Archives for category: Charter Schools

This teacher read the post about Gulen charter schools and wrote the following comment:

 

This is so eerily similar to my job-it is a shame that there is poor oversight in these types of schools. I work in a Ohio-based charter school. I’m under great stress due to this under performing school. Misleading marketing leads unsuspecting parents to the school with inaccurate curriculum/academic expectations. Unfortunately, student turn-over is high, attendance/enrollment records are altered and no one ever questions-if you do, you just may lose your job. The principal is a bully and the superintendent is a pushover. Taxpayers don’t deserve for their hard-earned monies to be utilized in such a irresponsible fashion. There is no HR or outlet for employee grievances, no unions, the Department of Education really needs to stop winking at these degrading practices and shut underperforming schools down ASAP.

Ras Baraka is a high school principal and City Council member in Newark. He is running for mayor of Newark against a candidate funded by hedge fund managers and corporate reformers. Baraka was endorsed by the Network for Public Education.

Contact Frank Baraff (914) 469-3775 fbaraff@optonline.net

For Release Friday, April 18th

Baraka praises Ministers Fight for a Moratorium on One Newark School Reorganization Plan

Statement by Ras Baraka

“Nearly one year ago, the City Council passed my resolution calling for a moratorium on all of Cami Anderson’s public school initiatives. A year later, Ms. Anderson continues to run away from input by Newark citizens and continues to carry out her relentless drive to close our neighborhood schools.

Today, the ministers of Newark have joined me in calling for a moratorium on the destructive One Newark Plan to close our schools, a plan already being implemented against the will of the people of Newark.”

Advocates for school choice like to say they believe in a free market in education. They say, let the consumer choose, let the market decide. And with this ideology, they merrily seek to undermine public education.

But is there a free market?

I received this comment from a reader:

“There is absolutely nothing “free market competitive” about the charter school movement. The only thing they are competing for is to strip away federal tax subsidies from public schools. I say, terminate all federal tax subsidies. Why should federal taxes subsidize Michael Milken? Public school funding should just stay funded by local taxes.

“The hedge funds are all good businessmen of course, because they smell the free government money. That’s what businessmen always do. Particularly Wall St. They love taxpayer guarantees.

“Free market competition means you are able to sell your product because it is better than the competition with NO government subsidy.”

Representative Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) is co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. He sees right through the Obama education policy and recognizes that it is a continuation of George W. Bush’s failed No Child Left Behind.

 

In this astonishingly candid interview with Josh Eidelson in Salon, Rep. Grijalva lacerates Race to the Top, high-stakes testing, privatization, and the other features of the Obama education policy.

 

Rep. Grijalva recognizes that the Obama program is now driven by financial interests:

 

Obama’s education secretary is “a market-based person,” his education policy manifests a “market-based philosophy,” and “we continue to starve public schools,” the co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus charged in an interview Wednesday afternoon.

 

The privatization of education “began as driven by ideology, but now [it’s] getting momentum because of the financial aspects,” Rep. Raul Grijalva argued to Salon. The Arizona Democrat called charter schools “a step towards” privatization, called the Chicago teachers’ strike a “necessary pushback” and warned of a “self-fulfilling conflict of interest.”

 

 

Grijalva was the first Congressman to support the Network for Public Education’s call for public hearings on the overuse of standardized testing, their costs, and misuse. Not only does he see the problem with high-stakes testing, but he understands that test scores are used to set schools up to fail and to be privatized.

 

He told Eidelson:

 

One of the things driving, right now, education is … mandatory testing … the frequency, the quantity of the testing that’s going on …

I understand accountability. I don’t have a problem with testing as a teaching tool, to help to guide the improvement in children. But what’s happened is the standardized testing has become the end-all-be-all in terms of curriculum, in terms of how you prepare students for the future.

And I think that issues related to what these tests are, how we are impacting communities that have, let’s say, learning disabilities … students who use primarily languages other than English, how are we dealing with cultural differences …

A whole hearing on testing, the culture of testing, and what it is producing for public education.

What you see … is a real move toward the privatization of schools, based on what test results are. A school doesn’t do well, a school doesn’t do well again, then suddenly there is a movement to either let that school be run by private management [or] let the students then go somewhere else — usually to a private charter school.

 

Rep. Grijalva sees the pattern on the rug: The game is rigged to starve public schools and force families to seek private alternatives:

 

And so we see enrollment in our public education system dropping as a consequence of people leaving the schools, or the schools being converted into more private institutions as opposed to the public schools … Public schools are still held to the standards that they should be held to … whatever situation they come into school, that [children] always be treated and educated in the same manner. Yet other schools outside the public institution system can pick and choose who they want to educate … and leave to the public schools a less and less diverse grouping of students, a more difficult group of students, with shrinking resources. At the same time all of this is going on, the funding at a national level and at a state level continues to shrink for public education.

 

Eidelson asks him the crucial question–do you think there is any hope for change from the Obama administration, and Rep. Grijalva gives an insightful, powerful response:

 

I think the fight is keeping some of the worst from happening, No. 1. No. 2, as long as we are resource-deprived in public schools, they’ll never be in that competitive mode that Duncan talks about, OK? As long as we shift public resources to accommodate private ventures in education, and as long as you continue to be myopic about “one mandated test tells us all,” “one Common Core will be the solution …”

There’s also, you know, a shrinking of our curriculum in order to satisfy prepping for tests, as opposed to getting people ready in a more holistic way to be better human beings, and educated better …

If you continue to starve the schools, public education, then they’re never going to be [in] a position to be competitive. And if you do independent analysis, the public education system, compared to private charter schools, is no worse and no better. You know, there’s not a significant difference – yet … we continue to starve public schools. That’s why you see enrollment drop …

There’s a demographic shift going on in our schools … So this is a time to invest in those schools, because this generation of kids of color — with many of them having English learners coming into our public schools — those are the new Americans … Those are the generations of the future …

The public schools have always been one of the most powerful integrative social institutions that we have in our country, that build community and build the kind of allegiance to the values of this nation as part of the education process. Now you have a new demographic group coming into our schools, you’re disinvesting from the schools, and you’re leaving the public schools to that demographic with less resources and less attention. This is a really, really wrong time to be pulling [away] from the commitment to public schools. And it’s probably one of the times in our history when we should be doing more investment. Because this is the generation that is going to have the greatest responsibility for our nation come 10, 20 years from now.

Perhaps someday historians will figure out how the Obama administration pulled the wool over the eyes of so many people about its plans for urban schools. As a presidential candidate, Barack Obama named Professor Linda Darling-Hammond as his senior education advisor. She went on national television to describe the progressive policies he would pursue if elected.

Soon after the election, President-elect Obama dropped Darling-Hammond and selected his basketball buddy Arne Duncan as Secretary of Education. He introduced Duncan as someone who had enjoyed remarkable success in turning around the Chicago public schools. We now know that Duncan did not enjoy remarkable success, and Mayor Rahm Emanuel is applying a wrecking ball to the Chicago public school system.

What went wrong? How did Obama fool us? Once he was elected, why did he choose as Secretary a non-educator who was determined to make standardized testing the centerpiece of his program, to advance the privatization of America’s public schools, to demoralize teachers, and to make common cause with the nation’s most rightwing governors? Why does Duncan never speak out against segregation? Why does he pretend that poverty doesn’t matter so long as poor kids have “great” teachers? Why does he never speak out against vouchers? What will historians say about Race to the Top, which turns out to have as much evidence as No Child Left Behind?

 

The Obama Administration’s “Scorched Earth Policy” for Urban Schools

By Dr. Mark Naison

The Obama Administration, in the five years it has been in office, has pursued an Education “Scorched Earth” policy in major urban centers, closing public schools en masse and replacing them with charter schools. And for the most part, Democratic Mayors have enthusiastically supported this policy. Only in the last year, there has been finally been some resistance to this policy, by newly elected Mayors in New York and Pittsburgh. That resistance must spread if public education is to survive and be revitalized in Urban America. Electing anti-testing, anti-charter school and pro public school Mayors in big cities should be a major priority of activists in the last three years of the Obama Presidency, along with building the multi-partisan movement against the Common Core Standards. That is the only way we can build public schools into strong community institutions where creative teaching and learning is practiced and honored.

 

Dr. Mark Naison is one of the Co-founders of BATs with Priscilla Sanstead

http://badassteachers.blogspot.com/2014/01/the-obama-administrations-scorched.html

This article was written by an independent education researcher who requests anonymity. It is unfortunate that the politics of education have become so intermingled with powerful forces that researchers remain silent or hide their identities to escape retribution. In this case, everything in this article is carefully documented.

Lessons Learned:

How the Nation’s Most Powerful Mayor Lost His First Battle Against Corporate Interests and How He Can Win the War

Mayor Bill de Blasio has lost his first battle against the status quo corporate education reform policy machine. In attempting to lessen the influence of charter schools, which often comes at the expense of public schools, he made a number of key tactical errors. This led to the passage of a new law in New York State that now forces New York City to either co-locate every new charter school or pay for its rent in private space. De Blasio was also forced to overturn his decision not to co-locate three Success Academy schools. A review of the tactical errors made can serve as a roadmap for future policy changes that will benefit all of New York City’s children.

Be transparent, and engage communities. Prior to leaving office Mayor Bloomberg had the Panel for Educational Policy vote and approve of over 40 co-locations including 17 charter co-locations. Historically these votes were held in March, but they were moved up to October in order to force de Blasio’s hand. Upon entering office de Blasio should have immediately begun a transparent process of re-evaluating these decisions. Instead he delayed addressing the situation and when he did a single employee at the NYC Department of Education (and former de Blasio deputy at the public advocate’s office) seems to have been primarily responsible for the reviews. Future policy changes should follow a clear process with open avenues of community and stakeholder input.

Be bold. Universal Pre-K is a bold move. But policy changes must not stop there. Instead of deciding to overturn only three co-locations, which left him vulnerable to accusations of a personal vendetta, de Blasio should have stopped every single one that did not meet community needs. Instead of stacking a new space-sharing committee with charter supporters de Blasio should assign them seats based on number of students served (6%) rather than number of dollars in the bank accounts of their backers. A lack of boldness and a reluctance to make waves has also interfered with attempts to re-organize Tweed (the NYC DOE’s headquarters). Besides the departure of a sole deputy Chancellor all the officials in Bloomberg’s DOE are holding onto their positions. This may explain why, as of yet, there have been no changes to the test-centered promotion policy, no changes to test-centered school accountability metrics, and no changes to the test-centered teacher evaluation system. Without significant changes to the ranks of central office managers, progressive educational reforms will have no chance of success.

Communicate the values, figures, and facts used in making policy decisions. Bloomberg was a master at this. He used numbers to bludgeon opponents into submission. Although careful analysis and review of the data showed that many of the numbers were false, the charts in the powerpoints at every press conference lulled the media. In the empty space created by the lack of communication on the part of de Blasio’s City Hall, others stepped in to address some of the falsehoods that de Blasio’s political adversaries were spreading. Eva Moskowitz, the $475,000 CEO of Success Academy, was the loudest and boldest of the de Blasio attackers. Her claims, made on national television, were debunked, but not by City Hall.

We know that countering lies with the truth works because Success Academy has recently changed its multi-million dollar political advertising campaign. They no longer claim to have the highest 5th grade math test scores in New York State. They now claim to have a school with the highest 5th grade math test scores in Harlem. Even this claim does not pass the smell test. There are 32 school districts in New York City. Out of those 32 districts Harlem is but one neighborhood (not even a full district). There are four Success Academy schools in Harlem. Out of those four schools we are asked to focus on a single one. There are three elementary grade levels where students are tested. Of those three grade levels we are asked to pay attention to only one. There are two main subjects in which students are tested, English and Math. Again we are asked to consider only one. The data in fact show that even on this narrow view there are four schools in Queens and four schools in Manhattan that have higher average 5th grade math state test scores than this Success Academy school. And they got these scores without kicking out 50% of their students as Success Academy does.

As de Blasio comes to terms with the constraints that the New York State Legislature recently imposed on his decision-making around charters, he must not accept defeat. He must initiate a conversation about the practices of the charter sector in New York City. He must use his bully pulpit and ask the legislature to address the questions that charter school advocates refuse to confront.

*How will charter schools be held accountable for suspending large numbers of students leading to those students leaving the school?
* How will charter schools be mandated to stop their selective attrition approach whereby they keep the high-performing students and kick out the low-performing students (making comparisons to schools with natural patterns of attrition unfair)?
*How will charter schools be forced to address their unwillingness to accept the neediest students?
*How will charter schools be subject to basic oversight regulations going forward (such as the grading of their state exams by a 3rd party)?

Now is not the time to run and hide. Let’s take advantage of this opportunity to have an honest discussion about the charter sector.

The research cited below can get us started.

http://www.edwize.org/middle-school-charters-suspending-their-way-to-the-top charter schools have high suspension rates and shrinking cohorts of students suggesting that charters suspend and expel challenging students and as a result their test scores increase.

http://www.edwize.org/new-charter-report-improves-transparency-but-leaves-many-questions-unanswered reviews data from “state of the sector” report on NYC charter schools. Charter schools in NYC serve a less needy student population (fewer ELL students, fewer students with disabilities, fewer students in poverty), have higher teacher and principal turnover, and have declining middle school enrollments.

http://www.edwize.org/asking-hard-questions-about-what-works Harlem Success and Harlem Village charter schools serve more privileged student body than the district in which they are located and have very high (up to 68%) attrition rates

http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/15582159.2011.548242?journalCode=wjsc20 “Using 3 recent years of data from the New York State School Report Cards and analyzing the charter population at the school level, the authors found that English language learners are consistently underrepresented in charter school populations across 3 academic years.”

http://www.edwize.org/new-study-confirms-uft-report%E2%80%99s-findings-on-ells-in-charters reviews above study. Points to some issues (such as including less than reliable high school data) with their finding that charters serve a proportionate number of free-lunch students

http://schoolfinance101.wordpress.com/2012/08/15/still-searching-for-miracle-schools-and-superguy-updates-on-houston-and-new-york-city/ finds that charter schools in NYC serve a more privileged student population, spend more money per student, and have smaller class sizes.

http://www.uft.org/files/attachments/uft-report-2010-01-separate-and-unequal.pdf UFT study finding that NYC Charters ”serve significantly fewer than the average of the City’s poorest children, and 10 to 25 percent fewer of such children in the charters’ own neighborhoods. Charters serve on average less than four percent of English Language Learners (“ELL”), rather than 14 percent of such children in the City’s district public schools (the “district schools”). Less than 10 percent of charter pupils are categorized as special education students versus a citywide average of more than 16 percent in the district public schools. In addition, despite their concentrations in highly diverse neighborhoods, charters as a group admit substantially fewer Hispanic and/or immigrant students. As a result, charters contain a heavier concentration of African-American students than is true in the City as a whole or even in the neighborhoods charters are supposed to serve.” Also raises questions about the financial practices and “outsize “management fees”” and the transparency of charter schools.

http://www.uft.org/files/attachments/uft-report-2010-04-special-ed-in-charters.pdf UFT study finding that NYC charter schools do not serve the same percent of students with disabilities as non-charter schools and serve significantly fewer of the higher need students with disabilities.

https://dianeravitch.net/2012/12/03/reader-calls-out-ny-daily-news-for-charter-spin-2/ Daily News story claiming that charter schools serve same students as public schools in districts 7 and 23 is false. There are in fact 500% fewer high needs special education students, 50% fewer ELLs in charter schools.

https://dianeravitch.net/2012/12/20/inflated-claims-of-charter-success-in-nyc/ KIPP has fewer of the highest need special education students although the media claims otherwise

http://www.edwize.org/rhode-island-charter-board-to-seth-andrew-you%e2%80%99re-fired compares Democracy Prep Charter School to co-located district schools and finds that the charter schools serves over 30% fewer students with disabilities with self-contained special education students and fewer students eligible for free lunch.

http://www.edwize.org/at-charters-struggling-students-vanish-as-scores-rise#more-7161 it seems likely based on the data that charter schools are removing students from testing cohorts and that might account for some of their test outcomes

http://www.edwize.org/the-anatomy-of-a-cover-up-the-nyc-department-of-education-and-special-education-in-charter-schools#more-6932 claims that the New York City Department of Education attempted to conceal information that should be available to the public regarding the numbers of students with disabilities served by charter schools. And “is failing to provide the most minimal oversight of the education of students with special needs in NYC charter schools.”

http://www.edwize.org/charter-schools-and-special-ed-eva-moskowitz-gets-defensive#more-6890 links to data on characteristics of students served by NYC charter schools. Notes that “virtually none of the information available for district schools is also available for charter schools” on schools’ public web pages.”

http://garyrubinstein.teachforus.org/2012/06/12/it-takes-a-village/ looks at the performance of the Harlem Village Academy Charter School. Finds that “In 2010-2011, HVA had 55% free lunch and 13% reduced lunch. The district, that year, had 74% free with 5% reduced. In 2010-2011, HVA had 3% LEP vs. 11% for the whole district. In 2010-2011 38% of the students at HVA were suspended for at least one day while 7% were suspended for the whole district. Student attrition at HVA is huge. For example, the 66 5th graders in 2007-2008 have shrunk to just 16 9th graders in the 2010-2011 school year. This is a 75% attrition. In that same time, the district that the school is in went from 904 5th graders in 2007-2008 to 1313 9th graders in 2010-2011. That is a 45% growth.” Also notes “staff turnover was 2007-2008 53%, for 2008-2009, 38%, and for 2009-2010, a whopping 61%. By comparison, the teacher attrition for the entire district in 2009-2010 was just 19%.” Not a single student took the New York Sate Trigonometry exam.

http://miracleschools.wikispaces.com/Harlem+Village+Academy%2C+NY%2C+NY more on Harlem Village Academy Charter School.
http://www.edwize.org/charter-vs-district-student-demographics-beyond-the-lotteries cites research showing that charter schools do not educate the same type of students as district schools. For example, KIPP charter schools in NYC serve fewer poor students than the district middle schools.

http://miracleschools.wikispaces.com/KIPP+Academy+New+York tracks high attrition rate in NYC KIPP school.
http://www.edwize.org/joel-klein-turns-a-blind-eye-to-his-own-data-on-charters-and-test-scores “58% of district schools got an A or a B in 2010, compared to only 34% of charters. In Districts 4 and 5 in Harlem, more than half of district schools got either an A or B (27 out of 53), compared to only 8 out of the 21 charters in those neighborhoods.” “Based on the data charters reported to the state last year, the city-wide difference in poverty between charters and district schools almost doubled — from 2.5 percentage points in 2008-09 to 4.3 percentage points in 2009-10. In addition, poverty at public schools rose 2 percentage points from 2008-09 to 2009-10, while at charters the increase was only a tenth of one percent. Across the city, 15 percent of district students were English Language Learners, while in charters, English Language Learners made up only 5 percent of students.”

http://gothamschools.org/2009/02/17/toward-a-new-definition-of-creaming/#more-9646 discusses evidence of creaming at Democracy Prep charter school at both the initial application stage and later on as students are dropped from the school’s roster.
http://school-stories.org/2012/05/pushed-out-charter-schools-contribute-to-the-citys-growing-suspension-rates/ “no excuses” charter schools have very high suspension rates which, in some cases, violates legal regulations.

http://www.edwize.org/democracy-prep-and-the-same-kids-myth the populations of Democracy Prep Charter School and its co-located public show that their populations are dramatically different with the charter school having fewer poor, limited English proficient and special education students

http://www.edwize.org/middle-school-charters-show-alarming-student-attrition average attrition rate for charter middle schools examined is 23% between 5th and 8th grades. Students appear to be removed from the school rather than being left back a grade. As students are removed from cohort proficiency on state exams goes up.

http://schoolfinance101.wordpress.com/2012/08/28/what-do-the-available-data-tell-us-about-nyc-charter-school-teachers-their-jobs/ an examination of charter school data shows that they “have smaller classes… spend much more than surrounding district schools … serve much less needy student populations than surrounding district schools… have 4th grade students with relatively “average” to below average scale score outcomes compared to schools serving similar population… in some cases, have 8th grade students with high average scale score outcomes compared to schools serving similar populations… where data were available, have value-added scores which vary from the citywide average in both directions, with KIPP being the lowest and Uncommon schools the highest (in the aggregate). Notably, Uncommon Schools also have consistently smaller class sizes and the fewest low income students.”

http://nepc.colorado.edu/newsletter/2010/06/new-kipp-study-underestimates-attrition-effects-0 study of KIPP doesn’t fully account for high attrition rates at KIPP middle schools and other external factors that influence student outcomes.

http://schoolfinance101.wordpress.com/2011/07/06/zip-it-charters-and-economic-status-by-zip-code-in-ny-and-nj/ demographic comparison showing that KIPP middle schools in NYC have fewer poor students than other district middle schools.

http://schoolfinance101.wordpress.com/2010/08/05/upperhalf/ charters in NYC have fewer poor students and fewer English Language Learners than district schools.

Ravi Gupta is an ambitious young man who has boldly entered the booming world of charter entrepreneurship.

He may even be planning his own charter chain.

He opened one in Nashville, one of those “no excuses” charters designed especially for kids of color, with long school days and tough discipline.

And now he plans to open another in Jackson, Mississippi. In this interview, he compares the education reform debate to the “Game of Thrones.”

Apparently some folks from Mississippi think it is funny that he talks about defining “who WE are as a state and where WE want to go.”

Ravi is from Staten Island, New York.

In Nashville, Gupta has gotten into heated exchanges with two elected school board members. He blasted one on Facebook, where he claimed the school board member was in a “drunk rage” when he wrote a sharp exchange with Gupta.

In another instance, he rudely criticized board member Amy Frogge for raising the issue of attrition at charter schools; Gupta said she was out of bounds criticizing his school because she had not visited it. Gupta accused her of acting like a “birther,” making completely unsubstantiated charges.

Gupta’s angry blasts at the school board members occurred shortly after the board unanimously granted him permission to open a second charter school in Nashville.

Gupta is only 29, and has known great success in his adult life. He seems to have a short fuse.

His school should offer courses in anger management.

One of the most absurd conceits of the “reformers” is that they are leaders of the civil rights movement of our time. They bust unions. They strip teachers of hard-won due process rights. They include in their ranks the titans of Wall Street. How long can they pretend that they have any common ground with Martin Luther King Jr., who died while helping the sanitation workers of Memphis who wanted a union ?

In this post, Julian Vasquez Heilig conducts a mock interview with labor leader and civil rights leader Cesar Chavez. Heilig seeks to show how Chavez would see today’s Status Quo billionaires and their apologists.

A sample:

“Q: How about charter and voucher approaches that help the few at the expense of the many?

A: We cannot seek achievement for ourselves and forget about progress and prosperity for our community… Our ambitions must be broad enough to include the aspirations and needs of others, for their sakes and for our own.”

Rocketship Charters are planning to open in Nashville and Memphis, but there have been a few problems along the way.

Lisa Fingeroot of the Nashville Ledger writes that the for-profit corporation,which relies on computers to cut costs, has experienced a dramatic decline in its test scores in the past few years. Once hailed as the “next big thing” because of its high scores, that reputation has melted away, as this article shows.

 

Fingeroot writes:

 

Rocketship opened its first elementary school in California in 2008 and earned a national reputation for success with a “blended” learning model in which students spend a part of the day learning online while supervised by an aide instead of a certified teacher. The rest of the students’ day takes place in a traditional classroom.
The online learning program allows a 50-to-one student-teacher ratio, has come under fire from educators and has contributed to a drop in test scores for Rocketship students, documents show.
Even though California-based Rocketship will abandon the online program, Kristoffer Haines, senior vice president of growth and development, is accusing critics of distorting company goals by wrongly claiming the online program was designed simply to cut costs so more money could be syphoned from each individual school and used to fuel company expansion into more states.
Rocketship’s learning model has found support among many of the nation’s education reform spokesmen, including former Florida Gov. and potential Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush, who promote the use of computers as a method to individualize student instruction.
But Rocketship took a public relations hit earlier this year when the California Department of Education released test scores showing a steady decline in student test scores between the 2008-09 and 2012-13 school years. During that period, the company grew from one to seven schools and also implemented the higher student-teacher ratio pilot.
The test scores, calculated at the request of Education Week, a national trade magazine for educators, show a correlation between growth of the company and incremental drops in test scores.
But Rocketship officials downplay the scores and blame the drop on the online pilot program, which they say will be nixed before the Nashville school opens for the 2014-15 school year.

 

The company spokesmen boast of “phenomenal results,” but “the results calculated by California officials for Education Week show the percentage of Rocketship students who scored proficient or better in English/language arts dropped by 30 percentage points in five years, and the number scoring that well in math dropped by more than 14 percentage points.”

 

In another article, Fingeroot disclosed that Rocketship had been siphoning funds from charters in one state to finance the opening of new charters in other states.

 

She writes:

 

A national charter school group tapped to open schools in both Nashville and Memphis is dumping plans to syphon money from its schools here and in California to finance expansion into other states, a company official says.

The plan by Rocketship Education to use tax dollars collected in one state to finance the opening of schools in another state has elected officials and charter school observers questioning whether the move is legal.

But that plan has been scrapped and will be replaced in May with a similar business model that shows money will not be moved from state to state, says Kristoffer Haines, senior vice president of growth and development.

Revenues generated at a Nashville school, however, could be used to help jumpstart another Rocketship school in Nashville, he adds.

Even that kind of money movement isn’t winning points from Metro Nashville school board member Will Pinkston, a vocal opponent of unrestricted charter school growth.

“Any charter operator needs to be keeping those dollars in the school and not using them to fund growth inside or outside the community,” Pinkston says.

The Metro school board has approved one Rocketship charter school, but the company has plans to ask for at least one more in Nashville.

Rocketship does not need local approval, though, because it has state approval to take over failing schools in both Nashville and Memphis through the Achievement School District established to improve Tennessee schools performing in the bottom five percent of all schools.

The Rocketship plan to fuel growth through local schools called for cutting staff to save money, and taking an additional $200,000 per year from each of the company’s existing schools to use as seed money.

“It’s called ‘cross subsidization,’ and whether it is legal or not is very questionable,” says Gary Miron, an education professor at Western Michigan University whose research includes the monitoring of more than 300 charter schools around the United States.

“Why would taxpayers in Tennessee want to pay for schools in another state,” he asks.

The plan was first found on the company’s website, but was removed when it became ammunition in a California neighborhood fight over whether Rocketship would be allowed to open a second school in the community.

Haines accuses critics of distorting the information and called the plan “outdated” because much of it was based on an old 2010 plan that was meant only for California schools and only to fund additional California schools, he explains.

In yet a third article, Fingeroot shows how “nonprofit” charter chains are very profitable through real estate transactions and high salaries.

She writes:

 

 

Even though a plan to allow for-profit charter school management companies in Tennessee is dead for the current legislative session, the “Educational Industrial Complex” is still cranking out profits, says the professor who coined the phrase.

 

“There’s not much difference in profit and nonprofits,” says Gary Miron, an education professor at Western Michigan University and a member of the National Education Policy Center in Colorado who studies and monitors charter schools.
“At the end of the year they can clear profits by putting it into salaries and bonuses for executives,’’ he explains.

 

Funds also can be moved or paid into a web of for-profit sister companies that have contracts with the nonprofit charter school.
“It’s really a scam,” Miron says of the many different scenarios that can be used. “To really follow the money, you would have to really understand the facilities companies.”
Miron is particularly wary of the real estate deals like those currently being seen in Nashville and Memphis.

 

In Nashville, the new Rocketship Education school building on Dickerson Pike is being built by a hedge fund company owned by tennis star Andre Agassi. Investors in the company provide financing for construction, and the company acts as a mortgage holder.

 

Each Rocketship school pays between 12 and 20 percent of its budget to the main Rocketship company for a facilities fee. The money is then used for the mortgage payment, says Kristoffer Haines, senior vice president of growth and development.

 

For the company’s California schools, the fee is about 18 percent. He anticipates a facilities fee in the high teens for the new Nashville school.

 

In the end, Rocketship will own the building and “the taxpayer’s interest is not protected,” Miron says. If the charter school closes, the building is still owned by the company, even though it was paid for with tax dollars via facilities fees.

 

“We’re seeing more and more of this,” Miron adds.

 

Nationally, the charter school failure rate is estimated to be about 15 percent.

 

For investing in a school project, investors are given tax credits as high as 39 percent, which allows them to double their money within seven years, says Metro Nashville school board member Amy Frogge, an active opponent of for-profit charter schools.

 

It’s an attractive enticement for hedge fund managers, who have begun flocking to Memphis charter schools to get their share, she adds.

 

The question is whether taxpayers expect their tax money to reduce class size and pay for art teachers, social workers, school nurses, and other kinds of direct school enrichment, or whether they know they are enriching hedge fund managers, investors, and executives of charter chains.

 

 

 

 

 

This thoughtful article by Emma Brown in the Washington Post shows the debates in the District of Columbia about the future or the demise of neighborhood schools. Some see the neighborhood school as a relic of the past, with school choice being the wave of the future. Others think of the neighborhood school as the heart of the community, where children and parents walk to school together, plan together, build community together.

It is clear that the corporate reformers would like to kill the very concept of neighborhood schools and communities. They prefer a free market that mirrors a shopping experience, with schools run by corporate entities and parents choosing schools as they might choose one kind of milk or another in the grocery store (the metaphor used by Jeb Bush in his speech to the 2012 Republican convention).

Some of us recall that in the 1950s and 1960s, school choice was the battle cry of the most ardent segregationists. Scholars today have found that the most segregated schools are charter schools, which are typically more segregated than the district in which they are sited. When journalist John Hechinger wrote about the charter schools of Minneapolis, he wrote that it was as though the Brown decision of 1954 had never happened.

Hechinger wrote:

“Six decades after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down “separate but equal” schools for blacks and whites, segregation is growing because of charter schools, privately run public schools that educate 1.8 million U.S. children. While charter-school leaders say programs targeting ethnic groups enrich education, they are isolating low-achievers and damaging diversity, said Myron Orfield, a lawyer and demographer.

“It feels like the Deep South in the days of Jim Crow segregation,” said Orfield, who directs the University of Minnesota Law School’s Institute on Race & Poverty. “When you see an all-white school and an all-black school in the same neighborhood in this day and age, it’s shocking.”

“Charter schools are more segregated than traditional public schools, according to a 2010 report by the Civil Rights Project at the University of California, Los Angeles. Researchers studied 40 states, the District of Columbia, and 39 metropolitan areas. In particular, higher percentages of charter-school students attend what the report called “racially isolated” schools, where 90 percent or more students are from disadvantaged minority groups.”

Is this the future of American education? Are we doomed to repeat the past? Ironic that we reach this moment in which the elites embrace George Wallace’s cause, luring black families to all-black charter schools, with promises that are seldom fulfilled, as we near the 60th anniversary of the Brown decision.

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