Cuban Model Schools Are Here!

And here you thought all this time I was either exaggerating or making up the stories regarding Charter Schools being about “for-profit”, “public-private partnerships” with the end results a Cuban/Russian style school to work program of communism.

Case in point is the Cristo Rey Network which is boasting about their new Jesuit Charter school that targets vulnerable and at-risk youth in East San Jose, California. Their words not mine!

Credit for this innovative thinking is given to Father John Foley of Chicago which is the home of the Cristo Rey Network! Surprised? Father Foley and his team created a plan – to implement an innovative business model whereby students work five days each month in an entry-level job at a professional company, with the fee for their work being directed to underwrite tuition costs. (I am confused about what the money is to be directed to – one place it talks about tuition for college than other places it infers the high schools).

The Network was formally organized as a 501(c)3 organization in 2001 with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, along with venture philanthropists B.J. and Bebe Cassin, providing the seed funding to promote the replication of the Cristo Rey schools.

In 2012 The Walton Family Foundation announced its investment of $1.6 million in the Cristo Rey Network to open another 25 new high schools, primarily in states that have either vouchers or tax credits. At full enrollment, these 25 new schools will educate over 10,000 additional inner-city students every school-year. Florida will find this information interesting as Jeb Bush is a friend of Cristo Rey and Miami & Tampa are on the top of the list to be one of these new schools.

“We very much want to get to Florida,” former President & CEO Birdsell said in a phone interview. “Gov. Bush is a friend of Cristo Rey (and) he is persistent.”

Folks, this is using taxpayer dollars to fund private/religious schools! Florida, this was your Amendment 8.

The newest school, Cristo Rey San Jose High School’s charter was approved Dec. 12 by the Cristo Rey Network, which oversees 25 Cristo Rey schools in 17 states, 24 cities plus the District of Columbia and will open in 2014.

Getting the school off the ground has been a major effort of real-estate developer John A. Sobrato and venture capitalist B.J. Cassin, who are co-chairs on the Cristo Rey San Jose High School board. Earlier this year, Sobrato, chairman of The Sobrato Organization, made a challenge grant of $1.25 million to the school. The effort has so far yielded more than $2.5 million in startup capital. This is not chicken feed!

Cristo Rey schools offer Catholic, college-prep education to young people whose families make less than $35,000 a year in urban communities with limited educational options. Reading in one place the Network states 88 percent of its graduates go on to enroll in college, double the rate of their peers, and in another spot it shouts 100%. The breakdown of employment for the students is 29% other, and 13% in each Finance, Law and Medicine. Jobs arranged for them in a fee-for-service agreement between the school and corporate partners. (Their words not mine).

You can go to their website and there you can read their explanation of the “school to work” program in detail, however I suggest also looking the Network up online – figures are not consistent.

Partnering with more than 1,500 businesses, Cristo Rey schools are changing the face of urban education in the United States – so they say! Assuming the role of an employee leasing agency, the Corporate Work Study Program (CWSP) has streamlined the process for employing their students. Students are not on the payroll of the employing organization; rather they are employees of the school’s separately incorporated CWSP, which the sponsoring organization pays quarterly, annually, or monthly for the services of the students. A lot of choices! (Once again, their words not mine). I wonder who is filing the payroll tax reports even if they are $0.

Every Cristo Rey student takes a full course load of college preparatory coursework for four years, as he or she participates one day each week in a four-year CWSP to fund the majority of their tuition.

We have made many warnings as have others regarding the Charter School agenda for school to work programs. This applies if they are public Charter Schools or private/private religious schools using the Charter format. The number of religious schools putting these actions in place is outpacing the public schools. So in fact what they are doing is having the children work in advance one day a week for a payment into a program that is supposedly overseeing the funds for their high school or college education. We have not been able to clarify which.

The model Cristo Rey is intending to follow is the Cuba Model with a brand new idea added to the mix. In the Cuba Model both the place of employment and the school were government run. In this case, the school is a private Jesuit school which will be partnering with corporate employers, with what they are calling a “feasibility plan”.

The plan was written by a gentleman who works for a global corporate entity of Cisco. However, this model they are talking about is the Cuban model which is the guts of the school to work training program.

So the questions arise and I have many more questions as a parent than I see answers!

Are these corporate magnets obligated to pay minimum wage to the student’s credit? Is their pay instead being done as if they were being marketed through an employment agency with Cisco getting a large chunk for each student and then only partial payment going to the student? (According to the financial statement this would seem to be the case). When they start this program are the tuition fees locked into place or can they change the whole 4 years they are working toward their goal? Is there an agreement signed by the parents as to the children participating and the end obligation of CWSP.

Who are the actual people managing this program? What is protecting these children from financial theft by the overseers as we are seeing with Charter schools all over America? Are their deals already in place with colleges and universities that the students can only attend certain schools?
Before entering the program, students must attend B.O.O.T. Camp – you read it right.

“All students must complete this training to be accepted officially into a Cristo Rey school. For three weeks in July, students take courses in 7 Habits for Highly Successful Teens, computer literacy, and remedial math and English. (If the students entering this program are of such high level, why do they need remedial courses or exactly what is their requirement for entrance?) In addition, two courses are offered to develop the students’ soft skills and technical skills. A nationally-recognized business consultant, adjunct college professors, supervisors of students on the job, and the Corporate Work Study Program staff teach these work-study-specific classes.

During the three-week camp, students go on a field trip to an outdoor venue that features team building activities like a rope course challenge. Can someone please tell me why this is a requirement?

Listed on their web site are the Legal and Labor Implications:
The Cristo Rey Corporate Work Study Program operates as an employee leasing agent. (Just like an employment agency) The students are employees of the program, not the corporate client. In addition, the Corporate Work Study Program handles all payroll, W-4, I-9, Workers’ Compensation, FICA, FUTA and other employer concerns for the students. But who is overseeing the financial transactions of CWSP? As a 501 (C) (3) their financial records are actually private.

The fee charged to each business may be deducted as a business expense, not as a donation. Students assign their earnings from the program to their school to cover as much as 70% of the cost of their education.

Robert Birdsell, the recent departing President/CEO of Cristo Rey Network, recently gave an interview to the Catholic magazine, America Magazine, where he stated “It is essential to note that the money Cristo Rey students earn from their jobs covers most of their school’s operating costs. The remainder is covered by modest tuition payments and similarly modest fundraising campaigns.”

Does this mean the children are obligated to participate in fund raisers and modest tuition payments – what does that mean from a $35K income family? Now I am truly confused because I thought the school to work program was for the students to earn college tuition – this statement sounds to me like they are earning tuition to their high school. I am curious as to what age they begin the school to work program – are they 16? Appears not so as they participate for 4 years.

This last year Cristo Rey Network was awarded The World Innovation Summit for Education (WISE) award. The program was referred to as a diverse offering with unique solutions to today’s most important challenges, from poverty to climate change. Solutions include unconventional business models to assist low-income families with affordable education, as well as original ways of bringing high-quality education to remote and destitute parts of the world.

I seriously have to ask the question – why do they continually have to refer to students as “low-income”? Or I like this one too – failure to educate the “poor minority”! Or making a point these children all come from an average of $35K household income a year. Maybe that is because they keep reminding them they are from low-income families rather than not talk about their families financial status and concentrate on their potential and encourage them to learn and that the sky is the limit to whatever they wish it to be. This is after America – I think!

Cristo Rey Network 2011 financial report indicated 7400 students, 96% of color, 100% were accepted to a 2 or 4 year college but another report stated 74% for the 2011 year.
Cristo Rey Neetwork

3 thoughts on “Cuban Model Schools Are Here!

  1. Dianne: I live in Santa Clara County where San Jose is located in California. To my knowledge, the Cristo Rey Schools are not publicly funded charter schools, but are privately funded partnerships between the Catholic School and businesses where students will work one day a week. I checked the website for Santa Clara County Office of Education which lists all the public charter schools in Santa Clara County, and Cristo Rey is not one of them. The “chartering” of the school was granted by the Chicago based Cristo Rey Network, not a school district or the County Office of Education. According to the article I forwarded about the one to open in San Jose, CA, tuition for attending Christo Rey Schools averages about $10,000 a year. As nearly as I can tell, the Cristo Rey School is not publicly funded, at least not at this juncture. One commenter on Cristo Rey website suggests it could be a model for government charter school as a suggestion to consider.

    Since it is at present, a private school with tuition, my comments accompnaying the article I forwarded to you and my lists, from the San Jose Mercury News were phrased the way they were. I tried to alert that it was the Cuba model but made the distinction between Cuba Model being partnership between school and workplace both being government owned, where the Crista Rey School is to be a partnership between a private religious affiliated school and corporate work places.

    Nevertheless the model remains a Cuban model, and it is tragic that private schools are initiating an agenda the government schools are working toward which would be public/private partnerships for workforce training.

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