Friday, October 18, 2013

The Fools Folly Of College And Career Readiness

Last night I had the incredible honor or watching my brother get inducted into the Distinguished Alumni Hall of Fame at our alma mater. We both attended Hopewell Valley Central High School, I graduated in 86, he in 87.  My readers know what I do, but most likely don't know that my brother is a celebrated chef in Los Angeles. He is the Chef/Owner of two restaurants; Providence, which was just named by Pulitzer Prize winning food writer Jonathan Gold as the Best Restaurant in Los Angeles, and Connie & Ted's, named after our maternal grandparents and one of the "hottest new spots in town."

As my brother pointed out in his speech last night, he was not a stellar high school student.  (Neither was I.) Family legend is that he got a 16 one quarter in Algebra. Or as he put it, his GPA would have made a better ERA.

Michael and I attended a top notch high school, had dynamic teachers and expansive course offerings. We simply were not engaged enough in our education to take advantage of them. Neither of us applied ourselves in high school, and didn't make the most of the incredible opportunities presented to us. 

Our mom was very active in our schools; the PTA President and Booster Club kind of mom.  In fact, when we first moved to Hopewell and attended the local elementary school parents complained that the playground was insufficient. My mom single handedly rallied parents, raised money and organized construction of a new one. One year in high school there were more pictures of HER in my yearbook than there were of ME. She never missed a sporting event for either one of us. She was that kind of mom.

She was amazing, and a force to be reckoned with. But she only had a high school diploma, and simply did not know how to help us make our school work a priority. Conversely, our father has a PhD in Organic Chemistry, but worked 12 hours a day and spent the majority of the rest of his time in his study as he steadily climbed the corporate ladder at a pharmaceutical company, eventually retiring as the Senior Vice President of Research and Development. 

But by the time we were in high school our parents were divorced, we lived with our mom, and there was no focus on academics in our home. School remained a place where we were both connected through athletics, activities and friends, but we failed to thrive academically. 

If we had been subjected to the rigorous high stakes standardized tests now inflicted upon students, I can only imagine how turned off we would have become. And if rich athletic programs had not been available, I wonder what would have kept us motivated at all.

There is no way standardized tests would have predicted either my brother or I were capable of future success in college or career.

But look at what we have accomplished. 

My brother runs not one but two multi-million dollars restaurants, has cooked for four
With his chefs after defeating Morimoto on Iron Chef
presidents and a pope, and perhaps most impressively, he defeated Iron Chef Morimoto in an epic Black Fish Battle. He has become a nationally acclaimed master of his craft, as well as a devoted champion of sustainable fishing practices. 

I helped rally my entire community to defeat an unwanted charter school that had been rubber stamped by the USDOE, and my epic battle was featured in the New York Times. I am running for my local school board, and look forward to working hard to continue to protect public education not only in my community, but my state as well. Diane Ravitch has named me to her honor roll, calling me a "hero of public education."

Not too shabby.

Michael has graciously agreed to allow me to publish his speech.  I think it demonstrates that while some kids may not be advanced proficient or maybe even proficient on a standardized test, and may not even thrive in the classroom, we should never, ever count them out. Public education is an invaluable structure and support, especially for the kids who have not yet found their passion, and there is no telling what any one of those students is capable of achieving.

Just because a kid can't pass a test or get good grades in school does not mean they will not be a success in life.

There simply is no way a standardized test can measure which kids will be a success in college or career because the will, drive and desire to be successful can only come when someone finds their true passion. Michael found it in his 20's, I didn't find it until my 40's.  

And that's OK. In fact, it's pretty damn great.

Without further ado, here's Michael's speech.
First, I would like to thank Principal Daher for bestowing this honor upon me. When my wife of 18 years, Cristina Echiverri first forwarded an email informing me that I had been chosen for this distinction, I have to admit, I thought it was a joke. Clearly, somewhere along the line, the administration had lost my high school transcripts. After a few emails back and forth it became clear that the administration wasn't joking. So now that I'm  here, 26 years after graduation, what should I tell you that might be of use? Perhaps we should start here in the halls of HoVal. 
I've already made it clear that I was not what one might call a model student.  My GPA would have made a great ERA, but alas, we're not talking about baseball.  There were subjects taught here at HoVal that interested me, like English and History, there were teachers, like Jim Byrnes who knew how to inspire me, but to be frank, I just didn't apply myself. The benefit of hindsight has made me realize that this was a mistake. I'm sure that there are some of you listening to me right now, who are bored with school, you're smart enough to be successful, but utterly disinterested. I would like to say to you that your best course of action is to stay engaged, stay involved and don't let these years pass without giving high school your best effort. 
Michael delivers commencement address at the
Culinary Institute of America in 2011
I graduated in 1987 without much of a plan. I had always liked eating and grew up a fan of Julia Child and so I thought I would give professional cooking a go. Through my aunt I was able to set up an apprenticeship at a French bakery in Bethesda, Maryland. From there I moved back to Hopewell and was lucky enough to land a job at the Forager House in New Hope, Pennsylvania, just across the river from Titusville. It was one of the best restaurants in the area, and one that I had been to several times growing up. Once, at the age of 11 or 12 I was brought back into the cramped kitchen of the Forager House to meet the Chef, Richard Burrows. It seems I had impressed the Maitre d with my knowledged of French food, all learned watching Julia Child on PBS. Little did I know that years later I would find a mentor in Chef Barrows in that very same kitchen. Cooking in professional kitchens turned out to be the perfect fit for a young person like myself. The first few years of my career were some of the most exciting years of my life. I learned something every day, a new technique, a new skill, a new recipe. I thrived on the excitement of cooking in professional kitchens. I learned about the history of fine cuisine. I learned about language and culture, the history of ingredients, great chefs and great nations. I found that to learn about the Cuisine of Italy or France or Japan is to learn something of their culture, their language, their people and their history. It was all learning all the time. I loved it then and I still do. I continue to learn something new every day and I am so thankful to have found and fell in love with the Craft that is Cooking. The most important things that I've learned are the things I've learned about myself. I learned that that I did have the ability to be a good student and that I have abilities that didn't reveal themselves while in high school. 
The recipe for success in school and success in the professional world share many similar ingredients such as hard work, dedication, perseverance and planning. My shortcomings in high school fell away as I entered professional kitchens and later as a student at the Culinary Institute of America. I became the type of student I should and could have been all along. The difference was me, I decided that school was important to me, worthy of my full effort and key to my future. Once I made my culinary education a priority my life and my career came into focus. Since graduating from school I have cooked in new York, Paris, Seoul and Japan, I have cooked for 4 presidents and Pope John Paul the 2nd. My wife Cristina and I have opened 2 successful restaurants in LA, where we employ over 200 people and we've had two beautiful children, Isabella and Dante. I can tell you without reservation, none of this would have been possible were it not for education. The education I speak of I received, for the most part, on the job in fine kitchens under the tutelage of great chefs. Education is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as follows: the process of receiving or giving systematic instruction, especially by a school or university  If there is one message that I can get across to you today it would be this; Life is an education, every hour of every day you are surrounded by knowledge. Don't squander opportunities to learn and make the most of the opportunities presented to you here at Hopewell Valley Central High School. (all emphases mine)
One of the highlights of the evening for me was that Michael was introduced by my mentor, my high school art teacher, Dr. Robert O'Boyle. Without a word of a lie, were it not for Dr. O'Boyle (back then he was just Mr. O'Boyle) I would not have gone to college right out of high school. Like Michael, I was heading toward graduation with no real plan. Dr. O'Boyle and my mom practically tackled me and made me fill out an application to art school. I filled out one application, and one application only, and much to my surprise I was accepted. 

Once I was accepted I think I just figured I might as well go...

Talking with Dr. O'Boyle last night was incredibly moving. He remains one of my biggest supporters and believers in my talent, which is touching beyond words. He came bearing a gift for me of a drawing pad and art supplies, intended to remind me of my talent and to continue to nurture it. 

He told us that in one of his classes yesterday, after the assembly where Michael delivered his speech, one of his students remarked that hearing Michael's story made him realize that maybe there were more possibilities open to him than he had realized.

And to me, that's the crux. 

This cockamamie idea that state Departments of Education can assess college and career readiness in kids as young as Kindergarten is, in my opinion, reckless and destructive. To tell a student they are not college or career ready at ANY point in their academic life is simply wrong. You never know when someone will begin to make that journey, and no one should be penalized for not doing it soon enough to please the a bureaucrat in Trenton. 

Life is full of twists and turns. It is the role of schools and educators to be a constant source of knowledge, wonder and encouragement, like Dr. O'Boyle. A constant force for good, creating lifelong learners, pushing students to push themselves and be their best.

But ultimately the drive has to come from within, and it simply can not be assessed or measured.

To believe it can be is the folly of fools.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Fix Em, Don't Close Em. Or Better Yet, Stop Opening Em!

This comes straight out of the "I couldn't make this &%$# up if I tried" file.
A charter school in Philadelphia announced Friday, via its website, that it is closing its doors effective immediately due to “safety concerns and financial instability.”
Solomon Charter School, located in the 1200 block of Vine Street in Center City, posted a letter on its website Friday by acting CEO David Weathington.
The letter starts off “it is with regret that I announce the closing of Solomon Charter on October 11, 2013.”
Just to be clear.  On Friday the charter's CEO/Principal (I hate school leaders calling themselves CEOs...) announced the school would close on Monday. 

Can anyone even imagine reading a letter like this from their child's school?

Here's a list of things I find peculiar about this particular closure, in no particular order.

1.  Solomon Charter School was approved as a CYBER charter school, so someone has to explain to me how there were "safety concerns." They did also have a "brick and mortar" facility (they annoyingly refer to their delivery model as "brick and click") but if the majority of their instruction was supposed to be online, shouldn't there be an easy way around any such concerns?

2.  Solomon Charter School wasn't just a cyber charter, they were also a language immersion charter, teaching both Chinese and Hebrew language.  A recent report in the Jewish Exponent marveled that Solomon was teaching Hebrew but had not managed to enroll any Jewish students.
Solomon, which opened in September, offers a rare Yin and Yang of Hebrew and Chinese and embodies a fairly new educational model: It’s part cyber school and part bricks-and-mortar academy.

Solomon is believed to be the only public school in the region currently offering Hebrew. In the past, it has been offered in the Philadelphia school district, Lower Merion High School and several other suburban schools.

What it doesn’t have —which may appear odd for a school with a kosher kitchen, a Hebrew curriculum and an early closing on Friday afternoon for Shabbat  — are any Jewish students.

Not being Jewish is one thing the 40 students enrolled in the school’s four Hebrew classes — as well as all 150 students in the school — have in common. Beyond that, they represent an array of ethnic and religious backgrounds.
Which makes me wonder - can a Hebrew Immersion charter school succeed without the support of Michael Steinhardt and the Hebrew Charter School Center or Peter Deutsch and the Ben Gamla network?  

3.  Solomon just opened last year, which says to me that this school, as indicated in the title of another Jewish Exponent article, was little more than A Cyber Experiment.
Chinese and Hebrew may seem like an unusual combination but organizers of the new venture point out that both are ancient languages that originated on the Asian continent. 
The Solomon Charter School is an experimental, publicly funded cyber charter school that will focus on Asian culture and history as well as provide an immersion approach to language instruction. 
It will surely face a number of questions in its inaugural year.
Call me crazy, but it seems like there should have been more questions BEFORE their inaugural year...

4.  When Solomon was approved, then Pennsylvania Department of Education Secretary Ron Tomalis said:
Charter schools, both brick-and-mortar and cyber, provide families with a viable alternative to traditional public schools. Parents may choose to enroll their child in a charter school for a variety of reasons. Regardless of socioeconomic status or geographic location, all students deserve an environment that is conducive for their academic growth." (emphasis mine) 
You really have to wonder if guys like Tomalis really believe what they are selling to trusting parents. Solomon was approved and opened in 2012, and abruptly shuttered in 2013. And not shuttered by the state mind you, the school leaders just shut their doors and rolled up the carpet. 

Clearly, Solomon was not "a viable alternative" to anything.  But what does Tomalis care, he's already moved on to bigger and better things.
Former state Education Secretary Ron Tomalis, whom Gov. Tom Corbett set up with an advisory job that pays $139,931 and has no office hours, is in the running to become chancellor of the Pennsylvania System of Higher Education.
Tomalis, 51, declined to comment through the Department of Education, which he led from 2011 until May, when Corbett replaced him but let him keep his salary and work from home as special adviser to the governor on higher education. (emphasis mine) 
Tomalis is sitting pretty, set up by the Governor himself, in a cushy job with no office hours and a six figure salary. And these kids get booted out of their new school with no notice.

Well, that seems fair.

5.  And I just can't let this go. The Solomon website has an icon on the homepage of a little ninja carving out the name of the school with his sword. While this may just seem whimsical to some, if I saw this on the website of my kids' school I would seriously wonder about the judgement of the school leaders.


Watch this video.

Parents are furious and barge into the school to get answers.

What were the safety concerns?
  • There was a rehab center for sex offenders a few doors down.
What financial instability?
  • The Executive Director is being accused of using the schools credit card for personal use. 
Why was the State trying to shut them down in their second year?
  • Because it was approved as a cyber school and the majority of the instruction was supposed to be on-line.  However, it appears they were more 'brick' than 'click.'
And since there was clearly little to no oversight before this hot mess got off the ground, their 'brick' was plopped next to the aforementioned sex offenders rehab center.

Ya know what, the little ninja has changed his mind.

UPDATE 10/12

Another TV news report:

And this from the Philadelphia Inquirer.

I was right, since Solomon was supposed to be a cyber charter school, safety issues seemed an improbable reason for the closure.
"We closed 1225 Vine about a week and a half ago because of what we learned," said Weathington. 
As a cyber charter school, Solomon provides all students with iMacs to use at home. 
"They were not missing any instructional time," Weathington said.
So what was the real reason for the closure??
 Solomon had been fighting the Education Department's attempts to revoke its charter on the ground that it was acting more like a traditional charter than a cyber charter and was even serving lunch. The department alleged that Solomon was not meeting the state requirement that cyber charters offer a significant portion of instruction to students online.
So, long story short, they were in violation of their charter. But don't miss this kicker:
The state said Solomon was only authorized to enroll students from sixth through 11th grades. As a result, the School District of Philadelphia had refused to pay tuition for the 200 younger students who had enrolled this fall. 
"How were we supposed to function?" Weathington asked. "We can't." 
District spokesman Fernando Gallard said the district had received invoices from Solomon for 343 students. He confirmed that the district had withheld payment for the students in kindergarten through fifth grades because of the state's ruling.
Just to be clear. 

  • The charter was approved for students in grades 6-12 but took it upon themselves to enroll kids in grades K-5 too. I just love that the principal seems put out by the fact that the district wouldn't pay for kids they weren't approved to take in the first place.
  • The charter was approved to operate a cyber school but instead opened a brick and mortar school in the SAME BUILDING AS A SEX OFFENDER REHABILITATION FACILITY.
  • The video makes it quite clear; the facility was not only in the SAME BUILDING AS A SEX OFFENDER REHABILITATION FACILITY, there was water damage, mold, exposed wire and buckling tiles.
And what was the state doing about this? Ya know, they were going to have a hearing in November. 

Hey, since former Education Secretary Tomalis approved this train wreck and he's still on the payroll getting a six figure salary even though he doesn't keep any office hours, don't you think he should get himself down to 1225 Vine and personally help these families find new schools?

UPDATE 10/12

Leave it to Fox to really dial up the drama.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Stealth Charter Approvals Mask For-Profit CMO Expansion In New Jersey

Did you miss the announcement of the approval of three new charter schools?  Yeah, we all did. There was no glowing press release as per usual, just the stealth approval of three more urban charters.

The New Jersey Charter School Circus Has Left Town

Commissioner Cerf seems to have exited the circus tent this round and denied charters to Pastor Michael McDuffie
Pastor Duffie prayers for our Governor
and former Assemblyman Gerald Luongo. As I've written, it was inconceivable that either of these applications ever made it through the first round.

Pastor McDuffie's connection to the Governor was reminiscent of the Regis Academy debacle.  Kudos to the Commissioner for not repeating that mistake.

The three applications that got the green light from the Commissioner certainly seem to have a far different pedigree. From John Mooney at NJ Spotlight:
  • Great Futures Charter High School for the Health Sciences. The high school in Jersey City will focus on health sciences, including partnerships with the Boys and Girls Club and the Jersey City Medical Center.
  • The International Academy of Trenton Charter School. The elementary school, with 350 pupils, will serve both Trenton and Ewing students. The school will be managed by SABIS Education Systems, a private charter management organization which runs schools in Camden, Paterson and Jersey City.
  • Trenton STEM-to-Civics Charter School. A high school also serving Trenton and Ewing students, it will focus on the so-called STEM subjects of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
The Trenton STEM-to-Civics charter is especially intriguing, as the school plans to have partnerships with institutions as varied as the Liberty Science Center and Princeton University. (emphasis mine)
Seems the Commissioner and the Governor took great care to avoid the controversy involved with applications like McDuffie's and Luongo's, giving the nod only to ones that, at least on the surface, have deep, solid ties to New Jersey. Hard to complain about that.

And while the pace of charter growth may have slowed, there are still some serious concerns regarding the direction of the Commissioner's charter school program.  

The Rise Of For-Profit Charter Management Organizations (CMOs)

The charter in this batch that concerns me greatly is The International Academy of Trenton Charter School, which Mooney states will be managed by Sabis Education Systems. 

The expansion of Sabis in New Jersey is deeply troubling. I wrote about Sabis as part of my five part series on the approval of the Paterson Collegiate Charter School.
Sabis has had trouble for years all over the country. There were clashes in the late 90's in Chicago, in Springfield in 2000, in 2002 in Cincinnati, and in Schenectady, NY in 2003 and Greensboro, NC in 2004.  Most recently in 2011 Sabis ran into REALLY big trouble in Atlanta at the Peachtree Hope Charter School (PHCS).  The list of complaints against Sabis is staggering.
Throughout June and July, in the process of exercising its oversight responsibility, the Board learned additional disturbing facts. Significantly, SABIS: 
A. failed to meet the targeted scores on the 2011 CRCT as promised to the State of Georgia; 
B. under-reported Title I students, resulting in a loss of federal funds in-excess of one million dollars; 
C. apparently hired a Director for the school who lacked a teaching certificate, and state certification to serve as a school principal;  
D. paid a Black teacher less than a less experienced white teacher; 
E. paid staff $552,000 less than DCSS salary scale for similar positions. 
F. failed to institute a student remediation program; 
G. failed to obtain competitive bids on procurements over $25,000; and 
H. paid out thousands of dollars in expenses without authorization of PHCS.
With this kind of track record, you wouldn't think Sabis would be at the top of the list of CMO's we'd want to expand in New Jersey.

Sabis isn't just a CMO, they also license their "Sabis Education Program" to schools, both public and private. Paterson Collegiate Charter School is licensing Sabis' program, and same in Jersey City at BelovED, they are not managed by Sabis.  

Managing a charter school is a whole 'nother ball of wax.  Here's a complete list of Sabis' management services.
Included is an array of all-inclusive products and services designed for the management of Pre-K and K-12 schools, namely:
  • Complete curriculum aligned with country and state requirements
  • Software systems to enhance efficiency and improve standards
  • Ongoing academic quality control through computerized academic monitoring (SABIS AMS®) and automatically generated reports
  • Concept-targeted, well-researched books supporting the SABIS® program
  • Recruitment, training, and supervision of staff
  • Cutting-edge research and development methods designed to optimize results
  • Extensive business management services
  • And much more...
And Mooney mentioned that Sabis also "runs" a charter in Camden. That would be The International Academy of Camden Charter School. Huh, hard not to notice they have the same name as the Trenton charter.  And apparently the same CMO as the Trenton charter.  

Ladies and gentlemen, it looks like we have our first chain of for-profit charters in New Jersey. 

But Wait, For-Profit Management Isn't Legal In New Jersey!

As Jessica Calefati pointed out in a great story about for-profit behemoth K12 Inc's first foray here, for-profit management isn't allowed under New Jersey law.
New Jersey law allows for-profit companies to play a big role in public schools. 
One thing they can’t do is run the place. 
But charter school experts and one lawmaker said it’s sometime hard to tell if the rules are being followed, and K12’s involvement with Newark Prep is one of those instances. 
"Technically, on the books, K12 is just a contractor hired by Newark Prep Charter School, but in reality it is running the school, soup to nuts," said Luis Huerta, a Columbia University Teachers College professor who studies the impact of virtual charter schools across the country. 
In addition, Assembly Education Committee Chairman Patrick Deignan (D-Middlesex) called the steep fees and the terms of the contract "deeply troubling." 
"The fact that decisions about hiring and contracts have been taken away from the public and are now in the hands of private enterprise concerns me very much," he said. (emphasis mine)
It concerns me very much too Assemblyman. Very much indeed.

Are There Any More For-Profits?

Sabis and K12 Inc aren't the only for-profit management companies that Cerf has managed to sneak in the back door. He has also given the nod to a third for-profit operator this year, CSMI, which is running the newly-opened Camden Community Charter School

Jersey Jazzman has written extensively about CSMI and the mad, mad money pulled in by its founder, Vahan Gureghian, but here's a basic low-down from the Philadelphia Daily News.
CSMI, the firm that runs the Chester and Camden schools, is a for-profit company founded by Vahan Gureghian, a politically connected Gladwyne lawyer who donated more than $300,000 to Gov. Corbett's gubernatorial campaign and served on the education committee of his transition team.
Where's he get all that money? Right out of the public funds that flow through his CMO.
Bond documents and court filings show that CSMI's contract with the charter called for it to be paid $5,873 per student last school year, and an even higher per-student payment - $6,445 - for 2012-13. That totaled more than $17.6 million due last year to CSMI. That is more than the school spent on instruction and more than a third of the school's total expenditures of $46.8 million.
In 2010-11, the latest year for which figures are available, the school spent the highest percentage of any district or charter on business expenditures, a category that includes the management fee, while spending the eighth-lowest percentage in the state on instruction.
Crawley said the management company performed far more services for the school than most do. CSMI, he said, is giving school employees "what they need to provide a quality education for these kids."
CSMI has refused to disclose how much of its fee is profit. (emphasis mine)

Are We OK With This?

Commissioner Cerf has a long background in for-profit education, and he is well aware that public schools haven't exactly pulled up the Welcome Wagon for the private sector.
And it was with Edison that Cerf learned “the power of politics to thwart the effort. I’m not just talking about the unions, but there is a tremendous and deep resistance—here we are in the center of capitalism, right—there is a very deep resistance to the private sector that’s embedded in the culture of public schools.” 
Cerf knows that for-profit management is not allowed under New Jersey state law, and that there is "very deep resistance" to the private sector entering the public schools. What better way to circumvent the laws of this state, and the will of the people of this state, than to approve charters in the dark of night.

Wake up New Jersey! Your public schools are being privatized!! Cerf wouldn't dare try to open a for-profit charter in a suburban district.  But in Camden and Trenton he thinks no one will notice or even care.  

And it looks like he's right.

They have absolutely no idea what I'm really up to...

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Could The Next Generation Of Philanthropy Actually SAVE Public Education?

I've been having a very telling back and forth with some Anonymous Charter Cheerleaders on my blog the last couple of weeks, mostly in reference to a post I wrote back in January about Hatikvah International Academy Charter School, which is bankrolled by demi-billionaire hedge fund guru Michael Steinhardt. 

And then yesterday a dear friend sent me this link
A group of young heirs in the Philadelphia chapter of Resource Generation has released a statement that decries any reliance on philanthropy for the funding of public schools; instead, they say, rich people should pay more in taxes.
Well, that sure got my attention.

Here's the original letter in its entirety.
With our severely underfunded public schools now open, it is important to examine the causes of this crisis.
We are a group of people in our 20s and 30s with inherited wealth and class privilege who believe that philanthropy has played a role in contributing to the crisis. Current forms of philanthropy are not leading to the transformation of public schools our city needs.
Will Bunch wrote a blog post recently critiquing philanthropic efforts to "fix" Philadelphia's public education. We agree: When philanthropists pour money into alternatives, like individual charter schools or the privately run Philadelphia School Partnership, they erode the development of a healthy public system that equitably serves all. Funding private alternatives supports small-scale interventions that do nothing to address the root causes of inequality. It also weakens the democratic process. Philanthropists should not be the ones deciding what is best for public schools. That decision belongs equally to all the city's community members.
As people with wealth, we know how tempting it is to feel we are making a difference by giving away money. But when we give away money while maintaining the power to decide what gets funded, we perpetuate the injustice we think we're addressing. When we solve "other people's" problems while remaining comfortably unimpacted by the issue at hand, we don't make meaningful change.
Growing up with access to wealth, we were raised with the ability to opt out of "not good enough" public institutions. When it came to education, our parents sent us to magnet or private schools, or used financial stability to choose cities, suburbs and towns with well resourced schools.
What our city needs from wealthy people now is for us to advocate for and participate in structural change that will ultimately improve the resourcing of our schools. Require us to opt in to the public sphere, not choose to pay to set our lives apart:
• Tax us more! Pennsylvania has one of the most regressive tax systems in the United States. Wealthy individuals and corporations are not paying our fair share of taxes.
• Eliminate tax havens and loopholes that allow wealthy people to accumulate and hold onto wealth. Wealth disparity in the US today is at the highest level it has reached since the 1930s. Only reformed tax policies can effectively redistribute wealth.
• Make policies that require businesses to respect people over profit. Until wealthy people's means of making money are just, no amount of charitable philanthropy will cancel out the exploitation that initially created the wealth.
• Fund organizing efforts by teachers, parents, students and community members that are focused on creating wellfunded, locally controlled public schools. These efforts develop leaders, strengthen democracy and lead to change that is desired by those most directly affected.
We inherited wealth through our families' intention that it would make our lives better, but we know it has contributed to isolating us and perpetuating poverty. We envision an alternative role for ourselves in creating a city that values all of its citizens. (emphasis mine)
Submitted by members of Resource Generation, Philadelphia Chapter
Hillary Blecker
Sarah Burgess
M.J. Kaufman
Aaron Kreider
Sara Narva
Jessica Rosenberg
Julia Stone
Anonymous Member

They are absolutely, positively, 100% right!! These young adults expressed precisely what I was attempting to point out regarding Michael Steinhardt's funding of the Hebrew Charter School Network and Hatikvah
Philanthropists should not be the ones deciding what is best for public schools. That decision belongs equally to all the city's community members.  
This is exactly what is causing local skirmishes like mine, as well as the destruction of public education in cities like Philly, Chicago and Newark. In my town it's Michael Steinhardt, but in the big picture it's Gates, Waldon, Broad etal. 

There is no doubt that The Billionaire Boys Club has their own agenda and they have bought access to our nation's politicians and public schools to form them into their own image. And by all accounts, they are leaving them far worse than they found them.

Make sure you check out the link above to Resource Generation. These are young people who seem to be natural allies to those of us fighting for public education. 
Since 1998, Resource Generation (RG) has engaged over 1,800 young people with wealth across the U.S. Through community building, education and organizing, we help young people with wealth bring all they have and all they are to the social change movements and issues they care about. We organize to transform philanthropy, policy, and institutions and leverage our collective power to make lasting structural change.
I thank them for their courage to stand up for what is right and just, not only for the children of Philadelphia, but for ALL children. You can thank them too.  Here's their Facebook page. Please, let them know how much we appreciate their work.

It gives me hope that perhaps the next generation of wealth will do less damage than the one currently destroying our public schools.