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The Hoax of Waiting for Superman


Ohanian Comment: Deb Mayer provides the kind of research-based movie review we need--showing that the issues besetting public schools aren't Republican vs. Democrat or Conservative vs. Liberal. We face Corporate America vs. us--and we are losing. For further elucidation of this point, take a look at The Left Right Paradigm is Over: It's You vs. Corporations.

by Deb Mayer


Something smells here. And it isn't the fresh, crisp, fall scent of number two Ticonderoga's.

Professional educators are going to take a major hit in the coming months and the Billionaire Boys Club couldn’t be happier.

The promotion of the movie Waiting for Superman has been nothing less than phenomenal for an education documentary. Ophra aired two shows about it, all pie and sunshine. Don’t be fooled by the hype. This is just another in a series of hoaxes perpetrated on the American public by the very wealthy. We have something they want-- the minds of our children!

The movie trailer will invite you to take a pledge. Take the pledge = drink the kool-aid. Before you drink it, join me in examining super charter school, KIPP, and one of its co-founders, David Levin.

The movie promotes Uncommon Schools, but since many financial records seem to be missing or incomplete on that particular charter management corporation (CMO), I chose KIPP instead. I’m not going to elaborate on the movie which idolizes corporate charter schools and Teach for America-type pseudo-teachers while lambasting professional educators. I’m more interested in exploring the history of the past twenty years and examining the flagship of the charters: KIPP. The movement to privatize our public schools likely had its beginnings when the good folks at Morgan Stanley offered a suite of offices (valued at $500,000 a year) to Wendy Kopp and a group of other freshly graduated college students to start Teach for America (One Day All Children, Wendy Kopp, 2001, p.23). Kopp, who has zero education credentials, boasts of simply asking millionaires for a million dollars a pop and receiving it — a tradition that continues to this day.

Eli Broad, Bill Gates, the Waltons of Wal-Mart, the Dells of Dell computer, and the Fishers of the GAP, big banks, and some hedge fund managers are among the biggest players in "education reform." The formation of the NewSchools Venture Fund in 1998 jettisoned the movement, and President Obama and Congress endorse it, but that doesn’t mean that it’s a good idea for kids, education, or you, the taxpayer. From The Broad Foundation Annual Report 2009/2010: Entrepreneurship for The Public Good in Education, Science, and the Arts (emphasis added):


The election of President Barack Obama and his appointment of Arne Duncan, former CEO of Chicago Public Schools, as the U.S. secretary of education, marked the pinnacle of hope for our work in education reform. In many ways, we feel the stars have finally aligned.
With an agenda that echoes our decade of investments—charter schools, performance pay for teachers, accountability, expanded learning time and national standards—the Obama administration is poised to cultivate and bring to fruition the seeds we and other reformers have planted.


KIPP charter schools came onto the radar when Rod Paige of teachers are terrorists fame was appointed Secretary of Education by George W. Bush. (You may read about the type of education KIPP delivers to children in Would you send your child to this school? -- Eleven-month school year, nine-and-a-half hour school days, every other Saturday, two hours of homework, no frills, and so on.) Two wannabee teachers, David Levin and Mike Feinberg, both Teach for America recruits, wanted to start a school, and Rod Paige gave them a chance. Jay Mathews chronicles their attempt at teaching in his book Work Hard. Be Nice: How two inspired teachers created the most promising schools in America (gag), 2009, page 23:

By the end of September, both Levin and Feinberg were wondering if the Teach for America idea had been a mistake. They had not considered when they worked out their plan for the salvation of public education, that they would be such terrible teachers.

Any professional teacher would have been fired for falsifying credentials, man-handling students, packing kids into the back of a U-Haul moving van to transport them on a field trip, and many other egregious violations documented in the book. Warning: If you are a professional educator or someone who cares about kids, you need a strong stomach to read this book.

KIPP stands for Knowledge Is Power Program. It comes from a chant Levin teaches his students:

The more you read,
The more you know.
Knowledge is power,
Power is money, and
I want it.

That chant seems to have resonated with David Levin who, according to IRS reports, does quite well for himself as Superintendent/Trustee of KIPP Academy Charter School in New York City. Some educators worry about what privatized corporate education will look like. Will "education reform" mean high CEO salaries, bonuses, and elaborate getaways for employees while scrimping on teacher salaries, curriculum, equipment and supplies for kids? Not to worry. The future is now.

A cursory look at IRS Form 990(2008) for some KIPP entities signals the future of privatized corporate charter schools. This information is available through the IRS and other sources. This is by no means a complete report on the income of Levin whose tax return is private. This is what I was able to surmise after searching only one hour on Guidestar at the public library.

As a co-founder and director of KIPP Foundation, Levin works 40 hours a week for $148,492 in salary.

As superintendent and trustee of KIPP Academy Charter School, Levin works 40 hours a week for $202,264 in salary and benefits.

As superintendent and director of KIPP New York, Inc., and superintendent and trustee of KIPP Infinity Charter School, KIPP AMP Academy Charter School, and KIPP STAR College Prep Charter School, Levin works a total of 20 hours without compensation.

In total, according to IRS documents, in 2008, David Levin worked 100 hours a week at six KIPP affiliated organizations for $350,756.

Smell it?

But that's only the tip of the iceberg. At KIPP Academy Charter School in New York, where Levin is principal (CEO), nine people are on the payroll making more than $100,000 a year, two of whom are teachers, in a school that enrolls only 253 students. In addition, another $4,304,147 is paid out in "other salaries and wages" for a total of $5,305,109.

Let's do a quick calculation. The total in "other salaries and wages," divided by the typical number of employees required to generously staff a school enrolling 253 students including secretaries, teachers, teacher assistants, maintenance workers, cafeteria workers, nurses, therapists, and others for a total of 50 employees. Now let's pay them all equally just to make the calculation a simple one. That's $4,304,147 divided by 50 employees.

Every employee would make over $86,000 excluding benefits.

Smell it?

Let's do another calculation.

KIPP Academy Charter School reports total expenses at $7,786,923, divide that amount by 253 and you arrive at the per student expenditure, or $30,778. KIPP receives only $3,441,389 from the government or $13,602 per student.

Do CMOs like KIPP intend to subsidize all charters to this extent?

The per pupil expenditure is $30,778, but the government only provides $13,602.

Smell it?

One more thing.

Over the past two years, KIPP Foundation has spent over $2,000,000 on luxury hotels including but not limited to: the Scottsdale Fairmont Princess Resort in Arizona ($671,651), the Red Rock Casino and Resort in Las Vegas ($169,657), the Chicago Hilton ($89,332), and the Grand Hyatt in Chicago ($907,079).

I’m guessing these are not field trip expenses and the participants did not arrive in U-Haul moving vans.

Smell it?

Currently, KIPP is a public charter school network supported by our tax dollars. Information on many other public corporate school networks can be found at Education Watch at the Great Schools for America website. I encourage you to choose any one of the nonprofit charter school networks and look into the financial records. Imagine Schools is a good place to start.

While these amounts may not be substantial by Wall Street standards, the enormity of these expenses in the education profession is outrageous. Taking candy from babies.

When I had the documents scrutinized by a Certified Public Accountant, he said with authority there seems to be corruption here.

We have a constitution and case law to protect the right of our children to an equitable education. The President, the Congress, and the Billionaire Boys seem to have forgotten that. If the wealthiest Americans are able to usurp our neighborhood public schools, we will truly have lost democracy.

Something's rotten in these United States of America.

Smell it?

— Deb Mayer
Great Schools for America blog

2010-09-25

http://greatschoolsforamerica.org/wordpress/?p=284

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