Archives for category: Charter Schools

This is a press release from the Texas Education Agency about the revocation of the charter of Prime Prep Charter School, the school founded by football great Deion Sanders. Nowhere does TEA admit that the original flaw was handing students and public funds to a non-educator with no qualifications to run a school.

TEA News Releases Online Jan. 30, 2015

Statement of Commissioner Michael Williams regarding closure of Prime Prep Academy

AUSTIN – The Board of Managers for Prime Prep Academy today voted to cease operations of its Dallas and Fort Worth campuses effective at the end of the school day today. Commissioner of Education Michael Williams issued the following statement:

“After reviewing the financial information discovered over the past week, I agree with the Prime Prep board of managers’ decision to cease operation immediately. I recognize this was a difficult decision for board members to make. While there was hope this charter could survive through the end of the school year, the financial resources simply aren’t there. It is unfortunate that those who remained committed to learning on these campuses – the students and teachers – are the ones who will be affected most by circumstances out of their control.

“Parents, students and teachers at Prime Prep are now forced to find an education alternative in the middle of the school year. I have directed Texas Education Agency staff to begin providing whatever information we can to help them maneuver through this unexpected transition. In light of what we now know, such upheaval could have been avoided by the previous school leadership had they acknowledged their financial issues and worked with us toward an orderly transition that put students first.”

Commissioner Williams announced his decision to appoint a board of managers and an interim superintendent to oversee the management of Prime Prep Academy (a charter held by Uplift Fort Worth) on Jan. 13, following multiple reports of deteriorating financial conditions at the charter school. The board of managers was sworn into office on Jan. 23.

In addition, an administrative law judge of the State Office of Administrative Hearing granted a default judgment on Jan. 27 regarding revocation of the Uplift Fort Worth CDC charter. A final order from the judge is pending.

Prime Prep Academy was awarded its charter by the State Board of Education in September 2011. The school opened its doors on Aug. 14, 2012.,_parents_and_staff_following_Prime_Prep_Academy_closure/

TEA News Releases Online Jan. 30, 2015
TEA offers transition information to students, parents and staff following Prime Prep Academy closure

AUSTIN – The Texas Education Agency (TEA) will provide transition information to students, parents, teachers and staff of Prime Prep Academy following a vote this afternoon by the charter’s board of managers to cease operations immediately. Due to the charter school’s current financial situation, board members determined that continued operation through the end of the school year was not a viable option.

Information packets will be distributed to students and staff at both the Dallas and Fort Worth campuses at the conclusion of the school day. The packets provide information regarding educational and enrollment opportunities at area schools for the remainder of this school year, as well as the process for acquiring student records necessary to transfer to another school.

In addition, TEA staff will be available at both campuses to answer questions from students, parents and staff. Parents can access much of the information on the TEA website at Prime Prep parents can also contact the Division of Charter School Administration at (512) 463-9575 for assistance and direction to available resources.

TEA staff will also provide Prime Prep staff with transition information regarding applying for unemployment benefits and continued health coverage through COBRA through the Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS). Staff members needing assistance resolving an issue can contact the TEA Complaints Management Department at (512) 463-3544.

Commissioner of Education Michael Williams announced his decision to appoint a board of managers and an interim superintendent to oversee the management of Prime Prep Academy – a charter held by Uplift Fort Worth – on Jan. 13, following multiple reports of deteriorating financial conditions at the charter school. The board of managers was sworn into office on Jan. 23.

In addition, an administrative law judge of the State Office of Administrative Hearing granted a default judgment on Jan. 27 regarding revocation of the Uplift Fort Worth CDC charter. A final order from the judge is pending.

Prime Prep Academy was awarded its charter by the State Board of Education in September 2011. The school opened its doors on Aug. 14, 2012.

An article in Huffington Post reports on a study by University of Michigan researchers, led by Professor Sarah Reckhow, who found that the rhetoric of charter schools is very appealing to the public, especially to conservatives. Think of it: charters promise high achievement, better graduation rates, student success, all at a reduced cost to taxpayers. They promise that every child will go to a four-year college; not just any college, but an Ivy League college. Promise them anything but give them Arpege (for those not old enough to remember, that was a perfume ad, but lots of other words are substituted for “Arpege,” like “the shaft,” or “tyranny,” or “nothing.”). Promises, very alluring. Put that rhetoric against the reality of public schools, where some students don’t succeed, some don’t graduate, and some have low achievement. Supporters of public schools need to hone their rhetoric; the public likes the idea of non-union schools, at least in Michigan, and they don’t seem troubled by the idea of privatization. The language used by charter advocates has great appeal, even when it is not true. That must be why snake oil salesmen made a lot of money hawking their wares at state fairs in the 19th century, and why diet books continue to be best-sellers. It is the old P.T. Barnum rule.


Although charters are supported more by conservatives than liberals, they have bipartisan support, most notably from President Obama and Secretary Duncan. Add to that the strong charter advocacy of Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, John Kasich, Rick Snyder, Rick Scott, Nathan Deal, and every other conservative governor, as well as ALEC, and it is a winning combination, politically if not educationally.



Groups against the expansion of charter schools typically argue that charter schools serve to privatize public education, thereby exacerbating existing inequalities. Supporters of charter schools, on the other hand, say that they offer parents a choice, and that employing nonunion teachers can help spur innovation.


The researchers found that self-reported conservatives were more likely to express support for charter schools when they learned that these schools employed nonunion teachers, while liberals were more likely to turn against charter schools when presented with information about the role of private companies in their operations — although this made less of an impact. Arguments against unions seemed to resonate more strongly with participants, and made them significantly more likely to support charter schools….


[Professor Sarah] Reckhow also noted that when people were asked if they support the proliferation of charter schools in their communities versus in the state’s lowest-performing districts, they were more likely to favor increasing the number of charter schools in failing areas. She told HuffPost she thought this was because respondents might be satisfied with their local school options, and might be more likely to support charter schools in places where they feel distant from the schools’ impact.


Still, certain aspects about Michigan politics and the state’s charter landscape may have also impacted the results.


“Michigan recently became a ‘right-to-work’ state,” noted Reckhow. This means that in Michigan, it is illegal to require groups of workers to pay union dues as a precondition for employment. In recent years, union membership in Michigan has dropped.


“This is a visible issue in Michigan,” said Reckhow. “Once you bring unions into the equation, it does affect public perception.”


The survey did not measure participants’ reactions to charter schools after learning about their academic results, although Reckhow said she would have been curious to see that data.


“In Michigan, charter schools run the gamut — some schools are high-performing and do better than nearby public schools, and a good number of charter schools are in the bottom 25 percent of schools in the state, they probably should be shut down but they’re not being shut down,” said Reckhow. “The limitation of the study is we really can’t deal with that type of question.”


Interesting that people liked the idea of charters…for other people’s children.

I have never understood the idea that anyone can run a school, even people who have never been educators, even people who are high-school dropouts (think Andre Agassi).


So it comes as no surprise when a school run by a football great runs into trouble. In this case, it is the charter school opened by professional star Deion Sanders. The New York Times wrote about the school last year. Opened in 2012, the school quickly had a world-class basketball team, its games broadcast on ESPN, but its academic quality was far below par. According to the Times, the lower grades were rated F by a respected nonprofit group, and its high school had no rating due to missing data.


Now the school is in deep trouble and might even lose its charter in charter-friendly Texas.


The Dallas school founded in 2012 is in financial straits after years of management disputes that led to a state takeover. Prime Prep could close in the middle of the semester if found insolvent.
Texas Education Commissioner Michael Williams earlier this month announced that he would appoint a board of managers to run the school, effectively placing it under state control.
The sports programs of Prime Prep have faced scrutiny for recruiting and eligibility allegations. The school also has fought employee turnover, and last April had to repay more than $45,000 it received for providing subsidized meals in 2013 because the school provided no documentation those meals were served.


You might well wonder how a school founded in 2012 has been in “financial straits after years of management disputes.” I wonder too.


According to Forbes, the school is operating under “crushing debt” with finances that are in “utter chaos.”


Sanders was among those in 2012 who opened the school with the goal of combining a college prepartory curriculum with a high-powered athletic program. The school, with two locations in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, did develop a big-time basketball program, but most of what it produced was chaos and headlines. Through the course of its two-plus years, Sanders was fired, hired, re-fired and re-hired as school leaders and administrators fought with local media, with the authority that runs Texas public high school sports, and with each other (sometimes physically).


As the chaos mounted, so did the bills, which got harder to pay as enrollment fell by half to about 300 students, and eventually the state of Texas stepped in to oversee things. Sanders claimed a merger with another charter school was imminent (it wasn’t). He also seemed just as concerned with his latest reality show, refusing to grant an interview to a local TV station regarding the school when it refused to allow the show’s cameras to film the interview that was being filmed.





Immediately after the Arkansas State Board of Education decided to eliminate the elected school board of Little Rock and turn the district over to state control, the Walton Foundation was ready to take charge.

“Notice apparently went out to Little Rock schools today about a focus group meeting with the Walton Family Foundation and the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation “in conjunction with the Boston Consulting Group.”

When BCG arrives, public education is in peril. They are a management consulting group with business experience.

A coalition of liberal groups called on the sponsor of 11 charter schools to drop them because of allegations of racism, sexism, and test cheating, as well as FBI raids on some of them.

The sponsor, Buckeye Community Hope, refused.

“All of the schools belong to the Concept charter school network that operates in the Midwest. Concept, in turn, is one of several charter systems affiliated with the Gulen movement that has attracted scrutiny nationwide.”

The spokesperson for Buckeye said they will renew all. 9–not 11–Gulen schools. She called the allegations unfounded and accused the groups of “nitpicking.”

“Like all of Ohio’s sponsors, it receives a fee from each school, based on the number of students, for its sponsorship work. A recent report by Bellwether Education Partners, a non-profit research and advocacy group based in Boston, called these sponsorship fees a conflict of interest.”

Remember all the stories about long waiting lists for charter schools? Well, it is not the case at Tennessee’s all-charter Achievement School District. The ASD has taken over low-performing public schools, turned them over to privately managed charter schools, and promises that the schools would be high-performing within five years. Unfortunately, the parents in Memphis and Nashville are not happy about losing their neighborhood public school.


Chalkbeat reports that Republican legislators in Tennessee are proposing to allow the ASD to enroll children from outside their zoned residential district, in order to find more students. It turns out that the schools do not have waiting lists and have low enrollments. One charter operator–Rocketship–won’t open unless the bill passes.


Nashville school board member Amy Frogge warned that the bill would siphon off students and funding from public schools:


“The need for such a bill indicates that the ASD is unable to meet its goal of turning around low-performing schools without a change in student population, and it also indicates that parents are not ‘voting with their feet’ to attend these charter schools,” said Amy Frogge, a board member for Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools and a vocal critic of charter schools and the ASD.
Frogge voiced concern that schools in the ASD will recruit the highest-achieving students from nearby neighborhoods, which could “burden traditional schools with larger populations of more challenging and costly-to-educate students,” she responded in an email to Chalkbeat.

Max Brantley, a fearless blogger in Arkansas (and former editor of the Arkansas Times), wrote an analysis of the Arkansas State Board of Education’s decision to takeover the Little Rock School Board. “The Billionaires Boys Club and its allies at the chamber of commerce won a hard-won and well-orchestrated battle,” he wrote.


Look who is on the state board:


The votes for takeover included Diane Zook, wife of Randy Zook, head of the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce and aunt of Gary Newton, who heads several organizations financed by the Walton Family Foundation and advocates establishment of charter schools. Others included Vicki Saviers of Little Rock, who’s served on the board of the pro-charter-school Arkansans for Education Reform, a lobby financed by the Waltons and other wealthy Arkansans. She also helped found the eStem charter school in Little Rock, another beneficiary of Walton money. Another takeover vote was Kim Davis of Fayetteville, director of external relations for the Northwest Arkansas Council, a private development group whose key backers are the Walton Family Foundation, Sam’s Club and Tyson Foods. The other vote for takeover, besides Ledbetter, was Toyce Newton of Crossett, who heads Phoenix Youth and Family Services. She has served on the Board of the Rockefeller Foundation, which has been partnering with the Walton Family Foundation on an education improvement project. Saviers is on the Rockefeller Foundation board as well. The Rockefeller Foundation is a financial contributor to Newton’s nonprofit.


You know what will happen next, right? You remember that Carrie Walton Penner told Forbes that her vision for “fixing” education in America was charter schools, vouchers, and a free market in schooling.



I was invited to write an article for the New York Daily News reviewing Governor Cuomo’s recently announced “opportunity agenda” for education.


Here is what I wrote.


The Daily News published other articles praising the Governor’s plans for toughening teacher evaluations, adding more charters, and introducing voucher legislation. Given the limitation of 800 words, I was unable to write about the noxious effects of vouchers, which have succeeded nowhere.


It is an agenda that will subject the state’s children to more testing, more test prep, and less of everything that they enjoy about school.


It is an agenda that will ignores expert opinion about the harmful effects of judging teachers by the test scores of their students.


It is an agenda that is innately hostile to public education.



Peter Greene read an article in Forbes about the “nine things you need to know about school choice,” and he uses it to critique the current narrative about the wonders of choice.


Yes, there are more charters than ever before. No, charters do not have higher test scores than public schools. Yes, there are more students using vouchers than ever before, but they account for only 100,000 students out of 50 million, a tiny percentage. Eight states don’t allow charters (though there are efforts in some of the eight to authorize charters).


He sees the article as evidence of the “long game” of choice proponents:


Just keep insisting something is true long enough (public schools are failing, vaccines are dangerous, fluoride makes you communist, The Bachelor is a show about finding true love, charter schools are popular and successful) and eventually it enters Conventional Wisdom as, at a minimum, a “valid alternative view.” It’s not necessary for the things to be true, or even supported by facts– just keep repeating them uncritically and without argument, and eventually, they stick.


I beg to differ. Lies don’t stick over the long term if critics like Peter continue to expose them as lies. Over the long term, facts prevail. The Big Lie technique ultimately is revealed, and people recognize it as such. If I didn’t believe that, I wouldn’t keep this blog going day after day.

Moody’s Investors Servicrs paints a gloomy picture of the effects of charter schools on public schools in Pennsylvania.


Moody’s writes:


“Some fiscally stressed Pennsylvania public school districts have come up with new approaches for combating a primary pressure point: competition from charter schools, Moody’s Investor Service says in a new report. Some of the plans would be transformative, such as a proposal to send all students to other school districts and pay tuition, or to operate a public school district as all-charter.


“Some financially stressed districts have offered recovery proposals that fundamentally alter the nature of their public school district operations,” says Moody’s Assistant Vice President — Analyst, Dan Seymour. “The bold plans face near-term execution challenges, but are positive in the long run as some of these districts would continue to deteriorate without significant structural changes. The strong measures are more likely to lead to long-term financial and operational soundness than continuing on the existing course.”


While charter advocates assert that competition will cause public schools to improve, this is not what is happening in Pennsylvania. Charters make alluring promises and drain away students and funding. The public schools, with less resources, goes into a tailspin, soon finding that it must cut programs and services, making it less able to compete with charters.


The Legislature passed a law in 2012 allowing the Governor to appoint an emergency manager to take over the district, suspending local control. Four districts currently are in receivership: York City, Duquesne, Harrisburg, and Chester-Upland.


The Moody’s report sees the state takeover as a plus because it overrides local opposition to strong remedies. One of those strong remedies, as we have seen in York City, is to turn the children and schools over to an out-of-state for-profit charter chain.


Do you hear the canary in the mine? The competition with charters, which have an inexperienced and low-wage staff, increases the financial pressure on districts. The more students leave for charters, the less able is the district to compete because of fixed costs and experienced teachers who are paid as professionals, not temps. The business answer: shut down the district, turn all the schools into charters, or send the students to other districts.


The end result is the same: the replacement of community public schools by privately managed charters staffed by temps. If the chain can’t make a profit, it will close its doors and leave. What happens then?


Is this a way to “improve” education? Not for students. Not for communities.


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