California Educator

June/July 2019

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E d u c a t i o n re s e a rc h e r and public education advo- c a t e D i a n e R av i t c h h a s called the portfolio model "the Trojan horse of privat- ization." Ravitch, who served as assistant secretary of education under President George H.W. Bush, writes: "e privatization of public education is a dagger aimed at democracy." Measuring the results of the portfo- lio approach is difficult (the model isn't implemented exactly the same way in any two given cities), and claims by advocates are often based on sketchy evidence. New Orleans, which is often touted as an exam- ple of success, implemented the model in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. But stu- dent and community populations had shifted in the wake of that disaster, some low-performing schools had been shut down altogether, and perhaps having a greater impact than any restructuring, there was a significant influx of new funding (roughly $1,500 more per student) to help the recovering city's schools. Recent evidence suggests that any initial gains may have been short-lived, as recent test scores have been backsliding. In Indi- anapolis, where roughly a third of students now attend charter schools, there is little significant difference in performance between student outcomes at those charters and at traditional public schools. For students enrolled in online charters, the out- comes have been notably worse. Despite mixed results and leading figures like Ravitch sound- ing the alarm, there is big money behind the portfolio idea. e City Fund, an organization formed last year, has raised nearly $200 million to promote the portfolio model in cities across the country. Much of that money is coming from charter school and privatization advocates such as the Walton Family Foundation, Netf lix founder and CEO Reed Hastings, and the Laura and John Arnold Foundation. Underscoring the close link between portfolio advocates and the charter school industry, e City Fund, in its presentation to poten- tial donors, suggested that charter schools should serve 30 to 50 per- cent of students in its target cities. at figure mirrors a 2015 plan by billionaire Eli Broad's foundation to ultimately enroll 50 percent of LAUSD students in charter schools. UTLA credits the long organizing buildup to January's strike and the strike itself as key to Beutner's April revelation that he would not be following through with major changes promoted in the Kitamba report. "We educated our members and the community as to what they were trying to do, and it infuriated them," says Caputo- Pearl. "Our organizing helped people understand the macro strategic plan that was unfolding, and reminded them that LAUSD is a civic institution worth fighting for." In May, Beutner finally released a new version of his plan. Rather than a massive restructuring of the district, the scaled- back proposal focuses more on principals as instructional leaders, geographical alignment of schools assigned to district middle management, and more funding flexibility. e plan is no longer a "reimagining" of the district and was outlined in a memo to the LAUSD Board of Education now simply titled, "e Work Ahead." LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner had a plan to restructure the district and treat schools like disposable stocks in a portfolio. " Our organizing helped people understand the macro strategic plan that was unfolding and reminded them that LAUSD is a civic institution worth fighting for." — UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl 42 Advocacy

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