Archives for category: Charter Schools

Kevin Teasley, who is CEO of a small charter chain with schools in Indiana and Colorado, with new ones planned for Louisiana, admits that Indiana is overwhelmed by an explosion of charters and vouchers.

 

He writes:

 

After years of being in the minority, reformers suddenly found themselves in the rare position of actually being able to pass legislation during the Daniels administration, and now in the Pence administration.

 

These actions have been done with the best of intentions, but the result caused chaos, and reasonably so. Legislators added new charter authorizers; implemented new test schedules, new graduation measurements and tests, new standards, and new school accountability measures; and, yes, even created a new competitor called voucher schools.

 

All the while, schools and authorizers have had to adjust on the fly.

 

Adding to the challenge, groups wanting to “help” grow the movement work full time to raise scarce philanthropic dollars to create even more competition by recruiting out-of-state “best-in-class” charter models. Two groups approved to create multiple charters—BASIS and Rocketship—have announced they are not coming to Indiana after all.

 

Schools are opening with a fraction of the students they planned to serve. Phalen Leadership Academy planned for 300 but opened with 150. Indianapolis Academy of Excellence planned for 230 but opened with fewer than 80. Carpe Diem planned on 173 and opened with 87. The list goes on and on.

 

Inconsistent accountability measures contribute to the chaos. In the past 10 years, the state has gone from a “probation to exemplary” grading model to an A-F model. Neither is accurate nor helpful.

 

Many charters have too few students (see above) or grade levels to be graded accurately. For example, since 2012, ChristelHouse received an A, an F and a B. KIPP Indy received an A, a C, and this year, a D.

 

And now the Legislature plans to change the system again. The inconsistency, and some argue political, grading of schools has diminished what credibility the process might have had.

 

Hoping to stabilize the charter sector, he calls for time and patience. But these things are clear from his candid account: There are no waiting lists for charters; schools opening and closing; grading schemes written by politicians: This is chaos. It has nothing to do with improving education.

 

Twenty five years ago, when charters were a brand-new idea, advocates said they would cost less and get better results than public schools. Now, however, charter schools are suing for equal funding. The Arizona appellate court just ruled that the state is not obliged to provide equal funding to charter schools and public schools.

The Education Law Center reports:

AZ COURT RULES STATE CAN FUND CHARTER SCHOOLS LOWER THAN PUBLIC SCHOOLS

At the beginning of the charter school experiment, charter school advocates touted their ability to provide a superior education at a lower cost than traditional public schools. Now, we are seeing the charter lobby abandon that claim and turn to the courts to demand equal funding for charter schools. In Texas, charter school advocates recently lost their claim for equal funding. In New York, charter school advocates have sued for equal facilities funding. In a ruling that may have wide ramifications, last week an Arizona appellate court affirmed a lower court’s ruling that the differential funding systems for public and charter schools do not violate Arizona’s constitution.

In Craven v. Huppenthal, parents of children in Arizona charter schools sued the state, claiming that Arizona’s school funding scheme was unconstitutional because it caused “gross disparities between charter public schools and other public schools.” The lower court had granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants, and defendant-intervenors the Arizona School Boards Association and Creighton Elementary School District No. 14. The plaintiff-parents appealed.

The appellate court first noted that charter schools are free from many of the regulations governing public schools. For example, Arizona charters are exempt from statutes governing teacher hiring, firing and management. Arizona charter schools may limit enrollment to a certain age group or grade levels. Their curriculum may emphasize a certain philosophy, style or subject area. The court also pointed out that charter schools are funded differently than public schools as well. Unlike public schools, charters receive additional state funding, and may accept grants and donations to supplement their funding. Charter schools owned by non-profits may receive funds obtained through certain facility bonds. Charter schools are also entitled to stimulus funds for start-up and certain facility costs.

The plaintiffs contended that the different funding schemes of charters and public schools violated both the general and uniform education clause of Arizona’s constitution and its equal protection clause. The court, affirming the lower court’s decision, rejected both claims.

Prior rulings of Arizona’s Supreme Court interpreted the general and uniform clause to require that the state provide a public school system that is adequate. The plaintiff-parents in this case admitted that their children were receiving an adequate education at the charter schools. In fact, parents testified that the charter schools had “quality academics” and an “exceptional education.” Thus, the court concluded that the state did not violate the general and uniform clause.

The court also rejected the equal protection claim, noting with approval the reasoning of a New Jersey appellate court, in J.D. ex rel. Scipio-Derrick v. Davy, 2 A.3d 387, 397-98 (N.J. Super. Ct. App. Div. 2010), in a similar equal protection case brought by charter school parents. In that case, the New Jersey court pointed out that children’s attendance at a charter school is purely voluntary. They could withdraw at any time and enroll in their local public school; the school they claimed was funded adequately. Consequently, the court ruled that “the voluntariness of the program vitiates any asserted deprivation of a right to receive an education at a school that is fully funded to the same extent as other Newark public schools,” because the children in the charter school have the “unabridged option” to attend their district public school. The Arizona court applied this reasoning to this case, ruling that since the charter school students can at any time attend their district public school, they are not being treated differently than other students.

In a footnote, the Arizona court noted that the plaintiffs conceded that charter and public schools are not similarly situated, but claimed that those distinctions are irrelevant because the plaintiffs were attempting to focus on the treatment of the children in the charter schools. However, the court pointed out that it was the schools that received the different funding, not the students. Because the students themselves were free to attend their district public schools, their equal protection rights were not violated.

This ruling makes clear that the very nature of charters, as voluntary alternatives to public schools and free from some of the regulations constraining public schools, permits the state to treat charters differently than public schools in matters of funding. The reasoning of the Arizona court can and may very well be applied in future cases as we see charter school advocates across the country appealing to courts to force states to fund them on par with public schools.

Education Justice Press Contact:
Wendy Lecker, Esq.
Senior Attorney, Education Law Center
email: wlecker@edlawcenter.org
voice: (203) 329-8041
http://www.edlawcenter.org
http://www.educationjustice.org

Copyright © 2014 Education Law Center. All Rights Reserved.

Education Justice Initiative | c/o 60 Park Place, Suite 300 | Newark | NJ | 07102

It now turns out that the lead applicant for the new Rochester, NewYork, charter school has no degrees, or none that can be verified. He did not graduate from Rochester’s School Without Walls. He did not obtain a bachelor’s degree from online Western Governors University. He did not obtain a master’s or a doctorate from Concordia University.

But the charter school will open anyway. The head of the Board of Regents disclaims any responsibility. The review is conducted by the State Education Department, she says. Who runs the SED? Dr. Tisch selected the State Education Commissioner, Dr. John King, her classmate at Teachers College. Maybe he is responsible? But who is accountable? Anyone?

Dr. King is fast to hold teachers and principals accountable. Will anyone be held accountable for granting a charter and a guaranteed stream of public money to a young man with no experience or education credentials.

The Greater Works Charter School will open in September. As Dr. Tisch says, board members come and go. So do charter schools. No problem. The demolition of public education continues.

Zephyr Teachout, who ran against Andrew Cuomo in the Democratic primary and won 1/3 of the vote despite no money and no name recognition, has written a brilliant column in The Daily Beast, warning that the millionaires and billionaires who bought the State Senate now are aiming to take over public schools.

She compares their strategy to “The Hunger Games.”

“The same hedge-fund managers who bought the New York State Senate now want to take over public education in the state and strip it bare, while they celebrate excessive wealth in high style. They’re pushing for a special session in Albany this December to cement the takeover of education policy….”

“In New York’s Hunger Games, just like in the books and movies, those in the Capitol live in a very different reality than the rest of us. In our Capitol, Albany lawmakers enjoy a flood of money, personal accounts, and protection for incumbents against attacks. In the Districts—the cities and towns of New York—the reality is bleaker. Citizens must work to survive and make do with the limited resources afforded to them by the Capitol….”

“Like President Snow, who starves the Districts, tests the residents with the Hunger Games competition, and then sets out to destroy them, the hedge-funders want to take over our schools with the same three steps: Starve, Test, Destroy. Budgets are cut severely, tests reveal “poor performance,” and then public schools, having been thus gutted, are replaced by privately managed charters.

First, the starvation: The state of New York is being sued again for funding public schools below constitutional levels. Cuomo’s budgets have stripped grade schools of art, music, sports, and counselors. Without money, classrooms grow so large no teacher can manage them, and kids can’t learn. Billionaires benefit as the money “saved” by not funding schools goes to tax breaks for the rich….”

“Second, the testing: Children are subject to a ridiculous battery of tests that lead to huge profits by corporations like the testing company Pearson but does little to improve the lives of the children. We’re talking about high-stakes, high-stress testing, including testing of the controversial Common Core. These tests prod and poke the children, creating lots of anxiety and taking away from the joy of learning.”

“Third, the destruction: These hedge-fund managers want to eliminate all limits and oversight of charter schools. They want to take control of New York City schools away from Mayor Bill de Blasio and let privatization run rampant. And they want billions in new funding from taxpayers to build new charter schools everywhere across the state, taking even more resources away from hard-pressed public schools.”

Read it all. It is amazingly insightful.

Ted Morris, Jr., resigned his post as leader of the newly authorized charter school called “Greater Works Charter School,” after numerous revelations about discrepancies in his resume. The charter board still plans to open the school in September 2015.

 

Peter Greene reviews the accumulation of new details about the young man, age 22, who was granted a charter by the New York State Board of Regents and has a question: If he and other bloggers and one reporter were able to determine in only 24 hours of Internet searching that this young man did not graduate from the Rochester high school that he claimed on his resume, that it was uncertain whether he had earned a bachelor’s degree or a master’s degree or a doctorate, why didn’t the New York State Board of Regents know these things before handing out a charter to someone who had never taught or run a school?

 

Mercedes Schneider wonders too about the vetting process of the New York State Board of Regents. Do the Regents care about the experience of qualifications of those who are granted a charter to run a school with public funds?

 

She writes:

 

The short of it: This guy is lying about his credentials, and NY Regents just approved him to run a NY charter school at $12,340 per student for the life of the charter (see page 56 of 2014 application), with 96 students approved for 2015-16. Morris admits in the second D&C article seeking his charter board “through posts on Craigslist, Linkedin, and websites for nonprofits” and has used their credentials to help dress up what is an impressive charter operation on paper.

D&C could not reach either of two NY Regents members for comment on Morris’ application approval.

If NY Regents really has students’ best interests in mind, it would seem that thorough checks on the references of charter applicants would be in order.

 

The Perdido Street Blogger reports that the young entrepreneur has resigned from the board of the charter school that he was supposed to lead, and asks the logical question:

 

Now comes the work of holding the Board of Regents accountable for giving approval to this fraud’s charter school and using this fiasco as Exhibit A when Cuomo, King and Tisch look to raise or eliminate the charter cap in New York State.

If Dr Ted Morris Jr, huckster extraordinaire, could get a charter in New York State now before the cap is lifted or eliminated, just wait and see what happens after the cap is increased or ended completely.

 

Chancellor Merryl Tisch has admitted that she hopes to spread charters across the state, and Commissioner John King is a charter school founder from a “no-excuses” charter school with the highest suspension rate in Massachusetts.

 

A sign of coming attractions: Jonathan Pelto has sent a request to state and city officials in New York asking for a formal investigation of Steve Perry’s recently approved charter school in New York City. Pelto writes that Perry, an employee of the Hartford, Connecticut, public schools, is planning to use copyrighted material for the benefit of his private charter company:

 

Either the Commissioner, staff and Regent’s Committee were unaware that Mr. Perry and his fellow charter school applicants do not own the concepts, materials or intellectual property that they claim or the Commissioner, staff and Committee was aware of this issue and are intentionally engaging in what appear to be Mr, Perry’s criminal violation of copyrighted material owned by the Hartford, Connecticut Board of Education…

 

Throughout the application, and in the hearings, meetings and communications associated with his attempt to get garner approval from the New York Board of Regents for his Harlem charter school application, Mr. Perry consistently claimed that he and his company own the concepts, materials and intellectual property associated with the Capital Preparatory Magnet School in Hartford and have the legal right to “replicate” that school in New York using materials created for the Connecticut public school.

 

However, neither Steve Perry nor his private company has any legal right to those concepts, materials or intellectual property.

 

Since Steve Perry and his associates are full-time employees of the Hartford Board of Education, the copyright laws are extremely clear. Concepts, materials and intellectual property created by employees of a school district are the sole property of the school district….

 

Mr. Perry and his company are seeking to use copyrighted materials for personal gain, which of course, is an extremely serious and potentially criminal offense. According to federal law, “A commercially motivated infringer can receive up to a five-year federal prison term and $250,000 in fines. (17 U.S.C. § 506(a)), 18 U.S.C. § 2319)

 

Mr. Perry’s application to open a charter school in Harlem contains numerous claims that he is basing his work plan on concepts, materials and intellectual property that he does not own or have the right to utilize.

 

Someone at the New York State Board of Regents should take note and pay attention to due diligence.

 

 

 

 

 

In a shocking decision, the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 that the state has no legal responsibility to provide a quality education to every child. The case centered on the Highland Park school district, where achievement was lagging; the state turned the entire district over to a for-profit charter operator that had no track record of improving low-performng schools. The American Civil Liberties Union had filed the suit.

 

In a blow to schoolchildren statewide, the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled on Nov. 7 the State of Michigan has no legal obligation to provide a quality public education to students in the struggling Highland Park School District.
A 2-1 decision reversed an earlier circuit court ruling that there is a “broad compelling state interest in the provision of an education to all children.” The appellate court said the state has no constitutional requirement to ensure schoolchildren actually learn fundamental skills such as reading — but rather is obligated only to establish and finance a public education system, regardless of quality. Waving off decades of historic judicial impact on educational reform, the majority opinion also contends that “judges are not equipped to decide educational policy.”

 

“This ruling should outrage anyone who cares about our public education system,” said Kary L. Moss, executive director of the American Civil Liberties of Michigan. “The court washes its hands and absolves the state of any responsibility in a district that has failed and continues to fail its children.”

 

The decision dismisses an unprecedented “right-to-read” lawsuit filed by the ACLU of Michigan in July 2012 on behalf of eight students of nearly 1,000 children attending K-12 public schools in Highland Park, Mich. The suit, which named as defendants the State of Michigan, its agencies charged with overseeing public education and the Highland Park School District, maintained that the state failed to take effective steps to ensure that students are reading at grade level.

 

“Let’s remember it was the state that turned the entire district over to a for-profit charter management company with no track record of success with low performing schools,” said Moss. “It is the state that has not enforced the law that requires literacy intervention to children not reading at grade level. It is the state’s responsibility to ensure and maintain a system of education that serves all children.”

 

In a dissenting opinion, appellate court judge Douglas Shapiro accused the court of “abandonment of our essential judicial roles, that of enforcement of the rule of law even where the defendants are governmental entities, and of protecting the rights of all who live within Michigan’s borders, particularly those, like children, who do not have a voice in the political process.”

 

MEAP test results from 2012 painted a bleak picture for Highland Park students and parents. In the 2013-14 year, no fewer than 78.9 percent of current fourth graders and 73 percent of current seventh graders will require the special intervention mandated by statute. By contrast, 65 percent of then-fourth graders and 75 percent of then-seventh graders required statutory intervention entering the 2012-13 school year.

 

At the time the state of Michigan decided to privatize the Highland Park schools and turn them over to the Leona Group, some saw it as a last-ditch effort to save the district from its debt. 

 

The Wall Street Journal wrote in 2012:

 

Phoenix-based Leona will receive $7,110 per pupil in state funding, plus an as-yet-undetermined amount of federal funds for low-income and special education students. In addition, the Highland Park district will pay Leona a $780,000 annual management fee.

 

Unions have been sidelined after the district’s entire professional staff was laid off, as allowed by the state emergency law, but teachers can apply for jobs with Leona. Leona has budgeted about $36,000 a year for Highland Park teachers on average, the company said—compared with almost $65,000 a year the teachers received in the 2010-11 school year.

 

In a typical school it takes over, Leona has hired back about 70% of the teachers, the company said. Leona also will lease the Highland Park district’s buildings.

 

Under the five-year contract with Leona, the new city charter board will monitor the company’s progress in improving student performance.

 

Leona runs 54 schools in five states. Students in almost half of them fail state academic benchmarks. But of its 22 Michigan schools, 19 meet the mark, Leona officials said.

 

Leona Chief Executive William Coats said the company had no incentive to cut corners in Highland Park. “As we build equity, we give that back to the schools,” he said during Wednesday’s meeting when an audience member raised doubts about the for-profit approach. “We’re trying to manage this so you [the district] stay in business.”

 

Highland Park is where Henry Ford opened his first assembly line and Chrysler Corp. built its original headquarters. It has suffered the same ills as Detroit, its larger neighbor: an exodus of auto jobs, depressed housing stock and a surge in crime.

 

The city, which spreads across three square miles, lost nearly 30% of its population from 2000 to 2010, according to the latest U.S. Census. Nearly half of the 11,776 residents live below the poverty line.

 

Students and parents complain of dirty classrooms, exposed wiring in the schools, rationed textbook and swimming pools—once used by powerhouse swim teams—that now sit drained of water.

 

John Holloway, the school board president, said the problems became a “runaway train that we could not stop.”

 

As the situation worsened, the state gave the district a $4 million loan in July 2011 and advanced it $450,000 more earlier this year just to meet its payroll.

 

A union-backed initiative that could go to voters statewide in November seeks to repeal the emergency-manager law under which Ms. Parker was appointed to run the district. The law had been strengthened in 2011 by the governor.

 

Glenda McDonald, a Highland Park resident and laid-off teacher, said that the problem was not entirely the fault of the community. “The disinvestment in our communities led to the disinvestment in our schools, and that’s why people left,” she said. “We had nothing to offer them.”

 

After Leona took over, things did not go well. Enrollment dropped sharply. The company closed the district’s high school. It agreed to waive its fee for one year because of a lingering deficit.

 

 

The 22-year-old who received a charter from the New York Board of Regents said he graduated Rochester’s School Without Walls when he was 16, received an online bachelor’s degree at 18, then earned a master’s and doctorate in four years.

The following email just arrived:

Hi Diane.

I was the principal of Rochester, New York’s School Without Walls from 1987 to 2010. Ted Morris, the young man awarded permission to open a charter school in Rochester, NY, and claiming to be a graduate of School Without Walls in 2008, attended SWW for less than a year and then voluntarily left to be home schooled. He never graduated nor received a diploma from School Without Walls.

Dan Drmacich

It was surprising to learn that the Néw York Board of Regents awarded a charter to a 22-year-old prodigy with no educational experience. Peter Greene did some research and found that the young man and his supporters first applied for a charter when he was only 18 and had just won his bachelor’s degree online. He went on to receive a master’s and a doctorate in the next four years, subject not specified, possibly online but not clear. Peter thinkshe may also be an ordained cyber minister.

The question is, why did the Regents refuse to grant him a charter when he was 18? Andre Agassi has lots of charters, and he is a high school dropout. Like, what’s the standard here? Age, money, charisma, experience, or what?

Bill Phillis of the Ohio Coalition for Equity and Adequacy fears that Governor John Kasich plans to privatize the public schools of Youngstown:

Bill Phillis writes:

According to a November 20 Youngstown Vindicator article, the state representative-elect from Youngstown said the Governor told her he would like to shut down Youngstown City Schools and replace the district with a great charter school. Could this happen? That scheme already exists in New Orleans. Look for it in the state budget bill to be unveiled by the Governor in February 2015.

Ohio law provides that charters are privately-operated entities with near zero accountability and transparency. A charterized Youngstown School system would signal that a private, non-transparent, unaccountable system is superior to a publicly-controlled, accountable, transparent system. It would signal that privatization is superior to democracy. It would tell the world that democracy has failed in Youngstown Ohio. What is next? A privatized city council for Youngstown?

Ohioans better wake up to the erosion of democracy via the charter school scheme. If the complete privatization of pubic K-12 education happens, democracy will be history.

William Phillis
Ohio E & A

Ohio E & A | 100 S. 3rd Street | Columbus | OH | 43215

Jonathan Prlto blows the whistle on Steve Perry’s expansion plans, which Pelto says are illegal under Connecticut law.

Perry is principal of Capital Prep Magey School in Hartford. He has received permission from the state Board of Education to open a charter in Bridgeport and from Néw York’s Board of Regents to open a charter in Harlem. He will remain principal of the public magnet school in Hartford and will use materials and personnel from the public school for the charters.

Pelto writes:

“The proposals for both schools openly admitted that the plans were based on Capital Prep Magnet School in Hartford, that the materials used will be the same as those used at Capital Prep Magnet School and the management team that will run the Bridgeport and Harlem charter schools will be the same group of senior administrators and teachers that are presently running Capital Prep Magnet School in Hartford.

“The proposals even included many of the written materials that can be found on Capital Prep Magnet School’s present website.

“But of course, Steve Perry and his team know perfectly well that such a move is blatantly illegal.

“The law is very clear, materials and concepts developed by public employees during the course of their work belong to their employer – the government that pays them and its citizens.”

Pelto says:

“Perry will collect $2.5 million per year for the first five years as a charter operator.”

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