Recently, I wrote a post about Steve Zimmer, a member of the board of the Los Angeles Unified School District.

Zimmer proposed that the board develop a policy to hold charters accountable.

He was picketed and jeered by charter advocates, who rejected any demands for oversight. The charter lobby is supporting someone to run against Zimmer in the March elections.

Zimmer acted responsibly. Los Angeles now has more students in charters than any other district (over 100,000), and California now has more charters than any other state.

Even the national and state charter associations claim they want more accountability and more weeding out of bad charters. But actions speak louder than words.

A reader sent this background to the current debates in California:

“The following report tells it all. The vast majority of charters, between 65-70%, close due to financial or mismanagement reasons.

http://www.edreform.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/StateOfCharterSchools_CER_Dec2011-Web-1.pdf

Recently, Jed Wallace from the California Charter School Association, wrote about charter school accountability in the publication “Ed Source”.

http://www.edsource.org/today/2013/why-california-must-lead-the-way-in-closing-underperforming-charter-schools/24755#.UObvM445Qts

Below are two sections from the report.

“The second state in the nation to allow charter schools, California has long been at the forefront of education reform. We must also lead the way in accountability, which is why the California Charter Schools Association (CCSA) is proud to support the National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA) “One Million Lives” campaign, which kicked off in November. NACSA’s goal is to give one million children access to high-quality schools by encouraging effective charter authorizing, growing the number of high-quality charters across the country and closing those charters that are failing.

“NACSA has called for:

“All states to establish clear charter school performance expectations and close those schools that do not meet the standards.
Implement new laws to hold charter authorizers accountable for the schools they approve. Those that keep failing schools open will lose the ability to authorize schools.
Urge each state to create a statewide authorizer that will implement professional practices based on high standards and promote quality growth.”

“In order to meet the CCSA Minimum Criteria for Renewal, charter schools four years and older must meet at least one of the following criteria:

“Academic Performance Index (API) score of at least 700 in the most recent year, or
Three-year cumulative API growth of at least 50 points, or
Ranked “within” or “above” for at least two out of the last three years on CCSA’s Similar Students Measure.”

“There seems to be a lack of concern in this report about the financial and mismanagement issues. School districts apparently have no interest in appropriate oversight and/ or don’t have the resources to do it properly. Wallace did not address how to make these kinds of changes.

“Louis Freedberg, of Ed Source wrote the following articles to address these issues:

http://www.edsource.org/today/2011/state-looks-into-start-up-charter-school-loss-of-tens-of-millions-of-dollars/1541#.UOb1o445Qts

http://www.edsource.org/today/2011/state-burdened-by-oversight-of-more-charter-schools/1331#.UOb2XI45Qts

“As far as we know, the report promised by Mr. Zeiger on the millions in lost funds to failed charters either was never done or was not made public. No surprise here!!!!!

“Steve Zimmer did the right thing, but the charter lobby is incredibly powerful. It’s fine for Wallace to ask for tighter controls on charters, but again, he doesn’t address how this could and should happen. Zimmer tried. We know that Los Angeles has the most charters of any district in the U.S. It stands to reason that LAUSD should lead the way to tighten these controls.

“A recent example of massive failure by LAUSD to provide appropriate oversight is demonstrated in this audit done on three Magnolia(Gulen) Charter Schools. Sadly, the Board of Education has taken NO steps to revisit the renewal of these charters.

http://notebook.lausd.net/pls/ptl/docs/PAGE/CA_LAUSD/FLDR_ORGANIZATIONS/FLDR_OIG_PUBLICATIONS_AUDIT_REPORTS/12486MAGNOLIASCIENCEACAD.PDF

“Another controversial charter simply refused to participate in an audit as stated below:

http://notebook.lausd.net/pls/ptl/docs/PAGE/CA_LAUSD/FLDR_ORGANIZATIONS/FLDR_OIG_PUBLICATIONS_AUDIT_REPORTS/12492ACADEMIA%20SEMILLAS%20CHARTER%20SCHOOL.PDF

“The bottom line here is that hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars are being lost yearly. Public schools must make up the difference. It’s no wonder that CA has incredibly high class sizes and student to counselor ratios. We need more school board members like Zimmer to speak out and demand changes in the approval and oversight of charters.”