state-wide recount as do many states when the results are close and in question.  Gore made a mistake only asking for a few recounts.  If the entire state had received its legal recount, Gore would have won by a small margin.  Jeb Bush's flunky Katherine Harris would have sent the election to the House to decide.  Bush would have probably won.  Scalia's son worked for the Bush election.  He should have recused himself.  It was, to me, the beginning of obvious illegality that was a trademark of the Bush years and remains a major part of Republican habits today; not to give the Third Way Democrats a free pass.
            I agree my wording about "Justice" Roberts was not precise.  He is known to have helped arrange the SCOTUS decision to "select" Bush President for which he was later rewarded.

    •  Security guards will replace teachers when (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      grimjc, quill, qofdisks

      students are hooked up to computers loaded with programmed instruction in large classrooms.  Students will then be able to pass minimal skills testing and schools will be declared a success.
      The actual costs and results will also be minimal.  But what the hell?  You don't need smart citizens for a successful oligarchy.

      Putting the fun back in dysfunctional.

      by hawkseye on Sat Jun 28, 2014 at 01:28:46 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Karen Lewis' challenge to Rahm in Chicago race (0+ / 0-)
  •  WalMart union workers win - Canadian Supreme Court (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    The Supreme Court of Canada has sided with the union representing former Wal-Mart employees who claimed the company violated Quebec labour law when it abruptly closed its store in Jonquière, Que., not long after the workers voted to unionize.

    In a 5-2 decision delivered Friday morning, the court ruled that the 190 employees who were terminated when the store was closed are entitled to compensation.

    The Wal-Mart employees in Jonquière became the first in North America to be unionized when they joined the union in 2004.

    The court found Wal-Mart did not adequately prove the four-year-old store was in financial difficulty.
  •  Florida (0+ / 0-)

    Sends millions of taxpayer money to charter schools, yet the charter schools do no have to follow any testing guidelines (FCAT) that the public schools have to follow. No accountability at all. None, zero, zilch.

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site