Carol Burris, executive director of the Network for Public Education, responds here to critics of NPE’s “Asleep At the Wheel,” the landmark analysis of the deeply flawed federal Charter Schools Program and invites comments and criticisms.

NPE wants readers to scrutinize the report carefully. If there are any errors, we will promptly correct them.

She writes:

Examining a list of nearly 5000 charter schools to determine which were open, closed or never open was a difficult and tedious task. There is no common standard when it comes to state reporting on closed charter schools—some states give lists of closed schools. Others do not. Many states only give a list of currently opened schools. Even those lists are not often up to date and rarely indicate if the school’s name has changed.

 In the case of unopened charters that received federal CSP funds there is no list at all. We (myself along with two part-time staff, Darcie Cimarusti and Marla Kilfoyle), would hunt for school information on the internet if a school in the database was not on the open or closed list and had no NCES number. Some of the schools that never opened had shells of Facebook pages and odd commercial information that is meaningless, but nevertheless pops up.

And then there are charter name changes, takeovers, charters turning into public schools and other complications with which we had to contend. Often we needed to make a judgement as to whether or not the school was indeed the school that had received the grant. We did the best we could, realizing that there would be some errors. We promised we would correct any mistakes we made and we will.

 We also knew that school choice advocates and groups opposed to public education would attempt to discount our work by finding error as a means to convince policymakers to disregard the report.

 On December 12 William Flanders of the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty (WILL), a right wing think tank that promotes vouchers and charter schools, and Jim Bender of  School Choice Wisconsin  did just that in their blog on Fordham. They claimed to have found ten schools on our list of 132 Wisconsin closed or never opened schools that were open. They said these were “glaring” errors and it was not an “honest” report and therefore the entire 40 plus page report should be discounted.

 Let’s go through those “ten glaring errors” (they actually list 11 schools) one by one. The first name in bold is the school they say is open. The second name in bold is the school on our list of closed schools. 

Banner Prep of Milwaukee—may indeed be open, but we listed the Banner School of Milwaukee, which according to the list of closed schools on the website of the Wisconsin  Department of Education closed in 2015.

 Class Act Yes that is open. But we do not have it on the list of closed schools.

Etude—Perhaps this is also a different school because the Etude School, which is the name we list, closed in 2011 according to the state list. The NCES number (551365002690) associated with the school that got the grant does not return a school when you search here.

 Island City Academy. That was our error and we will correct it. Island City Research Academy is closed. 

Jedi Virtual K12  We list Jedi Virtual High School as closed. According to the state list it closed in 2011. In 2007 it had 14 students. In 2018 it had 13. Jedi Virtual High School was awarded a $400,000 grant.

 Lincoln Inquiry School. If you pop in the NCES number of the school given the grant, (551668002180) up comes a public school—Lincoln Elementary. It may have once been a charter but the school that received the grant is now a public school.

 Mead Elementary School. According to the school closure list, it closed in 2008. The NCES number returns no school.

 Milwaukee College Prep 36th St. and College Prep North closed in 2016 according to the closed independent charter schools’ list. The first NCES number comes up as no school, the second did not have an NCES number when given the grant. They were independent charters. Milwaukee College Prep 38th St. got a grant but that is not on our closed list. Perhaps the authors got the streets confused.

 Hmong American Peace Academy the school listed by us as closed is HAPA/International Peace Academy. International Peace Academy closed in 2013. This may be a school merger, since the initials fit. If the merger occurred before they got the grant, we will take it off the closed schools list.

 Mc Kinley Academy received a grant and we do not list it as closed. We list McKinley Middle Charter School as closed. According to Wisconsin’s closed schools list. There is a Mc Kinley Middle School that closed in 2012 in one location, and another that closed in 2018. The search by NCES number (551236001631) results in no school coming up.  Mc Kinley Academy has a different NCES number (550861002701).

 You can find a list of closed independent charter schools and closed public schools (district charters are on the closed public schools list) at:

 We will remove Island City Academy from our list of closed schools, and further research the school merger.

 We will continue to review our list and keep track of charter failures. We welcome corrections to our lists with documentation which can be sent to  We will periodically do updates adding and removing names as information becomes available.

 Here is the bottom line. The Department of Education should report to Congress and the public on its $4.1 billion dollars investment in charter schools by providing transparent listings of schools that never opened, schools that have closed and why those schools failed.  The public deserves transparency and accountability not only from charter schools, but from the program designed to start them. The data that is available, limited as it is, shows a clear and undeniable problem.