ITT Education Services in Trouble, etc.

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ITT Education Services in Trouble, etc.

This bulletin marks the introduction of a new NCSPE feature: a roundup of critical developments here and abroad in the realm of educational privatization and school choice. This roundup draws on synopses posted under Current Events on our Web site and incorporates hyperlinks to sources.

Long a Wall Street darling, for-profit college operator ITT Educational Services appears to be on its way to following former competitor Corinthian Colleges Inc. into bankruptcy. Citing financial weakness for the national network of 138 campuses across 39 states, the U.S. Department of Education informed company executives that they must pay the federal government $44 million to cover potential student refunds should the company fold. This money, Gretchen Morgenson explained in The New York Times, would be necessary to fund the forgiveness of federal student loans. According to federal law, students at colleges that collapse qualify for a "false certification discharge." With high student dropout and default rates, for-profit colleges have incurred increasing scrutiny from federal regulators and state attorneys general and, in the process, seen valuations and revenues plummet.

The Gates Foundation conceded in a report that its campaign since 1999 to transform U.S. education has proven far harder than expected. In an editorial in The Los Angeles Times, the newspaper's board opined that the foundation's reversals on its considerable investment in small high schools, performance-based pay for teachers, and rapid roll-out of the Common Core standards illustrate the daunting challenge of school reform.

Considerable growth of charter schools over the past decade in Philadelphia, Detroit, Chicago, Kansas City, Los Angeles, and many other cities across the country, reported the Associated Press, has placed significant financial pressure on host districts. With money following students from district schools to charter schools, funding available for goods and services beyond fixed costs for host districts has necessarily declined, forcing school closures and central office layoffs.

A new study documents a surge in charter schools using the Montessori pedagogical philosophy, reported Education Week. According to the study, approximately 82 percent of 168 public Montessori schools opened since 2000 are operated by charter boards; the remainder are public magnet schools using the distinctive child-centered approach to learning. The study moreover finds that Montessori charters are considerably less economically and racially diverse than Montessori magnet schools.

Nevada District Court Judge Eric Johnson ruled that the state's new school choice bill, passed in 2015 and allowing families to use $5,100 in government money per child toward tuition at a private school, whether religious or independent, comported with the law. Johnson declared Senate Bill 302 "neutral with respect to religion" as parents, not state officials, determine where the money is spent.

Education International alleged that Bridge International Academies (BIA), an operator of low-fee private schools in the developing world, orchestrated the arrest of a Canadian researcher studying the company's schools in Uganda.* While the researcher, Curtis Riep, a doctoral candidate at the University of Alberta, had an appointment at a BIA school in Uganda, he was arrested for trespassing and impersonation and held for two days of questioning.

* In the initial posting of this bulletin, BIA was mistakenly described as a subsidiary of Pearson Education. BIA is rather a jointly funded enterprise, with Pearson being one among several significant investors.


Published Tuesday, Jun. 14, 2016