Archives for category: Charter Schools

Blogger “Education Matters” reports the news from the charter industry in Florida:

According to the FLDOE the total is 308. Think about that, 308 charter schools have taken public money and then closed leaving families and communities in a lurch. Untold millions of dollars wasted and thousands and thousands of lives interrupted.

Then according to a June 26th article in the Tampa Times of the 657 remaining one in six of them either are running a debt or “had material weaknesses with their internal financial controls.”

“Education Matters” (also jaxkidsmatter) concludes: the charter cure is worse than the disease.

Now, here is an amazing bit of prescience.

Parents Across America, the group formed by parents to support public schools, wrote a letter to the state superintendent in 2013 explaining why charters in Washington State are unconstitutional.

Initiative 1240 is unconstitutional, they argued, for the following reasons:

We therefore urge the Office of the State Superintendent of Public Instruction to pursue a legal challenge to I-1240, based on the following grounds:

1. I-1240 would establish a charter school commission comprised of politically appointed members with no election by, or accountability to, the general public. It would allocate authorization and accountability for charter schools to this commission, circumventing state-mandated oversight of our public schools by the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction and local school boards. (Yet this commission would cost taxpayers an estimated $3 million.)The creation of such a commission would be in violation of state law which requires public oversight of all public schools. (See: Article III, Section 22, Superintendent of Public Instruction, Duties and Salary.“The superintendent of public instruction shall have supervision over all matters pertaining to public schools, and shall perform such specific duties as may be prescribed by law.”)

2. Charter schools would not meet the definition of “common schools.” Since 1909, a “common school” has been defined as “one that is common to all children of proper age and capacity, free, and subject to, and under the control of, the qualified voters, of a school district.” Sch. Dist. No. 20, Spokane County v. Bryan, 51 Wn. 498, 99 P. 28 (1909). The state constitution also mandates a “general and uniform system of public schools.” Instead, Initiative 1240 would create an unequal subset of schools that would be granted exclusive rights and resources not accorded all schools and all children. These schools would be exempt from public oversight, violating state law that requires all public schools to be “common schools” and part of a “uniform system.” Subsequently, if charter schools are not “common,” then they do not qualify for state funding as stipulated in Article IX, Section 2, which states: “the entire revenue derived from the common school fund and the state tax for common schools shall be exclusively applied to the support of the common schools.”

3. Initiative 1240 also violates state law as recognized by the McCleary decision of January 5, 2012 (McCleary v. State of Washington), which maintains that the state has a constitutionally mandated (Article IX, section 1) “paramount duty” to fully fund all of its public schools. I-1240 would divert funding from common schools to specific schools with unique rights, creating inequity, and further diluting already inadequate resources from our public (“common”) schools, which is in violation of this law.

On Friday, the Washington Supreme Court (the highest court in the state) ruled that charters are unconstitutional and the Court’s reasoning echoes the points made two years ago by PAA.

Well done, Parents!

This ruling gives hope to parents all across America, who see charter schools draining funding from their public schools, favoring the privileges of the few over the rights of the many.

Sorry, hedge fund managers!

Here is the decision. Read it for yourself.

This is a big win for parents and public schools.

Mercedes Schneider obtained a copy of the Supreme Court decision in Washington State that found public funding of charters to be unconstitutional.

She analyzes it here.

Washington State’s Supreme Court ruled that charter schools are unconstitutional.

“After nearly a year of deliberation, the state Supreme Court ruled 6-3 late Friday afternoon that charter schools are unconstitutional.

“The ruling overturns the law voters narrowly approved in 2012 allowing publicly funded, but privately operated, schools.

“Eight new charter schools are opening in Washington this fall in addition to one that opened in Seattle last year…

“Chief Justice Barbara Madsen wrote that charter schools aren’t “common schools” because they’re governed by appointed rather than elected boards.

“Therefore “money that is dedicated to common schools is unconstitutionally diverted to charter schools,” Madsen wrote.

“The ruling is a victory for the coalition that filed the suit in July 2013, asking a judge to declare the law unconstitutional for “improperly diverting public-school funds to private organizations that are not subject to local voter control.”

The Background:

The state held four referenda on charters. Voters rejected them three times–in 1996, 2000, and 2004–but in 2012, Bill Gates , Paul Allen, Alice Walton, the Bezos family, and a handful of other billionaires created a fund of more than $10 million (correction by reader: $17 million) to support another charter vote, called I-1240. The billionaires outspent the opposition in the election by 50:1. The measure barely passed by a margin of 1%. Stand for Children stood with the billionaires.

Opponents included:

“The League of Women Voters of Washington opposed the measure, as did the Washington Education Association and the Washington Association of School Administrators. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People has been opposed to all charter schools since 2010, and, although the National Parent Teacher Association conditionally supports charter schools, the Washington State PTA opposed I-1240 for not meeting “criteria for local oversight.” A variety of Democratic organizations and officials opposed I-1240.”

Vicki Cobb, noted author of science books for children, here reviews the powerful video “Education, Inc.”

She writes:

“The American Revolution ultimately came together with the widespread distribution of a pamphlet that spoke truth about power. [Now] is the start of a public awareness campaign to take a close look at the school reform movement through a modern day equivalent of Thomas Paine’s Common Sense — an hour-long documentary called Education, Inc. It is not something that the billionaires behind the so-called reform movement want you to see.

“The brilliant award-winning film-makers, Brian and Cindy Malone, navigate their way through a complex and seemingly diabolical scheme to “reinvent” education where school reform is sold through a sophisticated advertising smoke screen touting “choice” for children. How do they expose what’s really happening? The premise of Education, Inc. is simple: Follow the money.”

Jonathan Alter is an insightful writer about politics but knows little about education. He doesn’t like public education. Unfortunately, he thinks he is an education expert. He had a starring role in “Waiting for ‘Superman,'” where he looked solemnly into the camera and said, “We know what works. Accountability works.” Right. Like No Child Left Behind was a huge success.

Alter adores charters. Recently he wrote an article for the Daily Beast about why liberals should love charters. He doesn’t like me because I don’t love charters. A few years ago, he got very angry at me when I wrote about schools–both charter and public–that claimed to have produced miraculous score increases. Alter and I debated on David Sirota’s radio show in Denver, and Alter made clear that he believes any claim that a charter school made about test scores and graduation rates, no matter how outlandish. I guess I should thank Alter for giving me some good laughs, like the time he compared me to Whittaker Chambers, the ex-Communist who turned against Alger Hiss (Chambers had moved from left to right, while I had moved, in Alter’s words, from right to left, which he thought was a very bad thing for me to do) or the time he interviewed Bill Gates and called me Gates’ “chief adversary.” That still makes me laugh. I loved that and wrote a reply to Gates’ questions in the Alter interview.

Mercedes Schneider responded to Alter and walked him through the facts about charters, and their lack of accountability and oversight. She schools him about the New Orleans “miracle.” She calls her post “Why Liberals Should Think Twice About ‘Learning to Love Charters.'” Alter, she notes, is oblivious to charter mismanagement and scandals, apparently never having heard of them. He knows nothing of the politicians and entrepreneurs who open charters to make a fast buck.

She writes:

In his piece, Alter repeats the misleading statement “charters are public schools.” However, charter schools take public money without being held accountable to the public for that money. That contributes to the charter school scandal and turnover, which Alter refuses to address, instead insisting that the fact that traditional public schools in general outperform charter schools “is not especially relevant” because those “underperforming charters” run by “inexperienced groups” just need closing.

Keep the charter churn going. Never mind how it affects children and communities.

Never mind that 80 percent of charter schools can’t cut it. Alter chooses to pick his own cherries once again and focus on “the top quintile” of charter schools that tend to be charter chains. Since according to Alter this top 20 percent of charters beats traditional public schools (even though such is really “irrelevant”), it justifies the whole under-regulated, scandal-ridden charter venture.

One of her best lines (classic-Mercedes):

Alter thinks it is better for the wealthy to make it possible for the inept to fund their own schools than to buy yachts.

If the Waltons wanted to truly improve public education, they would invest in yachts.

Peter Greene says that he might be convinced to love charters, but they would have to make some very important changes.

He writes:

I’m not categorically opposed to them on principle. My aunt ran a “free school” in Connecticut decades ago, and it was pretty cool. I have a friend whose son has been seriously assisted by cyber school, and I know a few other similar stories. I think it’s possible that charter schools could be an okay thing. But the charter systems we have now in this country are so very, very terrible I can’t even like them a little, let alone love them.

So when will I love charter schools?

I will love them when they’re fully accountable.

Public schools have to account for every dollar spent, every student who falls under their jurisdiction. Charter schools are only “public” when it’s time to be paid. The rest of the time they are non-transparent and non-accountable. We have charter scandals over and over and over and over again in which somebody just makes off with a pile of money, or isn’t really providing services they claim to be, or doesn’t really have a plan in place. This is bananas!

We’re learning that in the New Orleans Wide World O’Charters, nobody is accountable for the students. A school can purge a child from its records by essentially saying, “Yeah, she went somewhere” without even having to confirm what happened to the student. In New Orleans, there are thousands of students missing– school authorities literally do not know where those children are.

Charter schools will be accountable when they are just as transparent and just as accountable as public schools. Financial records completely open to the public. All meetings of governing bodies completely open to the public. And run by people who must answer to the public and whose first responsibility is not to the nominal owners of the school, but to the actual owners of the school– the people who pay the bills and fund the charter– the taxpayers.

I will love them when education is their primary mission

Private industry is plagued with a disease in this country, a disease that has convinced business leaders that the purpose of their widget company is not to make widgets, but to make good ROI for investors. This has led to all manner of stupid, destructive behavior, as well as a glut of really lousy widgets.

Modern charters all too often export that bad business attitude over to the world of education, with everyone from hedge fundies to pop stars getting into charter schools because someone told them it’s a great investment. If financial returns are located anywhere in your success metric for your charter school, just get the hell out. Because all that can mean is that you will view every student and staff member as a drain that is taking money away from you. You’ll want to select students based primarily on how they can help you achieve your financial goals (by looking good on paper and not costing much). I can’t think of a much worse attitude to bring into a school.

Governor Paul LePage is a blunt-spoken Tea Party kind of guy, who has won two elections by a plurality, not a majority.

Early on, he aligned himself with Jeb Bush to promote for-profit digital learning.

But now he is in trouble because he threatened to cut the state funding of a charter school that wanted to hire the Democratic House Speaker as its president.

Some legislators are talking impeachment, and the movement seems to be picking up momentum.

The cynic in me wonders why a charter school wanted to hire the speaker of the Democratic House as its president. Charter schools are notorious for finding ways to send money to key political figures, usually as direct campaign contributions. Was this on the up-and-up or just another clever ploy by the charter industry to shore up political support from both sides of the aisle?

Bill Phillis of the Ohio Equity and Adequacy Coalition reports another charter school collapses and wonders why it was ever allowed to open. And he asks, “where’s the money?”

“The FCI Academy charter school in north Columbus closed at the start of this school year

“The closure of FCI Academy sent 300 students scrambling to enroll in another school on the first day of school. The sponsor revoked the contract due to lack of appropriate fiscal management.

“This is a school that should never have been allowed to open. As pointed out in a post a year ago, Section 3314.03 (A)(11)(C) of the Ohio Revised Code states, “The school will be nonsectarian in its programs, admission policies, employment practices, and all other operations, and will not be operated by a sectarian school or religious institution.”

“FCI Academy charter school was on the campus of Living Faith Apostolic Church in Columbus. It was founded by the church leader, his wife and one other person. The church leader’s wife was president of the school board.

“It should be noted that FCI Academy had already received nearly $400,000 thus far this school year. What will happen to that money?

“This arrangement does not pass the smell test. But, the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) and the sponsor, Lake Erie West ESC, apparently had not sniffed out the nonsectarian prohibition. It appears that ODE has seldom, if ever, used its leadership role to correct abuses in the charter industry.”

William Phillis
Ohio E & A

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

During John Kasich’s governorship, charter schools have been the beneficiaries of political favoritism. The charter operators who give large sums to Republican candidates are never held accountable for their performance. In most states, this practice is called “pay to play.”

This article describes the corruption of the charter sector in Ohio. Some of the lowest performing charter schools in the state give the biggest political contributions. Certain for-profit charter chains have abysmal performance yet they will never be closed. Money talks.

Kasich appointed David Hansen as executive director of Ohio’s Office of Quality School Choice and Funding. “Kasich tasked Hansen with overseeing the expansion of the state’s charter schools and virtual schools, which are online charter schools typically used by homeschoolers.” Hansen had been a board member of a failed for-profit charter school. When Hansen was found rigging charter school grades, he had to resign.

“In July, Hansen resigned after admitting he had rigged evaluations of the state’s charter school sponsors—the nonprofits that authorize and oversee the schools in exchange for a fee—by not including the failing grades of certain F-rated schools in his assessment. Specifically, he omitted failing virtual schools operated by for-profit management companies that are owned by major Republican donors in the state.”

So Hansen is gone, gone, gone, but his wife is Kasich’s campaign manager and his former chief of staff.

And what of Ohio’s charter industry?

“Schools with D or F grades receive an estimated 90 percent of the state’s charter school funding. Virtual schools, which have an even worse academic track record and insufficient quality controls have been permitted to flourish….

“In the four years that Kasich has been in office, funding for traditional public schools has declined by almost half a billion dollars, while charter schools have seen a funding increase of more than 25 percent. Much of that funding appears to have been misspent.”

Ohio has so many low-performing charters, so many scandals, and so much corruption that the state has become “a national joke.”

John Kasich is portraying himself in the campaign as a moderate. Ha! He is no moderate. He tried to eliminate collective bargaining but the voters turned back his effort. He is as far right as Scott Walker. Don’t be fooled.


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