Thursday, February 25, 2016

Corporate Education to arrive in South Bend 2017

We knew it was just a matter of time.  Per the South BendTribune:

A national chain of charter schools has signaled it wants to open a school in downtown South Bend that will enroll as many as 900 students. 
TeamCFA Foundation has notified the Indiana Charter School Board — one of a handful of current charter school authorizers in Indiana — that it intends to apply to open a kindergarten through eighth-grade school here in the fall of 2017.

Though South Bend has some charter schools now -  Success and Career Academies, Veritas, and Xavier all have been developed locally and are fairly small.  TeamCFA is another kettle of fish entirely.  The Trib continues:

TeamCFA currently serves more than 7,000 students in 15 schools across the Southwest, the Southeast and the Midwest.

 TeamCFA also features the organization structure those of us who follow the corporate education movement have become all too familiar with.  The schools operate via the non-profit entity  (as required by law).  But guess who they'll pay for facilities and services?  Why yes, you are correct - their for-profit entity .  And all that money will be diverted from the South Bend School Corporation schools.

Here's another big difference.  The charter schools we have now seem perfectly willing to take on students from challenged backgrounds.  That's probably why their test scores are fairly low in the local range.  But it's important to know that they don't have to.  And TeamCFA is all about building the brand, so it's pretty safe to assume they will be more selective.

Also, they are not obligated to pay teachers at the level earned in the SBCSC, nor insist on the same levels of qualification.  We will likely see at least some Teach For America folks with no education degree and a total of five weeks of training under their belts.

And like other charters, they don’t have to answer to a democratically elected school board if things go wrong.

So who's behind TeamCFA?  Well, there are a 
couple of finance guys and a guy with no bio .  The other two deserve an even closer look;

First the Ed Rephorm maven:

William M. Steinbrook, Jr. Reverend William “BJ” Steinbrook organized and established the Challenge Foundation as a leader in K–12 educational grant making with grants totaling $55,000,000. He serves as the Executive Director of the foundation and continues to direct the overall program for grant making, staffing, and operations through which he has planned and carried out a highly successful national initiative to start exemplary K–12 public charter schools. Rev. Steinbrook is also the founding Executive Director of the Trust for School Reform, which became a leading national foundation supporting K–12 educational reform. He has served as a member of the Center for Education Reform, Philanthropy Roundtable, and Alliance for School Choice helping direct national school reform efforts.  
Reverend Steinbrook has an undergraduate degree in Sociology from Oklahoma State University and Divinity degrees from Princeton and Columbia Theological Seminaries. He has served pastorates in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania and Atlanta, Georgia. He has also served on several local charter school boards in Indiana, North Carolina and Arizona.

 Then the Koch fiend:

Ryan Stowers Mr. Ryan Stowers is Director of Higher Education at the Charles Koch Foundation. CKF supports research and education programs across the United States with grants to organizations interested in exploring the relationships between free societies, societal progress, and wellbeing. Mr. Stowers also serves on the board of the Bill of Rights Institute, an organization dedicated to educating high school students on America's founding principles. Mr. Stowers is a Member of the Board for the Association of Private Enterprise, which works to advance the ideas of free enterprise in academic research and teaching. 
Prior to joining the Charles Koch Foundation in 2005, Mr. Stowers was program manager of the National Research Initiative at the American Enterprise Institute. He earned a BA in liberal arts and an MS in political economy from Utah State University. 

 I don't see anyone who looks like a friend to public education in this group.

So how have things gone are schools they run?  Not a lot of news shows up on a search, but they did have
 some trouble in the Phoenix  

Following a failed attempt to remove Ridgeline Academy’s director Keven Barker at an ad hoc meeting over winter break, TeamCFA, the school’s umbrella organization, decided to jettison the charter school it helped establish in 2012. The school plans to continue operating.  
TeamCFA’s announcement came as a surprise in the form of a letter posted on Ridgeline Academy’s website Jan. 14, notifying the school, staff and community of its intent to dissolve its affiliation with Ridgeline. 
“It has become evident that the community and parents are happy with the school that they currently have at Ridgeline Academy and the continued support of TeamCFA is no longer desired by the school community,” stated Cheryl Reinstadler, TeamCFA’s director of operations.

 Then there was that kerfluffle in North Carolina.

The Thomas Jefferson Classical Academy, a public charter school in Rutherford County, is quick to promote the school’s high SAT test scores and international field trips to China, Europe and South America.  
But not as widely advertised is the Western North Carolina public school’s connection to John Bryan, a retired Oregon business executive and significant funder of the conservative school choice movement.  
Nor is the school’s annual diaper drive for a local anti-abortion religious group, an activity that an expert says violates the Constitutional separation of church and state. 
Bryan’s $37 million family trust, the Challenge Foundation, contributes heavily and regularly to conservative causes like challenging global warming research and scaling back government in addition to lending its name to public schools like the Thomas Jefferson charter school. 
He’s a national figure in libertarian circles when it comes to charter schools, and spoke last June about the push to expand charter schools at an annual retreat held by the billionaire Koch brothers, according to a copy of the retreat’s agenda obtained by the Center for American Progress.

It doesn't seem much of a reach to think that this operation is a K-12 variant of the increasing Koch Alliance's infiltration of higher education.  As public institutions of higher education suffer funding cutbacks, KA offers the carrot of money, in exchange for curriculum influence.

But the real beauty for TeamCFA is they get to it at the taxpayers direct expense - and their own profit.

Their proposed location is an interesting one.  Short-range plans for the downtown area are likely to create something of a de-facto gated community.  The streets are to be narrowed dramatically to discourage through traffic, and a substantial number of high-end living units are due to come on line. TeamCFA may well be calculating they can take advantage of the new population of advantaged students who can walk to school.

This syphoning off the easier to educate (hence, cheaper to educate) kids will increase the burden on the South Bend Community School Corporation.  SBCSC will lose funding for those kids and will likely experience new problems.

Just as TeamCFA planned.  But they will likely be there to help us out with another charter school.


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