In this post on Valerie Strauss’s Answer Sheet blog at the Washington Post, Carol Burris and I respond to Betsy DeVos’s putdown of the Network for Public Education’s meticulous documentation of the failure of the federal Charter Schools Program. Our report, “Asleep at the Wheel,” showed that the U.S. Department of Education had handed out hundreds of millions of dollars–close to a billion dollars–between 2006 and 2014, to nearly 1,000 charter schools that never opened or that closed soon after opening. DeVos, as you will see, dismissed the report out of hand, and we assume that she never read it. The report was carefully documented, with references drawn mainly from government sources, including the website of the U.S. Department of Education. And for an added bonus, we show that 42% of all charter schools in DeVos’s home state of Michigan that received federal funding either never opened or closed soon after opening. What will she do to correct the lack of oversight in her own department?

We write:

Here is a link to 109 Michigan charter schools, called “academies,” that were awarded Charter School Program (CSP) grants from 2006-2014 but either never opened or closed. That number represents 42 percent of all recipients. Those highlighted in maroon shut down. Those highlighted in tan are schools that received funds but never opened. You will find ample documentation for your staff to review our work.

As anxious as you are to open new charter schools, if nearly half of them do not make it, we suggest that something is wrong with the selection process.

In total, $20,272,078 was awarded to defunct Michigan charter schools. And yet, in 2018 you awarded the State of Michigan an additional $47,222,222.

Your home state is not alone. Posted here is a similar list from the state of Ohio showing the names of 117 charter schools (40 percent) that received CSP funds between 2006-2014 that also never opened or are now closed. The total of CSP awards to those schools is $35,926,693. Please note that in all of these states, far more charter schools have failed than just those that received federal SEA funds. In the case of Ohio, the list of closed charters (293) is nearly equal to the number of schools that are presently open (310).

Dare I say that the U.S. Department was scammed because of its own negligence?

Read on.

There is more about Louisiana, California, and other states.

We are talking here about our taxpayer dollars. There are needy schools in the U.S. Yet the Department of Education squanders money on failed and failing charter schools. This must stop!


8 Comments Post your own or leave a trackback: Trackback URL

  1. retired teacher says:

    Turning your polite question into a statement covers what is happening with USDOE. The U.S. Department was scammed because of its own negligence. DeVos has no intention of regulating charters and/or vouchers. She is a radical right wing ideologue, and she is determined to carry out her biased mission. I doubt she will do anything substantial to provide oversight and accountability in her department. Her department is squandering tax dollars, and, she could care less.

    Thank you to NPE for all its hard work on behalf of the nation’s young people. The research that caused “such a stir” in the DOE is work that the department should have been doing itself as routine due diligence. Under DeVos the DOE’s mission is to undermine public education, and accountability is not part of her mission. Citizens and taxpayers should understand what an incredibly wasteful and failed policy this administration is presenting while public education is treated like no more than a host for DeVos’ parasitic schemes.

    You should forward a copy of NPE’s letter to each of the Democratic candidates, and ask them for a response.

    • Laura H. Chapman says:

      I agree that the democratic candidatess need a kick in the … in order to stop their ” good charters are ok” and general silence on K- 12 education. It is so much easier to tout preschool for all, frauds in the college loan industry and need for tech savvy high school and college graduates than the destructive policies, including ESSA, foisted on public schools under the banner of ” accountability.”

      • ciedie aech says:

        and so very frighteningly, the ‘preschool for all’ call might well fall under ESSA Pay For Success rules: testing results exchanged for funding

  2. Lisa Buchman says:

    Just remember that she is doubling down on 8 years of the DOE under the Obama administration. She is FLAUNTING the fact that this has gone on for 8 prior years under a Democrat and no one said a word about it. She didn’t just walk up to the line in the sand and stick her toe over…she took a running leap over that line in the sand. Betsy DeVos is a very smart business woman and she is daring someone (anyone) to do something about it because she knows that Democrats had/have a huge hand in this. Many will fall when the house of cards gets a good stiff wind. WHEN?

  3. Catherine King says:

    Diane: So glad to know of the existence of your formal report. It will have legs for a long time, regardless of Betsy Devos’ abiding ignorance and ideological powers.

    Also, I wasn’t paying much attention to this issue in Obama-time; but whatever occurred there, bad or good, it should show that it doesn’t matter what political party got snowed or was complicit in this educational debacle. The charter “industry” is still a cancer on the entire body-politic insofar as we are a democracy, and where that means the political institution remains OF, FOR, and BY The People. And for those who speak of “the good charters,” they forget what their growing presence does to the entire educational system–by introducing threads of entrepreneurial competition into the cultural quilt that holds us together AS a constitutional democracy.

    We can keep capitalism; but it becomes destructive when its blind greed creeps into the very political ground–the quilt–that enables it to thrive in the first place. CBK

  4. IRA SHOR says:

    Brilliant report. I will use it when I attend a local Bernie 2020 mtg to insist on an education plank against the looting of public education by chimerical charters. The fact that this data covers the Obama years of support for charters may be the reason no current Dem candidate of the 18 running for Pres in 2020 and none in 2016 would touch this issue. We can’t let this continue. Time’s up on the Dems to face the clatter of their own making.

    • retired teacher says:

      Good for you! I hope you can help some of the Bernie people understand the full impact of privatization. Frankly, I cannot see how any of it fits with Bernie’s principles.

  5. If ever an open letter will fall on deaf ears and blind eyes, it will be this one to Betsy the Brainless. I would not be surprised if we cut into her head we would discover that there was no human brain in there but would find a computer chip with an ALEC stamp on it and the program would be heavily encrypted so no one would ever know what was controlling her lips when she speaks.

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