Archives for category: Charter Schools

John Abeigon, president of the Newark Teachers Union, wrote an article calling on the corporate charter chains to come clean about their finances and their practice of skimming the easiest-to-educate students, and to stop boasting about unverified results.

 

Abeigon writes:

 

“The time has come for New Jersey taxpayers to take a close look at corporate-sponsored charter schools in New Jersey. So-called school-choice advocates are pumping millions of dollars into political and advertising campaigns to protect the status quo when it involves the quasi-secret operations of privately managed charter schools in cities like Newark and elsewhere. The strike a wedge between Newark’s parents to draw the attention of taxpayers away from their financial shenanigans.

 

“The Newark Teachers Union has asked for more transparency in the management of corporate-backed charter schools. The Newark Public Schools have two monthly meetings where the school board and superintendent can be held accountable for the actions of their school. When was the last time the citizens of Newark were invited to a KIPP board meeting? What about Uncommon Schools?

 

Also, as these charters have grown, banks and corporations have developed ways, and found alternative credit routes, to provide capital to charter schools at favorable rates. What are these rates? And what are they funding? Have taxpayers and state legislators had an opportunity to review these credit applications?

 

Why are Newark’s corporate-run charters so afraid of transparency and democracy? Are Newark taxpayers allowed to run for election on a North Star Academy school board? Where are their financial statements? Where are their attendance reports? How are they spending taxpayer money? And why must the union be asking these questions?

 

“Second of all, corporate-charter advocates try to make the argument that Newark parents are “voting with their feet” and leaving public schools. But this is very misleading. Strong community schools like Dayton Street School were closed, forcing students from their communities. And still a vast majority of students elected to choose traditional public schools at their first option when they filled out their choices under One Newark.

 

“On top of that, the corporate charter industry throws millions of dollars into advertising their schools and broad claims of undocumented success. When was the last time you saw a billboard or TV commercial advertising your local traditional school? Or the many successful magnet high schools in Newark? There is no true choice here, just a financial tidal wave to push parents towards the corporate charter schools. They burn the village down, and then yell as loudly “This village has failed it’s citizens!”

 

“It is also very misleading when charters tout their successes without providing any evidence beyond their press release. As much as they promise “blind lotteries” are used to select their students, the numbers don’t hold up. Newark’s charter schools somehow manage to end up without the more challenging populations. They have far lower number of special ed, LEP, and poverty students.

 

“And as the charters expand, they continue to cream off select student groups, leaving the traditional schools with a more concentrated population of more challenging and more expensive students to educate — while draining away the very financial resources needed to provide these students with a quality education.

 

In contrast to the charters, the Newark Public Schools take students as they are:

 

“We educate all students, and we are proud of that. No matter what their IEP’s say. No matter what language their parents speak or if their parents are not involved in their lives. No matter if they are homeless or coming to school hungry every morning. That is what a Newark educator does, and shame on corporate-sponsored so-called school-choice advocates for denouncing that work for their financial and professional gain.

”

 

Abeigon concludes that if charters really are doing a good job, as they claim, they should open their doors and their books. They should share the secrets of their success, if it is real. Be transparent and be accountable to the public.

 

 

 

 

The Walton Family Foundation has been a key player in the movement to privatize public education. It recently pledged to pump $200 millions year into new charter schools to compete with public schools and drain away their resources.

Nonetheless, Walton published an editorial in Education Week admitting that online charter schools were a failure. Walton funded the research that showed their negative results.

“The results are, in a word, sobering. The CREDO study found that over the course of a school year, the students in virtual charters learned the equivalent of 180 fewer days in math and 72 fewer days in reading than their peers in traditional charter schools, on average.

“This is stark evidence that most online charters have a negative impact on students’ academic achievement. The results are particularly significant because of the reach and scope of online charters: They currently enroll some 200,000 children in 200 schools operating across 26 states. If virtual charters were grouped together and ranked as a single school district, it would be the ninth-largest in the country and among the worst-performing.

“Funders, educators, policymakers, and parents cannot in good conscience ignore the fact that students are falling a full year behind their peers in math and nearly half a school year in reading, annually. For operators and authorizers of these schools to do nothing would constitute nothing short of educational malpractice.”

Unfortunately, Walton doesn’t promise to stop funding these failed ideas. But it does promise to ask tough questions when the next online charter asks for money.

Fooled me once, shame on you.

Fooled me twice, shame on me.

Jamaal Bowman, principal of the Cornerstone Academy for Social Action in the Bronx (New York City), wrote on Mark Naison’s blog about the fundamental errors of the “no excuses” charter schools that operate in high-needs communities like the Bronx, Harlem, Bedford-Stuyvesant, and wherever there is a concentration of children living in poverty.

Bowman is emerging as one of the most articulate critics of corporate reform. His credibility is enhanced by the fact that he is in charge of a school and is trying to forge a better alternative to the status quo.

Charters, he says, carefully select their students and set requirements to weed out and discourage unmotivated families. They can fire teachers at will and have high teacher turnover. Their model is sustained by Teach for America, whose members don’t plan to teach more than two years.

Based on what I know, as they are currently constituted, charters, TFA, and yearly standardized testing are wrong for our high need communities. We should stop funding them all unless they agree to make major adjustments to how they do business. Why? Because that money can be spent on giving all students a quality holistic education. Charters, TFA, and yearly testing infuse anxiety, disunity, and even worst, standardization into the psyche of society. They are trying to recreate a 21st century idea of “empire.” Keep the masses, and “lower class” under control while the elite continue to rule. A standardized mindset will always be controlled. Whereas in schools like Riverdale Country School, there are not state standardized assessment, no TFA and no need for a charter, and they are taught to lead and change the world.
Consider KIPP’S first graduating class. Ranked fifth in NYC in mathematics in the 8th grade, but only 21% graduated college. Why? Because KIPP test prepped the kids to death and the kids never built their character or learned to manage their own freedom. KIPP and many charters standardize and try to control everything from how kids walk through the halls to how they ask to go to the bathroom. But teaching and learning is organic; it is human. When are we gonna ask ourselves why must poor communities of color be treated like this, whereas middle class and upper class parents would NEVER go for this treatment!
WE HAVE TO hold politicians and private citizens who invest in education accountable to the true needs of our at-risk communities. We must give our communities a true voice. If charters, TFA, and the state really cared about our children being their very best, show us, by investing in daycare, Montessori, music, sports, counselors and everything in between. Charters should take all children and TFA should change everything! If not, the powers that be will continue to fatten up the district school kids to be slaughtered and fed to their private school bosses as adults.
For the rest we have jail cells waiting for them #wemustunitenow

Phillip Cantor explains why the Chicago Teachers Union rejected Rahm Emanuel’s contract offer.

The offer had some good things in it, but what killed it was a “poison pill” provision:

“The CPS offer basically froze compensation for most teachers for four years. I was OK with that… even though CPS has taken about $2 Billion from teachers in the past five years. I like the idea of getting rid of the pension pick-up, but don’t want teachers to suffer 7% pay cuts to achieve it. Some teachers would have come out with a tiny increase over 4 years, other teachers – longer serving teachers- would have had to take a significant pay cut.

“CPS’s offer also included a requirement – added at the last minute – that over 2000 CTU members take early retirement with the provision that if that number didn’t leave the profession the contract would be re-opened. In other words… the whole thing would be scrapped. To me this seems like a poison pill. How could CTU agree to a contract that forced a 10% reduction in teachers and school staff? How could CTU agree to a contract which had a self-destruct clause in it?”

So, layoffs now or layoffs later.

The CTU bargaining team unanimously rejected the deal. And now the CEO is threatening to impose deep cuts and layoffs without a contract.

CTU will hold a mass rally on Thursday afternoon to protest.

A state study of charter school performance in New Mexico concluded that the privately managed schools cost more and get the same results.
“Rapidly expanding charter schools in New Mexico are spending more per student with similar academic results to traditional public schools, state program analysts told lawmakers on Monday.

 

“The evaluation by staff at New Mexico’s Legislative Finance Committee warned that charter schools are diluting the amount of funds available at all schools, as charter schools continue to be authorized independently of the state’s budget process.

 

“The study found that charter school students received $8,663 per student, while traditional district schools received $7,597, during the budget year ending June 2015. New Mexico’s charter schools have received nearly half of school funding increases since mid-2007, while serving about 7 percent of all students, the report said.

 

“Presenting the findings to lawmakers, program evaluator Yann Lussiez said state-authorized charter schools with the highest grades tended to have the lowest percentage of economically disadvantaged students….

 

 

Matthew Pahl, policy director for the department, said greater administrative oversight is planned.

 

“We’re working at hiring an auditor that just looks at charter schools right now in recognition the fact that there should probably be some more oversight,” he said.

 

“The Legislative Finance Committee agreed to sponsor legislation that would prevent double funding of certain students at charter schools under a formula that recognizes rapid enrollment increases. The committee also supports a bill to avoid overfunding of transportation at charter schools….

 

New Mexico had 97 charter schools serving about 22,000 students last year, up from 59 in 2010 and just two in 2000. That steady growth mimics the growth of nationwide attendance at charter schools, which surpasses 2.5 million students.

 

“The state evaluation raised specific concerns about costs and performance at so-called virtual charter schools that provide remote online courses. New Mexico has two virtual schools — New Mexico Connections Academy and New Mexico Virtual Academy — that both have ties to for-profit organizations.

 

“The virtual schools have an average of 41 students per teacher with much greater demands on middle and high school teachers, and did not provide expected saving on infrastructure costs. The evaluation recommended the creation of new statutory requirements for funding and student achievement at virtual schools.”

 

The Virginia General Assembly is voting today on an ALEC-inspired bill to give the state board of education the power to go over the local boards of education and place charter schools in communities whether they want them or not. Pseudo-reformers don’t like democracy. They like autocracy. The American Legislative Exchange Council has drafted model legislation for exactly this kind of shift of power from local communities to the state, the better to advance privatization.

 

 

 

Virginian Rachel Levy writes (open her piece for the links):

 

Charter schools may soon be coming to Virginia communities whether those communities want them or not. This is not about whether or not to have charter schools or whether or not charter schools work. This is about power and democracy.

 

In Virginia, what’s known as the “charter school bill,” HB 3 in the Virginia House of Delegates and SB 588 in the Virginia Senate, establishes a resolution (HJ 1 and SJ R6) that will trigger a referendum on a constitutional amendment giving the Virginia State Board of Education the power to go over the heads of local school boards and establish charter schools in local communities. This resolution will be heard in the Virginia House of Delegates TODAY (Monday, February 1st, 2016), so you must contact your Delegate ASAP.

 

This resolution and accompanying legislation is before the General Assembly for the second year in a row. (I wrote about this last year here and before that I wrote about the concept, when it was the Opportunity Educational Institution, here.) Last year, it passed both chambers and, hence, if it passes this year—and as of this writing the House Privileges and Election Committee has sent it on to the House floor on a 10-9 vote—it will go onto the ballot this November. (Or maybe not this November if the Virginia GOP doesn’t think it will pass then, but I digress.)

 

“Work” is not the right way of looking at this, in any case. Like any model, some charter schools are successful and some aren’t. Some charter schools are true institutions of education, created by parents and educators, while some are real estate scams, developed by hucksters and charlatans. But given that all students are not served as they should be in public schools, I agree that conversations about the merits and disadvantages of charter schools are worth having.

 

But it is a conversation worth having among parents, citizens, educators, and educational leaders in the communities where charter schools are potentially to be located. Setting up schools in local communities is not a state matter. While many of its members are knowledgeable and passionate about K-12 education in Virginia and the Virginia State Board of Education may do a good job with the work they are tasked with, this is not their job.

 

Virginia currently has a rigorous, democratic process to establish charter schools, a process with built-in oversight, checks and balances, and accountability. Charter school proposals go before the locally, democratically elected (and in some cases, locally appointed) school boards where the charter schools are to be established. Charter schools in Virginia are overseen by these school boards and the schools are hence accountable to the public like all other public schools. Some local communities in Virginia have decided to set up charter schools. Groups in other communities have tried to set up charter schools but have not made a strong enough case to other members of their communities or to their school boards.

New Jersey’s Governor Chris Christie is devoted to charter schools. As he has repeatedly demonstrated, he despises the New Jersey Education Association, and charters seldom are unionized. So he gets a twofer: he can privatize and bust the union at the same time. In his state of the state speech, he said he would expand the charter sector. No surprise. But David Hespe, the state commissioner of education, made the goal concrete: 50,000 charter “seats.” 

 

Hespe’s remarks at the state’s annual School Choice Summit at Saint Peter’s University in Jersey City echoed Christie’s Jan. 12 speech. The governor called charter schools a resounding success for the state and said he would “aggressively prioritize” regulatory relief for charter schools.

 

Charter schools are public schools that operate independently from traditional school districts. If a student leaves their home district to attend a charter school, that district must send a portion of it’s average per-pull funding to the charter school.

 

Christie has authorized dozens of new charter schools since taking office but the initial flood of new schools has slowed in recent years. Overall, Christie has added 39 new charter schools while closing 17 charter schools for poor academic performance or organizational and fiscal issues.

 

The state has about 41,500 students enrolled in charter schools and the number will expand to 46,000 as existing charter schools add more grade levels, according to the state Department of Education. The state has not identified a specific timeline for the 50,000 seat goal.

 

In total, New Jersey more than 1.3 million public school students, Department of Education spokesman David Saenz said.

 

Christie said his administration will explore ways to create greater flexibility in the teacher certification for charter schools and ways to make it easier for charter schools to find buildings.

 

To sum it up, the charters take money away from public schools, causing them to lose teachers, increase class size, and cut back programs. This is odd because the state has 1.3 million students, but not quite 50,000 in charters. So the vast majority of students will suffer harm so that the small number in charters can get some of the money the district schools need.

 

The state will lower standards for teachers in charter schools, thus providing greater flexibility.

 

The state will seek ways to fund the construction of charter schools or give them  public space. One way to ease that problem would be to seek contributions from the New Jersey hedge fund managers who are strong supporters of charter schools.

 

The strangest thing about this scenario is that New Jersey is one of the highest performing states on the NAEP, usually scoring either second or their behind Massachusetts. At the same time, it has some cities that contain desperately impoverished families. Charter schools will not diminish their poverty nor will it alleviate the segregation that characterizes these districts, like Newark, Camden, and Paterson.

 

What Governor Christie’s plan will do is to damage the overall condition of public education, in order to push forward his goal of more “charter seats.”

The Florida legislature is dominated by Republican legislators who don’t like public education. Some of them have direct ties to the for-profit charter industry. Others are active members of ALEC and believe in the privatization of public schools.

 

The latest move to damage public schools is Rep. Erik Fresen’s insistence that public schools spend too much on construction. He wants to rein those costs in, while increasing the funding of new charter schools. Rep. Fresen is the brother-in-law of Fernando Zulueta, who owns one of the state’s most profitable charter chains, Academica, which has about 100 charter schools and virtual charter schools.

 

But some Democrats and public school representatives said Fresen’s findings aren’t the whole picture.

They said requiring accountable spending of taxpayers’ dollars is a conversation worth having, but that Fresen’s conclusions over-simplify how school construction projects are funded. In addition to state aid, districts have their own local sources of revenue — such as local sales tax and bond referendums — which they’ve had to rely on more and more as the state has cut funding and shifted dollars to charter schools.

House Democratic Leader Mark Pafford, of West Palm Beach, who sits on the budget committee, told the Times/Herald the conversation serves as another attack on Florida’s public education system by a Republican-led Legislature that’s friendly to for-profit charter schools and voucher programs.

“The Legislature commonly uses information and manipulates it to fit its own argument,” Pafford said of Fresen’s presentation last week. “There was a lot not mentioned… They’re purposely breaking the back of the public education system.”

 

Florida is utopia for for-profit charter schools, such as Academica.

 

Governor Rick Scott, trying to appear even-handed, allocated equal amounts of money to public schools and charter schools for construction costs, even though the public schools enroll far larger numbers of students.

 

 

Officials at traditional public schools want lawmakers this year to restore districts’ taxing ability — which lawmakers chipped away at in recent years — and also to allocate more capital dollars for maintenance and repairs. Much of the capital money in the past several years has gone to charter schools, which are privately managed but publicly funded. District officials and superintendents argue traditional schools are long overdue for a jolt in funding.

 

Republican Gov. Rick Scott has proposed equal capital funding for 2016-17 for traditional and charter schools: $75.2 million to each. House and Senate budget proposals are expected later this week.

 

But Fresen doesn’t appear amenable to considering the schools’ requests. He told the Appropriations Committee he’ll seek to reduce the state-imposed cap on per-student-station spending so that schools cut costs. He also wants to broaden what revenue sources and expenses would be subject to that cap and then enact penalties for districts that exceed it.

 

Those ideas will be met with resistance. Pafford called those proposals “the continued torture of the public school system.”

 

Fresen told the committee he’d been interested in districts’ construction spending for years “but didn’t want to make it my war” previously. Now he has support from House Appropriations Chairman Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, to take it on.

 

“The expenditures that are taking place are an absolutely horrible stewardship of the taxpayers dollars,” said Corcoran, in line to become House speaker in November. “It is somewhat laughable. It’s taxpayers’ money that is being robbed in areas that are far more crucial.”

 

 

 

One of the funniest and sharpest commentators on the follies and madness of contemporary education policy is EduShyster, known to friends and family as Jennifer Berkshire.

 

Jennifer is launching a podcast, which she calls “Have You Heard?”

 

Her first podcast is about the opt-out movement in Philadelphia. She is a great interviewer, and her podcasts will help to spread the word about the good and terrible things happening in education today.

 

She travels the country in search of stories, and she will be interviewing some of the leading figures in education from different ends of the ideological spectrum, asking tough questions.

 

Add EduShyster’s podcast to your reading and listening routine.

The edu-propaganda film “Waiting for ‘Superman'” promulgated the myth that charter schools were the equivalent to Superman, that powerful guy who flies through the sky to save the city from destruction time and time again. Geoffrey Canada says in the film that he cried when he learned that Superman was not real, because help was not on the way. But the film proceeds to construct a fairy tale in which children are saved by leaving public schools, Catholic schools, and even suburban schools and enrolling in a charter school, if they were lucky enough to win the lottery. More than five years have passed since the release of that film in September 2010, and we now know that charter schools are a mixed bag. Many get lower test scores than district public schools; those that get higher test scores, on closer inspection, have weeded out the kids likely to have low scores. Yet politicians continue to promote them as a sure cure for the neediest children.

 

Peter Greene here explains the fascination with Superman. No matter how many times sensible people and experienced educators warn that improving education is never quick or easy, that there is no secret sauce, no magic bullet, no miracles, the charter promoters are still selling their pie-in-the-sky.

 

The fundamental Superman idea is that some external force, some deus ex machina, will descend from the skies (or corporate headquarters) and perform miraculous feats. In the case of school reform, the belief in Superman is expressed through such mechanisms as a state takeover, a turnaround strategy in which everyone gets fired and replaced, a charter takeover, an Achievement School District. The very act of bringing in new management is supposed to have a transformative effect. Although there is no research, experience, or evidence, our leaders refuse to abandon their belief in Superman, the tooth fairy, the Easter bunny, and Santa Claus.

 

Greene writes:

 

The emergency management system we see in Michigan is just one way of expressing the Superman Theory of Change– there are Supermen among us, and they could save the lesser beings, if only we stopped holding them back. Superman could bring us excellence, but the enemy of excellence is bureaucracy and regulation and rules and, most of all, democracy.

 

Counting on Superman has led to a variety of initiatives. The various attempts to break tenure (like Vergara and Reed before it) have come from the belief that when Superman takes over a school district, he must (like a CEO) be free to hire and fire based on what he alone can see with his super vision. (And schools would work so much better if every classroom was taught by another Superman).

 

The need to break unions is part of the same trend. Unions tie Superman down, forcing him to follow a bunch of stupid rules every time he wants to strap on his cape and take to the skies.

 

Likewise, government regulations get in Superman’s way, keeping him earthbound in a web of red tape. For a Superman believer like Jeb! Bush, it makes perfect sense to say that Flint’s crisis was caused by too much regulation– if the Supermen who emergency manage Flint and Detroit hadn’t had to deal with local and federal authorities at all, they would have avoided this whole mess.

 

Superman also needs to be un-hampered by “politics.” Reed Hastings (Netflix) famously supported the idea of doing away with elected school boards entirely, because they are too unstable, too susceptible to the will and whims of the public. This distaste for politics gives, in hindsight, a new understanding to the common complaint from reformsters a few years ago, who kept bemoaning how ed reform ideas like Common Core were being tripped up by “politics,” meaning, we can now see, that people were trying to keep Superman from exerting his full powers.

 

Yes, the greatest obstacle to Superman is democracy. People get in the way. So it becomes necessary to have the state take control, to have an emergency manager with dictatorial powers, to create a commission appointed by the governor to override local school boards, to have a mayor in charge of the schools.

 

Look how well it has worked in Detroit. And now Governor Rauner of Illinois wants to take control of Chicago public schools. But politics and democracy get in the way.

 

 

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