Fordham Exposed Part II

In part I of Fordham Exposed we introduced you to the conservative corporate education reform organization running some Ohio charter schools, and two of its biggest boosters, Terry Ryan and Michael Petrilli. Now let us take a closer look at this Foundation.

You can see the list of Fordham's charter schools here. We knew a short while ago that Fordham was publicly talking a good game, but playing a weak one, when the Ohio Department of Education released the ranking of charter sponsors. Of those 38 ranked sponsors, Fordham was down in a lowly 24th position. You don't rank that low by running quality schools and delivering quality education to students.

This view was further confirmed when ODE released their preliminary school rankings in mid November. The following table is the performance of Fordham's Ohio charter schools from that ODE report, the ranking is out of 3456 schools, and sorted with best first.

1792 Columbus Collegiate Academy Middle School Effective
2661 Sciotoville High School Cont. Improve.
2687 Phoenix Community Learning Ctr Elementary School Effective
2716 Dayton Leadership Academies-Dayton View Campus Elementary School Cont. Improve.
2840 Sciotoville Elementary Academy Elementary School Cont. Improve.
2977 KIPP: Journey Academy Middle School Effective
3052 Springfield Acad Of Excellence Elementary School Academic Watch
3188 Dayton Leadership Academies-Dayton Liberty Campus Elementary School Cont. Improve.

Almost 2,400 students are in Fordham charter schools that rank in the bottom half of all of Ohio's schools. Why hasn't Fordham been able to translate SB5 like tools into educational success in the many years they have been sponsoring these charters?

They are unencumbered by unionized teachers, state mandated regulations, all the things that should add up to a corporate education reformer's brightest dream. Yes their results are poorer than the majority of Ohio's traditional public schools, who allegedly are held back by unions, bad teachers, and outdated rules.

How can Fordham possibly have any credibility on the issue of education reform when their corporate reform ideas when implemented are delivering such real world lackluster results? When their performance is worse than the majority of traditional schoold they would seek to supplant.

It surely cannot be on account of money. The Fordham Foundation spends an inordinate amount of money on education reform. According to the latest publicly available tax return - their 2009 IRS form 990 from Guidestar, Fordham has over $37 million on hand, and spends over $4 million a year on its programs and advocacy.

Indeed, in 2009 alone, according to the same document, Fordham spent $485,000 on management of its Ohio charters, $745,000 on "National reform efforts", $163,000 on Ohio specific education "reform efforts" and a further $571,000 on Ohio legislative lobbying and what even they deem as "provocative analysis".

But lobbying and "provocative analysis" aren't the only largesse that Fordham spend their vast resources on. As employees of Fordham such as Mr. Ryan and Mr. Petrilli rail against education associations and teacher pay they have both been significant recipients of the Foundation's generosity.

Name 2007 (link) 2008 (link) 2009 (link)
Mr. Terry Ryan $73,905 for 20 hours per week $83,700 for 20 hours per week $91,100 for 20 hours per week
Mr. Michael Petrilli $73,905 for 20 hours per week $83,700 for 20 hours per week $91,100 for 20 hours per week

Their annual increases, for this part-time work, represent 13.2% and 8.8% up to 2009. One can only imagine what these two gentlemen are earning in 2011 for the part-time work of railing against teachers and their unions. But when you're earning almost twice that of the average Ohio teacher, and doing so for part-time work, all the while receiving up to double digit increases in pay, year on year, these kinds of comments are hard to swallow.

And to be sure, you can find examples of unions—of police, firefighters, even teachers—who have agreed to freeze wages or reduce benefits in order to protect the quality of services or keep colleagues from being laid off. But they are the exceptions that prove the rule.

They hare hardly the exception to prove any rule, real or as is the case here, imagined. Ohio public employees, especially teachers, have been responsible for saving taxpayers over 1 billion dollars in wage and benefit concessions.

So where does all this leave us? It leaves us wondering why an organization that espouses corporate education reform ideas cannot successfully implement them in their own lackluster schools, and why they biggest and most vocal boosters think the gravy tastes better on their plate than on any others. It is this then, that is the pure essence and purpose of corporate education reform.

If education quality actually mattered to Fordham they would expend more energy figuring out why their schools are under performing so as to use those lessons to actually benefot the debate over educstion reform. Instead what we have is "provocative analysis" to defend failing ideas while attacking public school teachers and their union, who in the majority are producing far high quality results at a fraction of the cost.